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Title: Not Like Other Girls
Author: Carey, Rosa Nouchette, 1840-1909
Language: English
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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 "Not Like Other Girls" ***

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NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS

BY

ROSA N. CAREY

AUTHOR OF

"Aunt Diana," "Averil," "Lover or Friend," "Merle's Crusade,"
"Esther," "Mary St. John," "Queenie's Whim," "We Wifie," Etc., Etc.

CHICAGO

M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY

407-429 Dearborn Street



[Illustration]


M.A. DONOHUE & CO.
CHICAGO.



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE
       I. Five-o'clock Tea.                                          7
      II. Dick objects to the Mountains.                            14
     III. Mr. Mayne makes Himself Disagreeable.                     22
      IV. Dick's Fête.                                              28
       V. "I am Quite Sure of Him."                                 35
      VI. Mr. Trinder's Visit.                                      41
     VII. Phillis's Catechism.                                      48
    VIII. "We should have to carry Parcels."                        55
      IX. A Long Day.                                               62
       X. The Friary.                                               68
      XI. "Tell us all about it, Nan."                              77
     XII. "Laddie" puts in an Appearance.                           85
    XIII. "I must have Grace."                                      91
     XIV. "You can dare to tell me These Things."                   99
      XV. A Van in the Braidwood Road.                             108
     XVI. A Visit to the White House.                              118
    XVII. "A Friend in Need."                                      124
   XVIII. Dorothy brings in the Best China.                        132
     XIX. Archie is in a Bad Humor.                                139
      XX. "You are Romantic."                                      147
     XXI. Breaking the Peace.                                      154
    XXII. "Trimmings, not Squails."                                162
   XXIII. "Bravo, Atalanta!"                                       167
    XXIV. Mothers are Mothers.                                     174
     XXV. Mattie's New Dress.                                      181
    XXVI. "Oh, You are Proud!"                                     189
   XXVII. A Dark Hour.                                             196
  XXVIII. The Mysterious Stranger.                                 202
    XXIX. Mrs. Williams's Lodger.                                  210
     XXX. "Now we understand Each Other."                          219
    XXXI. Dick thinks of the City.                                 226
   XXXII. "Dick is to be our Real Brother."                        232
  XXXIII. "This is Life and Death to Me."                          240
   XXXIV. Miss Mewlstone has an Interruption.                      248
    XXXV. "Barby, don't You recollect Me?"                         255
   XXXVI. Motes in the Sunshine.                                   262
  XXXVII. "A Man has a Right to His Own Thoughts."                 268
 XXXVIII. About Nothing Particular.                                277
   XXXIX. "How do you do, Aunt Catherine?"                         283
      XL. Alcides.                                                 292
     XLI. Sir Harry Bides his Time.                                299
    XLII. "Come, now, I call that Hard."                           307
   XLIII. "I will write no such Letter."                           315
    XLIV. Mr. Mayne orders a Basin of Gruel.                       321
     XLV. An Uninvited Guest.                                      328
    XLVI. A New Invasion of the Goths.                             336
   XLVII. "It was so Good of You to ask me Here."                  343
  XLVIII. Mrs. Sparsit's Poodle.                                   349
    XLIX. Mattie in a New Character.                               356
       L. Phillis's Favorite Month.                                362



NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS



CHAPTER I.

FIVE-O'CLOCK TEA.


Five-o'clock tea was a great institution in Oldfield.

It was a form of refreshment to which the female inhabitants of that
delightful place were strongly addicted. In vain did Dr. Weatherby,
the great authority in all that concerned the health of the
neighborhood, lift up his voice against the mild feminine
dram-drinking of these modern days, denouncing it in no measured
terms: the ladies of Oldfield listened incredulously, and, softly
quoting Cowper's lines as to the "cup that cheers and not inebriates,"
still presided over their dainty little tea-tables, and vied with one
another in the beauty of their china and the flavor of their
highly-scented Pekoe.

In spite of Dr. Weatherby's sneers and innuendoes, a great deal of
valuable time was spent in lingering in one or another of the pleasant
drawing-rooms of the place. As the magic hour approached, people
dropped in casually. The elder ladies sipped their tea and gossiped
softly; the younger ones, if it were summer-time, strolled out through
the open windows into the garden. Most of the houses had
tennis-grounds, and it was quite an understood thing that a game
should be played before they separated.

With some few exceptions, the inhabitants of Oldfield were wealthy
people. Handsome houses standing in their own grounds were dotted here
and there among the lanes and country roads. Some of the big houses
belonged to very big people indeed; but these were aristocrats who
only lived in their country houses a few months in the year, and whose
presence added more to the dignity than to the hilarity of the
neighborhood.

With these exceptions, the Oldfield people were highly gregarious and
hospitable; in spite of a few peculiarities, they had their good
points; a great deal of gossip prevailed, but it was in the main
harmless and good-natured. There was a wonderful simplicity of dress,
too, which in these days might be termed a cardinal virtue. The girls
wore their fresh cambrics and plain straw hats: no one seemed to
think it necessary to put on smart clothing when they wished to visit
their friends. People said this Arcadian simplicity was just as
studied: nevertheless, it showed perfection of taste and a just
appreciation of things.

The house that was considered the most attractive in Oldfield, and
where, on summer afternoons, the sound of youthful voices and laughter
were the loudest, was Glen Cottage, a small white house adjoining the
long village street, belonging to a certain Mrs. Challoner, who lived
here with her three daughters.

This may be accounted strange in the first instance, since the
Challoners were people of the most limited income,--an income so small
that nothing but the most modest of entertainments could be furnished
to their friends; very different from their neighbors at Longmead, the
large white house adjoining, where sumptuous dinners and regular
evening parties were given in the dark days when pleasures were few
and tennis impossible.

People said it was very good-natured of the Maynes; but then when
there is an only child in the case, an honest, pleasure-loving, gay
young fellow, on whom his parents dote, what is it they will not do to
please their own flesh and blood? and, as young Richard Mayne--or
Dick, as he was always called--loved all such festive gatherings, Mrs.
Mayne loved them too; and her husband tried to persuade himself that
his tastes lay in the same direction, only reserving certain groans
for private use, that Dick could not be happy without a houseful of
young people.

But no such entertainments were possible at Glen Cottage:
nevertheless, the youth of the neighborhood flocked eagerly into the
pleasant drawing-room where Mrs. Challoner sat tranquilly summer and
winter to welcome her friends, or betook themselves through the open
French windows into the old-fashioned garden, in which mother and
daughters took such pride.

On hot afternoons the tea-table was spread under an acacia-tree, low
wicker-chairs were brought out, and rugs spread on the lawn, and Nan
and her sisters dispensed strawberries and cream, with the delicious
home-made bread and butter; while Mrs. Challoner sat among a few
chosen spirits knitting and talking in her pleasant low-toned voice,
quite content that the burden of responsibility should rest upon her
daughters.

Mrs. Challoner always smiled when people told her that she ought to be
proud of her girls. No daughters were ever so much to their mother as
hers; she simply lived in and for them; she saw with their eyes,
thought with their thoughts,--was hardly herself at all, but Nan and
Phillis and Dulce, each by turns.

Long ago they had grown up to her growth. Mrs. Challoner's nature was
hardly a self-sufficing one. During her husband's lifetime she had
been braced by his influence and cheered by his example, and had
sought to guide her children according to his directions; in a word,
his manly strength had so supported her that no one, not even her
shrewd young daughters, guessed at the interior weakness.

When her stay was removed, Mrs. Challoner ceased to guide, and came
down to her children's level. She was more like their sister than
their mother, people said; and yet no mother was more cherished than
she.

Her very weakness made her sacred in her daughters' eyes; her
widowhood, and a certain failure of health, made her the subject of
their choicest care.

It could not be said that there was much amiss, but years ago a doctor
whom Mrs. Challoner had consulted had looked grave, and mentioned the
name of a disease of which certain symptoms reminded him. There was no
ground for present apprehension; the whole thing was very shadowy and
unsubstantial,--a mere hint,--a question of care; nevertheless the
word had been said, and the mischief done.

From that time Mrs. Challoner was wont to speak gloomily of her
health, as of one doomed. She was by nature languid and lymphatic, but
now her languor increased; always averse to effort, she now left all
action to her daughters. It was they who decided and regulated the
affairs of their modest household, and rarely were such wise young
rulers to be found in girls of their age. Mrs. Challoner merely
acquiesced, for in Glen Cottage there was seldom a dissentient voice,
unless it were that of Dorothy, who had been Dulce's nurse, and took
upon herself the airs of an old servant who could not be replaced.

They were all pretty girls, the three Misses Challoner, but Nan was
_par excellence_ the prettiest. No one could deny that fact who saw
them together. Her features were more regular than her sisters', and
her color more transparent. She was tall too, and her figure had a
certain willowy grace that was most uncommon; but what attracted
people most was a frankness and unconsciousness of manner that was
perfectly charming.

Phillis, the second sister, was not absolutely pretty, perhaps, but
she was nice-looking, and there was something in her expression that
made people say she was clever; she could talk on occasions with a
fluency that was quite surprising, and that would cast Nan into the
shade. "If I were only as clever as Phillis!" Nan would sigh.

Then there was Dulce, who was only just eighteen, and whom her sisters
treated as the family pet; who was light and small and nimble in her
movements, and looked even younger than she really was.

Nobody ever noticed if Dulce were pretty; and one questioned if her
features were regular or not, or cared to do such a thing. Only when
she smiled, the prettiest dimple came into her cheek, and her eyes had
a fearless child-like look in them; for the rest, she was just Dulce.

The good-looking daughters of a good-looking mother, as somebody
called them; and there was no denying Mrs. Challoner was still
wonderfully well preserved, and, in spite of her languor and invalid
airs, a very pretty woman.

Five-o'clock tea had long been over at the cottage this afternoon, and
a somewhat lengthy game of tennis had followed; after which the
visitors had dispersed as usual, and the girls had come in to prepare
for the half-past seven-o'clock dinner; for Glen Cottage followed the
fashion of its richer neighbors, and set out its frugal meal with a
proper accompaniment of flower-vases and evening toilet.

The three sisters came up the lawn together, but Nan carried her
racquet a little languidly; she looked a trifle grave.

Mrs. Challoner laid down her knitting and looked at them, and then she
regarded her watch plaintively.

"Is it late, mother?" asked Nan, who never missed any of her mother's
movements. "Ten minutes past seven! No wonder the afternoon seemed
long."

"No one found it long but Nan," observed Dulce, with an arch glance at
her sister at which Nan slightly colored, but took no further notice.
"By the bye," she continued, as though struck by a sudden
recollection, "what can have become of Dick this afternoon? he so
seldom fails us without telling us beforehand."

"That will soon be explained," observed Phillis, oracularly, as the
gate-bell sounded, and was immediately followed by sharp footsteps on
the gravel and the unceremonious entrance of a young man through the
open window.

"Better late than never," exclaimed two of the girls. Nan said, "Why,
what has made you play truant, Dick?" in a slightly injured voice. But
Mrs. Challoner merely smiled at him, and said nothing; young men were
her natural enemies, and she knew it. She was civil to them and
endured their company, and that was all.

Dick Mayne was not a formidable-looking individual; he was a strong,
thick-set young fellow, with broad shoulders, not much above middle
height, and decidedly plain, except in his mother's eyes; and she
thought even Dick's sandy hair beautiful.

But in spite of his plainness he was a pleasant, well-bred young
fellow, with a fund of good humor and drollery, and a pair of honest
eyes that people learned to trust. Every one liked him, and no one
ever said a word in his dispraise; and for the rest, he could
tyrannize as royally as any other young man who is his family's sole
blessing.

"It was all my ill luck," grumbled Dick. "Trevanion of Exeter came
over to our place, and of course the mater pressed him to stay for
luncheon, and then nothing would do but a long walk over Hillberry
Downs."

"Why did you not bring him here?" interrupted Dulce, with a pout. "You
tiresome Dick, when you must know what a godsend a strange young man
is in these wilds!"

"My dear!" reproved her mother.

"Oh, but it is true, mamma," persisted the outspoken Dulce. "Think how
pleased Carrie and Sophy Paine would have been at the sight of a fresh
face! it was horrid of you, sir!"

"I wanted him to come," returned the young man, in a deprecating
voice. "I told him how awfully jolly it always is here, and that he
would be sure to meet a lot of nice people, but there was no
persuading him: he wanted a walk and a talk about our fellows. That is
the worst of Trevanion, he always will have his own way."

"Never mind," returned Nan, pleasantly; she seemed to have recovered
her sprightliness all at once. "It is very good of you to come so
often; and we had Mr. Parker and his cousin to look after the
Paines."

"Oh, yes! we did very well," observed Phillis, tranquilly. "Mother,
now Dick has come so late, he had better stay."

"If I only may do so?" returned Dick; but his inquiry was directed to
Nan.

"Oh, yes, you may stay," she remarked, carelessly, as she moved away;
but there was a little pleased smile on her face that he failed to
see. She nodded pleasantly to him as he darted forward to open the
door. It was Nan who always dispensed the hospitalities of the house,
whose decision was unalterable. Dick had learned what it was to be
sent about his business; only once had he dared to remain without her
sovereign permission, and on that occasion he had been treated by her
with such dignified politeness that he would rather have been sent to
Coventry.

This evening the fates were propitious, and Dick understood that the
sceptre of favor was to be extended to him. When the girls had flitted
into the little dusky hall he closed the door, and sat down happily
bedside Mrs. Challoner, to whom he descanted eloquently of the
beauties of Hilberry and the virtues of Ned Trevanion.

Mrs. Challoner listened placidly as the knitting-needles flashed
between her long white fingers. She was very fond of Dick, after her
temperate fashion; she had known him from a child, and had seen him
grow up among them until he had become like a son of the house. Dick,
who had no brothers and sisters of his own, and whose parents had not
married until they were long past youth, had adopted brotherly airs
with the Challoner girls; they called each other by their Christian
names, and he reposed in them the confidences that young men are wont
to give to their belongings.

With Nan this easy familiarity had of late merged into something
different: a reserve, a timidity, a subtile suspicion of change had
crept into their intimacy. Nan felt that Dick's manner had altered,
but somehow she liked it better: his was always a sweet bountiful
nature, but now it seemed to have deepened into greater manliness.
Dick was growing older; Oxford training was polishing him. After each
one of his brief absences Nan saw a greater change, a more marked
deference, and secretly hoped that no one else noticed it. When the
young undergraduate wrote dutiful letters home the longest messages
were always for Nan; when he carried little offerings of flowers to
his young neighbors, Nan's bouquet was always the choicest; he
distinguished her, too, on all occasions by those small nameless
attentions which never fail to please.

Nan kept her own counsel, and never spoke of these things. She said
openly that Dick was very nice and very much improved, and that they
always missed him sadly during the Oxford terms; but she never
breathed a syllable that might make people suspect that this very
ordinary young man with the sandy hair was more to her than other
young men. Nevertheless Phillis and Dulce knew that such was the case,
and Mrs. Challoner understood that the most dangerous enemy to her
peace was this lively-spoken Dick.

Dick was very amusing, for he was an eloquent young fellow:
nevertheless Mrs. Challoner sighed more than once, and her attention
visibly wandered; seeing which, Dick good-humoredly left off talking,
and began inspecting the different articles in Nan's work-basket.

"I am afraid I have given your mother a headache," he said when they
were sitting round the circular table in the low, oddly-shaped
dining-room. There was a corner cut off, and the windows were in
unexpected places, which made it unlike other rooms; but Dick loved it
better than the great dining-room at Longmead; and somehow it never
had looked cosier to him than it did this evening. It was somewhat
dark, owing to the shade of the veranda: so the lamp was lighted, and
the pleasant scent of roses and lilies came through the open windows.
A belated wasp hovered round the specimen glasses that Nan had filled;
Dick tried to make havoc of the enemy with his table-napkin. The
girls' white dresses suited their fresh young faces. Nan had fastened
a crimson rose in her gown; Phillis and Dulce had knots of blue
ribbon. "Trevanion does not know what he lost by his obstinacy,"
thought Dick, as he glanced round the table.

"What were you and the mother discussing?" asked Dulce, curiously.

"Dick was telling me about his friend. He seemed a very superior young
man," returned Mrs. Challoner. "I suppose you have asked him for your
party next week?"

Dick turned very red at this question. "Mater asked him, you may trust
her for that. If it were not for father, I think she would turn the
whole house out of the windows: every day some one fresh is invited."

"How delightful! and all in your honor," exclaimed Dulce,
mischievously.

"That spoils the whole thing," grumbled the heir of the Maynes: "it
is a perfect shame that a fellow cannot come of age quietly, without
his people making this fuss. I begin to think I was a fool for my
pains to refuse the ball."

"Yes, indeed; just because you were afraid of the supper speeches,"
laughed Dulce, "when we all wanted it so."

"New mind," returned Dick, sturdily; "the mater shall give us one in
the winter, and we will have Godfrey's band, and I will get all our
fellows to come."

"That will be delightful," observed Nan, and her eyes sparkled,--already
she saw herself led out for the first dance by the son of the house,--but
Dulce interrupted her:

"But all the same I wish Dick had not been so stupid about it. No one
knows what may happen before the winter. I hate put-off things."

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,--eh, Miss Dulce?"

"Yes, indeed; that proverb is truer than people think," she replied,
with a wise nod of her head. "Don't you remember, Nan, when the
Parkers' dance was put off, and then old Mr. Parker died; and nearly
the same thing happened with the Normatons, only it was an uncle in
that case."

"Moral: never put off a dance, in case somebody dies."

"Oh, hush, please!" groaned Nan, in a shocked voice; "I don't like to
hear you talk about such dreadful things. After all, it is such
delicious weather that I am not sure a garden-party will not be more
enjoyable; and you know, Dulce, that we are to dance on the lawn if we
like."

"And supposing it should rain," put in that extremely troublesome
young person, at which suggestion Dick looked very gloomy.

"In that case I think we must persuade Mrs. Mayne to clear a room for
us," returned Nan, cheerfully. "If your mother consults me," she
continued, addressing Dick, who visibly brightened at this, "I shall
recommend her to empty the front drawing-room as much as possible.
There is the grand piano, or the band might come in-doors; there will
be plenty of room for the young people, and the non-dancers can be
drafted off into the inner drawing-room and conservatory."

"What a head you have!" exclaimed Dick, admiringly; and Phillis, who
had not joined in the argument, was pleased to observe that she was
quite of Nan's opinion: dancing was imperative, and if the lawns were
wet they must manage in-doors somehow. "It would never do for people
to be bored and listless," finished the young lady, sententiously, and
such was Phillis's cleverness that it was understood at once that the
oracle had spoken; but then it was never known for Nan and Phillis to
differ.

Things being thus amicably arranged, the rest of the conversation
flowed evenly on every other point, such as the arrangements of the
tennis-matches in the large meadow, and the exact position of the
marquees; but just as they were leaving the table Dick said another
word to Nan in a somewhat low voice:

"It is all very well, but this sort of thing does make a fellow feel
such a conceited fool."

"If I were you I would not think about it at all," she returned, in
her sensible way. "The neighborhood will expect something of the kind,
and we owe a little to other people; then it pleases your mother to
make a fuss, as you call it, and it would be too ungrateful to
disappoint her."

"Well, perhaps you are right," he returned, in a slightly mollified
tone, for he was a modest young fellow, and the whole business had
occasioned him some soreness of spirit. "Take it all in all, one has
an awful lot to go through in life: there are the measles, you know,
and whooping cough, and the dentist, and one's examination, and no end
of unpleasant things; but to be made by one's own mother to feel like
an idiot for a whole afternoon! Never mind; it can be got through
somehow," finished the young philosopher, with a sigh that sent Nan
into a fit of laughter.



CHAPTER II.

DICK OBJECTS TO THE MOUNTAINS.


"Shall we have our usual stroll?" asked Phillis, as Nan and Dick
joined her at the window.

This was one of the customs at Glen Cottage. When any such fitting
escort offered itself, the three girls would put on their hats, and,
regardless of the evening dews and their crisp white dresses, would
saunter, under Dick's guidance through the quiet village, or down and
up the country roads "just for a breath of air," as they would say.

It is only fair to Mrs. Challoner's views of propriety to say that she
would have trusted her three pretty daughters to no other young man
but Dick; and of late certain prudential doubts had crossed her mind.
It was all very well for Phillis to say Dick was Dick, and there was
an end of it. After all, he belonged to the phalanx of her enemies,
those shadowy invaders of her hearth that threatened her maternal
peace. Dick was not a boy any longer; he had outgrown his hobbledehoy
ways; the slight sandy moustache that he so proudly caressed was not a
greater proof of his manhood than the undefinable change that had
passed over his manners.

Mrs. Challoner began to distrust these evening strolls, and to turn
over in her own mind various wary pretexts for detaining Nan on the
next occasion.

"Just this once, perhaps, it does not matter," she murmured to
herself, as she composed herself to her usual nap.

"We shall not be long, little mother; so you must not be dull," Dulce
had said, kissing her lightly over her eyes. This was just one of the
pleasant fictions at the cottage,--one of those graceful little
deceptions that are so harmless in families.

Dulce knew of those placid after-dinner naps. She knew her mother's
eyes would only unclose when Dorothy brought in the tea-tray; but she
was also conscious that nothing would displease her mother more than
to notice this habit. When they lingered in-doors, and talked in
whispers so as not to disturb her, Mrs. Challoner had an extraordinary
facility for striking into the conversation in a way that was somewhat
confusing.

"I don't agree with you at all," she would say, in a drowsy voice. "Is
it not time for Dorothy to bring in the tea? I wish you would all talk
louder. I must be getting a little deaf, I think, for I don't hear
half you say."

"Oh, it was only nonsense talk, mammie," Dulce would answer; and the
sisterly chit-chat would recommence, and her mother's head nid-nodded
on the cushions until the next interruption.

"We shall not have many more of these strolls," observed Dick,
regretfully, as they all walked together through the village, and then
branched off into a long country road, where the air blew freshly in
their faces and low mists hung over the meadow land. Though it was not
quite dark, there was a tiny moon, and the glimmer of a star or two;
and there was a pleasant fragrance as of new-mown grass.

They were all walking abreast, and keeping step, and Dick was in the
middle, with Nan beside him. Dulce was hanging on to her arm, and
every now and then breaking into little snatches of song.

"How I envy you!" exclaimed Phillis. "Think of spending three whole
months in Switzerland. Oh, you lucky Dick!"

For the Maynes had decided to pass the long vacation in the Engadine.
Some hints had been dropped that Nan should accompany them, but Mrs.
Challoner had regarded the invitation with some disfavor, and Mrs.
Mayne had not pressed the point. If only Nan had known! but her mother
had in this matter kept her own counsel.

"I don't know about that," dissented Dick; he was rather given to
argue from the mere pleasure of opposition. "Mountains and glaciers
are all very well in their way; but I think, on the whole, I would as
soon be here. You see, I am so accustomed to mix with a lot of
fellows, that I am afraid of finding the pater's sole company rather
slow."

"For shame!" remarked his usual monitress. But she spoke gently: in
her heart she knew why Dick failed to find the mountains alluring.

"Why could not one of you girls join us?" he continued, wrathfully.
The rogue had fairly bullied the unwilling Mrs. Mayne into giving that
invitation.

"Do ask her, mother; she will be such a nice companion for you when
the pater and I are doing our climbing; do, there's a dear good soul!"
he had coaxed. And the dear good soul, who was secretly jealous of
Nan, and loved her about as much as mothers usually love an only son's
choice, had bewailed her hard fate in secret; and had then stepped
over to the cottage with a bland and cheerful exterior, which grew
more cheerful as Mrs. Challoner's reluctance made itself felt.

"It is not wise; it will throw them so much together," Nan's mother
had said. "If it were only Phillis or Dulce; but you must have
noticed----"

"Oh, yes, I have noticed!" returned Mrs. Mayne, hastily. She was a
stout, comely-looking woman, but beside Mrs. Challoner she looked like
a housekeeper dressed in her mistress's smart clothes. Mrs. Mayne's
dresses never seemed to belong to her; it could not be said that they
fitted her ill, but there was a want of adaptability,--a lack of taste
that failed to accord with her florid style of beauty.

She had been a handsome woman when Richard Mayne married her, but a
certain deepening of tints and broadening of contour had not improved
the mistress of Longmead. Her husband was a decided contrast: he was a
small, wiry man, with sharp features that expressed a great deal of
shrewdness. Dick had got his sandy hair; but Richard Mayne the elder
had not his son's honest, kindly eyes. Mr. Mayne's were small and
twinkling; he had a way of looking at people between his half-closed
lids, in a manner half sharp and half jocular.

He was not vulgar, far from it; but he had a homely air about him that
spoke of the self-made man. He was rather fond of telling people that
his father had been in trade in a small way and that he himself had
been the sole architect of his fortune. "Look at Dick," he would say;
"he would never have a penny, that fellow, unless I made it for him:
he has come into the world to find his bread ready buttered. I had to
be content with a crust as I could earn it. The lad's a cut above us
both, though he has the good taste to try and hide it."

This sagacious speech was very true. Dick would never have succeeded
as a business man; he was too full of crotchets and speculations to be
content to run in narrow grooves. The notion of money-making was
abhorrent to him; the idea of a city life, with its hard rubs and
drudgery, was utterly distasteful to him. "One would have to mix with
such a lot of cads," he would say. "English, pure and undefiled, is
not always spoken. If I must work, I would rather have a turn at law
or divinity; the three old women with the eye between them knows
which."

It could not be denied that Dick winced a little at his father's
homely speeches; but in his heart he was both proud and fond of him,
and was given to assert to a few of his closest friends "that, take it
all in all, and looking at other fellows' fathers, he was a rattling
good sort, and no mistake."

When Mrs. Challoner had entered her little protest against her
daughter's acceptance of the invitation, Mrs. Mayne had risen and
kissed her with some effusion as she took her leave.

"It is so nice of you to say this to me; of course I should have been
pleased, delighted to have had Nan with us" (oh, Mrs. Mayne, fie for
shame! when you want your boy to yourself), "but all the same I think
you are so wise."

"Poor child! I am afraid I am refusing her a great treat," returned
Mrs. Challoner, in a tone of regret. It was the first time since her
husband's death that she had ever decided anything without reference
to her daughters; but for once her maternal fears were up in arms, and
drove her to sudden resolution.

"Yes, but, as you observed, it would throw them so entirely together;
and Dick is so young. Richard was only saying the other night that he
hoped the boy would not fancy himself in love for the next two years,
as he did not approve of such early engagements."

"Neither do I," returned Mrs. Challoner, quickly. "Nothing would annoy
me more than for one of my daughters to entangle herself with so young
a man. We know the world too well for that, Mrs. Mayne. Why, Dick may
fall in and out of love half a dozen times before he really makes up
his mind."

"Ah, that is what Richard says," returned Dick's mother, with a sigh;
in her heart she was not quite of her husband's opinion. She
remembered how that long waiting wasted her own youth,--waiting for
what? For comforts that she would gladly have done without,--for a
well-furnished house, when she would have lived happily in the poorest
lodging with the Richard Mayne who had won her heart,--for whom she
would have toiled and slaved with the self-abnegating devotion of a
loving woman; only he feared to have it so.

"'When poverty enters the door, love flies out of the window:' we had
better make up our minds to wait, Bessie. I can better work in single
than double harness just now." That was what he said to her, and
Bessie waited,--not till she grew thin, but stout, and the spirit of
her youth was gone; and it was a sober, middle-aged woman who took
possession of the long-expected home.

Mrs. Mayne loved her husband, but during that tedious engagement her
ardor had a little cooled, and it may be doubted whether the younger
Richard was not dearer to her than his father; which was ungrateful,
to say the least of it, as Mr. Mayne doted on his comely wife, and
thought Bessie as handsome now as in the days when she came out
smiling to welcome him, a slim young creature with youthful roses in
her cheeks.

From this brief conversation it may be seen that none of the elders
quite approved of this budding affection. Mrs. Challoner, who
belonged to a good old family, found it hard to forgive the Maynes'
lowliness of birth; and though she liked Dick, she thought Nan could
do better for herself. Mr. Mayne pooh-poohed the whole thing so
entirely that the women could only speak of it among themselves.

"Dick is a clever fellow; he ought to marry money," he would say. "I
am not a millionaire, and a little more would be acceptable;" and
though he was always kind to Nan and her sisters, he was forever
dealing sly hits at her. "Phillis has the brains of the family," he
would say: "that is the girl for my money. I call her a vast deal
better looking than Nan, though people make such a fuss about the
other one;" a speech he was never tired of repeating in his son's
presence, and at which Dick snapped his fingers metaphorically and
said nothing.

When Dick wished that one of them were going to Switzerland, Nan
sighed furtively. Dick was going away for three months, for the
remainder of the long vacation. After next week they would not see him
until Christmas,--nearly six months. A sense of dreariness, as new as
it was strange, swept momentarily over Nan as she pondered this. The
summer months would be grievously clouded. Dick had been the moving
spirit of all the fun; the tennis-parties, the pleasant dawdling
afternoons, would lose their zest when he was away.

She remembered how persistently he had haunted their footsteps. When
they paid visits to the Manor House, or Gardenhurst, or Fitzroy Lodge,
Dick was sure to put in an appearance. People had nicknamed him the
"Challoners' Squire;" but now Nan must go squireless for the rest of
the summer, unless she took compassion on Stanley Parker, or that
dreadful chatterbox his cousin.

The male population was somewhat sparse at Oldfield. There were a few
Eton boys, and one or two in that delightful transition age when youth
is most bashful and uninteresting,--a sort of unfledged manhood, when
the smooth boyish cheek contradicts the deepened bass of the
voice,--an age that has not ceased to blush, and which is full of
aggravating idosyncrasies and unexpected angles.

To be sure, Lord Fitzroy was a splendid specimen of a young guardsman,
but he had lately taken to himself a wife; and Sir Alfred Mostyn, who
was also somewhat attractive and a very pleasant fellow, and
unattached at present, had a tiresome habit of rushing off to Norway,
or St. Petersburg, or Niagara, or the Rocky Mountains, for what he
termed sport, or a lark.

"It seems we are very stupid this evening," observed Phillis for Dick
had waxed almost as silent as Nan. "I think the mother must nearly
have finished her nap, so I propose we go back and have some tea;"
and, as Nan languidly acquiesced they turned their faces towards the
village again, Dulce still holding firmly to Nan's arm. By and by Dick
struck out in a fresh direction.

"I say, don't you wish we could have last week over again?"

"Yes! oh, yes! was it not too delicious?" from the three girls; and
Nan added, "I never enjoyed anything so much in my life," in a tone so
fervent that Dick was delighted.

"What a brick your mother was, to be sure, to spare you all!"

"Yes; and she was so dull, poor dear, all the time we were away.
Dorothy gave us quite a pitiful account when we got home."

"It was a treat one ought to remember all one's life," observed
Phillis, quite solemnly; and then ensued a most animated discussion.

The treat to which Phillis alluded had been simply perfect in the
three girls' eyes. Dick, who never forgot his friends, had so worked
upon his mother that she had consented to chaperon the three sisters
during Commemoration; and a consent being fairly coaxed out of Mrs.
Challoner, the plan was put into execution.

Dick, who was in the seventh heaven of delight, found roomy lodgings
in the High Street, in which he installed his enraptured guests.

The five days that followed were simply hours snatched out of
fairyland to these four happy young creatures. No wonder envious looks
were cast at Dick as he walked in Christ Church Meadows with Nan and
Dulce, Phillis bringing up the rear somewhat soberly with Mrs. Mayne.

"One pretty face would content most fellows," his friends grumbled;
"but when you come to three, and not his own sisters either, why, it
isn't fair on other folk." And to Dick they said, "Come, it is no use
being so awfully close. Of course we see what's up: you are a lucky
dog. Which is it, Mayne?--the pretty one with the pink and white
complexion or the quiet one in gray, or the one with the mischievous
eyes?"

"Faix, they are all darlints and jewels, bless their purty faces!"
drawled one young rogue, in his favorite brogue. "Here's the top of
the morning to ye, Mayne; and it is mavourneen with the brown eyes and
the trick of the smile like the sunshine's glint that has stolen poor
Paddy's heart."

"Oh, shut up, you fellows!" returned Dick, in a disgusted voice. "What
is the good of your pretending to be Irish, Hamilton, when you are a
canny Scotchman?"

"Hoots, man, mind your clavers! You need not grizzle at a creature
because he admires a wee gairl that is just beyond the lave,--a sonsie
wee thing with a glint in her een like diamonds."

"Hamilton, will you leave off this foolery?"

"Nae doubt, nae doubt; would his honor pe axing if he pe wrang in the
head, puir thing? Never mind that, put pe giving me the skene-dhu, or
I will fight with proud-swords like a gentleman for the bit lassie;"
but here a wary movement on Dick's part extinguished the torrent of
Highland eloquence, and brought the canny Scotchman to the ground.

Perfectly oblivious of all these compliments, the Challoners enjoyed
themselves with the zest of healthy, happy English girls. They were
simply indefatigable: poor Mrs. Mayne succumbed utterly before the
fine days were over.

They saw the procession of boats; they were at the flower-show at
Worcester; Sunday afternoon found them in the Broad Walk; and the next
night they were dancing at the University ball.

They raved about the beauty of Magdalen cloisters; they looked down
admiringly into the deer-park; Addison's Walk became known to them,
and the gardens of St. John's. Phillis talked learnedly about Cardinal
Wolsey as she stood in Christ Church hall: and in the theatre "the
young ladies in pink" invoked the most continuous cheers.

"Can they mean us?" whispered Dulce, rather alarmed, to their faithful
escort Dick. "I don't see any other pink dresses!"

And Dick said, calmly,--

"Well, I suppose so. Some of those fellows up there are such a
trumpery lot."

So Dulce grew more reassured.

But the greatest fun of all was the afternoon spent in Dick's room,
when all his special friends were bidden to five o'clock tea, over
which Nan, in her white gown, presided so gracefully.

What a dear, shabby old room it was, with old-fashioned window-seats,
where one could look down into the quadrangle. Dick was an Oriel man,
and thought his college superior even to Magdalen.

It became almost too hot and crowded at last, so many were the
invitations given; but then, as Dick said afterwards, "he was such a
soft-hearted beggar that he could not refuse the fellows that pestered
him for invitations."

Mrs. Mayne, looking very proud and happy, sat fanning herself in one
of these windows. Phillis and Dulce were in the other attended by that
rogue Hamilton and half a dozen more. Nan was the centre of another
clique, who hemmed her and the tea-table in so closely that Dick had
to wander disconsolately round the outskirts: there was no getting a
look from Nan that afternoon.

How hot it was! It was a grand _coup_ when the door opened and the
scout made his appearance carrying a tray of ices.

"It is well to be Mayne!" half grumbled young Hamilton, as Dulce took
one gratefully from his hand. "He is treating us like a prince,
instead of the thin bread-and-butter entertainment he led us to
expect. Put down that tea, Miss Challoner. I see iced claret-cup and
strawberries in the corner. There is nothing like being an only child;
doting parents are extremely useful articles. I am one of ten; would
you believe it?" continued the garrulous youth. "When one has six
brothers older than one's self, I will leave you to imagine the
consequences."

"How nice!" returned Dulce, innocently; "I have always so longed for a
brother. If it had not been for Dick, we should have had no one to do
things for us."

"Oh, indeed! Mayne is a sort of adopted brother!" observed her
companion, looking at her rather sharply.

"We have always looked upon him as one. We do just as we like with
him,--scold and tease him, and send him on our errands;" which
intelligence fairly convinced the envious Hamilton that the youngest
Miss Challoner was not his friend's fancy.

Dick always recalled that evening with a sense of pride. How well and
gracefully Nan had fulfilled her duties! how pretty she had looked, in
spite of her flushed cheeks! He had never seen a girl to compare with
her,--not he!

They were so full of these delightful reminiscences that they were at
the cottage gate before they knew it; and then Dick astonished them by
refusing to come in. He had quite forgotten, he said, but his mother
had asked him to come home early, as she was not feeling just the
thing.

"Quite right; you must do as she wishes," returned Nan, dismissing him
far too readily, as he thought; but she said "Good-night!" with so
kind a smile after that, that the foolish young fellow felt his pulses
quicken.

Dick lingered at the corner until the cottage door was closed, and
then he raced down the Longmead shrubbery and set the house-bell
pealing.

"They are in the library, I suppose?" he asked of the butler who
admitted him; and, on receiving an answer in the affirmative, he
dashed unceremoniously into the room, while his mother held up her
finger and smiled at the truant.

"You naughty boy, to be so late; and now you have spoiled you father's
nap!" she said, pretending to scold him.

"Tut! tut! what nonsense you talk sometimes!" said Mr. Mayne, rather
crossly, as he stood on the hearth-rug rubbing his eyes. "I was not
asleep, I will take my oath of that; only I wish Dick could sometimes
enter a room without making people jump;" by which Dick knew that his
father was in one of his contrary moods, when he could be very
cross,--very cross indeed!



CHAPTER III.

MR. MAYNE MAKES HIMSELF DISAGREEABLE.


The library at Longmead was a very pleasant room, and it was the
custom of the family to retire thither on occasions when guests were
not forthcoming, and Mr. Mayne could indulge in his favorite nap
without fear of interruption.

A certain simplicity, not to say homeliness, of manners prevailed in
the house. It was understood among them that the dining-room was far
too gorgeous for anything but occasions of ceremony. Mrs. Mayne,
indeed, had had the good taste to cover the satin couches with pretty,
fresh-looking cretonne, and had had arranged hanging cupboards of old
china until it had been transformed into a charming apartment,
notwithstanding which the library was declared to be the family-room,
where the usual masculine assortment of litter could be regarded with
indulgent eyes, and where papers and pamphlets lay in delightful
confusion.

Longmead was not a pretentious house--it was a moderate-sized
residence, adapted to a gentleman of moderate means; but in summer no
place could be more charming. The broad gravel walk before the house
had a background of roses; hundreds of roses climbed up the railings
or twined themselves about the steps: a tiny miniature lake, garnished
with water-lilies, lay in the centre of the lawn; a group of old
elm-trees was beside it; behind the house lay another lawn, and beyond
were meadows where a few sheep were quietly grazing. Mr. Mayne, who
found time hang a little heavily on his hands, prided himself a good
deal on his poultry-yard and kitchen-garden. A great deal of his spare
time was spent among his favorite Bantams and Dorkings, and in
superintending his opinionated old gardener--on summer mornings he
would be out among the dews in his old coat and planter's hat, weeding
among the gooseberry-bushes.

"It is the early bird that finds the worm," he would say, when Dick
sauntered into the breakfast-room later on; for, in common with the
youth of his generation, he had a wholesome horror of early rising,
which he averred was one of the barbarous usages of the dark ages in
which his elders had been bred.

"I never took any interest in worms, sir," returned Dick, helping
himself to a tempting rasher that had just been brought in hot for the
pampered youth. "By the bye, have you seen Darwin's work on 'The
Formation of Vegetable Mould'? he declares that worms have played a
more important part in the history of the world than most people
would at first suppose: they were our earliest ploughmen."

"Oh, ah! indeed, very interesting!" observed his father, dryly; "but
all the same, I beg to observe, no one succeeded in life who was not
an early riser."

"A sweeping assertion, and one I might be tempted to argue, if it were
not for taking up your valuable time," retorted Dick, lazily, but with
a twinkle in his eye. "I know my constitution better than to trust
myself out before the world is properly aired and dried. I am thinking
it is less a case of worms than of rheumatism some early birds will be
catching;" to which Mr. Mayne merely returned an ungracious "Pshaw!"
and marched off, leaving his son to enjoy his breakfast in peace.

When Dick entered the library on the evening in question, Mr. Mayne's
querulous observation as to the noisiness of his entrance convinced
him at once that his father was in a very bad humor indeed, and that
on this account it behooved him to be exceedingly cool.

So he kissed his mother, who looked at him a little anxiously, and
then sat down and turned out her work-basket, as he had done Nan's two
or three hours ago.

"You are late after all, Dick," she said, with a little reproach in
her voice. It was hardly a safe observation, to judge by her husband's
cloudy countenance; but the poor thing sometimes felt her evenings a
trifle dull when Dick was away. Mr. Mayne would take up his paper, but
his eyes soon closed over it; that habit of seeking for the early worm
rather disposed him to somnolent evenings, during which his wife
knitted and felt herself nodding off out of sheer _ennui_ and dulness.
These were not the hours she had planned during those years of
waiting; she had told herself that Richard would read to her or talk
to her as she sat over her work, that they would have so much to say
to each other; but now, as she regarded his sleeping countenance
evening after evening, it may be doubted whether matrimony was quite
what she expected, since its bliss was so temperate and so strongly
infused with drowsiness.

Dick looked up innocently. "Am I late, mother?"

"Oh, of course not," returned his father, with a sneer; "it is not
quite time to ring for Nicholson to bring our candles. Bessie, I think
I should like some hot water to-night; I feel a little chilly." And
Bessie rang the bell obediently, and without any surprise in her
manner. Mr. Mayne often woke up chilly from his long nap.

"Are you going to have a 'drap of the cratur'?" asked his son, with
alacrity. "Well, I don't mind joining you, and that's the truth, for
we have been dawdling about, and I am a trifle chilly myself."

"You know I object to spirits for young men," returned Mr. Mayne,
severely: nevertheless he pushed the whiskey to Dick as soon as he
had mixed his own glass, and his son followed his example.

"I am quite of your opinion, father," he observed, as he regarded the
handsome cut-glass decanter somewhat critically; "but there are
exceptions to every rule, and when one is chilly----"

"I wish you would make an exception and stay away from the cottage
sometimes," returned Mr. Mayne, with ill-suppressed impatience. "It
was all very well when you were all young things together, but it is
high time matters should be different."

Dick executed a low whistle of surprise and dismay. He had no idea his
father's irritability had arisen from any definite cause. What a fool
he had been to be so late! it might lead to some unpleasant
discussion. Well, after all, if his father chose to be so disagreeable
it was not his fault; and he was no longer a boy, to be chidden, or
made to do this or that against his own will.

Mr. Mayne was sufficiently shrewd to see that his son was somewhat
taken aback by this sudden onslaught, and he was not slow to press his
advantage. He had wanted to give Dick a bit of his mind for some time,
and after all there is no time like the present.

"Yes, it was all very well when you were a lot of children together,"
he continued. "Of course, it is hard on you, Dick, having no brothers
and sisters to keep you company; your mother and I were always sorry
about that for your sake."

"Oh, don't mention it," interrupted Dick: "on the whole, I am best
pleased as it is."

"But it would have been better for you," returned his father, sharply:
"we should not have had all this fooling and humbug if you had had
sisters of your own."

"Fooling and humbug!" repeated Dick, hotly; "I confess, sir, I don't
quite understand to what you are referring." He was growing very
angry, but his mother flung herself between the combatants.

"Don't, my boy, don't; you must not answer your father in that way.
Richard, what makes you so hard on him to-night? It must be the gout,
Dick: we had better send for Dr. Weatherby in the morning," continued
the anxious woman, with tears in her eyes, "for your dear father would
never be so cross to you as this unless he were going to be ill."

"Stuff and nonsense, Bessie! Dr. Weatherby indeed!" but his voice was
less wrathful. "What is it but fooling, I should like to know, for
Dick to be daundering his time away with a parcel of girls as he does
with these Challoners!"

"I suppose you were never a young man yourself, sir."

"Oh, yes, I was, my boy," and the corners of Mr. Mayne's mouth relaxed
in spite of his efforts to keep serious. "I fell in love with your
mother, and stuck to her for seven or eight years; but I did not make
believe that I was brother to a lot of pretty girls, and waste all my
time dancing attendance on them and running about on their errands."

"You ought to have taken a lesson out of my book," returned his son,
readily.

"No, I ought to have done no such thing, sir!" shouted back Mr. Mayne,
waxing irate again. It could not be denied that Dick could be
excessively provoking when he liked. "Don't I tell you it is time this
sort of thing was stopped? Why, people will begin to talk, and say you
are making up to one of them, it is not right, Dick; it is not,
indeed," with an attempted pathos.

"I don't care that for what people say," returned the young fellow,
snapping his fingers. "Is it not a pity you are saying all this to me
just when I am going away and am not likely to see any of them for the
next six months? You are very hard on me to-night, father; and I can't
think what it is all about."

Mr. Mayne was silent a moment, revolving his son's pathetic speech. It
was true he had been cross, and had said more than he had meant to
say. He had not wished to hinder Dick's innocent enjoyments; but if he
were unknowingly picking flowers at the edge of a precipice, was it
not his duty as a father to warn him?

"I think I have been a little hard, my lad," he said, candidly, "but
there, you and your mother know my bark is worse than my bite. I only
wanted to warn you; that's all, Dick."

"Warn me!--against what, sir?" asked the young man, quickly.

"Against falling in love, really, with one of the Challoner girls!"
returned Mr. Mayne, trying to evade the fire of Dick's eyes, and
blustering a little in consequence. "Why, they have not a penny, one
of them, and, if report be true, Mrs. Challoner's money is very
shakily invested. Paine told me so the other day. He said he should
never wonder if a sudden crash came any minute."

"Is this true, Richard?"

"Paine declares it is; and think of Dick saddling himself with the
support of a whole family!"

"It strikes me you are taking things very much for granted," returned
his son, trying to speak coolly, but flushing like a girl over his
words. "I think you might wait, father, until I proposed bringing you
home a daughter-in-law."

"I am only warning you, Dick, that the Challoner connection would be
distasteful to me," replied Mr. Mayne, feeling that he had gone a
little too far. "If you had brothers and sisters it would not matter
half so much; but it would be too hard if my only son were to cross my
wishes."

"Should you disinherit me, father?" observed Dick, cheerfully. He had
recovered his coolness and pluck, and began to feel more equal to the
occasion.

"We should see about that, but I hardly think it would be for your
advantage to oppose me too much," returned his father with an ominous
pucker of his eyebrows, which warned Dick, that it was hardly safe to
chaff the old boy too much to-night.

"I think I will go to bed, Richard," put in poor Mrs. Mayne. She had
wisely forborne to mix in the discussion, fearing that it would bring
upon her the vials of her husband's wrath. Mr. Mayne was as choleric
as a Welshman, and had a reserve force of sharp cynical sayings that
were somewhat hard to bear. He was disposed to turn upon her on such
occasions, and to accuse her of spoiling Dick and taking his part
against his father; between the two Richards she sometimes had a very
bad time indeed.

Dick lighted his mother's candle, and bade her good-night; but all the
same she knew she had not seen the last of him. A few minutes
afterwards there was a hasty tap at the bedroom door, and Dick thrust
in his head.

"Come in, my dear; I have been expecting you," she said, with a
pleased smile. He always came to her when he was ruffled or put out,
and brought her all his grievances; surely this was the very meaning
and essence of her motherhood,--this healing and comfort that lay in
her power of sympathy.

When he was a little fellow, had she not extracted many a thorn and
bound up many a cut finger? and now he was a man, would she be less
helpful to him when he wanted a different kind of comfort?

"Come in, my son," she said, beckoning him to the low chair beside
her, into which Dick threw himself with a petulant yawn.

"Mother, what made the pater so hard on me to-night? he cut up as
rough as though I had committed some crime."

"I don't think he is quite himself to-night," returned Mrs. Mayne, in
her soft, motherly voice. "I fancy he misses you, Dick, and is half
jealous of the Challoners for monopolizing you. You are all we have,
that's where it is," she finished, stroking the sandy head with her
plump hand; but Dick jerked away from her with a little impatience.

"I think it rather hard that a fellow is to be bullied for doing
nothing at all," replied Dick, with a touch of sullenness. "When the
pater is in this humor it is no use saying anything to him; but you
may as well tell him, mother, that I mean to choose my wife for
myself."

"Oh, my dear, I dare not tell him anything of the kind," returned Mrs.
Mayne, in an alarmed voice; and then, as she glanced at her son, her
terror merged into amusement. There was something so absurdly boyish
in Dick's appearance, such a ludicrous contrast between the manliness
of his speech and his smooth cheek; the little fringe of hirsute
ornament, of which Dick was so proud, was hardly visible in the dim
light; his youthful figure, more clumsy than graceful, had an
unfledged air about it, nevertheless, the boldness of his words took
away her breath.

"Every man has a right to his own choice in such a matter," continued
Dick, loftily. "You may as well tell him, mother, that I intend to
select my own wife."

"My dear, I dare not for worlds----" she began; and then she stopped,
and laid her hand on his shoulder. "Why do you say this to me? there
is plenty of time," she went on hastily; "that is what your father
says, and I think he is right. You are too young for this sort of
thing yet. You must see the world; you must look about you; you must
have plenty of choice," continued the anxious mother. "I shall be hard
to please, Dick, for I shall think no one good enough for my boy; that
is the worst of having only one, and he the best son that ever lived,"
finished Mrs. Mayne, with maternal pride in her voice.

Dick took this effusion very coolly. He was quite used to all this
sort of worship; he did not think badly of himself; he was not
particularly humble-minded or given to troublesome introspection; on
the whole, he thought himself a good fellow, and was not at all
surprised that people appreciated him.

"There are such a lot of cads in the world, one is always glad to fall
in with a different sort," he would say to himself. He was quite of
his mother's opinion, that an honest, God-fearing young fellow, who
spoke the truth and shamed the devil, who had no special vices but a
dislike for early rising, who had tolerable brains, and more than his
share of muscle, who was in the Oxford eleven, and who had earned his
blue ribbon,--that such a one might be considered to set an example to
his generation.

When his mother told him she would be hard to please, Dick looked a
little wicked, and thought of Nan; but the name was not mentioned
between them. Nevertheless, Mrs. Mayne felt with unerring maternal
instinct that, in spite of his youth, Dick's choice was made, and
sighed to herself at the thought of the evil days that were to come.

Poor woman, she was to have little peace that night! Hardly had Dick
finished his grumble and sauntered away, before her husband's step was
heard in his dressing-room.

"Bessie," he called out to her, "why do you allow that boy to keep you
up so late at night? Do you know that it is eleven, and you are still
fully dressed?"

"Is it so late, Richard?"

"Yes, of course," he snapped; "but that is the care you take of your
health; and the way you cosset and spoil that boy is dreadful."

"I don't think Dick is easily spoiled," plucking up a little spirit to
answer him.

"That shows how little you understand boys," returned her husband.
Evidently the whiskey, though it was the best Glenlivat, had failed to
mollify him. It might be dangerous to go too far with Dick, for he had
a way of turning around and defending himself that somewhat
embarrassed Mr. Mayne, but with his wife there would be no such
danger. He would dominate her by his sharp speeches, and reduce her to
abject submission in a moment, for Bessie was the meekest of wives.
"Take care how you side with him," he continued, in a threatening
voice. "He thinks that I am not serious in what I said just now, and
is for carrying it off with a high hand; but I tell you, and you had
better tell him, that I was never more in earnest in my life. I won't
have one of those Challoner girls for a daughter-in-law!"

"Oh, Richard! and Nan is such a sweet girl!" returned his wife, with
tears in her eyes. She was awfully jealous of Nan, at times she almost
dreaded her; but for her boy's sake she would have taken her now to
her heart and defied even her formidable husband. "She is such a
pretty creature, too; no one can help loving her."

"Pshaw!" returned her husband; "pretty creature indeed! that is just
your soft-hearted nonsense. Phillis is ten times prettier, and has
heaps more sense. Why couldn't Dick have taken a fancy to her?"

"Because I am afraid he cares for the other one," returned Mrs. Mayne,
sadly. She had no wish to deceive her husband and she knew that the
golden apple had rolled to Nan's feet.

"Stuff and rubbish!" he responded, wrathfully. "What is a boy of his
age to know about such things? Tell him from me to put this nonsense
out of his head for the next year or two; there is plenty of time to
look out for a wife after that. But I won't have him making up his
mind until he has left Oxford." And Mrs. Mayne, knowing that her
husband had spoken his last word, thankfully withdrew, feeling that in
her heart she secretly agreed with him.



CHAPTER IV.

DICK'S FÊTE.


As Mr. Mayne's wrath soon evaporated, and Dick was a sweet-tempered
fellow and bore no malice, this slight altercation produced no lasting
effect, except that Dick, for the next few days, hurried home to his
dinner, talked a good deal about Switzerland, and never mentioned a
Challoner in his father's hearing.

"We must keep him in a good temper for the 25th," he said to his
mother, with a touch of the Mayne shrewdness.

That day was rapidly approaching, and all sorts of festive
preparations were going on at Longmead. Dick himself gravely
superintended the rolling of the tennis-ground in the large meadow,
and daubed himself plentifully with lime in marking out the courts,
while Mr. Mayne stood with his hands in the pockets of his
shooting-coat watching him. The two were a great deal together just
then: Dick rather stuck to his father during one or two mornings; the
wily young fellow knew that Nan was closeted with his mother, helping
her with all sorts of feminine arrangements, and he was determined to
keep them apart. Nan wondered a great deal why Dick did not come to
interrupt or tease them as usual, and grew a little absent over Mrs.
Mayne's rambling explanations. When the gong sounded, no one asked her
to stay to luncheon. Mrs. Mayne saw her put on her hat without
uttering a single protest.

"It is so good of you to help me, dear," she said, taking the girl
into her embrace. "You are quite sure people won't expect a sit-down
supper?"

"Oh no; the buffet system is best," returned Nan, decidedly. "Half the
people will not stay, and you need not make a fuss about the rest. It
is an afternoon party, you must remember that; only people who are
very intimate will remain for the fun of the thing. Tell Nicholson to
have plenty of ices going; people care most for that sort of
refreshment."

"Yes, dear; I will be sure to remember," returned her friend, meekly.

She was very grateful to Nan for these hints, and was quite willing to
follow her guidance in all such matters; but when Nan proposed once
sending for Dick to ask his opinion on some knotty point that baffled
their women's wits, Mrs. Mayne demurred.

"It is a pity to disturb him; he is with his father; and we can settle
these things by ourselves," she replied, not venturing to mar the
present tranquillity by sending such a message to Dick. Mr. Mayne
would have accompanied his son, and the consultation would hardly have
ended peaceably. "Men have their hobbies. We had better settle all
this together, you and I," she said hurriedly.

Nan merely nodded, and cut the Gordian knot through somewhat
ruthlessly; but on that occasion she put on her hat before the gong
sounded.

"You must be very busy, for one never has a glimpse of you in the
morning," she could not help saying to Dick, as he came in that
afternoon to escort them to Fitzroy Lodge.

"Well, yes, I am tolerably busy," he drawled. "I am never free to do
things in the afternoons,"--a fact that Nan felt was unanswerable.

When Nan and her sisters woke on the morning of the memorable day, the
bright sunshine of a cloudless June day set all their fears at rest.
If the sun smiled on Dick's fête, all would be well. If Nan's
devotions were longer than usual that morning, no one was the wiser;
if she added a little clause, calling down a blessing on a certain
head, no one would be the poorer for such pure prayers; indeed, it
were well if many such were uttered for the young men who go forth
morning after morning into the temptations of life.

Such prayers might stretch like an invisible shield before the
countless foes that environ such a one; fiery darts may be caught upon
it; a deadly thrust may be turned away. What if the blessing would
never reach the ear of the loved one, who goes out unconscious of
sympathy? His guardian angel has heard it, and perchance it has
reached the very gate of heaven.

Nan came down, smiling and radiant, to find Dick waiting for her in
the veranda and chattering to Phillis and Dulce.

"Why, Dick!" she cried, blushing with surprise and pleasure, "to think
of your being here on your birthday morning!"

"I only came to thank you and the girls for your lovely presents,"
returned Dick, becoming rather incoherent and red at the sight of
Nan's blush. "It was so awfully good of you all, to work all those
things for me;" for Nan had taken secret measurements in Dick's room,
and had embroidered a most exquisite mantelpiece valance, and Phillis
and Dulce had worked the corners of a green cloth with wonderful
daffodils and bulrushes to cover Dick's shabby table: and Dick's soul
had been filled with ravishment at the sight of these gifts.

Nan would not let him go on, but all the same his happy face delighted
her.

"No, don't thank us, we liked doing it," she returned, rather coolly.
"You know we owed you something after all your splendid hospitality,
and work is never any trouble to us."

"But I never saw anything I liked better," blurted out Dick. "All the
fellows will be jealous of me. I am sure I don't know what Hamilton
will say. It was awfully good of you, Nan, and so it was of the
others: and if I don't make it up to you somehow, my name is not
Dick:" and he smiled round at them as he spoke. "Fancy putting in all
those stitches for me!" he thought to himself.

"We are so glad you are pleased," returned Nan, with one of her sweet,
straightforward looks; "that is what we wanted to give you,--a little
surprise on your birthday. Now you must tell us about your other
presents." And Dick, nothing loath, launched into eloquent
descriptions of the silver-fitted dressing-case from his mother, and
the gun and thorough-bred collie that had been his father's gifts.

"He is such a fine fellow; I must show him to you this afternoon,"
went on Dick, eagerly. "His name is Vigo, and he has such a superb
head. Was it not good of the pater? he knew I had a fancy for a
collie, and he has been in treaty for one ever so long. Is he not a
dear old boy?" cried Dick, rapturously. But he did not tell his
friends of the crisp bundle of bank-notes with which Mr. Mayne had
enriched his son; only as Dick fingered them lovingly, he wondered
what pretty foreign thing he could buy for Nan, and whether her mother
would allow her to accept it.

After this Nan dismissed him somewhat peremptorily; he must go back to
his breakfast, and allow them to do the same.

"Mind you come early," were Dick's last words as he waved his straw
hat to them. How often the memory of that morning recurred to him as
he stood solitarily and thoughtful, contemplating some grand sketch of
Alpine scenery!

The snow peaks and blue glaciers melted away before his eyes; in their
place rose unbidden a picture framed in green trellis-work, over which
roses were climbing.

Fresh girlish faces smiled back at him; the brightest and kindest of
glances met his. "Good-bye, Dick; a thousand good wishes from us all."
A slim white hand had gathered a rose-bud for him; how proudly he had
worn it all that day! Stop, he had it still; it lay all crushed and
withered in his pocket-book. He had written the date under it; one day
he meant to show it to her. Oh, foolish days of youth, so prodigal of
minor memories and small deeds of gifts, when a withered flower can
hold the rarest scent, and in a crumpled roseleaf there is a whole
volume of ecstatic meaning! Oh, golden days of youth, never to be
surpassed!

Never in the memory of Oldfield had there been a more delicious day.

The sky was cloudless; long purple shadows lay under the elm-trees; a
concert of bird-music sounded from the shrubberies: in the green
meadows flags were waving, tent-draperies fluttering; the house-doors
stood open, showing a flower-decked hall and vista of cool shadowy
rooms.

Dick, looking bright and trim, wandering restlessly over the place,
and Mr. Mayne fidgeted after him; while Mrs. Mayne sat fanning herself
under the elm-trees and hoping the band would not be late.

No there it was turning in now at the stable-entrance, and playing
"The girl I left behind me;" and there at the same moment was Nan
coming up the lawn in her white gown, closely followed by her mother
and sisters.

"Are we the first?" she asked, as Dick darted across the grass to meet
her. "That is nice; we shall see all the people arrive. How
inspiriting that music is, and how beautiful everything looks!"

"It is awfully jolly of you to be the first," whispered Dick; "and how
nice you look, Nan! You always do, you know, but to-day you are
first-rate. Is this a new gown?" casting an approving look over Nan's
costume, which was certainly very fresh and pretty.

"Oh, yes; we have all new dresses in your honor, and we made them
ourselves," returned Nan, carelessly. "Mother has got her old silk,
but for her it does not so much matter; at least that is what she
says."

"And she is quite right. She is always real splendid, as the Yankees
say, whatever she wears," returned Dick, wishing secretly that his
mother in her new satin dress looked half so well as Mrs. Challoner in
her old one. But it was no use. Mrs. Mayne never set off her handsome
dresses; with her flushed, good-natured face and homely ways, she
showed to marked disadvantage beside Mrs. Challoner's faded beauty.
Mrs. Challoner's gown might be antique, but nothing could surpass the
quiet grace of her carriage, or the low pleasant modulations of her
voice. Her figure was almost as slim as her daughters', and she could
easily have passed for their elder sister.

Lady Fitzroy, who was a Burgoyne by birth,--and every one knows that
for haughtiness and a certain exclusive intoleration none could match
the Burgoynes,--always distinguished Mrs. Challoner by the marked
attention she paid her.

"A very lady-like woman, Percival. Certainly the most lady-like person
in the neighborhood," she would say to her husband, who was not quite
so exclusive, and always made himself pleasant to his neighbors; and
she would ask very graciously after her brother-in-law, Sir Francis
Challoner. "He is still in India, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes; he is still in India," Mrs. Challoner would reply, rather
curtly. She had not the faintest interest in her husband's brother,
whom she had never seen more than twice in her life, and who was
understood to be small credit to his family. The aforesaid Sir Francis
Challoner had been the poorest of English baronets. His property had
dwindled down until it consisted simply of a half ruined residence in
the north of England.

In his young days Sir Francis had been a prodigal, and, like the
prodigal in the parable, he had betaken himself into far countries,
not to waste his substance, for he had none, but if possible to glean
some of the Eastern riches.

Whether he had been successful or not Mrs. Challoner hardly knew. That
he had married and settled in Calcutta,--that he had a son named
Harry, who had once written to her in round hand and subscribed
himself as her affectionate nephew, Henry Ford Challoner--this she
knew; but what manner of person Lady Challoner might be, or what sort
of home her brother-in-law had made for himself, those points were
enveloped in mystery.

"I suppose she is so civil to me because of your uncle Francis," she
used to say to her girls, which was attributing to Lady Fitzroy a
degree of snobbishness that was quite undeserved. Lady Fitzroy really
liked Mrs. Challoner and found intercourse with her very pleasant and
refreshing. When one is perfectly well-bred, there is a subtile charm
in harmony of voice and manner. Mrs. Challoner might have dressed in
rags if she liked, and the young countess would still have aired her
choicest smiles for her.

It was lucky Nan had those few words from Dick, for they fell apart
after this, and were separated the greater portion of the afternoon.

Carriages began to drive in at the gates; groups of well-dressed
people thronged the lawn, and were drafted off to the field where the
band was playing.

Nan and her sisters had their work cut out for them; they knew
everybody and they were free of the house. It was they who helped Dick
arrange the tennis-matches, who pointed out to the young men of the
party which was the tea-tent, and where the ices and claret-cup were
to be found. They marshalled the elder ladies into pleasant nooks,
where they could be sheltered from the sun and see all that was going
on.

"No, thank you; I shall not play tennis this afternoon; there are too
many of us, and I am so busy," Nan said, dismissing one after another
who came up to her. "If you want a partner, there is Carrie Paine, who
is dying for a game."

Dick, who was passing with Lady Fitzroy on his arm, whom he was
hurrying somewhat unceremoniously across the field, threw her a
grateful glance as he went by.

"What a sweet-looking girl that is!" said Lady Fitzroy, graciously, as
she panted a little over her exertion.

"Who?--Nan? Yes; isn't she a brick?--and the others too?" for Phillis
and Dulce were just as self-denying in their labors. As Mr. Mayne said
afterwards, "They were just everywhere, those Challoners, like a hive
of swarming bees;" which, as it was said in a grumbling tone, was
ungrateful, to say the least of it.

Dick worked like a horse too; he looked all the afternoon as though he
had a tough job in hand that required the utmost gravity and despatch.
He was forever hurrying elderly ladies across the field towards the
refreshment-tent, where he deposited them, panting and heated, in all
sorts of corners.

"Are you quite comfortable? May I leave you now? or shall I wait and
take you back again?" asked Dick, who was eager for a fresh convoy.

"No, no; I would rather stay here a little," returned Mrs. Paine, who
was not desirous of another promenade with the hero of the day. "Go
and fetch some one else, Dick: I am very well off where I am,"
exchanging an amused glance with one of her friends, as Dick, hot and
breathless, started off on another voyage of discovery.

Dick's behavior had been simply perfect all the afternoon in his
father's eyes; but later on, when the band struck up a set of
quadrilles, he committed his first solecism in manners: instead of
asking Lady Fitzroy to dance with him, he hurried after Nan.

"This is our dance; come along," he said, taking her unwilling hand;
but she held back a moment.

"Are you sure? Is there not some one else you ought to choose?--Lady
Fitzroy, for example?" questioned Nan, with admirable forethought.

"Bother Lady Fitzroy!" exclaimed Dick, under his breath; he had had
quite enough of that lady. "Why are you holding back, Nan, in this
fashion?" a cloud coming over his face. "Haven't you promised weeks
ago to give me the first dance?" And Nan, seeing the cloud on his
face, yielded without another word. Dick always managed to have his
own way somehow.

"Dick! Dick!" cried his father, in a voice of agony, as they passed
him.

"All in good time; coming presently," returned the scapegrace,
cheerfully. "Now, Nan, this is our place. We will have Hamilton and
Dulce for our _vis-a-vis_. What a jolly day; and isn't this
first-rate?" exclaimed Dick, rubbing his hands, and feeling as though
he were only just beginning to enjoy himself.

Nan was not quite so easy in her mind.

"Your father does not look very pleased. I am afraid, after all, you
ought to have asked Lady Fitzroy," she said, in a low voice; but Dick
turned a deaf ear. He showed her the rose in his buttonhole; and when
Nan told him it was withered, and wanted him to take it out, he gave
her a reproachful look that made her blush.

They were very happy after this; and, when the dance was over, Dick
gave her his arm, and carried her off to see Vigo, who was howling a
deep mournful bass at the back of the gardener's cottage.

Nan made friends with him, and stroked his black curly head, and
looked lovingly into his deep melancholy eyes; and then, as her
flowers were fading, they strolled off into the conservatory, where
Dick gathered her a fresh bouquet and then sat down and watched her
arrange it.

"What clever fingers you have got!" he said, looking at them
admiringly, as Nan sorted the flowers in her lap; and at this unlucky
moment they were discovered by Mr. Mayne, who was bringing Lady
Fitzroy to see a favorite orchid.

He shot an angry suspicious glance at his son.

"Dick, your mother is asking for you," he said, rather abruptly; but
Dick growled something in an undertone, and did not move.

Nan gave him a frightened nudge. Why was he so imprudent?

"I cannot move, because of my flowers; do go, Dick. You must indeed,
if your mother wants you;" and she looked at him in such a pleading
way that Dick dared not refuse. It was just like his father to come
and disturb his first happy moments and to order him off to go and do
something disagreeable. He had almost a mind to brave it out, and
remain in spite of him; but there was Nan looking at him in a
frightened, imploring way.

"Oh, do go, Dick," giving him a little impatient push in her
agitation; "if your mother wants you, you must not keep her waiting."
But Nan in her heart knew, as Dick did in his, that the message was
only a subterfuge to separate them.



CHAPTER V.

"I AM QUITE SURE OF HIM."


Nan would willingly have effected her escape too, but she was detained
by the flowers that Dick had tossed so lightly into her lap. She was
rather dismayed at her position, and her fingers trembled a little
over their work. There was a breath--a sudden entering current--of
antagonism and prejudice that daunted her. Lady Fitzroy cast an
admiring look at the girl as she sat there with glowing cheeks and
downcast lids.

"How pretty she is!" she said, in a low voice, as Mr. Mayne pointed
out his favorite orchid. "She is like her mother; there is just the
same quiet style, only I suspect Mrs. Challoner was even better
looking in her time."

"Humph! yes, I suppose so," returned her host, in a dissatisfied tone.
He had not brought Lady Fitzroy there to talk of the Challoners, but
to admire his orchids. Then he shot another glance at Nan between his
half-closed eyes, and a little spice of malice flavored his next
words.

"Shall we sit here a moment? Let me see: you were asking me, Lady
Fitzroy, about Dick's prospects. I was talking to his mother about
them the other day. I said to her then, Dick must settle in life well;
he must marry money."

"Indeed?" replied Lady Fitzroy, somewhat absently; she even indulged
in a slight yawn behind her fan. She liked Dick well enough, as every
one else did, but she was not partial to his father. How tiresome it
was of Fitzroy to insist so much on their neighborly duties!

Mr. Mayne was not "one of them," as she would have phrased it; he did
not speak their language or lead their life; their manners and
customs, their little tricks and turns of thought were hieroglyphics
to him.

A man who had never had a grandfather,--at least a grandfather worth
knowing,--whose father's hands had dabbled in trade,--actually
trade,--such a one might be a very worthy man, an excellent citizen,
an exemplary husband and father, but it behooved a woman in her
position not to descend too freely to his level.

"Percival is such a sad Radical," she would say to herself; "he does
not make sufficient distinction between people. I should wish to be
neighborly, but I cannot bring myself to be familiar with these
Maynes;" which was perhaps the reason why Lady Fitzroy was not as
popular at Longmead and in other places as her good-natured husband.

"Oh, indeed?" she said, with difficulty repressing another slight yawn
behind her fan, but speaking in a fatigued voice: but Mr. Mayne was
too intent on his purpose to notice it.

"If Dick had brothers and sisters it would not matter so much; but
when one has only a single hope--eh, Lady Fitzroy?--things must be a
little different then."

"He will have plenty of choice," she returned, with an effort at
graciousness. "Oldfield is rich in pretty girls:" and she cast another
approving glance at poor Nan, but Mr. Mayne interrupted her almost
rudely.

"Ah, as to that," he returned, with a sneer, "we want no such nonsense
for Dick. Here are the facts of the case. Here is an honest,
good-tempered young fellow, but with no particular push in him; he has
money, you say,--yes, but not enough to give him the standing I want
him to have. I am ambitious for Dick. I want him to settle in life
well. Why, he might be called to the bar; he might enter Parliament;
there is no limit to a man's career nowadays. I will do what I can for
him, but he must meet me half-way."

"You mean," observed Lady Fitzroy, with a little perplexity in her
tone, "that he must look out for an heiress." She was not in the
secret, and she could not understand why her host was treating her to
this outburst of confidence. "It was so disagreeable to be mixed up
with this sort of thing," as she told her husband afterwards. "I never
knew him quite so odious before; and there was that pretty Miss
Challoner sitting near us, and he never let me address a word to
her."

Nan began to feel she had had enough of it. She started up hastily as
Lady Fitzroy said the last words, but the entrance of some more young
people compelled her to stand inside a moment, and she heard Mr.
Mayne's answer distinctly: "Well, not an heiress exactly; but the girl
I have in view for him has a pretty little sum of money, and the
connection is all that could be wished; she is nice-looking, too, and
is a bright, talking little body----" But here Nan made such a
resolute effort to pass, that the rest of the sentence was lost upon
her.

Dick, who was strolling up and down the lawn rather discontentedly,
hurried up to her as she came out.

"They are playing a valse; come, Nan," he said, holding out his hand
to her with his usual eagerness; but she shook her head.

"I cannot dance; I am too tired: there are others you ought to ask."
She spoke a little ungraciously, and Dick's face wore a look of
dismay, as she walked away from him with quick even footsteps.

Tired! Nan tired! he had never heard of such a thing. What had put her
out? The sweet brightness had died out of her eyes, and her cheeks
were flaming. Should he follow her and have it out with her, there and
then? But, as he hesitated, young Hamilton came over the grass and
linked his arm in his.

"Come and introduce me to that girl in blue gauze, or whatever you
call that flimsy manufacture. Come along, there's a good fellow," he
said, coaxingly; and Dick's opportunity was lost.

But he was wrong; for once in her life Nan was tired; the poor girl
felt a sudden quenching of her bright elasticity that amounted to
absolute fatigue.

She had spoken to Dick sharply; but that was to get rid of him and to
recall him to a sense of his duty. Not for worlds would she be seen
dancing with him, or even talking to him, again!

She sat down on a stump of a tree in the shrubbery, and wondered
wearily what had taken it out of her so much. And then she recalled,
sentence by sentence, everything that had passed in the conservatory.

She had found out quite lately that Mr. Mayne did not approve of her
intimacy with Dick. His manner had somewhat changed to her, and
several times he had spoken to her in a carping, fault-finding
way,--little cut-and-dried sentences of elderly wisdom that she had
not understood at the time.

She had not pleased him of late, somehow, and all her little efforts
and overtures had been lost upon him. Nan had been quite aware of
this, but it had not troubled her much: it was a way he had, and he
meant nothing by it. Most men had humors that must be respected, and
Dick's father had his. So she bore herself very sweetly towards him,
treating his caustic remarks as jokes, and laughing pleasantly at
them, never taking his hints in earnest; he would know better some
day, that was all; but she had no idea of any deeply-laid plan against
their happiness. She felt as though some one had struck her hard; she
had received a blow that set all her nerves tingling. It was very
funny, what he said; it was so droll that it almost made her laugh;
and yet her eyes smarted, and her cheeks felt on fire.

"'Dick must marry money.' Why must he?--that was so droll. 'Well, not
an heiress exactly, but a pretty little sum of money, and a bright,
taking little body.' Who was this mysterious person whom he had in
view, whose connections were so desirable, who was to be Dick's future
wife? Dick's future wife!" repeated Nan, with an odd little quiver of
her lip. "And was it not droll, settling it all for him like that?"

Nan fell into a brown study, and then woke up with a little gasp. It
was all clear to her now, all these cut-and-dried sentences,--all
those veiled sneers and innuendoes.

They were poor,--poor as church-mice,--and Dick must marry money. Mr.
Mayne had laid his plans for his son, and was watching their growing
intimacy with disapproving eyes. Perhaps "the bright, taking little
body" might accompany them to Switzerland; perhaps among the mountains
Dick would forget her, and lend a ready acquiescence to his father's
plans. Who was she? Had Nan ever seen her? Could she be here this
afternoon, this future rival and enemy of her peace?

"Ah, what nonsense I am thinking!" she exclaimed to herself, starting
up with a little shame and impatience at her own thoughts. "What has
this all got to do with me? Let them settle it between
them,--money-bags and all. Dick is Dick, and after all, I am not
afraid!" And Nan marched back to the company, with her head higher,
and a great assumption of cheerfulness, and a little gnawing feeling
of discomfort at her heart, to which she would not have owned for
worlds.

Nan was the gayest of the gay that evening, but she would not dance
again with Dick: she sent the poor boy away from her with a decision
and peremptoriness that struck him with fresh dismay.

"You are not tired now, Nan; and have been waltzing ever so long with
Cathcart and Hamilton."

"Never mind about me to-night: you must go and ask Lady Fitzroy. No, I
am not cross. Do you think I would be cross to you on your birthday?
but all the same I will not have you neglect your duties. Go and ask
her this moment, sir!" And Nan smiled in his face in the most
bewitching way, and gave a little flutter to her fan. She accepted Mr.
Hamilton's invitation to a valse under Dick's very eyes, and whirled
away on his arm, while Dick stood looking at her ruefully.

Just at the very last moment Nan's heart relented.

"Walk down to the gate with us," she whispered, as she passed him on
her way to the cloak-room.

Dick, who was by this time in a somewhat surly humor, make no sort of
response; nevertheless Nan found him out on the gravel path waiting
for them in company with Cathcart and Hamilton.

Nan shook off the latter rather cleverly, and took Dick's arm, in
cheerful unconsciousness of his ill-humor.

"It is so good of you to come with us. I wanted to get you a moment to
myself, to congratulate you on the success of the evening. It was
admirably managed; every one says so: even Lady Fitzroy was pleased,
and her ladyship is a trifle fastidious. Have the band in-doors, and
set them to dancing,--that is what I said; and it has turned out a
complete success," finished Nan, with a little gush of enthusiasm; but
she did not find Dick responsive.

"Oh! bother the success and all that!" returned that very misguided
young man; "it was the slowest affair to me, I assure you, and I am
thankful it is over. You have spoiled the evening to me, and that is
what you have done," grumbled Dick, in his most ominous voice.

"I spoiled your evening, you ungrateful boy!" replied Nan, innocently;
but she smiled to herself in the darkness, and the reproach was sweet
to her. They had entered the garden of Glen Cottage by this time, and
Dick was fiercely marching her down a side-path that led to the
kitchen. The hall door stood open. Cathcart and Hamilton were
chattering with the girls in the porch, while Mrs. Challoner went
inside. They peered curiously into the summer dusk, as Dick's
impatient footsteps grated on the gravel path.

"I spoiled your evening!" repeated Nan, lifting her bright eyes with
the gleam of fun still in them.

"Yes," blurted out Dick. "Why have you kept me at such a distance all
the evening? Why would you not dance with me? and you gave Hamilton
three valses. It was not like you, Nan, to treat me so,--and on my
birthday too," went on the poor fellow, with a pathos that brought
another sort of gleam to Nan's eyes, only she still laughed.

"Ah, you foolish boy!" she said, and gave his coat-sleeve a coaxing
little pat. "I would rather have danced with you than Mr. Hamilton,
though he does reverse beautifully, and I never knew any one who
waltzed more perfectly."

"Oh, I do not presume to rival Hamilton," began Dick hotly, but she
silenced him.

"Listen to me, you foolish Dick! I would have danced with you, and
willingly, but I knew my duty better, or rather I knew yours. You were
a public man to-day; the eyes of the county were upon you. You had to
pay court to the big ladies, and to take no notice of poor little me.
I sent you away for your own good, and because I valued your duty
above my pleasure," continued this heroic young person, in a perfectly
satisfied tone.

"And you wanted to dance with me, Nan, and not with that goose of a
Hamilton?" in a wheedling voice.

"Yes, Dick; but he is not a goose for all that: he is more of a swan
in my opinion."

"He is a conceited ass!" was the very unexpected reply, which was a
little hard on Dick's chum, who was in many ways a most estimable
young man and vastly his superior. "Why are you laughing, when you
know I hate prigs? and Hamilton is about the biggest I ever knew." But
this did not mend matters, and Nan's laugh still rang merrily in the
darkness.

"What are those two doing?" asked Phillis, trying to peep between the
lilac-bushes, but failing to discover more than the white glimmer of
Nan's shawl.

Nan's laugh, though it was full of sweet triumph, only irritated Dick;
the lord of the evening was still too sore and humiliated by all these
rebuffs and repulses to take the fun in good part.

"What is it that amuses you so?" he asked, rather crossly. "That is
the worst of you girls; you are always so ready to make merry at a
fellow's expense. You are taking Hamilton's part against me, Nan,--I,
who am your oldest friend, who have always been faithful to you ever
since you were a child," continued the young man, with a growing sense
of aggravation.

"Oh, Dick!" and Nan's voice faltered a little; she was rather touched
at this.

Dick took instant note of the change of key, and went on in the same
injured voice:

"Why should I look after all the big people and take no notice of you?
Have I not made it my first duty to look after you as long as I can
remember? Though the whole world were about us, would you not be the
first and the principal to me?"

"Don't, Dick," she said, faintly, trying to repress him; "you must not
talk in that way, and I must not listen to you; your father would not
like it." The words were sweet to her,--precious beyond
everything,--but she must not have him speak them. But Dick, in his
angry excitement, was not to be repressed.

"What does it matter what he likes? This is between you and me, Nan;
no one shall meddle between us two." But what imprudent speech Dick
was about to add was suddenly quenched in light-pealing laughter. At
this critical moment they were met and surrounded; before them was the
red glow of Cathcart's cigar, the whiteness of Phillis's gown; behind
were two more advancing figures. In another second the young people
had joined hands: a dusky ring formed round the startled pair.

"Fairly caught!" cried Dulce's sunshiny voice; the mischievous little
monkey had no idea of the sport she was spoiling. None of the young
people thought of anything but fun; Dick was just Dick, and he and Nan
were always together.

Dick muttered something inaudible under his breath; but Nan was quite
equal to the occasion; she was still palpitating a little with the
pleasure Dick's words had given her, but she confronted her tormentors
boldly.

"You absurd creatures," she said, "to steal a march on us like that!
Dick and I were having a quarrel; we were fighting so hard that we did
not hear you."

"I enjoy a good fight above everything," exclaimed Cathcart, throwing
away his cigar. He was a handsome dark-eyed boy, with no special
individuality, except an overweening sense of fun. "What's the odds,
Mayne? and who is likely to be the winner?"

"Oh, Nan, of course," returned Dick, trying to recover himself. "I am
the captive of her spear and of her bow: she is in possession of
everything, myself included."

The rest laughed at Dick's jest, as they thought it; and Mr. Hamilton
said, "Bravo, Miss Challoner! we will help to drag him at your
chariot-wheels." But Nan changed color in the darkness.

They went in after this, and the young men took their leave in the
porch. Dick's strong grip of the hand conveyed his meaning fully to
Nan: "Remember, I meant it all," it seemed to say to her.

"What did it matter? I am quite sure of him. Dick is Dick," thought
Nan, as she laid her head happily on the pillow.

As for Dick, he had a long ordeal before him ere he could make his
escape to the smoking-room, where his friends awaited him. Mr. Mayne
had a great deal to say to him about the day, and Dick had to listen
and try to look interested.

"I am sure Dick behaved beautifully," observed Mrs. Mayne, when the
son and heir had at last lounged off to his companions.

"Well, yes; he did very well on the whole," was the grudging response;
"but I must say those Challoner girls made themselves far too
conspicuous for my taste;" but to this his wife prudently made no
reply.



CHAPTER VI.

MR. TRINDER'S VISIT.


The next few days passed far too quickly for Nan's pleasure, and
Dick's last morning arrived. The very next day the Maynes were to
start for Switzerland, and Longmead was to stand empty for the
remainder of the summer. It was a dreary prospect for Nan, and in
spite of her high spirits her courage grew somewhat low. Six months!
who could know what might happen before they met again? Nan was not
the least bit superstitious, neither was it her wont to indulge in
useless speculations or forebodings; but she could not shake off this
morning a strange uncanny feeling that haunted her in spite of
herself--a presentiment that things were not going to be just as she
would have them,--that Dick and she would not meet again in exactly
the same manner.

"How silly I am!" she thought, for the twentieth time, as she brushed
out her glossy brown hair and arranged it in her usual simple
fashion.

Nan and her sisters were a little behind the times in some ways; they
had never thought fit to curl their hair _en garcon_, or to mount a
pyramid of tangled curls in imitation of a poodle; no pruning scissors
had touched the light-springing locks that grew so prettily about
their temples; in this, as in much else, they were unlike other girls,
for they dared to put individuality before fashion, and good taste and
a sense of beauty against the specious arguments of the multitude.

"How silly I am!" again repeated Nan. "What can happen, what should
happen, except that I shall have a dull summer, and shall be very glad
when Christmas and Dick come together;" and then she shook her little
basket of housekeeping keys until they jingled merrily, and ran
downstairs with a countenance she meant to keep bright for the rest of
the day.

They were to play tennis at the Paines' that afternoon, and afterwards
the three girls were to dine at Longmead. Mrs. Challoner had been
invited also; but she had made some excuse, and pleaded for a quiet
evening. She was never very ready to accept these invitations; there
was nothing in common between her and Mrs. Mayne; and in her heart she
agreed with Lady Fitzroy in thinking the master of Longmead odious.

It was Mr. Mayne who had tendered this parting hospitality to his
neighbors, and he chose to be much offended at Mrs. Challoner's
refusal.

"I think it is very unfriendly of your mother, when we are such old
neighbors, and on our last evening, too," he said to Nan, as she
entered the drawing-room that evening bringing her mother's excuses
wrapped up in the prettiest words she could find.

"Mother is not quite well; she does not feel up to the exertion of
dining out to-night," returned Nan, trying to put a good face on it,
but feeling as though things were too much for her this evening. It
was bad enough for Mr. Mayne to insist on them all coming up to a long
formal dinner, and spoiling their chances of a twilight stroll; but it
was still worse for her mother to abandon them after this fashion.

The new novel must have had something to do with this sudden
indisposition; but when Mrs. Challoner had wrapped herself up in her
white shawl, always a bad sign with her, and had declared herself
unfit for any exertion, what could a dutiful daughter do but deliver
her excuses as gracefully as she could? Nevertheless, Mr. Mayne
frowned and expressed himself ill pleased.

"I should have thought an effort could have been made on such an
occasion," was his final thrust, as he gave his arm ungraciously to
Nan, and conducted her with ominous solemnity to the table.

It was not a festive meal, in spite of all Mrs. Mayne's efforts. Dick
looked glum. He was separated from Nan by a vast silver epergne, that
fully screened her from view. Another time she would have peeped
merrily round at him and given him a sprightly nod or two; but how was
she to do it when Mr. Mayne never relaxed his gloomy muscles, and when
he insisted on keeping up a ceremonious flow of conversation with her
on the subjects of the day?

When Dick tried to strike into their talk, he got so visibly snubbed
that he was obliged to take refuge with Phillis.

"You young fellows never know what you are talking about," observed
Mr. Mayne, sharply, when Dick had hazarded a remark about the
Premier's policy; "you are a Radical one day, and a Conservative
another. That comes of your debating societies. You take contrary
sides, and mix up a balderdash of ideas, until you don't know whether
you are standing on your head or your heels;" and it was after this
that Dick found his refuge with Phillis.

It was little better when they were all in the drawing-room together.
If Mr. Mayne had invited them there for the purpose of keeping them
all under his own eyes and making them uncomfortable, he could not
have managed better. When Dick suggested a stroll in the garden, he
said,--

"Pshaw! what nonsense proposing such a thing, when the dews are heavy
and the girls will catch their deaths of cold!"

"We do it every evening of our life," observed Nan, hardily; but even
she dared not persevere in the face of this protest, though she
exchanged a rebellious look with Dick that did him good and put him in
a better humor.

They found their way into the conservatory after that, but were hunted
out on pretence of having a little music; at least Nan would have it
that it was pretence.

"Your father does not care much for music, I know," she whispered, as
she placed herself at the grand piano, while Dick leaned against it
and watched her. It was naughty of Nan, but there was no denying that
she found Mr. Mayne more aggravating than usual this evening.

"Come, come, Miss Nancy!" he called out,--he always called her that
when he wished to annoy her, for Nan had a special dislike to her
quaint, old-fashioned name; it had been her mother's and grandmother's
name; in every generation there had been a Nancy Challoner,--"come,
come, Miss Nancy! we cannot have you playing at hide-and-seek in this
fashion. We want some music. Give us something rousing, to keep us all
awake." And Nan had reluctantly placed herself at the piano.

She did her little best according to orders, for she dared not offend
Dick's father. None of the Challoners were accomplished girls. Dulce
sang a little, and so did Nan, but Phillis could not play the simplest
piece without bungling and her uncertain little warblings, which were
sweet but hardly true, were reserved for church.

Dulce sang very prettily, but she could only manage her own
accompaniments or a sprightly valse. Nan, who did most of the
execution of the family, was a very fair performer from a young lady's
point of view, and that is not saying much. She always had her piece
ready if people wanted her to play. She sat down without nervousness
and rose without haste. She had a choice little repertory of old songs
and ballads, that she could produce without hesitation from
memory,--"My mother bids me bind my hair," or "Bid your faithful Ariel
fly," and such-like old songs, in which there is more melody than in a
hundred new ones, and which she sang in a simple, artless fashion that
pleased the elder people greatly. Dulce could do more than this, but
her voice had never been properly tutored, and she sang her bird-music
in bird-fashion, rather wildly and shrilly, with small respect to
rule and art, nevertheless making a pleasing noise, a young foreigner
once told her.

When Nan had exhausted her little stock, Mr. Mayne peremptorily
invited them to a round game; and the rest of the evening was spent in
trying to master the mysteries of a new game, over the involved rules
of which Mr. Mayne as usual, wrangled fiercely with everybody, while
Dick shrugged his shoulders and shuffled his cards with such evident
ill-humor that Nan hurried her sisters away half an hour before the
usual time, in terror of an outbreak.

It was an utterly disappointing evening; and, to make matters worse,
Mr. Mayne actually lit his cigar and strolled down the garden-paths,
keeping quite close to Nan, and showing such obvious intention of
accompanying them to the very gate of the cottage that there could be
no thought of any sweet lingering in the dusk.

"I will be even with him," growled Dick, who was in a state of
suppressed irritation under this unexpected surveillance; and in the
darkest part of the road he twitched Nan's sleeve to attract her
attention, and whispered, in so low a voice that his father could not
hear him, "This is not good-bye. I will be round at the cottage
to-morrow morning;" and Nan nodded hurriedly, and then turned her head
to answer Mr. Mayne's last question.

If Dick had put all his feelings in his hand-shake, it could not have
spoken to Nan more eloquently of the young man's wrath and chagrin and
concealed tenderness. Nan shot him one of her swift straightforward
looks in answer.

"Nevermind," it seemed to say; "we shall have to-morrow;" and then she
bade them cheerfully good-night.

Dorothy met her in the hall, and put down her chamber-candlestick.

"Has the mother gone to bed yet, Dorothy?" questioned the young
mistress, speaking still with that enforced cheerfulness.

"No, Miss Nan; she is still in there," jerking her head in the
direction of the drawing-room. "Mr. Trinder called, and was with her a
long time. I thought she seemed a bit poorly when I took in the
lamp."

"Mamsie is never fit for anything when that old ogre has been," broke
in Dulce, impatiently. "He always comes and tells her some nightmare
tale or other to prevent her sleeping. Now we shall not have the new
gowns we set our hearts on, Nan."

"Oh, never mind the gowns," returned Nan, rather wearily.

What did it matter if they had to wear their old ones when Dick would
not be there to see them? And Dorothy, who was contemplating her
favorite nursling with the privileged tenderness of an old servant,
chimed in with the utmost cheerfulness:

"It does not matter what she wears; does it, Miss Nan? She looks just
as nice in an old gown as a new one; that is what I say of all my
young ladies; dress does not matter a bit to them."

"How long are you all going to stand chattering with Dorothy?"
interrupted Phillis, in her clear decided voice. "Mother will wonder
what conspiracy we are hatching, and why we leave her so long alone."
And then Dorothy took up her candlestick, grumbling a little, as she
often did, over Miss Phillis's masterful ways, and the girls went
laughingly into their mother's presence.

Though it was summer-time, Mrs. Challoner's easy-chair was drawn up in
front of the rug, and she sat wrapped in her white shawl, with her
eyes fixed on the pretty painted fire-screen that hid the blackness of
the coals. She did not turn her head or move as her daughters entered;
indeed, so motionless was her attitude that Dulce thought she was
asleep, and went on tiptoe round her chair to steal a kiss. But Nan,
who had caught sight of her mother's face, put her quickly aside.

"Don't, Dulce; mother is not well. What is the matter, mammie,
darling?" kneeling down and bringing her bright face on a level with
her mother's. She would have taken her into her vigorous young arms,
but Mrs. Challoner almost pushed her away.

"Hush, children! Do be quiet, Nan; I cannot talk to you. I cannot
answer questions to-night." And then she shivered, and drew her shawl
closer round her, and put away Nan's caressing hands, and looked at
them all with a face that seemed to have grown pinched and old all at
once, and eyes full of misery.

"Mammie, you must speak to us," returned Nan, not a whit daunted by
this rebuff, but horribly frightened all the time. "Of course, Dorothy
told us that Mr. Trinder has been here, and of course we know that it
is some trouble about money." Then, at the mention of Mr. Trinder's
name, Mrs. Challoner shivered again.

Nan waited a moment for an answer: but, as none came, she went on in
coaxing voice:

"Don't be afraid to tell us, mother darling; we can all bear a little
trouble, I hope. We have had such happy lives, and we cannot go on
being happy always," continued the girl, with the painful conviction
coming suddenly into her mind that the brightness of these days was
over. "Money is very nice, and one cannot do without it, I suppose;
but as long as we are together and love each other----"

Then Mrs. Challoner fixed her heavy eyes on her daughter and took up
the unfinished sentence:

"Ah, if we could only be together!--if I were not to be separated from
my children! it is that--that is crushing me!" and then she pressed
her dry lips together, and folded her hands with a gesture of despair;
"but I know that it must be, for Mr. Trinder has told me everything.
It is no use shutting our eyes and struggling on any longer; for we
are ruined--ruined!" her voice sinking into indistinctness.

Nan grew a little pale. If they were ruined, how would it be with her
and Dick! And then she thought of Mr. Mayne, and her heart felt faint
within her. Nan, who had Dick added to her perplexities, was hardly
equal to the emergency; but it was Phillis who took the domestic helm
as it fell from her sister's hand.

"If we be ruined, mother," she said, briskly, "it is not half so bad
as having you ill. Nan, why don't you rub her hands! she is shivering
with cold, or with the bad news, or something. I mean to set Dorothy
at defiance, and to light a nice little fire, in spite of the clean
muslin curtains. When one is ill or unhappy, there is nothing so
soothing as a fire," continued Phillis as she removed the screen and
kindled the dry wood, not heeding Mrs. Challoner's feeble
remonstrances.

"Don't, Phillis: we shall not be able to afford fires now;" and then
she became a little hysterical. But Phillis persisted, and the red
glow was soon coaxed into a cheerful blaze.

"That looks more comfortable. I feel chilly myself; these summer
nights are sometimes deceptive. I wonder what Dorothy will say to us;
I mean to ask her to make us all some tea. No, mamma, you are not to
interfere; it will do you good, and we don't mean to have you ill if
we can help it." And then she looked meaningly at Nan, and withdrew.

There was no boiling water, of course, and the kitchen fire was raked
out; and Dorothy was sitting in solitary state, looking very grim.

"It is time for folks to be in their beds, Miss Phillis," she said,
very crossly. "I don't hold with tea myself so late: it excites
people, and keeps them awake."

"Mother is not just the thing, and a cup of tea will do her good.
Don't let us keep you up, Dorothy," replied Phillis, blandly. "I have
lighted the drawing-room-fire, and I can boil the kettle in there. If
mother has got a chill, I would not answer for the consequences."

Dorothy grew huffy at the mention of the fire, and would not aid or
abet her young lady's "fad," as she called it.

"If you don't want me, I think I will go to bed, Miss Phillis. Susan
went off a long time ago." And, as Phillis cheerfully acquiesced in
this arrangement, Dorothy decamped with a frown on her brow, and left
Phillis mistress of the situation.

"There, now, I have got rid of the cross old thing," she observed, in
a tone of relief, as she filled the kettle and arranged the little
tea-tray.

She carried them both into the room, poising the tray skilfully in her
hand. Nan looked up in a relieved way as she entered. Mrs. Challoner
was stretching out her chilled hands to the blaze. Her face had lost
its pinched unnatural expression; it was as though the presence of
her girls fenced her in securely, and her misfortune grew more shadowy
and faded into the background. She drank the tea when it was given to
her, and even begged Nan to follow her example. Nan took a little to
please her, though she hardly believed its solace would be great; but
Phillis and Dulce drank theirs in a business-like way, as though they
needed support and were not ashamed to own it. It was Nan who put down
her cup first, and leaned her cheek against her mother's hand.

"Now, mother dear, we want to hear all about it. Does Mr. Trinder say
we are really so dreadfully poor?"

"We have been getting poorer for along time," returned her mother,
mournfully; "but if we had only a little left us I would not complain.
You see, your father would persist in these investments in spite of
all Mr. Trinder could say, and now his words have come true." But this
vague statement did not satisfy Nan; and patiently, and with
difficulty, she drew from her mother all that the lawyer had told
her.

Mr. Challoner had been called to the bar early in life, but his career
had hardly been a successful one. He had held few briefs, and, though
he worked hard, and had good capabilities, he had never achieved
fortune; and as he lived up to his income, and was rather fond of the
good things of this life, he got through most of his wife's money,
and, contrary to the advice of older and wiser heads, invested the
remainder in the business of a connection who only wanted capital to
make his fortune and Mr. Challoner's too.

It was a grievous error; and yet, if Mr. Challoner had lived, those
few thousands would hardly have been so sorely missed. He was young in
his profession, and if he had been spared, success would have come to
him as to other men; but he was cut off unexpectedly in the prime of
life, and Mrs. Challoner gave up her large house at Kensington, and
settled at Glen Cottage with her three daughters, understanding that
life was changed for her, and that they should have to be content with
small means and few wants.

Hitherto they had had sufficient; but of late there had been dark
whispers concerning that invested money; things were not quite square
and above-board; the integrity of the firm was doubted. Mr. Trinder,
almost with tears in his eyes, begged Mrs. Challoner to be prudent and
spend less. The crash which he had foreseen, and had vainly tried to
avert, had come to-night. Gardiner & Fowler were bankrupt, and their
greatest creditor, Mrs. Challoner, was ruined.

"We cannot get our money. Mr. Trinder says we never shall. They have
been paying their dividends correctly, keeping it up as a sort of
blind, he says: but all the capital is eaten away. George Gardiner,
too, your father's cousin, the man he trusted above every one,--he to
defraud the widow and the fatherless, to take our money--my children's
only portion--and to leave us beggared." And Mrs. Challoner, made
tragical by this great blow, clasped her hands and looked at her girls
with two large tears rolling down her face.

"Mother, are you sure? is it quite as bad as that?" asked Nan; and
then she kissed away the tears, and said something rather brokenly
about having faith, and trying not to lose courage; then her voice
failed her, and they all sat quiet together.



CHAPTER VII.

PHILLIS'S CATECHISM.


A veil of silence fell over the little party. After the first few
moments of dismay, conjecture, and exclamation, there did not seem to
be much that any one could say. Each girl was busy with her own
thoughts and private interpretation of a most sorrowful enigma. What
were they to do? How were they to live without separation, and without
taking a solitary plunge into an unknown and most terrifying world?

Nan's frame of mind was slightly monotonous. What would Dick say, and
how would this affect certain vague hopes she had lately cherished?
Then she thought of Mr. Mayne, and shivered, and a sense of coldness
and remote fear stole over her.

One could hardly blame her for this sweet dual selfishness, that was
not selfishness. She was thinking less of herself than of a certain
vigorous young life that was becoming strongly entwined with hers. It
was all very well to say that Dick was Dick; but what could the most
obstinate will of even that most obstinate young man avail against
such a miserable combination of adverse influences,--"when the stars
in their courses fought against Sisera"? And at this juncture of her
thoughts she could feel Phillis's hand folding softly over hers with a
most sisterly pressure of full understanding and sympathy. Phillis had
no Dick to stand sentinel over her private thoughts; she was free to
be alert and vigilant for others. Nevertheless, her forehead was
puckered up with hard thinking, and her silence was so very expressive
that Dulce sat and looked at her with grave unsmiling eyes, the
innocent child-look in them growing very pathetic at the
speechlessness that had overtaken them. As for Mrs. Challoner, she
still moaned feebly from time to time, as she stretched her numb hands
towards the comforting warmth. They were fine delicate hands, with the
polished look of old ivory, and there were diamond rings on them that
twinkled and shone as she moved them in her restlessness.

"They shall all go; I will keep nothing," she said, regarding them
plaintively; for they were heirlooms, and highly valued as relics of a
wealthy past. "It is not this sort of thing that I mind. I would live
on a crust thankfully, if I could only keep my children with me." And
she looked round at the blooming faces of her girls with eyes brimming
over with maternal fondness.

Poor Dulce's lips quivered, and she made a horrified gesture.

"Oh, mamsie, don't talk so. I never could bear crusts, unless they
were well buttered. I like everything to be nice, and to have plenty
of it,--plenty of sunshine, and fun, and holiday-making, and friends;
and--and now you are talking as though we must starve, and never have
anything to wear, and go nowhere and be miserable forever?" And here
Dulce broke into actual sobs; for was she not the petted darling? and
had she not had a life so gilded by sunshine that she had never seen
the dark edge of a single cloud? So that even Nan forgot Dick for a
moment, and looked at her young sister pityingly; but Phillis
interposed with bracing severity:

"Don't talk such nonsense, Dulce. Of course we must eat to live, and
of course we must have clothes to wear. Aren't Nan and I thinking
ourselves into headaches by trying to contrive how even the crusts you
so despise are to be bought?" which was hardly true as far as Nan was
concerned, for she blushed guiltily over this telling point in
Phillis's eloquence. "It only upsets mother to talk like this." And
then she touched the coals skilfully, till they spluttered and blazed
into fury. "There is the Friary, you know," she continued, looking
calmly round on them, as though she felt herself full of resources.
"If Dulce chooses to make herself miserable about the crusts, we have,
at least, a roof to shelter us."

"I forgot the Friary," murmured Nan, looking at her sister with
admiration; and, though Mrs. Challoner said nothing, she started a
little as though she had forgotten it too. But Dulce was not to be
comforted.

"That horrid, dismal, pokey old cottage!" she returned, with a shrill
rendering of each adjective. "You would have us go and live in that
damp, musty, fusty place?"

Phillis gave a succession of quick little nods.

"I don't think it particularly dismal, or Nan either," she returned,
in her brisk way. Phillis always answered for Nan, and was never
contradicted. "It is not dear Glen Cottage, of course, but we could
not begin munching our crusts here," she continued, with a certain
grim humor. Things were apparently at their worst; but at least
she,--Phillis,--the clever one, as she had heard herself called, would
do her best to keep the heads of the little family above water. "It is
a nice little place enough if we were only humble enough to see it;
and it is not damp, and it is our own," running up the advantages as
well as she could.

"The Friary!" commented her mother, in some surprise: "to think of
that queer old cottage coming into your head! And it so seldom lets.
And people say it is dear at forty pounds a year; and it is so dull
that they do not care to stay."

"Never mind all that, mammy," returned Phillis, with a grave
business-like face. "A cottage, rent-free, that will hold us, is not
to be despised; and Hadleigh is a nice place, and the sea always suits
you. There is the house, and the furniture, that belongs to us; and we
have plenty of clothes for the present. How much did Mr. Trinder think
we should have in hand?"

Then her mother told her, but still mournfully, that they might
possibly have about a hundred pounds. "But there are my rings and that
piece of point-lace that Lady Fitzroy admired so----" but Phillis
waved away that proposition with an impatient frown.

"There is plenty of time for that when we have got through all the
money. Not that a hundred pounds would last long, with moving, and
paying off the servants, and all that sort of thing."

Then Nan, who had worn all along an expression of admiring confidence
in Phillis's resources, originated an idea of her own.

"The mother might write to Uncle Francis, perhaps;" but at this
proposition Mrs. Challoner sat upright and looked almost offended.

"My dear Nan, what a preposterous idea! Your uncle Francis!"

"Well, mammy, he is our uncle; and I am sure he would be sorry if his
only brother's children were to starve."

"You are too young to know any better," returned Mrs. Challoner,
relapsing into alarmed feebleness; "you are not able to judge. But I
never liked my brother-in-law,--never; he was not a good man. He was
not a person whom one could trust," continued the poor lady, trying to
soften down certain facts to her innocent young daughters.

Sir Francis Challoner had been a black sheep,--a very black sheep
indeed: one who had dyed himself certainly to a most sable hue; and
though, for such prodigals, there may be a late repentance and much
killing of fatted calves, still Mrs. Challoner was right in refusing
to intrust herself and her children to the uncertain mercies of such a
sinner.

Now, Nan knew nothing about the sin; but she did think that an uncle
who was a baronet threw a certain reflected glory or brightness over
them. Sir Francis might be that very suspicious character, a black
sheep; he might be landless, with the exception of that ruined
tenement in the North; nevertheless, Nan loved to know that he was of
their kith and kin. It seemed to settle their claims to
respectability, and held Mr. Mayne in some degree of awe; and he knew
that his own progenitors had not the faintest trace of blue blood, and
numbered more aldermen than baronets.

It would have surprised and grieved Nan, especially just now, if she
had known that no such glory remained to her,--that Sir Francis
Challoner had long filled the cup of his iniquities, and lay in his
wife's tomb in some distant cemetery, leaving a certain red-headed Sir
Harry to reign in his stead.

"I don't think we had better talk anymore," observed Phillis, somewhat
brusquely: and then she exchanged meaning looks with Nan. The two
girls were somewhat dismayed at their mother's wan looks; her
feebleness and uncertainty of speech, the very vagueness of her
lamentations, filled them with sad forebodings for the future. How
were they to leave her, when they commenced that little fight with the
world? She had leaned on them so long that her helplessness had become
a matter of habit.

Nan understood her sister's warning glance, and she made no further
allusion to Sir Francis; she only rose with assumed briskness, and
took her mother in charge.

"Now I am going to help you to bed, mammy darling," she said,
cheerfully. "Phillis is quite right: we will not talk any more
to-night; we shall want all our strength for to-morrow. We will just
say our prayers, and try and go to sleep, and hope that things may
turn out better than we expect." And, as Mrs. Challoner was too
utterly spent to resist this wise counsel, Nan achieved her pious
mission with some success. She sat down by the bedside and leaned her
head against her mother's pillow, and soon had the satisfaction of
hearing the even breathing that proved that the sleeper had forgotten
her troubles for a little while.

"Poor dear mother! how exhausted she must have been!" thought Nan, as
she closed the door softly. She was far too anxious and wide awake
herself to dream of retiring to rest. She was somewhat surprised to
find her sisters' room dark and empty as she passed. They must be
still downstairs, talking over things in the firelight: they were as
little inclined for sleep as she was. Phillis's carefully decocted tea
must have stimulated them to wakefulness.

The room was still bright with firelight. Dulce was curled up in her
mother's chair, and had evidently been indulging in what she called "a
good cry." Phillis, sombre and thoughtful, was pacing the room, with
her hands clasped behind her head,--a favorite attitude of hers when
she was in any perplexity. She stopped short as Nan regarded her with
some astonishment from the threshold.

"Oh, come in, Nan: it will be such a relief to talk to a sensible
person. Dulce is so silly, she does nothing but cry."

"I can't help it," returned Dulce, with another sob; "everything is so
horrible, and Phillis will say such dreadful things."

"Poor little soul!" said Nan, in a sympathetic voice, sitting down on
the arm of the chair and stroking Dulce's hair; "it is very hard for
her and for us all," with a pent-up sigh.

"Of course it is hard," retorted Phillis, confronting them rather
impatiently from the hearth-rug; "it is bitterly hard. But it is not
worse for Dulce than for the rest of us. Crying will not mend matters,
and it is a sheer waste of tears. As I tell her, what we have to do
now is to make the best of things, and see what is to be done under
the circumstances."

"Yes, indeed," repeated Nan, meekly; but she put her arm round Dulce,
and drew her head against her shoulder. The action comforted Dulce,
and her tears soon ceased to flow.

"I am thinking about mother," went on Phillis, pondering her words
slowly as she spoke; "she does look so ill and weak. I do not see how
we are to leave her."

Mrs. Challoner's moral helplessness and dread of responsibility were
so sacred in her daughters' eyes that they rarely alluded to them
except in this vague fashion. For years they had shielded and petted
her, and given way to her little fads and fancies, until she had
developed into a sort of gentle hypochondriac.

"Mother cannot bear this; we always keep these little worries from
her," Nan had been accustomed to say; and the others had followed her
example.

The unspoken thought lay heavy upon them now. How were they to prevent
the rough winds of adversity from blowing too roughly upon their
cherished charge? The roof, and perhaps the crust, might be theirs;
but how were they to contrive that she should not miss her little
comforts? They would gladly work; but how, and after what fashion?

Phillis was the first to plunge into the unwelcome topic, for Nan felt
almost as helpless and bewildered as Dulce.

"We must go into the thing thoroughly," began Phillis, drawing a chair
opposite to her sisters. She was very pale, but her eyes had a certain
brightness of determination. She looked too young for that quiet
care-worn look that had come so suddenly to her; but one felt she
could be equal to any emergency. "We are down-hearted, of course; but
we have plenty of time for all that sort of thing. The question is,
how are we to live?"

"Just so," observed Nan, rather dubiously; and Dulce gave a little
gasp.

"There is the Friary standing empty; and there is the furniture; and
there will be about fifty pounds, perhaps less, when every thing is
settled. And we have clothes enough to last some time, and----" here
Dulce put her hands together pleadingly, but Phillis looked at her
severely, and went on: "Forty or fifty pounds will soon be spent, and
then we shall be absolutely penniless; we have no one to help us.
Mother will not hear of writing to Uncle Francis; we must work
ourselves or starve."

"Couldn't we let lodgings?" hazarded Dulce, with quavering voice; but
Phillis smiled grimly.

"Let lodgings at the Friary! why, it is only big enough to hold us. We
might get a larger house in Hadleigh; but no, it would be ruinous to
fail, and perhaps we should not make it answer. I cannot fancy mother
living in the basement story; she would make herself wretched over it.
We are too young. I don't think that would answer, Nan: do you?"

Nan replied faintly that she did not think it would. The mere
proposition took her breath away. What would Mr. Mayne say to that?
Then she plucked up spirit and went into the question vigorously.

There were too many lodging-houses in Hadleigh now; it would be a
hazardous speculation, and one likely to fail; they had not sufficient
furniture for such a purpose, and they dare not use up their little
capital too quickly. They were too young, too, to carry out such a
thing, Nan did not add "and too pretty," though she colored and
hesitated here. Their mother could not help them; she was not strong
enough for housework or cooking. She thought that plan must be given
up.

"We might be daily governesses, and live at home," suggested Dulce,
who found a sort of relief in throwing out feelers in every direction.
Nan brightened up visibly at this, but Phillis's moody brow did not
relax for a moment.

"That would be nice," acquiesced Nan, "and then mother would not find
the day so long if we came home in the evening; she could busy herself
about the house, and we could leave her little things to do, and she
would not find the hours so heavy. I like that idea of yours, Dulce;
and we are all so fond of children."

"The idea is as nice as possible," replied Phillis, with an ominous
stress on the noun, "if we could only make it practicable."

"Phil is going to find fault," pouted Dulce, who knew every inflection
of Phillis's voice.

"Oh, dear, no, nothing of the kind!" she retorted, briskly. "Nan is
quite right: we all dote on children. I should dearly like to be a
governess myself; it would be more play than work; but I am only
wondering who would engage us."

"Who?--oh, anybody!" returned Nan, feeling puzzled by the smothered
satire of Phillis's speech. "Of course we are not certificated, and I
for one could only teach young children; but----" here Phillis
interrupted her:

"Don't think me horrid if I ask you and Dulce some questions, but
do--do answer me just as though I were going through the Catechism: we
are only girls, but we must sift the whole thing thoroughly. Are we
fit for governesses? what can you and I and Dulce teach?"

"Oh, anything!" returned Nan, still more vaguely.

"My dear Nanny, anything won't do. Come, I am really in earnest; I
mean to catechise you both thoroughly."

"Very well," returned Nan, in a resigned voice; but Dulce looked a
little frightened. As for Phillis, she sat erect, with her finger
pointed at them in a severely ominous fashion.

"How about history, Nan? I thought you could never remember dates; you
used to jumble facts in the most marvellous manner. I remember your
insisting that Anne of Cleves was Louis XII.'s second wife; and you
shocked Miss Martin dreadfully by declaring that one of Marlborough's
victories was fought at Cressy."

"I never could remember historical facts," returned Nan, humbly.
"Dulce always did better than I; and so did you, Phillis. When I teach
the children I can have the book before me." But Phillis only shook
her head at this, and went on:

"Dulce was a shade better, but I don't believe she could tell me the
names of the English sovereigns in proper sequence;" but Dulce
disdained to answer. "You were better at arithmetic, Nan. Dulce never
got through her rule of three; but you were not very advanced even at
that. You write a pretty hand, and you used to talk French very
fluently."

"Oh, I have forgotten my French!" exclaimed Nan, in a panic-stricken
voice. "Dulce, don't you remember me quite settled to talk in French
over our work three times a week, and we have always forgotten it; and
we were reading Madame de Sevigne's 'Letters' together, and I found
the book the other day quite covered with dust."

"I hate French," retuned Dulce, rebelliously. "I began German with
Phillis, and like it much better."

"True, but we are only beginners," returned the remorseless Phillis:
"it was very nice, of course, and the Taugenichts' was delicious; but
think how many words in every sentence you had to hunt out in the
dictionary. I am glad you feel so competent, Dulce; but I could not
teach German myself, or French either. I don't remember enough of the
grammar; and I do not believe Nan does either, though she used to
chatter so to Miss Martin."

"Did I not say she would pick our idea to pieces?" returned Dulce,
with tears in her eyes.

"My dear little sister don't look so dreadfully pathetic. I am quite
as disheartened and disappointed as you are. Nan says she has
forgotten her French, and she will have to teach history with an open
book before her; we none of us draw--no, Dulce please let me finish
our scanty stock of accomplishments. I only know my notes,--for no one
cares to hear me lumber through my pieces,--and I sing at church. You
have the sweetest voice Dulce, but it is not trained; and I cannot
compliment you on your playing. Nan sings and plays very nicely, and
it is a pleasure to listen to her; but I am afraid she knows little
about the theory of music, harmony and thorough-bass: you never did
anything in that way, did you, Nan?"

Nan shook her head sadly. She was too discomfited for speech. Phillis
looked at them both thoughtfully; her trouble was very real, but she
could not help a triumphant inflection in her voice.

"Dear Nan, please do not look so unhappy. Dulce, you shall not begin
to cry again. Don't you remember what mother was reading to us the
other day, about the country being flooded with incompetent
governesses,--half-educated girls turned loose on the world to earn
their living? I can remember one sentence of that writer, word for
word: 'The standard of education is so high at the present day, and
the number of certificated reliable teachers so much increased, that
we can afford to discourage the crude efforts to teach, or un-teach,
our children.' And then he goes on to ask, 'What has become of womanly
conscientiousness, when such ignorance presses forward to assume such
sacred responsibilities? Better the competent nurse than the
incompetent governess.' 'Why do not these girls,' he asks, 'who,
through their own fault or the fault of circumstances, are not
sufficiently advanced to educate others--why do they not rather
discharge the exquisitely feminine duties of the nursery? What an
advantage to parents to have their little ones brought into the
earliest contact with refined speech and cultivated manners,--their
infant ears not inoculated by barbarous English!'" but here Phillis
was arrested in her torrent of reflected wisdom by an impatient
exclamation from Dulce.

"Oh, Nan, do ask her to be quiet! She never stops when she once
begins. How can we listen to such rubbish, when we are so wretched?
You may talk for hours, Phil, but I never, never will be a nurse!" And
Dulce hid her face on Nan's shoulder in such undisguised distress that
her sisters had much ado to comfort her.



CHAPTER VIII.

"WE SHOULD HAVE TO CARRY PARCELS."


It was hard work to tranquillize Dulce.

"I never, never will be a nurse!" she sobbed out at intervals.

"You little goose, who ever thought of such a thing? Why will you
misunderstand me so?" sighed Phillis, almost in despair at her
sister's impracticability. "I am only trying to prove to you and Nan
that we are not fit for governesses."

"No, indeed; I fear you are right there," replied poor Nan, who had
never realized her deficiences before. They were all bright, taking
girls, with plenty to say for themselves, lady-like, and well-bred.
Who would have thought that, when weighed in the balance, they would
have been found so wanting? "I always knew I was a very stupid person;
but you are different,--you are so clever, Phil."

"Nonsense, Nanny! It is a sort of cleverness for which there is no
market. I am fond of reading. I remember things, and do a great deal
of thinking; but I am destitute of accomplishments: my knowledge of
languages is purely superficial. We are equal to other girls,--just
young ladies, and nothing more; but when it comes to earning our
bread-and-butter----" Here Phillis paused, and threw out her hands
with a little gesture of despair.

"But you work so beautifully; and so does Nan," interrupted Dulce, who
was a little comforted, now she knew Phillis had no prospective
nurse-maid theory in view. "I am good at it myself," she continued,
modestly, feeling that, in this case, self-praise was allowable. "We
might be companions,--some nice old lady who wants her caps made, and
requires some one to read to her," faltered Dulce, with her child-like
pleading look.

Nan gave her a little hug; but she left the answer to Phillis, who
went at once into a brown study, and only woke up after a long
interval.

"I am looking at it all round," she said, when Nan at last pressed for
her opinion; "it is not a bad idea. I think it very possible that
either you or I, Nan,--or both, perhaps,--might find something in that
line to suit us. There are old ladies everywhere; and some of them are
rich and lonely and want companions."

"You have forgotten me?" exclaimed Dulce, with natural jealousy, and a
dislike to be overlooked, inherent in most young people. "And it is I
who have always made mammy's caps and you know how Lady Fitzroy
praised the last one."

"Yes, yes; we know all that," returned Phillis, impatiently. "You are
as clever as possible with your fingers; but one of us must stop with
mother, and you are the youngest, Dulce; that is what I meant by
looking at it all round. If Nan and I were away, it would never do for
you and mother to live at the Friary. We could not afford a servant,
and we should want the forty pounds a year to pay for bare
necessaries; for our salary would not be very great. You would have to
live in lodgings,--two little rooms, that is all; and even then I am
afraid you and mother would be dreadfully pinched, for we should have
to dress ourselves properly in other people's houses."

"Oh, Phillis, that would not do at all!" exclaimed Nan, in a voice of
despair. She was very pale by this time: full realization of all this
trouble was coming to her, as it had come to Phillis. "What shall we
do? Who will help us to any decision? How are you and I to go away and
live luxuriously in other people's houses, and leave mother and Dulce
pining in two shabby little rooms, with nothing to do, and perhaps not
enough to eat, and mother fretting herself ill, and Dulce losing her
bloom? I could not rest; I could not sleep for thinking of it. I would
rather take in plain needlework, and live on dry bread if we could
only be together, and help each other."

"So would I," returned Phillis, in an odd, muffled voice.

"And I too," rather hesitatingly from Dulce.

"If we could only live at the Friary, and have Dorothy to do all the
rough work," sighed Nan, with a sudden yearning towards even that very
shabby ark of refuge: "if we could only be together, and see each
other every day, things would not be quite so dreadful."

"I am quite of your opinion," was Phillis's curt observation: but
there was a sudden gleam in her eyes.

"I have heard of ladies working for fancy-shops; do you think we could
do something of that kind?" asked Nan, anxiously. "Even mother could
help us in that; and Dulce does work so beautifully. It is all very
well to say we have no accomplishments," went on Nan, with apathetic
little laugh, "but you know that no other girls work as we do. We have
always made our own dresses. And Lady Fitzroy asked me once who was
our dressmaker, because she fitted us so exquisitely; and I was so
proud of telling her that we always did our own, with Dorothy to
help----"

"Nan," interrupted Phillis, eagerly, and there was a great softness in
her whole mien, and her eyes were glistening,--"dear Nan, do you love
us all so that you could give up the whole world for our sakes,--for
the sake of living together, I mean?"

Nan hesitated. Did the whole world involve Dick, and could even her
love for her sisters induce her voluntarily to give him up? Phillis,
who was quick-witted, read the doubt in a moment, and hastened to
qualify her words:

"The outside world, I mean,--mere conventional acquaintances, not
friends. Do you think you could bear to set society at defiance, to
submit to be sent to Coventry for our sakes; to do without it, in fact
to live in a little world of our own and make ourselves happy in it?"

"Ah, Phillis, you are so clever, and I don't understand you," faltered
Nan. It was not Dick she was to give up; but what could Phillis mean?
"We are all fond of society; we are like other girls, I suppose. But
if we are to be poor and work for our living, I dare say people will
give us up."

"I am not meaning that," returned her sister, earnestly; "it is
something far harder, something far more difficult, something that
will be a great sacrifice and cost us all tremendous efforts. But if
we are to keep a roof over our heads, if we are to live together in
anything like comfort, I don't see what else we can do, unless we go
out as companions and leave mother and Dulce in lodgings."

"Oh, no, no; pray don't leave us!" implored Dulce, feeling that all
her strength and comfort lay near Nan.

"I will not leave you, dear, if I can possibly help it," returned Nan,
gently. "Tell us what you mean, Phillis, for I see you have some sort
of plan in your head. There is nothing,--nothing," she continued, more
firmly, "that I would not do to make mother and Dulce happy. Speak
out; you are half afraid that I shall prove a coward, but you shall
see."

"Dear Nan, no; you are as brave as possible. I am rather a coward
myself. Yes; I have a plan; but you have yourself put it into my head
by saying what you did about Lady Fitzroy."

"About Lady Fitzroy?"

"Yes; your telling her about our making our own dresses. Nan, you are
right: needlework is our forte; nothing is a trouble to us. Few girls
have such clever fingers, I believe; and then you and Dulce have such
taste. Mrs. Paine once told me that we were the best-dressed girls in
the neighborhood, and she wished Carrie looked half as well. I am
telling you this, not from vanity, but because I do believe we can
turn our one talent to account. We should be miserable governesses; we
do not want to separate and seek situations as lady helps or
companions; we do not mean to fail in letting lodgings; but if we do
not succeed as good dressmakers, never believe me again."

"Dressmakers!" almost shrieked Dulce. But Nan, who had expressed
herself willing to take in plain needlework, only looked at her sister
with mute gravity; her little world was turned so completely upside
down, everything was so unreal, that nothing at this moment could have
surprised her.

"Dressmakers!" she repeated, vaguely.

"Yes, yes," replied Phillis, still more eagerly. The inspiration had
come to her in a moment, full-fledged and grown up, like Minerva from
the head of Jupiter. Just from those chance words of Nan's she had
grasped the whole thing in a moment. Now, indeed she felt that she was
clever; here at least was something striking and original; she took no
notice of Dulce's shocked exclamation; she fixed her eyes solemnly on
Nan. "Yes, yes; what does it matter what the outside world says? We
are not like other girls; we never were; people always said we were so
original. Necessity strikes out strange paths some times. We could not
do such a thing here; no, no, I never could submit to that myself," as
Nan involuntarily shuddered; "but at Hadleigh, where no one knows us,
where we shall be among strangers. And then, you see, Miss Monks is
dead."

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! what does she mean?" cried Dulce, despairingly;
"and what do we care about Miss Monks, if the creature be dead, or
about Miss Anybody, if we have got to do such dreadful things?"

"My dear," returned Phillis, with compassionate irony, "if we had to
depend upon you for ideas----" and here she made an eloquent pause.
"Our last tenant for the Friary was Miss Monks, and Miss Monks was a
dressmaker; and, though perhaps I ought not to say it, it does seem a
direct leading of Providence, putting such a thought into my head."

"I am afraid Dulce and I are very slow and stupid," returned Nan,
putting her hair rather wearily from her face: her pretty color had
quite faded during the last half-hour. "I think if you would tell us
plainly, exactly what you mean, Phillis, we should be able to
understand everything better."

"My notion is this," began Phillis, slowly: "remember, I have not
thought it quite out, but I will give you my ideas just as they occur
to me. We will not say anything to mother just yet, until we have
thoroughly digested our plan. You and I, Nan, will run down to the
Friary, and reconnoitre the place, judge of its capabilities, and so
forth; and when we come back we will hold a family council."

"That will be best," agreed Nan, who remembered, with sudden feelings
of relief, that Dick and his belongings would be safe in the Engadine
by that time. "But, Phillis, do you really and truly believe that we
could carry out such a scheme?"

"Why not?" was the bold answer. "If we can work for ourselves, we can
for other people. I have a presentiment that we shall achieve a
striking success. We will make the old Friary as comfortable as
possible," she continued, cheerfully. "The good folk of Hadleigh will
be rather surprised when they see our pretty rooms. No horse-hair
sofa; no crochet antimacassars or hideous wax flowers; none of the
usual stock-in-trade. Dorothy will manage the house for us; and we
will all sit and work together, and mother will help us, and read to
us. Aren't you glad, Nan, that we all saved up for that splendid
sewing-machine?"

"I do believe there is something, after all, in what you say," was
Nan's response; but Dulce was not so easily won over.

"Do you mean to say that we shall put up a brass plate on the door,
with 'Challoner, dressmaker,' on it?" she observed, indignantly. A red
glow mounted to Nan's forehead; and even Phillis looked disconcerted.

"I never thought of that: well, perhaps not. We might advertise at the
Library, or put cards in the shops. I do not think mother would ever
cross the threshold if she saw a brass plate."

"No, no; I could not bear that," said Nan, faintly. A dim vision of
Dick standing at the gate, ruefully contemplating their name--her
name--in juxtaposition with "dressmaker," crossed her mind directly.

"But we should have to carry parcels, and stand in people's halls, and
perhaps fit Mrs. Squails, the grocer's wife,--that fat old thing, you
know. How would you like to make a dress for Mrs. Squails, Phil?"
asked Dulce, with the malevolent desire of making Phillis as
uncomfortable as possible; but Phillis, who had rallied from her
momentary discomfiture, was not to be again worsted.

"Dulce, you talk like a child; you are really a very silly little
thing. Do you think any work can degrade us or that we shall not be as
much gentlewomen at Hadleigh as we are here?"

"But the parcels?" persisted Dulce.

"I do not intend to carry any," was the imperturbable reply, "Dorothy
will do that; or we will hire a boy. As for waiting in halls, I don't
think any one will ask me to do that, as I should desire to be shown
into a room at once; and as for Mrs. Squails, if the poor old woman
honors me with her custom, I will turn her out a gown that shall be
the envy of Hadleigh."

Dulce did not answer this, but the droop of her lip was piteous; it
melted Phillis at once.

"Oh, do cheer up, you silly girl!" she said, with a coaxing face.
"What is the good of making ourselves more miserable than we need? If
you prefer the two little rooms with mother, say so; and Nan and I
will look out for old ladies at once."

"No! no! Oh, pray don't leave me!" still more piteously.

"Well, what will you have us do? we cannot starve; and we don't mean
to beg. Pluck up a little spirit, Dulce; see how good Nan is! You have
no idea how comfortable we should be!" she went on, with judicious
word-painting. "We should all be together,--that is the great thing.
Then we could talk over our work; and in the afternoon, when we felt
dreary, mother could read some interesting novel to us,"--a tremulous
sigh from Nan at this point.

What a contrast to the afternoons at Glen Cottage,--tennis, and
five-o'clock tea, and the company of their young friends! Phillis
understood the sigh, and hurried on.

"It will not be always work. We will have long country walks in the
evening; and then, there will be the garden and the sea-shore. Of
course we must have exercise and recreation, I am afraid we shall have
to do without society, for no one will visit ladies under such
circumstances; but I would rather do without people than without each
other, and so would Nan."

"Yes, indeed!" broke in Nan; and now the tears were in her eyes.

Dulce grew suddenly ashamed of herself. She got up in a little flurry,
and kissed them both.

"I was very naughty; but I did not mean to be unkind. I would rather
carry parcels, and stand in halls,--yes, and even make gowns for Mrs.
Squails,--than lose you both. I will be good. I will not worry you any
more, Phil, with my nonsense; and I will work; you will see how I will
work," finished Dulce, breathlessly.

"There's a darling!" said Nan; and then she added, in a tired voice,
"But it is two o'clock; and Dick is coming this morning to say
good-bye; and I want to ask you both particularly not to say a word to
him about this. Let him go away and enjoy himself, and think we are
going on as usual; it would spoil his holiday; and there is always
time enough for bad news," went on Nan, with a little tremble of her
lip.

"Dear Nan, we understand," returned Phillis, gently; "and you are
right, as you always are. And now to bed,--to bed," she continued, in
a voice of enforced cheerfulness; and then they all kissed each other
very quietly and solemnly, and crept up as noiselessly as possible to
their rooms.

Phillis and Dulce shared the same room; but Nan had a little chamber
to herself very near her mother's: a door connected the two rooms. Nan
closed this carefully, when she had ascertained that Mrs. Challoner
was still sleeping, and then sat down by the window, and looked out
into the gray glimmering light that preceded the dawn.

Sleep; how could she sleep with all these thoughts surging through her
mind, and knowing that in a few hours Dick would come and say
good-bye? and here Nan broke down, and had such a fit of crying as she
had not had since her father died,--nervous, uncontrollable tears,
that it was useless to stem in her tired, overwrought state.

They exhausted her, and disposed her for sleep. She was so chilled and
weary that she was glad to lie down in bed at last and close her eyes;
and she had scarcely done so before drowsiness crept over her, and she
knew no more until she found the sunshine flooding her little room,
and Dorothy standing by her bed asking rather crossly why no one
seemed disposed to wake this beautiful morning.

"Am I late? Oh, I hope I am not late!" exclaimed Nan, springing up in
a moment. She dressed herself in quite a flurry, for fear she should
keep any one waiting. It was only at the last moment she remembered
the outburst of the previous night, and wondered with some dismay what
Dick would think of her pale cheeks and the reddened lines round her
eyes, and only hoped that he would not attribute them to his going
away. Nan was only just in time, for as she entered the breakfast-room
Dick came through the veranda and put in his head at the window.

"Not at breakfast yet? and where are the others?" he asked in some
surprise, for the Challoners were early people, and very regular in
their habits.

"We sat up rather late last night, talking," returned Nan, giving him
her hand without looking at him, and yet Dick showed to advantage this
morning in his new tweed travelling suit.

"Well, I have only got ten minutes. I managed to give the pater the
slip: he will be coming after me, I believe, if I stay longer. This is
first-rate, having you all to myself this last morning. But what's up,
Nan? you don't seem quite up to the mark. You are palish, you know,
and----" here Dick paused in pained embarrassment. Were those traces
of tears? had Nan really been crying? was she sorry about his going
away? And now there was an odd lump in Dick's throat.

Nan understood the pause and got frightened.

"It is nothing. I have a slight headache; there was a little domestic
worry that wanted putting to right," stammered Nan; "it worried me,
for I am stupid at such things, you know."

She was explaining herself somewhat lamely, and to no purpose, for
Dick did not believe her in the least. "Domestic worry!" as though she
cared for such rubbish as that; as though any amount could make her
cry,--her, his bright, high spirited Nan! No; she had been fretting
about their long separation, and his father's unkindness, and the
difficulties ahead of them.

"I want you to give me a rose," he said, suddenly, _a propos_ of
nothing, as it seemed; but looking up, Nan caught a wistful gleam in
his eyes, and hesitated. Was it not Dick who had told her that
anecdote about the queen, or was it Lothair? and did not a certain
meaning attach to this gift? Dick was forever picking roses for her;
but he had never given her one, except with that meaning look on his
face.

"You are hesitating," he said, reproachfully; "and on my last morning,
when we shall not see each other for months;" And Nan moved towards
the veranda slowly, and gathered a crimson one without a word, and put
it in his hand.

"Thank you," he said, quite quietly; but he detained the hand as well
as the rose for a moment. "One day I will show you this again, and
tell you what it means if you do not know; and then we shall see, ah,
Nan, my----" He paused as Phillis's step entered the room, and said
hurriedly, in a low voice, "Good-bye; I will not go in again. I don't
want to see any of them, only you,--only you. Good-bye: take care of
yourself for my sake, Nan." And Dick looked at her wistfully, and
dropped her hand.

"Has he gone?" asked Phillis, looking up in surprise as her sister
came through the open window; "has he gone without finding anything
out?"

"Yes, he has gone, and he does not know anything," replied Nan, in a
subdued voice, as she seated herself behind the urn. It was over now,
and she was ready for anything. "Take care of yourself for my sake,
Nan!"--that was ringing in her ears; but she had not said a word in
reply. Only the rose lay in his hand,--her parting gift, and perhaps
her parting pledge.



CHAPTER IX.

A LONG DAY.


Nan never recalled the memory of that "long gray day," as she inwardly
termed it, without a shiver of discomfort.

Never but once in her bright young life had she known such a day, and
that was when her dead father lay in the darkened house, and her
widowed mother had crept weeping into her arms as to her only
remaining refuge; but that stretched so far back into the past that it
had grown into a vague remembrance.

It was not only that Dick was gone, though the pain of that separation
was far greater than she would have believed possible, but a moral
earthquake had shattered their little world, involving them in utter
chaos.

It was only yesterday that she was singing ballads in the Longmead
drawing-room,--only yesterday; but to-day everything was changed. The
sun shone, the birds sang, every one ate and drank and moved about as
usual. Nan talked and smiled, and no stranger would have guessed that
much was amiss; nevertheless, a weight lay heavy on her spirits, and
Nan knew in her secret heart that she could never be again the same
light-hearted, easy-going creature that she was yesterday.

Later on, the sisters confessed to each other that the day had been
perfectly interminable; the hours dragged on slowly; the sun seemed as
though it never meant to set; and to add to their trouble, their
mother looked so ill when she came downstairs, wrapped in her soft
white shawl in spite of the heat, that Nan thought of sending for a
doctor, and only refrained at the remembrance that they had no right
to such luxuries now except in cases of necessity.

Then Dorothy was in one of her impracticable moods, throwing cold
water on all her young mistress's suggestions, and doing her best to
disarrange the domestic machinery. Dorothy suspected a mystery
somewhere; her young ladies had sat up half the night, and looked pale
and owlish in the morning. If they chose to keep her in the dark and
not take her into their confidence, it was their affair; but she meant
to show them what she thought of their conduct. So she contradicted
and snapped, until Nan told her wearily that she was a disagreeable
old thing, and left her and Susan to do as they liked. She knew Mr.
Trinder was waiting for her in the dining-room, and, as Mrs. Challoner
was not well enough to see him, she and Phillis must entertain him.

He had slept at a friend's house a few miles from Oldfield, and was to
lunch at Glen Cottage and take the afternoon train to London.

He was not sorry when he heard that Mrs. Challoner was too indisposed
to receive him. In spite of his polite expressions of regret, he had
found the poor lady terribly trying on the previous evening. She was a
bad manager, and had muddled her affairs, and she did not seem to
understand half of what he told her; and her tears and lamentations
when she had realized the truth had been too much for the soft hearted
old bachelor, though people did call him a woman-hater.

"But I never could bear to see a woman cry; it is as bad as watching
an animal in pain," he half growled, as he drew out his red
pocket-handkerchief and used it rather noisily.

It was easier work to explain everything to these two bright, sensible
girls. Phillis listened and asked judicious questions; but Nan sat
with downcast face, plaiting the table-cloth between her restless
fingers, and thinking of Dick at odd intervals.

She took it all in, however, and roused up in earnest when Mr. Trinder
had finished his explanations, and Phillis began to talk in her turn;
she was actually taking the old lawyer into her confidence, and
detailing their scheme in the most business-like way.

"The mother does not know yet,--this is all in confidence; but Nan and
I have made up our minds to take this step," finished the young
philosopher, calmly.

"Bless my soul," ejaculated Mr. Trinder,--he had given vent to this
expression at various intervals, but had not further interrupted her.
"Bless my soul! my dear young ladies, I think--but excuse me if I am
too abrupt, but you must be dreaming."

Phillis shook her head smilingly; and as Dorothy came into the room
that moment to lay the luncheon, she proposed a turn in the garden,
and fetched Mr. Trinder's hat herself, and guided him to a side-walk,
where they could not be seen from the drawing-room windows. Nan
followed them, and tried to keep step with Mr. Trinder's shambling
footsteps, as he walked between the girls with a hot perplexed face,
and still muttering to himself at intervals.

"It is all in confidence," repeated Phillis, in the same calm voice.

"And you are actually serious? you are not joking?"

"Do your clients generally joke when they are ruined?" returned
Phillis, with natural exasperation. "Do you think Nan and I are in
such excellent spirits that we could originate such a piece of
drollery? Excuse me, Mr. Trinder, but I must say I do not think your
remark quite well timed." And Phillis turned away with a little
dignity.

"No, no! now you are put out, and no wonder!" returned Mr. Trinder,
soothingly; and he stood quite still on the gravel path, and fixed his
keen little eyes on the two young creatures before him,--Nan, with her
pale cheeks and sad eyes, and Phillis, alert, irritated, full of
repressed energy. "Dear, dear! what a pity!" groaned the old man; "two
such bonnie lasses and to think a little management and listening to
my advice would have kept the house over your heads, if only your
mother would have hearkened to me!"

"It is too late for all that now, Mr. Trinder," replied Phillis,
impatiently: "isn't it waste of time crying over spilt milk when we
must be taking our goods to market? We must make the best of our
little commodities," sighed the girl. "If we were only clever and
accomplished, we might do better; but now----" and Phillis left her
sentence unfinished, which was a way she had, and which people thought
very telling.

"But, my dear young lady, with all your advantages, and----" Here
Phillis interrupted him rather brusquely.

"What advantages? do you mean we had a governess? Well, we had three,
one after the other; and they were none of them likely to turn out
first-rate pupils. Oh, we are well enough, compared to other girls: if
we had not to earn our own living, we should not be so much amiss.
But, Nan, why don't you speak? why do you leave me all the hard work?
Did you not tell us last night that you were not fit for a
governess?"

Nan felt rather ashamed of her silence after this. It was true that
she was leaving all the onus of their plan on Phillis, and it was
certainly time for her to come to her rescue. So she quietly but
rather shyly endorsed her sister's speech, and assured Mr. Trinder
that they had carefully considered the matter from every point of
view, and, though it was a very poor prospect and involved a great
deal of work and self-sacrifice, she, Nan, thought that Phillis was
right, and that it was the best--indeed the only--thing they could do
under the circumstances.

"For myself, I prefer it infinitely to letting lodgings," finished
Nan: and Phillis looked at her gratefully.

But Mr. Trinder was obstinate and had old-fashioned views, and argued
the whole thing in his dictatorial masculine way. They sat down to
luncheon, and presently sent Dorothy away,--a piece of independence
that bitterly offended that crabbed but faithful individual,--and
wrangled busily through the whole of the meal.

Mr. Trinder never could remember afterwards whether it was lamb or
mutton he had eaten; he had a vague idea that Dulce had handed him the
mint-sauce, and that he had declined it and helped himself to salad.
The doubt disturbed him for the first twenty miles of his homeward
journey. "Good gracious! for a man not to know whether he is eating
lamb or mutton!" he soliloquized, as he vainly tried to enjoy his
usual nap; "but then I never was so upset in my life. Those pretty
creatures, and Challoners too,--bless my soul!" And here the lawyer's
cogitations became confused and misty.

Nan, who had more than once seen tears in the lawyer's shrewd little
gray eyes, had been very gentle and tolerant over the old man's
irritability; but Phillis had resented his caustic speeches somewhat
hotly. Dulce, who was on her best behavior, was determined not to
interfere or say a word to thwart her sisters: she even went so far as
to explain to Mr. Trinder that they would not have to carry parcels,
as Phillis meant to hire a boy. She had no idea that this magnanimous
speech was in a figurative manner the last straw that broke the
camel's back. Mr. Trinder pushed back his chair hastily, made some
excuse that his train must be due, and beat a retreat an hour before
the time, unable to pursue such a painful subject any longer.

Nan rose, with a sigh of relief, as soon as the door closed upon their
visitors, and took refuge in the shady drawing-room with her mother,
whom she found in a very tearful, querulous state, requiring a great
deal of soothing. They had decided that no visitors were to be
admitted that afternoon.

"You may say your mistress is indisposed with a bad headache, Dorothy,
and that we are keeping the house quiet," Nan remarked, with a little
dignity, with the remembrance of that late passage of arms.

"Very well, Miss Nan," returned the old servant. However, she was a
little cowed by Nan's manner: such an order had never before been
given in the cottage. Mrs. Challoner's headaches were common events in
every-day life, and had never been known before to interfere with
their afternoon receptions. A little eau de Cologne and extra petting,
a stronger cup of tea served up to her in her bedroom, had been the
only remedies; the girls had always had their tennis as usual, and the
sound of their voices and laughter had been as music in their mother's
ears.

"Very well, Miss Nan," was all Dorothy ventured to answer; but she
withdrew with a face puckered up with anxiety. She took in the
tea-tray unbidden at an earlier hour than usual; there were Dulce's
favorite hot cakes, and some rounds of delicately-buttered toast, "for
the young ladies have not eaten above a morsel at luncheon," said
Dorothy in explanation to her mistress.

"Never mind us," returned Nan, with a friendly nod at the old woman:
"it has been so hot to-day," And then she coaxed her mother to eat,
and made believe herself to enjoy the repast while she wondered how
many more evenings they would spend in the pretty drawing-room on
which they had expended so much labor.

Nan had countermanded the late dinner, which they all felt would be a
pretence and mockery; and as Mrs. Challoner's headache refused to
yield to the usual remedies, she was obliged to retire to bed as soon
as the sun set, and the three girls went out in the garden, and walked
up and down the lawn with their arms interlaced, while Dorothy watched
them from the pantry window, and wiped away a tear or two, as she
washed up the tea-things.

"How I should like a long walk?" exclaimed Dulce, impatiently. "It is
so narrow and confined here; but it would never do: we should meet
people."

"No, it would never do," agreed her sisters, feeling a fresh pang that
such avoidance was necessary. They had never hidden anything before,
and the thought that this mystery lay between them and their friends
was exquisitely painful.

"I feel as though I never cared to see one of them again!" sighed poor
Nan, for which speech she was rather sharply rebuked by Phillis.

They settled a fair amount of business before they went to bed that
night; and when Dorothy brought in the supper-tray, bearing a little
covered dish in triumph, which she set down before Nan, Nan looked at
her with grave, reproachful eyes, in there was a great deal of
kindness.

"You should not do this, Dorothy," she said, very gently: "we cannot
afford such delicacies now."

"It is your favorite dish, Miss Nan," returned Dorothy, quite ignoring
this remark. "Susan has cooked it to a nicety; but it will be spoiled
if it is not eaten hot." And she stood over them, while Nan dispensed
the dainty. "You must eat it while it is hot," she kept saying, as she
fidgeted about the room, taking up things and putting them down again.
Phillis looked at Nan with a comical expression of dismay.

"Dorothy, come here," she exclaimed, at last, pushing away her plate.
"Don't you see that Susan is wasting all her talents on us, and that
we can't eat to-day?"

"Every one can eat if they try, Miss Phillis," replied Dorothy,
oracularly. "But a thing like that must be hot, or it is spoiled."

"Oh, never mind about it being hot," returned Phillis, beginning to
laugh. She was so tired, and Dorothy was such a droll old thing; and
how were even stewed pigeons to be appetizing under the
circumstances?

"Oh, you may laugh," began Dorothy, in an offended tone; but Phillis
took hold of her and nearly shook her.

"Oh, what a stupid old thing you are! Don't you know what a silly,
aggravating old creature you can be when you like? If I laugh, it is
because everything is so ludicrous and wretched. Nan and Dulce are not
laughing."

"No, indeed," put in Dulce; "we are far, far too unhappy!"

"What is it, Miss Nan?" asked Dorothy, sidling up to her in a coaxing
manner. "I am only an old servant, but it was me that put Miss Dulce
in her father's arms,--'the pretty lamb,' as he called her, and she
with a skin like a lily. If there is trouble, you would not keep it
from her old nurse, surely?"

"No, indeed, Dorothy: we want to tell you," returned Nan touched by
this appeal; and then she quietly recapitulated the main points that
concerned their difficulties,--their mother's loss, their future
poverty, the necessity for leaving Glen Cottage and settling down at
the Friary.

"We shall all have to work," finished Nan, with prudent vagueness, not
daring to intrust their plan to Dorothy: "the cottage is small, and,
of course, we can only keep one servant."

"I dare say I shall be able to manage if you will help me a little,"
returned Dorothy, drying her old eyes with the corner of her apron.
"Dear, dear! to think of such an affliction coming upon my mistress
and the dear young ladies! It is like an earthquake or a flood, or
something sudden and unexpected,--Lord deliver us! And to think of my
speaking crossly to you Miss Nan, and you with all this worry on your
mind!"

"We will not think of that," returned Nan, soothingly. "Susan's
quarter will be up shortly, and we must get her away as soon as
possible. My great fear is that the work may be too much for you, poor
Dorothy; and that--that--we may have to keep you waiting sometimes for
your wages," she added, rather hesitatingly fearing to offend
Dorothy's touchy temper, and yet determined to put the whole matter
clearly before her.

"I don't think we need talk about that," returned Dorothy, with
dignity. "I have not saved up my wages for nineteen years without
having a nest-egg laid up for rainy days. Wages,--when I mention the
word, Miss Nan," went on Dorothy, waxing somewhat irate, "it will be
time enough to enter upon that subject. I haven't deserved such a
speech; no, that I haven't," went on Dorothy, with a sob. "Wages,
indeed!"

"Now, nursey, you shan't be cross with Nan," cried Dulce, throwing her
arms round the old woman; for, in spite of her eighteen years, she was
still Dorothy's special charge. "She's quite right; it may be an
unpleasant subject, but we will not have you working for us for
nothing."

"Very well, Miss Dulce," returned Dorothy, in a choked voice preparing
to withdraw; but Nan caught hold of the hard work-worn hand, and held
her fast.

"Oh, Dorothy, you would not add to our trouble now, when we are so
terribly unhappy! I never meant to hurt your feelings by what I said.
If you will only go to the Friary and help us to make the dear mother
comfortable, I, for one, will be deeply grateful."

"And you will not talk of wages?" asked Dorothy, mollified by Nan's
sweet, pleading tones.

"Not until we can afford to do so," returned Nan, hastily, feeling
that this was a safe compromise, and that they should be eked out
somehow. And then, the stewed pigeons being regarded as a failure,
Dorothy consented to remove the supper tray, and the long day was
declared at an end.



CHAPTER X.

THE FRIARY.


Oldfield was rather mystified by the Challoners' movements. There were
absolutely three afternoons during which Nan and her sisters were
invisible. There was a tennis-party at the Paines' on one of these
days, but at the last minute they had excused themselves. Nan's
prettily-worded note was declared very vague and unsatisfactory, and
on the following afternoon there was a regular invasion of the
cottage,--Carrie Paine, and two of the Twentyman girls, and Adelaide
Sartoris and her young brother Albert.

They found Dulce alone, looking very sad and forlorn.

Nan and Phillis had gone down to Hadleigh that morning, she explained
in rather a confused way: they were not expected back until the
following evening.

On being pressed by Miss Sartoris as to the reason of this sudden
trip, she added, rather awkwardly, that it was on business; her mother
was not well,--oh, very far from well; and they had to look at a house
that belonged to them, as the tenant had lately died.

This was all very plausible; but Dulce's manner was so constrained,
and she spoke with such hesitation, that Miss Sartoris was convinced
that something lay behind. They went out in the garden, however, and
chose sides for their game of tennis; and, though Dulce had never
played so badly in her life, the fresh air and exercise did her good,
and at the end of the afternoon she looked a little less drooping.

It was felt to be a failure, however, by the whole party; and when tea
was over, there was no mention of a second game. "No, we will not stay
any longer," observed Isabella Twentyman, kissing the girl with much
affection. "Of course we understand that you will be wanting to sit
with your mother."

"Yes, and if you do not come in to-morrow we shall quite know how it
is," added Miss Sartoris, good-naturedly, for which Dulce thanked her
and looked relieved.

She stood at the hall door watching them as they walked down the
village street, swinging their racquets and talking merrily.

"What happy girls!" she thought, with a sigh. Miss Sartoris was an
heiress, and the Twentymans were rich, and every one knew that Carrie
and Sophy Paine would have money. "None of them will have to work,"
said poor Dulce sorrowfully to herself: "they can go on playing tennis
and driving and riding and dancing as long as they like." And then she
went up to her mother's room with lagging footsteps and a cloudy
brow.

"You may depend upon it there is something amiss with those
Challoners," said Miss Sartoris, as soon as they were out of sight of
the cottage; "no one has seen anything of them for the last three or
four days, and I never saw Dulce so unlike herself."

"Oh, I hope not," returned Carrie, gravely, who had heard enough from
her father to guess that there was pecuniary embarrassment at the
bottom. "Poor little thing, she did seem rather subdued. How many
people do you expect to muster to-morrow, Adelaide?" and then Miss
Sartoris understood that the subject was to be changed.

While Dulce was trying to entertain her friends, Nan and Phillis were
reconnoitring the Friary.

They had taken an early train to London, and had contrived to reach
Hadleigh a little before three. They went first to Beach House,--a
small unpretending house on the Parade, kept by a certain Mrs. Mozley,
with whom they had once lodged after Dulce had the measles.

The good woman received them with the utmost cordiality. Her place was
pretty nearly filled, she told them proudly; the drawing-room had been
taken for three months, and an elderly couple were in the
dining-room.

"But there is a bedroom I could let you have for one night," finished
Mrs. Mozley, "and there is the little side parlor where you could have
your tea and breakfast." And when Nan had thanked her, and suggested
the addition of chops to their evening meal, they left their modest
luggage and set out for the Friary.

Phillis would have gone direct to their destination, but Nan pleaded
for one turn on the Parade. She wanted a glimpse of the sea, and it
was such a beautiful afternoon.

The tide was out, and the long black breakwaters were uncovered; the
sun was shining on the wet shingles and narrow strip of yellow sand.
The sea looked blue and unruffled, with little sparkles and gleams of
light, and white sails glimmered on the horizon. Some boatmen were
dragging a boat down the beach; it grated noisily over the pebbles. A
merry party were about to embark,--a tall man in a straw hat, and two
boys in knickerbockers. Their sisters were watching them. "Oh, Reggie,
do be careful!" Nan heard one of the girls say, as he waded knee-deep
into the water.

"Come, Nan, we ought not to dawdle like this!" exclaimed Phillis,
impatiently; and they went on quickly, past the long row of
old-fashioned white houses with the green before them and that sweet
Sussex border of soft feathery tamarisk, and then past the
cricket-field, and down to the whitewashed cottage of the Preventive
Station; and then they turned back and walked towards the Steyne, and
after that Nan declared herself satisfied.

There were plenty of people on the Parade, and most of them looked
after the two girls as they passed. Nan's sweet bloom and graceful
carriage always attracted notice; and Phillis, although she generally
suffered from comparison with her sister, was still very
uncommon-looking.

"I should like to know who those young ladies are," observed a
military-looking man with a white moustache, who was standing at the
Library door waiting for his daughter to make some purchases. "Look at
them, Elizabeth: one of them is such a pretty girl, and they walk so
well."

"Dear father, I suppose they are only some new-comers: we shall see
their names down in the visitors' list by and by;" and Miss Middleton
smiled as she took her father's arm, for she was slightly lame. She
knew strangers always interested him, and that he would make it his
business for the next few days to find out everything about them.

"Did you see that nice-looking woman?" asked Phillis, when they had
passed. "She was quite young, only her hair was gray: fancy, a
gray-haired girl!"

"Oh, she must be older than she looks," returned Nan, indifferently.

She was not looking at people: she was far too busily engaged
identifying each well-remembered spot.

There was the shabby little cottage, where she and her mother had once
stayed after an illness of Mrs. Challoner's. What odd little rooms
they had occupied, looking over a strip of garden-ground full of
marigolds! "Marigolds-all-in-a-row Cottage," she had named it in her
home letters. It was nearly opposite the White House where Mrs. Cheyne
lived. Nan remembered her,--a handsome, sad-looking woman, who always
wore black, and drove out in such handsome carriages.

"Always alone; how sad!" Nan thought; and she wondered, as they walked
past the low stone walls with grassy mounds slopping from them, and a
belt of shrubbery shutting out views of the house, whether Mrs. Cheyne
lived there still.

They had reached a quiet country corner now; there was a clump of
trees, guarded by posts and chains; a white house stood far back.
There were two or three other houses, and a cottage dotted down here
and there. The road looked shady and inviting. Nan began to look about
her more cheerfully.

"I am glad it is so quiet, and so far away from the town, and that our
neighbors will not be able to overlook us."

"I was just thinking of that as a disadvantage," returned Phillis,
with placid opposition. "It is a pity, under the circumstances, that
we are not nearer the town." And after that Nan held her peace.

They were passing an old-fashioned house with a green door in the
wall, when it suddenly opened, and a tall, grave looking young man, in
clerical attire, came out quickly upon them, and then drew back to let
them pass.

"I suppose that is the new vicar?" whispered Phillis, when they had
gone a few steps. "You know poor old Dr. Musgrave is dead, and most
likely that is his successor."

"I forgot that was the vicarage," returned Nan. But happily she did
not turn round to look at it again; if she had done so, she would have
seen the young clergyman still standing by the green door watching
them. "It is a shabby, dull old house in front; but I remember that
when mother and I returned Mrs. Musgrave's call we were shown into
such a dear old-fashioned drawing-room, with windows looking out on
such a pleasant garden. I quite fell in love with it."

"Well, we shall be near neighbors," observed Phillis, somewhat
shortly, as she paused before another green door, set in a long blank
wall; "for here we are at the Friary, and I had better just run over
the way and get the key from Mrs. Crump."

Nan nodded, and then stood like an image of patience before the
shabby green door. Would it open and let them into a new untried life?
What sort of fading hopes, of dim regrets, would be left outside when
they crossed the threshold? The thought of the empty rooms, not yet
swept and garnished, made her shiver: the upper windows looked blankly
at her, like blind, unrecognizing eyes. She was quite glad when
Phillis joined her again, swinging the key on her little finger, and
humming a tune in forced cheerfulness.

"What a dull, shut-in place! I think the name of Friary suits it
exactly," observed Nan, disconsolately, as they went up the little
flagged path, bordered with lilac-bushes. "It feels like a miniature
convent or prison: we might have a grating in the door, and answer all
outsiders through it."

"Nonsense!" returned Phillis, who was determined to take a bright view
of things. "Don't go into the house just yet, I want to see the
garden." And she led the way down a gloomy side-path, with unclipped
box and yews, that made it dark and decidedly damp. This brought them
to a little lawn, with tall, rank grass that might have been mown for
hay, and some side-beds full of old fashioned flowers, such as lupins
and monkshood, pinks and small pansies; a dreary little greenhouse,
with a few empty flower-pots and a turned-up box was in one corner,
and an attempt at a rockery, with a periwinkle climbing over it, and
an undesirable number of oyster-shells.

An old medlar tree, very warped and gnarled, was at the bottom of the
lawn, and beyond this a small kitchen-garden, with abundance of
gooseberry and currant-bushes, and vast resources in the shape of
mint, marjoram, and lavender.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! what a wretched little place after our dear old
Glen Cottage garden!" And in spite of her good resolutions, Nan's eyes
grew misty.

"Comparisons are odious," retorted Phillis, briskly. "We have just to
make the best of things,--and I don't deny they are horrid,--and put
all the rest away, between lavender, on the shelves of our memory."
And she smiled grimly as she picked one of the gray spiky flowers.

And then, as they walked round the weedy paths, she pointed out how
different it would look when the lawn was mown, and all the weeds and
oyster-shells removed, and the box and yews clipped, and a little
paint put on the greenhouse.

"And look at that splendid passion-flower, growing like a weed over
the back of the cottage," she remarked, with a wave of her hand: "it
only wants training and nailing up. Poor Miss Monks has neglected the
garden shamefully; but then she was always ailing."

They went into the cottage after this. The entry was rather small and
dark. The kitchen came first: it was a tolerable-sized apartment, with
two windows looking out on the lilacs and the green door and the blank
wall.

"I am afraid Dorothy will find it a little dull," Nan observed,
rather ruefully. And again she thought the name of Friary was well
given to this gruesome cottage; but she cheered up when Phillis opened
cupboards and showed her a light little scullery, and thought that
perhaps they could make it comfortable for Dorothy.

The other two rooms looked upon the garden: one had three windows, and
was really a very pleasant parlor.

"This must be our work-room," began Phillis, solemnly, as she stood in
the centre of the empty room, looking round her with bright knowing
glances. "Oh, what an ugly paper, Nan! but we can easily put up a
prettier one. The smaller room must be where we live and take our
meals: it is not quite so cheerful as this. It is so nice having this
side-window; it will give us more light, and we shall be able to see
who comes in at the door."

"Yes, that is an advantage," assented Nan. She was agreeably surprised
to find such a good-sized room in the cottage; it was decidedly low,
and the windows were not plate-glass, but she thought that on summer
mornings they might sit there very comfortably looking out at the lawn
and the medlar-tree.

"We shall be glad of these cupboards," she suggested, after a pause,
while Phillis, took out sundry pieces of tape from her pocket and
commenced making measurements in a business-like manner. "Our work
will make such a litter, and I should like things to be as tidy as
possible. I am thinking," she continued, "we might have mother's great
carved wardrobe in the recess behind the door. It is really a
magnificent piece of furniture, and in a work-room it would not be so
out of place; we could hang up the finished and unfinished dresses in
it out of the dust. And we could have the little drawing-room
chiffonnier between the windows for our pieces, and odds and ends in
the cupboards. It is a pity our table is round; but perhaps it will
look all the more comfortable. The sewing-machine must be in the
side-window," added Nan, who was quite in her element now, for she
loved all housewifely arrangements; "and mother's easy-chair and
little table must stand by the fireplace. My davenport will be useful
for papers and accounts."

"It is really a very convenient room," returned Phillis, in a
satisfied voice, when they had exhausted its capabilities; and, though
the second parlor was small and dull in comparison, even Nan dropped
no disparaging word.

Both of them agreed it would do very well. There was a place for the
large roomy couch that their mother so much affected, and their
favorite chairs and knick-knacks would soon make it look cosey: and
after this they went upstairs hand in hand.

There were only four bedrooms, and two of these were not large; the
most cheerful one was, of course, allotted to their mother, and the
next in size must be for Phillis and Dulce. Nan was to have a small
one next to her mother.

The evening was drawing on by the time they had finished their
measurements and left the cottage. Nan, who was tired and wanted her
tea, was for hurrying on to Beach House; but Phillis insisted on
calling at the Library. She wanted to put some questions to Miss
Milner. To-morrow they would have the paper-hanger, and look out for a
gardener, and there was Mrs. Crump to interview about cleaning down
the cottage.

"Oh, very well," returned Nan, wearily, and she followed Phillis into
the shop, where good-natured bustling Miss Milner came to them at
once.

Phillis put the question to her in a low voice, for there were other
customers exchanging books over the counter. The same young clergyman
they had before noticed had just bought a local paper, and was waiting
evidently for a young lady who was turning over some magazines quite
close to them.

"Do we know of a good dressmaker in the place?" repeated Miss Milner,
in her loud cheerful voice, very much to Nan's discomfort, for the
clergyman looked up from his paper at once. "Miss Monks was a
tolerable fit, but, poor thing! she died a few weeks ago; and Mrs.
Slasher, who lives over Viner's the haberdasher's, cannot hold a
candle to her. Miss Masham there,"--pointing to a smart ringleted
young person, evidently her assistant,--"had her gown ruined by her:
hadn't you, Miss Masham?"

Miss Masham simpered, but her reply was inaudible; but the young lady
who was standing near them suddenly turned round:

"There is Mrs. Langley, who lives just by. I shall be very happy to
give these ladies her address, for she is a widow with little
children, and I am anxious to procure her work--" and then she looked
at Nan, and hesitated; "that is, if you are not very particular," she
added, with sudden embarrassment, for even in her morning dress there
was a certain style about Nan that distinguished her from other
people.

"Thank you, Miss Drummond," returned Miss Milner, gratefully. "Shall I
write down the address for you, ma'am?"

"Yes,--no,--thank you very much, but perhaps it does not matter,"
returned Nan, hurriedly, feeling awkward for the first time in her
life. But Phillis, who realized all the humor of the situation,
interposed:

"The address will do us no harm, and we may as well have it, although
we should not trouble Mrs. Langley. I will call in again, Miss Milner,
to-morrow morning, and then I will explain what it is we really want.
We are in a hurry now," continued Phillis, loftily, turning away with
a dignified inclination of her head toward the officious stranger.

Phillis was not prepossessed in her favor. She was a dark, wiry little
person, not exactly plain, but with an odd, comical face; and she was
dressed so dowdily and with such utter disregard of taste that Phillis
instinctively felt Mrs. Langley was not to be dreaded.

"What a queer little body! Do you think she belongs to him?" she asked
Nan, as they walked rapidly toward Beach House.

"What in the world made you strike in after that fashion?" demanded
the young man, as he and his companion followed more slowly in the
strangers' footsteps. "That is just your way, Mattie, interfering and
meddling in other folks' affairs. Why cannot you mind your own
business sometimes," he continued, irritably, "instead of putting your
foot into other people's?"

"You are as cross as two sticks this afternoon, Archie," returned his
sister, composedly. She had a sharp little pecking voice that seemed
to match her, somehow; for she was not unlike a bright-eyed bird, and
had quick pouncing movements. "Wait a moment: my braid has got torn,
and is dragging."

"I wish you would think a little more of my position, and take greater
pains with your appearance," returned her brother, in an annoyed
voice. "What would Grace say to see what a fright you make of
yourself? It is a sin and a shame for a woman to be untidy or careless
in her dress; it is unfeminine! it is unlady-like!" hurling each
separate epithet at her.

Perhaps Miss Drummond was used to these compliments, for she merely
pinned her braid without seeming the least put out.

"I think I am a little shabby," she remarked, tranquilly, as they at
last walked on. "Perhaps Mrs. Langley had better make me a dress too,"
with a laugh, for, in spite of her sharp voice, she was an
even-tempered little body; but this last remark only added fuel to his
wrath.

"You really have less sense than a child. The idea of recommending a
person like Mrs. Langley to those young ladies,--a woman who works for
Miss Masham!"

"They were very plainly dressed, Archie," returned poor Mattie, who
felt this last snub acutely; for, if there was one thing upon which
she prided herself, it was her good sense. "They had dark print
dresses,--not as good as the one I have on,--and nothing could be
quieter."

"Oh, you absurd little goose!" exclaimed her brother, and he burst
into a laugh, for the drollery of the comparison restored him to
instant good humor. "If you cannot see the difference between that
frumpish gown of yours, with its little bobtails and fringes, and
those pretty dresses before us, I must say you are as blind as a bat,
Mattie."

"Oh, never mind my gown," returned Mattie, with a sigh.

She had had these home-thrusts to meet and parry nearly every day,
ever since she had come to keep house for this fastidious brother. She
was a very active, bustling little person, who had done a great deal
of tough work in her day, but she never could be made to see that
unless a woman add the graces of life to the cardinal virtues she is,
comparatively speaking, a failure in the eyes of the other sex.

So, though Mattie was a frugal housekeeper, and worked from morning to
night in his service,--the veriest little drudge that was ever
seen,--she was a perpetual eyesore to her brother, who loved feminine
grace and repose,--whose tastes were fastidious and somewhat
arbitrary. And so it was poor Mattie had more censure than praise, and
wrote home piteous letters complaining that nothing she did seemed to
satisfy Archie, and that her mother had made a great mistake in
sending her, and not Grace, to preside over his bachelor
establishment.

"Oh, Phillis, how shall we have courage to publish our plan?"
exclaimed Nan, when they were at last discussing the much-needed tea
and chops in the little parlor at Beach House.

The window was wide open. The returning tide was coming in with a
pleasant ripple and wash over the shingle. The Parade was nearly
empty; but some children's voices sounded from the green space before
the houses. The brown sail of a fishing craft dipped into the horizon.
It was so cool, so quiet, so restful; but Nan's eyes were weary, and
she put the question wistfully.

Phillis looked into the teapot to gain a moment's reprieve; the
corners of her mouth had an odd pucker in them.

"I never said it was not hard," she burst out at last. "I felt like a
fool myself while I was speaking to Miss Milner; but then that
clergyman was peeping at us between the folds of his paper. He seemed
a nice-looking, gentlemanly sort of man. Do you think that queer
little lady in the plaid dress could be his wife? Oh, no; I remember
Miss Milner addressed her as Miss Drummond. Then she must be his
sister: how odd!"

"Why should it be odd?" remarked Nan, absently, who had not
particularly noticed them.

"Oh, she was such a dowdy little thing, not a bit nice-looking, and he
was quite handsome, and looked rather distinguished. You know I always
take stock of people, and make up my mind about them at once. And then
we are to be such close neighbors."

"I don't suppose we shall see much of them," was Nan's somewhat
depressed reply; and then, as they had finished their tea they placed
themselves at the open window, and began to talk about the business of
next day; and, in discussing cupboards and new papers, Nan forgot her
fatigue, and grew so interested that it was quite late before they
thought of retiring to rest.



CHAPTER XI.

"TELL US ALL ABOUT IT, NAN."


Nan overslept herself, and was rather late the next morning; but as
she entered the parlor, with an exclamation of penitence for her
tardiness, she found her little speech was addressed to the empty
walls. A moment after, a shadow crossed the window, and Phillis came
in.

She went up to Nan and kissed her, and there was a gleam of fun in her
eyes.

"Oh, you lazy girl!" she said; "leaving me all the hard work to do. Do
you know, I have been around to the Library, and have had it all out
with Miss Milner; and in the Steyne I met the clergyman again,
and--would you believe it; he looked quite disappointed because you
were not there!"

"Nonsense!" returned Nan, sharply. She never liked this sort of joking
speeches: they seemed treasonable to Dick.

"Oh, but he did," persisted Phillis, who was a little excited and
reckless after her morning's work. "He threw me a disparaging glance,
which said, as plainly as possible, 'Why are you not the other one?'
That comes from having a sister handsomer than one's self."

"Oh, Phillis! when people always think you so nice, and when you are
so clever!"

Phillis got up and executed a little courtesy in the prettiest way,
and then she sank down upon her chair in pretended exhaustion.

"What I have been through! But I have come out of it alive. Confess,
now, there's a dear, that you could not have done it!"

"No; indeed," with an alarmed air. "Do you really mean to say that you
actually told Miss Milner what we meant to do?"

"I told her everything. There, sit down and begin your breakfast, Nan,
or we shall never be ready. I found her alone in the shop. Thank
goodness, that Miss Masham was not there. I have taken a dislike to
that simpering young person, and would rather make a dress for Mrs.
Squails any day than for her. I told her the truth, without a bit of
disguise. Would you believe it, the good creature actually cried about
it! she quite upset me too. 'Such young ladies! dear, dear: one does
not often see such,' she kept saying over and over again. And then she
put out her hand and stroked my dress, and said, 'Such a beautiful
fit, too; and to think you have made it yourself! such a clever young
lady! Oh, dear! whatever will Mr. Drummond and Miss Mattie say?'
Stupid old thing! as though we cared what he said!"

"Oh, Phillis! and she cried over it?"

"She did indeed. I am not exaggerating. Two big round tears rolled
down her cheeks. I could have kissed her for them. And then she made
me sit down in the little room behind the shop, where she was having
her breakfast, and poured me out a cup of tea and----" But here Nan
interrupted her, and there was a trace of anxiety in her manner.

"Poured you out a cup of tea! Miss Milner! And you drank it!"

"Of course I drank it; it was very good, and I was thirsty."

But here Nan pounced upon her unexpectedly, and dragged her to the
window.

"Your fun is only make-believe: there is no true ring about it. Let me
see your eyes. Oh, Phil, Phil! I thought so! You have been crying,
too!"

Phillis looked a little taken aback. Nan was too sharp for her. She
tried to shake herself free a little pettishly.

"Well, if I choose to make a fool of myself for once in my life, you
need not be silly about it; the old thing was so upsetting, and--and
it was so hard to get it out." Phillis would not have told for worlds
how utterly she had broken down over that task of hers; how the
stranger's sympathy had touched so painful a chord that, before she
knew what she was doing, she had laid her head down on the counter and
was crying like a baby,--all the more that she had so bravely pent up
her feelings all these days that she might not dishearten her
sisters.

But, as Nan petted and praised her, she did tell how good Miss Milner
had been to her.

"Fancy a fat old thing like that having such fine feelings," she said,
with an attempt to recover her sprightliness. "She was as good as a
mother to me,--made me sit in the easy-chair, and brought me some
elder-flower water to bathe my eyes, and tried to cheer me up by
saying that we should have plenty of work. She has promised not to
tell any one just yet about us; but when we are really in the Friary
she will speak to people and recommend us: and--" here Phillis gave a
little laugh--"we are to make up a new black silk for her that her
brother has just sent her. Oh, dear, what will mother say to us, Nan?"
And Phillis looked at her in an alarmed, beseeching way, as though in
sore need of comfort.

Nan looked grave; but there was no hesitation in her answer:

"I am afraid it is too late to think of that now, Phil: it has to be
done, and we must just go through with it."

"You are right, Nanny darling, we must just go through with it,"
agreed Phillis; and then they went on with their unfinished breakfast,
and after that the business of the day began.

It was late in the evening when they reached home. Dulce who was at
the gate looking out for them, nearly smothered them with kisses.

"Oh, you dear things! how glad I am to get you back," she said,
holding them both. "Have you really only been away since yesterday
morning? It seems a week at least."

"You ridiculous child! as though we believe that! But how is mother?"

"Oh, pretty well: but she will be better now you are back. Do you
know," eying them both very gravely, "I think it was a wise thing of
you to go away like that? it has shown me that mother and I could not
do without you at all: we should have pined away in those lodgings; it
has quite reconciled me to the plan," finished Dulce, in a loud
whisper that reached her mother's ears.

"What plan? What are you talking about, Dulce? and why do you keep
your sisters standing in the hall?" asked Mrs. Challoner, a little
irritably. But her brief nervousness vanished at the sight of their
faces: she wanted nothing more, she told herself, but to see them
round her, and hear their voices.

She grew quite cheerful when Phillis told her about the new papers,
and how Mrs. Crump was to clean down the cottage, and how Crump had
promised to mow the grass and paint the greenhouse, and Jack and
Bobbie were to weed the garden-paths.

"It is a perfect wilderness now, mother: you never saw such a place."

"Never mind, so that it will hold us, and that we shall all be
together," she returned, with a smile. "But Dulce talked of some plan:
you must let me hear it, my dears; you must not keep me in the dark
about anything. I know we shall all have to work," continued the poor
lady; "but if we be all together, if you will promise not to leave me,
I think I could bear anything."

"Are we to tell her!" motioned Nan with her lips to Phillis; and as
Phillis nodded, "Yes," Nan gently and quietly began unfolding their
plan.

But, with all her care and all Phillis's promptings, the revelation
was a great shock to Mrs. Challoner; in her weakened state she seemed
hardly able to bear it.

Dulce repented bitterly her incautious whisper when she saw her
sisters' tired faces, and their fruitless attempts to soften the
effects of such a blow. For a little while, Mrs. Challoner seemed on
the brink of despair; she would not listen; she abandoned herself to
lamentations; she became so hysterical at last that Dorothy was
summoned from the kitchen and taken into confidence.

"Mother, you are breaking our hearts," Nan said, at last. She was
kneeling at her feet, chafing her hands, and Phillis was fanning her;
but she pushed them both away from her with weak violence.

"It is I whose heart is breaking! Why must I live to see such things?
Dorothy, do you know my daughters are going to be dressmakers?--my
daughters, who are Challoners,--who have been delicately
nurtured,--who might hold up their heads with any one?"

"Dorothy, hold your tongue!" exclaimed Phillis, peremptorily. "You are
not to speak; this is for us to decide, and no one else. Mammy, you
are making Nan look quite pale: she is dreadfully tired, and so am I.
Why need we decide anything to-night? Every one is upset and excited,
and when that is the case one can never arrive at any proper
conclusion. Let us talk about it to-morrow, when we are rested." And,
though Mrs. Challoner would not allow herself to be comforted, Nan's
fatigue and paleness were so visible to her maternal eyes that they
were more eloquent than Phillis's words.

"I must not think only of myself. Yes, yes, I will do as you wish.
There will be time enough for this sort of talk to-morrow. Dorothy,
will you help me? The young ladies are tired; they have had a long
journey. No, my dear, no," as Dulce pressed forward; "I would rather
have Dorothy." And, as the old servant gave them a warning glance,
they were obliged to let her have her way.

"Mammy has never been like this before," pouted Dulce, when they were
left alone. "She drives us away from her as though we had done
something purposely to vex her."

"It is because she cannot bear the sight of us to-night," returned
Phillis, solemnly. "It is worse for her than for us; a mother feels
things for her children more than for herself; it is nature, that is
what it is," she finished philosophically; "but she will be better
to-morrow." And after this the miserable little conclave broke up.

Mrs. Challoner passed a sleepless night, and her pillow was sown with
thorns. To think of the Challoners falling so low as this! To think of
her pretty Nan, her clever, bright Phillis, her pet Dulce coming to
this; "oh, the pity of it!" she cried in the dark hours, when vitality
runs lowest, and thoughts seem to flow involuntarily towards a dark
centre.

But with the morning came sunshine, and her girl's faces,--a little
graver than usual, perhaps, but still full of youth and the brightness
of energy; and the sluggish nightmare of yesterday's grief began to
fade a little.

"Now, mammy, you are not going to be naughty to-day!" was Dulce's
morning salutation as she seated herself on the bed.

Mrs. Challoner smiled faintly:

"Was I very naughty last night, Dulce?"

"Oh, as bad as possible. You pushed poor Nan and Phillis away, and
would not let any one come near you but that cross old Dorothy, and
you never bade us good-night; but if you promise to be good, I will
forgive you and make it up," finished Dulce, with those light
butterfly kisses to which she was addicted.

"Now, Chatterbox, it is my turn," interrupted Phillis; and then she
began a carefully concocted little speech, very carefully drawn out to
suit her mother's sensitive peculiarities.

She went over the old ground patiently point by point. Mrs. Challoner
shuddered at the idea of letting lodgings.

"I knew you would agree with us," returned Phillis, with a convincing
nod; and then she went on to the next clause.

Mrs. Challoner argued a great deal about the governess scheme. She was
quite angry with Phillis, and seemed to suffer a great deal of
self-reproach, when the girl spoke of their defective education and
lack of accomplishments. Nan had to come to her sister's rescue; but
the mother was slow to yield the point:

"I don't know what you mean. My girls are not different from other
girls. What would your poor father say if he were alive? It is cruel
to say this to me, when I stinted myself to give you every possible
advantage, and I paid Miss Martin eighty pounds a year," she
concluded, tearfully, feeling as though she were the victim of a
fraud.

She was far more easily convinced that going out as companions would
be impracticable under the circumstances. "Oh, no, that will never
do!" she cried, when the two little rooms with Dulce were proposed;
and after this Phillis found her task less difficult. She talked her
mother over at last to reluctant acquiescence. "I never knew how I
came to consent," she said, afterwards, "but they were too much for
me."

"We cannot starve. I suppose I must give in to you," she said, at
last; "but I shall never hold up my head again." And she really
believed what she said.

"Mother, you must trust us," replied Phillis, touched by this victory
she had won. "Do you know what I said to Dulce? Work cannot degrade
us. Though we are dressmakers, we are still Challoners. Nothing can
make us lose our dignity and self-respect as gentlewomen."

"Other people will not recognize it," returned her mother, with a
sigh. "You will lose caste. No one will visit you. Among your equals
you will be treated as inferiors. It is this that bows me to the earth
with shame."

"Mother, how can you talk so?" cried Nan, in a clear, indignant voice.
"What does it matter if people do not visit us? We must have a world
of our own, and be sufficient for ourselves, if we can only keep
together. Is not that what you have said to us over and over again?
Well, we shall be together, we shall have each other. What does the
outside world matter to us after all?"

"Oh, you are young; you do not know what complications may arise,"
replied Mrs. Challoner, with the gloomy forethought of middle age.
She thought she knew the world better than they, but in reality she
was almost as guileless and ignorant as her daughters. "Until you
begin, you do not know the difficulties that will beset you," she went
on.

But notwithstanding this foreboding speech, she was some what
comforted by Nan's words: "they would be together!" Well, if
Providence chose to inflict this humiliation and afflictive
dispensation on her, it could be borne as long as she had her children
around her.

Nan made one more speech,--a somewhat stern one for her.

"Our trouble will be a furnace to try our friends. We shall know the
true from the false. Only those who are really worth the name will be
faithful to us."

Nan was thinking of Dick; but her mother misunderstood her, and grew
alarmed.

"You will not tell the Paines and the other people about here what you
intend to do, surely? I could not bear that! no, indeed, I could not
bear that!"

"Do not be afraid, dear mother," returned Nan, sadly, "we are far too
great cowards to do such a thing, and, after all, there is no need to
put ourselves to needless pain. If the Maynes were here we might not
be able to keep it from them, perhaps, and so I am thankful they are
away."

Nan said this quite calmly, though her mother fixed her eyes upon her
in a most tenderly mournful fashion. She had quite forgotten their
Longmead neighbors, but now, as Nan recalled them to her mind, she
remembered Mr. Mayne, and her look had become compassionate.

"It will be all over with those poor children," she thought to
herself: "the father will never allow it,--never; and I cannot wonder
at him." And then her heart softened to the memory of Dick, whom she
had never thought good enough for Nan, for she remembered now with a
sore pang that her pride was laid low in the dust, and that she could
not hope now that her daughters would make splendid matches: even Dick
would be above them, though his father had been in trade, and though
he had no grandfather worth mentioning.

A few days after their return from Hadleigh, there was an other long
business interview with Mr. Trinder, in which every thing was settled.
A tenant had already been found for the cottage. A young couple, on
the eve of their marriage, who had long been looking for a suitable
house in the neighborhood had closed at once with Mr. Trinder's offer,
and had taken the lease off their hands. The gentleman was a cousin of
the Paines and, partly for the convenience of the in-coming tenants,
and partly because the Challoners wished to move as soon as possible,
there was only a delay of a few weeks before the actual flitting.

It would be impossible to describe the dismay of the neighborhood when
the news was circulated.

Immediately after their return from Hadleigh, Nan and Phillis took
counsel together, and, summoning up their courage, went from one to
another of their friends and quietly announced their approaching
departure.

"Mother has had losses, and we are now dreadfully poor, and we are
going to leave Glen Cottage and go down to a small house we have at
Hadleigh," said Nan, who by virtue of an additional year of age was
spokeswoman on this occasion. She had fully rehearsed this little
speech, which she intended to say at every house in due rotation. "We
will not disguise the truth; we will let people know that we are poor,
and then they will not expect impossibilities," she said, as they
walked down the shady roads towards the Paines' house,--for the Paines
were their most intimate friends and had a claim to the first
confidence.

"I think that will be sufficient; no one has any right to know more,"
she continued, decidedly, fully determined that no amount of coaxing
and cross-examination should wring from her one unnecessary word.

But she little knew how difficult it would be to keep their own
counsel. The Paines were not alone: they very seldom were. Adelaide
Sartoris was there, and the younger Miss Twentyman, and a young widow,
a Mrs. Forbes, who was a distant connection of Mrs. Paine.

Nan was convinced that they had all been talking about them, for there
was rather an embarrassed pause as she and Phillis entered the room.
Carrie looked a little confused as she greeted them.

Nan sat down by Mrs. Paine, who was rather deaf, and in due time made
her little speech. She was rather pale with the effort, and her voice
faltered a little, but every word was heard at the other end of the
room.

"Leave Glen Cottage, my dear? I can't have heard you rightly. I am
very deaf, to-day,--very. I think I must have caught cold." And Mrs.
Paine turned a mild face of perplexity on Nan; but, before she could
reiterate her words, Carrie was on the footstool at her feet, and Miss
Sartoris, with a grave look of concern on her handsome features, was
standing beside her:

"Oh, Nan! tell us all about it! Of course we saw something was the
matter. Dulce was so strange that afternoon; and you have all been
keeping yourselves invisible for ever so long."

"There is very little to tell," returned Nan, trying to speak
cheerfully. "Mother has had bad news. Mr. Gardiner is bankrupt, and
all our invested money is gone. Of course we could not go on living at
Glen Cottage. There is some talk, Carrie, of your cousin, Mr.
Ibbetson, coming to look at it: it will be nice for us if he could
take the lease off our hands, and then we should go down to the
Friary."

"How I shall hate to see Ralph there!--not but what it will suit him
and Louisa well enough, I dare say. But never mind him: I want to
know all about yourselves," continued Carrie, affectionately. "This is
dreadful, Nan! I can hardly believe it. What are we to do without you?
and where is the Friary? and what is it like? and what will you do
with yourselves when you get there?"

"Yes, indeed, that is what we want to know," agreed Miss Sartoris,
putting her delicately-gloved hand on Nan's shoulder; and then Sophy
Paine joined the little group, and Mrs. Forbes and Miss Twentyman left
off talking to Phillis, and began listening; with all their might. Now
it was that Nan began to foresee difficulties.

"The Friary is very small," she went on, "but it will just hold us and
Dorothy. Dorothy is coming with us, of course. She is old, but she
works better than some of the young ones. She is a faithful
creature----"

But Carrie interrupted her impatiently:

"But, Nan, what will you do with yourselves? Hadleigh is a nice place,
I believe. Mamma, we must all go down there next summer, and stay
there,--you shall come with us, Adelaide,--and then we shall be able
to cheer these poor things up; and Nan, you and Phillis must come and
stay with us. We don't mean to give you up like this. What does it
matter about being poor? We are all old friends together. You shall
give us tea at the Friary; and I dare say there are tennis-grounds at
Hadleigh, and we will have nice times together."

"Of course we will come and see you," added Miss Sartoris, with a
friendly pressure of Nan's shoulder; but the poor girl only colored up
and looked embarrassed, and then it was that Phillis, who was watching
her opportunity, struck in:

"You are all very good; but, Carrie, I don't believe you understand
Nan one bit. When people lose their money they have to work. We shall
all have to put our shoulder to the wheel. We would give you tea, of
course, but as for paying visits and playing tennis, it is only idle
girls like yourselves who have time for that sort of thing. It will be
work and not play, I fear, with us."

"Oh, Phillis!" exclaimed poor Carrie, with tears in her eyes, and Miss
Sartoris looked horrified, for she had West-Indian blood in her veins
and was by nature somewhat indolent and pleasure-loving.

"Do you mean you will have to be governesses?" she asked, with a touch
of dismay in her voice.

"We shall have to work," returned Phillis, vaguely. "When we are
settled at the Friary we must look round us and do the best we can."
This was felt to be vague by the whole party; but Phillis's manner was
so bold and well assured that no one suspected that anything lay
beyond the margin of her speech. They had not made up their minds,
perhaps; Sir Francis Challoner would assist them; or there were other
sources of help: they must move into the new house first, and then see
what was to be done. It was so plausible, so sensible, that every one
was deceived.

"Of course you cannot decide in such a hurry: you must have so much to
do just now," observed Carrie. "You must write and tell us all your
plans, Phillis, and if there be anything we can do to help you. Mamma,
we might have Mrs. Challoner here while the cottage is dismantled. Do
spare her to us, Nan, and we will take such care of her!" And they
were still discussing this point, and trying to overrule Nan's
objections,--who knew nothing would induce her mother to leave
them,--when other visitors were announced, and in the confusion they
were allowed to make their escape.



CHAPTER XII.

"LADDIE" PUTS IN AN APPEARANCE.


"I think we have managed that as well as possible!" exclaimed Phillis,
when they found themselves outside the gates. "What a good thing
Adelaide and Mrs. Forbes and Lily were there! Now we need only call at
those three houses to say good-bye. How hot you look, Nan! and how
they all hemmed you in! I was obliged to come to your rescue, you were
so beset; but I think I have put them off the scent."

"Yes, for the present; but think, Phil, if Carrie really carries out
her intention, and all the Paine tribe and Adelaide come down to
Hadleigh next summer! No wonder I am hot; the bare idea suffocates
me."

"Something may turn up before then; it is no good looking so far
ahead," was the philosophical rejoinder. "Adelaide is rather
formidable, certainly, and, in spite of her good nature, one does not
feel at home with her. There is a flavor of money about her, I think;
she dresses, talks, and lives in such a gilded way one finds her
heavy; but she may get married before then. Mr. Dalrymple certainly
seemed to mean it when he was down here last winter, and he will be a
good match for her. But here we are at Fitzroy Square. I wonder what
sort of humor her ladyship will be in?"

Lady Fitzroy received them very graciously. She had just been
indulging in a slight dispute with her husband, and the interruption
was welcome to both of them; besides, she was always gracious to the
Challoners.

"You have just come in time, for we were boring each other
dreadfully," she said, in her pretty languid way, holding out a hand
to each of them. "Percival, will you ring the bell, please? I cannot
think why Thorpe does not bring up the tea as usual!"

Lord Fitzroy obeyed his wife's behest, and then he turned with a
relieved air to his old friend Phillis. She was the clever one; and
though some people called her quiet, that was because they did not
draw her out, or she had no sympathy with them. He had always found
her decidedly amusing and agreeable in the days of his bachelorhood.

He had married the beauty of a season, but the beauty was not without
her little crotchets and tempers; and though he was both fond and
proud of his wife, he found Phillis's talk a relief this afternoon.

But Phillis was a little _distraite_ on this occasion: she wanted to
hear what Nan was saying in a low voice across the room, and Thorpe
and his subordinate were setting the tea-table, and Lord Fitzroy would
place himself just before her.

"Now look here, Miss Challoner," he was saying, "I want to tell you
all about it;" but here Thorpe left the room, and Lady Fitzroy
interrupted them:

"Oh, Percival, what a pity! Do you hear?--we are going to lose our
nicest neighbors? Dear little Glen Cottage is to be empty in a week or
so!"

"Mr. Ralph Ibbetson will decide to take it, I think; and he and Miss
Blake are to be married on the 16th of next month," returned Nan,
softly.

"Ibbetson at Glen Cottage! that red-headed fellow! My dear Miss
Challoner, what sacrilege!--what desecration! What do you mean by
forsaking us in this fashion? Are you all going to be married? Has Sir
Francis died and left you a fortune? In the name of all that is
mysterious, what is the meaning of this?"

"If you will let a person speak, Percival," returned his wife, with
dignity, "you shall have an answer:" and then she looked up in his
handsome, good-natured face, and her manner softened insensibly. "Poor
dear Mrs. Challoner has had losses! Some one has played her false, and
they are obliged to leave Glen Cottage. But Hadleigh is a nice place,"
she went on, turning to Nan: "it is very select."

"Where did you say, Evelyn?" inquired her husband, eagerly. "Hadleigh,
in Sussex? Oh, that is a snug little place; no Toms and Harries go
down there on a nine hours' trip. I was there myself once, with the
Shannontons. Perhaps Lady Fitzroy and I may run down one day and have
a look at you," he continued, with a friendly look at Phillis. It was
only one of his good-natured speeches, but his wife took umbrage at
it.

"The sea never agrees with me. I thought you knew that, Percival!"
rather reproachfully; "but I dare say we shall often see you here,"
she went on, fearing Nan would think her ungracious. "You and the
Paines are so intimate that they are sure to have you for weeks
together; it is so pleasant revisiting an old neighborhood, is it not?
I know I always feel that with regard to Nuneaton."

"Nuneaton never suits my constitution. I thought you would have
remembered that, Evelyn," returned her husband, gravely; and then they
both laughed. Lord Fitzroy was not without a sense of humor, and often
restored amity by a joking word after this fashion, and then the
conversation proceeded more smoothly.

Nan and Phillis felt far more at their ease here than they had felt at
the Paines'. There were no awkward questions asked: Lady Fitzroy was
far too well bred for that. If she wondered at all how the Challoners
were to live after they had lost their money, she kept such remarks
for her husband's private ear.

"Those girls ought to marry well," observed Lord Fitzroy, when he
found himself alone again with his wife. "Miss Challoner is as pretty
a creature as one need see, but Miss Phillis has the most in her."

"How are they to meet people if they are going to bury themselves in a
little sea-side place?" she returned, regretfully. "Shall I put on my
habit now, Percy? do you think it will be cool enough for our ride?"

"Yes, run along, my pet, and don't keep me too long waiting."
Nevertheless, Lord Fitzroy did not object when his wife made room for
him a moment beside her on the couch, while she made it up to him for
her cross speeches, as she told him.

"There, little mother, it is all done!" exclaimed Phillis, in a tone
of triumph, as later on in the afternoon they returned to the cottage;
but in spite of her bravado, both the girls looked terribly jaded, and
Nan especially seemed out of spirits; but then they had been round the
Longmead garden, and had gathered some flowers in the conservatory,
and this alone would have been depressing work to Nan.

From that time they lived in a perpetual whirl, a bustle of activity
that grew greater; and not less, from day to day. Mrs. Challoner had
quietly but decidedly refused the Paines' invitation. Nan was right;
nothing would have induced her to leave her girls in their trouble:
she made light of their discomfort, forgot her invalid airs, and
persisted in fatiguing herself to an alarming extent.

"You must let me do things; I should be wretched to sit with my hands
before me, and not help you," she said with tears in her eyes, and
when they appealed in desperation to Dorothy, she took her mistress's
side:

"Working hurts less than worrying. Don't you be fretting about the
mistress too much, or watching her too closely. It will do her no
harm, take my word for it." And Dorothy was right.

But there was one piece of work that Nan set her mother to do before
they left the cottage.

"Mother," she said to her one day when they were alone together. "Mrs.
Mayne will be wondering why you do not answer her letter. I think you
had better write, and tell her a little about things. We must not put
it off any longer, or she will be hurt with us." And Mrs. Challoner
very reluctantly set about her unpleasant task.

But, after all, it was Nan who furnished the greater part of the
composition. Mrs. Challoner was rather verbose and descriptive in her
style. Nan cut down her sentences ruthlessly, and so pruned and
simplified the whole epistle that her mother failed to trace her own
handiwork: and at the last she added a postscript in her own pretty
handwriting.

Mrs. Challoner was rather dissatisfied with the whole thing.

"You have said so little, Nan! Mrs. Mayne will be quite affronted at
our reticence."

"What is the use of harrowing people's feelings?" was Nan's response.

It was quite true she had dwelt as little as possible on their
troubles.

The few opening sentences had related solely to their friends'
affairs.

"You will be sorry to hear," Mrs. Challoner wrote after this, "that I
have met with some severe losses. I dare say Mr. Mayne will remember
that my poor husband invested our little income in the business of his
cousin, Mark Gardiner. We have just heard the unwelcome news that
Gardiner & Fowler have failed for a large amount. Under these
circumstances, we think it more prudent to leave Glen Cottage as soon
as possible, and settle at Hadleigh, where we have a small house
belonging to us called the Friary. Fortunately for us, Mr. Trinder has
found us a tenant, who will take the remainder of the lease off our
hands. Do you remember Mr. Ralph Ibbetson, the Paines' cousin, that
rather heavy-looking young man, with reddish hair, who was engaged to
that pretty Miss Blake?--well, he has taken Glen Cottage; and I hope
you will find them nice neighbors. Tell Dick he must not be too sorry
to miss his old friends, but of course you will understand this is a
sad break to us. Settling down in a new place is never very pleasant;
and as my girls will have to help themselves, and we shall all have to
learn to do without things, it will be somewhat of a discipline to us;
but as long as we are together, we all feel, such difficulties can be
easily borne.

"Tell Mr. Mayne that, if I had foreseen how things were to turn out, I
would have conquered my indisposition, and not have forfeited my last
evening at Longmead."

And in the postscript Nan wrote hurriedly,--

"You must not be too sorry for us, dear Mrs. Mayne, for mother is as
brave as possible, and we are all determined to make the best of
things.

"Of course it is very sad leaving dear Glen Cottage, where we have
spent such happy, happy days; but, though the Friary is small, we
shall make it very comfortable. Tell Dick the garden is a perfect
wilderness at present, and that there are no roses,--only a splendid
passion-flower that covers the whole back of the house."

Nan never knew why she wrote this. Was it to remind him vaguely that
the time of roses was over, and that from this day things would be
different with them?

Nan was quite satisfied when she had despatched this letter. It told
just enough, and not too much. It sorely perplexed and troubled Dick;
and yet neither he nor his father had the least idea how things really
were with the Challoners.

"Didn't I tell you so, Bessie?" exclaimed Mr. Mayne, almost in a voice
of triumph, as he struck his hand upon the letter. "Paine was right
when he spoke of a shaky investment. That comes of women pretending to
understand business. A pretty mess they seem to have made of it!"

"Mother," said poor Dick, coming up to her when he found himself alone
with her for a moment, "I don't understand this letter. I cannot read
between the lines, somehow, and yet there seems something more than
meets the eye."

"I am sure it is bad enough," returned Mrs. Mayne, who had been
quietly crying over Nan's postscript. "Think of them leaving Glen
Cottage, and of these poor dear girls having to make themselves
useful!"

"It is just that that bothers me so," replied Dick, with a frowning
brow. "The letter tells us so little; it is so constrained in tone; as
though they were keeping something from us. Of course they have
something to live upon, but I am afraid it is very little."

"Very likely they will only have one servant,--just Dorothy and no one
else; and the girls will have to help in the house," returned his
mother, thoughtfully. "That will not do them any harm, Dick: it always
improves girls to make them useful. I dare say the Friary is a very
small place, and then I am sure, with a little help, Dorothy will do
very well."

"But, mother," pleaded Dick, who was somewhat comforted by this
sensible view of the matter, "do write to Nan or Phillis and beg of
them to give us fuller particulars." And, though Mrs. Mayne promised
she would do so, and kept her word, Dick was not satisfied, but sat
down and scrawled a long letter to Mrs. Challoner, so incoherent in
its expressions of sympathy and regret that it quite mystified her;
but Nan thought it perfect, and took possession of it, and read it
every day, until it got quite thin and worn. One sentence especially
pleased her. "I don't intend ever to cross the threshold of the
cottage again," wrote Dick: "in fact, Oldfield will be hateful without
you all. Of course I shall run down to Hadleigh at Christmas and look
you up, and see for myself what sort of a place the Friary is. Tell
Nan I will get her lots of roses for her garden so she need not
trouble about that; and give them my love, and tell them how awfully
sorry I am about it all."

Poor Dick! the news of his friends' misfortunes took off the edge of
his enjoyment for a long time. Thanks to Nan's unselfishness, he did
not in the least realize the true state of affairs; nevertheless, his
honest heart was heavy at the thought of the empty cottage, and he was
quite right in saying Oldfield had grown suddenly hateful to him, and,
though he kept these thoughts to himself as much as possible, Mr.
Mayne saw that his son was depressed and ill at ease, and sent him
away to the Swiss Tyrol, with a gay party of young people, hoping a
few weeks' change would put the Challoners out of his head. Meanwhile
Nan and her sisters worked busily, and their friends crowded round
them, helping or hindering, according to their nature.

On the last afternoon there was a regular invasion of the cottage. The
drawing-room carpet was up, and the room was full of packing-cases.
Carrie Paine had taken possession of one and her sister Sophy and Lily
Twentyman had a turned-up box between them. Miss Sartoris and Gussie
Scobell had wicker chairs. Dorothy had just brought in tea, and had
placed before Nan a heterogeneous assemblage of kitchen cups and
saucers, mugs, and odds and ends of crockery, when Lady Fitzroy
entered in her habit, accompanied by her sister, the Honorable Maud
Burgoyne, both of whom seemed to enjoy the picnic excessively.

"Do let me have the mug," implored Miss Burgoyne: she was a pretty
little brunette with a _nez retrousse_. "I have never drunk out of one
since my nursery days. How cool it is, after the sunny roads! I think
carpets ought to be abolished in the summer. When I have a house of my
own, Evelyn, I mean to have Indian matting and nothing else in the
warm weather."

"I am very fond of Indian matting," returned her sister, sipping her
tea contentedly. "Fitzroy hoped to have looked in this afternoon, Mrs.
Challoner, to say good-bye, but there is an assault-at-arms at the
Albert Hall, and he is taking my young brother Algernon to see it. He
is quite inconsolable at the thought of losing such pleasant
neighbors, and sent all sorts of pretty messages," finished Lady
Fitzroy, graciously.

"Here is Edgar," exclaimed Carrie Paine; "he told us that he meant to
put in an appearance; but I am afraid the poor boy will find himself
_de trop_ among so many ladies."

Edgar was the youngest Paine,--a tall Eton boy, who looked as though
he would soon be too big for jackets, and an especial friend of
Nan's.

"How good of you to come and say good-bye, Gar!" she said summoning
him to her side, as the boy looked round him blushing and half
terrified. "What have you got there under your jacket?"

"It is the puppy I promised you," returned Edgar, eagerly; "don't you
know?--Nell's puppy? Father said I might have it." And he deposited a
fat black retriever puppy at Nan's feet. The little beast made a
clumsy rush at her and then rolled over on its back. Nan took it up
in high delight, and showed it to her mother.

"Isn't it good of Gar, mother? and when we all wanted a dog so! We
have never had a pet since poor old Juno died; and this will be such a
splendid fellow when he grows up. Look at his head and curly black
paws; and what a dear solemn face he has got!"

"I am glad you like him," replied Edgar, who was now perfectly at his
ease. "We have christened him 'Laddie:' he is the handsomest puppy of
the lot, and our man Jake says he is perfectly healthy." And then, as
Nan cut him some cake, he proceeded to enlighten her on the treatment
of this valuable animal.

The arrival of "Laddie" made quite a diversion, and, when the
good-byes were all said, Nan took the little animal in her arms and
went with Phillis for the last time to gather flowers in the Longmead
garden, and when the twilight came on the three girls went slowly
through the village, bidding farewell to their old haunts.

It was all very sad, and nobody slept much that night in the cottage.
Nan's tears were shed very quietly, but they fell thick and fast.

"Oh, Dick, it is hard--hard!" thought the poor girl, burying her face
in the pillow; "but I have not let you know the day, so you will not
be thinking of us. I would not pain you for worlds, Dick, not more
than I can help." And then she dried her eyes and told herself that
she must be brave for all their sakes to-morrow; but, for all her good
resolutions, sleep would not come to her any more than it did to
Phillis, who lay open-eyed and miserable until morning.



CHAPTER XIII.

"I MUST HAVE GRACE."


When the Rev. Archibald Drummond was nominated to the living of
Hadleigh in Sussex, it was at once understood by his family that he
had achieved a decided success in life.

Hadleigh until very recently had been a perpetual curacy, and the
perpetual curate in charge had lived in the large, shabby house with
the green door on the Braidwood Road, as it was called. There had been
some talk of a new vicarage, but as yet the first brick had not been
laid, the building-committee had fallen out on the question of the
site, and nothing had been definitely arranged: there was a good deal
of talk, too, about the church restoration, but at the present moment
nothing had been done.

Mr. Drummond had not been disturbed in his mind by the delay of the
building-committee in the matter of the new vicarage, but on the topic
of the church restoration he had been heard to say very bitter
things,--far too bitter, it was thought, to proceed from the lips of
such a new-comer. It is not always wise to be outspoken, and when Mr.
Drummond expressed himself a little too frankly on the ugliness of the
sacred edifice, which until lately had been a chapel-of-ease, he had
caused a great deal of dissatisfaction in the mind of his hearers; but
when the young vicar, still strongly imbued with the beauties of
Oxford architecture, had looked round blankly on the great square pews
and galleries, and then at the wooden pulpit, and the Ten Commandments
that adorned the east end, he was not quite so sure in his mind that
his position was as enviable as that of other men.

Church architecture was his hobby, and, if the truth must be told, he
was a little "High" in his views; without attaching himself to the
Ultra-Ritualistic party, he was still strongly impregnated with many
of their ideas; he preferred Gregorian to Anglican chants, and would
have had no objection to incense if his diocesan could have been
brought to appreciate it too.

An ornate service was decidedly to his taste. It was, therefore, a
severe mortification when he found himself compelled to minister
Sunday after Sunday in a building that was ugly enough for a
conventicle, and to listen to the florid voices of a mixed choir,
instead of the orderly array of men and boys in white surplices to
which he had been accustomed. If he had been combative by nature,--one
who loved to gird his armor about him and to plunge into every sort of
_melee_,--he would have rejoiced after a fashion at the thought of the
work cut out for him, of bringing order and beauty out of this chaos;
but he was by nature too impatient. He would have condemned and
destroyed instead of trying to renovate.

"Why not build a new church at once?" he said, with a certain youthful
intolerance that made people angry. "Never mind the vicarage; the old
house will last my time: but a place like this--a rising place--ought
to have a church worthy of it. It will be money thrown away to restore
this one," finished the young vicar, looking round him with sorely
troubled eyes; and it was this outspoken frankness that had lost him
popularity at first.

But, if the new vicar had secret cause for discontent in the Drummond
family there was nothing but the sweetness of triumph.

"Archie has never given me a moment's trouble from his birth," his
proud mother was wont to declare; and it must be owned that the young
man had done very fairly for himself.

There had been plenty of anxiety in the Drummond household while
Archibald was enjoying his first Oxford term. Things had come to a
climax: his father, who was a Leeds manufacturer, had failed most
utterly, and to a large amount. The firm of Drummond & Drummond, once
known as a most respectable and reliable firm, had come suddenly, but
not unexpectedly to the ground; and Archibald Drummond the elder had
been compelled to accept a managership in the very firm that, by
competition and underselling, had helped to ruin him.

It was a heavy trial to a man of Mr. Drummond's proud temperament; but
he went through with it in a tough, dogged way that excited his wife's
admiration. True, his bread was bitter to him for a long time, and the
sweetness of life, as he told himself, was over for him; but he had a
large family to maintain, sons and daughters growing up around him,
and the youngest was not yet six months old; under such circumstances
a man may be induced to put his pride in his pocket.

"Your father has grown quite gray, and has begun to stoop. It makes my
heart quite ache to see him sometimes," Mrs. Drummond wrote to her
eldest son; "but he never says a word to any of us. He just goes
through with it day after day."

At that time Archie was her great comfort. He had begun to make his
own way early in life, understanding from the first that his parents
could do very little for him. He had worked well at school, and had
succeeded in obtaining one or two scholarships. When his university
life commenced, and the household at Leeds became straitened in their
circumstances, he determined not to encumber them with his presence.

He soon became known in his college as a reading-man and a steady
worker; he was fortunate, too, in obtaining pupils for the long
vacation. By and by he became a fellow and tutor of his college, and
before he was eight-and-twenty the living of Hadleigh was offered to
him. It was not at all a rich living,--not being worth more than three
hundred a year,--and some of his Oxford friends would have dissuaded
him from accepting it; but Archibald Drummond was not of their
opinion. Oxford did not suit his constitution; he was never well
there. Sussex air, and especially the sea-side, would give him just
the tone he required. He liked the big old-fashioned house that would
be allotted to him. He could take pupils and add to his income in that
way; at present he had his fellowship. It was only in the event of his
marriage that his income might not be found sufficient. At the present
moment he had no matrimonial intentions: there was only one thing on
which he was determined, and that was, that Grace must live with him
and keep his house.

Grace was the sister next to him in age. Mattie,--or Matilda, as her
mother often called her,--was the eldest of the family, and was two
years older than Archibald. Between him and Grace there were two
brothers, Fred and Clyde, and beyond Grace a string of girls ending in
Dottie, who was not yet ten. Archibald used to forget their ages and
mix them up in the most helpless way; he was never quite sure if
Isabel were eighteen or twenty, or whether Clara or Susie came next.
He once forgot Laura altogether, and was only reminded of her
existence by the shock of surprise at seeing the awkward-looking,
ungainly girl standing before him, looking shyly up in his face.

Archibald was never quite alive to the blessing of having seven
sisters, none of them with any pretension to beauty, unless it were
Grace, though he was obliged to confess on his last visit to Leeds
that Isabel was certainly passable-looking. He tried to take a proper
amount of interest in them and be serenely unconscious of their want
of grace and polish; but the effort was too manifest, and neither
Clara nor Susie nor Laura regarded their grave elder brother with any
lively degree of affection. Mrs. Drummond was a somewhat stern and
exacting mother, but she was never so difficult to please as when her
eldest son was at home.

"Home is never so comfortable when Archie is in it," Susie would
grumble to her favorite confidante, Grace. "Every one is obliged to be
on their best behavior; and yet mother finds fault from morning to
night. Dottie is crying now because she has been scolded for coming
down to tea in a dirty pinafore."

"Oh, hush, Susie dear! you ought not to say such things," returned
Grace, in her quiet voice.

Poor Grace! these visits of Archie were her only pleasures. The
brother and sister were devoted to each other. In Archie's eyes not
one of the others was to be compared to her; and in this he was
perfectly right.

Grace Drummond was a tall, sweet-looking girl of two-and-twenty,--not
pretty, except in her brother's opinion, but possessing a soft, fair
comeliness that made her pleasant to look upon. In voice and manner
she was extremely quiet,--almost grave; and only those who lived with
her had any idea of the repressed strength and energy of her
character, and the almost masculine clearness of intellect that lay
under the soft exterior. One side of her nature was hidden from every
one but her brother, and to him only revealed by intermittent flashes,
and that was the passionate absorption of her affection in him. To her
parents she was dutiful and submissive, but when she grew up the yoke
of her mother's will was felt to be oppressive. Her father's nature
was more in sympathy with her own; but even with him she was reticent.
She was good to all her brothers and sisters, and especially devoted
to Dottie; but her affection for them was so strongly pervaded by
anxiety and the overweight of responsibility that its pains
overbalanced its pleasures. She loved them, and toiled in their
service from morning to night; but as yet she had not felt herself
rewarded by any decided success. But in Archie her pride was equal to
her love; she was critical, and her standard was somewhat high, but he
satisfied her. What other people recognized as faults, she regarded
as the merest blemishes. Without being absolutely faultless, which was
of course impossible in a creature of flesh and blood, he was still as
near perfection, she thought, as he could be. Perhaps her affection
for him blinded her somewhat, and cast a sort of loving glamour over
her eyes; for it must be owned that Archibald was by no means
extraordinary in either goodness or cleverness. From a boy she had
watched his career with dazzled eyes, rejoicing in every stroke of
success that came to him as though it were her own. Her own life was
dull and laborious, spent in the overcrowded house in Lowder Street,
but she forgot it in following his. Now and then bright days came to
her,--few in number, but absolutely golden, when this dearly-loved
brother came on a brief visit,--when they had snatches of delicious
talk in the empty school-room at the top of the house, or he took her
out with him for a long, quiet walk.

Mrs. Drummond always made some dry sarcastic remark when they came in,
for she was secretly jealous of Archie's affection for Grace. Hers was
rather a monopolizing nature, and she would willingly have had the
first share in her son's affections. It somewhat displeased her to see
him so wrapt up in the one sister to the exclusion of all the others,
as she told him.

"I think you might have asked Matilda or Isabel to accompany you. The
poor girls never see anything of you, Archie," she would say
plaintively to her son. But to Grace she would speak somewhat sharply,
bidding her fulfil some neglected duty, which another could as well
have performed, and making her at once understand by her manner that
she was to blame in leaving Mattie at home.

"Mother," Archibald said to her one day, when she had spoken with
unusual severity, and the poor girl had retreated from the room,
feeling as though she had been convicted of selfishness, "we must
settle the matter about which I spoke to you last night. I have been
thinking about it ever since. Mattie will not do at all. I must have
Grace!"

Mrs. Drummond looked up from her mending, and her thin lips settled
into a hard line that they always took when her mind was made up on a
disagreeable subject. She had a pinafore belonging to Dottie in her
hand; there was a jagged rent in it, and she sighed impatiently as she
put it down; though she was not a woman who shirked any of her
maternal duties, she had often been heard to say that her work was
never done, and that her mending-basket was never empty.

"But if I cannot spare Grace," she said, rather shortly, as she
meditated another lecture to the delinquent Dottie.

"But, mother, you must spare her!" returned her son, eagerly, leaning
his elbow on the mantelpiece, and watching her rapid manipulations
with apparent interest. "Look here; I am quite in earnest. I have set
my heart on having Grace. She is just the one to manage a clergyman's
household. She would be my right hand in the parish."

"She is our right hand too, Archie; but I suppose we are to cut it
off, that it may benefit you and your parish."

Mrs. Drummond seldom spoke so sharply to her eldest son; but this
request of his was grievous to her.

"I think Grace ought to be considered, too, in the matter," he
returned, somwhat sullenly. "She works harder than any paid governess,
and gets small thanks for her trouble."

"She does her duty," returned Mrs. Drummond, coldly,--she very seldom
praised any of her children,--"but not more than Mattie does hers. You
are prejudiced strongly against your sister, Archie; you are not fair
to her in any way. Mattie is a capital little housekeeper. She is
economical, and full of clever contrivances. It is not as though I
asked you to try Isabel. She is well enough, too, in her way, but a
little flighty, and rather too pretty, perhaps--" but here a laugh
from Archie grated on her ear.

"Too pretty!--what an absurd idea! The girl is passable-looking, and I
will not deny that she has improved lately; but, mother, there is not
one of the girls that can be called pretty except Grace."

Mrs. Drummond winced at her son's outspoken words. The plainness of
her daughters was a sore subject.

She had never understood why her girls were so ordinary-looking. She
had been a handsome girl in her time, and was still a fine-looking
woman. Her husband, too, had had a fair amount of good looks, and,
though he stooped, was still admirable in her eyes. The boys, too,
were thoroughly fine fellows. Fred was decidedly handsome, and so was
Clyde; and as for her favorite Archie, Mrs. Drummond glanced up at him
as he stood beside her.

He certainly looked a model young clergyman. His features were good,
but the lower part of his face was quite hidden by the fair mustache
and the soft silky beard. He had thoughtful gray eyes, which could
look as severe as hers sometimes; and, though his shoulders were
somewhat too sloping, there could be no fault found with his figure.
He was as nice-looking as possible, she thought, and no mother could
have been better satisfied. But why, with the exception of Grace and
Isabel, were her girls so deficient in outward graces? It could not be
denied that they were very ordinary girls. Laura was overgrown and
freckled, and had red hair; Susie was sickly-looking, and so
short-sighted that they feared she would have to take to spectacles;
and Clara was stolid and heavy-looking, one of those thick-set girls
that dress never seems to improve. Dottie had a funny little face; but
one could not judge of her yet. And Mattie,--Mrs. Drummond sighed
again as she thought of her eldest daughter,--Mattie was thirty; and
her mother felt she would never marry. It was not that she was so
absolutely plain,--people who liked her said Mattie had a nice
face,--but she was so abrupt, so uncouth in her awkwardness, such a
stranger to the minor morals of life, that it would be a wonder indeed
if she could find favor in any man's eyes.

"I do think you are too hard on your sisters," returned Mrs. Drummond,
stung by her son's remark. "Isabel was very much admired at her first
party last week. Mrs. Cochrane told me so, and so did Miss Blair." She
could have added that her maternal interest had been strongly stirred
by the mention of a certain Mr. Ellis Burton, who she had understood
had paid a great deal of attention that evening to Isabel, and who was
the eldest son of a wealthy manufacturer in Leeds. But Mrs. Drummond
had some good old-fashioned notions, and one of these was never to
speak on such delicate subjects as the matrimonial prospects of her
daughters: indeed, she often thanked heaven she was not a match-making
mother,--which was as well, under the circumstances.

"Well, well, we are not talking about Isabel," returned her son,
impatiently. "The question is about Grace, mother. I really do wish
very much that you and my father would stretch a point for me here. I
want her more than I can say."

"But, Archie, you must be reasonable. Just think a moment. Your father
cannot afford to send the girls to school, or to pay for a good
finishing governess. We have given Grace every advantage; and just as
she is making herself really useful to me in the school-room, you want
to deprive me of her services."

"You know I offered to pay for Clara's schooling," returned her son,
reproachfully. "She is more than sixteen, is she not! Surely Mattie
could teach the others?"

But Mrs. Drummond's clear, concise voice interrupted him:

"Archie, how can you talk such nonsense? You know poor Mattie was
never good at book-learning. She would hardly do for Dottie. Ask
Grace, if you doubt my word."

"Of course I do not doubt it, mother," in rather an aggravated voice,
for he felt he was having the worst of the argument.

"Then why do you not believe me when I tell you the thing you ask is
impossible?" replied his mother more calmly. "I am sorry for you if
you are disappointed, Archie; but you undervalue Mattie,--you do
indeed. She will make you a nice little housekeeper, and, though she
is not clever, she is so amiable that nothing ever puts her out; and
visiting the poor and sick-nursing are more in her line than in
Grace's. Mrs. Blair finds her invaluable. She wanted her for one of
her district visitors, and I said she had too much to do at home."

Archie shrugged his shoulders. Mrs. Blair was the wife of the vicar of
All Saints', where the Drummonds attended, and from a boy she had been
his pet aversion. She was a bustling, managing woman, and of course
Mattie was just to her taste. He did not see much use in continuing
the conversation; with all his affection for his mother,--and she was
better loved by her sons than by her daughters,--he knew her to be as
immovable as a rock when she had once made up her mind. He thought at
first of appealing to his father on Grace's behalf, but abandoned this
notion after a few minutes' reflection. His father was decided and
firm in all matters relating to business, but for many years past he
had abandoned the domestic reins to his wife's capable hands. Perhaps
he had proved her worth and prudence; perhaps he thought the
management of seven daughters too much for any man. Anyhow, he
interfered less and less as the years went on; and if at any time he
differed from his wife, she could always talk him over, as her son
well knew.

When the subject had been first mooted in the household, he had said a
word or two to his father, and had found him very reluctant to
entertain the idea of parting with Grace. She was his favorite
daughter, and he thought how he should miss her when he came home
weary and jaded at night.

"I don't think it will do at all," he had said, in an undecided
dissatisfied tone. "Won't one of the other girls serve your turn?
There's Mattie, or that little monkey Isabel, she is as pert and
lively as possible. But Grace; why, she is every one's right hand.
What would the mother or the young ones do without her?"

No; it was no use appealing to his father, Archie thought, and might
only make mischief in the house. He and Grace must make up their mind
to a few more years' separation. He turned away after his mother's
last speech, and finally left the room without saying another word.
There was a cloud on his face, and Mrs. Drummond saw that he was much
displeased; but, though she sighed again as she took up a pair of
Clyde's socks and inspected them carefully, there was no change in her
resolution that Mattie, and not Grace, should go to the vicarage for
the year's visit that was all Archie had asked.

There are mothers and mothers in this world,--some who are capable of
sacrificing their children to Moloch, who will barter their own flesh
and blood in return for some barren heritage or other. There are those
who will exact from those dependent on them heavy tithes of daily
patience and uncomplaining drudgery; while others, who are "mothers
indeed" give all, asking for nothing in return.

Mrs. Drummond was a good woman. She had many virtues and few faults.
She was lady-like, industrious and self-denying in her own personal
comforts, an exemplary wife, and a tolerant mistress; but she was
better understood by her sons than by her daughters.

Her maternal instincts were very strong, and no mother had more
delighted in her nursery than she had in hers. As long as there was a
baby in the house the tenderness of her love was apparent enough. She
wore herself out tending her infants, and no one ever heard her say a
harsh word in her nursery.

But as her children grew up, there was much clashing of wills in the
household. Her sons did not fear her in the least; but with her
daughters it was otherwise. They felt the mother's strong will
repressive; it threatened to dwarf their individuality and cramp that
free growth that is so necessary to young things.

Dottie, who by virtue of being the last baby had had more than her
fair amount of petting, was only just beginning to learn her lesson of
unquestioning obedience; and, as she was somewhat spoiled, her lesson
was hard one. But Laura and Susie and Clara had not yet found out that
their mother loved them and wished to be their friend; they were timid
and reserved with her, and took all their troubles to Grace. Even
Mattie, who was her first-born, and who was old enough to be her
mother's companion, quailed and blushed like a child under the dry
caustic speeches at which Clyde and Fred only laughed.

"You don't understand the mother. Her bark is worse than her bite,"
Clyde would say to his sister sometimes. "She is an awfully clever
woman, and it riles her to see herself surrounded by such a set of
ninnies. Now, don't sulk, Belle. You know Mattie's a duffer compared
to Grace; aren't you, Matt?"

At which truism poor Mattie would hang her head.

"Yes, Clyde; I know I am dreadfully stupid sometimes, and that makes
mother angry."

Mrs. Drummond often complained bitterly of her daughters' want of
confidence in her, but she never blamed herself for the barrier that
seemed between them. She was forever asserting maternal authority,
when such questions might have been safely laid to rest between her
and her grown-up daughters. Mrs. Challoner's oneness of sympathy with
her girls, her lax discipline, her perfect equality, would have
shocked a woman of Mrs. Drummond's calibre. She would not have
tolerated or understood it for a moment.

"My girls must do as I wish," was a very ordinary speech in her mouth.
"I always do as my girls wish," Mrs. Challoner would have said. And,
indeed, the two mothers were utterly dissimilar; but it may be doubted
whether the Challoner household were not far happier than the family
in Lowder Street.



CHAPTER XIV.

"YOU CAN DARE TO TELL ME THESE THINGS."


Archibald Drummond had left his mother's presence with a cloud on his
brow. He had plenty of filial affection for her, but it was not the
first time that he had found her too much for him. She had often
angered him before by her treatment of Grace, but he had told himself
that she was his mother, that a man could have but one, and so he had
brought himself to forgive her. But this time she had set herself
against the cherished plan of years. He had always looked forward to
the time when he could have Grace to live with him; they had made all
sorts of schemes together, and all their talk had concentrated itself
towards this point; the disappointment would place a sort of blankness
before them; they would be working separately, far away from each
other, and the distance would not be bridged for years.

He stood for a moment in the dark, narrow hall, thinking intently over
all this, and then he went slowly upstairs. He knew where he should
find Grace. His mother had paid an unwonted visit to the school-room
during their walk, and on their return had expressed herself with some
degree of sharpness on the disorder she had found there. Grace would
be busily engaged in putting everything to rights. It was Clara's
business, but she had gone out, and had, as usual, forgotten all about
it. Grace had taken the blame upon herself, of course: she was always
shielding her younger sisters.

Everything was done when he entered the room, and Grace was sitting by
the window, with her hands folded in her lap, indulging in a few
minutes' rare idleness. She looked up eagerly as her brother made his
appearance.

The school-room was a large, bare-looking room at the top of the
house, with two narrow windows looking out over a lively prospect of
roofs and chimney-pots. Mrs. Drummond had done her utmost to give it
an air of comfort, but it was, on the whole, a dull, uncomfortable
apartment, in spite of the faded Turkey carpet, and the curtains that
had once been so handsome, but had now merged into unwholesome neutral
tints.

Laura, who was the wit of the family, had nicknamed it the Hospital,
for it seemed to be a receptacle for all the maimed and rickety chairs
of the household, footstools in a dilapidated condition, and odd
pieces of lumber that had no other place. Archibald regarded it with a
troubled gaze; somehow, its dinginess had never before so impressed
him; and then as he looked at his sister the frown deepened on his
face.

"Well, Archie?"

"Oh, Grace, it is no use! I have talked myself hoarse, but the mother
is dead against it: one might as well try to move a rock. We shall
have to make up our minds to bear our disappointment as well as we
can."

"I knew it was hopeless from the first," returned Grace, slowly; but,
as she spoke, a sort of dimness and paleness crept over her face,
belying her words.

She was young, and in youth hope never dies. Beyond the gray daily
horizon there is always a possible gleam, a new to-morrow; youth
abounds in infinite surprises, in probabilities which are as large as
they are vague. Grace told herself that she never hoped much from
Archie's mission; yet when he came to her with his ill success
plainly stamped upon his countenance, the dying out of her dream was
bitter to her.

"I knew it was hopeless from the first," had been her answer, and then
breath for further words failed her, and she sat motionless, with her
hands clasped tightly together, while Archie placed himself on the
window-seat beside her and looked out ruefully at the opposite
chimneys.

Well, it was all over, this dearly-cherished scheme of theirs; she
must go on now with the dull routine of daily duties, she must stoop
her neck afresh to the yoke she had long found so galling; this
school-room must be her world, she must not hope any longer for wider
vistas, for more expansive horizons, for tasks that should be more
congenial to her, for all that was now made impossible.

Mattie, not she, must go and keep Archie's house, and here for a
moment she closed her eyes, the pain was so bitter; she thought of the
old vicarage, of the garden where she and Archie were to have worked,
of the shabby old study where he meant to write his sermons, while she
was to sit beside him with her book or needlework, of the evenings
when he had promised to read to her, of the walks they were to have
taken together, of all the dear delightful plans they had made.

And now her mother had said them nay; it was Mattie who was to be his
housekeeper, who would sit opposite to him and pour out his coffee,
who would mend his socks and do all the thousand-and-one things that a
woman delights in doing for the mankind dependent on her for comfort.

Mattie would visit his poor people, and teach in the schools,
entertain his friends, and listen to his voice every Sunday; here
tears slowly gathered under the closed eyelids. Yes, Mattie would do
all that, but she would not be his chosen friend and companion; there
would be no long charming talks for her in the study or the sunny
garden; he would be as lonely, poor fellow, in his way as she would be
in hers, and for this her mother was to blame.

"Well, Gracie, haven't you a word to say?" asked her brother, at last,
surprised at her long silence.

"No, Archie; it does not bear talking about," she returned, so
passionately that he turned round to look at her. "I must not even
think of it. I must try and shut it all out of my mind, or I shall be
no good to any one. But it is hard--hard!" with a quiver of her lip.

"I call it a shame for my father and mother to sacrifice you in this
way!" he burst out, moved to bitter indignation at the sight of her
trouble. "I shall tell my father what I think about it pretty
plainly!"

But this speech recalled Grace to her senses.

"Oh, no, dear! you must do no such thing: promise me you will not. It
would be no good at all; and it would only make mother so angry. You
know he always thinks as she does about things, so it would be no
use. I suppose"--with an impatient sigh--"that I ought to feel myself
complimented at knowing I cannot be spared. Some girls would be proud
to feel themselves their mother's right hand; but to me it does not
seem much of a privilege."

"Don't talk in that way, Grace: it makes me miserable to hear you. I
am more sorry for you than I am for myself, and yet I am sorry for
myself too. If it were not that my mother would be too deeply
offended, I would refuse to have Mattie at all. We never have got on
well together. She is a good little thing in her way, but her
awkwardness and left-handed ways will worry me incessantly. And then
we have not an idea in common----" but here Grace generously
interposed:

"Poor old fellow! as though I did not know all that; but you must not
vent it on poor Mattie. She is not to blame for our disappointment.
She would gladly give it up to me if she could. I know she will do her
utmost to please you, Archie, and she is so good and amiable that you
must overlook her little failings and make the best of her."

"It will be rather difficult work, I am afraid," returned her brother,
grimly. "I shall always be drawing invidious comparisons between you
both, and thinking what you would do in her place."

"All the same you must try and be good to her for my sake, for I am
very fond of Mattie," she returned, gently; but he could not help
feeling gratified at the assurance that he would miss her. And then
she put her hand on his coat-sleeve, and stroked it, a favorite caress
with her. "It does not bear talking about: does it, Archie? It only
makes it feel worse. I think it must be meant as a discipline for me,
because I am so wicked, and that it would not do at all for me to be
too happy." And here she pressed his arm, and looked up in his face,
with an attempt at a smile.

"No, you are right: talking only makes it worse," he returned,
hurriedly; and then he stooped--for he was a tall man--and kissed her
on the forehead just between her eyes, and then walked to the door,
whistling a light air.

Grace did not think him at all abrupt in thus breaking off the
conversation. She had caught his meaning in a moment, and knew the
whole business was so painful to him that he did not care to dwell on
it. When the tea-bell rang, she prepared herself at once to accompany
him downstairs.

It was Archibald's last evening at home, and all the family were
gathered round the long tea-table. Since Mr. Drummond's misfortunes,
late dinners had been relinquished, and more homely habits prevailed
in the household. Mrs. Drummond had, indeed, apologized to her son
more than once for the simplicity of their mode of life.

"You are accustomed to a late dinner, Archie. I wish I could have
managed it for you; but your father objects to any alteration being
made in our usual habits."

"He is quite right; and I should have been much distressed if you had
thought such alteration necessary," returned her son, very much
surprised at this reference to his father. For Mrs. Drummond rarely
consulted her husband on such matters. In this case, however, she had
done so, and Mr. Drummond had been unusually testy--indeed,
affronted--at such a question being put to him.

"I don't know what you mean, Isabella," he had replied; "but I suppose
what is good enough for me is good enough for Archie." And then Mrs.
Drummond knew she had made a mistake, for her husband had felt
bitterly the loss of his late dinner. So Archie tried to fall in with
the habits of his family, and to enjoy the large plum or seed-cake
that invariably garnished the tea-table; and, though he ate but
sparingly of the supper, which always gave him indigestion, Grace was
his only confidante in the matter. Mr. Drummond, indeed, looked at his
son rather sharply once or twice, as though he suspected him of
fastidiousness. "I cannot compliment you on your appetite," he would
say, as he helped himself to cold meat; "but perhaps our home fare is
not so tempting as Oxford living?"

"I always say your meat is unusually good," returned Archibald,
amicably. "If there be any fault, it is in my appetite; but that
Hadleigh air will soon set right." But, though he answered his father
after this tolerant fashion, he always added, in a mental aside, that
nine-o'clock suppers were certainly barbarous institutions, and
peculiarly deleterious to the constitution of an Oxford fellow.

Mrs. Drummond looked at them both somewhat keenly as they entered. In
spite of her resolution, she was secretly uncomfortable at the thought
that Archie was displeased with her: her daughter's vexation was a
burden that could be more easily borne; but her maternal heart yearned
for some token that her boy was not estranged from her. But no such
consolation was to be vouchsafed to her. She had kept his usual place
vacant beside her; Archie showed no intention of taking it. He placed
himself by his father, and began talking to him of a change of
ministry that was impending, and which would overthrow the
Conservative party. Mrs. Drummond, who was one of those women who can
never be made to take any interest in politics, was reduced to the
necessity of talking to Mattie in an undertone, for the other boys
never put in an appearance at this meal; but as she talked she took
stock of Grace's pale, abstracted looks as she sat with her plate
before her, not pretending to eat, and taking no notice of Susie and
Laura, who chatted busily across her.

It was not a festive meal; on the contrary, there was an unusual air
of restraint over the whole party. The younger members felt
instinctively that there was something amiss. Archie looked decidedly
glum; and there was an expression on the mother's face that they were
not slow to interpret. No one could hear what it was she was saying to
Mattie that made her look so red and nervous all at once; but
presently she addressed herself abruptly to her husband:

"It is all settled, father. I have arranged with Archie that Matilda
should go down to Hadleigh next month."

Archie stroked his beard, but did not look up or make any remark,
though poor Mattie looked at him beseechingly across the table, as
though imploring a word. His mother would carry her point; but he
would not pretend for a moment that he was otherwise than displeased,
or that Mattie would be welcome.

His silence attracted Mr. Drummond's attention.

"Oh, what, you have settled it, you say? I hope you are satisfied,
Archie, and properly grateful to your mother for sparing Mattie. She
is to go for a year. Well, it will be a grand change for her. I should
not be surprised if you were to pick up a husband, Miss Mattie;" for
Mr. Drummond was a man who, in spite of his cares, was not without his
joke; but, as usual, it was instantly frowned down by his wife:

"I wonder at you, father, talking such nonsense before the children.
Why are you giggling, Laura? It is very unseemly and ill-behaved. I
hope no daughter of mine has such unmaidenly notions. Mattie is going
to Hadleigh to be a comfort to her brother, and to keep his house as a
clergyman's house ought to be kept."

"And you are satisfied, Archie?" asked Mr. Drummond, not quite pleased
at his wife's reprimand, and struck anew by his son's silence.

"I consider these questions somewhat unnecessary. You know my wishes,
sir, on the subject, and my mother also," was the somewhat
uncompromising remark; "but it appears that they are not to be met in
this instance. I hope Mattie will be comfortable and not miss her
sisters;" but he did not look at the poor girl, and the tears came
into her eyes.

"Oh, Archie, I am so sorry! I never meant-----" she stammered; but her
mother interrupted her:

"There is no occasion for you to be sorry about anything; you had far
better be silent, Mattie. But you have no tact. Father, if you have
finished your tea, I suppose you and Archie are going out." And then
Archie rose from the table, and followed his father out of the room.

It was Isabel's business to put Dottie to bed. The other girls had to
prepare their lessons for the next day, and went up to the
school-room. Mattie made some excuse, and went with them, and Mrs.
Drummond and Grace were left alone.

Grace had some delicate work to finish, and she placed herself by the
lamp. Her mother had returned to her mending-basket; but as the door
closed upon Mattie, she cleared her throat, and looked at her
daughter.

"Grace, I must say I am surprised at you!"

"Why, mother?" But Grace did not look up from the task she was running
with such fine even stitches.

"I am more than surprised!" continued Mrs. Drummond, severely. "I am
disappointed to see in what a bad spirit you have received my
decision. I did not think a daughter of mine would have been so blind
to her sense of duty!"

"I have said nothing to make you think that."

"No, you have said nothing, but looks can be eloquent sometimes. I am
not speaking of Archie, though I can see he is put out too, for he is
a man, and men are not always reasonable; but that you should place
yourself in such silent opposition to my wishes, it is that that
shocks me."

There was an ominous sparkle in Grace's gray eyes, and then she
deliberately put down her work on the table. She had hoped that her
mother would have been contented with her victory, and not have spoken
to her on the subject. But if she were so attacked, she would at least
defend herself.

"You have no right to speak to me in this way, mother!"

"No right, Grace?" Mrs. Drummond could hardly believe her ears. Never
once had a daughter of hers questioned her right in anything.

"No; for I have said nothing to bring all this upon me! I have been
perfectly quiet, and have tried to bear the bitterness of my
disappointment as well as I could. No one is answerable for their
looks, and I, at least, will not plead guilty on that score."

"Grace, you are answering me very improperly."

"I cannot say that I think so, mother. I would have been silent, if
you had permitted such silence; but when you drive me to speech, I
must say what I feel to be the truth,--that I have not been well
treated in this matter."

"Grace!" And Mrs. Drummond paused in awful silence. Never before had a
recusant daughter braved her to her face.

"I have not been well treated," continued Grace, firmly, "in a thing
that concerns me more than any one else. I have not even been
consulted. You have arranged it all, mother, without reference to me
or my feelings. Perhaps I ought to be grateful for being spared so
painful a decision; but I think such a decision should have been
permitted to me."

"You can dare to tell me such things to my very face!"

"Why should I not tell them?" returned Grace, meeting her mother's
angry glance unflinchingly. "It seems to me that one should speak the
truth to one's mother. You have treated me like a child; and I have a
right to feel sore and indignant. Why did you not put the whole thing
before me, and tell me that you and my father did not see how you
could spare me? Do you really believe that I should have been so
wanting to my sense of duty as to follow my own pleasure?"

"Grace, I insist upon your silence! I will not discuss the matter with
you."

"If you insist upon silence, you must be obeyed, mother: but it is you
who have raised the question between us. But when you attack me
unjustly, I must defend myself."

"You are forgetting yourself strangely. Your words are most
disrespectful and unbecoming in a daughter. You tell me to my face
that I am unjust--I, your mother--because I have been compelled to
thwart your wishes."

"No, no--not because of that!" returned Grace, in a voice of
passionate pain; "why will you misunderstand me so?--but because you
have no faith in me. You treat me like a child. You dispute my
privilege to decide in a matter that concerns my own happiness. You
bid me work for you, and you give me no wage--not a word of praise;
and because I remonstrate for once in my life, you insist on my
silence."

"It seems that I am not to be obeyed."

"Oh, yes; you will be obeyed, mother. After to-night I will not open
my lips to offend you again. If I have said more than I ought to have
said as a daughter, I will ask your pardon now; but I cannot take back
one of my words. They are true,--true!"

"I must say your apology is tardy, Grace."

"Nevertheless, it is an apology; for, though you have hurt me, I must
not forget you are my mother. I know my life will be harder after
this, because of what I have said; and yet I would not take back one
of my words!"

"I am more displeased with you than I can say," returned her mother,
taking up her neglected work; and her mouth looked stern and hard.

Never had her aspect been so forbidding, and yet never had her
daughter feared her less.

"Then, if you are displeased with me, I will go away," replied Grace,
moving from her seat with gentle dignity. "I wish you had not
compelled me to speak, mother, and then I should not have offended
you: but as it is there is no help for it." And then she gathered up
her work and walked slowly out of the room.

Mrs. Drummond sat moodily in the empty room that had somehow never
seemed so empty before. Her attitude was as rigid and uncompromising
as usual; but there was a perplexed frown on her brow. For the first
time in her life one of her girls had dared to assert her own will and
to speak the truth to her; and she was utterly nonplussed. It was not
too much to say that she had received a blow. Her justice and sense of
fairness had been questioned,--her very maternal authority
impugned,--and that by one of her own children! Mattie, who was eight
years older, would not have ventured to cross her mother's will.
Grace had so dared; and she was bitterly angry with her. And yet she
had never so admired her before.

How honestly and bravely she had battled for her rights! her gray eyes
had shone with fire, her pale cheeks had glowed with the passion of
her words: for once in her life the girl had looked superbly
handsome.

"You have no faith in me; you treat me like a child." Well, she was
right; it was no child, it was a proud woman who was flinging those
hard words at her. For the first time Mrs. Drummond recognized the
possibility of a will as strong as her own. In spite of all her
authority, Grace had been a match for her mother: Mrs. Drummond knew
this, and it added fuel to her bitterness.

"I know my life will be harder for what I have said." Ah, Grace was
right there; it would be long before her mother would forgive her for
all those words, true as they were; and yet in her heart she had never
so feared and admired her daughter. Grace went up to her own room,
where Dottie was asleep in a little bed very near her sister's: it was
dark and somewhat cold, but the atmosphere was less frigid than the
parlor downstairs. Grace's frame was trembling with the force of her
emotion; her face was burning, and her hands cold. It was restful and
soothing to put down her aching head on the hard window-ledge and
close her eyes and think out the pain! It seemed hours before Isabel
came to summon her to supper, but she made an excuse that she was not
hungry, and refused to go downstairs.

"But you ate nothing at tea, and your head is aching!" persisted
Isabel, who was a bright, good-natured girl, and, in spite of Archie's
strictures, decidedly pretty. "Do let me bring you something. Mother
will not know."

But Grace refused: she could not eat, and the sight of food would
distress her.

"Why not go to bed at once, then?" suggested Isabel,--which was
certainly sensible counsel. But Grace demurred to this; she knew
Archie would be up presently to say good-night to her: so, when Isabel
had gone, she lighted the candle, shading it carefully from Dottie's
eyes, and then she bathed her hot face, and smoothed her hair, and
took up her work again.

Archie found her quite calm and busy, but he was not so easily
deceived.

"Now, Gracie, you have got one of your headaches: it is the
disappointment and the bother, and my going away to-morrow. Poor
little Gracie!"

"Oh, Archie, I feel as though I shall never miss you so much!"
exclaimed the poor girl, throwing down her work and clinging to him.
"When shall I see your dear face again?--not until Christmas?"

"And not then, I expect. I shall most likely run down some time in
January, and then I shall try hard to take you back with me, just for
a visit. Mattie will be dull, and wanting to see some of you, and I
will not have one of the others until you have been."

"I don't believe mother will spare me even for that," returned Grace,
with a sudden conviction that her mother's memory was retentive, and
that she would be punished in that way for her sins of this evening;
"but promise me, Archie, that you will come, if it be only for a few
days."

"Oh, I will promise you that. I cannot last longer without seeing you,
Grace!" And he stroked her soft hair as she still clung to him.

The next day Archibald bade his family good-bye: his manner had not
changed toward his mother, and Mrs. Drummond thought his kiss
decidedly cold.

"You will be good to Mattie, and try to make the poor girl happy; you
will do at least as much as this," she said, detaining him as he was
turning from her to see Grace.

"Oh, yes, I will be good to her," he returned, indifferently, "but I
cannot promise that she will not find her life dull." And then he took
Grace in his arms, and whispered to her to be patient, and that all
would be well one day; and Mrs. Drummond, though she did not hear the
whisper, saw the embrace and the long lingering look between the
brother and sister, and pressed her thin lips together and went back
to her parlor and mending-basket, feeling herself an unhappy mother,
whose love was not requited by her children, and disposed to be harder
than ever towards Grace, who had inflicted this pain on her.



CHAPTER XV.

A VAN IN THE BRAIDWOOD ROAD.


One bright July morning, Mattie Drummond walked rapidly up the
Braidwood Road, and, unlatching the green door in the wall, let
herself into the large square hall of the vicarage. This morning it
looked invitingly cool, with its summer matting and big wicker-work
chairs; but Mattie was in too great haste to linger; she only stopped
to disencumber herself of the various parcels with which she was
ladened, and then she knocked at the door of her brother's study, and,
without waiting for the reluctant "Come in" that always answered her
hasty rap, burst in upon him.

It was now three months since Mattie had entered upon her new duties,
and it must be confessed that Archie's housekeeper had rather a hard
time of it. As far as actual management went, Mattie fully justified
her mother's eulogiums in her household arrangements: she was orderly
and methodical,--far more so than Grace would have been in her place;
the meals were always punctual and well served, the domestic machinery
worked well and smoothly. Archie never had to complain of a missing
button or a frayed wrist-band. Nevertheless, Mattie's presence at the
vicarage was felt by her brother as a sore burden. There was nothing
in common between them, nothing that he cared to discuss with her, or
on which he wished to know her opinion; he was naturally a frank,
outspoken man, one that demanded sympathy from those belonging to him;
but with Mattie he was reticent, and as far as possible restrained in
speech.

One reason for this might be that Mattie, with all her virtues,--and
she was really a most estimable little person,--was sadly deficient in
tact. She never knew when she was treading on other people's pet
prejudices. She could not be made to understand that her presence was
not always wanted, and that it was as well to keep silence sometimes.

She would intrude her advice when it was not needed, in her
good-natured way; she had always interfered with everything and
everybody. "Meddlesome Mattie" they had called her at home.

She was so wonderfully elastic, too, in her temperament, that nothing
long depressed her. She took all her brother's snubbings in excellent
part: if he scolded her at dinner-time, and made the ready tears come
to her eyes,--for it was not the least of Mattie's sins that she cried
easily and on every possible occasion,--she had forgotten it by
tea-time, and would chatter to him as happily as ever.

She was just one of those persevering people who seem bound to be
snubbed; one cannot help it. It was as natural to scold Mattie as it
was to praise other people; and yet it was impossible not to like the
little woman, though she had no fine feelings, as Archie said, and was
not thin-skinned. Grace always spoke a good word for her; she was very
kind to Mattie in her way,--though it must be owned that she showed
her small respect as an elder sister. None of her brothers and sisters
respected Mattie in the least; they laughed at her, and took liberties
with her, presuming largely on her good nature. "It is only Mattie;
nobody cares what she thinks," as Clyde would often say. "Matt the
Muddler," as Frederick named her.

"I wonder what Mattie would say if any one ever fell in love with
her?" Grace once observed in fun to Archie. "Do you know, I think she
would be all her life, thanking her husband for the unexpected honor
he had done her, and trying to prove to him that he had not made such
a great mistake, after all."

"Mattie's husband! He must be an odd sort of person, I should think."
And then Archie laughed, in not the politest manner. Certainly Mattie
was not appreciated by her family. She was not looking her best this
morning when she went into her brother's study. She wore the
offending plaid dress,--a particular large black-and-white check that
he thought especially ugly. Her hat-trimmings were frayed, and the
straw itself was burnt brown by the sun, and her hair was ill arranged
and rough, for she never wasted much time on her own person, and, to
crown the whole, she looked flushed and heated.

Archie, who was sitting at his writing-table in severely-cut
ecclesiastical garments, looking as trim and well-appointed a young
clergyman as one might wish to see, might be forgiven for the tone of
ill-suppressed irritation with which he said,--

"Oh, Mattie! what a figure you look! I am positively ashamed that any
one should see you. That hat is only fit to frighten the birds."

"Oh, it will do very well for the mornings," returned Mattie,
perfectly undisturbed at these compliments. "Nobody looks at me: so
what does it matter?" But this remark, which she made in all
simplicity, only irritated him more.

"If you have no proper pride, you might at least consider my feelings.
Do you think a man in my position likes his sister to go about like an
old beggar-woman? You are enough to try any one's patience, Mattie;
you are, indeed!"

"Oh, never mind me and my things," returned Mattie coaxingly; "and
don't go on writing just yet," for Archie had taken up his pen again
with a great show of being busy. "I want to tell you something that I
know will interest you. There are some new people come to the
Friary."

"What on earth do you mean?--what Friary? I am sure I never heard of
such a place."

"Dear me, Archie, how cross you are this morning!" observed Mattie, in
a cheerful voice, as she fidgeted the papers on the table. "Why, the
Friary is that shabby little cottage just above us,--not a stone's
throw from this house."

"Indeed? Well, I cannot say I am much interested in the movements of
my neighbors. I am not a gossip like you, Mattie!"--another fling at
poor Mattie. "I wish you would leave those papers alone. You know I
never allow my things to be tidied, as you call it, and I am really
very busy just now. I am in the middle of accounts, and I have to
write to Grace and----"

"Well, I thought you would like to know." And Mattie looked rather
crestfallen and disappointed. "You talked so much about those young
ladies some weeks ago, and seemed quite sorry not to see them again;
and now----" but here Archie's indifference vanished, and he looked up
eagerly.

"What young ladies? Not those in Milner's Library, who asked about the
dressmaker?"

"The very same," returned his sister, delighted at this change of
manner. "Oh, I have so much to tell you that I must sit down,"
planting herself comfortably on the arm of an easy-chair near him.
Another time Archie would have rebuked her for her unlady-like
attitude, and told her, probably, that Grace never did such things;
but now his interest was so excited that he let it pass for once. He
even suffered her to take off her old hat and deposit it unreproved on
the top of his cherished papers. "I was over at Crump's this morning,
to speak to Bobbie about weeding the garden, when I was surprised to
see a railway-van unloading furniture at the Friary."

"What an absurd name!" _sotto voce_ from Archie: but he offered no
further check to Mattie's gossip.

"I asked Mrs. Crump, as a matter of course, the name of the new
people; and she said it was Challoner. There was a mother and three
daughters, she believed. She had seen two of them,--pretty,
nice-spoken young creatures, and quite ladies. They had been down
before to see the cottage and to have it done up. It looks quite a
different place already,--nicely painted, and the shrubs trimmed. The
door was open, and as I stood at Mrs. Crump's window, peeping between
her geraniums, I saw such a respectable gray-haired woman, like an
upper servant, carrying something into the house; and a moment after
one of those young ladies we saw in the Library--not the pretty one,
but the other--came to the door and spoke to the men."

"Are you sure you did not make a mistake, Mattie?" asked her brother,
incredulously. "You are very short-sighted: perhaps you did not see
correctly. How can those stylish-looking girls live in such a shabby
place? I can hardly believe it possible."

"Oh, it was the same, I am positive about that. She was in the same
cambric dress you admired. I could see distinctly. I watched her for a
long time; and then the pretty one came out and joined her. She is
pretty, Archie, she has such a lovely complexion."

"But are they poor?--they don't look so. What on earth can it mean?"
he asked, in a perplexed voice; but Mattie only shook her head, and
went on:

"We must find out all about them by and by. They are worth knowing, I
am sure of that. Poor?--well, they cannot be rich, certainly, to live
in the Friary; but they are gentle-people, one can see that in a
moment."

"Of course! who doubted it?" was the somewhat impatient answer.

"Well, but that is not all," went on Mattie, too delighted with her
brother's interest to try to curtail her story. "Of course I could not
stand long watching them, so I did my errand and came away; and then I
met Miss Middleton, and we walked down to the Library together to
change those books. Miss Milner was talking to some ladies when we
first went in and, as Miss Masham was not in the shop, we had to wait
our turn, so I had a good look at them. The elder one was such a
pretty, aristocratic-looking woman,--a little too languid, perhaps
for my taste; and the younger one was a little like Isabel, only
nicer-looking. I shouldn't have stared at them so much,--at least, I
am afraid I stared," went on Mattie, forgetting for the moment how
often she had been taken to task for this very thing,--"but something
Miss Milner said attracted my attention, 'I am not to send it to the
Friary, then, ma'am?' 'Well, no,' the lady returned, rather
hesitatingly. She had such a nice voice and manner, Archie. 'My
youngest daughter and I are at Beach House at present; I am rather an
invalid, and the bustle would be too much for me. Dulce, we had better
have these things sent to Beach House.' And then the young lady
standing by her said, 'Oh, yes, mother; we shall want them this
evening.' And then they went out."

"There is a third sister, then?" observed Archie, not pretending to
disguise his interest in Mattie's recital.

"Yes, there is a third one: she is certainly a little like Isabel; she
has a dimple like hers, and is of the same height. I asked Miss
Milner, when they were out of hearing, if their name were Challoner,
and if they were the new people who were coming to live at the empty
cottage on the Braidwood Road. I thought she did not seem much
disposed to give me information. Yes, their name was Challoner, and
they had taken the Friary; but they were quite strangers in the town,
and no one knew anything about them. And then Miss Middleton chimed
in; she said her father had noticed the young ladies some weeks ago,
and had called her attention to them. They were very pretty girls, and
had quite taken his fancy; he had not forgotten them, and had spoken
of them that very morning. She supposed Mrs. Challoner must be a
widow, and not very well off: did Miss Milner know. Would you believe
it, Archie? Miss Milner got quite red, and looked confused. You know
how she enjoys a bit of gossip generally; but the questions seemed to
trouble her. 'They were not at all well off, she knew that, but nicer
young ladies she had never seen, or wished to see; and she hoped every
one would be kind to them, and not forget they were real born ladies,
in spite of----' And here the old thing got more confused than ever,
and came to a full stop, and begged to know how she could serve us."

"It is very strange,--very strange indeed," returned her brother, in a
meditative voice; but, as Mattie had nothing more to tell him, he did
not discuss the matter any further, only thanked her for her news, and
civilly dismissed her on the plea that his business was at a
stand-still.

But he did not resume his accounts for sometime after he was left
alone. Instead of doing so, he walked to the window and looked out in
a singularly absent manner. Mattie's news was somewhat exciting. The
idea of having such pleasant neighbors located within a stone's throw
of the vicarage was in itself disturbing to the imagination of a young
man of eight-and-twenty, even though a clergyman. And then, it must be
confessed, Nan's charming face and figure had never been forgotten:
he had looked out for the sisters many times since his chance
encounter with Phillis, and had been secretly disappointed at their
total disappearance. And now they proved not mere visitors, but
positively inhabitants of Hadleigh. He would meet them every day; and,
as there was but one church in the place, they would of course be
numbered among his flock. As their future clergyman he would have a
right of entrance to the cottage.

"How soon do you think we ought to call upon them, Mattie?" he asked,
when he was seated opposite to his sister at the luncheon-table. The
accounts had not progressed very favorably, and the letter to Grace
was not yet commenced. Mattie's news had been a sad interruption to
his morning's work.

"Whom do you mean, Archie," she returned, a little bewildered at this
abrupt remark; and then, as he frowned at her denseness, she bethought
herself of the new people. It was not often Archie asked her advice
about anything, but on this occasion the young vicar felt himself
incompetent to decide.

"I suppose you mean the new folk at the Friary," she continued,
carelessly. "Oh, they are only moving in to-day, and they will be in a
muddle for a week, I should think. I don't think we can intrude for
ten days or so."

"Not if you think it will be intrusive," he returned, rather
anxiously; "but they are strangers in the place, and all ladies--there
does not seem to be a man belonging to them--would it not be
neighborly, as we live so close, just to call, not in a formal way,
you know, but just to volunteer help? There are little things you
could do for them, Mattie; and, as a clergyman, they could not regard
my visit as an intrusion, I should think. Do you not agree with me?"
looking at his sister rather gravely.

"Well, I don't know," replied Mattie, bluntly: "I should not care for
strangers prying into my concerns, if I were in their place. And yet,
as you say, we are such close neighbors, and one would like to be kind
to the poor things, for they must be lonely, settling in a strange new
place. I'll tell you what, Archie," as his face fell at this
matter-of-fact speech: "it is Thursday, and they will be sure to be at
church on Sunday; we shall see them there, and that will be an excuse
for us to call on Monday. We can say then that we are neighbors, and
that we would not wait until they were all in order. We can offer to
send them things from the vicarage, or volunteer help in many little
ways. I think that would be best."

"Yes, perhaps you are right, and we will wait until Monday," returned
Archie, taking off his soft felt hat. "Now I must go on my rounds, and
not waste any more time chattering." But, though he spoke with unusual
good nature, he did not invite Mattie to be his companion, and the
poor little woman betook herself to the solitary drawing-room and some
plain sewing for the rest of the afternoon.

The young clergyman stood for a moment irresolutely at the green door,
and cast a longing glance in the direction of the Friary, where the
van was still unloading, and then he bethought himself that, though
Mattie had given orders about the weeding of the garden-paths, it
would be as well to speak to Crump about the wire fence that was
wanted for the poultry-yard; and as soon as he had made up his mind on
this point he walked on briskly.

The last piece of furniture had just been carried in; but, as Mr.
Drummond was picking his way through the straw and debris that
littered the side-path, two girlish figures came out of the doorway
full upon him.

He raised his hat involuntarily, but they drew back at once, and, as
he went out, confused at this sudden rencontre, the sound of a light
laugh greeted his ear.

"How annoying that we should always be meeting him!" observed Nan,
innocently. "Don't laugh, Phillis: he will hear you."

"My dear, it must be fate," returned Phillis solemnly. "I shall think
it my duty to warn Dick if this goes on." But, in spite of her
mischievous speech, she darted a quick, interested look after the
handsome young clergyman as he walked on. Both the girls stood in the
porch for some minutes after they had made their retreat. They had
come out to cool themselves and to get a breath of air, until a July
sun and Mr. Drummond's sudden appearance defeated their intention.
They had no idea that they were watched from behind the screening
geraniums in Mrs. Crump's window. Both of them were enveloped in
Dorothy's bib-aprons, which hid their pretty rounded figures.
Phillis's cheeks were flushed, and her arms were bare to the dimpled
elbows; and Nan's brown hair was slightly dishevelled.

"We look just like cooks!" exclaimed Phillis, regarding her coarse
apron with disfavor; but Nan stretched her arms with a little
indifference and weariness.

"What does it matter how we look,--like cooks or housemaids? I am
dreadfully tired; but we must go in and work, Phil. I wonder what has
become of Dulce?" And then the charming vision disappeared from the
young clergyman's eyes, and he was free to fix his mind on the wire
fence that was required for the poultry-yard.

As soon as he had accomplished his errand he set his face towards the
vicarage, for he made up his mind suddenly that he would call on the
Middletons, and perhaps on Mrs. Cheyne. The latter was a duty that he
owed to his pastoral conscience; but there was no need for him to go
to the Middletons'. Nevertheless, the father and daughter were his
most intimate friends, and on all occasions he was sure of Miss
Middleton's sympathy. They lived at Brooklyn,--a low white house a
little below the vicarage. It was a charming house, he always thought,
so well arranged and well managed; and the garden--that was the
colonel's special hobby--was as pretty as a garden could be. The
drawing-room looked shady and comfortable, for the French windows
opened into a cool veranda, fitted up with flower-baskets and wicker
chairs; and beyond lay the trim lawn, with beds of blazing verbenas
and calceolarias. Miss Middleton's work-table was just within one of
the windows; but the colonel, in his gray summer suit, reclined in a
lounging-chair in the veranda. He was reading the paper to his
daughter, and was just in the middle of last night's debate;
nevertheless, he threw it aside, well pleased at the interruption.

"I knew how I should find you occupied," observed Mr. Drummond, as he
exchanged a smile with Miss Middleton. He was fully aware that
politics were not to her taste, and yet every afternoon she listened
to such reading, well content even with the sound of her father's
voice.

Elizabeth Middleton was certainly a charming person. Phillis had
called her the "gray-haired girl," and the title suited her. She was
not a girl by any means, having reached her six-and-thirtieth year;
but her hair was as silvery as an old woman's, gray and plentiful, and
soft as silk, and contrasted strangely with her still youthful face.

Without being handsome, Elizabeth Middleton was beautiful. Her
expression was sweet and restful, and attracted all hearts. People who
were acquainted with her said she was the happiest creature they
knew,--that she simply diffused sunshine by her mere presence; such a
contrast, they would add, to her neighbor Mrs. Cheyne, who bore all
her troubles badly and was of a proud, fretful disposition. But then
Mrs. Cheyne had lost her husband and her two children, and led such a
sad, lonely life; and no such troubles had fallen to Miss Middleton.

Elizabeth Middleton could afford to be happy, they said, for she was
the delight of her father's eyes. Her young half-brother, Hammond, who
was with his regiment in India, was not nearly so dear to the old man;
and of course that was why she had never married, that her father's
house might not be left desolate.

This is how people talked; but not a single person in Hadleigh knew
that Elizabeth Middleton had had a great sorrow in her life.

She had been engaged for some years most happily, and with her
father's consent, to one of his brother officers. Captain Sedgwick was
of good family, but poor; and they were waiting for his promotion, for
at that time Colonel Middleton would have been unable to give his
daughter any dowry. Elizabeth was young and happy, and she could
afford to wait. No girl ever gloried in her lover more than she did in
hers. Capel Sedgwick was not only brave and singularly handsome, but
he bore a reputation through the whole regiment for having a higher
standard of duty than most men.

Promotion came at last, and, just as Elizabeth was gayly making
preparations for her marriage, fatal tidings were brought to her.
Major Sedgwick had gone to visit an old servant in the hospital who
had been struck down with cholera; he had remained with him some time,
and on his return to his bungalow the same fell disease had attacked
him, and before many hours were over he was dead. The shock was a
terrible one; in the first moments of her bitter loss, Elizabeth cried
out that her misery was too great,--that all happiness was over for
her in this world, and that she only prayed that she might be buried
in the same grave with Capel.

The light had not yet come to the poor soul that felt itself afflicted
past endurance and could find no reason for such pain. It could not be
said that Elizabeth bore her trouble better than other girls would
have borne theirs under like circumstances. She fretted and grew thin,
and dashed herself wildly against the inevitable, only reproaching
herself for her selfishness and want of submission when she looked at
her father's care-worn face.

But then came a time when light and peace revisited the wrecked
heart,--when confused reasonings no longer beset the poor weak brain
and filled it with dismay and doubt,--when the Divine will became her
will, and there was no longer submission, but a most joyful surrender.
And no one, and least of all she herself, knew when the darkness was
vanquished by that clear uprising of pure radiance, or how those
brooding wings of peace settled on her soul. From that time, every
human being that came within her radius was welcome as a new object of
love. To give and yet to give, and never to be satisfied, was a daily
necessity of life to Elizabeth. "Now there is some one more to love,"
she would say to herself, when a new acquaintance was brought to her;
and, as the old adage is true that tells us love begets love, there
was no more popular person in Hadleigh than Elizabeth Middleton. She
had something to say in praise of every one; not that she was blind to
the faults of her neighbors, but she preferred to be silent and ignore
them.

And she was especially kind to Mattie. In the early days of their
intimacy, the young vicar would often speak to her of his sister Grace
and lament their enforced separation from each other. Miss Middleton
listened sympathetically, with the same sweet attention that she gave
to every man, woman, and child that laid claim to it; but once, when
he had finished, she said, rather gravely,--

"Do you know, Mr. Drummond, that I think your mother was right?"

"Right in dooming Grace to such a life?" he said, pausing in utter
surprise at her remark.

"Pardon me; it is not her mother who dooms her," returned Miss
Middleton, quickly, "but duty,--her own sense of right,--everything
that is sacred. If Mrs. Drummond had not decided that she could not be
spared, I am convinced from all you tell me, that Grace would still
have remained at home: her conscience would have been too strong for
her."

"Well, perhaps you are right," he admitted, reluctantly. "Grace is a
noble creature, and capable of any amount of self-sacrifice."

"I am sure of it," returned Miss Middleton, with sparkling eyes. "How
I should like to know her! it would be a real pleasure and privilege;
but I am very fond of your sister Mattie, too."

"Fond of Mattie!" It was hardly brotherly, but he could not help that
incredulous tone in his voice. How could such a superior woman as Miss
Middleton be even tolerant of Mattie?

"Oh, yes," she replied, quite calmly; "I have a great respect for your
sister. She is so unselfish and amiable, and there is something so
genuine in her. Before everything one wants truth," finished
Elizabeth, taking up her work.

Now, as the young clergyman entered the room, she stretched out her
hand to him with her usual beaming smile.

"This is good of you, to come so soon again," she said, making room
for him between her father and herself. "But why have you not brought
Mattie?" and Archie felt as though he had received a rebuke.

"She is finishing some work," he returned, a little confused; "that
is, what you ladies call work. It is not always necessary for the
clergywoman to pay visits, is it?"

"The clergywoman, as you call her, is doing too much. I was scolding
her this morning for not sparing herself more: I thought she was not
looking quite well, Mr. Drummond."

"Oh, Mattie is well enough," he replied, carelessly. He had not come
to talk about his sister: a far more interesting subject was in his
mind. "Do you know, colonel," he went on, with some animation, "that
you and I have new neighbors? Do you remember the young ladies in the
blue cambric dresses?" And at this question the colonel threw aside
his paper at once.

"Elizabeth has been telling me. I remember the young ladies perfectly.
I could not help noticing them. They walked so well,--heads up, and as
neat and trim as though they were on parade; pretty creatures, both of
them. Elizabeth pretends not to be interested, but she is quite
excited. Look at her!"

"Nay, father, it is you who can talk of nothing else; but it will be
very nice to have such pleasant neighbors. How soon do you think we
may call on them?"

And then Archie explained, with some little embarrassment, that he and
Mattie thought of calling the following Monday and offering their
services.

"That is very thoughtful of Mattie. She is such a kind-hearted little
creature, and is always ready to serve everybody."

And then they entered into a discussion on the new-comers that lasted
so long that the tea-things made their appearance; and shortly
afterwards Mr. Drummond announced that he must go and call on Mrs.
Cheyne.



CHAPTER XVI.

A VISIT TO THE WHITE HOUSE.


Hitherto Mr. Drummond had acknowledged his afternoon to be a success.
He had obtained a glimpse of the new-comers through Mrs. Crump's
screen of geraniums, and had listened with much interest to Colonel
Middleton's innocent gossip, while Miss Middleton had poured out their
tea. Indeed, his attention had quite flattered his host.

"Really, Drummond is a very intelligent fellow," he observed to his
daughter, when they were at last left alone,--"a very intelligent
fellow, and so thoroughly gentlemanly."

"Yes, he is very nice," returned Elizabeth; "and he seems wonderfully
interested in our new neighbors." And here she smiled a little
archly.

There was no doubt that Mr. Drummond had fully enjoyed his visit.
Nevertheless, as he left Brooklyn, and set his face towards the White
House, his manner changed, and his face became somewhat grave.

He had told himself that he owed it to his pastoral conscience to call
on Mrs. Cheyne; but, notwithstanding this monition, he disliked the
duty, for he always felt on these occasions that he was hardly up to
his office, and that this solitary member of his flock was not
disposed to yield herself to his guidance. He was ready to pity her if
she would allow herself to be pitied; but any expression of sympathy
seemed repugnant to her. Any one so utterly lonely, so absolutely
without interest in existence, he had never seen or thought to see;
and yet he could not bring himself to like her, or to say more than
the mere commonplace utterances of society. Though he was her
clergyman, and bound by the sacredness of his office to be specially
tender to the bruised and maimed ones of his flock, he could not get
her to acknowledge her maimed condition to him, or to do anything but
listen to him with cold attention, when he hinted vaguely that all
human beings are in need of sympathy. Perhaps she thought him too
young, and feared to find his judgments immature and one-sided; but
certainly his visits to the White House were failures. Mrs. Cheyne was
still young enough and handsome enough to need some sort of
chaperonage: and though she professed to mock at conventionality, she
acknowledged its claims in this respect by securing the permanent
services of Miss Mewlstone--a lady of uncertain age and uncertain
acquirements. It must be confessed that every one wondered at Mrs.
Cheyne and her choice, for no one could be less companionable than
Miss Mewlstone.

She was a stout, sleepy-looking woman, with a soft voice, and in
placidity and a certain cosyness of exterior somewhat resembled a
large white cat. Some people declared she absolutely purred, and
certainly her small blue eyes were ready to close on all occasions.
She always dressed in gray,--a very unbecoming color to a stout
person,--and when not asleep or reading (for she was a great reader)
she seemed always busy with a mass of soft fleecy wool. No one heard
her ever voluntarily conversing with her patroness. They would drive
together for hours, or pass whole evenings in the same room, scarcely
exchanging a word. "Just so, my dear," she would say, in return to any
observation made to her by Mrs. Cheyne. "Just so Mewlstone," a young
wag once nicknamed her.

People stared incredulously when Mrs. Cheyne assured them her
companion was a very superior woman. They thought it was only her
satire, and did not believe her in the least. They would have stared
still more if they had really known the extent of Miss Mewlstone's
acquirements.

"She seems so stupid, as though she cannot talk," one of Mrs. Cheyne's
friends said.

"Oh, yes, she can talk, and very well too," returned that lady,
quietly, "but she knows that I do not care about it; her silence is
her great virtue in my eyes. And then she has tact, and knows when to
keep out of the way," finished Mrs. Cheyne, with the utmost frankness;
and, indeed, it may be doubted whether any other person would have
retained her position so long at the White House.

Mrs. Cheyne was no favorite with the young pastor, nevertheless she
was an exceedingly handsome woman. Before the bloom of her youth had
worn off she had been considered absolutely beautiful. As regarded the
form of her features, there was no fault to be found, but her
expression was hardly pleasing. There was a hardness that people found
a little repelling,--a bitter, dissatisfied droop of the lip, a
weariness of gloom in the dark eyes, and a tendency to satire in her
speech, that alienated people's sympathy.

"I am unhappy, but pity me if you dare!" seemed to be written legibly
upon her countenance; and those who knew her best held their peace in
her presence, and then went away and spoke softly to each other of the
life that seemed wasted and the heart that was so hardened with its
trouble. "What would the world be if every one were to bear their
sorrows so badly?" they would say. "There is something heathenish in
such utter want of resignation. Oh, yes, it was very sad, her losing
her husband and children, but it all happened four or five years ago;
and you know"--And here people's voices dropped a little ominously,
for there were vague hints afloat that things had not always gone on
smoothly at the White House, even when Mrs. Cheyne had her husband.
She had been an only child, and had married the only survivor of a
large family. Both were handsome, self-willed young people; neither
had been used to contradiction. In spite of their love for each other,
there had been a strife of wills and misunderstandings from the
earliest days of their marriage. Neither knew what giving up meant,
and before many months were over the White House witnessed many
painful scenes. Herbert Cheyne was passionate, and at times almost
violent; but there was no malice in his nature. He stormed furiously
and forgave easily. A little forbearance would have turned him into a
sweet-natured man; but his wife's haughtiness and resentment lasted
long; she never acknowledged herself in the wrong, never made
overtures of peace, but bore herself on every occasion as a
sorely-injured wife, a state of things singularly provoking to a man
of Herbert Cheyne's irritable temperament.

There was injudicious partisanship as regarded their children: while
Mrs. Cheyne idolized her boy, her husband lavished most of his
attentions on the baby girl,--"papa's girl," as she always called
herself in opposition to "mother's boy."

Mrs. Cheyne really believed she loved her boy best, but when
diphtheria carried off her little Jane also, she was utterly
inconsolable. Her husband was far away when it happened: he had been a
great traveller before his marriage, and latterly his matrimonial
relations with his wife had been so unsatisfactory that virtual
separation had ensued. Two or three months before illness, and then
death, had devastated the nursery at the White House, he had set out
for a long exploring expedition in Central Africa.

"You make my life so unbearable that, but for the children, I would
never care to set foot in my home again," he had said to her, in one
of his violent moods; and, though he repented of this speech
afterwards, she could not be brought to believe that he had not meant
it, and her heart had been hard against him even in their parting.

But before many months were over she would have given all she
possessed--to her very life--to have recalled him to her side. She was
childless, and her health was broken; but no such recall was possible.
Vague rumors reached her of some miserable disaster: people talked of
a missing Englishman. One of the little party had already succumbed to
fever and hardship; by and by another followed; and the last news that
reached them was that Herbert Cheyne lay at the point of death in the
kraal of a friendly tribe. Since then the silence had been of the
grave: not one of the party had survived to bring the news of his last
moments: there had been illness and disaster from the first.

When Mrs. Cheyne recovered from the nervous disorder that had
attacked her on the receipt of this news, she put on widow's mourning,
and wore it for two years; then she sent for Miss Mewlstone, and set
herself to go through with the burden of her life. If she found it
heavy, she never complained: she was silent on her own as on other
people's troubles. Only at the sight of a child of two or three years
of age she would turn pale, and draw down her veil, and if it ran up
to her, as would sometimes happen, she would put it away from her
angrily, pushing it away almost with violence, and no child was ever
suffered to cross her threshold.

The drawing-room at the White House was a spacious apartment, with
four long windows opening on the lawn. Mrs. Cheyne was sitting in her
low chair, reading, with Miss Mewlstone at the farther end of the
room, with her knitting-basket beside her; two or three grayhounds
were grouped near her. They all rushed forward with furious barks as
Mr. Drummond was announced, and then leaped joyously round him. Mrs.
Cheyne put down her book, and greeted him with a frosty smile.

She had laid aside her widow's weeds, but still dressed in black, the
sombreness of her apparel harmonizing perfectly with her pale, creamy
complexion. Her dress was always rich in material, and most carefully
adjusted. In her younger days it had been an art with her,--almost a
passion,--and it had grown into a matter of custom.

"You are very good to come again so soon, Mr. Drummond," she said, as
she gave him her hand. The words were civil, but a slight inflection
on the word "soon" made Mr. Drummond feel a little uncomfortable. Did
she think he called too often? He wished he had brought Mattie; only
last time she had been so satirical, and had quizzed the poor little
thing unmercifully; not that Mattie had found out that she was being
quizzed.

"I hardly thought I should find you at home, it is so fine an
afternoon; but I made the attempt, you see," he continued, a little
awkwardly.

"Your parochial conscience was uneasy, I suppose, because I was
missing at church?" she returned, somewhat slyly. "You would make a
capital overseer, Mr. Drummond,"--with a short laugh. "A headache is a
good excuse, is it not? I had a headache, had I not, Miss Mewlstone?"

"Yes, my dear, just so," returned Miss Mewlstone. She always called
her patroness "my dear."

"Miss Mewlstone gave me the heads of the sermon, so it was not quite
labor lost, as regards one of your flock. I am afraid you think me a
black sheep because I stay away so often,--a very black sheep, eh, Mr.
Drummond?"

"It is not for me to judge," he said, still more awkwardly. "Headaches
are very fair excuses; and if one be not blessed with good
health----"

"My health is perfect," she returned, interrupting him ruthlessly. "I
have no such convenient plea under which to shelter myself. Miss
Mewlstone suffers far more from headaches than I do. Don't you, Miss
Mewlstone?"

"Just so; yes, indeed, my dear," proceeded softly from the other end
of the room.

"I am sorry to hear it," commenced Mr. Drummond, in a sympathizing
tone of voice. But his tormentor again interrupted him.

"I am a sad backslider, am I not? I wonder if you have a sermon ready
for me? Do you lecture your parishioners, Mr. Drummond, rich as well
as poor? What a pity it is you are so young! Lectures are more
suitable with gray hair; a hoary head might have some chance against
my satire. A woman's tongue is a difficult thing to keep in order, is
it not? I dare say you find that with Miss Mattie?"

Mr. Drummond was literally on thorns. He had no repartee ready. She
was secretly exasperating him as usual, making his youth a reproach,
and rendering it impossible for him to be his natural frank self with
her. In her presence he was always at a disadvantage. She seemed to
take stock of his learning and to mock at the idea of his pastoral
claims. It was not the first time she had called herself a black
sheep, or had spoken of her scanty attendances at church. But as yet
he had not dared to rebuke her; he had a feeling that she might fling
back his rebuke with a jest, and his dignity forbade this. Some day he
owed it to his conscience to speak a word to her,--to tell her of the
evil effects of such an example; but the convenient season had not yet
arrived.

He was casting about in his own mind for some weighty sentence with
which to answer her; but she again broke in upon his silence:

"It seems that I am to escape to-day. I hope you are not a lax
disciplinarian; that comes of being young. Youth is more tolerant,
they say, of other people's errors: it has its own glass houses to
mind."

"You are too clever for me, Mrs. Cheyne," returned the young man, with
a deprecating smile that might have disarmed her. "No, I have not come
to lecture: my mission is perfectly peaceful, as befits this lovely
afternoon. I wonder what you ladies find to do all day?" he continued,
abruptly changing the subject, and trying to find something that would
not attract her satire.

Mrs. Cheyne seemed a little taken aback by this direct question; and
then she drew up her beautiful head a little haughtily, and laughed.

"Ah, you are cunning, Mr. Drummond. You found me disposed to take the
offensive in the matter of church-going, and now you are on another
track. There is a lecture somewhere in the background. How doth the
little busy bee, etc. Now, don't frown,"--as Mr. Drummond knitted his
brows and really looked annoyed: "I will not refuse to be
catechised."

"I should not presume to catechise you," he returned, hastily. "I
appeal to Miss Mewlstone if my question were not a very innocent
one."

"Just so; just so," replied Miss Mewlstone; but she looked a little
alarmed at this appeal. "Oh, very innocent; oh, very so."

"With two against me I must yield," returned Mrs. Cheyne, with a curl
of her lip. "What do we do with our time, Miss Mewlstone? Your
occupation speaks for itself: it is exquisitely feminine. Don't tell
Miss Mattie, Mr. Drummond, but I never work. I would as soon arm
myself with a dagger as a needle or a pair of scissors. When I am not
in the air, I paint. I only lay aside my palette for a book."

"You paint!" exclaimed Archie, with sudden interest. It was the first
piece of information he had yet gleaned.

"Yes," she returned, indifferently: "one must do something to kill
time, and music was never my forte. I sketch and draw and paint after
my own sweet will. There are portfolios full of my sketches in
there,"--with a movement of her hand towards a curtained recess. "No,
I know what you are going to say: you will ask to see them; but I
never show them to any one."

"For what purpose, then, do you paint them?" were the words on his
lips; but he forbore to utter them. But she read the question in his
eyes.

"Did I not say one must kill time?" she returned, rather irritably:
"the occupation is soothing: surely that is reason enough."

"It is a good enough reason, I suppose," he replied, reluctantly, for
surely he must say a word here; "but one need not talk about killing
time, with so much that one could do."

Then there came a gleam of suppressed mischief in her eyes:

"Yes, I know: you may spare me that. I will listen to it all next
Sunday, if you will, when you have it your own way, and one cannot sin
against decorum and answer you. Yes, yes, there is so much to do, is
there not?--hungry people to be fed, and sick to visit,--all sorts of
disagreeables that people call duties. Ah, I am a sad sinner! I only
draw for my own amusement, and leave the poor old world to get on
without me. What a burden I must be on your conscience, Mr.
Drummond,--heavier than all the rest of your parish. What, are you
going already? and Miss Mewlstone has never given you any tea."

Then Archie explained, very shortly, that he had partaken of that
beverage at Brooklyn, and his leave-taking was rather more formal than
usual. He was very much surprised, as he stood at the hall door, that
always stood open in the summer, to hear the low sweep of a dress over
the tessellated pavement behind him, and to see a white pudgy hand
laid on his coat-sleeve.

"My dear Miss Mewlstone, how you startled me!"

"Just so; yes, I am afraid I did, Mr. Drummond; but I just wanted to
say, never mind all that nonsense; come again: she likes to see you;
she does, indeed. It is only her way to talk so; she means no harm,
poor dear,--oh, none at all!"

"Excuse me," returned Archie, in a hurt voice, "but I think you are
mistaken. Mrs. Cheyne does not care for my visits, and shows me she
does not: if it were not my duty, I should not come so often."

"No, no; just so, but all the same it rouses her and does her good. It
is a bad day with her, poor dear!--the very day the darlings were
taken ill, four years ago. Now, don't go away and fancy things, don't,
there's a dear young man; come as often as you can, and try and do her
good."

"Oh, if I only knew how that is to be done!" returned Archie, slowly;
but he was mollified in spite of himself. There were tears in Miss
Mewlstone's little blue eyes: perhaps she was a good creature after
all.

"I will come again, but not just yet," he said, nodding to her
good-humoredly; but as he walked down the road he told himself that
Mrs. Cheyne had never before made herself so disagreeable, and that it
would be long before he set foot in the White House again.



CHAPTER XVII.

"A FRIEND IN NEED."


Human nature is weak, and we are told there are mixed motives to be
found even in the holiest actions. Mr. Drummond never could be brought
to acknowledge even to himself the reason why he took so much pains to
compose his sermon for that Sunday. Without possessing any special
claim to eloquence, he had always been earnest and painstaking,
bestowing much labor on the construction and finish of his sentences,
which were in consequence more elaborate than original. At times, when
he took less pains and was simpler in style, he seldom failed to
satisfy his hearers. His voice was pleasant and well modulated, and
his delivery remarkably quiet and free from any tricks of gestures.

But on this occasion his subject baffled him; he wrote and rewrote
whole pages, and then grew discontented with his work. On the Sunday
in question he woke with the conviction that something out of the
common order of events distinguished the day from other days; but even
as this thought crossed his mind he felt ashamed of himself, and was
in consequence a little more dictatorial than usual at the
breakfast-table.

The inhabitants of Hadleigh were well accustomed to the presence of
strangers in their church. In the season there was a regular influx
of visitors that filled the lodging-houses to overflowing. Hadleigh
had always prided itself on its gentility, as a watering-place it was
select and exclusive; only the upper middle classes, and a sprinkling
of the aristocracy, were the habitual frequenters of the little town.
It was too quiet; it offered too few attractions to draw the crowds
that flocked to other places. Mr. Drummond's congregation was well
used by this time to see new faces in the strangers' pew;
nevertheless, a little thrill of something like surprise and
excitement moved a few of the younger members as Nan and her sisters
walked down the aisle, with their mother following them.

"The mother is almost as good-looking as her daughters," thought
Colonel Middleton, as he regarded the group through his gold-mounted
eye-glasses, and Miss Middleton looked up for an instant from her
prayer-book. Even Mrs. Cheyne roused from the gloomy abstraction which
was her usual approach to devotion, and looked long and curiously at
the three girlish faces before her. It was refreshing even to her to
see anything so fresh and bright-looking.

Nan and her sisters were perfectly oblivious of the sensation they
were making. Nan's pretty face was a trifle clouded: the strange
surroundings, the sight of all those people unknown to them, instead
of the dear, familiar faces that had always been before her, gave the
girl a dreary feeling of oppression and dismay. Her voice quavered
audibly as she sang, and one or two drops fell on her prayer-book as
she essayed to join in the petitions.

"Why is there not a special clause in the Litany for those who are
perplexed and in poverty? It is not only from murder and sudden death
one need pray to be delivered," thought Nan, with much sinking of
heart. "Oh, how helpless they were,--so young, and only girls, with a
great unknown world before them, and Dick away, ignorant of their
worst troubles, and too youthful a knight to win his spurs and pledge
himself to their service!"

Nan's sweet downcast face drew many eyes in the direction of the great
square pew in which they sat. Phillis intercepted some of these looks,
as her attention insensibly wandered during the service. It was wrong,
terribly wrong of course, but her thoughts would not concentrate
themselves on the lesson the young vicar was reading in his best
style. She was not heavy-hearted like Nan; on the contrary, little
thrills of excitement, of impatience, of repressed amusement, pervaded
her mind, as she looked at the strange faces round her "They would not
be long strange," she thought: "some of them would be her neighbors.
What would they say, all these people, when they knew----" And here
Phillis held her breath a moment. People were wondering even now who
they were. They had dressed themselves that morning, rehearsing their
parts, as it were, with studied simplicity. The gown Nan wore was as
inexpensive as a gown could be; her hat was a model of neatness and
propriety: nevertheless, Phillis groaned in spirit as she glanced at
her. Where had she got that style? She looked like a young princess
who was playing at Arcadia. Would people ever dare to ask her to work
for them? Would they not beg her pardon, and cry shame on themselves
for entertaining such a thought for a moment? Phillis almost envied
Nan, who was shedding salt tears on her prayer-book. She thought she
was absorbed in her devotions, while her own thoughts would wander so
sadly; and then a handsome face in the opposite pew attracted her
attention. Surely that must be Mrs. Cheyne, who lived in the White
House near them, of whom Nan had talked,--the poor woman who had lost
husband and children and who lived in solitary state. The sermon had
now commenced, but Phillis turned a deaf ear to the sentences over
which Mr. Drummond had expended so much labor: her attention was
riveted by the gloomy beautiful face before her, which alternately
attracted and repelled her.

As though disturbed by some magnetic influence, Mrs. Cheyne raised her
eyes slowly and looked at Phillis. Something in the girl's keen-eyed
glance seemed to move her strangely. The color crept into her pale
face, and her lip quivered: a moment afterwards she drew down her veil
and leaned back in her seat and Phillis, somewhat abashed, endeavored
fruitlessly to gather up the thread of the sermon.

"There! it is over! We have made our _debut_," she said, a little
recklessly, as they walked back to Beach House, where Mrs. Challoner
and Dulce were still staying. And as Nan looked at her, a little
shocked and mystified by this unusual flippancy, she continued in the
same excited way:

"Was it not strange Mr. Drummond choosing that text, 'Consider the
lilies'? He looked at us; I am sure he did, mother. It was quite a
tirade against dress and vanity; but I am sure no one could find fault
with us."

"It was a very good sermon, and I think he seems a very clever young
man," returned Mrs. Challoner, with a sigh, for the service had been a
long weariness for her. She had not been unmindful of the attention
her girls had caused; but if people only knew--And here the poor lady
had clasped her hands and put up petitions that were certainly not in
the Litany.

Phillis seemed about to say something, but she checked herself, and
they were all a little silent until they reached the house. This first
Sunday was an infliction to them all: it was a day of enforced
idleness. There was too much time for thought and room for regret. In
spite of all Phillis's efforts,--and she rattled on cheerily most of
the afternoon,--Mrs. Challoner got one of her bad headaches, from
worry, and withdrew to her room, attended by Dulce, who volunteered to
bathe her head and read her to sleep.

The church-bells were just ringing for the evening service, and Nan
rose, as usual, to put on her hat; but Phillis stopped her:

"Oh, Nan, do not let us go to church again this evening. I am terribly
wicked to-day, I know, but somehow I cannot keep my thoughts in order.
So what is the use of making the attempt? Let us take out our
prayer-books and sit on the beach: it is low tide, and a walk over the
sands would do us good after our dreadful week."

"If you are sure it would not be wrong," hesitated Nan, whose
conscience was a little hard to convince in such matters.

"No, no. And the run will do Laddie good. The poor little fellow has
been shut up in this room all day. We need not tell the mother. She
would be shocked, you know. But we never have stayed away from church
before, have we? And, to tell you the truth," continued Phillis, with
an unsteady laugh that betrayed agitation to her sister's ear, "though
I faced it very well this morning, I do not feel inclined to go
through it again. People stared so. And I could not help thinking all
the time, 'If they only knew!'--that was the thought that kept buzzing
in my head. If only Mr. Drummond and all those people knew!"

"What does it matter what people think?" returned Nan. But she said it
languidly. In her heart she was secretly dismayed at this sudden
failure of courage. Phillis had been quite bold and merry all the day,
almost reckless in her speeches.

"I am glad we came. This will do us both good," said Nan, gently, as
they left the parade behind them, and went slowly over the shelving
beach, with Laddie rolling like a clumsy black ball about their feet.
Just before them there was a pretty black-timbered cottage, covered
with roses, standing quite low on the shore, and beyond this was
nothing but shingly beach, and a stretch of wet, yellow sand, on which
the sun was shining. There was a smooth white boulder standing quite
alone, on which the girls seated themselves. The tide was still going
out; and the low wash of waves sounded pleasantly in their ears as
they advanced and then receded. A shimmer of silvery light played upon
the water, and a rosy tinge began to tint the horizon.

"How quiet and still it is!" said Phillis, in an awe-struck voice.
"When we are tired we must come here to rest ourselves. How prettily
those baby waves seem to babble! it is just like the gurgle of baby
laughter. And look at Laddie splashing in that pool: he is after that
poor little crab. Come here, you rogue!" But Laddie, intent upon his
sport, only cocked his ear restlessly and refused to obey.

"Yes, it is lovely," returned Nan. "There is quite a silvery path over
the water; by and by the sunset clouds will be beautiful. But what is
the matter, dear?" as Phillis sighed and leaned heavily against her;
and then, as she turned, she saw the girl's eyes were wet.

"Oh, Nan! shall we have strength for it? That is what I keep asking
myself to-day. No you must not look so frightened. I am brave enough
generally, and I do not mean to lose pluck; but now and then the
thought will come to me, Shall we have strength to go through with
it?"

"We must think of each other; that must keep us up," returned Nan,
whose ready sympathy fully understood her sister's mood. Only to Nan
would Phillis ever own her failure of courage or fears for the future.
But now and then the brave young heart needed comfort, and always
found it in Nan's sympathy.

"It was looking at your dear beautiful face that made me feel so
suddenly bad this morning," interrupted Phillis, with a sort of sob.
"It was not the people so much; they only amused and excited me, and I
kept thinking, 'If they only knew!' But, Nan, when I looked at
you--oh, why are you so nice and pretty, if you have got to do this
horrid work?"

"I am not a bit nicer than you and Dulce," laughed Nan, embracing her,
for she never could be made to understand that by most people she was
considered their superior in good looks. The bare idea made her angry.
"It is worse for you, Phillis, because you are so clever and have so
many ideas. But there! we must not go on pitying each other, or else,
indeed, we shall undermine our little stock of strength."

"But don't you feel terribly unhappy sometimes?" persisted Phillis.
Neither of them mentioned Dick, and yet he was in both their minds.

"Perhaps I do," returned Nan, simply; and then she added, with
quaintness that was pathetic, "You see, we are so unused to the
feeling, and it is over-hard at first: by and by we shall be more used
to not having our own way in things."

"I think I could give up that readily, if I could be sure you and
Dulce were not miserable," sighed Phillis.

"That is what I say," returned Nan. "Don't you see how simple and
beautiful that is? Thinking of each other gives us strength to go
through with it all. This evening trying to cheer you up has done me
good. I do not feel the least afraid of people to-night. Looking at
that sea and sky makes one feel the littleness and unreality of all
these worries. What does it matter--what does anything matter--if we
only do our duty and love each other, and submit to the Divine will?"
finished Nan, reverently, who seldom spoke of her deeper feelings,
even to Phillis.

"Nan, you are a saint," returned Phillis, enthusiastically. The
worried look had left her eyes; they looked clear and bright as usual.
"Oh, what a heathen I have been to-day! but, as Dulce is so fond of
saying, 'I am going to be good. I will read the evening Psalms to you,
in token of my resolution, if you like. But wait: is there not some
one coming across the sand! How eerie it looks, such a tall black
figure standing between the earth and sky!"

Phillis had good sight, or she would hardly have distinguished the
figure, which was now motionless, at such a distance. In another
moment she even announced that its draperies showed it to be a woman,
before she opened her book and commenced reading.

There is something very striking in a lonely central figure in a
scene, the outline cuts so sharply against the horizon. Nan's eyes
seemed riveted on it as she listened to Phillis's voice; it seemed to
her as immovable as a Sphinx, its rigidity lending a sort of
barrenness and forlornness to the landscape, a black edition of human
nature set under a violet and opal sky.

She almost started when it moved, at last, with a steady bearing, as
it seemed, towards them; then curiosity quickened into interest, and
she touched Phillis's arm, whispering breathlessly,--

"The Sphinx moves! Look--is not that Mrs. Cheyne, the lady who lives
at the White House near us, who always looks so lonely and unhappy?"

"Hush!" returned Phillis, "she will hear you;" and then Mrs. Cheyne
approached with the same swift even walk. She looked at them for a
moment, as she passed, with a sort of well-bred surprise in her air,
as though she marvelled to see them there; her black dress touched
Laddie, and he caught at it with an impotent bark.

The sisters must have made a pretty picture, as they sat almost
clinging together on the stone: one of Nan's little white hands rested
on Laddie's head, the other lay on Phillis's lap. Phillis glanced up
from her book, keen-eyed and alert in a moment; she turned her head to
look at the stranger that had excited her interest, and then rose to
her feet with a little cry of dismay.

"Oh, Nan, I am afraid she has hurt herself! She gave such a slip just
now. I wonder what has happened? She is leaning against the
breakwater, too. Shall we go and ask her if she feels ill or
anything?"

"You may go," was Nan's answer. Nevertheless, she followed Phillis.

Mrs. Cheyne looked up at them a little sharply as they came towards
her. Her face was gray and contracted with pain.

"I have slipped on a wet stone, and my foot has somehow turned on me,"
she said, quickly, as Phillis ran up to her. "It was very stupid. I
cannot think how it happened; but I have certainly sprained my ankle.
It gives me such pain. I cannot move."

"Oh, dear, I am so sorry!" returned Phillis, good-naturedly; and, in
the most natural manner, she knelt down on the beach, and took the
injured foot in her hands. "Yes, I can feel it is swelling dreadfully:
we must try and get your boot off before the attempt gets too
painful." And she commenced unfastening it with deft fingers.

"How am I to walk without my boot?" observed Mrs. Cheyne, a little
drily, as she looked down on the girl; but here Nan interposed in her
brisk sensible way:

"You must not walk; you must not think of such a thing. We will wet
our handkerchiefs in the salt water, and bind up your ankle as well as
we can; and then one of us will walk over to the White House for
assistance. Your servants could easily obtain a wheeled chair."

"You knew I lived at the White House, then?" returned Mrs. Cheyne,
arching her eyebrows in some surprise; but she offered no opposition
to Nan's plan. The removal of the boot had brought on a sensation of
faintness, and she sat perfectly still and quiet while the girls
swathed the foot in wet bandages.

"It is a little easier now," she observed, gratefully. "How neatly you
have done it! you must be used to such work. I am really very much
obliged to you both for your kindly help; and now I am afraid I must
trouble you further if I am ever to reach home."

"I will go at once," returned Nan, cheerfully; "but I will leave my
sister for fear you should feel faint again: besides, it is so
lonely."

"Oh, I am used to loneliness!" was the reply, as a bitter expression
crossed her face.

Phillis, who was still holding the sprained foot in her lap, looked up
in her eager way.

"I think one gets used to everything; that is a merciful dispensation;
but all the same I hope you will not send me away. I dearly like to be
useful; and at present my object is to prevent your foot coming into
contact with these stones. Are you really in less pain now?--you look
dreadfully pale."

"Oh, that is nothing!" she returned, with a smile so sudden and sweet
that it quite startled Phillis, for it lit up her face like sunshine;
but almost before she caught it, it was gone. "How good you are to me!
and yet I am a perfect stranger!" and then she added, as though with
an afterthought, "But I saw you in church this morning."

Phillis nodded: the question certainly required no answer.

"If I knew you better, I should ask why your eyes questioned me so
closely this morning. Do you know, Miss--Miss----" And here she
hesitated and smiled, waiting for Phillis to fill up the blank.

"My name is Challoner,--Phillis Challoner," replied Phillis, coloring
a little; and then she added, frankly, "I am afraid you thought me
rude, and that I stared at you, but my thoughts were all topsy-turvy
this morning and refused to be kept in order. One feels curious,
somehow, about the people among whom one has come to live."

"Have you come to live here?" asked Mrs. Cheyne, eagerly, and a gleam
of pleasure shot into her dark eyes,--"you, and your mother and
sisters?"

"Yes; we have just come to the Friary,--a little cottage standing on
the Braidwood Road."

Her manner became a little constrained and reserved as she said this:
the charming frankness disappeared.

"The Friary!" echoed Mrs. Cheyne; and then she paused for a moment,
and her eyes rested searchingly on Phillis. "That shabby little
cottage!" was the thought that filled up the outline of her words;
but, though she felt inward surprise and a momentary disappointment,
there was no change in the graciousness of her manner. Never before
had she so thawed to any one: but the girl's sweet ministry had won
her heart. "Then you will be near me,--just at my gates? We shall be
close neighbors. I hope you will come and see me, Miss Challoner."

Poor Phillis! the blood suddenly rushed over her face at this. How was
she to answer without appearing ungracious?--and yet at this moment
how could she explain?

"If you please, we are dressmakers." Oh, no! such words as these would
not get themselves said. It was too abrupt, too sudden, altogether:
she was not prepared for such a thing. Oh, why had she not gone to the
White House instead of Nan? Her officiousness had brought this on her.
She could not put the poor foot off her lap and get up and walk away
to cool her hot cheeks.

"Thank you; you are very good," she stammered, feeling herself an
utter fool: she,--Phillis,--the clever one!

Mrs. Cheyne seemed rather taken aback by the girl's sudden reserve and
embarrassment.

"I suppose you think I should call first, and thank you for your
kindness," she returned, quickly; "but I was afraid my foot would keep
me too long a prisoner. And, as we are to be neighbors, I hardly
thought it necessary to stand on ceremony; but if you would rather
wait----"

"Oh, no," replied Phillis, in despair; "we will not trouble you to do
that! Nan and I will call and ask after your foot, and then we will
explain. There is a little difficulty: you might not care to be
friends with us if you knew," went on Phillis with burning cheeks;
"but we will call and explain. Oh, yes, Nan and I will call!"

"Do; I shall expect you," returned Mrs. Cheyne, half amused and half
mystified at the girl's obvious confusion. What did the child mean?
They were gentle-people,--one could see that at a glance. They were in
reduced circumstances: they had come down to Hadleigh to retrench.
Well, what did that matter? People's wealth or poverty never affected
her; she would think none the less well of them for that; she would
call at the Friary and entertain them at the White House with as much
pleasure as though they lived in a palace. The little mystery piqued
her, and yet excited her interest. It was long since she had
interested herself so much in anything. To Miss Middleton she had
always been cold and uncertain. Mr. Drummond she treated with a
mixture of satire and haughtiness that aroused his ire. Phillis's
frankness and simplicity had won her for a moment to her earlier and
better self: she conceived an instantaneous liking for the girl who
looked at her with such grave kindly glances. "I shall expect you,
remember," she repeated, as Nan at that moment appeared in sight.

"Oh, yes, Nan and I will come," returned Phillis, slowly, and almost
solemnly; but an instant afterwards a flicker of amusement played
round her mouth. It was painful, of course; but, still, how droll it
was!

"How long you have been, Nan!" she exclaimed, a little unreasonably,
as Nan ran towards them, flushed and breathless from her haste.

"It has not been long to me," observed Mrs. Cheyne, pointedly. She
talked more to Nan than to Phillis after this, until the servants
appeared with the wheeled chair; but nevertheless her last words were
for Phillis. "Remember your promise," was all she said, as she held
out her hand to the girl; and Phillis tried to smile in answer, though
it was rather a failure after all.



CHAPTER XVIII.

DOROTHY BRINGS IN THE BEST CHINA.


"What a fool I made of myself yesterday! but to-day Richard is himself
again," said Phillis, as she gathered up another muslin curtain in her
arms ready to hand to Nan, who was mounted on some steps. It was only
Monday afternoon, but the girls had done wonders: the work-room, as
they called it, was nearly finished. The great carved wardrobe and
mahogany table had been polished by Dorothy's strong hands. Mrs.
Challoner's easy-chair and little work-table at one window looked
quite inviting; the sewing-machine and Nan's rosewood davenport were
in their places. A hanging cupboard of old china, and a few well-bound
books, gave a little coloring and finish, and one or two fine old
prints that had hung in the dining-room at Glen Cottage had been
disposed with advantage on the newly-papered walls. An inlaid clock
ticked on the mantelpiece, and some handsome ruby-colored vases stood
on either side of it. Nan was quite right when she had glanced round
her a few minutes ago in a satisfied manner and said no one need be
ashamed of living in such a room.

"Our pretty things make it look almost too nice for the purpose," she
continued, handling a precious relic, a Sevres cup and saucer, that
had been her especial pride in old days. "I think you were wrong,
Phil, not to have the china in the other room."

"No, indeed; I want people to see it and be struck with our taste,"
was Phillis's frank answer. "Think what pleasure it will give the poor
ladies when their dresses are being tried on. Don't you remember the
basket of wax fruit at Miss Slinders's, when we were small children? I
thought it the loveliest work of art, and feasted my eyes all the time
Miss Slinders was fitting my pink frock. Now, our pictures and china
will refresh people's eyes in the same way."

Nan smiled and shook her head, as she dusted and arranged her
treasures. The china was very dear to her,--far more than the books
Phillis was arranging on the chiffonnier. The Dresden figures that
Dick had given to her mother were among them. She did not care for
strangers to look at them and appraise their value. They were home
treasures,--sacred relics of their past. The last time she had dusted
them, a certain young man of her acquaintance had walked through the
open window whistling "Blue bonnets over the Border," and had taken up
his station beside her, hindering her work with his chattering. Dulce
was in the upper regions, unpacking a box in her mother's room. Mrs.
Challoner was coming home the next day, and Dorothy and she were hard
at work getting things in order.

When Phillis made her downright speech, Nan looked down from her lofty
perch, and held out her arms for the curtain.

"Richard is always himself, my dear," she said, softly. "Do you know
when you are down, Phil, I feel as though we are all at a stand-still,
and there's no getting on at all? and then at one of your dear droll
speeches the sunshine comes out again, and we are all as right as
possible."

"Don't talk nonsense," was Phillis's blunt answer; but she could not
help being pleased at the compliment. She looked up archly at Nan, as
the mass of soft white drapery lay between them; and then they both
broke into a laugh, just as two shadows seemed to glide past the
window, and a moment afterwards the house-bell sounded.
"Visitors!--oh, Nan!" And Phillis glanced down at the neat bib apron
that she wore over her cambric dress.

"Don't be afraid; Dorothy will have too much sense to admit them,"
returned Nan, quite indifferently, as she went up a step higher to
hang up the curtain.

Phillis was still holding it; but her manner was not quite so well
assured. She thought she heard Dulce's voice in confabulation with the
stranger. A moment afterwards Dulce came briskly into the room.

"Nan, Mr. Drummond and his sister have kindly called to see us. We are
not in order, of course. Oh, dear!" as Nan looked down on them with
startled eyes, not venturing to descend from her perch. "I ought not
to have brought them in here," looking half mischievously and half
guiltily at the young clergyman, who stood hat in hand on the
threshold.

"It is I who ought not to have intruded," he began, in a perfect agony
of embarrassment, blushing over his face like a girl as Nan looked
down at him in much dignity, but Mattie, who was behind him, pushed
forward in her usual bustling way.

"Oh, Miss Challoner, it is too bad! I told Archie that we ought not to
come too soon----" but Phillis stopped her with an outstretched hand
of welcome.

"What is too bad? I call it very kind and friendly of you both: one
hardly expected to find such good neighbors. Nan, if that curtain is
finished I think you had better come down. Take care; those steps are
rickety: perhaps Mr. Drummond will help you."

"Let me do the other ones for you. I don't think those steps are
safe!" exclaimed Archie, with sudden inspiration.

No one at home would have believed such a thing of him. Mattie's eyes
grew quite round and fixed with astonishment at the sight. He had not
even shaken hands with Nan, yet there he was, mounted in her place,
slipping in the hooks with dexterous hands, while Nan quietly held up
the curtain.

Months afterwards the scene came back on Archibald Drummond with a
curious thrill half of pain and half of amusement. How had he done it?
he wondered. What had made him all at once act in a way so unlike
himself?--for, with the best intention, he was always a little stiff
and constrained with strangers. Yet there he was laughing as though he
had known them all his life, because Nan had rebuked him gravely for
slipping two hooks into one ring. Months afterwards he recalled it
all: Nan glancing up at him with quietly amused eyes, Phillis standing
apart, looking quaint and picturesque in her bib-apron, Dulce with the
afternoon sunshine lighting up her brown hair; the low old-fashioned
room, with the great carved wardrobe, and the cupboard of dainty
china; the shady little lawn outside, with Laddie rolling among the
daisies. What made it suddenly start up in his memory like a picture
one has seen and never quite forgotten?

"Thank you, Mr. Drummond. You have done it so nicely," said Nan, with
the utmost gravity, as he lingered, almost unwilling to descend to
conventionality again. Dulce and Phillis were busily engaged looping
up the folds. "Now we will ask Dorothy to remove the steps and then we
can sit down comfortably."

But here Archie interposed:

"Why need you call any one? Tell me where I shall put them." Mattie
broke into a loud laugh. She could not help it. It was too droll of
Archie. She must write and tell Grace.

Archie heard the laugh as he marched out of the room with his burden,
and it provoked him excessively. He made some excuse about admiring
Laddie, and went out on the lawn for a few minutes, accompanied by
Nan. When they came back, the curtains were finished and the two girls
were talking to Mattie. Mattie seemed quite at ease with them.

"We have such a dear old garden at the vicarage," she was saying, as
her brother came into the room. "I am not much of a gardener myself
but Archie works for hours at a time. He talks of getting a set of
tennis down from town. We think it will help to bring people together.
You must promise to come and play sometimes of an afternoon when you
have got the cottage in order."

"Thank you," returned Phillis; and then Nan and she exchanged looks. A
sort of blankness came over the sisters' faces,--a sudden dying out of
the brightness and fun.

Mr. Drummond grew a little alarmed:

"I hope you will not disappoint my sister. She has few friends, and is
rather lonely, missing so many sisters; and you are such close
neighbors."

"Yes, we are close neighbors," returned Phillis. But her voice was a
little less clear than usual; and, to Archie's astonishment,--for they
all seemed talking comfortably together,--her face had grown suddenly
pale. "But you must not think us unkind if we refuse your
hospitality," she went on, looking straight at him, and not at Mattie.
"Owing to painful circumstances, we have made up our minds that no
such pleasure are in store for us. We must learn to do without things:
must we not, Nan?"

"Yes, indeed," returned Nan, very gravely. And then the tears came
into Dulce's eyes. Was Phillis actually going to tell them? She would
have run away, only she was ashamed of such cowardice.

"I hope you do not mean to do without friends," stammered Archie.
"That would be too painful to bear." He thought they were excusing
themselves from partaking of their neighbors' hospitality because they
were too poor to return it, and wanted to set them at their ease. "You
may have reasons for wishing to be quiet. Perhaps Mrs. Challoner's
health, and--and--parties are not always desirable," he went on,
floundering, a little in his speech, and signing to Mattie to come to
his help, which she did at once, breathlessly:

"Parties! Oh, dear, no! They are such a trouble and expense. But
tennis and tea on the lawn is just nothing,--nothing at all. One can
give a little fruit and some home-made cake. No one need scruple at
that. Archie is not rich,--clergymen never are, you know,--but he
means to entertain his friends as well as he can. I should like you to
see Miss Middleton. She is a charming person. And the colonel is as
nice as possible. We will just ask them to meet you in a quiet way,
and, if your mother is not too much of an invalid, I hope she will
give us the pleasure of her company, for when people are such close
neighbors it is stupid to stand on ceremony," finished Mattie,
bringing herself rapidly to a full stop.

"You are very kind. But you do not understand," returned Phillis. And
then she stopped, and a gleam of fun came into her eyes. Her sharp
ears had caught the rattle of cups and saucers. Actually, that absurd
Dorothy was bringing in tea in the old way, making believe that they
were entertaining their friends in Glen Cottage fashion! She must get
out the truth somehow before the pretty purple china made its
appearance. "Oh," she went on, with a sort of gulp, as though she felt
the sudden touch of cold water, "you come here meaning kindly, and
asking us to your house, and taking compassion upon us because we are
strangers and lonely, and you do not know that we are poor, and that
we have lost our money, and----" But here Mr. Drummond was absolutely
rude enough to interrupt her:

"What does that matter, my dear Miss Challoner? Do you think that is
of any consequence in mine or my sister's eyes? I suppose if I be your
clergyman----" And then he stopped, and stroked his beard in an
embarrassed way; for though Phillis's face was pale, there was
laughter in her eyes.

"Oh, if this be a parochial visit," she began, demurely; "but you
should not have talked of tennis, Mr. Drummond. How do you know we are
not Roman Catholics, or Wesleyans, or even Baptists, or Bible
Christians? We might have gone to your church out of curiosity on
Sunday, or to see the fashions. There is not a Quaker cut about us;
but, still, we might be Unitarians, and people would not find it out,"
continued Phillis, looking with much solemnity at the bewildered young
Anglican.

The situation was too absurd; there was no knowing to what length
Phillis's recklessness and sense of humor would have brought her, only
Nan's good sense came to the rescue:

"Phillis is only in fun, Mr. Drummond. Of course we are Church-people:
and of course we hope to attend your services. I am sure my mother
will be pleased to see you, when you are kind enough to call. At
Oldfield we were always good friends with our clergyman: he was such a
dear old man."

"Do you mean to forbid my sister's visits, then?" asked Archie,
looking anxiously at her sweet face; Nan looked so pretty, in spite of
her discomposure.

"Oh, no! we do not mean to be so rude: do we, Phillis? We shall be so
glad to see Miss Drummond; but--but," faltered Nan, losing breath a
little, "we have been unfortunate, and must work for our living; and
your sister perhaps would not care to visit dressmakers."

"What!" exclaimed Archie: he almost jumped out of his chair in his
surprise.

Phillis had uttered a faint "Bravo, Nan!" but no one heard her.
Dulce's cheeks were crimson, and she would not look at any one; but
Nan, who had got out the dreaded word, went on bravely, and was well
hugged by Phillis in private afterwards.

"We are not clever enough for governesses," continued Nan, with a
charming smile, addressing Mattie, who sat and stared at her, "and
there was nothing we dreaded so much as to separate: so, as we had
capable fingers and were fond of work, my sister Phillis planned this
for us. Now you see, Miss Drummond, why we could not accept your kind
hospitality. Whatever we have been, we cannot expect people to visit
us now. If you would be good enough to recommend us, and help us in
our efforts to make ourselves independent, that is all we can ask of
you."

"Well, I don't know," returned Mattie, bluntly: "as far as I am
concerned, I am never ashamed of any honest calling. What do you say,
Archie?"

"I say it is all very proper and laudable," he returned, hesitating;
"but surely--surely there must be some other way more suitable to
ladies in your position! Let me call again when your mother comes, and
see if there is nothing that I can do or recommend better than this.
Yes, I am sure if I can only talk to your mother, we could find some
other way than this."

"Indeed, Mr. Drummond, you must do nothing of the kind," replied
Phillis, in an alarmed voice: "the poor dear mother must not be
disturbed by any such talk! You mean it kindly, but we have made up
our own minds, Nan and I: we mean to do without the world and live in
one of our own; and we mean to carry out our plan in defiance of
everything and everybody; and, though you are our clergyman and we are
bound to listen to your sermons, we cannot take your advice in this."

"But--but I would willingly act as a friend," began the young man,
confusedly, looking not at her, but at Nan.

He was so bewildered, so utterly taken aback, he hardly knew what he
said.

"Here comes Dorothy with the tea," interrupted Nan, pleasantly, as
though dismissing the subject: "she has not forgotten our old customs.
Friends always came around us in the afternoon. Mr. Drummond, perhaps
you will make yourself useful and cut the cake. Dorothy, you need not
have unpacked the best silver teapot." Nan was moving about in her
frank hospitable way. Laddie was whining for cake, and breaking into
short barks of impatience. "This is one of our Glen Cottage cakes.
Susan always prides herself on the recipe," said Nan, calmly, as she
pressed it on her guests.

Mr. Drummond almost envied his sister as she praised the cake and
asked for the recipe. He had always found fault with her manners; but
now nothing could be finer than her simplicity. Pure good nature and
innate womanliness were teaching Mattie something better than tact.
Nan had dropped a painful subject, and she would not revive it in her
brother's presence. There would be plenty of time for her to call and
talk it over with them quietly. Help them!--of course she would help
them. They should have her new silk dress that Uncle Conway had just
sent her. It was a risk, for perhaps they might spoil it; but such
fine creatures should have a chance. At present she would only enjoy
the nice tea, and talk to poor little frightened Dulce, who seemed
unable to open her lips after her sister's disclosure.

Archie could not emulate her ease: a man is always at a disadvantage
in such a case. His interest had sustained no shock: it was even
stimulated by what he had just heard; but his sympathy seemed all at
once congealed, and he could find no vent for it. In spite of his best
efforts his manner grew more and more constrained every moment.

Nan looked at him more than once with reproachful sweetness. She
thought they had lost caste in his eyes; but Phillis, who was shrewd
and sharp-set in her wits, read him more truly. She knew--having
already met a score of such--how addicted young Englishmen are to
_mauvaise honte_, and how they will hide acute sensibilities under
blunt and stolid exteriors; and there was a certain softness in Mr.
Drummond's eye that belied his stiffness. Most likely he was very
sorry for them, and did not know how to show it; and in this she was
right.

Mr. Drummond was very sorry for them; but he was still more grieved
for himself. The Oxford fellow had not long been a parish priest, and
he could not at all understand the position in which he found
himself,--taking tea with three elegant young dressmakers who talked
the purest English and had decided views on tennis and horticulture.
He had just been congratulating himself on securing such companionship
for his sister and himself. Being rather classical-minded, he had been
calling them the gray-eyed Graces, and one of them at least "a
daughter of the gods,--divinely tall and most divinely fair;" for
where had he seen anything to compare with Nan's bloom and charming
figure? Dressmakers!--oh, if only Grace were at hand, that he might
talk to her, and gain her opinion how he was to act in such case!
Grace had the stiff-necked Drummond pride as well as he, and would
hesitate long behind the barriers of conventionality. No wonder, with
all these thoughts passing through his mind, that Nan, with her bright
surface talk, found him a little vague.

It was quite a relief to all the party when Mattie gave the signal for
departure and the bell was rung for Dorothy to show them out.

"Well, Nan, what do you think of our visitors?" asked Phillis, when
the garden-door had clanged noisily after them, and she had treated
Nan to the aforesaid hugs; "for you were so brave, darling, and
actually took the wind out of my sails!" exclaimed the enthusiastic
Phillis. "Miss Drummond is not so bad, after all, is she, in spite of
her dowdiness and fussy ways?"

"No; she means well; and so does her brother. He is very nice, only
his self-consciousness spoils him," returned Nan, in a calm,
discursive tone, as though they were discussing ordinary visitors.

It was impossible for these young girls to see that their ordinary
language was not humble enough for their new circumstances. They would
make mistakes at every turn, like Dorothy, who got out the best china
and brewed her tea in the melon-shaped silver teapot.

Phillis opened her eyes rather widely at this. Nan was not often so
observant. It was true: self-consciousness was a torment to Archibald
Drummond, a Frankenstein of his own creation, that had grown
imperceptibly with his growth to the fell measure of his manhood, as
inseparable as the shadow from the substance. Phillis had recognized
it at once; but then, as she said, no one was faultless; and then, he
was so handsome. "Very handsome" chimed in Dulce, whose opinions were
full-fledged in such matters.

"Is he? Well, I never cared for a man with a long fair beard,"
observed Nan, carelessly. Poor Archie! how his vanity would have
suffered if he had heard her! for, in a masculine way, he prided
himself excessively on the soft silky appendage that Grace had so
often praised. A certain boyish countenance, with kindly honest eyes
and a little sandy moustache, was more to Nan's taste than the
handsome young Anglican.

"Oh, we all know Nan's opinion in such matters," said Dulce, slyly;
and then Nan blushed, and suddenly remembered that Dorothy was waiting
for her in the linen-closet, and hurried away, leaving her sisters to
discuss their visitors to their hearts' content.



CHAPTER XIX.

ARCHIE IS IN A BAD HUMOR.


"Oh, Archie, I was never more astonished in my life!" exclaimed
Mattie, as she tried to adapt her uneven trot to her brother's long
swinging footsteps; and then she glanced up in his face to read his
mood: but Archie's features were inscrutable and presented an
appalling blank. In his mind he was beginning his letter to Grace, and
wondering what he should say to her about their new neighbors.
"Writing is such a nuisance when one wants to talk to a person," he
thought, irritably.

"Oh, Archie, won't you tell me what we are to do?" went on Mattie,
excitedly. She would not take Archie's silence as a hint that he
wanted to keep his thoughts to himself. "Those poor girls! oh, how
nice and pretty they all are, especially the eldest! and is not the
youngest--Dulce, I think they called her--the very image of Isabel?"

"Isabel! not a bit. That is so like you, Mattie. You always see
likenesses when other people cannot trace the faintest resemblance,"
for this remark was sure to draw out his opposition. Isabel was a
silly flirting little thing in her brother's estimation, and, he
thought, could not hold a candle to the youngest Miss Challoner.

"Oh dear! now I have made you cross!" sighed poor Mattie, who
especially wanted to keep him in good humor. "And yet every one but
you thinks Isabel so pretty. I am sure, from what Grace said in her
last letter, that Mr. Ellis Burton means to propose to her."

"And I suppose you will all consider that a catch," sneered Archie.
"That is so like a parcel of women, thinking every man who comes to
the house and makes a few smooth-tongued speeches--is, in fact,
civil--must be after a girl. Of course you have all helped to instill
this nonsense into the child's head."

"Dear me, how you talk, Archie!" returned Mattie, feeling herself
snubbed as usual. Why, Archie had been quite excited about it only the
other day, and had said quite seriously that with seven girls in a
family, it would be a great blessing if Isabel could make such a
match; for it was very unlikely that Laura and Susie, or even Clara,
would do much for themselves in that way, unless they decidedly
improved in looks.

"Well, it is nothing to me," he returned in a chilling manner; "we all
know our own mind best. If an angular lantern-jawed fellow like
Burton, who, by the bye, does not speak the best English, is to
Isabel's taste, let her have him by all means: he is well-to-do, and I
dare say will keep a carriage for her by and by: that is what you
women think a great advantage," finished Archie, who certainly seemed
bent on making himself disagreeable.

Mattie heaved another great sigh, but she did not dare to contradict
him. Grace would have punished him on the spot by a dose of satire
that would have brought him to reason and good nature in a moment; but
Mattie ventured only on those laborious sighs which she jerked up from
the bottom of her honest little heart.

Archie heard the sigh, and felt ashamed of his bad temper. He did not
know himself why he felt so suddenly cross; some secret irritation was
at work within him, and he could scarcely refrain from bidding Mattie
quite roughly to hold her tongue and not tease him with her chatter.
If she expected him in his present state of mind, which was at once
contradictory and aggressive, to talk to her about the Challoners, she
must just make up her mind to be disappointed, for he could not bring
himself to speak of them to her just now: he wanted to hold counsel
with his own thoughts and with Grace. He would call at the Friary
again and see Mrs. Challoner, and find out more of this strange
matter; but as to talking it over with Mattie, he quite shrugged his
shoulders as he swung open the green door.

"Are you going in?" faltered Mattie, as she noticed this movement.

"Well, yes; I have letters to write, and it is too hot for a longer
walk," he returned, decidedly; and then, as Mattie stood hesitating
and wistful in the middle of the road, he strode off, leaving the door
to close noisily after him, and not caring to inquire into her further
movements, such being the occasional graceless manners of brothers
when sisterly friendship is not to their liking.

Mattie felt snubbed; but for the first time in her life, she did not
take her snubbing meekly. It was too much to expect of her, who was
only a woman and not one of Archie's divinities, that she should
follow him into the house and hold her tongue just because he was
pleased to refrain from speaking. Water must find its vent; and
Mattie's tongue could not be silenced in this way. If Archie would not
talk to her, Miss Middleton would: so at once she trotted off for
Brooklyn, thereby incurring Archie's wrath if he could only have known
her purpose; for gossip was to him as the sin of witchcraft, unless he
stooped to it himself, and then it was amiable sociability.

Miss Middleton was listening to her father's reading as usual, but she
welcomed Mattie with open arms, literally as well as metaphorically,
for she kissed Mattie on either cheek, and then scolded her tenderly
for looking so flushed and tired; "for somebody who is always looking
after other people, and never has time to spare for herself, is
growing quite thin; is she not, father? and we must write to Grace if
this goes on," finished Miss Middleton, with one of her kind looks.

All this was cordial to poor Mattie, who, though she was used to
snubbing, and took as kindly to it as a spaniel to water, yet felt
herself growing rather like a thread-paper and shabby with every-day
worries and never an encouraging word to inspirit her.

So she gave Elizabeth a misty little smile,--Mattie's smile was
pretty, though her features were ordinary,--and then sat up straight
and began to enjoy herself,--that is, to talk,--never noticing that
Colonel Middleton looked at his paper in a crestfallen manner, not
much liking the interruption and the cessation of his own voice.

"Oh, dear!" began Mattie: she generally prefaced her remarks by an
"Oh, dear!" ("That was one of her jerky ways," as Archie said.) "I
could not help coming straight to you, for Archie would not talk, and
I felt I must tell somebody. Oh, dear, Miss Middleton! What do you
think? We have just called at the Friary--and----" but here Colonel
Middleton's countenance relaxed, and he dropped his paper.

"Those young ladies, eh? Come, Elizabeth, this is interesting. Well,
what sort of place is the Friary, seen from the inside, eh, Miss
Drummond?"

"Oh, it is very nice," returned Mattie, enthusiastically. "We were
shown into such a pretty room, looking out on the garden. They have so
many nice things,--pictures, and old china, and handsomely-bound
books, and all arranged so tastefully. And before we went away, the
old servant--she seems really quite a superior person--brought in an
elegant little tea-tray: the cups and saucers were handsomer even than
yours, Miss Middleton,--dark-purple and gold. Just what I admire
so----"

"Ah, reduced in circumstances! I told you so, Elizabeth," ejaculated
the colonel.

"I never saw Archie enjoy himself so much or seem so thoroughly at
home anywhere. Somehow, the girls put us so at our ease. Though they
were hanging up curtains when we went in,--and any one else would have
been annoyed at our intruding so soon,--actually, before we were in
the room a moment, Archie was on the steps, helping the eldest Miss
Challoner fasten the hooks."

Miss Middleton exchanged an amused look with her father. Mattie's
narrative was decidedly interesting.

"Oh, don't tell him I repeated that, for he is always calling me
chatterbox!" implored Mattie, who feared she had been indiscreet, and
that the colonel was not to be trusted, which was quite true as far as
jokes were concerned. No one understood the art of teasing better than
he, and the young vicar had already had a taste of his kindly satire.
"Archie only meant to be good-natured and put every one at their
ease."

"Quite right. Mr. Drummond is always kind," returned Elizabeth,
benignly. She had forgotten Mattie's frequent scoldings, and the poor
little thing's tired face, or she would never have hazarded such a
compromise with truth. But somehow Elizabeth always forgot people's
weaknesses, especially when they were absent. It was so nice and easy
to praise people; and if she always believed what she said, that was
because her faith was so strong, and charity that is love was her
second nature.

"Oh, yes, of course," returned Mattie, innocently. She was far too
loyal a little soul to doubt Archie's kindness for a moment. Was he
not the pride and ornament of the family,--the domestic pope who
issued his bulls without possibility of contradiction? Whatever Archie
did must be right. Was not that their domestic creed?--a little
slavish, perhaps, but still so exquisitely feminine. Mattie was of
opinion that--well, to use a mild term--irritability was a necessary
adjunct of manhood. All men were cross sometimes. It behooved their
womankind, then, to throw oil on the troubled waters,--to speak
peaceably, and to refrain from sour looks, or even the shadow of a
frown. Archie was never cross with Grace: therefore it must be she,
Mattie, on whom the blame lay; she was such a silly little thing, And
so on. There is no need to follow the self-accusation of one of the
kindest hearts that ever beat.

"Did not your visit end as pleasantly as it began?" asked Elizabeth,
who, though she was over-merciful in her judgments, was not without a
good deal of sagacity and shrewdness. Something lay beyond the margin
of Mattie's words, she could see that plainly; and then her father was
getting impatient.

"Well, you see, that spoiled everything," returned Mattie, jumbling
her narrative in the oddest manner. "Archie was so sorry, and so was
I; and he got quite--you know his way when he feels uncomfortable. I
thought Miss Challoner was joking at first,--that it was just a bit of
make-believe fun,--until I saw how grave Miss Phillis, that is the
second one, looked: and then the little one--at least, she is not
little, but somehow one fancies she is--seemed as though she were
going to cry."

"But what did Miss Challoner say to distress you and Mr. Drummond so?"
asked Elizabeth, trying patiently to elicit facts and not vague
statements from Mattie.

"Oh, she said--no, please don't think I am exaggerating, for it is all
true--that they had lost their money, and were very poor, and, that
she and her sisters were dressmakers."

"Dressmakers!" shouted the colonel, and his ruddy face grew almost
purple with the shock: his very moustache seemed to bristle.
"Dressmakers! my dear Miss Drummond, I don't believe a word of it!
Those girls! It is a hoax!--a bit of nonsense from beginning to end!"

"Hush, father! you are putting Mattie out," returned Elizabeth,
mildly. It was one of her idiosyncrasies to call people as soon as
possible by their Christian names, though no one but her father and
brother ever called her Elizabeth. Perhaps her gray hair, and a
certain soft dignity that belonged to her, forbade such freedom. "Dear
father, we must let Mattie speak." But even Elizabeth let her work lie
unheeded in her lap in the engrossing interest of the subject.

"I do not mean they have been dressmakers all this time, but this is
their plan for the future. Miss Challoner said they were not clever
enough for governesses, and that they did not want to separate. But
that is what they mean to do,--to make dresses for people who are not
half so good as themselves."

"Preposterous! absurd!" groaned the colonel. "Where is their
mother? What can the old lady be thinking about?" Mrs. Challoner
was not an old lady by any means; but then the choleric colonel had
never seen her, or he would not have applied that term to the
aristocratic-looking gentlewoman whom Mattie had admired in Miss
Milner's shop.

"I had a good look round the room afterwards," went on Mattie,
letting this pass. "They had got a great carved wardrobe,--I thought
that funny in a sitting-room; but of course it was for the
dresses,"--another groan from the colonel,--"and there was a
sewing-machine, and a rosewood davenport for accounts, and a
chiffonnier of course for the pieces. Oh, they mean business; and I
should not be surprised if they understand their work well," went on
Mattie, warming up to her subject and thinking of the breadths of
green silk that reposed so snugly between silver paper in her
drawers at the vicarage,--the first silk dress she had ever owned,
for the Drummond finances did not allow of such luxuries,--the new
color, too; such a soft, invisible, shadowy green, like an autumn
leaf shrivelled by the sun's richness. "Oh, if they should spoil it!"
thought Mattie, with a sigh, as the magnitude of her intended
sacrifice weighed heavily upon her mind.

"It is sheer girlish nonsense,--I might say foolery; and the mother
must be a perfect idiot!" began the colonel, angrily.

He was an excitable man; and his wrath at the intelligence was really
very great. He had taken a fancy to the new-comers, and was prepared
to welcome them heartily in his genial way; but now his old-fashioned
prejudices were grievously wounded. It was against his nice code of
honor that women should do anything out of the usual beaten groove:
innovations that would make them conspicuous were heinous sins in his
eyes.

"Come, Mattie, you and I will have a chat about this by ourselves,"
observed Elizabeth, cheerfully, as she noticed her father's vexation.
He would soon cool down if left to himself: she knew that well.
"Suppose we go down to Miss Milner, and hear what she has to say: you
may depend upon it that it was this that made her so reserved with us
the other day."

"Oh, do you think so?" exclaimed Mattie; but she was charmed at the
idea of fresh gossip. And then they set off together.

Miss Milner seemed a little surprised to see them so soon, for Mattie
had already paid her a visit that day; but at Miss Middleton's first
words a look of annoyance passed over her good-natured face.

"Dear, dear! to think of that leaking out already," she said, in a
vexed voice; "and I have not spoken to a soul, because the young
ladies asked me to keep their secret a few days longer. 'You must give
us till next Monday,' one of them said this very morning: 'by that
time we shall be in order, and then we can set to work.'"

"It was Miss Challoner who told me herself," observed Mattie, in a
deprecating manner. "My brother and I called this afternoon: you see,
being the clergyman, and such close neighbors, he thought we might be
of some use to the poor things."

"Poor things indeed!" ejaculated Miss Milner. "I cannot tell you how
bad I felt," she went on, her little gray curls bobbing over her high
cheek-bones with every word, "when that dear young lady put down her
head there"--pointing to a spot about as big as a half-crown on the
wooden counter--"and cried like a baby. 'Oh, how silly I am!' she
said, sobbing-like; 'and what would my sisters say to me? But you are
so kind, Miss Milner; and it does seem all so strange and horrid.' I
made up my mind, then and there," finished the good woman, solemnly,
"that I would help them to the best of my powers. I have got their
bits of advertisements to put about the shop; and there's my new black
silk dress, that has laid by since Christmas, because I knew Miss
Slasher would spoil it; not but what they may ruin it finely for me;
but I mean to shut my eyes and take the risk," with a little smile of
satisfaction over her own magnanimity.

Elizabeth stretched out her hand across the counter.

"Miss Milner, you are a good creature," she said, softly. "I honor you
for this. If people always helped each other and thought so little of
a sacrifice, the world would be a happier place." And then, without
waiting for a reply from the gratified shopwoman, she went out of the
library with a thoughtful brow.

"Miss Milner has read me a lesson," she said, by and by, when Mattie
had marvelled at her silence a little. "Conventionality makes cowards
of the best of us. I am not particularly worldly-minded," she went on,
with a faint smile, "but all the same I must plead guilty to feeling a
little shocked myself at your news; but when I have thought a little
more about it, I dare say I shall see things by a truer light, and be
as ready to admire these girls as I am now to wonder at them." And
after this she bade Mattie a kindly good-bye.

Meanwhile, Phillis was bracing herself to undergo another ordeal. Mr.
Drummond and his sister had only just left the cottage when a footman
from the White House brought a note for her. It was from Mrs. Cheyne,
and was worded in a most friendly manner.

She thanked the sisters gracefully for their timely help on the
previous evening, and, though making light of her accident, owned that
it would keep her a prisoner to her sofa for a few days; and then she
begged them to waive ceremony and come to her for an hour or two that
evening.

"I will not ask you to dinner, because that will perhaps inconvenience
you, as you must be tired or busy," she wrote; "but if one or both of
you would just put on your hats and walk up in the cool of the evening
to keep Miss Mewlstone and myself company, it would be a real boon to
us both." And then she signed herself "Magdalene Cheyne."

Phillis wore a perplexed look on her face as she took the note to Nan,
who was still in the linen-closet.

"Very kind; very friendly," commented Nan, when she had finished
reading it; "but I could not possibly go, Phil. As soon as I have done
this I have promised to sit with mother. She has been alone all day.
You could easily send an excuse, for Mrs. Cheyne must know we are
busy."

"I don't feel as though an excuse will help us here," returned
Phillis, slowly. "When an unpleasant thing has to be done, it is as
well to get it over: thinking about it only hinders one's sleep."

"But you will surely not go alone!" demanded Nan, in astonishment.
"You are so tired, Phil: you have been working hard all day. Give it
up, dear, and sit and rest in the garden a little."

"Oh, no," returned Phillis, disconsolately. "I value my night's rest
too much to imperil it so lightly: besides, I owe it to myself for a
penance for being such a coward this afternoon." And then, without
waiting for any further dissuasion, she carried off the letter and
wrote a very civil but vague reply, promising to walk up in the
evening and inquire after the invalid; and then she dismissed the
messenger, and went up to her room with a heavy heart.

Dulce came to help her, like a dutiful sister, and chattered on
without intermission.

"I suppose you will put on your best dress?" she asked, as she dived
down into the recesses of a big box.

Phillis, who was sitting wearily on the edge of her bed, roused up at
this:

"My best blue silk and cashmere, that we wore last at Fitzroy Lodge?
Dulce, how can you be so absurd! Anything will do,--the gray stuff, or
the old foulard. No, stop; I forgot: the gray dress is better made and
newer in cut. We must think of that. Oh, what a worry it is going out
when one is tired to death!" she continued, with unusual irritation.

Dulce respected her sister's mood, and held her peace, though she knew
the gray dress was the least becoming to Phillis, who was pale, and
wanted a little color to give her brightness.

"There, now, you look quite nice," she said, in a patronizing voice,
as Phillis put on her hat and took her gloves. Phillis nodded her
thanks rather sadly, and then bethought herself and came back and
kissed her.

"Thank you, dear Dulce; I am not nearly so tired now; but it is
getting late, and I must run off." And so she did until she had turned
the corner, and then, in spite of herself, her steps became slower and
more lagging.



CHAPTER XX.

"YOU ARE ROMANTIC."


Human nature is prone to argument; a person will often in the course
of a few moments bring himself or herself to the bar of conscience,
and accuse, excuse, and sum up the case in the twinkling of an eye.

On arriving at the lodge-gates Phillis began to take herself to task.
Conscience, that "makes cowards of us all," began its small inner
remonstrance; then followed self-flagellation and much belaboring of
herself with many remorseful terms. She was a pitiful thing compared
to Nan; she was conventional; there were no limits to her pride. Where
were that freedom and nobility of soul which she once fancied would
sweep over worldly prejudices, and carry her into purer air? She was
still choking in the fogs of mere earthly exhalations; no wonder Nan
was a little disappointed in her, though she was far too kind to say
so. Well, she was disappointed in herself.

By this time she had reached the hall door; and now she began to hold
up her head more boldly, and to look about her; when a very
solemn-looking butler confronted her, she said to herself, "It will be
all the same a hundred years hence, and I am determined this time not
to be beaten;" and then she asked for Mrs. Cheyne with something of
her old sprightliness, and nothing could exceed the graceful ease of
her entrance.

All the Challoners walked well. There was a purity of health about
them that made them delight in movement and every bodily exercise,--an
elasticity of gait that somehow attracted attention.

No girls danced better than they. And when they had the chance, which
was seldom, they could ride splendidly. Their skating was a joy to
see, and made one wish that the ice would last forever, that one could
watch such light, skimming practice; and as for tennis, no other girl
had a chance of being chosen for a partner unless the Challoners
good-naturedly held aloof, which ten times out of twelve they were
sure to do.

Phillis, who, from her pale complexion, was supposed to possess the
least vitality, delighted in exercise for its own sake. "It is a
pleasure only to be alive and to know it," was a favorite speech with
her on summer mornings, when the shadows were blowing lightly hither
and thither, and the birds had so much to say that it took them until
evening to finish saying it.

Mrs. Cheyne, who was lying on her couch, watched with admiring eyes
the girl's straightforward walk, so alert and business-like, so free
from fuss and consciousness, and held out her hand with a more
cordial welcome than she was accustomed to show her visitors.

It was a long room; and as the summer dusk was falling, and there was
only a shaded lamp beside Mrs. Cheyne, it was full of dim corners.
Nevertheless, Phillis piloted herself without hesitation to the
illuminated circle.

"This is good of you, Miss Challoner, to take me at my word. But where
is your sister? I wanted to look at her again, for it is long since I
have seen any one so pretty. Miss Mewlstone, this is the good
Samaritan who bound up my foot so cleverly."

"Ah, just so," returned Miss Mewlstone. And a soft, plump hand touched
Phillis's, and then she went on picking up stitches and taking no
further notice.

"Nan could not come," observed Phillis. "She had to run down to Beach
House to report progress to mother. We hope she is coming home
to-morrow. But, as you were so kind as to write, I thought I would
just call and inquire about your foot. And then it would be easier to
explain things than to write about it."

"Oh! so your mother is coming home!" returned Mrs. Cheyne, with so
much interest in her voice that Miss Mewlstone left off counting to
look at her. ("Just so, just so," Phillis heard her mutter.) "You must
have worked hard to get ready for her so soon. When my foot will allow
me to cross a room without hobbling, I will do myself the pleasure of
calling on her. But that will be neither this week nor the next, I am
afraid. But I shall see a good deal of you and your sister before
then," she concluded, with the graciousness of one who knows she is
conferring an unusual honor.

"I do not know," faltered Phillis. And then she sat upright, and
looked her hostess full in the face. "That will be for you to decide
when you hear what I have to say. But I fear"--with a very poor
attempt at a smile--"that we shall see very little of each other in
the future."

"Oh, there is a mystery, is there?" returned Mrs. Cheyne, with a
little scorn in her manner; and her mouth took one of the downward
curves that Mr. Drummond so thoroughly disliked. She had taken an odd
fancy to these girls, especially to Phillis, and had thought about
them a good deal during a sleepless, uneasy night. Their simplicity,
their straightforward unconsciousness, had attracted her in spite of
her cynicism. But at the first suspicion of mystery she withdrew into
herself rather haughtily. "Do speak out, I beg, Miss Challoner; for if
there be one thing that makes me impatient, it is to have anything
implied."

"I am quite of your opinion," replied Phillis, with equal haughtiness,
only it sat more strangely on her girlishness. "That is why I am here
to-night,--just to inquire after your foot and explain things."

"Well?" still more impatiently, for this woman was a spoiled child,
and hated to be thwarted, and was undisciplined and imperious enough
to ruin all her own chances of happiness.

"I told you that we were very poor," went on Phillis, in a sweet and
steady voice; "but that did not seem to impress you much, and I
thought how noble that was,"--catching her breath an instant; "but it
will make a difference and shock you dreadfully, as it did Mr.
Drummond, when I tell you we are dressmakers,--Nan and Dulce and I: at
least that will be our future occupation."

"Ah, just so!" ejaculated Miss Mewlstone; but she said it with her
lips far apart, and a mistiness came into her sleepy blue eyes.
Perhaps, though she was stout and middle-aged and breathed a little
too heavily at times, she remembered--long ago when she was young and
poor and had to wage a bitter war with the world--when she ate the dry
bread and drank the bitter water of dependence and felt herself ill
nourished by such unpalatable sustenance. "Oh, just so, poor thing!"
And a little round tear dripped on to the ball of scarlet fleecy
wool.

But Mrs. Cheyne listened to the announcement in far different mood.
There was an incredulous stare at Phillis, as though she suspected her
of a joke; and then she laughed, a dry, harsh laugh, that was not
quite pleasant to hear.

"Oh, this is droll, passing droll!" she said, and leaned back on her
cushions, and drew her Indian cashmere round her and frowned a
little.

"I am glad you find it so," returned Phillis, who was nonplussed at
this, and did not know what to say, and was a little angry in
consequence; and then she got up from her chair with a demonstration
of spirit. "I am glad you find it so; but to us it is sad
earnestness!"

"What! are you going?" asked Mrs. Cheyne, with a keen glance through
her half-shut eyes at poor Phillis standing so tall and straight
before her. "And you have not told me the reason for taking so strange
a step!"

"The reason lies in our poverty and paucity of resources," was
Phillis's curt reply.

"It is not to make a sensation, then? no, I did not mean that," as
Phillis shot an indignant glance at her,--"not exactly; but there is
no knowing what the emancipated girl will do. Of course I have no
right to question, who was a stranger to you four-and-twenty hours
ago, and had never heard the name of Challoner, except that it was a
good and an old name; but when one sees young things like you about to
forfeit caste and build up a barrier between yourselves and your
equals that the bravest will fear to pass, it seems as though one must
lift up one's voice in protest."

"Thank you; but it will be of no use," returned Phillis, coldly.

"You are determined to make other people's dresses?" And here her lip
curled a little, perhaps involuntarily.

"We must must make dresses or starve; for our fingers are cleverer
than our brains," replied Phillis, defiantly; for she knew nothing
about it, and her powers were so immature and unfledged that she had
never tried her wings, and had no notion whether she could fly or not,
and yet no girl had a clearer head. "We have chosen work that we know
we can do well, and we mean not to be ashamed of our occupation. In
the old days ladies used to spin and weave, and no one blamed them,
though they were noble; and if my work will bring me money, and keep
the mother comfortable, I see nothing that will prevent my doing it."

"Ah, you are romantic, Miss Challoner; you will soon be taught
matter-of-fact!"

"I am willing to learn anything, but I must choose my teachers,"
retorted Phillis, with a little heat, for the word "romantic," and the
satirical droop of Mrs. Cheyne's lip made her decidedly cross. "But I
must not detain you any more with our uninteresting affairs," dropping
a little courtesy, half in pique and half in mockery, for her spirits
were rising under this rough treatment.

"It is far from uninteresting; I have not heard anything so exciting
for a long time. Well, perhaps you had better go before I say anything
very rude, for I am terribly outspoken, and I think you are all silly
self-willed young people." Then, as Phillis bridled her neck like an
untamed colt, she caught hold of the girl's dress to detain her, and
the sharpness passed out of her eyes. "Now, don't go away and believe
that I think any worse of you for telling me this. I am a
cross-grained body, and contradiction makes me worse. I don't know how
I shall act: I must have time to consider this extraordinary bit of
news. But all the same, whatever I do, whether I know you or do not
know you, I shall always think you the very bravest girl I ever saw."
And then she let her go, and Phillis, with her head in the air and her
thoughts all topsy-turvy, marched out of the room.

But when she reached the end of the corridor there was a soft but
distinctly audible breathing behind her, and, as in Mr. Drummond's
case Miss Mewlstone's shadowy gray gown swept between her and the
door.

"Miss Mewlstone, how you startled me! but the carpets are so soft and
thick!"

"Yes, indeed! just so, my dear; but Phillips must be asleep as he does
not answer the bell, and so I thought I would let you out. You are
young to walk alone: shall I throw a shawl over my cap, and walk down
the road with you?"

"Not for worlds, my dear Miss Mewlstone;" but Phillis was quite
touched at this unexpected kindness. Miss Mewlstone did not look
sleepy now; her small blue eyes were wide open, and her round placid
face wore a most kindly expression, and there was a tremulous movement
of her hands, as though they were feeling after something. "It is
only such a little bit of road; and though the trees make it dark, I
am not the least afraid of going alone."

"Ah! just so. When we are young, we are brave; it is the old who are
afraid of the grasshopper. I like your spirit, my dear; and so does
she, though she is a little taken aback and disappointed; but anything
that interests and rouses her is welcome. Even this may do her good;
for it will give her something to think about besides her own
troubles."

"I have heard of her troubles----" began Phillis; but a moving door
arrested Miss Mewlstone's attention, and she interrupted her
hurriedly:

"Ah! there is Phillips at last. Just so; you shall hear from me again.
It is a gray satin,--one of her presents,--but I have never had it
made up; for what is the use, when we keep no company?" went on Miss
Mewlstone incoherently. "Oh! is that you, Phillips? Please go with
this young lady to the lodge-gate.--You shall make it after your own
fashion," she whispered in Phillis's ear; "and I am not as particular
as other people. There is Magdalene now. Ah! just so. Good-night, my
dear; and mind the scraper by the gate."

Phillis was almost sorry when the obsequious Phillips left her; for
the road certainly looked terribly dark. There was no moon, and the
stars chose to be invisible; and there was a hot thundery feeling in
the air that suggested a storm. And she moved aside with a slight
sensation of uneasiness--not fear, of course not fear--as a tall,
gloomy-looking figure bore swiftly down on her; for, even if a girl be
ever so brave, a very tall man walking fast on a dark night with a
slouching hat like a conspirator's is rather a terrifying object; and
how could she know that it was only Archie Drummond in his old
garden-hat, taking a constitutional?

But he brought himself up in front of her with a sudden jerk.

"Miss Challoner!--alone at this time of night!"

"Why, it is not ten; and I could not wait for Dorothy to fetch me,"
returned Phillis, bound to defend herself, and quite palpitating with
relief; not that she was afraid--not a bit of it!--but still, Mr.
Drummond's presence was very welcome.

"I suppose I shall do as well as Dorothy?" he returned veering round
with the greatest ease, just as though he were Dick, and bound to
escort a Challoner. "Challoners' Squire,"--that was Dick's name among
people.

"Oh poor Dick!" thought Phillis, with a sudden rush of tenderness for
her old playmate; and then she said, demurely but with a spice of
malice,--

"Thank you, Mr. Drummond. The road is so gloomy that I shall be glad
of your escort this evening, but we shall have to do without that sort
of thing now, for our business may often bring us out after dark, and
we must learn not to be too particular."

"Oh, this must not be!" he returned, decidedly; and, though it was too
dark to see his face, she knew by his voice that he was dreadfully
shocked. "I must see your mother and talk to her about this; for it
would never do for you to run such risks. I could not allow it for a
moment; and as your clergyman"--coming down from his high horse, and
stammering a little,--"I have surely--surely a right----" But Phillis
snapped him up in a moment, and pretty sharply too, for she had no
notion of a young man giving himself airs and torturing her.

"Oh, no right at all!" she assured him: "clergymen could only rebuke
evil-doers, to which class she and her sisters did not belong, thank
heaven!" to which Mr. Drummond devoutly said an "amen." "And would he
please tell her if dressmakers were always met two and two, like the
animals in the ark? and how would it sound when she or Nan had been
fitting on a dress, on a winter's evening, if they were to refuse to
leave the house until Dorothy fetched them? and how----" But here Mr.
Drummond checked her, and the darkness hid his smile.

"Now you are beyond me, Miss Challoner. In a matter of detail, a man,
even a parson, is often at fault. Is there no other way of managing
this odious business? Forgive me; the word slipped out by accident!
Could you not do the fitting, or whatever you call it, by daylight,
and stay at home quietly in the evening like other young ladies?"

"Of course not," returned Phillis, promptly. She had not the least
idea why it could not be done; indeed, if she had been perfectly
cool--which she was not, for Mrs. Cheyne had decidedly stroked her the
wrong way and ruffled her past endurance--she would have appreciated
the temperate counsel vouchsafed her, and acquiesced in it without a
murmur; but now she seemed bent on contradiction.

"Our opinions seem to clash to-night," returned Mr. Drummond,
good-humoredly, but feeling that the young lady beside him had
decidedly a will of her own. "She is very nice, but she is not as
gentle as her sister," he said to himself; which was hard on Phillis,
who, though she was not meek, being a girl of spirit, was wholesomely
sweet and sound to the heart's core.

"One may be supposed to know one's business best," she replied rather
dryly to this. And then, fearing that she might seem ungracious to a
stranger, who did not know her and her little ways, she went on in a
more cordial tone: "I am afraid you think me a little cross to-night;
but I have been having a stand-up fight, and am rather tired. Trying
to battle against other people's prejudices makes one irritable. And
then, because I am down and out of heart about things, our clergyman
thinks fit to lecture me on propriety."

"Only for your good. You must forgive me if I have taken too much upon
myself," returned Mr. Drummond, with much compunction. "You seem so
lonely,--no father or brother; at least--pardon me--I believe you have
no brother?"

"Oh, no; we have no brother," sighed Phillis. Their acquaintance was
in too early a stage to warrant her in bringing in Dick's name.
Besides, that sort of heterogeneous relationship is so easily
misconstrued. And then she added, "I see. You meant to be very kind,
and I was very ungrateful."

"I only wish I could find some way of helping you all," was his reply
to this. But it was said with such frank kindness that Phillis's brief
haughtiness vanished. They were standing at the gate of the Friary by
this time; but Mr. Drummond still lingered. It was Phillis who
dismissed him.

"Good-night, and many thanks," she said, brightly. "It is too late to
ask you in, for you see, even dressmakers have their notions of
propriety." And as she uttered this malicious little speech, the young
man broke into a laugh that was heard by Dorothy in her little
kitchen.

"Oh, that is too bad of you, Miss Challoner," he said, as soon as he
recovered himself; but, nevertheless, he liked the girl better for her
little joke.

Mr. Drummond's constitutional had lasted so long that Mattie grew
quite frightened, and came down in her drab dressing-gown to wait for
him. It was not a becoming costume, but it was warm and comfortable;
but then Mattie never considered what became her. If any one had
admired her, or cared how she looked or what she wore, or had taken an
interest in her for her own sake, she would doubtless have developed
an honest liking for pretty things. But what did it matter under the
present circumstances? Mr. Drummond was lighting his chamber candle
when Mattie rushed out on him,--a grotesque little figure, all capes
and frills.

"Oh, Archie, how you frightened me! Where have you been?"

Archie shrugged his shoulders at this.

"I am not aware, Matilda,"--for in severe moods he would call her by
her full name, a thing she especially disliked from him,--"I did not
know before that I was accountable to you for my actions. Neither am I
particularly obliged to you for spying upon me in this way." For the
sight of Mattie at this time of night was peculiarly distasteful. Why
was he to be watched in his own house?

"Oh, dear, Archie! How can you say such things? Spy on you, indeed!
when there is a storm coming up, and I was so anxious."

"I am very much obliged to you," returned Archie, ironically; "but, as
you see I am safe, don't you think you had better take off that
thing"--pointing to the obnoxious garment--"and go to bed?" And such
was his tone that poor Mattie fled without a word, and cried a little
in her dark room, because Archie would not be kind to her and let her
love him, but was always finding fault with one trifle or other.
To-night it was her poor old dressing-gown, which had been her
mother's, and had been considered good enough for Mattie. And then he
had called her a spy. And here she gave a sob that caught Archie's
ears as he passed her door.

"Good-night, you little goose!" he called out, for the sound made him
uncomfortable; and though the words were contemptuous, the voice was
not, and Mattie at once dried her eyes and was comforted.

But before Archie went to sleep that night he made up his mind that it
was his duty as a clergyman and a Christian to look over Phillis's
wilfulness, and to befriend to the utmost of his power the strangers,
widow and fatherless, that Providence had placed at his very gates.

"They are so very lonely, poor things!" he said to himself; "not a
man about them. By the bye, I noticed she did not wear an
engagement-ring." But which was the "she" he meant, was an enigma
known only to himself. "Not a man about them!" he repeated, in a
satisfied manner, for as yet the name of Dick had not sounded in his
ear.



CHAPTER XXI.

BREAKING THE PEACE.


Nan went to Beach House to fetch her mother home, escorted by Laddie,
who was growing a most rollicking and friendly little animal, and a
great consolation to his mistress, whom he loved with all his doggish
heart.

They all three came back in an old fly belonging to their late host,
and found Phillis waiting for them on the door-step, who made her
mother the following little speech:

"Now, mammie, you are to kiss us, and tell us what good industrious
girls we have been; and then you are to shut your eyes and look at
nothing, and then sit down in your old arm-chair, and try and make the
best of everything."

"Welcome home, dearest mother," said Nan, softly kissing her. "Home is
home, however poor it may be; and thank God for it," finished the
girl, reverently.

"Oh, my darlings!" exclaimed the poor mother; and then she cried a
little, and Dulce came up and put a rose-bud in her hand; and Dorothy
executed an old-fashioned courtsey, and hoped that her mistress and
the dear young ladies would try and make themselves as happy as
possible.

"Happy, you silly old Dorothy! of course we mean to be as busy as
bees, and as frolicsome as kittens!" returned Phillis, who had
recovered her old sprightliness, and was ready to-day for a dozen Mrs.
Cheynes and all the clergy of the diocese. "Now, mammie, you are only
to peep into this room: this is our work-room, and those are the
curtains Mr. Drummond was kind enough to hang. In old days," continued
Phillis, with mock solemnity, "the parson would have pronounced a
benediction; but the modern Anglican performs another function, and
with much gravity ascends the steps, and hooks up the curtains of the
new-comers."

"Oh, Phillis, how can you be so absurd! I am sure it was very
good-natured of him. Come, mother, dear, we will not stand here
listening to her nonsense." And Nan drew the mother to the parlor.

It was a very small room, but still snug and comfortable, and full of
pretty things. Tea was laid on the little round table that would
hardly hold five, as Nan once observed, thinking of Dick; and the
evening's sunshine was stealing in, but not too obtrusively. Mrs.
Challoner tried not to think it dull, and endeavored to say a word of
praise at the arrangements Dulce pointed out to her; but the thought
of Glen Cottage, and her pretty drawing-room, and the veranda with its
climbing roses, and the shady lawn with the seat under the
acacia-trees, almost overpowered her. That they should come to this!
That they should be sitting in this mean little parlor, where there
was hardly room to move, looking out at the little strip of grass, and
the medlar-tree, and the empty greenhouse! Nan saw her mother's lip
quiver, and adroitly turned the subject to their neighbors. She had so
much to say about Mr. Drummond and his sister that Mrs. Challoner grew
quite interested; nevertheless, it was a surprise even to Nan when
Dorothy presently opened the door, and Mr. Drummond coolly walked in
with a magnificent basket of roses in his hand.

Nan gravely introduced him to her mother, and the young man accosted
her; but there was a little surprise on his face. He had taken it into
his head that Mrs. Challoner would be a far older-looking and more
homely person; but the stately-looking woman before him might have
been an older and faded edition of Nan. Somehow, her appearance
confused him; and he commenced with an apology for his intrusion:

"I ought not to have been so unceremonious. I am afraid, as you have
just arrived, my visit will seem an intrusion; but my sister thought
you would like some of our roses,"--he had obliged poor Mattie to say
so,--"and, as we had cut some fine ones, we thought you ought to have
them while they are fresh."

"Thank you; this is very kind and neighborly," returned Mrs.
Challoner; but, though her tone was perfectly civil, Nan thought her
manner a little cold, and hastened to interpose with a few glowing
words of admiration.

"The roses were lovely; they were finer than those at Longmead, or
even at Fitzroy Lodge, though Lady Fitzroy prided herself on her
roses." Archie pricked up his ears at this latter name, which escaped
quite involuntarily from Nan. "And was it not good of Miss Drummond to
spare them so many, and of Mr. Drummond to carry them?" all of which
Nan said with a sweet graciousness that healed the young man's
embarrassment in a moment.

"Yes, indeed!" echoed Mrs. Challoner, obedient, as usual, to her
daughter's lead. "And you must thank your sister, Mr. Drummond, and
tell her how fond my girls are of flowers." But, though Mrs. Challoner
said this, the roses were not without thorns for her. Why had not Miss
Drummond brought them herself? She was pleased indeed that, under
existing circumstances, any one should be civil to her girls; but was
there not a little patronage intended? She was not quite sure that she
rejoiced in having such neighbors. Mr. Drummond was nice and
gentlemanly, but he was far too young and handsome for an unmarried
clergyman; at least, that was her old-fashioned opinion; and when one
has three very good-looking daughters, and dreads the idea of losing
one, one may be pardoned for distrusting even a basket of roses.

If Mr. Drummond perceived her slight coldness, he seemed quite
determined to overcome it. He took small notice of Nan, who busied
herself at once arranging the flowers under his eyes; even Phillis,
who looked good and demure this evening, failed to obtain a word. He
talked almost exclusively to Mrs. Challoner, plying her with artful
questions about their old home, which he now learned was at Oldfield,
and gaining scraps of information that enabled him to obtain a pretty
clear insight into their present circumstances.

Mrs. Challoner, who was a soft hearted woman, was not proof against so
much sympathy. She perceived that Mr. Drummond was sorry for them, and
she began to warm a little towards him. His manner was so respectful,
his words so discreet; and then he behaved so nicely, taking no notice
of the girls, though Nan was looking so pretty, but just talking to
her in a grave responsible way, as though he were a gray-haired man of
sixty.

Phillis was not quite sure she approved of it: in the old days she had
never been so excluded from conversation: she would have liked a word
now and then. But Nan sat by quite contented: it pleased her to see
her mother roused and interested.

When Mr. Drummond took his leave, she accompanied him to the door, and
thanked him quite warmly.

"You have done her so much good, for this first evening is such a
trial to her, poor thing!" said Nan, lifting her lovely eyes to the
young man's face.

"I am so glad! I will come again," he said, rather incoherently. And
as he went out of the green door he told himself that it was his clear
duty to befriend this interesting family. He ought to have gone home
and written to Grace, for it was long past the time when she always
expected to hear from him. But the last day or two he had rather
shirked this duty. It would be difficult to explain to Grace. She
might be rather shocked, for she was a little prim in such things,
being her mother's daughter. He thought he would ask Mattie to tell
her about the Challoners, and that he was busy and would write soon;
and when he had made up his mind to this, he went down to the
sea-shore and amused himself by sitting on a breakwater and staring at
the fishing-smacks,--which of course showed how very busy he was.

"I think I shall like Mr. Drummond," observed Mrs. Challoner, in a
tolerant tone, when Nan had accompanied the young vicar to the door.
"He seems an earnest, good sort of young man."

"Yes, mammie dear. And I am sure he has fallen in love with you,"
returned Phillis, naughtily, "for he talked to no one else. And you
are so young-looking and pretty that of course no one could be
surprised if he did." But though Mrs. Challoner said, "Oh, Phillis!"
and looked dreadfully shocked in a proper matronly way, what was the
use of that, when the mischievous girl burst out laughing in her
face?

But the interruption had done them all good, and the evening passed
less heavily than they had dared to hope. And when Mrs. Challoner
complained of fatigue and retired early, escorted by Dorothy, who was
dying for a chat with her mistress, the three girls went out in the
garden, and walked, after their old fashion, arm in arm up and down
the lawn, with Nan in the middle; though Dulce pouted and pretended
that the lawn was too narrow, and that Phillis was pushing her on the
gravel path.

Their mother's window was open, and they could have heard snatches of
Dorothy's conversation if they had chosen to listen. Dulce stood still
a moment, and wafted a little kiss towards her mother's room.

"Dear old mamsie! She has been very good this evening, has she not,
Nan? She has only cried the least wee bit, when you kissed her."

"Yes, indeed. And somebody else has been good too. What do you say,
Phillis? Has not Dulce been the best child possible?"

"Oh, Nan, I should be ashamed to be otherwise," returned Dulce, in
such an earnest manner that it made her sisters laugh, "Do you think I
could see you both so good and cheerful, making the best of things,
and never complaining, even when the tears are in your eyes,--as yours
are often, Nan, when you think no one is looking,--and not try and
copy your example? I am dreadfully proud of you both,--that is what I
am," continued the warm-hearted girl. "I never knew before what was in
my sisters. And now I feel as though I want the whole world to come
and admire my Phillis and Nan!"

"Little flatterer!" but Nan squeezed Dulce's arm affectionately. And
Phillis said, in a joking tone,--

"Ah, it was not half so bad. This evening there was mother looking so
dear and pretty: and there were you girls; and, though the nest is
small, it feels warm and cosy. And if we could only forget Glen
Cottage, and leave off missing the old faces, which I never shall--"
("Nor I," echoed Nan, with a deep sigh, fetched from somewhere)--"and
root ourselves afresh, we should contrive not to be unhappy."

"I think it is our duty to cultivate cheerfulness," added Nan,
seriously; and after this they fell to a discussion on ways and means.
As usual, Phillis was chief spokeswoman, but to Nan belonged the
privilege of the casting vote.

The next few days were weary ones to Mrs. Challoner: there was still
much to be done before the Friary could be pronounced in order. The
girls spent most of the daylight hours unpacking boxes, sorting and
arranging their treasures, and, if the truth must be told, helping
Dorothy to polish furniture and wash glass and china.

Mrs. Challoner, who was not strong enough for these household labors,
found herself condemned to hem new dusters and mend old table-linen,
to the tune of her own sad thoughts. Mr. Drummond found her sorting a
little heap on the parlor table when he dropped in casually one
morning,--this time with some very fine cherries that his sister
thought Mrs. Challoner would enjoy.

When Mr. Drummond began his little speech he could have sworn that
there were tears on the poor lady's cheeks; but when he had finished
she looked up at him with a smile, and thanked him warmly, and then
they had quite a nice chat together.

Mr. Drummond's visit was quite a godsend, she told him, for her girls
were busy and had no time to talk to her; and "one's thoughts are not
always pleasant companions," she added, with a sigh. And Mr. Drummond,
who had caught sight of the tears, was at once sympathetic, and
expressed himself in such feeling terms--for he was more at ease in
the girls' absence--that Mrs. Challoner opened out in the most
confiding way, and told him a great deal that he had been anxious to
learn.

But she soon found out, to her dismay, that he disapproved of her
girls' plans; for he told her so at once, and in the coolest manner.
The opportunity for airing his views on the subject was far too good
to be lost. Mrs. Challoner was alone; she was in a low, dejected mood;
the rulers of the household were gathered in an upper chamber. What
would Phillis have said, as she warbled a rather flat accompaniment to
Nan's "Bonnie Dundee," which she was singing to keep up their spirits
over a piece of hard work, if she had known that Mr. Drummond was at
that moment in possession of her mother's ear?

"Oh, Mr. Drummond, this is very sad, if every one should think as you
do about my poor girls! and Phillis does so object to being called
romantic;" for he had hinted in a gentlemanly way that he thought the
whole scheme was crude and girlish and quixotic to a degree.

"I hope you will not tell her, then," returned Mr. Drummond in a
soothing tone, for Mrs. Challoner was beginning to look agitated. "I
am afraid nothing I say will induce Miss Challoner to give up her pet
scheme; but I felt, as your clergyman, it was my duty to let you know
my opinion." And here Archie looked so very solemn that Mrs.
Challoner, being a weak woman, and apt to overvalue the least
expression of masculine opinion, grew more and more alarmed.

"Oh, yes!" she faltered; "it is very good--very nice of you to tell me
this." Phillis would have laughed in his face and Mrs. Cheyne would
have found something to say about his youth; but in Mrs. Challoner's
eyes, though she was an older woman, Archie's solemnity and Oriental
beard carried tremendous weight with them. He might be young,
nevertheless she was bound to listen meekly to him, and to respect his
counsel as one who had a certain authority over her. "Oh, you are very
good! and if only my girls had not made up their minds so quickly! but
now what can I do but feel very uncomfortable after you have told me
this?"

"Oh, as to that, there is always time for everything; it is never too
late to mend," returned Mr. Drummond, tritely. "I meant from the first
to tell you what I thought, if I should ever have an opportunity of
speaking to you alone. You see, we Oxford men have our own notions
about things: we do not always go with the tide. If your daughters--"
here he hesitated and grew red, for he was a modest, honest young
fellow in the main--"pardon me, but I am only proposing an
hypothesis--if they wanted to make a sensation and get themselves
talked about, no doubt they would achieve a success, for the
novelty----" But here he stopped, reduced to silence by the shocked
expression of Mrs. Challoner's face.

"Mr. Drummond! my girls--make a sensation--be talked about?" she
gasped; and all the spirit of her virtuous matronhood, and all the
instinctive feeling that years of culture and ingrained refinement of
nature had engendered, shone in her eyes. Her Nan and Phillis and
Dulce to draw this on themselves!

Now, at this unlucky moment, when the maternal fires were all alight,
who should enter but Phillis, wanting "pins, and dozens of
them,--quickly, please," and still warbling flatly that refrain of
"Bonnie Dundee!"

"Oh, Phillis! Oh, my darling child!" cried Mrs. Challoner, quite
hysterically; "do you know what your clergyman says? and if he should
say such things, what will be the world's opinion? No, Mr. Drummond, I
did not mean to be angry. Of course you are telling us this for our
good; but I do not know when I have been so shocked."

"Why, what is this?" demanded Phillis, calmly; but she fixed her eyes
on the unlucky clergyman, who began to wish that that last speech had
not been uttered.

"He says it is to make a sensation--to be talked about--that you are
going to do this," gasped Mrs. Challoner, who was far too much upset
to weigh words truly.

"What!" Phillis only uttered that very unmeaning monosyllable:
nevertheless, Archie jumped from his seat as though he had been shot.

"Mrs. Challoner, really this is too bad! No, you must allow me to
explain," as Phillis turned aside with a curling lip, as though she
would leave them. He actually went between her and the door, as though
he meant to prevent her egress forcibly. There is no knowing to what
lengths he would have gone in his sudden agitation. "Only wait a
moment, until I explain myself. Your mother has misunderstood me
altogether. Never has such a thought entered my mind!"

"Oh," observed Phillis. But now she stood still and began to collect
her pins out of her mother's basket. "Perhaps, as this is rather
unpleasant, you will have the kindness to tell me what it was you said
to my mother?" And she spoke like a young princess who had just
received an insult.

"I desire nothing more," returned Archie, determined to defend himself
at all costs. "I had been speaking to Mrs. Challoner about all this
unfortunate business. She was good enough to repose confidence in me,
and, as your clergyman, I felt myself bound to tell her exactly my
opinions on the subject."

"I do not quite see the necessity; but no doubt you know best," was
Phillis's somewhat sarcastic answer.

"At least, I did it for the best," returned the young man, humbly. "I
pointed out things to Mrs. Challoner, as I told you I should. I warned
her what the world would say,--that it would regard your plan as very
singular and perhaps quixotic. Surely there is nothing in this to
offend you?"

"You have not touched on the worst part of all," returned Phillis,
with a little disdain in her voice. "About making a sensation, I
mean."

"There it was that your mother so entirely misunderstood. What I said
was this: If this dressmaking scheme were undertaken just to make a
sensation, it would of course, achieve success, for I thought the
novelty might take. And then I added that I was merely stating an
hypothesis by way of argument, and then Mrs. Challoner looked shocked,
and you came in."

"Is that all?" asked Phillis, coming down from her stilts at once, for
she knew of old how her mother would confuse things sometimes; and, if
this were the truth, she, Phillis, had been rather too hard on him.

"Yes. Do you see now any necessity for quarrelling with me?" returned
Mr. Drummond, breathing a little more freely as the frown lessened on
Phillis's face. He wanted to be friends with these girls, not to turn
them against him.

"Well, no, I believe not," she answered, quite gravely. "And I am sure
I beg your pardon if I was rude." But this Archie would not allow for
a moment.

"But, Mr. Drummond, one word before peace is quite restored," went on
Phillis, with something of her old archness, "or else I will fetch my
sisters, and you will have three of us against you."

"Oh, do, Phillis, my dear," interrupted her mother; "let them come and
hear what Mr. Drummond thinks."

"Mammy, how dare you!--how dare you be so contumacious, after all the
trouble we have taken to set your dear fidgety mind at rest? Just look
what you have done, Mr. Drummond," turning upon him. "Now I am not
going to forgive you, and we will not trust the mother out of our
sight, unless you promise not to say this sort of thing to her when we
are not here to answer them."

"But, Miss Challoner, my pastoral conscience!" but his eyes twinkled a
little.

"Oh, never mind that!" she retorted, mischievously. "I will give you
leave to lecture us collectively, but not individually: that must not
be thought about for a moment." She had not a notion what the queer
expression on Mr. Drummond's face meant, and he did not know himself;
but he had the strongest desire to laugh at this.

They parted after this the best of friends; and Phillis tasted the
cherries, and pronounced them very good.

"You have quite forgiven me?" Mr. Drummond said, as she accompanied
him to the door before rejoining her sisters. "You know I have
promised not to do it again until the next time."

"Oh, we shall see about that!" returned Phillis, good-humoredly.
"Forewarned is forearmed; and there is a triple alliance against
you."

"Good heavens, what mockery it seems! I never saw such girls,--never!"
thought Mr. Drummond, as he took long strides down the road. "But
Mattie is right: they mean business, and nothing in the world would
change that girl's determination if she had set herself to carry a
thing out. I never knew a stronger will!" And in this he was tolerably
right.



CHAPTER XXII.

"TRIMMINGS, NOT SQUAILS."


The longest week must have an end; and so at last the eventful Monday
morning arrived,--"Black Monday," as Dulce called it, and then sighed
as she looked out on the sunshine and the waving trees, and thought
how delicious a long walk or a game of tennis would be, instead of
stitch, stitch, stitching all day. But Dulce was an unselfish little
soul, and kept all these thoughts to herself, and dressed herself
quickly; for she had overslept herself, and Phillis had long been
downstairs.

Nan was locking up the tea-caddy as she entered the parlor, and
Phillis was standing by the table, drawing on her gloves, and her lips
were twitching a little,--a way they had when Phillis was nervous.

Nan went up and kissed her, and gave her an encouraging pat.

"This is for luck, my dear; and mind you make the best of poor Miss
Milner's dumpy, roundabout little figure. There I have put the
body-lining, and the measuring-tape, and a paper of pins in this
little black bag; and I have not forgotten the scissors,--oh, dear,
no! I have not forgotten the scissors," went on Nan, with such
surprising cheerfulness that Phillis saw through it, and was down on
her in a moment.

"No, Nan; there! I declare I will not be such a goose. I am not
nervous,--not one bit; it is pure fun, that's what it is. Dulce, what
a naughty child you are to oversleep yourself this morning, and I had
not the heart to wake you, you looked so like a baby: and we never
wake babies because they are sure to squall!"

"Oh, Phil, are you going to Miss Milner's? I would have walked with
you if I had had my breakfast; but I am so hungry."

"I could not possibly wait," returned Phillis; "punctuality is one of
the first duties of--hem!--dressmakers; all orders executed promptly,
and promises performed with undeviating regularity: those are my
maxims. Eat a good breakfast, and then see if mammy wants any help,
for Nan must be ready for me at the work-table, for she is our head
cutter-out." And then Phillis nodded briskly, and walked away.

By a singular chance, Mr. Drummond was watering his ferns in the front
court as Phillis passed, and in spite of her reluctance, for somehow
he was the last person she wanted to encounter that day, she was
obliged to wish him good-morning.

"Good-morning! Yes, indeed, it is a glorious morning," observed
Archie, brightly. "And may I ask where you are going so early?"

"Only to the Library," returned Phillis, laconically; but the color
mounted to her forehead. "We begin business to-day."

And then Archie took up his watering-pot and refrained from any more
questions. It was absurd, perhaps, but at the moment he had forgotten,
and the remembrance was not pleasing.

Phillis felt quite brave after this, and walked into the Library as
though the place belonged to her. When it came to details, Miss Milner
was far more nervous than she.

She would keep apologizing to Phillis for making her stand so long,
and she wanted to hold the pins and to pick up the scissors that
Phillis had dropped; and when the young dressmaker consulted her about
the trimmings, she was far too humble to intrude her opinions.

"Anything you think best, Miss Challoner, for you have such beautiful
taste as never was seen; and I am sure the way you have fitted that
body-lining is just wonderful, and would be a lesson to Miss Slasher
for life. No, don't put the pins in your mouth, there's a dear."

For, in her intense zeal, Phillis had thought herself bound to follow
the manner of Mrs. Sloper, the village factotum, and she always did
so, though Nan afterwards assured her that it was not necessary, and
that in this particular they might be allowed to deviate from
example.

But she was quite proud of herself when she had finished, for the
material seemed to mould under her fingers in the most marvellous way,
and she knew the fit would be perfect. She wanted to rush off at once
and set to work with Nan; but Miss Milner would not let her off so
easily. There was orange wine and seed-cake of her own making in the
back parlor, and she had just one question--a very little question--to
ask. And here Miss Milner coughed a little behind her hand to gain
time and recover her courage.

"The little papers were about the shop, and Mrs. Trimmings saw one,
and--and----" Here Phillis came promptly to her relief.

"And Mrs. Trimmings wants to order a dress, does she?" And Phillis
bravely kept down the sudden sinking of heart at the news.

Mrs. Trimmings was the butcher's wife,--the sister of that very Mrs.
Squails of whom Dulce once made mention,--well known to be the
dressiest woman in Hadleigh, who was much given to imitate her
betters. The newest fashions, the best materials, were always to be
found on Mrs. Trimmings's portly figure.

"What could I do?" observed Miss Milner, apologetically: "the papers
were about the shop, and what does the woman do but take one up? 'I
wonder what sort of dressmakers these are?' she said, careless-like;
'there is my new blue silk that Andrew brought himself from London
and paid five-and-sixpence a yard for in St. Paul's Churchyard; and I
daren't let Miss Slasher have it, for she made such a mess of that
French merino. She had to let it out at every seam before I could get
into it, and it is so tight for me now that I shall be obliged to cut
it up for Mary Anne. I wonder if I dare try these new people?"

"And what did you say, Miss Milner?"

"What could I do then, my dear young lady, but speak up and say the
best I could for you? for though Mrs. Trimmings is not high,--not one
of the gentry, I mean,--and has a rough tongue sometimes, still she
knows what good stuff and good cutting-out means, and a word from her
might do you a power of good among the townfolks, for her gowns are
always after the best patterns."

"All right!" returned Phillis, cheerfully: "one must creep before one
runs, and, until the gentry employ us, we ought to think ourselves
fortunate to work for the townpeople. I am not a bit above making a
dress for Mrs. Trimmings, though I would rather make one for you, Miss
Milner, because you have been so kind to us."

"There, now! didn't I say there never were such young ladies!"
exclaimed Miss Milner, quite affected at this. "Well, if you are sure
you don't mind, Miss Challoner dear, will you please go to Mrs.
Trimmings's this morning? for though I told her my dress was to be
finished first, still Trimmings's isn't a stone's-throw from here; and
you may as well settle a thing when you are about it."

"And I will take the silk, Miss Milner, if you will kindly let me have
a nice piece of brown paper."

"Indeed and you will do no such thing, Miss Challoner; and there is
Joseph going down with the papers to Mr. Drummond's, and will leave it
at the Friary as he passes."

"Oh, thank you," observed Phillis, gratefully. "Then I will pencil a
word to my sister, to let her know why I am detained." And she
scrawled a line to Nan:

"Trimmings, not Squails: here beginneth the first chapter. Expect me
when you see me, and do nothing until I come."

There was no side-door at Trimmings's, and Mrs. Trimmings was at the
desk, jotting down legs of mutton, and entries of gravy-beef and suet,
with a rapidity that would have tried the brain of any other woman
than a butcher's wife.

When Phillis approached, she looked up at her suavely, expecting
custom.

"Just half a moment, ma'am," she said, civilly. "Yes, Joe, wing-rib
and half of suet to Mrs. Penfold, and a loin of lamb and sweet-bread
for No. 12, Albert Terrace. Now, ma'am, what can I do for you?"

"I have only come about your dress, Mrs. Trimmings," returned Phillis,
in a very small voice; and then she tried not to laugh, as Mrs.
Trimmings regarded her with a broad stare of astonishment, which took
her in comprehensively, hat, dress, and neat dogskin gloves.

"You might have taken up my pen and knocked me down with it," was Mrs.
Trimmings's graphic description of her feelings afterwards, as she
carved a remarkably fine loin of veal, with a knuckle of ham and some
kidney-beans to go with it. "There was the colonel standing by the
desk, Andrew; and he turned right round and looked at us both. 'I've
come about your dress, Mrs. Trimmings,' she said, as pertlike as
possible. Law, I thought I should have dropped, I was that taken
aback."

Phillis's feelings were none of the pleasantest when Colonel Middleton
turned round and looked at her. There was an expression almost of
sorrow in the old man's eyes, as he so regarded her, which made her
feel hot and uncomfortable. It was a relief when Mrs. Trimmings roused
from her stupefaction and bustled out of the desk.

"This way, miss," she said, with a jerk of her comely head. But her
tone changed a little, and became at once sharp and familiar. "I hope
you understand your business, for I never could abide waste; and the
way Miss Slasher cut into that gray merino,--and it only just meets,
so to say,--and the breadths are as scanty as possible; and it would
go to my heart to have a beautiful piece of silk spoiled,
flve-and-sixpence a yard, and not a flaw in it."

"If I thought I should spoil your dress I would not undertake it,"
returned Phillis, gently. She felt she must keep herself perfectly
quiet with this sort of people. "My sister and I have just made up
some very pretty silk and cashmere costumes, and they fitted as
perfectly as possible."

"Oh, indeed!" observed Mrs. Trimmings, in a patronizing tone. She had
no idea that the costumes of which Phillis spoke had been worn by the
young dressmakers at one of Lady Fitzroy's afternoon parties. She was
not quite at her ease with Phillis; she thought her a little
high-and-mighty in her manner. "A uppish young person," as she said
afterwards; "but her grand airs made no sort of difference to me, I
can assure you."

There was no holding pins or picking up scissors in this case. On the
contrary, Mrs. Trimmings watched with a vigilant eye, and was ready to
pounce on Phillis at the least mistake or oversight, seeing which
Phillis grew cooler and more off-hand every moment. There was a great
deal of haggling over the cut of the sleeve and arrangement of the
drapery. "If you will kindly leave it to me," Phillis said once; but
nothing was further from Mrs. Trimmings's intention. She had not a
silk dress every day. And she had always been accustomed to settle all
these points herself, while Miss Slasher had stood by humbly turning
over the pages of her fashion-books, and calling her, at every
sentence, "Ma'am," a word that Phillis's lips had not yet uttered.
Phillis's patience was almost tired out, when she was at last allowed
to depart with a large brown-paper parcel under her arm. Mrs.
Trimmings would have wrapped it up in newspaper, but Phillis had so
curtly refused to have anything but brown paper that her manner rather
overawed the woman.

Poor Phillis! Yes, it had really come to pass, and here she was,
actually walking through Hadleigh in the busiest time of the day, with
a large, ugly-looking parcel and a little black bag! She had thought
of sending Dorothy for the dress, but she knew what a trial it would
have been to the old woman to see one of her young ladies reduced to
this, and she preferred ladening herself to hurting the poor old
creature's feelings. So she walked out bravely in her best style. But
nevertheless her shapely neck would turn itself now and then from side
to side, as though in dread of some familiar face. And there were
little pin-pricks all over her of irritation and mortified self-love.
"A thing is all very well in theory, but it may be tough in practice,"
she said to herself. And she felt an irresistible desire to return the
offending dress to that odious Trimmings and tell her she would have
nothing to do with her,--"a disagreeable old cat," I am afraid Phillis
called her, for one is not always charitable and civil-spoken in one's
thoughts.

"We are going the same way. May I carry that formidable-looking parcel
for you?" asked a voice that was certainly becoming very familiar.

Poor Phillis started and blushed; but she looked more annoyed than
pleased at the rencontre.

"Mr. Drummond, are you omnipresent?--one is forever encountering you!"
she said, quite pettishly; but, when Archie only laughed, and tried to
obtain possession of the parcel, she resisted, and would have none of
his assistance.

"Oh, dear, no!" she said: "I could not think of such a thing! Fancy
the vicar of Hadleigh condescending to carry home Mrs. Trimmings's
dress!"

"Mrs. Trimmings's dress?" repeated Mr. Drummond, in a rapid crescendo.
"Oh, Miss Challoner! I declare this beats everything!"

Phillis threw him a glance. She meant it to be cool, but she could not
keep the sadness out of her eyes; they did so contradict the assumed
lightness of her words:

"Miss Milner was far more considerate: she made Joseph carry hers to
the Friary when he left your papers. Was he not a benevolent Joseph?
Mrs. Trimmings wanted to wrap up her silk in newspaper; but I said to
myself, 'One must draw the line somewhere;' and so I held out for
brown paper. Do you think you could have offered to carry a parcel in
newspaper, Mr. Drummond? Oh, by the bye, how can you condescend to
walk with a dressmaker? But this is a quiet road, and no one will see
you."

"Pardon me if I contradict you, but there is Colonel Middleton looking
over his garden palings this moment," returned Mr. Drummond, who had
just become painfully aware of the fact.

"Don't you think you had better go and speak to him, then? for you see
I am in no need of help," retorted Phillis, who was sore all over, and
wanted to get rid of him, and yet would have been offended if he had
taken her at her word. But Mr. Drummond, who felt his position an
uncomfortable one, and was dreadfully afraid of the colonel's banter,
was not mean enough to take advantage of her dismissal. He had joined
himself to her company out of pure good nature, for it was a hot day
and the parcel was heavy, but she would have none of his assistance.

So he only waved his hand to his friend, who took off his old felt hat
very solemnly in return, and watched them with a grieved expression
until they were out of sight.

"Now I will bid you good-bye," he said, when they had reached the
vicarage.

Phillis said nothing; but she held out her hand, and there was a
certain brightness in her eyes that showed she was pleased.

"He is a gentleman, every inch of him; and I won't quarrel with him
any more," she thought, as she walked up to the Friary. "Oh, how nice
it would have been if we were still at Glen Cottage and he could see
us at our best, and we were able to entertain him in our old fashion!
How Carrie and the other girls would have liked him! and how jealous
Dick would have been! for he never liked our bringing strange young
men to the house, and always found fault with them if he could," and
here Phillis sighed, and for the moment Mrs. Trimmings was forgotten.



CHAPTER XXIII.

"BRAVO, ATALANTA!"


Phillis received quite an ovation as soon as she crossed the
threshold. Dulce, who was listening for her footsteps, rushed out into
the little hall, and dragged her in, as though she were too weary to
have any movement or volition of her own. And then Nan came up, in her
calm elder-sisterly way, and put her arm round her, and hoped she was
not so very tired, and there was so much to say, and so much to do,
and she wanted her advice, and so on.

And on Nan's forehead lay a thoughtful pucker; and on the centre-table
were sundry breadths of green silk, crisp-looking and faintly bronzed,
like withered leaves with the sun on them.

"Oh, dear! has Miss Drummond been here in my absence?" asked Phillis,
with the overwhelmed feeling of a beginner, who has not yet learned to
separate and classify, or the rich value of odd moments. "Three
dresses to be done at once!"

"One at a time. But never mind Miss Drummond's this moment. Mother is
safe in the store-cupboard for the next half-hour, and we want to know
what you mean by your ridiculous message, 'Trimmings, not Squails.'
Dulce is dying of curiosity, and so am I."

"Yes; but she looks so hot and tired that she must refresh herself
first." And Dulce placed on her sister's lap a plate of yellow plums,
perfectly bedded in moss, which had come from the vicarage garden. And
as Phillis enjoyed the dainty repast and poured out her morning's
experiences in the ears of her astonished auditors, lo, the
humiliation and the sting were forgotten, and only an intense sense of
the humor of the situation remained.

It was Dulce whose pink cheeks were burning now.

"Oh, Phillis! how could you? It is too dreadful even to think about!
That fat old thing, too! Why, she is twice as big as Mrs. Squails!"

"Beggars cannot be choosers, my dear," replied Phillis, airily; for
rest was pleasant, and the fruit was good, and it was so delicious to
feel all that was over and she was safe in her nest again; and then
the pleasure of talking it all over! "Do you know--?" she began, in a
disconnected manner, and then sat and stared at her sisters with
luminous gray eyes, until they begged to know what the new idea was.

"Oh, nothing," she replied, and colored a little. And then she blurted
out, in an oddly-ashamed way, "it was talking to you two dears that
put it in my head. But I could not help thinking that moment that if
one is ever good enough to get to heaven, one of the greatest
pleasures will be to talk about all our past miseries and
difficulties, and how the angels helped us! and, though you may laugh
at me,"--they were doing nothing of the kind, only admiring her with
all their might,--"I have a kind of fancy that even my 'Trimmings, not
Squails' episode may have a different look up there!"

"My dear," returned Nan, gently, for she loved all speeches of this
sort, being a devout little soul and truly pious, "nothing was further
from my thoughts than to laugh at you, for the more we think in this
way the grander our work will appear to us. Mrs. Trimmings may be fat
and vulgar, but when you were measuring her and answering her so
prettily--and I know how nicely you would speak, Phil--I think you
were as brave as one of those old knights--I cannot remember their
names--who set out on some lofty quest or other!"

"I suppose the child means Sir Galahad," observed Phillis, with a
groan at Nan's ignorance. "Oh, Nannie, I wish I could say,--

               "'My strength is as the strength of ten,
                   Because my heart is pure;'"

and then she softly chanted,--for quotation never came amiss to her,
and her head was crammed with choice selections from the poets,--

                 "'All armed I ride, whate'er betide,
                     Until I find the Holy Grail.'"

"Yes, the Sangreal, or the Quest. It does not matter what, for it was
only an allegory," returned Nan, who had plenty of ideas, only she
confused them sometimes, and was not as clever in her definitions as
Phillis. "It only meant that those grand old knights had some holy
purpose and aim in their lives, for which they trained and toiled and
fought. Don't you see?--the meaning is quite clear. We can have our
Quest too."

"Bless her dear heart, if she is not travelling thousands of years and
miles from Mrs. Trimmings!" exclaimed Phillis, who never could be
serious long. "Well, Nannie, I understand you, though you are a trifle
vague. We will have our Quest and our unattainable standard; and I
will be your maiden knight--yours and Dulce's.

                "'How sweet are looks that ladies bend
                    On whom their favors fall!
                For them I'll battle till the end,
                    To save from shame and thrall.'"

And when she had repeated this she rose, laughing, and said they were
all a little demented; and what did they mean by wasting their time
when there were three dresses to be cut out? and Dulce must have the
work fixed for the sewing-machine.

For the next hour there was little talk, only the snipping sound of
scissors and the rustling of silken breadths, and sometimes the swish
and the tearing of sundry materials, and then the whirring and burning
and tappings of Dulce's sewing machine, like a dozen or two of
woodpeckers at work on an iron tree. And no one quoted any more
poetry, for prose was heaped up everywhere about them, and their heads
were full of business.

But in the afternoon, when things were in progress and looked
promising, and Mrs. Challoner had had her nap, and was busy over some
sleeves that they had given her to keep her quiet and satisfy her
maternal conscience that she was helping her girls, Phillis did hear a
little about Miss Drummond's visit. The sewing machine, which they
worked by turns, had stopped for a time, and they were all three round
the table, sewing and fixing as busily as possible: and Phillis,
remembering Sir Galahad, dared not say she was tired, only she looked
out on the lengthening shadows with delight, and thought about tea and
an evening walk just to stretch her cramped muscles. And if one day
seemed so long, how would a week of days appear before the blessed
Sunday gave them a few hours of freedom?

It was at this moment that Nan, with fine tact, broke the silence that
was good for work, but was apt to wax drowsy in time:

"Miss Milner's dress is getting on well. How fast you two girls work!
and mammie is doing the sleeves beautifully. Another afternoon you
must let the work rest, mammie, and read to us, or Phillis will get
restive. By the bye, Dulce, we have not told her a word about Miss
Drummond's visit."

"No, indeed: was it not good of her to come so soon?" exclaimed Dulce.
"She told us she wanted to be our first customer, and seemed quite
disappointed when we said that we were bound in honor and mere
gratitude to send Miss Milner's dress home first. 'Not that I am in a
hurry for my dress, for nobody cares what I wear,' she said, quite
cheerfully; 'but I wanted to be the first on your list.' I wish we
could oblige her, for she is a nice, unaffected little thing, and I am
beginning to like her, though she is a little fussy."

"But she was as meek as a lamb about her dress," added Nan, who was a
first-rate needle-woman, and could work rapidly while she talked.
"Just fancy, Phil! she wanted to have a jacket with tabs and loose
sleeves, just for comfort and coolness."

"Loose sleeves and a jacket!" almost gasped Phillis, for the princess
skirts were then worn, and jackets were consigned to oblivion for the
time being. "I hope you told her, Nan, that we had never worked for
Mrs. Noah, neither had Mrs. Shem ever honored us by her custom."

"Well, no, Phillis; I was not quite so impertinent, and clever
speeches of that sort never occur to me until you say them. But I told
Miss Drummond that I could not consent to spoil her lovely dress in
that way; and then she laughed and gave in, and owned she knew nothing
about fashions, and that her sister Grace always ordered her clothes
for her, because she chose such ugly things. She sat and chatted such
a long time with us; she had only just gone when you came home."

"And she told us such a lot about this wonderful Grace," went on
Dulce: "she says Archie quite worships her.--Well, mammie," as Mrs.
Challoner poised her needle in mid-air and regarded her youngest
daughter with unfeigned astonishment, "I am only repeating Miss
Drummond's words; she said 'Archie.'"

"But, my dear, there was no need to be so literal," returned Mrs.
Challoner, reprovingly; for she was a gentlewoman of the old school,
and nothing grieved her more than slipshod English or any idiom or
idiotcy of modern parlance in the mouths of her bright young
daughters: to speak of any young man except Dick without the
ceremonious prefix was a heinous misdemeanor in her eyes. Dulce would
occasionally trespass, and was always rebuked with much gravity. "You
could have said 'her brother,' could you not?"

"Oh, mammie, I am sure Providence intended you for an old maid, and
you have not fulfilled your destiny," retorted Dulce, who was rarely
awed by her mother's solemnity. "All that fuss because I said
'Archie!' Oh, I forgot, that name is sacred: the Rev. Archibald
Drummond adores his sister Grace."

"And she must be very nice," returned Mrs. Challoner with an indulgent
smile at her pet Dulce. "I am sure, from what Miss Drummond told us
this morning, that she must be a most superior person. Why, Phillis,
she teaches all her four younger sisters, and one of them is sixteen.
Miss Drummond says she is never out of the school-room, except for an
hour or two in the evening, when her father and brothers come home.
There are two more brothers, I think she said. Dear what a large
family! and Miss Drummond hinted that they were not well off."

"I should like to know that Grace," began Phillis; and then she shook
her head reflectively. "No, depend upon it, we should be disappointed
in her: family paragons are generally odious to other folk. Most
likely she wears spectacles, and is a thin thread-papery sort of
person."

"On the contrary, she is a sweet-looking girl, with large melancholy
eyes; for Miss Drummond showed us her photograph. So much for your
imagination, Phil?" and Dulce looked triumphant. "And she is only
twenty-two, and, though not pretty, just the sort of face one could
love."

"Some people's swans turn out to be geese in the end," remarked
Phillis, provokingly; but she registered at the same time a mental
resolve that she would cross-examine Mr. Drummond on the earliest
opportunity about this wonderful sister of his. Oh, it was no marvel
if he did look down on them when they had not got brains enough to
earn their living except in this way! and Phillis stuck her needle
into Miss Milner's body-lining so viciously that it broke.

The sharp click roused Nan's vigilance, and she looked up, and was at
once full of pity for Phillis's pale face.

"You are tired, Phil, and so are we all," she said, brightly; "and, as
it is our first day of work, we will not overdo ourselves. Mammie, if
you will make the tea, we will just tidy up, and look out the patterns
for you to match the trimmings and buttons to-morrow;" for this same
business of matching was rather hailed by Mrs. Challoner as a relief
and amusement.

Phillis grumbled a little over this additional labor, though, at the
same time, no one worked harder than she; but she was careful to
explain that it was her right, as a freeborn Britoness, to grumble,
and that it was as much a relief to her peculiar constitution as a
good long yawn is to some people.

"And it answers two purposes," as she observed; "for it airs the
lungs, and relieves the mind, and no one takes any more notice than if
I set the wind blowing. And thankful I am, and every mother's child of
us, that Dorothy is approaching this room with her dust-pan and brush.
Dorothy, I have a nice little sum for you to do. How many snippets of
green and black silk go to a dust-pan? Count them, and subtract all
the tacking-thread, and Dulce's pins."

"Phillis, you are just feverish from overfatigue and sitting so long
in one place, for you are used to running about." And Nan took her by
the shoulders, and marched her playfully to the small parlor, where
Mrs. Challoner was waiting for them.

"Come, girls!" she said, cheerfully. "Dorothy has baked your favorite
little cakes, and there are new-laid eggs for those who are hungry;
and I am sure you all earned your tea, darlings. And, oh, Phillis! how
tired you look!" And Mrs. Challoner looked round on each face in turn,
in the unwise but loving way of mothers.

This was too much for Phillis; and she interlaced her fingers and put
them suddenly and sternly over her mother's eyes.

"Now, mammie, promise."

"Phillis, my dear, how can you be so absurd!" but Mrs. Challoner
strove in vain to release herself. Phillis's fingers had iron tenacity
in them when she chose.

"A thing like this must be nipped in the bud," pronounced Phillis,
apostrophizing her laughing sisters. "You must not look at us in that
fashion every evening, as though we were sheep in a pen, or rabbits
for sale. You will be weighing us next; and my nerves will not stand
it. No, mother; here I strike. I will not be looked at in that
manner."

"But, Phillis--Oh, you nonsensical child!"

"Personal remarks are to be tabooed from this moment. You must not
say, 'How tired you look!' or 'How pale you are!' It is not manners at
the Friary, and it is demoralizing. I am ten times more tired this
minute than I was before you told me so."

"Very well, Phillis; but you must let me pour out the tea." And then
Phillis subsided. But she had started the fun, and Dulce soon took it
up and set the ball rolling. And Dorothy, working hard with her
dust-pan and brushes, heard the merriment, and her old face lighted
up.

"Bless their sweet faces!--pretending to be happy, just to cheer up
the mistress, and make believe it is only a game they are having!"
muttered the old woman, as she paused to listen. "But, if I am not
mistaken, Miss Phillis, poor dear, is just ready to drop with fatigue.
Only to hear her, one would think she was as perky as possible."

When the evening meal was over, Mrs. Challoner leaned back in her
chair and made a little speech to her daughters:

"Thank you, my dears. You have done me so much good. Now, if you want
to please me, you will all three put on your hats and take a nice long
walk together."

The girls looked at each other, and every pair of eyes said, as
plainly as possible, "What a delicious idea! But only two can go, and
I intend to be the filial victim." But Mrs. Challoner was too quick
for them. "I said all three," she remarked, very decidedly. "If one
offers to stay with me, I shall just put myself to bed and lock the
door; but if you will be good, and enjoy this lovely evening, I will
take my book in the garden and be quite happy until you come back to
me." And when they saw that she meant it, and would only be worried by
a fuss, they went off as obediently as possible.

They walked very sedately down the Braidwood Road, and past the White
House; but when they got into the town, Phillis hurried them on a
little: "I don't want people. It is air and exercise and freedom for
which I am pining." And she walked so fast that they had some trouble
to keep up with her.

But when they had left every trace of human habitation behind them,
and were strolling down the rough, uneven beach, towards a narrow
strip of sand, that would soon be covered by the advancing tide,
Phillis said, in an odd, breathless way, "Nan, just look round and see
if there be any one in sight, before, behind, or around us;" and Nan,
though in some little surprise, did at once as she was bidden, in the
most thorough manner. For she looked up at the sky first, as though
she were afraid of balloons or possible angels; and then at the sea,
which she scanned narrowly, so that not even a fish could escape her;
and after that she beat the boundaries of the land.

"No, there is not a creature in sight except ourselves and Laddie,"
she answered.

"Very well," answered Phillis promptly. "Then, if it be all safe, and
the Hadleigh wits are away wool gathering, and you will not tell
mother, I mean to have a race with Dulce, as far as we can run along
the shore; and if I do not win----" And here she pursed up her lips
and left her sentence unfinished, as though determined to be
provoking.

"We shall see about that," returned Dulce, accepting the challenge in
a moment; for she was always ready to follow a good lead.

"Oh, you foolish children?" observed Nan, in her staid fashion. But
she did not offer the slightest remonstrance, knowing of old that
unless Phillis found some safety-valve she would probably wax
dangerous. So she called Laddie to her, and held him whining and
struggling, for he wanted to stretch his little legs too; thinking a
race was good for dogs as well as for girls. But Nan would not hear of
it for a moment: he might trip them up and cause another sprained
ankle.

"Now, Nan, you must be umpire, and say, One, two, three!" And Nan
again obeys, and then watches them with interest. Oh, how pretty it
was, if only any one could have seen it, except the crabs and the
star-fish, and they never take much notice: the foreground of the
summer sea coming up with little purple rushes and a fringe of foam;
the yellow sand, jagged, uneven, with salt-water pools here and there;
the two girls in their light dresses skimming over the ground with
swift feet, skirting the pools, jumping lightly over stones, even
climbing a breakwater, then running along another level piece of
sand,--Dulce a little behind, but Phillis as erect and sure-footed as
Atalanta.

Now Nan has lost them, and puts Laddie down and prepares to follow. In
spite of her staidness, she would have dearly loved a run too; only
she thinks of Dick, and forbears.

Dulce, who is out of breath, fears she must give up the race, and
begins to pant and drop behind in earnest, and to wish salt water were
fresh, and then to dread the next breakwater as a hopeless obstacle;
but Phillis, who is still as fresh as possible, squares her elbows as
she has seen athletes do, and runs lightly up to it, unmindful and
blissfully ignorant of human eyes behind a central hole.

Some one who is of a classical turn has been thinking of the daughter
of Iasus and Clymene, and cries out, "Bravo, Atalanta! but where is
Milanion, that he has forgotten the golden apples?" And Phillis,
stricken dumb by the question and the sudden apparition of a bearded
face behind the breakwater, remains standing as though she were carved
in stone.



CHAPTER XXIV.

MOTHERS ARE MOTHERS.


"Mr. Drummond! Oh dear! is one never to be free from pastoral
supervision?" muttered Phillis, half sulkily, when she roused from her
stupefaction and had breath to take the offensive. And what would he
think of her? But that was a question to be deferred until later, when
nightmares and darkness and troublesome thoughts harass the unwary
soul. "Like a dog, he hunts in dreams," she might have said to
herself, quoting from "Locksley Hall." But she did nothing of the
kind,--only looked at the offending human being with such an outraged
dignity in her bearing that Mr. Drummond nearly committed himself by
bursting out laughing.

He refrained with difficulty, and said rather dryly,--

"That was a good race; but I saw you would win from the first; and you
jumped that stone splendidly. I suppose you know the story of
Atalanta?"

"Oh, yes," responded Phillis, gloomily; but she could not help showing
off her knowledge all the same; and she had always been so fond of
heathen mythology, and had even read translations of Homer and Virgil.
"She had a she-bear for a nurse, and was eventually turned into a
lion; and I always thought her very stupid for being such a baby and
stopping to pick up the golden apple."

"Nevertheless, the subject is a charming one for a picture," returned
Archie, with admirable readiness, for he saw Phillis was greatly hurt
by this untoward accident, and he liked the girl all the better for
her spirit. He would not have discovered himself at all, only in
another moment she must have seen him; and if she would only have
believed how fully he entered into the fun, and how graceful and
harmless he thought it, there would have been no pang of wounded
self-esteem left. But girls, especially if they be worthy of the name,
are so sensitive and prickly on such matters.

Dulce had basely deserted her sister, and, at the sight of the
clerical felt hat, had fled to Nan's side for protection.

"Oh, never mind," Nan had said, consoling her: "it is only Mr.
Drummond. And he will know how it was, and that we thought there was
not a creature in sight." Nevertheless, she felt a little sorry in her
heart that such a thing had happened. It would spoil Phillis's mirth,
for she was very proud; and it might shock their mother.

"Oh, he will think us such tomboys for grown-up young ladies!" sighed
Dulce, who was only just grown up.

"Never mind what he thinks," returned Nan, walking fast, for she was
anxious to come to Phillis's relief. She joined them very quietly, and
held out her hand to Archie as though nothing had happened.

"Is this a favorite walk of yours, Mr. Drummond? We thought we had it
all to ourselves, and so the girls had a race. They will be dreadfully
troubled at having a spectator; but it might be worse, for you already
know us well enough not to misconstrue a little bit of fun."

"I am glad you judge me so truly," returned Archie, with a gleam of
pleasure in his eyes. Phillis certainly looked uncommonly handsome, as
she stood there, flushed and angry. But how sweet and cool Nan
looked!--not a hair ruffled nor a fold of her dress out of order;
whereas Dulce's brown locks were all loose about her shoulders, shaken
down by the exercise. Nevertheless, at that moment Phillis looked the
most striking.

"I am afraid my sudden appearance has put your sister out dreadfully.
I assure you I would have made myself into thin air if I could," went
on Archie, penitently; "but all the same it was impossible not to
applaud the winner. I felt inclined to wave my hat in the air, and
cry, 'Bravo, Atalanta!' half a dozen times. You made such pretty
running, Miss Challoner; and I wish Grace could have seen it."

The last word acted like magic on Phillis's cloudy brow. She had
passed over two delicately-implied compliments with a little scorn.
Did he think her, like other girls, to be mollified by sugar-plums and
sweet speeches? He might keep all that for the typical young lady of
Hadleigh. At Oldfield the young men knew her better.

It must be owned that the youth of that place had been slightly in awe
of Phillis. One or two had even hinted that they thought her
strong-minded. "She has stand-off ways, and rather laughs at a fellow,
and makes one feel sometimes like a fool," they said; which did not
prove much, except that Phillis showed herself above nonsense, and
had a knowledge of shams, and would not be deceived, and, being the
better horse of the two, showed it; and no man likes to be taken down
in his class.

As Phillis would not flirt,--not understanding the art, but Dulce
proved herself to be a pretty apt pupil,--they left off trying to make
her, and talked sensibly to her instead, which she liked better. But,
though more than one had admired her, no one had ventured to persuade
himself or her that he was in love; but for that there was plenty of
time, Phillis not being the sort of girl to remain long without a
lover.

So when she heard Grace's name she pricked up her ears, and the proud
look left her face; and she said, a little archly, but in a way that
pleased Mr. Drummond,--

"All the same, I am glad your sister was not here, for she would think
Dulce and me such tomboys!" using Dulce's very expression.

Archie shook his head very decidedly at this.

"Ah! you do not know Grace, and how she loves a bit of fun; only she
never gets it, poor girl!" sighing in a marked manner, for he saw how
interested Phillis looked. "If you could only hear her laugh; but
please sit down a moment and rest yourselves," continued the artful
young man, who had not dared to purpose such a thing before.

Nan hesitated; but a glance at Phillis's hot face decided her.

"Just for five minutes," she said, "and then we must go back to
mother;" for she had already determined that they must cut their walk
short for the purpose of getting rid of Mr. Drummond.

And then they sat down on the beach, and Dulce retired behind the
breakwater to take off her hat and tuck up her hair; while Archie,
taking no notice, leaned against the other side, and felt well
contented with his position,--three such pretty girls, and all the
world well away!

"Is Grace your favorite sister?" asked Phillis, suddenly, as she
menaced Laddie with a small pebble.

This was a lucky opening for Archie. He was never seen to more
advantage than when he was talking about Grace. There was no
constraint or consciousness about him at such times, but he would
speak with a simple earnestness that made people say, "What a good
fellow he is!"

"Oh, she has always been that, you know," he said, brightly, "ever
since she was a little thing, and I used to carry her about in my
arms, and string horse-chestnuts for her, when she was the funniest,
merriest little creature, and so clever. I suppose when a man has
seven sisters he may be allowed to have a favorite among them? and
there is not one of them to compare with Grace."

"Seven sisters!" repeated Nan, with a smile; and then she added "you
are very lucky, Mr. Drummond."

Archie shrugged his shoulders at this: he had never quite recognized
his blessings in this respect. Isabel and Dottie might be tolerated,
but he could easily have dispensed with Susie and Laura and Clara; he
had a knack of forgetting their existence when he was absent from
them, and when he was at home he did not always care to be reminded of
their presence. He was one of those men who are very exacting to their
women-kind, who resent it as a personal injury if they fail in good
looks or are not pleasant to the eye. He did not go so far as to say
to himself that he could dispense with poor Mattie too, but he
certainly acted on most occasions as though he thought so.

"Are you not fond of all your sisters?" asked Phillis, rather
maliciously, for she had remarked the shrug.

"Oh, as to that," replied the young man, coloring a little, "one
cannot expect to be interested in a lot of school-girls. I am afraid I
know very little about the four youngest, except that they are working
Grace to death. Just fancy, Miss Challoner!" he continued, addressing
Nan, and quite disregarding Phillis's sympathetic looks. "Grace has
actually no life of her own at all; she teaches those girls, sits with
them, walks with them, helps them mend their clothes, just like a
daily or rather a nursery governess, except that she is not paid, and
has no holidays. I cannot think how my mother can find it in her heart
to work her so hard!" finished Archie, excited to wrath at the
remembrance of Grace's wrongs.

"Well, do you know," returned Nan, thoughtfully, as he seemed to
expect an answer to this, and Phillis for a wonder was silent, "I
cannot think your sister an object of pity. Think what a good and
useful life she is leading! She must be a perfect treasure to her
mother; and I dare say they all love her dearly."

"The girls do," was the somewhat grudging response: "they follow her
about like four shadows, and even Isabel can do nothing without her
advice. When I am at home I can scarcely get her for a moment to
myself; it is 'Grace, come here,' and 'Grace, please do this for me,'
until I wonder she is not worn out."

"Oh, how happy she must be!" responded Nan, softly, for to her no lot
seemed sweeter than this. To be the centre and support of a large
family circle,--the friend and trusted confidante of each! What a
wonderful creature this Grace must be! and how could he speak of her
in that pitying tone? "No life of her own!" Well, what life could she
want better than this? To be the guide and teacher of her younger
sisters, and to be loved by them so dearly! "Oh, I think she is to be
envied! her life must be so full of interest," she said, addressing
the astonished Archie, who had certainly never taken this view of it.
And when she had said this, she gave a slight signal to her sisters,
which they understood at once; and then they paced slowly down the
beach, with their faces towards the town, talking as they went.

They did not walk four abreast, as they used to do in the Oldfield
lanes; but Nan led the way with Mr. Drummond, and Phillis and Dulce
dropped behind.

Archie was a little silent; but presently he said, quite frankly, as
though he had known her for years,--but from the first moment he had
felt strangely at home with these girls,--

"Do you know, you have thrown a fresh light on a vexed subject? I have
been worrying myself dreadfully about Grace. I wanted her to live with
me because there was more sympathy between us than there ever will be
between my sister Mattie and myself. We have more in common, and think
the same on so many subjects; and I knew how happy I could have made
her."

"Yes, I see," returned Nan; and she looked up at him in such an
interested way that he found no difficulty in going on:

"We had planned for years to live together; but when I accepted the
living, and the question was mooted in the family council, my mother
would not hear of it for a moment. She said Grace could not possibly
be spared."

"Well, I suppose not, after what you have told me. But it must have
been a great disappointment to you both," was Nan's judicious reply.

"I have never ceased to regret my mother's decision," he returned,
warmly; "and as for Grace, I fear she has taken the disappointment
grievously to heart."

"Oh, I hope not!"

"Isabel writes to my sister Mattie that Grace is looking thin and pale
and has lost her appetite, and she thinks the mother is getting uneasy
about her; and I cannot help worrying myself about it, and thinking
how all this might have been averted."

"I think you are wrong in that," was the unexpected answer. "When one
has acted rightly to the very best of one's power, it is of no use
worrying about consequences."

"How do you mean?" asked Archie, very much surprised at the decided
tone in which Nan spoke. He had thought her too soft in manners to
possess much energy and determination of character; but he was
mistaken.

"It would be far worse if your sister had not recognized her duty and
refused to remain at home. One cannot find happiness if one moves out
of one's allotted niche; but of course you know all this better than
I, being a clergyman. And, oh! how beautifully you spoke to us last
Sunday!" finished Nan, remembering all at once that she was usurping
his place and preaching a little sermon of her own.

"Never mind that," he replied, impatiently: "tell me what you mean.
There is something behind your speech: you think I am wrong in pitying
poor Grace so much?"

"If you ask me so plainly, I must say yes, though perhaps I am not
competent to judge; but, from what you tell me, I think you ought not
to pity her at all. She is fulfilling her destiny. Is she not doing
the work given her to do? and what can any girl want more? You should
trust your mother, I think, Mr. Drummond; for she would not willingly
overwork her. Mothers are mothers: you need not be afraid," said Nan,
looking up in her clear honest way.

"Thank you; you have taken a weight off my mind," returned Archie,
more moved by this than he cared to own. That last speech had gone
home: he must trust his mother. In a moment scales seemed to fall from
the young man's eyes as he walked along gravely, and silently by Nan.
"Why, what manner of girls could these be?" he thought; "frolicsome as
kittens, and yet possessing the wisdom of mature womanhood?" And those
few simple words of Nan abided long with him.

What if he and Grace were making a mistake, and there was no hardship
in her case at all, but only clear duty, and a most high privilege, as
Nan hinted? What if his mother were right, and only they were wrong?

The idea was salutary, but hardly pleasant; for he had certainly aided
and abetted Grace in her discontent, and had doubtless increased her
repinings at her dull surroundings. Surely Grace's talents had been
given her for a purpose; else why was she so much cleverer than the
others,--so gifted with womanly accomplishments? And that clear head
of hers,--she had a genius for teaching, he had never denied that. Was
his mother, a sensible large-sighted woman in her way, to be secretly
condemned as a tyrant, and wanting in maternal tenderness for Grace,
because she had made use of this gifted daughter for the good of her
other children, and had refused to part with her at Archie's request?

Archie began to feel uncomfortable, for conscience was waxing warm
within him; and there had been a grieved hurt tone in his mother's
letters of late, as though she had felt herself neglected by him.

"Mothers are mothers: you need not be afraid," Nan had said, with
simple wholesome faith in the instincts of motherhood; and the words
had come home to him with the strongest power.

His poor harassed mother,--what a hard life hers had been! Archie
began to feel his heart quite tender towards her; perhaps she was a
little severe and exacting with the girls, but they none of them
understood her in the least, "for her bark was always worse than her
bite," thought Archie; and girls, at least the generality of them, are
sometimes aggravating.

He thought of the weary times she must have had with his father,--for
Mr. Drummond could make himself disagreeable to his wife when things
went wrong with him, and the sullen fortitude with which he bore his
reversal of fortune gave small opening to her tenderness; the very
way in which he shirked all domestic responsibilities, leaving on her
shoulders the whole weight of the domestic machinery and all the
home-management, had hardened and embittered her.

A large family and small means, little support from her husband,--who
interfered less and less with domestic matters,--all this had no doubt
fostered the arbitrary will that governed the Drummond household. If
her husband had only kept her in check,--if he had supported her
authority, and not left her to stand alone,--she would have been, not
a better woman, for Archie knew his mother was good, but she would
have been softer and more lovable, and her children would have seen
deeper into her heart.

Some such thoughts as these passed through Archie's mind as he walked
beside Nan; but he worked them out more carefully when he was alone
that night. Just before they reached the Friary, he had started
another subject; for, turning to Phillis and Dulce, whom he had
hitherto ignored, he asked them whether he might enroll one or all of
them among his Sunday-school teachers.

Phillis's eyes sparkled at this.

"Oh, Nan, how delightful! it will remind us of Oldfield."

"Yes, indeed:" chimed in Dulce, who had left her infant-class with
regret; but, to their surprise, Nan demurred.

"At Oldfield things were very different," she said, decidedly: "we
played all the week, and it was no hardship to teach the dear children
on Sunday; but now we shall have to work so hard that we shall be glad
of one day's rest."

"But surely you might spare us one hour or two in the afternoon?"
returned Archie, putting on what Grace called "his clerical face."

"In the afternoons mother will be glad of our company, and sometimes
we shall indulge in a walk. No, Mr. Drummond, our week-days are too
full of work, and we shall need all the rest we can get on Sunday."
And, with a smile, Nan dismissed the subject.

Phillis spoke regretfully of it when he had left them.

"It would have been so nice," she pleaded; but Nan was inexorable.

"You can go if you like, Phil; but I think mother is entitled to that
one afternoon in the week, and I will not consent to any parish work
on that account; and then I am sure we shall often be so tired." And
Nan's good sense, as usual, carried the day.

After that they all grouped round the window in the little parlor, and
repeated to their mother every word of their conversation with Mr.
Drummond.

Mrs. Challoner grew alarmed and tearful in a moment.

"Oh, my darlings, promise me to be more careful for the future!" she
pleaded. "Of course it was only fun, Phillis and he will not think
anything of it. Still, in a strange place, where no one knows
you----"

"Dulce and I will never run a race again, I think I can promise you
that," replied Phillis, very grimly, who felt that "Bravo, Atalanta!"
would haunt her in her dreams.

"And--and I would not walk about with Mr. Drummond, though he is our
clergyman and a very gentlemanly person. People might talk: and in
your position, my poor dears"--Mrs. Challoner hesitated, for she was
very nice in her scruples, and not for worlds would she have hinted to
her daughters that Mr. Drummond was young and unmarried, and a very
handsome man in the bargain: "You see, I cannot always be with you,
and, as you have to work for your living, and cannot be guarded like
other girls, you have all the more need to be circumspect. You don't
think me over strict, do you, darlings?"

"No, dear mother, you are perfectly right," returned Nan, kissing her.
"I knew how you would feel, and so we came home directly to get rid of
him: it would never do for the vicar of the parish to be seen walking
about with dressmakers."

"Don't, Nan!" exclaimed Phillis, with a shudder. Nevertheless, as she
turned away she remembered how she had enjoyed that walk down the
Braidwood Road that very morning, when he offered to carry home Mrs.
Trimmings's dress and she would not let him.



CHAPTER XXV.

MATTIE'S NEW DRESS.


The remainder of the week passed harmlessly and without any special
event to mark it, and, thanks to Nan's skilful management and
Phillis's pride, there were no further _contretemps_ to shock Mrs.
Challoner's sense of propriety. The work progressed with astonishing
rapidity: in the mornings the young dressmakers were sufficiently
brisk and full of zeal, and in the afternoons, when their energies
flagged and their fingers grew weary, Dulce would sing over her task,
or Mrs. Challoner would read to them for the hour together; but,
notwithstanding the interest of the tale, there was always great
alacrity manifested when the tea-bell gave them the excuse for putting
away their work.

On one or two evenings they gardened, and Mrs. Challoner sat under the
mulberry-tree and watched them; on another occasion they took a long
country walk, and lost themselves, and came back merry and tired, and
laden with primrose-roots and ferns: they had met no one, except a
stray laborer,--had seen glow-worms, picked wild flowers, and declared
themselves mightily refreshed. One evening Phillis, who was not to be
repressed, contrived a new amusement.

"Life is either a mill-pond or a whirlpool," she said, rather
sententiously: "we have been stagnant for three days, and I begin to
feel flat. Races are tabooed: besides, we cannot always leave mother
alone. I propose we go out in the garden and have a game of battledore
and shuttlecock;" for this had been a winter pastime with them at the
cottage.

Nan, who was always rather sober-minded now, demurred to this. She
would have preferred gardening a little, or sitting quietly with her
mother under the mulberry-tree; but Phillis, who was in a wild mood,
overruled all her objections, and by and by the battle began, and the
shuttlecocks flew through the air.

The week's work was finished, and the three dresses lay in their
wrappers, waiting for Dorothy to convey them to their several owners.
Nan who was really an _artiste_ at heart, had called her mother
proudly into the room to admire the result of their labors. Mrs.
Challoner was far too accustomed to her daughter's skilfulness to
testify any surprise, but she at once pronounced Miss Drummond's dress
the _chef-d'oeuvre_. Nan's taste was faultless; and the trimmings she
had selected harmonized so well with the soft tints of the silk.

"They are all very nice; and Mrs. Trimmings will be charmed with her
blue silk," observed Mrs. Challoner, trying to throw a little interest
into her voice, and to suppress a sigh; and then she helped Nan to
adjust the wrappers, and to pin the neatly-written bills inside each.

"I am sure that is business-like," said Nan, with a satisfied nod, for
she never could do anything by halves; and she was so interested in
her work that she would have been heart-broken if she thought one of
the dresses would be a misfit; and then it was that Phillis, who had
been watching her very closely, brightened up and proposed a game.

It was a very pretty sight, the mother thought, as she followed her
girls' movements; the young figures swayed so gracefully as they
skimmed hither and thither over the lawn with light butterfly
movements, the three eager faces upturned in the evening light, their
heads held well back.

"Two hundred, two hundred and one, two hundred and two--don't let it
drop, Dulce!" panted Phillis, breathlessly.

"Oh, my darlings, don't tire yourselves!" exclaimed Mrs. Challoner, as
her eyes followed the white flutter of the shuttlecocks.

This was the picture that Mr. Drummond surveyed. Dorothy, who was just
starting on her round, and was in no mood for her errand, had admitted
him somewhat churlishly.

"Yes, the mistress and the young ladies were in; and would he step
into the parlor, as her hands were full?"

"Oh, yes, I know the way," Mr. Drummond had returned, quite undaunted
by the old woman's sour looks.

But the parlor was empty, save for Laddie, who had been shut up there
not to spoil sport, and who was whining most piteously to be let out.
He saluted Archie with a joyous bark, and commenced licking his boots
and wagging his tail with mute petition to be released from this
durance vile.

Archie patted and fondled him, for he was good to all dumb creatures.

"Poor little fellow! I wonder why they have shut you up here?" he
said; and then he took him up in his arms, and stepped to the window
to reconnoitre.

And then he stood and looked, perfectly fascinated by the novel sight.
His sisters played battledore and shuttlecock in the school-room
sometimes, or out in the passages on a winter's afternoon. He had once
caught Susie and Clara at it, and had laughed at them in no measured
terms for indulging in such a babyish game. "I should have thought
Dottie might have played at that," he had said, rather contemptuously.
"I suppose you indulge in skipping-ropes sometimes." And the poor
girls had paused in their game, feeling ashamed of themselves. Archie
would think them such hoydens.

He remembered his reprimand with a strange feeling of compunction, as
he stood by the window trying vainly to elude Laddie's caresses. What
a shame of him to have spoiled those poor children's game with his
sneer, when they had so little fun in their lives! and yet, as he
recalled Clara's clumsy gestures and Susie's short-sighted attempts,
he was obliged to confess that battledore and shuttlecock wore a
different aspect now. Could anything surpass Phillis's swift-handed
movements, brisk, graceful, alert, or Nan's attitude, as she sustained
the duel? Dulce, who seemed dodging in between them in a most
eccentric way, had her hair loose as usual, curling in brown lengths
about her shoulders. She held it with one hand, as she poised her
battledore with the other. This time Archie thought of Nausicaa and
her maidens tossing the ball beside the river, after washing the
wedding-garments. Was it in this way the young dressmakers disported
themselves during the evenings?

It was Phillis who first discovered the intruder. The shuttlecocks had
become entangled, and fallen to the ground. As she stooped to pick
them up, her quick eyes detected a coat-sleeve at the window; and an
indefinable instinct, for she could not see his face, made her call
out,--

"Mother, Mr. Drummond is in the parlor. Do go to him, while Dulce puts
up her hair." And then she said, severely, "I always tell you not to
wear your hair like that, Dulce. Look at Nan and me; we are quite
unruffled; but yours is always coming down. If you have pretty hair,
you need not call people's attention to it in this way." At which
speech Dulce tossed her head and ran away, too much offended to
answer.

When Archie saw Mrs. Challoner crossing the lawn with the gait of a
queen, he knew he was discovered: so he opened the window, and stepped
out in the coolest possible way.

"I seem always spoiling sport," he said, with a mischievous glance at
Phillis, which she received with outward coolness and an inward
twinge. "Bravo, Atalanta!" sounded in her ears again. "Your maid
invited me in; but I did not care to disturb you."

"I am glad you did not open the window before," returned Nan, speaking
with that directness and fine simplicity that always put things to
rights at once: "it would have startled us before we got to the five
hundred, and then Phillis would have been disappointed. Mother, shall
we bring out some more chairs instead of going into the parlor? It is
so much pleasanter out here." And as Mrs. Challoner assented, they
were soon comfortably established on the tiny lawn; and Archie, very
much at his ease, and feeling himself unaccountably happy, proceeded
to deliver some trifling message from his sister, that was his
ostensible reason for his intrusion.

"Why does she not deliver her messages herself?" thought Phillis; but
she kept this remark to herself. Only, that evening she watched the
young clergyman a little closely, as though he puzzled her. Phillis
was the man of the family; and it was she who always stood upon guard
if Nan or Dulce needed a sentinel. She was beginning to think Mr.
Drummond came very often to see them, considering their short
acquaintance. If it were Miss Mattie, now, who ran in and out with
little offerings of flowers and fruit in a nice neighborly fashion!
But for this very dignified young man to burden himself with these
slight feminine messages,--a question about new-laid eggs, which even
Nan had forgotten.

Phillis was quite glad when her mother said,--

"You ought to have brought your sister, Mr. Drummond: she must be so
dull all alone,"--forgetting all about the dressmaking, poor soul! but
Phillis remembered it a moment afterwards, with a rush of bitter
feeling.

Perhaps, after all, that was why he came in so often, because he was
so sorry for them, and wished to help them, as he said. A clergyman
has more privileges than other men: perhaps she was wrong to suspect
him. He might not wish his sister to visit them, except in a purely
business-like way; but with him it was different. Most likely he had
tea with Mrs. Trimmings sometimes, just to show he was not proud; he
might even sit and chat with Mrs. Squails, and not feel compromised in
the least. Oh, yes! how stupid she was to think he admired Nan,
because she had intercepted a certain glance! That was her mania,
thinking every one must be after Nan. Things were different now.

Of course he would be their only link with civilized society,--the
only cultivated mind with which they could hold converse; and here
Phillis ceased to curl her lip, and her gray eyes took a sombre
shade, and she sighed so audibly that Archie broke off an interesting
discussion on last Commemoration, and looked at her in unfeigned
surprise.

"Oh, yes! we were there," returned Nan, innocently, who loved to talk
of those dear old times; "and we were at the _fête_ at Oriel, and at
the concert at Magdalen also. Ah! do you remember, Dulce?" And then
she faltered a little, and flushed,--not because Mr. Drummond was
looking at her so intently but at certain thoughts that began to
intrude themselves, which entwined themselves with the moonlighted
cloisters.

"I was to have been there too, only at the last moment I was
prevented," replied Archie; but his tone was inexplicable to the girl,
it was at once so regretful and awe-struck. Good heavens! if he had
met them, and been introduced to them in proper form! They had
mentioned a Mr. Hamilton: well, Hamilton had been a pupil of his; he
had coached him during a term. "You know Hamilton?" he had said,
staring at her; and then he wondered what Hamilton would say if he
came down to stay with him next vacation.

These reflections made him rather absent; and even when he took his
leave, which was not until the falling dews and the glimmer of a late
dusk drove Mrs. Challoner into the house, these thoughts still pursued
him. Nothing else seemed to have taken so strong a hold on him as
this.

"Good heavens!" he kept repeating to himself, "to think that the
merest chance--just the incidental business of a friend--prevented me
from occupying my old rooms during Commemoration! to think I might
have met them in company with Hamilton and the other fellows!"

The sudden sense of disappointment, of something lost and irremediable
in his life, of wasted opportunities, of denied pleasure, came over
the young man's mind. He could not have danced with Nan at the
University ball, it is true: clergymen, according to his creed, must
not dance. But there was the _fête_ at Oriel, and the Magdalen
concert, and the Long Walk in the Christchurch meadows, and doubtless
other opportunities.

He never asked himself if these girls would have interested him so
much if he had met them first in ordinary society: from the very first
moment they had attracted him strangely. Had he only known them a
fortnight? Good heavens! it seemed months, years, a lifetime! These
revolutions of mind are not to be measured by time. It had come to
this that the late fellow of Oriel, so aristocratic in his tastes, so
temperate in his likings, had entered certain devious paths, where
hidden pitfalls and thorny enclosures warn the unwary traveller of
unknown dangers, and in which he was walking, not blindfold, but by
strongest will and intent, led by impulse like a mere boy, and not
daring to raise his eyes to the future. "And what Grace would have
said!" And for the first time in his life Archie felt that in this
case he could not ask Grace's advice. He was loath to turn in at his
own gate; but Mattie was standing there watching for him. She ran out
into the road to meet him, and then he could see there were letters in
her hand.

"Oh, dear, Archie, I thought you were never coming home!" she
exclaimed. "And I have such news to tell you! There is a letter for
you from Grace, and mother has written to me; and there is a note from
Isabel inside, and she is engaged--really and truly engaged--to Mr.
Ellis Burton; and the wedding is to be in six weeks, and you and I are
to go down to it, and--oh, dear----" Here Mattie broke down, and began
to sob with excitement and pleasure and the longing for sympathy.

"Well, well, there is nothing to cry about!" returned Archie, roughly;
and then his manner changed and softened in spite of himself; for
after all, Isabel was his sister, and this was the first wedding in
the family, and he could not hear such a piece of news unmoved. "Let
me hear all about it," he said, by and by; and then he took poor
hysterical little Mattie into the house, and gave her some wine, and
was very kind to her, and listened to his mother's letter and Isabel's
gushing effusion without a single sneer. "Poor little Belle; she does
seem very happy!" he said, quite affectionately, as he turned up the
lamp still more, and began Grace's letter.

Mattie sat and gazed at him in a sort of ecstasy; but she did not
venture to ask him to read it to her. How nice he was to-night, and
how handsome he looked! there never was such a brother as Archie. But
suddenly, as though he was conscious of being watched, he sat down by
the table, and shaded his face with his hand.

No, Mattie, was right in her surmise: he would not have cared to show
that letter to any one.

The first sheet was all about Isabel. "Dear little Isabel has just
left me," wrote Grace. "The child looks so pretty in her new
happiness, you would hardly know her. She has just been showing me the
magnificent hoop of diamonds Ellis has given her. She says we must all
call him Ellis now. 'Chacun a son gout:' Poor Ellis is not very
brilliant, certainly: I remember we used to call him clownish and
uncultivated. But he has a good heart, and he is really very fond of
Isabel; and as she is satisfied, I suppose we need not doubt the
wisdom of her choice. Mother is radiant, and makes so much of the
little bride-elect that she declares her head is quite turned. The
house is quite topsy-turvy with the excitement of this first wedding
in the family. Isabel is very young to be married, and I tell mother
six weeks is far too short for an engagement; but it seems Ellis will
not listen to reason, and he has talked mother over. Perhaps I am
rather fastidious, but, if I were Isabel, I should hate to receive my
trousseau from my lover; and yet Ellis wants his mother to get
everything for his _fiancee_. I believe there is to be a sort of
compromise, and Mrs. Burton is to select heaps of pretty
things,--dresses and mantles and Paris bonnets. They are rolling in
riches. Ellis has taken a large house in Sloane Square, and his father
has bought him a landau and a splendid pair of horses;
everything--furniture, plate and ornaments--is to be as massive and
expensive as possible. If I were Isabel I should feel smothered by all
these grand things but the little lady takes it all quite coolly.

"When I get a moment to myself I sit down and say, 'In six weeks I
shall see Archie!' Oh, my darling! this is almost too good news to be
true! Only six weeks, and then I shall really see you! Now do you
know, I am longing for a good clearing-up talk? for your letters
lately have not satisfied me at all. Perhaps I am growing fanciful,
but I cannot help feeling as though something has come between us. The
current of sympathy seems turned aside, somehow. No, do not laugh, or
put me off with a jest, for I am really in earnest; and but for fear
of your scolding me I should own to being just a little unhappy.
Forgive me, Archie, if I vex you; but there is something, I am
thoroughly convinced of that. You have some new interest or worry that
you are keeping from me. Is this quite in accordance with our old
compact, dear? Who are these Challoners Mattie mentions in her
letters? She told me a strange rigmarole about them the other
day,--that they were young ladies who had turned dressmakers. What an
eccentric idea! They must be very odd young ladies, I should think, to
emancipate themselves so completely from all conventionalities. I wish
they had not established themselves at Hadleigh and so near the
vicarage. Mattie says you are so kind to them. Oh, Archie! dear
brother! do be careful! I do not half like the idea of these girls;
they sound rash and designing, and you are so chivalrous in your
notions. Why not let Mattie be kind to them instead of you? In a
parish like Hadleigh you need to be careful. Mother is calling me, so
I will just close this with my fondest love.

                                                              "GRACE."

Archie threw down the letter with a frown. For the first time he was
annoyed with Grace.

Nan and her sisters rash and designing! "Odd young ladies"! She was
sorry they had established themselves at Hadleigh! It was really too
bad of Grace to condemn them in this fashion. But of course it must be
Mattie's fault: she had written a pack of nonsense, exaggerating
things as much as possible.

Poor Mattie would have had to bear the brunt of his wrath as usual,
only, as he turned to her with the frown black on his forehead, his
eyes caught sight of her dress. Hitherto the room had been very dimly
lighted; but now, as he looked at her in the soft lamplight, his anger
vanished in amazement.

"Why, Mattie, what have you done to yourself? We are not expecting
company this evening: it is nearly ten o'clock."

Mattie blushed and laughed, and then she actually bridled with
pleasure:

"Oh, no, Archie; of course not. I only put on my new dress just to see
how it would fit; and then I thought you might like to see it. It is
the one uncle gave me; and is it not beautifully made? I am sure Mrs.
Cheyne's dresses never fit better. You and Grace may say what you like
about the Challoners, but if they can make dresses like this, it would
be tempting Providence not to use such a talent, and just because they
were too fine ladies to work."

"I do believe you are right, Mattie," returned Archie, in a low voice.
"Turn round and let me look at you, girl. Do you mean--that she--that
they made that?"

Mattie nodded as she slowly pivoted on one foot, and then revolved
like the figures one used to see on old-fashioned barrel-organs; then,
as she stood still, she panted out the words,--

"Is it not just lovely, Archie?" for in all the thirty years of her
unassuming life Mattie had never had such a dress, so no wonder her
head was a little turned.

"Yes, indeed; I like it excessively," was Archie's comment; and then
he added, with the delicious frankness common to brothers, "It makes
you look quite a different person, Mattie: you are almost nice-looking
to-night."

"Oh, thank you, dear!" cried poor Mattie, quite moved by this
compliment; for if Archie thought her almost nice-looking he must be
pleased with her. Indeed, she even ventured to raise herself on tiptoe
and kiss him in gratitude, which was taking a great liberty; only
Archie bore it for once.

"She really looked very well, poor little woman!" thought Archie, when
Mattie had at last exhausted her raptures and bidden him good-night.
"She would not be half so bad-looking if some one would take her in
hand and dress her properly. The women must be right, after all, and
there is a power in dress. Those girls do nothing by halves," he
continued, walking up and down the room. "I would not have believed
they had made it, if Mattie had not told me. 'Rash and designing,'
indeed! just because they are not like other girls,--because they are
more natural, more industrious, more courageous, more religious in
fact." And then the young clergyman softly quoted to himself the words
of the wise old king, words that Nan and her sisters had ever loved
and sought to practise:

"Whatsoever thy hands findeth to do, do it with thy might."



CHAPTER XXVI.

"OH, YOU ARE PROUD!"


On the following Monday morning, Nan said in rather a curious voice to
Phillis,--

"If no customers call to-day, our work-room will be empty. I wonder
what we shall do with ourselves?"

To which Phillis replied, without a moment's hesitation,--

"We will go down and bathe, and Dulce and I will have a
swimming-match; and after that we will sit on the beach and quiz the
people. Most likely there will be a troupe of colored minstrels on the
Parade, and that will be fun."

"Oh, I hope no one will come!" observed Dulce, overjoyed at the idea
of a holiday; but, seeing Nan's face was full of rebuke at this
outburst of frivolity, she said no more.

It was decided at last that they should wait for an hour to see if any
orders arrived, and after that they would consider themselves at
liberty to amuse themselves for the remainder of the day. But, alas
for Dulce's hopes! long before the appointed hour had expired, the
gate-bell rang, and Miss Drummond made her appearance with a large
paper parcel, which she deposited on the table with a radiant face.

The story was soon told. Her silk dress was such a success, and dear
Archie was so charmed with it--here Mattie, with a blush, deposited a
neatly-sealed little packet in Nan's hand--that he had actually
proposed that she should have another gown made after the same pattern
for every-day wear. And he had taken her himself directly after
breakfast down to Mordant's, and had chosen her this dress. He had
never done such a thing before, even for Grace: so no wonder Mattie
was in the seventh heaven of delight.

"It is very pretty," observed Nan, critically: "your brother has good
taste." Which speech was of course retailed to Archie.

Mattie had only just left the cottage, when another customer appeared
in the person of Miss Middleton.

Nan, who had just begun her cutting-out, met her with a pleased glance
of recognition, and then, remembering her errand, bowed rather
gravely. But Miss Middleton, after a moment's hesitation, held out her
hand.

She had not been able to make up her mind about these girls. Her
father's shocked sense of decorum, and her own old-fashioned
gentlewoman's idea, had raised certain difficulties in her mind, which
she had found it hard to overcome. "Recollect, Elizabeth, I will not
have those girls brought here," the colonel had said to her that very
morning. "They may be all very well in their way, but I have changed
my opinion of them. There's poor Drummond: now mark my words, there
will be trouble by and by in that quarter." For Colonel Middleton had
groaned in spirit ever since the morning he had seen the young vicar
walking with Phillis down the Braidwood Road, when she was carrying
Mrs. Trimmings's dress. Elizabeth answered this gentle protest by one
of her gentle smiles. "Very well, dear father: I will ask no one to
Brooklyn against your wish, you may be sure of that; but I suppose
they may make my new dress? Mattie's has been such a success; they
certainly understand their business."

"You have a right to select your own dressmaker, Elizabeth," returned
the colonel, with a frigid wave of his hand, for he had not got over
his disappointment about the girls. "I only warn you because you are
very quixotic in your notions; but we must take the world as we find
it, and make the best of it; and there is your brother coming home by
and by. We must be careful, for Hammond's sake." And, as Elizabeth's
good sense owned the justice of her father's remark, there was nothing
more said on the subject.

But it was not without a feeling of embarrassment that Miss Middleton
entered the cottage: her great heart was yearning over these girls,
whom she was compelled to keep at a distance. True, her father was
right, Hammond was coming home, and a young officer of
seven-and-twenty was not to be trusted where three pretty girls were
concerned: it would never do to invite them to Brooklyn or to make too
much of them. Miss Middleton had ranged herself completely on her
father's side, but at the sight of Nan's sweet face and her grave
little bow she forgot all her prudent resolutions, and her hand was
held out as though to an equal.

"I have come to ask you if you will be good enough to make me a
dress," she said, with a charming smile. "You have succeeded so well
with Miss Drummond that I cannot help wishing to have one too." And
when she had said this she looked quietly round her, and surveyed the
pretty work-room, and Dulce sitting at the sewing-machine, and lastly
Phillis's bright, intelligent face, as she stood by the table turning
over some fashion-books.

At that moment Mrs. Challoner entered the room with her little
work-basket, and placed herself at the other window. Miss Middleton
began talking to her at once, while Nan measured and pinned.

"I don't think I ever spent a pleasanter half-hour," she told her
father afterwards. "Mattie was right in what she said: they have made
the work-room perfectly lovely with pictures and old china: and
nothing could be nicer than their manners,--so simple and unassuming,
yet with a touch of independence too."

"And the old lady?" inquired the colonel, maliciously, for he had seen
Mrs. Challoner in church, and knew better than to speak of her so
disrespectfully.

"Old lady, father! why, she is not old at all. She is an exceedingly
pleasing person, only a little stately in her manner; one would not
venture to take a liberty with her. We had such a nice talk while the
eldest daughter was fitting me. Is it not strange, father dear, that
they know the Paines? and Mrs. Sartoris is an old acquaintance of
theirs. I think they were a little sorry when they heard we knew them
too, for the second girl colored up so when I said Adelaide was your
goddaughter."

"Humph? we will have Adelaide down here, and hear all about them,"
responded her father, briskly.

"Well, I don't know; I am afraid that would be painful to them, under
their changed circumstances. Just as we were talking about Adelaide,
Miss Mewlstone came in; and then they were so busy that I did not like
to stay any longer. Ah, there is Mr. Drummond coming to interrupt us,
as usual."

And then the colonel retailed all this for Archie's benefit. He had
come in to glean a crumb or two of intelligence, if he could, about
the Challoners' movements, and the colonel's garrulity furnished him
with a rich harvest.

Phillis had taken Miss Mewlstone in hand at once in the intervals of
business: she had inquired casually after Mrs. Cheyne's injured
ankle.

"It is going on well: she can stand now," returned Miss Mewlstone.
"The confinement has been very trying for her, poor thing, and she
looks sadly the worse for it. Don't take out those pins, my dear: what
is the good of taking so much pains with a fat old thing like me and
pricking your pretty fingers? Well, she is always asking me if I have
seen any of you when I come home."

"Mrs. Cheyne asks after us!" exclaimed Phillis, in a tone of
astonishment.

"Ah, just so. She has not forgotten you. Magdalene never forgets any
one in whom she takes interest; not that she likes many people, poor
dear! but then so few understand her. They will not believe that it is
all on the surface, and that there is a good heart underneath."

"You call her Magdalene," observed Phillis, rather curiously, looking
up into Miss Mewlstone's placid face.

"Ah, just so; I forgot. You see, I knew her as a child,--oh, such a
wee toddling mite! younger than dear little Janie. I remember her just
as though it were yesterday; the loveliest little creature,--prettier
even than Janie!"

"Was Janie the child who died?"

"Yes, the darling! She was just three years old; a perfect angel of a
child! and Bertie was a year older. Poor Magdalene! it is no wonder
she is as she is,--no husband and children! When she sent for me I
came at once, though I knew how it would be."

"You knew how it would be?" repeated Phillis, in a questioning voice,
for Miss Mewlstone had come to a full stop here. She looked a little
confused at this repetition of her words.

"Oh, just so--just so. Thank you, my dear. You have done that
beautifully, I am sure. Never mind what an old woman says. When people
are in trouble like that, they are often ill to live with. Magdalene
has her moods; so have we all, my dear, though you are too young to
know that; but no one understands her better than her old Bathsheba;
that is my name, and a funny old name too, is it not?" continued Miss
Mewlstone, blinking at Phillis with her little blue eyes. "The worst
of having such a name is that no one will use it; even father and
mother called me Barby, as Magdalene does sometimes still."

Bathsheba Mewlstone! Phillis's lip curled with suppressed amusement.
What a droll old thing she was! and yet she liked her, somehow.

"If she takes it into her head to come and see you, you will try and
put up with her sharp speeches?" continued Miss Mewlstone, a little
anxiously, as she tied on her bonnet. "Mr. Drummond does not
understand her at all: and I will not deny that she is hard on the
poor young man, and makes fun of him a bit; but, bless you, it is only
her way! She torments herself and other people, just because time will
not pass quickly enough and let her forget. If we had children
ourselves we should understand it better, and how in Ramah there must
be lamentation," finished Miss Mewlstone, with a vague and peculiar
reference to the martyred innocents which was rather inexplicable to
Phillis, as in this case there was certainly no Herod, but an ordinary
visitation of Providence; but then she did not know that Miss
Mewlstone was often a little vague.

After this hint, Phillis was not greatly surprised when, one morning,
a pair of gray ponies stopped before the Friary, and Mrs. Cheyne's
tall figure came slowly up the flagged path.

It must be owned that Phillis's first feelings were not wholly
pleasurable. Nan had gone out: an invalid lady staying at Seaview
Cottage had sent for a dressmaker rather hurriedly, and Miss Milner
had of course recommended them. Nan had gone at once, and, as Dulce
looked pale, she had taken her with her for a walk. They might not be
back for another hour; and a _tete-a-tete_ with Mrs. Cheyne after
their last interview was rather formidable.

Dorothy preceded her with a parcel, which she deposited rather
gingerly on the table. As Mrs. Cheyne entered the room she looked at
Phillis in a cool, off-hand manner.

"I am come on business," she said with a little nod. "How do you do,
Miss Challoner? You are looking rather pale, I think." And then her
keen glance travelled round the room.

The girl flushed a little over this abruptness, but she did not lose
her courage.

"Is this the dress?" she asked, opening the parcel; but her fingers
would tremble a little, in spite of her will. And then, as the rich
folds of the black brocade came into view, she asked, in a
business-like tone, in what style Mrs. Cheyne would wish it made, and
how soon she required it. To all of which Mrs. Cheyne responded in the
same dry, curt manner; and then the usual process of fitting began.

Never had her task seemed so tedious and distasteful to Phillis. Even
Mrs. Trimmings was preferable to this: she hardly ventured to raise
her eyes, for fear of meeting Mrs. Cheyne's cold, satirical glance;
and yet all the time she knew she was being watched. Mrs. Cheyne's
vigilant silence meant something.

If only her mother would come in! but she was shelling peas for
Dorothy. To think Nan should have failed her on such an occasion! even
Dulce would have been a comfort, though she was so easily frightened.
She started almost nervously when Mrs. Cheyne at last broke the
silence:

"Yes, you are decidedly paler,--a little thinner, I think, and that
after only a fortnight's work."

Phillis looked up a little indignantly at this; but she found Mrs.
Cheyne was regarding her not unkindly.

"I am well enough," she returned, rather ungraciously; "but we are not
used to so much confinement and the weather is hot. We shall grow
accustomed to it in time."

"You think restlessness is so easily subdued?" with a sneer.

"No; but I believe it can be controlled," replied poor Phillis, who
suffered more than any one guessed from this restraint on her sweet
freedom.

Mrs. Cheyne was right: even in this short time she was certainly paler
and thinner.

"You mean to persevere, then, in your moral suicide?"

"We mean to persevere in our duty," corrected Phillis, as she pinned
up a sleeve.

"Rather a high moral tone for a dressmaker to take: don't you think
so?" returned Mrs. Cheyne, in the voice Archie hated. The woman
certainly had a double nature: there was a twist in her somewhere.

This was too much for Phillis: she fired up in a moment.

"Why should not dressmakers take a high moral tone? You make me feel
glad I am one when you talk like that. This is our ambition,--Nan's
and mine, for Dulce is too young to think much about it,--to show by
our example that there is no degradation in work. Oh, it is hard!
First Mr. Drummond comes, and talks to us as though we were doing
wrong; and, then you, to cry down our honest labor, and call it
suicide! Is it suicide to work with these hands, that God has made
clever, for my mother?" cried Phillis; and her great gray eyes filled
up with sudden tears.

Mrs. Cheyne did not look displeased at the girl's outburst. If she had
led up to this point, she could not have received it more calmly.

"There, there! you need not excite yourself, child!" she said, more
gently. "I only wanted to know what you would say. So Miss Mewlstone
has been to you, I hear?--and Miss Middleton, too? but that's her
benevolence. Of course Miss Mattie comes out of curiosity. How I do
detest a fussy woman, with a tongue that chatters faster than a
purling brook! What do you say? No harm in her?" for Phillis had
muttered something to this effect. "Oh, that is negative praise! I
like people to have a little harm in them: it is so much more
amusing."

"I cannot say I am of your opinion," returned Phillis, coldly: she was
rather ashamed of her fit of enthusiasm, and cross in consequence.

"My dear, I always thought Lucifer must have been rather an
interesting person." Then, as Phillis looked scandalized, and drew
herself up, she said, in a funny voice, "Now, don't tell your mother
what I said, or she will think me an improper character; and I want to
be introduced to her."

"You want to be introduced to my mother!" Phillis could hardly believe
her ears. Certainly Mrs. Cheyne was a most inexplicable person.

"Dressmakers don't often have mothers, do they?" returned Mrs. Cheyne,
with a laugh; "at least, they are never on view. I suppose they are in
the back premises doing something?"

"Shelling peas, for example," replied Phillis, roused to mischief by
this: "that is mother's work this morning. Dorothy is old and
single-handed, and needs all the help we can give her. Oh, yes! I will
take you to her at once."

"Indeed you must not, if it will inconvenience her!" returned Mrs.
Cheyne, drawing back a little at this. She was full of curiosity to
see the mother of these singular girls, but she did not wish to have
her illusion too roughly dispelled; and the notion of Mrs. Challoner's
homely employment grated a little on the feelings of the fine lady who
had never done anything useful in her life.

"Oh, nothing puts mother out!" returned Phillis, in an indifferent
tone. The old spirit of fun was waking up in her, and she led the way
promptly to the parlor.

"Mother, Mrs. Cheyne wishes to see you," she announced, in a most
matter-of-fact voice, as though that lady were a daily visitor.

Mrs. Challoner looked up in a little surprise. One of Dorothy's rough
aprons was tied over her nice black gown, and the yellow earthenware
bowl was on her lap. Phillis took up some of the green pods, and began
playing with them.

"Will you excuse my rising?--you see my employment," observed Mrs.
Challoner, with a smile that was almost as charming as Nan's; and she
held out a white soft hand to her visitor.

The perfect ease of her manner, the absence of all flurry, produced an
instant effect on Mrs. Cheyne. For a moment she stood as though at a
loss to explain her intrusion; but the next minute one of her rare
sunshiny smiles crossed her face:

"I must seem impertinent; but your daughters have interested me so
much that I was anxious to see their mother. But I ought to apologize
for disturbing you so early."

"Not at all; all hours are the same to me. We are always glad to see
our friends: are we not, Phillis? My dear, I wish you would carry
these away to Dorothy and ask her to finish them."

"Oh, no! pray do nothing of the kind," returned Mrs. Cheyne, eagerly.
"You must not punish me in this way. Let me help you. Indeed, I am
sure I can, if I only tried." And, to Phillis's intense amusement,
Mrs. Cheyne drew off her delicate French gloves, and in another moment
both ladies were seated close together, shelling peas into the same
pan, and talking as though they had known each other for years.

"Oh, it was too delicious!" exclaimed Phillis, when she had retailed
this interview for Nan's and Dulce's benefit. "I knew mother would
behave beautifully. If I had taken the Princess of Wales in to see
her, she would not have had a word of apology for her apron, though it
was a horrid coarse thing of Dorothy's. She would just have smiled at
her, as she did at Mrs. Cheyne. Mother's behavior is always lovely."

"Darling old mammie!" put in Dulce, rapturously, at this point.

"I made some excuse and left them together, because I could see Mrs.
Cheyne was dying to get rid of me; and I'm always amiable, and like to
please people. Oh, it was the funniest sight, I assure you!--Mrs.
Cheyne with her long fingers blazing with diamond rings, and the peas
rolling down her silk dress; and mother just going on with her
business in her quiet way. Oh, I had such a laugh when I was back in
the work-room!"

It cost Phillis some trouble to be properly demure when Mrs. Cheyne
came into the work-room some time afterwards in search of her. Perhaps
her mischievous eyes betrayed her, for Mrs. Cheyne shook her head at
her in pretended rebuke:

"Ah, I see; you will persist in treating things like a comedy. Well,
that is better than putting on tragedy airs and making yourselves
miserable. Now I have seen your mother, I am not quite so puzzled."

"Indeed!" and Phillis fixed her eyes innocently on Mrs. Cheyne's
face.

"No; but I am not going to make you vain by telling you what I think
of her: indiscriminate praise is not wholesome. Now, when are you
coming to see me?--that is the point in question."

"Dorothy will bring home your dress on Saturday," replied Phillis, a
little dryly. "If it requires alteration, perhaps you will let me
know, and of course I will come up to the White House at any time."

"But I do not mean to wait for that. You are misunderstanding me
purposely, Miss Challoner. I want you to come and talk to me one
evening,--any evening. No one but Miss Mewlstone will be there."

"Oh, no!" responded Phillis, suddenly turning very red:

"I do not think that would do at all, Mrs. Cheyne. I do not mean to be
rude or ungrateful for your kindness, but--but----" Here the girl
stammered and broke down.

"You wish, then, to confine our intercourse to a purely business
relation?" asked Mrs. Cheyne, and her voice had a tone of the old
bitterness.

"Would it not be better under the circumstances? Forgive me if I am
too proud, but----"

"Oh, you are proud, terribly proud!" returned Mrs. Cheyne, taking up
her words before she could complete her sentence. "You owe me a grudge
for what I said that night, and now you are making me pay the penalty.
Well, I am not meek: there is not a human being living to whom I would
sue for friendship. If I were starving for a kind word, I would sooner
die than ask for one. You see, I am proud too, Miss Challoner."

"Oh, I did not mean to hurt you," returned Phillis, distressed at
this, but determined not to yield an inch or bend to the sudden
caprice of this extraordinary woman, who had made her suffer so once.

"To be hurt, one must have feelings," returned this singular person.
"Do not be afraid, I shall not attempt to shake your resolution: if
you come to me now it must be of your own free will."

"And if I come, what then?" asked Phillis, standing very straight and
stiff, for she would not be patronized.

"If you come you will be welcome," returned Mrs. Cheyne; and then,
with a grave inclination of the head, she swept out of the room.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A DARK HOUR.


"I should go one evening, if I were you: it is easy to see that Mrs.
Cheyne has taken a fancy to you," said Nan, who was much interested by
this recital; but to this Phillis replied, with a very decided shake
of the head,--

"I shall do nothing of the kind; I was not made to be a fine lady's
_protegee_. If she patronized me, I should grow savage and show my
teeth; and, as I have no desire to break the peace, we had better
remain strangers. Dear Magdalene certainly has a temper!" finished
Phillis, with a wicked little sneer.

Nan tried to combat this resolution, and used a great many arguments:
she was anxious that Phillis should avail herself of this sudden fancy
on the part of Mrs. Cheyne to lift herself and perhaps all of them
into society with their equals. Nan's good sense told her that though
at present the novelty and excitement of their position prevented them
from realizing the full extent of their isolation, in time it must
weigh on them very heavily, and especially on Phillis, who was bright
and clever and liked society; but all her words were powerless against
Phillis's stubbornness: to the White House she could not and would not
go.

But one evening she changed her mind very suddenly, when a note from
Miss Mewlstone reached her. A gardener's boy brought it: "it was very
particular, and was to be delivered immediate to the young lady," he
observed, holding the missive between a very grimy finger and thumb.

"MY DEAR YOUNG LADY,--

"Pride is all very well, but charity is often best in the long run,
and a little kindness to a suffering human being is never out of place
in a young creature like you.

"Poor Magdalene has been very sadly for days, and I have got it into
my stupid old head--that is always fancying things--that she has been
watching for folks who have been too proud to come, though she would
die sooner than tell me so; but that is her way, poor dear!

"It is ill to wake at nights with nothing but sad thoughts for
company, and it is ill wearing out the long days with only a silly old
body to cheer one up; and when there is nothing fresh to say, and
nothing to expect, and not a footstep or a voice to break the silence,
then it seems to me that a young voice--that is, a kind voice--would
be welcome. Take this hint, my dear, and keep my counsel, for I am
only a silly old woman, as she often says.

                                                       "Yours,
                                                 Bathsheba Mewlstone."

"Oh, I must go now!" observed Phillis, in an embarrassed voice, as she
laid this singular note before Nan.

"Yes, dear; and you had better put on your hat at once, and Dulce and
I will walk with you as far as the gate. It is sad for you to miss the
scramble on the shore; but, when other people really want us, I feel
as though it were a direct call," finished Nan, solemnly.

"I am afraid there is a storm coming up," replied Phillis, who had
been oppressed all day by the heavy thundery atmosphere: she had
looked so heated and weary that Nan had proposed a walk by the shore.
Work was pouring upon them from all sides: the townspeople, envious of
Mrs. Trimmings's stylish new dress, were besieging the Friary with
orders, and the young dressmakers would have been literally
overwhelmed with their labors, only that Nan, with admirable
foresight, insisted on taking in no more work than they felt
themselves able to complete.

"No," she would say to some disappointed customer, "our hands are full
just now, and we cannot undertake any more orders at present: we will
not promise more than we can perform. Come to me again in a
fortnight's time, and we will willingly make your dress, but now it is
impossible." And in most cases the dress was brought punctually at the
time appointed.

Phillis used to grumble a little at this.

"You ought not to refuse orders, Nan," she said, rather fretfully,
once. "Any other dressmaker would sit up half the night rather than
disappoint a customer."

"My dear," Nan returned, in her elder-sisterly voice, which had always
a great effect on Phillis, "I wonder what use Dulce and you would be
if you sat up sewing half the night, and drinking strong tea to keep
yourselves awake? No, there shall be no burning the candles at both
ends in this fashion; please God we will keep our health, and our
customers; and no one in their senses could call us idle. Why, we are
quite the fashion! Mrs. Squails told me yesterday that every one in
Hadleigh was wild to have a gown made by the 'lady dressmakers.'"

"Oh, I daresay!" replied Phillis, crossly, for the poor thing was so
hot and tired that she could have cried from pure weariness and
vexation of spirit: "but we shall not be the fashion long when the
novelty wears off; people will call us independent, and get tired of
us; and no wonder, if they are to wait for their dresses in this
way."

Nan's only answer was to look at Phillis's pale face in a pitying way;
and then she took her hand, and led her to the corner, where her
mother's Bible always lay, and then with ready fingers turned to the
well known-passage, "Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor
unto the evening."

"Well, Nan, what then?"

"Evening is for rest,--for refreshment of mind and body: I will not
have it turned into a time of toil. I know you, Phillis; you would
work till your poor fingers got thin, and your spirits were all
flattened out, and every nerve was jarring and set on edge; and you
would call that duty! No, darling,--never! Dulce shall keep her roses,
and we will have battledore and shuttlecock every evening; but, if I
have to keep the key of the work-room in my pocket, you and Dulce
shall never enter it after tea." And Nan's good sense, as usual,
carried the day.

Phillis would much rather have joined her sisters in their walk than
have turned in at the gloomy lodge-gates.

            "'All ye who enter here, leave hope behind,'"

she quoted, softly, as she waved her hand to Nan.

The servant who admitted her looked a little dubious over his errand.

"His mistress was in her room," he believed, "and was far too unwell
to see visitors. He would tell Miss Mewlstone, if the young lady liked
to wait; but he was sure it was no use,"--all very civilly said. And
as Phillis persisted in her intention of seeing Mrs. Cheyne, if
possible, he ushered her into the library, a gloomy-looking room, with
closed blinds, one of which he drew up, and then went in search of
Miss Mewlstone.

Phillis did not find her surroundings particularly cheerful. The air
was darkened by the approaching storm. A sullen cloud hung over the
sky. The library windows opened upon the shrubberies. Here the trees
were planted so thickly that their shade obscured much of the light.
The room was so dark that she could only dimly discern the handsome
bindings of the books in the carved oak book-cases. The whole of the
furniture seemed sombre and massive. The chair that the footman had
placed for her was covered with violet velvet, and was in harmony with
the rest of the furniture.

Dreary as the room looked, it was nothing to the shrubbery walk. A
narrow winding path seemed to vanish into utter darkness. In some
places the trees met overhead, so closely had they grown.

"If I were the mistress of the White House," Phillis said to herself,
"I would cut every one of those trees down. They must make this part
of the house quite unhealthy. It really looks like a 'ghost walk' that
one reads about." But scarcely had these thoughts passed through her
mind when she uttered a faint cry of alarm. The dark room, the
impending storm, and her own overwrought feelings were making her
nervous; but actually, through the gloom, she could see a figure in
white approaching.

In another moment she would have sought refuge in the hall, but
contempt at her own cowardice kept her rooted to the spot.

"She was an utter goose to be so startled! It was--yes, of course it
was Mrs. Cheyne. She could see her more plainly now. She would step
through the window and meet her."

Phillis's feelings of uneasiness had not quite vanished. The obscurity
was confusing, and invested everything with an unnatural effect. Even
Mrs. Cheyne's figure, coming out from the dark background, seemed
strange and unfamiliar. Phillis had always before seen her in black;
but now she wore a white gown, fashioned loosely, like a wrapper, and
her hair, which at other times had been most carefully arranged, was
now strained tightly and unbecomingly from her face, which looked
pallid and drawn. She started violently when she saw Phillis coming
towards her, and seemed inclined to draw back and retrace her steps.
It evidently cost her a strong effort to recover herself. She seemed
to conquer her reluctance with difficulty.

"So you have come at last, Miss Challoner," she said, fixing her eyes,
which looked unnaturally bright, on Phillis. Her voice was cold,
almost harsh, and her countenance expressed no pleasure. The hand she
held out was so limp and cold that Phillis relinquished it hastily.

"You said that I should be welcome," she faltered, and trying not to
appear alarmed. She was too young and healthy to understand the
meaning of the word hysteria, or to guess at the existence of nervous
maladies that make some people's lives a long torment to them.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Cheyne's singular aspect filled her with vague
fear. It did not enter into her mind to connect the coming storm with
Mrs. Cheyne's condition, until she hinted at it herself.

"Oh, yes, you are welcome," she responded, wearily. "I have looked for
you evening after evening, but you chose to come with the storm. It is
a pity, perhaps; but then you did not know!"

"What would you have me know?" asked Phillis, timidly.

Mrs. Cheyne shrugged her shoulders a little flightily.

"Oh, you are young!" she returned; "you do not understand what nerves
mean; you sleep sweetly of a night, and have no bad dreams: it does
not matter to you happy people if the air is full of sunshine or
surcharged with electricity. For me, when the sun ceases to shine I am
in despair. Fogs find me brooding. An impending storm suffocates me,
and yet tears me to pieces with restlessness: it drives me hither and
thither like a fallen leaf. I tire myself that I may sleep, and yet I
stare open-eyed for hours together into the darkness. I wonder
sometimes I do not go mad. But there! let us walk--let us walk." And
she made a movement to retrace her steps; but Phillis, with a courage
for which she commended herself afterwards, pulled her back by her
hanging sleeves.

"Oh, not there! it is not good for any one who is sad to walk in that
dark place. No wonder your thoughts are sombre. Look! the heavy
rain-drops are pattering among the leaves. I do not care to get wet:
let us go back to the house."

"Pshaw! what does it matter getting wet?" she returned, with a little
scorn; but nevertheless she suffered Phillis to take her arm and draw
her gently towards the house. Only as they came near the library
window, she pointed to it indignantly. "Who has dared to enter that
room, or open the window! Have I not forbidden over and over again
that that room should be used? Do you think," she continued, in the
same excited way, "that I would enter that room to-night of all
nights! Why, I should hear his angry voice pealing in every corner!
It was a good room for echoes; and he could speak loudly if he chose.
Come away! there is a door I always use that leads to my private
apartments. I am no recluse; but in these moods I do not care to show
myself to people. If you are not afraid, you may come with me, unless
you prefer Miss Mewlstone's company."

"I would rather go with you," returned Phillis, gently. She could not
in truth say she was not afraid; but all the same she must try and
soothe the poor creature who was evidently enduring such torments of
mind: so she followed in silence up the broad oak staircase.

A green-baize door admitted them into a long and somewhat narrow
corridor, lighted up by a row of high narrow windows set prettily with
flower-boxes. Here there were several doors. Mrs. Cheyne paused before
one a moment.

"Look here! you shall see the mysteries of the west wing. This is my
world; downstairs I am a different creature--taciturn, harsh, and
prone to sarcasm. Ask Mr. Drummond what he thinks of me; but I never
could endure a good young man--especially that delicious compound of
the worldling and the saint--like the Reverend Archibald. See here, my
dear: here I am never captious or say naughty things!"

She threw open the door, and softly beckoned to Phillis to enter. It
was a large empty room,--evidently a nursery. Some canaries were
twittering faintly in a gilded cage. There were flowers in the two
windows, and in the vases on the table: evidently some loving hands
had arranged them that very morning. A large rocking-horse occupied
the centre of the floor: a doll lay with its face downwards on the
crimson carpet; a pile of wooden soldiers strutted on their zigzag
platform,--one or two had fallen off; a torn picture-book had been
flung beside them.

"That was my Janie's picture-book," said Mrs. Cheyne, mournfully: "she
was teaching her doll out of it just before she was taken ill. Nothing
was touched; by a sort of inspiration,--a foreboding,--I do not know
what,--I bade nurse leave the toys as they were. 'It is only an
interrupted game: let the darlings find their toys as they put them,'
I said to her that morning. Look at the soldiers, Bertie was always
for soldiers,--bless him!"

Her manner had grown calmer; and she spoke with such touching
tenderness that tears came to Phillis's eyes. But Mrs. Cheyne never
once looked at the girl; she lingered by the table a moment, adjusting
a leaf here and a bud there in the bouquets, and then she opened an
inner door leading to the night-nursery. Here the associations were
still more harrowing. The cots stood side by side under a muslin
canopy, with an alabaster angel between them; the little night-dresses
lay folded on the pillows; on each quilt were the scarlet
dressing-gown and the pair of tiny slippers; the clothes were piled
neatly on two chairs,--a boy's velvet tunic on one, a girl's white
frock, a little limp and discolored, hung over the rails of the
other.

"Everything just the same," murmured the poor mother. "Look here, my
dear,"--with a faint smile--"these are Bertie's slippers: there is the
hole he kicked in them when he was in his tempers, for my boy had the
Cheyne temper. He was Herbert's image,--his very image." She sighed,
paused, and went on: "Every night I come and sit beside their beds,
and then the darlings come to me. I can see their faces--oh, so
plainly!--and hear their voices. 'Good-night, dear mamma!' they seem
to say to me, only Bertie's voice is always the louder."

Her manner was becoming a little excited again; only Phillis took her
hand and pressed it gently, and the touch seemed to soothe her like
magic.

"I am so glad you come here every night," she said, in her sweet,
serious voice, from which every trace of fear had gone. "I think that
a beautiful idea, to come and say your prayers beside one of these
little beds."

"To say my prayers!--I pray beside my darlings' beds!" exclaimed Mrs.
Cheyne, in a startled voice. "Oh no! I never do that. God would not
hear such prayers as mine,--never--never!"

"Dear Mrs. Cheyne, why not?" She moved restlessly away at the
question, and tried to disengage herself from Phillis's firm grasp.
"The Divine Father hears all prayers," whispered the girl.

"All?--but not mine,--not mine, or I should not be sitting here alone.
Do you know my husband left me in anger,--that his last words to me
were the bitterest he ever spoke? 'Good-by, Magdalene: you have made
my life so wretched that I do not care if I never live to set foot in
this house again!' And that to me,--his wedded wife, and the mother of
his children,--who loved him so. Oh, Herbert! Herbert!" and, covering
her face, the unhappy woman suddenly burst into a passion of tears.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER.


Phillis kept a sad silence: not for worlds would she have checked the
flow of tears that must have been so healing to the tortured brain.
Besides, what was there that she, so young and inexperienced, could
say in the presence of a grief so terrible, so overpowering? The whole
thing was inexplicable to Phillis. Why were the outworks of
conventionality so suddenly thrown down? Why was she, a stranger,
permitted to be a witness of such a revelation? As she sat there
speechless and sympathizing, a faint sound reached her ear,--the
rustle of a dress in the adjoining room,--footsteps that approached
warily, and then paused; a moment afterwards the door closed softly
behind them. Phillis looked round quickly, but could see nothing; and
the same instant a peal of thunder rolled over their heads.

Mrs. Cheyne started up with an hysterical scream, and caught hold of
Phillis. "Come," she said, almost wildly, "we will not stay here. The
children will not come to-night, for who could hear their voices in
such a storm? My little angels!--but they shall not see me like this.
Come, come!" And, taking the girl by the arm, she almost dragged her
from the room, and led the way with rapid and disordered footsteps to
a large luxurious chamber, furnished evidently as a dressing-room, and
only divided from the sleeping-room by a curtained archway.

As Mrs. Cheyne threw herself down in an arm-chair and hid her face in
her hands, the curtain was drawn back, and Miss Mewlstone came in with
an anxious, almost frightened expression on her good-natured
countenance. She hurried up to Mrs. Cheyne and took her in her arms as
though she were a child.

"Now, Magdalene, now, my dear," she said, coaxingly, "you will try to
be good and command yourself before this young lady. Look at her: she
is not a bit afraid of the storm:--are you, Miss Challoner? No, just
so; you are far too sensible."

"Oh, that is what you always tell me," returned Mrs. Cheyne, wrenching
herself free with some violence. "Be sensible,--be good,--when I am
nearly mad with the oppression and suffocation, here, and here,"
pointing to her head and breast. "Commonplaces, commonplaces; as well
stop a deluge with a teacup. Oh, you are an old fool, Barby: you will
never learn wisdom."

"My poor lamb! Barby never minds one word you say when you are like
this."

"Oh, I will beg your pardon to-morrow, or when the thunder stops.
Hark! there it is again," cowering down in her chair. "Can't you pray
for it to cease, Barby? Oh, it is too horrible! Don't you recollect
the night he rode away,--right into the storm, into the very teeth of
the storm? 'Good-bye, Magdalene; who knows when we may meet again?'
and I never looked at him, never kissed him, never broke the silence
by one word; and the thunder came, and he was gone," beating the air
with her hands.

"Oh, hush, my dear, hush! Let me read to you a little, and the fever
will soon pass. You are frightening the poor young lady with your wild
talk, and no wonder!"

"Pshaw! who minds the girl? Let her go or stop; what do I care? What
is the whole world to me, when I am tormented like this? Three years,
four years--more than a thousand days--of this misery! Oh, Barby! do
you think I have been punished enough? do you think where he is, up in
heaven with the children, that he forgives and pities me, who was such
a bad wife to him?"

As Miss Mewlstone paused a moment to wipe the tears that were flowing
over her old cheeks, Phillis's voice came to her relief.

"Oh, can you doubt it?" she said, in much agitation. "Dear Mrs.
Cheyne, can you have an instant's doubt? Do you think the dead carry
all these paltry earthly feelings into the bright place yonder?
Forgive you--oh, there is no need of forgiveness there; he will only
be loving you,--he and the children too."

"God bless you!" whispered Miss Mewlstone. "Hush, that is enough! Go,
my dear, go, and I will come to you presently. Magdalene, put your
poor head down here: I have thought of something that will do you
good." She waved Phillis away almost impatiently, and laid the poor
sufferer's head on her bosom, shielding it from the flashes that
darted through the room. Phillis could see her bending over her, and
her voice was as tender as though she were soothing a sick infant.

Phillis was trembling with agitation as she stole down the dark
corridor. Never in her happy young life had she witnessed or imagined
such a scene. The wild words, the half-maddened gestures, the look of
agony stamped on the pale, almost distorted features, would haunt her
for many a day. Oh, how the poor soul must have suffered before she
lost self-control and balance like this!

It was not the death of her children that had so utterly unnerved her.
It must have been that bitter parting with her husband, and the
remembrance of angry words never to be atoned for in this life, that
was cankering the root of her peace, and that brought about these
moods of despair.

Phillis thought of Coleridge's lines,--

               "And to be wroth with one we love
               Doth work like madness on the brain,"--

as she took refuge in the dim drawing-room. Here, at least, there were
signs of human life and occupation. A little tea-table had been set in
one window, though the tea was cold. The greyhounds came and laid
their slender noses on her gown, and one small Italian one coiled
himself up on her lap. Miss Mewlstone's work-basket stood open, and a
tortoise shell kitten had helped itself to a ball of wool and was
busily unwinding it. The dogs were evidently frightened at the storm,
for they all gathered round Phillis, shivering and whining, as though
missing their mistress; and she had much ado to comfort them, though
she loved animals and understood their dumb language better than most
people.

It was not so very long, and yet it seemed hours before Miss Mewlstone
came down to her.

"Are you here, my dear?" she asked, in a loud whisper, for the room
was dark. "Ah, just so. We must have lights, and I must give you a
glass of wine or a nice hot cup of coffee." And, notwithstanding
Phillis's protest that she never took wine and was not in need of
anything, Miss Mewlstone rang the bell, and desired the footman to
bring in the lamp. "And tell Bishop to send up some nice hot coffee
and sandwiches as soon as possible. For young people never know what
they want, and you are just worried and tired to death with all you
have gone through,--not being an old woman and seasoned to it like
me," went on the good creature, and she patted Phillis's cheek
encouragingly as she spoke.

"But how is she? Oh, thank God, the storm has lulled at last!"
exclaimed the girl, breathlessly.

"Oh, yes; the storm is over. We have reason to dread storms in this
house," returned Miss Mewlstone, gravely. "She was quite exhausted,
and let Charlotte and me help her to bed. Now she has had her
composing-draught, and Charlotte will sit by her till I go up. I
always watch by her all night after one of these attacks."

"Is it a nervous attack?" asked Phillis, timidly, for she felt she was
treading on delicate ground.

"I believe Dr. Parkes calls it hysteria," replied Miss Mewlstone,
hesitating a little. "Ah, we have sad times with her. You heard what
she said, poor dear: she has been sorely tried."

"Was not her husband good to her, then?"

"I am sure he meant to be kind," returned Miss Mewlstone, sorrowfully,
"for he loved her dearly; but he was passionate and masterful, and was
one that would have his way. As long as it was only courtship, he
worshipped the ground she walked upon, as the saying is. But poor
Magdalene was not a good wife. She was cold when she ought to have
been caressing, stubborn when she might have yielded; and sarcasm
never yet healed a wound. Ah, here comes your coffee! Thank you,
Evans. Now, my dear, you must just eat and drink, and put some color
into those pale cheeks. Scenes like these are not good for young
creatures like you. But when Magdalene is in these moods, she would
not care if the whole world listened to her. To-morrow she will be
herself, and remember and be ashamed; and then you must not mind if
she be harder and colder than ever. She will say bitter things all the
more, because she is angered at her own want of self-control."

"I can understand that: that is just as I should feel," returned
Phillis, shuddering a little at the idea of encountering Mrs. Cheyne's
keen-edged sarcasms. "She will not like to see me any more; she will
think I had no right to witness such a scene."

"It is certainly a pity that I wrote that note," returned Mrs.
Mewlstone, reflectively. "I hoped that you would turn her thoughts,
and that we might avert the usual nervous paroxysm. When I opened the
door and saw you sitting together so peacefully beside the children's
beds, I expected a milder mood; but it was the thunder. Poor
Magdalene! She has never been able to control herself in a storm since
the evening Herbert left her, and we went in and found her lying
insensible in the library, in the midst of one of the worst storms I
have ever witnessed."

"That was when he said those cruel words to her!" ejaculated Phillis.

"Yes. Did she repeat them? How often I have begged her to forget them,
and to believe that he repented of them before an hour was over! Ah,
well! the sting of death lies in this: if she had had one word, one
little word, she would be a different woman, in spite of the
children's death. God's strokes are less cruel than men's strokes: the
reed may be bruised by them, but is not broken. She had a long illness
after the children were gone; it was too much,--too much for any
woman's heart to bear. You see, she wanted her husband to comfort her.
Dr. Parkes feared for her brain, but we pulled her through. Ah, just
so, my dear; we pulled her through!" finished Miss Mewlstone, with a
sigh.

"Oh, how good you are to her! she is happy to have such a friend!"
observed Phillis, enthusiastically.

Miss Mewlstone shook her head, and a tear rolled down her face.

"Oh, my dear, I am only an old fool, as she said just now. And, after
all, the company of a stupid old woman is not much to a proud bonnie
creature like that. Sometimes for days together she hardly opens her
lips to me; we sit together, eat together, drive together, and not a
word for Barby. But sometimes, poor dear! she will cling to me and
cry, and say her heart is breaking. And Solomon was right: but it was
not only a brother that is good for adversity. When she wants me, I am
here, and there is nothing I will not do for her, and she knows
it;--and that is about the long and short of it," finished Miss
Mewlstone, dismissing the subject with another sigh. And then she bade
Phillis finish her coffee and put on her hat. "For your mother will be
expecting you, and wondering what has become of you; and Phillips or
Evans must walk with you, for it is past nine o'clock, and such a
pretty young lady must not go unattended," concluded the simple
woman.

Phillis laughed and kissed her at this; but, though she said nothing
of her intentions, she determined to dismiss the servant as soon as
possible, and run on alone to the Friary. She had not forgotten her
encounter with Mr. Drummond on her last visit to the White House; but
to-night the storm would keep him in-doors.

Evans, the new footman, was desired to escort her; but in the middle
of the avenue Phillis civilly dismissed him.

"There is no need for two of us to get wet; and the rain is coming on
very heavily," she said.

The young man hesitated; but he was slow-witted and new to his duty,
and the young lady had a peremptory way with her, so he touched his
hat, and went back to the house.

"Such nonsense, having a liveried servant at my heels, when I am only
a dressmaker!" thought Phillis, scurrying down the avenue like a
chased rabbit.

Hitherto, the trees had sheltered her; but a glance at the open road
and the driving rain made her resolve to take refuge in the porch of
the cottage that stood opposite the gate. It was the place where Nan
and her mother had once lodged; and, though all the lights were
extinguished, and the people had retired to bed, she felt a
comfortable sense of safety as she unlatched the little gate. Not even
Mr. Drummond would discover her there.

But Phillis's satisfaction was of short duration: the foolish girl was
soon to repent of her foolhardiness in dismissing her escort. She
little knew that her words to Evans had been overheard, and that
behind the dripping shrubbery she had been watched and followed.
Scarcely had she taken refuge under the green porch, and placed her
wet umbrella to dry, before she heard the latch of the little gate
unclosed, and a tall dark figure came up the gravel-walk. It was not
Isaac Williams's portly form,--she could discern that in the
darkness,--and, for the moment, a thrill of deadly terror came upon
the incautious girl; but the next minute her natural courage returned
to her aid. The porch was just underneath the room where Isaac slept;
a call of 'help' would reach him at once; there was no reason for this
alarm at all. Nevertheless, she shrunk back a little as the stranger
came directly towards her, then paused as though in some
embarrassment:

"Pardon me, but you have poor shelter here. I am Mrs. Williams's
lodger. I could easily let you into the cottage. I am afraid the rain
comes through the trellis-work."

Phillis's heart gave a great thump of relief. In the first place, Mrs.
Williams's lodger must be a respectable person, and no dangerous
loafer or pickpocket; in the second place the refined cultured tones
of the stranger pleased her ear. Phillis had a craze on this point.
"You may be deceived in a face, but in a voice, never!" she would say;
and, as she told Nan afterwards, the moment that voice greeted her in
the darkness she felt no further fear.

"I have a dry corner here," she returned, quietly; "it is only a
thunder-shower, and I am close to home,--only down the road, and just
round the corner, past the vicarage."

"Past the vicarage!" in a tone of surprise: "why, there are no houses
there!"

"There is a very small one called the Friary," returned Phillis,
feeling herself color in the darkness, as she mentioned their humble
abode. There was no answer for a moment, and then her mysterious
neighbor continued:

"My good landlord seems to retire early; the whole place looks
deserted. They are very early risers, and perhaps that is the reason.
If you will allow me to pass, I will open the door and light a lamp in
my little parlor. Even if you prefer to remain in the porch, it will
look more cheerful." And, without waiting for her reply, he took a key
from his pocket, and let himself into the house.

Their voices had disturbed the owners of the cottage, and Phillis
overheard the following colloquy:

"Dear sakes alive! what a frightful storm! Is there anything you want,
Mr. Dancy?" in Mrs. Williams's shrill tones.

"Not for myself, Mrs. Williams; but there is a young lady sheltering
in the porch. I should be glad if you could come down and make her a
little comfortable. The floodgates of heaven seem open to-night."

"Dear, dear!" in a still more perplexed voice; "a young lady at this
time of night,--why, it must be half-after nine. Very well, Mr. Dancy;
beg her to come in and sit in your parlor a moment, and I will be
down."

But Phillis absolutely refused to comply with the invitation.

"I am not tired, and I am not a bit wet, and I like watching the rain.
This is a nice little porch, and I have taken refuge here before. We
all know Mrs. Williams very well."

"She is a good creature, if she were not always in a bustle," returned
Mr. Dancy. "There, the lamp is lighted: that looks more comfortable."
And as he spoke he came out into the little hall.

Phillis stole a curious glance at him.

He was a tall man, and was dressed somewhat strangely. A long
foreign-looking cloak and a broad-brimmed felt hat, which he had not
yet removed, gave him the look of an artist; but, except that he had a
beard and moustache, and wore blue spectacles, she could not gain the
slightest clue to his features. But his voice,--it pleased Phillis's
sensitive ear more every moment; it was pleasant,--rather foreign,
too,--and had a sad ring in it.

He leaned against the wall opposite to her, and looked out
thoughtfully at the driving rain.

"I think I saw you coming out from the White House," he observed
presently. "Are you a friend of Mrs. Cheyne? I hope," hesitating a
little, "that she is very well."

"Do you know her?" asked Phillis, in surprise.

"That is a very Irish way of answering my question; but you shall have
your turn first. Yes; I used to know her many years ago, and Herbert
Cheyne, too."

"Her poor husband! Oh! and did you like him?" rather breathlessly.

"Pretty fairly," was the indifferent reply. "People used to call him a
pleasant fellow, but I never thought much of him myself,--not but what
he was more sinned against than sinning, poor devil. Anyhow, he paid
dearly enough for his faults."

"Yes, indeed; and one must always speak leniently of the dead."

"Ah, that is what they say,--that he is dead. I suppose his widow put
on mourning, and made lamentation. She is well, you say, and
cheerful?"

"Oh, no! neither the one nor the other. I am not her friend; I only
know her just little; but she strikes me as very sad. She has lost her
children, and----"

"Ah!" Phillis thought she heard a strange sound, almost like a groan;
but of course it was fancy; and just then good Mrs. Williams came
bustling downstairs.

"Dear heart! why, if it is not Miss Challoner! To think of you, my
dear miss, being out so late, and alone! Oh, what ever will your ma
say?"

"My mother will scold me, of course," returned Phillis, laughing; "but
you must not scold me too, Mrs. Williams, though I deserve all I get.
Mrs. Mewlstone sent Evans with me, but I made him go back. Country
girls are fearless and it is only just a step to the Friary."

"The rain is stopping now, if you will permit me to escort you. Mrs.
Williams will be the voucher for my respectability," observed Mr.
Dancy, very gravely and without a smile; and, as Phillis seemed
inclined to put him off with an excuse, he continued, more seriously:
"Pardon me, but it is far too late, and the road far too lonely, for a
young lady to go unattended. If you prefer it, I will go to the White
House, and bring out the recreant Evans by force."

"Oh, no; there is no need for that," observed Phillis, hastily; and
Mrs. Williams interposed volubly:

"Goodness' sakes, Miss Challoner, you have no call to be afraid of Mr.
Dancy! Why, Mr. Frank Blunt, that nice young gentleman who lodged with
me ever so many years, recommended him to me as one of his best and
oldest friends. Your ma knew Mr. Blunt, for he was here with her, and
a nicer-spoken young gentleman she said she never saw."

"That will do, Mrs. Williams," returned Mr. Dancy, in rather a
peremptory tone; and then, turning to Phillis, he said, more civilly,
but still a little abruptly, as though he were displeased,--

"Well, Miss Challoner, do you feel inclined to trust yourself with me
for the few hundred yards, or shall I fetch Evans?" And Phillis,
feeling herself rebuked, unfurled her umbrella at once, and bade Mrs.
Williams good-night by way of answer.



CHAPTER XXIX.

MRS. WILLIAMS'S LODGER.


Phillis felt rather shy and uncomfortable as she picked her way warily
among the rain-pools in the semi-darkness. Her companion was inclined
to be silent; most likely he considered her churlish in repelling his
civil offers of help: so, to make amends, and set herself at her ease,
she began to talk to him with an attempt at her old sprightliness.

"Do you know this neighborhood well, Mr. Dancy? Have you been long at
Ivy Cottage?"

"Only a few days; but I know the place well enough," he responded,
quietly. "It depends upon circumstances how long I remain here."

"Hadleigh is very quiet," returned Phillis, quickly. "It does not
offer many attractions to strangers, unless they have very moderate
views of enjoyment. It is select, and the bathing is good, and the
country tolerable; but when you have said that, you have said all in
its favor."

"I have always liked the place," with a checked sigh. "Quiet,--that is
what I want, and rest also. I have been rather a wanderer over the
face of the earth, and one wants a little breathing-time occasionally,
to recruit one's exhausted energies. I like Ivy Cottage, and I like
Mrs. Williams: both suit me for the present. Are you a visitor to
Hadleigh,--a mere bird of passage like myself, Miss Challoner?"

"Oh, dear, no: we have come here to live."

"And--and you are intimate with Mrs. Cheyne?" coming a little closer
to her side in the darkness.

"Nothing of the kind," retorted Phillis: "we are mere acquaintances. I
do not feel to know her at all; she is not a person with whom one
could get intimate all at once; she is a little difficult. Besides in
our position----" And here she pulled herself up suddenly.

"Pardon me," returned Mr. Dancy, in an interested voice, "perhaps I
have no right to inquire, but your words are a little mysterious. Why
should you not be intimate with Mrs. Cheyne?"

Phillis grew hot in the darkness. What right had he, a perfect
stranger, to question her so closely? And yet, if he were interested
in his old friends, perhaps he meant to call at the White House, and
then he would hear all about them; and after all, perfect frankness
always answered best in the long run. Phillis hesitated so long over
her rejoinder that Mr. Dancy said, rather apologetically,--

"I see, I have been incautious; but you must not attribute my question
to impertinent curiosity. I am anxious to learn all I can about a very
old friend, of whom I have long lost sight, and I hoped that you might
have been able to satisfy me."

"Miss Middleton would tell you far more than I."

"What! Elizabeth Middleton? Oh, no: she is far too much of a saint for
me."

"You know her, too!" exclaimed Phillis, in surprise. "No, I do not
think you are curious, Mr. Dancy; it was only a little awkward for me
to tell you about our acquaintance with Mrs. Cheyne. My sister and I
rendered her a trifling service, and she took a fancy to us, and
wished to be friends; but in our present position any close intimacy
would be impossible, as we are only dressmakers."

"Dressmakers!" It is impossible to describe the genuine astonishment,
almost dismay, in Mr. Dancy's voice. "Dressmakers! Pardon me, Miss
Challoner, but when one has seen and spoken to a lady like yourself,
it is almost incredible."

This put Phillis on her mettle at once, and in a moment she laid by
all her reserve:

"You have been a traveller, Mr. Dancy, and must have seen strange
things by this time: it surely cannot be such a matter of surprise
that when gentle-people are poor they must work for their bread. When
one has ten clever fingers, it is better to use them than to starve. I
am not ashamed of my position; my sisters and I are very independent;
but, as we do not like to cause other people embarrassment, we prefer
to lead hermit lives."

Phillis's silvery tones were rather fierce, but it was well that she
did not see her companion's expression of suppressed amusement; there
was a little smothered laugh, too, that was turned into a cough.

"Are your sisters young like yourself?" he asked, rather abruptly.

"Oh, yes, we are all much of an age."

"And you have parents?"

"Only one parent," she corrected,--"a mother. Ah, here we are at the
Friary! Many thanks for your escort, Mr. Dancy."

"Many thanks for allowing me to escort you," he returned, pointedly:
"after what you have told me, I esteem it an honor, Miss Challoner.
No, you have no need to be ashamed of your position; I wish more
English ladies would follow such a noble example. Good-night. I trust
we shall meet again." And, lifting his felt hat, he withdrew, just as
Nan appeared on the threshold, holding a lamp in her hand.

"You naughty girl, what has kept you so late?" she asked, as Phillis
came slowly and meditatively up the flagged path.

"Hush, Nannie! Have they all gone to bed? Let me come into your room
and talk to you. Oh, I have had such an evening!" And thereupon she
poured into her sister's astonished ears the recital of her
adventure,--the storm, the figure in the shubbery, the scene in the
west corridor, the porch at Ivy Cottage, and the arrival of Mrs.
Williams's mysterious lodger.

"Oh, Phillis, I shall never trust you out of my sight again! How can
you be so reckless,--so incautious? Mother would be dreadfully shocked
if she knew it."

"Mother must not know a single word: promise, Nan. You know how
nervous she is. I will tell her, if you like, that I took refuge from
the rain in Mrs. Williams's porch, and that her lodger walked home
with me; but I think it would be better to suppress the scene at the
White House."

Nan thought over this a moment, and then she agreed.

"It would make mother feel uneasy and timid in Mrs. Cheyne's
presence," she observed. "She never likes that sort of hysterical
attacks. We could not make her understand. Poor thing! I hope she is
asleep by this time. Shall you go to-morrow, Phil, and ask after
her?"

Phillis made a wry face at this, and owned she had had enough
adventures to last her for a long time. But she admitted, too, that
she would be anxious to know how Mrs. Cheyne would be.

"Yes, I suppose I must go and just ask after her," she said, as she
rose rather wearily and lighted her candle. "There is not the least
chance of my seeing her. Good-night, Nannie! Don't let all this keep
you awake; but I do not expect to sleep a wink myself."

Which dismal prophecy was not fulfilled, as Phillis dropped into a
heavy slumber the moment her head touched the pillow.

But her dreams were hardly pleasant. She thought she was walking down
the "ghost's walk," between the yews and cypresses, with Mr. Dancy,
and that in the darkest part he threw off his cloak and felt hat, and
showed the grinning skull of a skeleton, while a bony arm tried to
seize her. She woke moaning with fright, to find Dulce's long hair
streaming over her face, and the birds singing in the sweet breezy
dawn; after which she fell into a dreamless, refreshing sleep.

Phillis had to submit to rather a severe reproof from her mother, in
return for her frankness. Mrs. Challoner's prudery was up in arms the
moment she heard of Mrs. Williams's lodger.

"Mrs. Williams ought to have come with you herself; but a strange man
at that time of night!--what would Mr. Drummond have said to you?"

"Whatever Mr. Drummond liked to say!" returned Phillis, pettishly, for
this was stroking her already ruffled feelings decidedly the wrong
way.

Phillis always turned captious whenever Mr. Drummond was mentioned;
but she subsided into meekness again when her mother fell to crying
and bemoaning her hard fate and her darlings' unprotected position.

"Oh, what would your dear father have said?" she cried, in such utter
misery of tone that Phillis began kissing her, and promising that she
would never, never be out so late again, and that on no account would
she walk up the Braidwood Road in the evening with a strange man who
wore an outlandish cloak and a felt hat that only wanted a feather to
remind her of Guy Fawkes, only Guy Fawkes did not wear blue
spectacles.

When Phillis had at last soothed her mother,--always a lengthy
process, for Mrs. Challoner, like other sensitive and feeble natures,
could only be quieted by much talk,--she fell to her work in vigorous
silence; but by a stroke of ill luck, Mr. Drummond chose to make
another pastoral visitation; and, to her secret chagrin, her mother at
once repeated the whole story.

"Mrs. Williams's lodger saw Miss Phillis home! Why, I did not know
Mrs. Williams had a lodger!" returned Mr. Drummond, in a perplexed
voice.

This made matters worse.

"I suppose Mrs. Williams is not bound to let the vicarage know
directly she lets her rooms?" observed Phillis, rather impatiently;
for she was vexed with her mother for repeating all this.

"No, of course not; but I was at Ivy Cottage myself yesterday, and
Mrs. Williams knows I always call on her lodgers, and she never
mentioned the fellow's existence to me."

"Fellow, indeed!" observed Phillis, _sotto voce_; for she had a vivid
remembrance of the stranger's commanding presence and pleasant voice.

"When did he come?" inquired the young vicar, curiously, "He must keep
himself pretty close by daylight; for I have passed and repassed Ivy
Cottage at least half a dozen times a day, and have never caught a
glimpse of any one;" to which Phillis replied reluctantly that he had
not been there long,--that he wanted rest and quiet, and was most
likely an invalid.

"And his name is Dancy, you say?"

Phillis bowed. She was far too much taken up in her work to volunteer
unnecessary words; and all this maternal fuss and fidget was odious to
her.

"Then I will go and call upon him this very afternoon," returned
Archie, with cheerful alacrity. He had no idea that his curiosity on
the subject was disagreeable to the girl: so he and Mrs. Challoner
discussed the matter fully, and at some length. "I don't like the
description of your mysterious stranger, Miss Challoner," he said,
laughing, as he stood up to take his leave. "When novelists want to
paint a villain, they generally bring in a long cloak and beard, and
sometimes a disguising pair of blue spectacles. Well, I will catch him
by daylight, and see what I can make of him."

"You may disguise a face, but you cannot disguise a voice," returned
Phillis, bluntly. "I do not want to see Mr. Dancy to know he is a
gentleman and a true man." And this speech, that piqued Archie, though
he did not know why, made him all the more bent on calling on Mrs.
Williams's lodger.

But Mr. Drummond's curiosity was destined to be baffled. Mrs. Williams
turned very red when she heard the vicar's inquiries.

"You never told me you had let your rooms," he said, reproachfully;
"and yet you know I always make a practice of calling on your
lodgers."

"'Deed and it is very kind and thoughtful of you, too," returned the
good woman, dropping an old-fashioned courtesy; "and me that prizes my
clergyman's visits and thinks no end of them! But Mr. Dancy he says to
me, 'Now, my good Mrs. Williams, I have come here for quiet,--for
absolute quiet; and I do not want to see or hear of any one. Tell no
tales about me, and leave me in peace; and then we shall get on
together.' And it was more than I ventured to give you the hint,
hearing him speak so positive; for he is a bit masterful, and no
mistake."

"Well, never mind; a clergyman never intrudes, and I will thank you to
take Mr. Dancy my card," returned Archie, impatiently; but his look of
assurance soon faded when Mrs. Williams returned with her lodger's
compliments, and he was very much obliged to Mr. Drummond for his
civility, but he did not wish to receive visitors.

Phillis was a little contrary all the remainder of the day: she was
not exactly cross,--all the Challoners were sweet-tempered,--but
nothing quite suited her. Mrs. Challoner had proposed going that
evening into the town with her youngest daughter to execute some
commissions.

Just before they started Phillis observed rather shortly that she
should call at the White House to make inquiries after Mrs. Cheyne,
and that she would came back to the Friary to fetch Nan for a country
walk. "If I do not appear in half an hour, you must come in search of
me," finished Phillis, with a naughty curl of her lip, to which Nan
with admirable tact returned no answer, but all the same she fully
intended to carry out the injunction; for Nan had imbibed her mother's
simple old-fashioned notions, and a lurking dislike of Mrs. Williams's
lodger had already entered her mind.

As Phillis did not enjoy her errand, she put on the best face she
could, and hurried down the Braidwood Road as though her feet were
winged like a female Mercury; and Mr. Dancy, who happened to be
looking over the wire blind in the little parlor, much admired the
girl's free swift gait as she sped down the avenue. Evans, the young
footman, admitted her, and conducted her at once to the drawing-room;
and great was Phillis's surprise and discomposure when she saw Mrs.
Cheyne sitting alone reading by one of the windows, with her
greyhounds grouped around her.

She started slightly at the announcement of Phillis's name, and, as
she came forward to greet her, a dark flush crossed her face for a
moment; then her features settled into their usual impassive calm,
only there was marked coldness in her voice.

"Good-evening. Miss Challoner: you have chosen a fine evening for your
visit. Let me beg of you never again to venture to the White House in
such a storm."

Phillis stammered out something about hoping that she was better, but
she interrupted her almost abruptly:

"Much better, thank you. I am afraid you found me decidedly strange
yesterday. I had what people call a nervous attack: electricity in the
air, a brooding storm, brings it on. It is a pity one should be so
childish as to dread thunder; but we are oddly constituted, some of
us." She shrugged her shoulders, as though to dismiss the subject, and
stroked the head of the greyhound that lay at her feet.

Poor Phillis found her position decidedly embarrassing. To be sure,
Miss Mewlstone had warned her of the reception that she might expect;
but all the same she found it very unpleasant. She must not abridge
her visit so much as to excite suspicion; and yet it seemed impossible
to carry on a comfortable conversation with Mrs. Cheyne in this
freezing mood, and, as Phillis could think of nothing to say, she
asked after Miss Mewlstone.

"Oh, she is very well," Mrs. Cheyne answered, indifferently. "Nothing
ever ails Barby: she is one of those easy-going people who take life
as they find it, without fuss and grumbling."

"I think she is very nice and sympathetic," hazarded Phillis.

"Oh, yes Miss Mewlstone has a feeling heart," returned Mrs. Cheyne;
but she said it in a sarcastic voice. "We have all our special
endowments. Miss Mewlstone is made by nature to be a moral feather bed
to break other people's awkward tumbles. She hinders broken bones, and
interposes a soft surface of sympathy between unlucky folks. There is
not much in common between us, but all the same old Barby is a sort of
necessity to me. We are a droll household at the White House, Miss
Challoner, are we not,--Barby and the greyhounds and I?--oh, quite a
happy family!" And she gave a short laugh, very much the reverse of
merriment.

Phillis began to feel that it was time to go.

"Well, how does the dressmaking progress?" asked her hostess,
suddenly. "Miss Middleton tells me the Challoner fit is quite the rage
in Hadleigh."

"We have more orders than we can execute," returned Phillis, curtly.

"Humph! that sounds promising. I hope your mother is careful of you,
and forbids any expenditure of midnight oil, or you will be reduced to
a thread-paper. As I have told you you are not the same girl that you
were when you came to the relief of my injured ankle."

"I feel tolerably substantial, thank you," returned Phillis,
ungraciously, for, in common with other girls, she hated to be pitied
for her looks, and she had a notion that Mrs. Cheyne only said this to
plague her. "Nan is our head and task mistress. We lead regular lives,
have stated hours for work, take plenty of exercise and on the whole,
are doing as well as possible."

"There speaks the Challoner spirit."

"Oh, yes; that never fails us. But now Nan will be waiting for me, and
I only called just to inquire after you."

"And you did not expect to see me. Well, come again when I am in a
better humor for conversation. If you stay longer now I might not be
sparing of my sarcasms. By the by, what has become of our young vicar?
Tell him he has not converted me yet, and I quite miss his pastoral
visits. Do you know," looking so keenly at Phillis that she blushed
with annoyance, "a little bird tells me that our pastor has undertaken
the supervision of the Friary. Which is it, my dear, that he is trying
to convert?"

The tone and manner were intolerable to Phillis.

"I don't understand you, Mrs. Cheyne," she returned, with superb
youthful haughtiness. "Mr. Drummond is a kind neighbor, and so is Miss
Mattie. You may keep these insinuations for him, if you will." Then
she would have escaped without another glance at her tormentor, but
Mrs. Cheyne detained her:

"There, never mind. I will take back my naughty speech. It was rude
and impertinent of me, I know that. But I like you all the better for
your spirit; and, my dear, take care of yourself and your pretty
sisters, for he is not worthy of one of you."

"Oh, Mrs. Cheyne! for shame!" And Phillis's gray eyes sparkled with
lively indignation.

"He is a very ordinary good young man; and you and your sisters are
real metal, and worth your weight in gold. There! go away, child; and
come and see me again, for it does me good to torment you!" And the
singular woman drew the girl into her arms suddenly and kissed her
forehead, and then pushed her away. "To-morrow, or the next day, but
not to-night," she said, hurriedly. "I should make you cross fifty
times if you stay longer to-night." And Phillis was too thankful to be
released to linger any longer; but her cheeks were burning as she
walked down the avenue.

"Why do people always put these things into girls' heads?" she said to
herself. "A young man cannot come into the house, cannot say pleasant
words, or do kind neighborly actions, but one must at once attribute
motives of this kind. I have not been free from blame myself in this
matter, for I have feared more than once that Nan's sweet face
attracted him,--poor Mr. Drummond! I hope not, for he would not have a
chance against Dick. I wonder if I ought to say a word?--if it would
be premature or unnecessary? But I should hate him to be
unhappy,"--here Phillis sighed, and then threw up her head proudly: "I
might say just a word, mentioning Dick,--for he does not know of his
existence. I wonder if he would take the hint. I could do it very
cleverly, I know. I hate to see people burning their fingers for
nothing: I always want to go to their rescue. He is tiresome, but he
is very nice. And, heigh-ho! what a crooked world we live in!--nothing
goes quite straight in it." And Phillis sighed again.

"Miss Challoner!" The voice sounded so near her that Phillis gave a
great start. She had nearly reached the gate, and there was Mr. Dancy
walking beside her, just as though he had emerged from the ground; and
yet Phillis had not heard a sound. "Have I startled you?" he
continued, gravely. "You were in such a brown study that I had to call
you by your name to rouse you. There is nothing wrong at the White
House, I hope?"

"Oh, no! Mrs. Cheyne is better: her nervous attack has quite passed
off."

"Magdalene suffering from a nervous attack?" and then Mr. Dancy
stopped, and bit his lip. "Excuse me, I knew her before she was
married, when she was Magdalene Davenport--before she and poor Herbert
Cheyne unfortunately came together. I doubt whether things have not
happened for the best; there!--I mean," as Phillis looked at him in
some perplexity, "that there is little fear of her being an
inconsolable widow."

"How can you say such a thing!" returned Phillis, indignantly. "That
is the way with you men, you judge so harshly of women. Mrs. Cheyne is
singular in her ways. She wears no mourning, and yet a more unhappy
creature never existed on this earth. Not inconsolable!--and yet no
one dares to speak a word of comfort to her, so great is her misery."

"Excuse me one moment: I have been ill, and am still subject to fits
of giddiness. A mere vertigo; nothing more." But he said the words
gasping for breath, and looked so deadly pale that Phillis felt quite
frightened as she stood beside him.

They had been walking a few steps down the Braidwood Road, and Phillis
had looked out anxiously for Nan, who had not yet appeared in sight.
But now Mr. Dancy had come to an abrupt pause, and was leaning for
support against the low wall that shut in the grounds of the White
House. Phillis looked at him a little curiously, in spite of her
sympathy. He still wore his loose cloak, though the evening was warm;
but he had loosened it, and taken off his felt hat for air.

In figure he was a tall, powerful-looking man, only thin and almost
emaciated, as though from recent illness. His features were handsome,
but singularly bronzed and weather-beaten, as though from constant
exposure to sun and wind; and even the blue spectacles could not hide
a pair of keen blue eyes. By daylight Phillis could see that his brown
beard and moustache were tinged with gray, and the hair on the temples
was almost white; and yet he seemed still in the prime of life. It was
a far handsomer face than Archie Drummond's; but the deep lines and
gray hair spoke of trouble more than age, and one thing especially
impressed Phillis,--the face was as refined as the voice.

If Mr. Dancy were aware of her close scrutiny, he took no notice of
it. He leaned his arm against the wall and rested his head against it;
and the thin brown hand was plainly visible, with a deep-red scar just
above the wrist.

As Phillis had regarded it with sudden horror, wondering what had
inflicted it, he suddenly aroused himself with an apology:

"There! it has passed: it never lasts long. Shall we walk on? I am so
ashamed of detaining you in this way; but when a man has had a
sunstroke----"

"Oh, that is sad!" returned Phillis, in a sympathizing voice. "Is that
why you keep in-doors so much in the daylight? at least"--correcting
herself in haste, for she had spoken without thought--"one never sees
you about," which was a foolish speech, and showed she took notice of
his movements; but she could not betray Mr. Drummond.

"Some one else only comes out in the evening," he rejoined, rather
pointedly. "Who told you I kept in-doors in the daylight? Oh, I know!"
the frown passing from his face, for he had spoken quickly and in
annoyed fashion. "This sounds like a parson's prating: I know the
language of old. By the bye, did you set the clergy on my track?"
turning the blue spectacles full on the embarrassed Phillis.

"I?--no indeed!" and then she went on frankly: "Mr. Drummond was at
our house, and he told us that he always called on Mrs. Williams's
lodgers."

"True, Miss Challoner; but how did his reverence know Mrs. Williams
had a lodger?"

This was awkward, but Phillis steered her way through the difficulty
with her usual dexterity.

"I mentioned to my mother that you were kind enough to see me home,
and she repeated the fact to Mr. Drummond."

"Thank you, Miss Challanor; now I understand. I wonder if your mother
would be very shocked if a stranger intruded upon her? but you and I
must have some more conversation together, and I do not see how it is
to be managed in accordance with what you ladies call _les
convenances_."

"My mother----" began Phillis, demurely; and then she paused, and
looked up at him in astonishment, "What, Mr. Dancy! you purpose to
call on my mother, and yet you refused Mr. Drummond's visit?" for the
news of Archie's defeat had already reached the Friary through Miss
Mattie.

Mr. Dancy seemed rather nonplussed at this, and then he laughed:

"Ah, you are shrewd, Miss Challoner; there is no deceiving you! I have
seen Mr. Drummond pass and repass often enough; and--pardon me, if he
be a friend--I thought from the cut of his coat that he was prig, and
I have a horror of clerical prigs."

"He is not priggish in the least," was Phillis's annoyed rejoinder.

"No? Well, appearances are sometimes deceptive: perhaps I was too
hasty in my dread of being bored. But here comes your sister, I
think,--at least, I have seen you together: so I am leaving you in
good hands." And, before Phillis could reply, he had lifted his hat
and turned away, just as Nan, whose vigilant eyes were upon him, was
hurrying to join her sister.

"Oh, Phillis, was that Mr. Dancy?" she asked, in a reproachful voice,
as she hurried up to her.

"Yes, Nannie, it was Mr. Dancy," returned Phillis, composedly; "and I
wish I could have introduced him to you, for I believe he is coming to
call on mother." And, when she had related this astounding piece of
intelligence, she looked in Nan's face and laughed, and, in high good
humor, proceeded to relate their conversation.



CHAPTER XXX.

"NOW WE UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER."


One fine morning in September, Mr. Drummond was standing at the back
of Milner's Library, turning over the last new assortment of books
from Mudie, when two gentlemen entered the shop.

Strangers were always interesting to Archie, and he criticised them
under a twofold aspect--pastoral and social. In this way curiosity
becomes a virtue, and a man with a mission is not without his
interests in life. Hadleigh was Mr. Drummond's sheep-walk, where he
shepherded his lambs, and looked after his black sheep and tried to
wash them white, or, in default of that, at least to make out that
their fleece was not so sable after all: so he now considered it his
duty to leave off turning over the pages of a seductive-looking novel,
and to inspect the strangers.

They were both dressed in tweed travelling costumes, and looked
sunburnt, as though they had just returned from a walking-tour. The
elder was a short wiry man, with a shrewd face and quizzical eyes; and
he asked in sharp clipping voice that was not free from accent, for
the last number of the local paper, containing lists of inhabitants,
visitors, etc.

Meanwhile, the younger man walked about the shop, whistling softly to
himself, as though he had a fund of cheerfulness on hand which must
find vent somewhere. When he came opposite Archie, he took a brief
survey of him in a careless, good-humored fashion, and then turned on
his heel, bestowing a very cursory glance on Miss Masham, who stood
shaking her black ringlets after the fashion of shopwomen, and waiting
to know the gentleman's pleasure.

No one would have called this young man very good-looking, unless such
a one had a secret predilection for decidedly reddish hair and a sandy
moustache; but there was an air of _bonhommie_, of frank kindness, of
boyish fun and pleasantry, that attracted even strangers, and Archie
looked after him with considerable interest.

"Oxford cut, father and son: father looks rather a queer customer,"
thought Archie to himself.

"Dick, come here!--why, where is that fellow?" suddenly exclaimed the
elder man, beginning to put on his eye-glasses very nervously.

"Coming, father. All right: what is it?" returned the imperturbable
Dick. He was still whistling "Twickenham Ferry" under his breath, as
he came to the counter and leaned with both elbows upon it.

"Good gracious, boy, what does this mean?" went on the other, in an
irritable perturbed voice; and he read a short advertisement, written
in a neat lady-like hand: "Dressmaking undertaken. Terms moderate, and
all orders promptly executed. Apply to--the Misses Challoner, the
Friary, Braidwood Road. Ladies waited upon at their own residences'.
What the"--he was about to add a stronger term, but, in deference to
Miss Milner, substituted--"dickens does this mean, Dick?"

The young man's reply was to snatch the paper out of his father's
hand, and study it intently, with his elbows still on the counter, and
the last bar of "Twickenham Ferry" died away uncompleted on his lips;
and if any one could have seen his face, they would have remarked a
curious redness spreading to his forehead.

"Nan's handwriting, by Jove!" he muttered, but still inaudibly; and
then he stared at the paper, and his face grew redder.

"Well, Dick, can't you answer? What does this piece of tomfoolery
mean--'dressmaking undertaken--ladies waited upon at their own
residences'? Can there be two families of Challoner and two Friaries?
and why don't you speak and say something?"

"Because I know as little as yourself, father," returned the young
man, without lifting his head; and he surreptitiously conveyed the
paper to his pocket. "Perhaps this lady," indicating Miss Milner,
"could inform us?"

"I beg your pardon," observed a gentlemanly voice near them; and,
looking up, Dick found himself confronted by the young clergyman. "I
overheard your inquiries, and, as I am acquainted with the ladies in
question, I may be able to satisfy you."

"I should be extremely obliged to you if you would do so, sir,"
returned the elder man, with alacrity; but Dick turned away rather
ungraciously, and his cheerful face grew sullen.

"Confound him! what does he mean by his interference? Knows them,
indeed! such a handsome beggar, too,--a prig, one can see that from
the cut of his clothes and beard!" And again he planted his elbows on
the counter, and began pulling his rough little stubbly moustache.

"If you are referring to a mother and three daughters who live in the
Friary and eke out a scanty income by taking in dressmaking, I am
happy to say I know them well," went on Archie. "My sister and I visit
at the cottage, and they attend my church; and, as Miss Milner can
tell you, they work hard enough all the six days of the week."

"Indeed, Mr. Drummond, there are few that work harder!" broke in Miss
Milner, volubly. "Such pretty creatures, too, to earn their own
living; and yet they have a bright word and a smile for everybody!
Ever since Miss Phillis," (here Dick groaned) "made that blue dress
for Mrs. Trimmings--she is the butcher's wife, and a dressy woman,
though not flashy, like Mrs. Squails--they have been quite the rage in
Hadleigh. All the townspeople, and the resident gentry, and even the
visitors, want their gowns made by the Miss Challoners. Their fit is
perfect; and they have such taste. And----" But here the luckless Dick
could bear no more.

"If you will excuse me, sir," he said, addressing his bewildered
father, "I have left something particular at the hotel: I must just
run and fetch it."

Dick did not specify whether it was his handkerchief, or his
cigar-case, or his purse, of which he stood so urgently in need; but
before Mr. Mayne could remonstrate, he had gone out of the shop. He
went as far as the door of the hotel, and there he seized on a passing
waiter and questioned him in a breathless manner. Having obtained his
information, he set off at a walk that was almost a run through the
town, and down the Braidwood Road. The few foot-passengers that he met
shrank out of the way of this young man; for he walked, looking
neither to the right nor to left, as though he saw nothing before him.
And his eyes were gloomy, and, he did not whistle; and the only words
he said to himself were, "Oh, Nan, never to have told me of this!"
over and over again.

The gate of the Friary stood open; for a small boy had been washing
the flags, and had left his pail, and had gone off to play marbles in
the road with a younger brother. Dick,--who understood the bearings of
the case at once, shook his fist at the truant behind his back, and
then turned in at the gate.

He peeped in at the hall door first; but Dorothy was peeling potatoes
in the kitchen, and would see him as he passed, so he skirted the
little path under the yews. And if Dulce had been at her
sewing-machine as usual, she would have seen him at once; but this
morning the machine was silent.

A few steps farther he came to a full stop, and his eyes began to
glisten, and he pricked up his ears after the manner of lovers; for
through an open window just behind him, he could hear Nan's voice,
sweet and musical, reading aloud to her sisters.

"Oh, the darling!" he murmured, and composed himself for a few
moments' ecstasy, for no doubt she was reading Tennyson, or
Barrett-Browning, or one of the poetry-books he had given her; but he
was a little disappointed when he found it was prose.

"'With regard to washing-dresses,'" read Nan, in her clear tones,
"'cottons, as a general thing, have another material made up with
them; the under-skirt may be of foulard or satin----?'"

"Oh, I dare say! What nonsensical extravagance!" observed Phillis.

"'Or the bodice of surah, satin, cashmere, or llama, and the skirt of
cotton.... The skirts are nearly always made with single box-pleats,
with a flat surface in the centre, and a flat band of trimming is
often stitched on at about five inches from the edge of the flounce.'
I should say that would be sweetly pretty, dear: we might try it for
Mrs. Penlip's dress. And just listen to a little more."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," blurted out Dick. "Oh, Nan, Nan! how
could you be such a traitor?--washing-dresses indeed, and me left in
ignorance!" And there was Dick, his face glowing and indignant,
standing in the window, with Laddie barking furiously at him, and his
outstretched hand nearly touching Nan.

Phillis and Dulce screamed with surprise, being young and easily
excited; but Nan only said, "Oh, Dick!" very faintly; and her sweet
face grew red and pale by turns, and her fingers fluttered a little in
his grasp, but only for joy and the sheer delight of seeing him.

As for Dick, his eyes shone, but his manner was masterful.

"Look here!" he said, drawing Nan's advertisement from his pocket; "we
had come down here to surprise you girls, and to have a little fun and
tennis; and I meant to have treated you to the public ground at the
hotel, as I knew you had only a scrubby little bit of lawn; and this
is what has met my eyes this morning! You have deceived mother and me;
you have let us enjoy our holiday, which I didn't a bit, for I had a
sort of nasty presentiment and a heap of uncomfortable thoughts; and
all the while you were slaving away at this hideous dressmaking,--I
wish I could burn the whole rag, tag, and bobtail,--and never let us
know you wanted anything. And you call that being friends!"

"Yes, and the best of friends, too," responded Phillis, cheerfully,
for Nan was too much crushed by all this eloquence to answer. "Come
along, Dulce! don't listen any more to this nonsense, when you know
mother is wanting us. Dick is all very well when he is in a good
humor, but time and dressmaking wait for no man." And the young
hypocrite dragged the unwilling Dulce away. "Can't you leave them
alone to come to an understanding?" whispered Phillis in her ear, when
they got outside the door. "I can see it in his eyes; and Nan is on
the verge of crying, she is so upset with the surprise. And, you
goose, where are you going now?"

"To mother. Did you not say she wanted us?"

"Oh, you silly child!" returned Phillis, calmly: "does not mother
always want us? One must say what comes uppermost in one's mind in
emergencies of this sort. But for me, you would have stood there for
an hour staring at them. Mother is out, as it happens: if you like we
will go and meet her. Oh, no, I forgot: Dick is a young man, and it
would not be proper. Let us go into the kitchen and help Dorothy." And
away they went.

"Phillis is a trump!" thought Dick, as he shut the door. "I love that
girl." And then he marched up to Nan, and took her hands boldly.

"Now, Nan you owe me amends for this; at least you will say you are
sorry."

"No, Dick," hanging her head, for she could not face his look, he was
so masterful and determined with her, and so unlike the easy Dick of
old. "I am not a bit sorry: I would not have spoiled your holiday for
worlds."

"My holiday!--a precious holiday it was without you! A lot of stupid
climbing, with grinning idiots for company. Well, never mind that,"
his wrathful tone changing in a moment. "So you kept me in the dark
just for my own good?"

"Yes, of course, Dick. What an unnecessary question!"

"And you wanted me, Nan?"

"Yes," very faintly, and there was a little tear-drop on one of Nan's
lashes.

She had been so miserable,--how miserable he would never know; but he
need not have asked her that.

"Oh, very well: then I won't bother you with any more questions. Now
we understand each other, and can just go to business."

Nan looked up in his face in alarm. She anticipated another lecture,
but nothing of the sort came. Dick cleared his throat, got a little
red, and went on.

"I say settle our business, because we have been as good as engaged
all these years. You know you belong to me, Nan?"

"Yes, Dick," she returned, obediently; for she was too much taken by
surprise to know what she ought to say, and the two words escaped from
her almost unconsciously.

"There never was a time we were not fond of each other,--ever since
you were so high," pointing to what would represent the height of an
extremely dwarfish infant of seven or eight months.

"Oh, not so long ago as that," returned Nan, laughing a little.

"Quite as long," repeated Dick, solemnly. "I declare, I have been so
fond of you all my life, Nan, that I have been the happiest fellow in
the world. Now, look here; just say after me, 'Dick, I promise on my
word and honor to marry you.'"

Nan repeated the words, and then she paused in affright.

"But your father!" she gasped,--"and the dressmaking! Oh, Dick! what
have you made me say? You have startled me into forgetting everything.
Oh, dear! oh, dear! what shall I do?" continued Nan, in the most
innocent way. "We shall be engaged all our lives, for he will never
allow you to marry me. Dick, dear Dick, please let me off! I never
meant to give in like this."

"Never mind what you meant to do," returned Dick, with the utmost
gravity: "the thing is, you have done it. On your word and honor, Nan,
remember. Now we are engaged."

"Oh, but Dick, please don't take such advantage of me, just because I
said--or, at least, you said--I was fond of you. What will mother say?
She will be so dreadfully shocked; and it is so cruel to your father.
I will be engaged to you in a way. I will promise--I will vow, if you
will--never to marry any one else."

"I should think not," interrupted Dick, fiercely. "I would murder the
fellow, whoever he was!" and in spite of himself his thought reverted
to the fair beard and handsome face of the young clergyman.

Nan saw from his obstinate face that her eloquence was all wasted; but
she made one more attempt, blushing like a rose:

"I will even promise to marry you, if your father gives his consent.
You know, Dick, I would never go against him."

"Nor I. You ought to know me better, Nan, than to think I should act
shabbily and leave the dear old fellow in the dark."

"Then you will set me free," marvelling a little over her lover's good
sense and filial submission.

"As free as an engagement permits. Why, what do you mean, Nan? Have I
not just told you we are engaged for good and all? Do you suppose I do
not mean to tell my father so on the first opportunity? There he
comes! bless the man, I knew he would follow me! Now you shall see how
I can stick up for the girl I love." But Dick thought it better to
release the hand he had been holding all this time.

There are certain moments in life when one is in too exalted a mood to
feel the usual sensations that circumstances might warrant. At another
time Nan would have been shocked at the condition of her work-room,
being a tidy little soul, and thrifty as to pins and other odds and
ends; and the thought of Mr. Mayne coming upon them unexpectedly would
have frightened her out of her senses.

The room was certainly not in its usual order. There had been much
business transacted there that morning. The table was strewn with
breadths of gay _broche_ silk; an unfinished gauzy-looking dress hung
over a chair; the door of the wardrobe was open, and a row of
dark-looking shapes--like Bluebeard's decapitated wives--were dimly
revealed to view. A sort of lay figure, draped in calico, was in one
corner. As Nan observed to Phillis afterwards, "There was not a tidy
corner in the whole room."

Nevertheless, the presence of Dick so glorified the place that Nan
looked around at the chaos quite calmly, as she heard Mr. Mayne's
sharp voice first inquiring for her mother and then for herself.
Dorothy, with her usual tact, would have shown him into the little
parlor; but Nan, who wished for no disguise, stepped forward and threw
open the door.

"I am here, Dorothy. Come in, Mr. Mayne. Dick is here too, and I am so
sorry mother is out."

"I might have known that scapegrace would have given me the slip!"
muttered Mr. Mayne, as he shook hands ungraciously with Nan, and then
followed her into the work-room.

Dick, who was examining the wardrobe, turned round and saluted his
father with a condescending nod:

"You were too long with the parson: I could not wait, you see. Did you
make all these dresses, Nan? You are awfully clever, you girls! They
look first-rate,--this greeny-browny-yellowish one, for example,"
pulling out a much furbelowed garment destined for Mrs. Squails.

"Oh, Dick, do please leave them alone!" and Nan authoritatively waved
him away, and closed the wardrobe.

"I was only admiring your handiwork," returned Dick, imperturbably.
"Does she not look a charming little dressmaker, father?" regarding
Nan with undisguised pleasure, as she stood in her pretty bib-apron
before them.

But Mr. Mayne only drew his heavy eyebrows together, and said,--

"Pshaw, Dick! don't chatter such folly. I want to have some talk with
Miss Nancy myself."

"All right: I have had my innings," returned naughty Dick; but he shot
a look at Nan that made her blush to her finger ends, and that was not
lost on Mr. Mayne.

"Well, now, Miss Nancy, what does all this mean?" he asked, harshly.
"Here we have run down just in a friendly way,--Dick and I,--leaving
the mother rather knocked up after her travels at Longmead, to look
you up and see how you are getting on. And now we find you have been
deceiving us all along, and keeping us in the dark, and that you are
making yourselves the talk of the place, sewing a parcel of gowns for
all the townspeople."

Mr. Mayne did not add that his son had so bothered him for the last
three weeks to run down to Hadleigh that he had acceded at last to his
request, in the hope of enjoying a little peace.

"Draw it mild!" muttered Dick, who did not much admire this opening
tirade; but Nan answered, with much dignity,--

"If people talk about us it is because of the novelty. They have never
heard of gentle-people doing this sort of work before----"

"I should think not!" wrathfully from Mr. Mayne.

"Things were so bad with us that we should have all had to separate if
Phillis had not planned this scheme; and then mother would have broken
her heart; but now we are getting on famously. Our work gives
satisfaction, we have plenty of orders; we do not forfeit people's
good opinions, for we have nothing but respect shown us, and----"

But here Mr. Mayne interrupted her flow of quiet eloquence somewhat
rudely.

"Pack of nonsense!" he exclaimed, angrily. "I wonder at your
mother,--I do indeed. I thought she had more sense. You have no right
to outrage your friends in this way! it is treating us badly. What
will your mother say, Dick? She will be dreadfully shocked. I am sorry
for you, my boy,--I am indeed: but, under the circumstances----"

But what he was about to add was checked by a very singular proceeding
on the part of his son; for Dick suddenly took Nan's hand, and drew
her forward.

"Don't be sorry for me, father: I am the happiest fellow alive. Nan
and I have come to an understanding at last, after all these years.
Allow me to present to you the future Mrs. Richard Mayne."



CHAPTER XXXI.

DICK THINKS OF THE CITY.


When Dick had uttered this audacious speech, Mr. Mayne started back,
and his expression of mingled wrath and dismay was so ludicrous that
under any other circumstances his son would have found it difficult to
keep his countenance.

"What! what!" he almost shouted, losing all sense of politeness, and
even of Nan's presence; "you young fool, what do you mean by trumping
up this nonsense and presuming to talk to me in this way?"

Dick thought it prudent to drop Nan's hand,--and, indeed, the girl
shrank away from them both in alarm at this outburst: nevertheless,
his countenance and bearing maintained the same admirable
_sang-froid_, as he confronted his angry parent:

"Now, father, what is the use of calling me names? When a fellow is of
age, and knows his own mind, he does not care a pin for being called a
fool. 'Hard words break no bones,' as our copy-leaves used to tell
us,--no, I have not got that quite right; but that is about my
meaning. Look here, father," he continued, in a coaxing, boyish voice;
"I have cared for Nan ever since she was a little creature so high,"
again reverting to the infantile measurement. "I have always meant to
marry her,--that is, if she would have me," correcting himself, as Nan
drew herself up a little proudly. "Money or no money, there is not
another girl in England that I would have for a wife. I would wait for
her if I had to wait half my life, just the same as she would wait for
me; and so, as I said before, when a fellow has made up his mind,
there is nothing more to say." And here Dick pursed up his lips for a
whistle, but thought better of it, and fell to twisting and untwisting
the ends of his sandy moustache.

Nan's downcast eyes revealed nothing. But if Dick could only have seen
the happy look in them! What eloquence could ever have been so dear to
her as that clear rough-and-ready statement of her lover's feelings
for her? "There is not another girl in England that I would have for a
wife." Could anything surpass the beauty of that sentence? Oh, how
manly, how true he was, this Dick of hers!

"Oh, indeed! I am to say nothing, am I?" returned Mr. Mayne, with
exquisite irony. "My son is to dictate to me; and I am to be silent!
Oh, you young fool!" he muttered under his breath; but then for the
moment words seemed to fail him.

In spite of the wrath that was boiling within him, and to which he did
not dare give vent in Nan's presence, in spite of the grief and
disappointment that his son's defiance had caused him, Dick's bearing
filled him with admiration and amazement.

This boy of his was worth something, he thought. He had a clear head
of his own, and could speak to some purpose. Was a likely young fellow
like this to be thrown away on that Challoner girl? Poor Nan! Pretty
and blooming as she looked, Mr. Mayne felt almost as though he hated
her. Why had she come between his boy and him? Had he a dozen sons,
that he could spare one of them? Was not Dick his only one,--the son
of his right hand, his sole hope and ambition? Mr. Mayne could have
wept as these thoughts passed through his mind.

It was at this moment that Nan thought it right to speak. Dick had had
his say, but it was not for her to be silent.

"Mr. Mayne, please listen to me a moment," she said, pleadingly. "No;
I must speak to your father," as Dick, much alarmed, tried to silence
her. "He must not think hard things of us, and misunderstand us."

"No, dear; indeed you had better be silent!" implored Dick, anxiously;
but Nan for once turned a deaf ear to him.

"I must speak," she persisted. "Mr. Mayne, it is quite true what Dick
says: we have been together all our lives, and have grown to care for
each other. I cannot remember the time,"--the tears coming into her
bright eyes--"when Dick was not more to me than a brother; it is all
of such long standing, it is far, far too late to stop it now."

"We shall see about that, Miss Nancy," muttered Mr. Mayne, between his
teeth; but the girl did not seem to hear him.

"Dick took me by surprise just now. I ought to have been more on my
guard, and not have given him that promise."

"What promise?" demanded Mr. Mayne, harshly; and Nan hung her head,
and returned, shyly,--

"That I would marry him some time; but indeed--indeed he made me say
it, and I was so taken by surprise. No, Dick; you must let me finish,"
for Dick was looking at her with piteous entreaty in his eyes. "I know
we were wrong to say so much without your leave; but indeed I will do
your son no harm. I cannot marry any one else, because I am engaged to
him; but as far as he is concerned he is free. I will never marry him
without your permission; he shall not come here if you do not wish;
but do not be so angry with us;" and here her lip quivered. "If you
did not mean this to happen, you should have kept us apart all these
years."

"Oh, hush, dear!" whispered Dick in her ear; but Mr Mayne almost
thrust him aside, and laid a rough grasp on the girl's wrist. "Never
mind him: answer me one question. Are you serious in what you say,
that you will never marry him without my permission?"

"Of course I will not," answered Nan, quite shocked. "Dick would not
ask me to do such a thing; he is far too honorable, and--and--no one
would think of such a thing."

"Very well; that is all I wanted to know;" and he released her, not
over-gently: "the rest I can settle with Master Dick himself.
Good-morning, Miss Nancy: under the circumstances I do not think I
will wait to see your mother. I am not quite in the mood for ladies;
perhaps, later on, I may have something to say to her."

"Don't you mean to shake hands with me, Mr. Mayne?" asked poor Nan,
much distressed at the evil temper of Dick's father; but there was no
sign of softening.

"Yes; I will shake hands with you, and gladly, if you will promise to
be sensible and send this boy of mine about his business. Come now,
Nan; own for my comfort that it is only a bit of boy-and-girl
nonsense, that means nothing. I am not over-particular, and do not
object to a bit of flirting with young folk."

"You had better go with your father, Dick," returned Nan, with much
dignity, and quite ignoring this speech.

Dick seized the little hand that had been so rudely rejected, and
kissed it under his father's eyes.

"I will see you again somehow," he whispered, and Nan was quite
content with this promise. Dick would keep his word, she knew: he
would not leave Hadleigh without seeing her.

A very unpleasant hour ensued for poor Dick. Mr. Mayne in one of his
worst tempers; he had conducted himself to Nan in an ungentlemanly
manner, and he knew it; as Dick said to himself,--

"It is very hard on a fellow when one's father acts like a cad."

Mr. Mayne had shown himself a cad. No gentleman by birth or breeding
would have conducted himself in that offensive way. Bad temper had
broken down the trammels of conventionality: never before in his life
had Dick felt so utterly ashamed of his father. Mr. Mayne was
conscious of his son's criticism, and it made things worse.

It spoke well for Dick's prudence and self-command that he let the
storm of his father's anger break over his head, and said no word. Mr.
Mayne ranted and raved; I am afraid he even swore once or twice,--at
least his language was undesirably strong,--and Dick walked beside him
and held his peace. "Poor old boy, he is terribly cut up about this!"
he thought once.

Mr. Drummond saw them coming along, and wondered at the energy of the
older man. Was it the visit to the Friary that had put him out? and
then he fell anew into cogitation. Who were these people who were so
curious about the Challoners? At least that sulky young fellow had
taken no apparent interest, for he had made an excuse to leave them;
but the other one had persisted in very close investigation. Perhaps
he was some relation,--an uncle, or a distant cousin; evidently he had
some right or claim to be displeased. Archie determined to solve the
mystery as soon as possible.

"Well, sir, have you nothing to say for yourself?" demanded Mr. Mayne,
when he had fairly exhausted himself. He had disinherited Dick half a
dozen times; he had deprived him of his liberal allowance; he had
spoken of a projected voyage to New Zealand: and Dick had only walked
on steadily, and thought of the cold trembling little hand he had
kissed. "Have you nothing to say for yourself?" he vociferated.

Dick woke up at this.

"Oh, yes, I have plenty to say," he returned cheerfully; "but two
cannot talk at once, you know. It was right for you to have the first
innings, and all that; and I say, father,"--his filial feelings coming
to the surface,--"I am awfully sorry, and so is Nan, to see you so
vexed."

"Speak for yourself," was the wrathful answer. "Don't mention that
girl's name in my hearing for the present."

"Whose name?--Nan's?" returned Dick, innocently. "I don't see how we
are to keep it out of the conversation, when the row is all about her.
Look here, father: I say again I am awfully sorry you are vexed; but
as N--she says, it is too late to mend matters now. I have made my
choice, for better for worse, and I am sorry it does not please you."

"Please me!" retorted Mr. Mayne; and then he added, venomously: "The
girl said you would not marry without my permission; but I will never
give it. Come, Dick, it is no use thwarting me in this: you are our
only child and we have other plans for you. Pshaw! you are only a boy!
You have not seen the world yet. There are dozens of girls far
prettier than this Nan. Give this nonsense up, and there is nothing I
will not do for you; you shall travel, have your liberty, do as you
like for the next two or three years, and I will not worry you about
marrying. Why, you are only one-and-twenty; and you have two more
years of University life! What an idea,--a fine young fellow like you
talking of tying yourself down to matrimony!"

"There is no use in my going back to Oxford, father," returned Dick,
steadily; "thank you kindly all the same, but, it would be sheer waste
of money. I have made up my mind to go into the City; it is the
fashionable thing nowadays. And one does not need Greek and Latin for
that, though, of course, it is an advantage to a fellow, and gives him
a standing; but, as I have to get my own living, I cannot afford the
two years. Your old chums Stanfield & Stanfield would give me a berth
at once."

"Is the boy mad? What on earth do you mean by all this tomfoolery?"
demanded Mr. Mayne, unable to believe his ears. His small gray eyes
opened widely and irately on his son; but Dick took no notice. He
walked on, with his shoulders looking rather square and determined;
the corners of his mouth were working rebelliously: evidently he did
not dare to look at his father for fear of breaking into
incontrollable laughter. Really the dear old boy was getting too
absurd; he--Dick--could not stand it much longer. "What in the name of
all that is foolish do you mean, sir?" thundered Mr. Mayne.

Dick executed a low whistle, and then he said, in an aggrieved
voice,--

"Well, father, I don't call you very consistent. I suppose I know what
being disinherited means? In plain language, you have told me about
half a dozen times that if I stick to Nan I am not to expect a
shilling of your money. Now, in my own mind, of course I call that
precious hard on a fellow, considering I have not been such a bad
sort of son after all. But I am not going to quarrel with you about
that: a man has a right to do as he likes with his own money."

"Yes; but, Dick, you are going to be sensible, you know, and drop the
girl?" in a wheedling sort of tone.

"Excuse me, father; I am going to do nothing of the kind," returned
Dick, with sudden firmness. "I am going to stick to her, as you did to
my mother; and for just as long, if it must be so. I am not a bit
afraid that you will not give your permission, if we only wait long
enough to prove that we are in earnest. The only thing I am anxious
about is how I am to get my living; and that is why I will not consent
to waste any more time at the University. The bar is too uphill work;
money is made quickest in the City: so, if you will be good enough to
give me an introduction to Stanfield & Stanfield,--I know they are a
rattling good sort of people,--that is all I will trouble you about at
present." And Dick drew in a long breath of relief after this weighty
speech.

"Do you mean this, Dick?" asked Mr. Mayne, rather feebly.

They had reached the hotel now, and, as they entered the private room
where their luncheon was awaiting them, he sat down as though he had
grown suddenly old and tired, and rested his head on his hand, perhaps
to hide the moisture that had gathered under his shaggy eyebrows.

"Yes, father, I do," returned Dick; but he spoke very gently, and his
hand touched his father's shoulder caressingly. "Let me give you some
wine: all this business has taken it out of you."

"Yes, I have had a blow, Dick,--my only boy has given me a blow,"
returned Mr. Mayne, pathetically; but as he took the wine his hand
trembled.

"I am awfully sorry," answered Dick, penitently: "if there were
anything else you had asked me but this--but I cannot give up Nan."
And, as he pronounced the name, Dick's eyes shone with pride and
tenderness. He was a soft-hearted, affectionate young fellow, and this
quarrel with his father was costing him a great deal of pain. In
everything else he would have been submissive to his parents; but now
he had a purpose and responsibility in his life: he had to be faithful
to the girl whom he had won; he must think for her now as well as for
himself. How sweet was this sense of dual existence, this unity of
heart and aim!

Mr. Mayne fairly groaned as he read the expression on his son's face.
Dick's youthful countenance was stamped with honest resolution. "I am
going to stick to her, as you did to my mother."--that was what he had
said. If this were true, it was all over with Dick's chances with the
pretty little heiress; he would never look at her or her thirty
thousand pounds; "but all the same he, Richard Mayne, would never
consent to his son marrying a dressmaker. If she had only not
disgraced herself, if she had not brought this humiliation on them, he
might have been brought to listen to their pleading in good time and
at his own pleasure; but now, never!--never!" he muttered, and set his
teeth hard.

"Dick," he said, suddenly, for there had been utter silence for a
space.

"Yes, father."

"You have upset me very much, and made me very unhappy; but I wish you
to say nothing to your mother, and we will talk about this again.
Promise me one thing,--that you will go back to Oxford at least until
Christmas."

"What is the good of that, sir?" asked his son, dubiously.

"What is the good of anything? for you have taken every bit of
pleasure out of my life; but at least you can do as much as this for
me."

"Oh, yes, father, if you wish it," returned Dick, more cheerfully;
"but all the same I have fixed upon a City life."

"We will talk of that again," replied his father; "and, Dick, we go
home to-morrow, and, unless you promise me not to come down to
Hadleigh between this and Christmas, I shall be obliged to speak to
Mrs. Challoner."

"Oh, there is no need for that," returned Dick, sulkily.

"You give me your word?"

"Oh, yes," pushing aside his chair with a kick. "It would be no use
coming down to Hadleigh, for Nan would not speak to me. I know her too
well for that. She has got such a conscience, you know. I shall write
to her, but I do not know if she will answer my letters; but it does
not matter: we shall both be true as steel. If you don't want me any
more, I think I will have a cigar on the beach, for this room is
confoundedly hot." And, without waiting for permission, Dick strode
off, still sulky and fully aware that his father meant to follow him,
for fear of his footsteps straying again down the Braidwood Road.



CHAPTER XXXII.

"DICK IS TO BE OUR REAL BROTHER."


Never was a father more devoted to his son's company than Mr. Mayne
was that day. Dick's cigar was hardly alight before his father had
joined him. When Dick grew weary of throwing stones aimlessly at
imaginary objects, and voted the beach slow, Mr. Mayne proposed a walk
with alacrity. They dined together,--not talking much, it is true, for
Dick was still sulky, and his father tired and inclined to headache,
but keeping up a show of conversation for the waiter's benefit. But
when that functionary had retired, and the wine was on the table,
Dick made no further effort to be agreeable, but placed himself in the
window-seat and stared moodily at the sea, while his father watched
him and drank his wine in silence.

Mr. Mayne was fighting against drowsiness valiantly.

Dick knew this, and was waiting for an opportunity to make his
escape.

"Had we not better ring for lights and coffee?" asked his father, as
he felt the first ominous sensations stealing over him.

"Not just yet. I feel rather disposed for a nap myself; and it is a
shame to shut out the moonlight," returned that wicked Dick, calling
up a fib to his aid, and closing his eyes as he spoke.

The bait took. In another five minutes Mr. Mayne was nodding in
earnest, and Dick on tiptoe had just softly closed the door behind
him, and was taking his straw hat from its peg.

Nan was walking up and down the little dark lawn, feeling restless and
out of sorts after the agitation of the morning, when she heard a low
whistle at the other side of the wall, and her heart felt suddenly as
light as a feather.

Dick saw her white gown as she came down the flagged path to the gate
to let him in. The moonlight seemed to light it up with a sort of
glory.

"You are a darling not to keep me waiting, for we have not a moment to
lose," he whispered, as she came up close to him. "He is asleep now,
but he will wake up as soon as he misses me. Have you expected me
before, Nan? But indeed I have not been left to myself a moment."

"Oh, I knew all about it, my poor Dick," she answered, looking at him
so softly. "Phillis is reading to mother in the parlor, and Dulce is
in the work-room. I have nowhere to ask you unless you come in and
talk to them. But mother is too upset to see you, I am afraid."

"Let us wait here," returned Dick, boldly. "No one can hear what we
say, and I must speak to you alone. No; I had better not see your
mother to-night, and the girls would be in the way. Shall you be
tired, dear, if you stand out here a moment talking to me? for I dare
not wait long."

"Oh, no, I shall not be tired," answered Nan gently. Tired, when she
had her own Dick near her!--when she could speak to him,--look at
him!

"All right; but it is my duty to look after you, now you belong to
me," returned Dick, proudly. "Whatever happens,--however long we may
be separated,--you must remember that--that you belong to me,--that
you will have to account to me if you do not take care of yourself."

Nan smiled happily at this, and then she said,--

"I have told mother all about it, and she is dreadfully distressed
about your father's anger. She cried so, and took his part, and said
she did not wonder that he would not listen to us; he would feel it
such a disgrace, his son wanting to marry a dressmaker. She made me
unhappy, too, when she put it all before me in that way," and here
Nan's face paled perceptibly in the moonlight, "for she made me see
how hard it is on him, and on your mother, too! Oh, Dick don't you
think you ought to listen to them, and not have anything more to do
with me?"

"Nan, I am shocked at you!"

"But, Dick!"

"I tell you I am utterly shocked! You to say such a thing to my face,
when we have been as good as engaged to each other all our lives! Who
cares for the trumpery dressmaking? Not I!"

"But your father!" persisted Nan, but very faintly, for Dick's eyes
were blazing with anger.

"Not another word! Nan, how dare you--after what you have promised
this morning! Have I not been worried and badgered enough, without
your turning on me in this way? If you won't marry me, you won't; but
I shall be a bachelor all my life for your sake!" and Dick, who was so
sore, poor fellow, that he was ready to quarrel with her out of the
very fulness of his love, actually made a movement as though to leave
her, only Nan caught him by the arm in quite a frightened way.

"Dick! dear Dick!"

"Well?" rather sullenly.

"Oh, don't leave me like this! It would break my heart! I did not mean
to make you angry. I was only pleading with you for your own good. Of
course I will keep my promise. Have I not been true to you all my
life? Oh, Dick! how can you turn from me like this?" And Nan actually
began to sob in earnest, only Dick's sweet temper returned in a moment
at the sight of her distress, and he fell to comforting her with all
his might; and after this things went on more smoothly.

He told her about his conversation with his father, and how he had
planned a city life for himself; but here Nan timidly interposed:

"Would that not be a pity, when you had always meant to study for the
bar?"

"Not a bit of it," was the confident answer. "That was my father's
wish, not mine. I don't mind telling you in confidence that I am not
at all a shining light. I am afraid I am rather a duffer, and shall
not make my mark in the world. I have always thought desk-work must be
rather a bore; but, after all, with a good introduction and a
tolerable berth, one is pretty sure of getting on in the City. What I
want is to make a little nest cosey for somebody, and as quick as
possible,--eh, Nan?"

"I do not mind waiting," faltered Nan. But she felt at this moment
that no lover could have been so absolutely perfect as her Dick.

"Oh, that is what girls always say," returned Dick, rather loftily.
"They are never in a hurry. They would wait seven--ten years,--half a
lifetime. But with us men it is different. I am not a bit afraid of
you. I know you will stick to me like a brick, and all that; and
father will come round when he sees we are in earnest. But all the
same I want to have you to myself as soon as possible. A fellow likes
the feeling of working for his wife. I hate to think of these pretty
fingers stitching away for other people. I want them to work for me:
do you understand, Nan?'" And Nan, of course, understood.

Dick, poor fellow, had not much time for his love-making, he and Nan
had too much business to settle. Nan had to explain to him that her
mother was of opinion that under the present circumstances, nothing
ought to be done to excite Mr. Mayne's wrath. Dick might write to her
mother sometimes, just to let them know how he was getting on; but
between the young people themselves there must be no correspondence.

"Mother says it will not be honorable, and that we are not properly
engaged." And, though Dick combated this rather stoutly, he gave in at
last, and agreed that, until the new year, he would not claim his
rights, or infringe the sacred privacy of the Friary.

"And now I must go," said Dick, with a great sigh; "and it is good-bye
for months. Now, I do not mean to ask your leave,--for you are such a
girl for scruples, and all that, and you might take it into your head
to refuse me: so there!"

Dick's words were mysterious; but he very soon made his meaning
plain.

Nan said, "Oh, Dick!" but made no further protest. After all, whatever
Mr. Mayne and her mother said, they were engaged.

As Dick closed the little gate behind him, he was aware of a tall
figure looming in the darkness.

"Confound that parson! What does he mean by loafing about here?" he
thought, feeling something like a pugnacious bull-dog at the prospect
of a possible rival. "I forgot to ask Nan about him; but I dare say he
is after one of the other girls." But these reflections were nipped in
the bud, as the short, sturdy form of Mr. Mayne was dimly visible in
the road.

Dick chuckled softly: he could not help it.

"All right, dear old boy," he said to himself; and then he stepped up
briskly, and took his father's arm.

"Do you call this honorable, sir?" began Mr. Mayne, in a most
irascible voice.

"I call it very neat," returned Dick, cheerfully. "My dear pater,
everything is fair in love and war; and if you will nap at
unseasonable times--but that comes of early rising, as I have often
told you."

"Hold your tongue, sir!" was the violent rejoinder. "It is a mean
trick you have served me, and you know it. We will go back to-night;
nothing will induce me to sleep in this place. You are not to be
trusted. You told me a downright lie. You were humbugging me, sir,
with your naps."

"I will plead guilty to a fib, if you like," was Dick's careless
answer. "What a fuss you are making, father! Did you never tell one in
your life? Now, what is the use of putting yourself out?--it is not
good at your age, sir. What would my mother say? It might bring on
apoplexy, after that port-wine."

"Confound your impertinence!" rejoined Mr. Mayne, angrily; but Dick
patted his coat-sleeve pleasantly:

"There, that will do. I think you have relieved your feelings
sufficiently. Now we will go to business. I have seen Nan, and told
her all about it; and she has had it out with her mother. Mrs.
Challoner will not hear of our writing to each other; and I am not to
show my face at the Friary without your permission. There is no
fibbing or want of honor there: Nan is not the girl to encourage a
fellow to take liberties."

"Oh, indeed!" sneered Mr. Mayne; but he listened attentively for all
that. And his gloomy eyebrows relaxed in the darkness. The girl was
not behaving so badly, after all.

"So we said good-bye," continued Dick, keeping the latter part of the
interview to himself; "and in October I shall go back for the term, as
I promised. We can settle about the other things after Christmas."

"Oh, yes, we can talk about that by and by," replied his father,
hastily; and then he waxed cheerful all at once, and called his son's
attention to some new houses they were building. "After all, Hadleigh
is not such a bad little place," he observed; "and they gave us a very
good dinner at the hotel. It is not every one who can cook fish like
that." And then Dick knew that the storm had blown over for the
present, and that his father intended to make himself pleasant and
ignore all troublesome topics.

Dick was a little tired when he went to bed; but, on the whole, he was
not unhappy. It was quite true that the idea of a City life was
repugnant to him, but the thought of Nan sweetened even that. Nothing
else remained to him if his father chose to be disagreeable and
withdraw his allowance, or threaten to cut him off with a shilling, as
other fellows' fathers did in novels.

"It is uncommonly unpleasant, having to wage war with one's own
father," thought Dick, as he laid his sandy head on the pillow. "He is
such an old trump, too, that it goes against the grain. But when it
comes to his wanting to choose a wife for me, it is too much of a good
thing: it is tyranny fit for the Middle Ages. Let him threaten if he
likes. He will find I shall take his threats in earnest. After
Christmas I will have it out with him again; and if he will not listen
to reason, I will go up to Mr. James Stanfield myself, and then he
will see that I mean what I say. Heigho! I am not such a lucky fellow
as Hamilton always thinks me." And at this juncture of his sad
cogitations Dick forgot all about it, and fell asleep.

Yes, Dick slept the sleep of the just. It was Mr. Drummond who was
wakeful and uneasy that night. A vague sense of something wrong
tormented him waking and sleeping.

Who was that sandy-headed young fellow who had been twice to the
Friary that day. What business had he to be shutting the gate after
him in that free-and-easy way at ten o'clock at night? He must find it
out somehow; he must make an excuse for calling there, and put the
question as indifferently as he could; but even when he made up his
mind to pursue this course, Archie felt just as restless as ever.

He made his way to the cottage as early as possible. Phillis, who was
alone in the work-room, colored a little as she saw him coming in at
the gate. He came so often, he was so kind, so attentive to them all,
and yet she had a dim doubt in her mind that troubled her at times.
Was it for Nan's sake that he came? Could she speak and undeceive him
before things went too far with him? Yes, when the opportunity
offered, she thought she could speak, even though the speaking would
be painful to her.

Mr. Drummond looked round the room with a disappointed air as he
entered, and then he came up to Phillis.

"You are alone?" he said, with a regretful accent in his voice; at
least Phillis fancied she detected it. "How is that? Are your sisters
out, or busy?"

"Oh, we are always busy," returned Phillis, lightly; but, curiously
enough, she felt a little sore at his tone. "Nan has gone down to
Albert Terrace to take a fresh order, and Dulce is in the town
somewhere with mother. Don't you mean to sit down, Mr. Drummond? or is
your business with mother? She will not be back just yet, but I could
give her any message." Phillis said this as she stitched away with
energy; but one quick glance had shown her that Mr. Drummond was
looking irresolute and ill at ease as he stood beside her.

"Thank you, but I must not stay and hinder you. Yes, my business was
with your mother; but it is of no consequence, and I can call again."
Nevertheless, he sat down and deposited his felt hat awkwardly enough
on the table. He liked Phillis, but he was a little afraid of her; she
was shrewd, and seemed to have the knack of reading one's thoughts. He
was wondering how he should bring his question on the _tapis_; but
Phillis, by some marvellous intuition that really surprised her, had
already come to the conclusion that this visit meant something. He had
seen Dick; perhaps he wanted to find out all about him. Certainly he
was not quite himself to-day. Yes, that must be what he wanted.
Phillis's kind heart and mother-wit were always ready for an
emergency.

"How full Hadleigh is getting!" she remarked, pleasantly, as she
adjusted the trimming of a sleeve. "Do you know some old neighbors of
ours from Oldfield turned up unexpectedly yesterday? They are going
away to-day, though," she added, with a little regret in her voice.

Archie brightened up visibly at this.

"Oh, indeed!" he observed, with alacrity. "Not a very long visit.
Perhaps they came down purposely to see you?"

"Yes, of course," returned Phillis, confusedly. "They had intended
staying some days at the hotel, but Mr. Mayne suddenly changed his
mind, much to our and Dick's disappointment; but it could not be
helped."

"Dick," echoed Archie, a little surprised at this familiarity and then
he added, somewhat awkwardly, "I think I saw the young man and his
father at the Library yesterday; and last night as I was coming from
the station I encountered him again at your gate."

"Yes, that was Dick," answered Phillis, stooping a little over her
work. "He is not handsome, poor fellow! but he is as nice as possible.
They live at Longmead; that is next door to our dear old Glen Cottage,
and the gardens adjoin. We call him Dick because we have known him all
our lives, and he has been a sort of brother to us."

"Oh, yes, I see," drawled Archie, slowly. "That sort of thing is very
nice when you have not a man belonging to you. It is a little awkward
sometimes, for people do not always see this sort of relationship. He
seemed a nice sort of fellow, I should say," he continued, in his
patronizing way, stroking his beard complacently. After all, the
sandy-headed youth was no possible rival.

"Oh, Dick is ever so nice," answered Phillis, enthusiastically; "not
good enough for--" and then she stopped and broke her thread. "I am
glad we are so fond of him," she continued, rather hurriedly, "because
Dick is to be our real brother some day. He and Nan have cared for
each other all their lives, and, though Mr. Mayne is dreadfully angry
about it, they consider themselves as good as engaged, and mean to
live down his opposition. They came to an understanding yesterday,"
finished Phillis, who was determined to bring it all out.

"Oh, indeed!" returned Archie: "that must be a great relief, I am
sure. There is your little dog whining at the door; may I let him in?"
And, without waiting for an answer, Archie had darted out in pursuit
of Laddie, but not before Phillis's swift upward glance had shown her
a face that had grown perceptibly paler in the last few minutes.

"Oh, poor fellow! I was right!" thought Phillis, and the tears rushed
to her eyes. "It was best to speak. I see that now; and he will get
over it if he thinks no one knows it. How I wish I could help him! but
it will never do to show the least sympathy: I have no right." And
here Phillis sighed, and her gray eyes grew dark with pain for a
moment. Archie was rather a long time absent; and then he came back
with Laddie in his arms, and stood by the window.

"Your news has interested me very much," he said, and his voice was
quite steady. "I suppose, as this--this engagement is not public, I
had better not wish your sister joy, unless you do it for me."

"Oh, no; there is no need of that," returned Phillis, in a low voice.
"Mother might not like my mentioning it; but I thought you might
wonder about Dick, and----" here Phillis got confused.

"Thank you," replied Archie, quietly; but now he looked at her. "You
are very kind. Yes, it was best for me to know." And then, as Phillis
rose and gave him her hand, for he had taken up his hat as he spoke,
she read at once that her caution had been in vain,--that he had full
understanding why the news had been told to him, and to him only, and
that he was grateful to her for so telling him.

Poor Phillis! she had accomplished her task; and yet as the door
closed behind the young clergyman, two or three tears fell on her
work. He was not angry with her; on the contrary, he had thanked her,
and the grasp of his hand had been as cordial as ever. But, in spite
of the steadiness of his voice and look, the arrow had pierced between
the joints of his armor. He might not be fatally wounded,--that was
not in the girl's power to know; but that he was in some way
hurt,--made miserable with a man's misery,--of this she was acutely
sensible; and the strangest longing to comfort him--to tell him how
much she admired his fortitude--came over her, with a strong stinging
pain that surprised her.

Archie had the longest walk that day that he had ever had in his life.
He came in quite fagged and foot-sore to his dinner, and far too tired
to eat. Mattie told him he looked ill and worn out; but, though he
generally resented any such personal remarks, he merely told her very
gently that he was tired, and that he would like a cup of coffee in
his study, and not to be disturbed. And when she took in the coffee
presently, she found him buried in the depths of his easy-chair, and
evidently half asleep, and stole out of the room on tiptoe.

But his eyes opened very speedily as soon as the door closed upon her.
It was not sleep he wanted, but some moral strength to bear a pain
that threatened to be unendurable. How had that girl read his secret?
Surely he had not betrayed himself! Nan had not discovered it, for her
calmness and sweet unconsciousness had never varied in his presence.
Never for an instant had her changing color testified to the faintest
uneasiness. He understood the reason of her reserve now. Her thoughts
had been with this Dick; and here Archie groaned and hid his face.

Not mortally hurt, perhaps; but still the pain and the sense of loss
were very bitter to this young man, who had felt for weeks past that
his life was permeated by the sweetness and graciousness of Nan's
presence. How lovely she had seemed to him,--the ideal girl of his
dreams! It was love at first sight. He knew that now. His man's heart
had been set on the hope of winning her, and now she was lost to him.

Never for one moment had she belonged to him, or could belong to him.
"He and Nan have cared for each other all their lives,"--that was what
her sister had told him; and what remained but for him to stamp out
this craze and fever before it mastered him and robbed him of his
peace?

"I am not the only man who has had to suffer," thought Archie, as
hours after he stumbled up to bed in the darkness. "At least, it makes
it easier to know that no one shares my pain. These things are better
battled out alone. I could not bear even Grace's sympathy in this."
And yet as Archie said this to himself, he recalled without any
bitterness the half-tender, half pitying look in Phillis's eyes. "She
was sorry for me. She saw it all; and it was kind of her to tell me,"
thought the young man.

He had no idea that Phillis was at that moment whispering little
wistful prayers in the darkness that he might soon be comforted.

Who knows how many such prayers are flung out into the deep of God's
mercy,--comfort for such a one whom we would fain comfort ourselves;
feeble utterances and cries of pity; the stretching out of helpless
hands, which nevertheless may bring down blessings? But so it shall be
while men and women struggle and fall, and weep the tears common to
humanity, "until all eyes are dried in the clear light of eternity,
and the sorest heart shall then own the wisdom of the cross that had
been laid upon them."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

"THIS IS LIFE AND DEATH TO ME."


Phillis found it difficult during the next few days to reconcile
divided sympathies; a nice adjustment of conflicting feelings seemed
almost impossible. Nan was so simply, so transparently happy, that no
sister worthy of the name could refuse to rejoice with her: a creature
so brimming over with gladness, with contented love, was certain to
reflect heart-sunshine. On the other hand, there was Mr. Drummond! To
be glad and sorry in a breath was as provoking to a feeling woman as
the traveller's blowing hot and cold was to the satyr in the fable.

In trying to preserve an even balance Phillis became decidedly cross.
She was one who liked a clear temperature,--neither torrid nor frigid.
Too much susceptibility gave her an east-windy feeling; to be always
at the fever-point of sympathy with one's fellow-creatures would not
have suited her at all.

Nan, who possessed more sweetness of temper than keenness of
psychological insight, could not understand what had come to Phillis.
She was absent, a trifle sad, and yet full of retort. At times she
seemed to brim over with a wordy wisdom that made no sort of
impression.

One evening, as they were retiring to bed, Nan beckoned her into her
little room, and shut the door. Then she placed a seat invitingly by
the open window, which was pleasantly framed by jasmine; and then she
took hold of Phillis's shoulders in a persuasive manner.

"Now, dear," she said, coaxingly, "you shall just tell me all about
it."

Phillis looked up, a little startled. Then, as she met Nan's gentle,
penetrative glance, she presented a sudden blank of non-comprehension,
most telling on such occasions, and yawned slightly.

"What do you mean, Nannie?" in a somewhat bored tone.

"Come, dear, tell me," continued Nan, with cheerful pertinacity. "You
are never dull or touchy without some good reason. What has been the
matter the last few days? Are you vexed or disappointed about
anything? Are you sure--quite sure you are pleased about Dick?"--the
idea occurring to her suddenly that Phillis might not approve of their
imprudent engagement.

"Oh, Nannie, how absurd you are!" returned Phillis, pettishly. "Have I
not told you a dozen times since Wednesday how delighted I am that you
have come to an understanding? Have I not sounded his praises until I
was hoarse? Why, if I had been in love with Dick myself I could not
have talked about him more."

"Yes, I know you have been very good, dear; but still I felt there was
something."

"Oh, dear, no!" returned Phillis decidedly, and her voice was a little
hard. "The fact is, you are in the seventh heaven yourself, and you
expect us to be there too. Not that I wonder at you, Nannie, because
Dick--dear old fellow--is ever so nice."

She threw in this last clause not without intention, and of course the
tempting bait took at once.

"I never knew any one half so good," replied Nan, in a calmly
satisfied tone. "You have hinted once or twice, Phil, that you thought
him rather too young,--that our being the same age was a pity; but--do
you know?--in Dick's case it does not matter in the least. No man
double his age could have made his meaning more plain, or have spoken
better to the purpose. He is so strong and self-reliant and manly: and
with all his fun, he is so unselfish."

"He will make you a very good husband, Nan; I am sure of that."

"I think he will," returned Nan, with a far-away look in her eyes.
She was recalling Dick's speech about the nest that he wanted to make
cosey for some one. "Phil, dear," she went on, after this blissful
pause, "I wish you had a Dick too."

"Good Gracious, Nannie!"

"I mean--you know what I mean,--some one to whom you are first, and
who has a right to care for you; it gives such a meaning to one's
life. Of course it will come in time; no one can look at you and not
prophesy a happy future: it is only I who am impatient and want it to
come soon."

Phillis wrinkled her brows thoughtfully over this speech: she seemed
inclined to digest and assimilate it.

"I dare say you are right," she replied, after a pause. "Yes it would
be nice, no doubt."

"When the real _he_ comes, you will find how nice it is," rejoined
Nan, with sympathetic readiness. "Do you know, Phil, the idea has once
or twice occurred to me that Mr. Drummond comes rather often!" But
here Phillis shook off her hand and started from her chair.

"There is a moth singing its wings. Poor wee beastie! let me save it,
if it be not too late." And she chased the insect most patiently until
the blue-gray wings fluttered into her hand.

"There, I have saved him from utter destruction!" she cried
triumphantly, leaning out into the darkness. "He has scorched himself,
that is all;" then as she walked back to her sister, her head was
erect, and there was a beautiful earnest look upon her face.

"Nannie, I don't want to find fault with you, but don't you remember
how we used to pride ourselves, in the dear old days, in not being
like other girls,--the Paines, for example, or even Adelaide Sartoris,
who used to gossip so much about young men."

Nan opened her eyes widely at this, but made no answer.

"We must not be different now, because our life is narrower and more
monotonous. I know, talking so much over our work, we have terrible
temptations to gossip; but I can't bear to think that we should ever
lower our standard, ever degenerate into the feeble girlishness we
abhor. We never used to talk about young men, Nan, except Dick; and
that did not matter. Of course we liked them in their places, and had
plenty of fun, and tormented them a little; but you never made such a
speech as that at Glen Cottage."

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! What have I done?" exclaimed Nan, much distressed
at this rebuke. "I do think you are right, Phil; and it was naughty of
me to put such a thing into your head."

"You have put no idea into my head," replied Phillis, with crisp
obstinacy. "There! I am only moralizing for my own good, as well as
yours. Small beginnings make great endings. If we once began to
gossip, we might end by flirting; and, Nan, if you knew how I hate
that sort of thing!" And Phillis looked grand and scornful.

"Yes, dear; and I know you are right," returned Nan, humbly. She was
not quite sure what she had done to provoke this outburst of high
moral feeling: but she felt that Phillis was dreadfully in earnest.
They kissed each other rather solemnly after that, and Phillis was
suffered to depart in silence.

That night there was no wistful little prayer that Mr. Drummond might
be comforted: Phillis had too many petitions to offer up on her own
account. She was accusing herself of pride, and Pharisaism, and
hypocrisy, in no measured terms. "Not like other girls! I am
worse,--worse," she said to herself. And then, among other things, she
asked for the gift of content,--for a quiet, satisfied spirit, not
craving or embittered,--strength to bear her own and her friends'
troubles, and far-looking faith to discern "God's perfectness round
our uncompleteness,--round our restlessness His rest."

The following evening, as Phillis was sorting out patterns in the
work-room, a note was brought to her from the White House. It was in
Mrs. Cheyne's handwriting, and, like herself, strangely abrupt.

"Your visits are like angels' visits,--extremely rare," it began. "I
am afraid I have frightened you away, as I have frightened the parson.
I thought you had more wit than he to discern between mannerism and
downright ill-humor. This evening the temperature is equable,--not the
sign of a brooding cloud: so put on your hat, like a good girl, and
come over. Miss Mewlstone and I will be prepared to welcome you."

"You had better go," observed Nan, who had read the note over her
sister's shoulder: "you have worked so dreadfully hard all day, and it
will be a little change."

"No one cares for east winds as a change," replied Phillis, dryly;
nevertheless, she made up her mind that she would go. She was
beginning to dread being summoned to the White House: she felt that
Mrs. Cheyne alternately fascinated and repelled her. She was growing
fond of Miss Mewlstone; but then, on these occasions, she had so
little intercourse with her. The charitable instinct that was always
ready to be kindled in Phillis's nature prompted her to pay these
visits; and yet she always went reluctantly.

She had two encounters on the road, both of which she had foreseen
with nice presentiment.

The first was with Mr. Drummond.

He was walking along slowly, with his eyes on the ground. A sort of
flush came to his face when he saw Phillis; and then he stopped, and
shook hands, and asked after them all comprehensively, yet with
constraint in his voice. Phillis told him rather hurriedly that she
was going to the White House: Mrs. Cheyne had sent for her.

Archie smiled:

"I am glad she does not send for me. I have not been there for a long
time. Sarcasm is not an attractive form of welcome. It slams the door
in a man's face. I hope you will not get some hard hits, Miss
Challoner." And then he went on his way.

As she approached Mrs. Williams's cottage, Mr. Dancy was, as usual,
leaning against the little gate. He stepped out in the road, and
accosted her.

"I have not called on your mother," he began, rather abruptly. "After
all, I thought it best not to trouble her just now. Can you spare me a
few minutes? or are you going in there?" looking towards the White
House.

"I am rather in a hurry," returned Phillis, surprised at his manner,
it seemed so agitated. "I am already late, and Mrs. Cheyne will be
expecting me."

"Very well: another time," he replied, stepping back without further
ceremony; but until Phillis's figure disappeared in the trees he
watched her, leaning still upon the little gate.

Mrs. Cheyne received her with a frosty smile; but, on the whole, her
manner was more gracious than usual, and by and by it thawed
completely.

She was a little captious at first, it was true, and she snubbed poor
Miss Mewlstone decidedly once or twice,--but then Miss Mewlstone was
used to being snubbed,--but with Phillis she was sparing of sarcasms.
After a time she began to look kindly at the girl; then she bade her
talk, rather peremptorily, because she liked her voice and found it
pleasant to listen to her; and by and by Phillis grew more at her
ease, and her girlish talk rippled on as smoothly as possible.

Mrs. Cheyne's face softened and grew strangely handsome as she
listened: she was drawing Phillis out,--leading her to speak of the
old life, and of all their youthful sources of happiness. Then she
fell into a retrospect of her own young days, when she was a spoiled
madcap girl and had all sorts of daring adventures.

Phillis was quite fascinated; she was even disappointed when Miss
Mewlstone pointed out the lateness of the hour.

"I have enjoyed myself so much," she said, as she put on her hat.

"I meant you to enjoy yourself," returned Mrs. Cheyne, quietly, as she
drew the girl's face down to hers. "I have given you such a bad
impression that you look on me as a sort of moral bugbear. I can be
very different, when I like, and I have liked to be agreeable
to-night." And then this strange woman took up a rich cashmere shawl
from the couch where she was lying, and folded it around Phillis's
shoulders. "The evenings are chilly. Jeffreys can bring this back with
her;" for Mrs. Cheyne had already decided that this time her maid
should accompany Phillis to the cottage.

Phillis laughed in an amused fashion as she saw the reflection of
herself in one of the mirrors: her figure looked quite queenly
enveloped in the regal drapery. "She has forgotten all about the
dressmaking," she thought to herself, as she tripped downstairs.

It was a lovely moonlight evening; the avenue was white and glistening
in the soft light; the trees cast weird shadows on the grass. Phillis
was somewhat surprised to see in the distance Mr. Dancy's tall figure
pacing to and fro before the lodge-gate. He was evidently waiting for
her; for as she approached he threw away his cigar and joined her at
once. Jeffreys, who thought he was some old acquaintance, dropped
behind very discreetly, after the manner of waiting-women.

"How long you have stayed this evening! I have been walking up and
down for more than an hour, watching for you," he began, with curious
abruptness.

This and no more did Jeffreys hear before she lingered out of earshot.
The lady's maid thought she perceived an interesting situation, and
being of a susceptible and sympathetic temperament, with a blighted
attachment of her own, there was no fear of her intruding. Phillis
looked around once, but Jeffreys was absorbed in her contemplations of
the clouds.

"I thought you were never coming," he continued; and then he stopped
all at once, and caught hold of the fringe of the shawl. "This is not
yours: I am sure I have seen Magdalene in it. Pshaw! what am I saying?
the force of old habit. I knew her once as Magdalene."

"It is dreadfully heavy, and, after all, the evening is so warm,"
returned Phillis, taking no notice of this incoherent speech.

"Let me carry it," he rejoined, with singular eagerness; "it is
absurd, a wrap like that on such a night." And, while Phillis
hesitated, he drew the shawl from her shoulders and hung it over his
arm, and all the way his disengaged right hand rested on the folds,
touching it softly from time to time, as though the mere feeling of
the texture pleased him.

"How was she to-night?" he asked, coming a little closer to Phillis,
and dropping his voice as he spoke.

"Who?--Mrs. Cheyne? Oh, she was charming! just a little cold and
captious at first, but that is her way. But this evening she was bent
on fascinating me, and she quite succeeded; she looked ill, though,
but very, very beautiful."

"She never goes out. I cannot catch a glimpse of her," he returned,
hurriedly. "Miss Challoner, I am going to startle--shock you, perhaps;
but I have thought about it all until my head is dizzy, and there is
no other way. Please give me your attention a moment," for Phillis,
with a vague sense of uneasiness, had looked around for Jeffreys. "I
must see you alone: I must speak to you where we shall not be
interrupted. To call on your mother will be no good; you and only you
can help me. And you are so strong and merciful--I can read that in
your eyes--that I am sure of your sympathy, if you will only give me a
hearing."

"Mr. Dancy! oh, what can you mean?" exclaimed Phillis. She was
dreadfully frightened at his earnestness, but her voice was dignified,
and she drew herself away with a movement full of pride and _hauteur_.
"You are a stranger to me; you have no right----"

"The good Samaritan was a stranger too. Have you forgotten that?" he
returned, in a voice of grave rebuke. "Oh, you are a girl; you are
thinking of your mother! I have shocked your sense of propriety, my
child; for you seem a child to me, who have lived and suffered so
much. Would you hesitate an instant if some poor famishing wretch were
to ask you for food or water? Well, I am that poor wretch. What I have
to tell you is a matter of life and death to me. Only a woman--only
you--can help me; and you shrink because we have not had a proper
introduction. My dear young lady, you have nothing to fear from me. I
am unfortunate, but a gentleman,--a married man, if that will satisfy
your scruples----"

"But my mother," faltered Phillis, not knowing what to say to this
unfortunate stranger, who terrified and yet attracted her by turns.

Never had she heard a human voice so persuasive, and yet so agonized
in its intensity. A conviction of the truth of his words seized upon
her as she listened,--that he was unhappy, that he needed her sympathy
for some purpose of his own, and yet that she herself had nothing to
do with his purpose. But what would Nan say if she consented--if she
acceded to such an extraordinary proposition--to appoint a meeting
with a stranger?

"It is life and death to me; remember that!" continued Mr. Dancy, in
that low, suppressed voice of agitation. "If you refuse on the score
of mere girlish propriety, you will regret it. I am sure of that.
Trust to your own brave heart, and let it answer for you. Will you
refuse this trifling act of mercy,--just to let me speak to you alone,
and tell you my story? When you have heard that, you will take things
into your own hands."

Phillis hesitated, and grew pale with anxiety; but the instincts of
her nature were stronger than her prudence. From the first she had
believed in this man, and felt interested in him and his mysterious
surroundings. "One may be deceived in a face, but never in a voice,"
she had said, in her pretty dictatorial way; and now this voice was
winning her over to his side.

"It is not right; but what can I do? You say I can help you."--And
then she paused. "To-morrow morning I have to take some work to Rock
Building. I shall not be long. But I could go on the beach for half an
hour. Nan would spare me. I might hear your story then."

She spoke rapidly, and rather ungraciously, as though she were
dispensing largess to a troublesome mendicant; but Mr. Dancy's answer
was humble in its intense gratitude.

"God bless you! I knew your kind heart was to be trusted There! I will
not come any farther. Good-night; good-night, a thousand thanks!" And,
before Phillis could reply, this strange being had left her side, and
was laying the cashmere shawl in Jeffreys's arms slowly and tenderly,
as though it were a child.

Phillis was glad that Dulce opened the door to her that night, for she
was afraid of Nan's questioning glance. Nan was tired, and had retired
early; and, as Dulce was sleepy too, Phillis was now left in peace.
She passed the night restlessly, walking up at all sorts of untimely
hours, her conscience pricking her into wakefulness. To her
well-ordered nature there was something terrifying in the thought that
she should be forced to take such a step.

"Oh, what would mother and Nan say?" was her one cry.

"I know I am dreadfully impulsive and imprudent, but Nan would think I
am not to be trusted;" but she had passed her word, and nothing now
would have induced her to swerve from it.

She ate her breakfast silently, and with a sense of oppression and
guilt quite new to her. She grew inwardly hot whenever Nan looked at
her, which she did continually and with the utmost affection. Before
the meal was over, however, Miss Middleton and Mattie made their
appearance, and in the slight bustle of entrance Phillis managed to
effect her escape.

The hour that followed bore the unreality of a nightmare. Outwardly,
Phillis was the grave, business-like dressmaker. The lady who had sent
for her, and who was a stranger to Hadleigh, was much struck with her
quiet self-possessed manners and lady-like demeanor.

"Her voice was quite refined," she said afterwards to her daughter.
"And she had such a nice face and beautiful figure. I am sure she is a
reduced gentlewoman, for her accent was perfect. I am quite obliged to
Miss Milner for recommending us such a person, for she evidently
understands her business. One thing I noticed, Ada,--the way in which
she quietly laid down the parcel, and said it should be fetched
presently. Any ordinary dressmaker in a small town like this would
have carried it home herself."

Poor Phillis! she had laid down the parcel and drawn on her
well-fitting gloves with a curious sinking at her heart: from the
window of the house in Rock Building she could distinctly see Mr.
Dancy walking up and down the narrow plat of grass before the houses,
behind the tamarisk hedge, his foreign-looking cloak and slouch hat
making him conspicuous.

"There is that queer-looking man again, mamma," exclaimed one of the
young ladies, who was seated in the window. "I am sure he is some
distinguished foreigner, he has such an air with him."

Phillis listened to no more, but hurried down the stairs and then
prepared to cross the green with some degree of trepidation. She was
half afraid that Mr. Dancy would join her at once, in the full view of
curious eyes; but he knew better. He sauntered on slowly until she had
reached the Parade and was going towards a part of the beach where
there was only a knot of children wading knee-deep in the water,
sailing a toy-boat. She stood and watched them dreamily, until the
voice she expected sounded in her ear:

"True as steel! Ah, I was never deceived in a face yet. Where shall we
sit, Miss Challoner? Yes, this is a quiet corner, and the children
will not disturb us. Look at that urchin, with his bare brown legs and
curly head: is he not a study? Ah, if he had lived--my----" And then
he sighed, and threw himself on the beach.

"Well," observed Phillis, interrogatively. She was inclined to be
short with him this morning. She had kept her word, and put herself
into this annoying position; but there must be no hesitation, no
beating about the bush, no loss of precious time. The story she had
now to hear must be told, and with out delay.

Mr. Dancy raised his eyes as he heard the tone, and then he took off
his spectacles as though he felt them an incumbrance. Phillis had a
very good view of a pair of handsome eyes, with a lurking gleam of
humor in them, which speedily died away into sadness.

"You are in a hurry; but I was thinking how I could best begin without
startling you. But I may as well get it out without any prelude. Miss
Challoner, to Mrs. Williams I am only Mr. Dancy; but my real name is
Herbert Dancy Cheyne."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

MISS MEWLSTONE HAS AN INTERRUPTION.


"HERBERT DANCY CHEYNE!"

As he pronounced the name slowly and with marked emphasis, a low cry
of uncontrollable astonishment broke from Phillis: it was so
unexpected. She began to shiver a little from the sudden shock.

"There! I have startled you,--and no wonder; and yet how could I help
it? Yes," he repeated, calmly, "I am that unfortunate Herbert Cheyne
whom his own wife believes to be dead."

"Whom every one believes to be dead," corrected Phillis, in a panting
breath.

"Is it any wonder?" he returned, vehemently; and his eyes darkened,
and his whole features worked, as though with the recollection of some
unbearable pain. "Have I not been snatched from the very jaws of
death? Has not mine been a living death, a hideous grave, for these
four years?" And then, hurriedly and almost disconnectedly, as though
the mere recalling the past was torture to him, he poured into the
girl's shrinking ears fragments of a story so stern in its reality, so
terrible in its details, that, regardless of the children that played
on the margin of the water, Phillis hid her face in her hands and wept
for sheer pity.

Wounded, bereft of all his friends, and left apparently dying in the
hands of a hostile tribe, Herbert Cheyne had owed his life to the
mercy of a woman, a poor, degraded ill-used creature, half-witted and
ugly, but who had not lost all the instincts of her womanhood, and who
fed and nursed the white stranger as tenderly as though he were her
own son.

While the old negress lived, Herbert Cheyne had been left in peace to
languish back to life, through days and nights of intolerable
suffering, until he had regained a portion of his old strength; then a
fever carried off his protectress, and he became virtually a slave.

Out of pity for the tender-hearted girl who listened to him, Mr.
Cheyne hurried over this part of his sorrowful past. He spoke briefly
of indignities, abuse, and at last of positive ill treatment. Again
and again his life had been in danger from brute violence; again and
again he had striven to escape, and had been recaptured with blows.

Phillis pointed mutely to his scarred wrists, and the tears flowed
down her cheeks.

"Yes, yes; these are the marks of my slavery," he replied, bitterly.
"They were a set of hideous brutes; and the fetish they worshipped was
cruelty. I carry about me other marks that must go with me to my
grave; but there is no need to dwell on these horrors. He sent His
angel to deliver me," he continued, reverently; "and again my
benefactor was a woman."

And then he went on to tell Phillis that one of the wives of the chief
in whose service he was took pity on him, and aided him to escape on
the very night before some great festival, when it had been determined
to kill him. This time he had succeeded; and, after a series of
hair-breadth adventures, he had fallen in with some Dutch traders who
had come far into the interior in search of ivory tusks. He was so
burnt by the sun and disfigured by paint that he had great difficulty
in proving his identity as an Englishman. But at last they had
suffered him to join them, and after some more months of wandering he
had worked his way to the coast.

There misfortune bad again overtaken him, in the form of a long and
tedious illness. Fatigue, disaster, anguish of mind, and a slight
sunstroke had taken dire effect upon him; but this time he had fallen
into the hands of good Samaritans. The widowed sister of the consul, a
very Dorcas of good works, had received the miserable stranger into
her house; and she and her son, like Elijah's widow of Zarephath, had
shared with him their scanty all.

"They were very poor, but they pinched themselves for the sake of the
stricken wretch that was thrown on their mercy. It was a woman again
who succored me the third time," continued Mr. Cheyne: "you may judge
how sacred women are in my eyes now! Dear motherly Mrs. Van Hollick!
when she at last suffered me to depart, she kissed and blessed me as
though I were her own son. Never to my dying day shall I forget her
goodness. My one thought, after seeing Magdalene, will be how I am to
repay her goodness,--how I can make prosperity flow in on the little
household, that the cruse and cake may never fail!"

"But," interrupted Phillis at this point, "did you not write, or your
friends write for you, to England?"

Mr. Cheyne smiled bitterly:

"It seems as though some strange fatality were over me. Yes, I wrote.
I wrote to Magdalene, to my lawyer, and to another friend who had
known me all my life, but the ship that carried these letters was
burnt at sea. I only heard that when I at last worked my way to
Portsmouth as a common sailor and in that guise presented myself at my
lawyer's chambers. Poor man! I thought he would have fainted when he
saw me. He owned afterwards he was a believer in ghosts at that
moment."

"How long ago was that?" asked Phillis, gently.

"Two months; not longer. It was then I heard of my children's death,
of my wife's long illness and her strange state. I was ill myself, and
not fit to battle through any more scenes. Mr. Standish took me home
until I had rested and recovered myself a little; and then I put on
this disguise--not that much of that is necessary, for few people
would recognize me, I believe--and came down here and took possession
of Mrs. Williams's lodgings."

Phillis looked at him with mute questioning in her eyes. She did not
venture to put it into words, but he understood her:

"Why have I waited so long, do you ask? and why am I living here
within sight of my own house, a spy on my own threshold and wife? My
dear Miss Challoner, there is a bitter reason for that!

"Four years ago I parted from my wife in anger. There were words said
that day that few women could forgive. Has she forgiven them? That is
what I am trying to find out. Will the husband who has been dead to
her all these years be welcome to her living?" His voice dropped into
low vehemence, and a pallor came over his face as he spoke.

Phillis laid her hand on his own. She looked strangely eager:

"This is why you want my help. Ah! I see now! Oh, it is all right--all
that you can wish! It is she who is tormenting herself, who has no
rest day or night! When the thunder came that evening--you
remember--we sat beside the children's empty beds, and she told me
some of her thoughts. When the lighting flashed, her nerves gave way,
and she cried out, in her pain, 'Did he forgive?' That was her one
thought. Her husband,--who was up in heaven with the children,--did he
think mercifully of her, and know how she loved him? It was your name
that was on her lips when that good woman, Miss Mewlstone, hushed her
in her arms like a child. Oh, be comforted!" faltered Phillis, "for
she loves you, and mourns for you as though she were the most desolate
creature living!" But here she paused, for something that sounded like
a sob came to her ear, and looking round, she saw the bowed figure of
her companion shaking with uncontrollable emotion,--those hard
tearless sobs that are only wrung from a man's strong agony.

"Oh, hush!" cried the girl, tenderly. "Be comforted: there is no room
for doubt. There! I will leave you; you will be better by and by." And
then instinctively she turned away her face from a grief too sacred
for a stranger to touch, and walked down to the water, where the
children had ceased playing, and listened to the baby waves that
lapped about her feet.

And by and by he joined her; and on his pale face there was a rapt,
serious look, as of one who has despaired and has just listened to an
angel's tidings.

"Did I not say that you, and only you, could help me? This is what I
have wanted to know: had Magdalene forgiven me? Now I need wait no
longer. My wife and home are mine, and I must take possession of my
treasures."

He stopped, as though overcome by the prospect of such happiness; but
Phillis timidly interposed:

"But, Mr. Cheyne, think a moment. How is it to be managed? If you are
in too great a hurry, will not the shock be too much for her? She is
nervous,--excitable. It would hardly be safe."

"That is what troubles me," he returned, anxiously. "It is too much
for any woman to bear; and Magdalene--she was always excitable. Tell
me, you have such good sense; and, though you are so young, one can
always rely on a woman; you understand her so well--I see you do--and
she is fond of you,--how shall we act that my poor darling, who has
undergone so much, may not be harmed by me any more?"

"Wait one moment," returned Phillis, earnestly. "I must consider." And
she set herself to revolve all manner of possibilities, and then
rejected them one by one. "There seems no other way," she observed,
at last, fixing her serious glance on Mr. Cheyne. "I must seek for an
opportunity to speak to Miss Mewlstone. It must be broken carefully to
your poor wife; I am sure of that. Miss Mewlstone will help us. She
will tell us what to do, and how to do it. Oh, she is so kind, so
thoughtful and tender, just as though Mrs. Cheyne were a poor wayward
child, who must be guided and helped and shielded. I like her so much:
we must go to her for counsel."

"You must indeed, and at once!" he returned, rather peremptorily; and
Phillis had a notion now what manner of man he had been before
misfortunes had tamed and subdued him. His eyes flashed with
eagerness; he grew young, alert, full of life in a moment. "Forgive me
if I am too impetuous; but I have waited so long, and now my patience
seems exhausted all at once during the last hour. I have been at
fever-point ever since you have proved to me that my wife--my
Magdalene--has been true to me. Fool that I was! why have I doubted so
long? Miss Challoner, you will not desert me?--you will be my good
angel a little longer? You will go to Miss Mewlstone now,--this very
moment,--and ask her to prepare my wife?"

"It is time for me to be going home: mother and Nan will think I am
lost," returned Phillis, in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone. "Come Mr.
Cheyne, we can talk as we go along." For he was so wan and agitated
that she felt uneasy for his sake. She took his arm gently, and guided
him as though he were a child; and he obeyed her like one.

"Promise me that you will speak to her at once," he said, as he walked
beside her rather feebly; and his gait became all at once like that of
an old man. But Phillis fenced this remark very discreetly.

"This afternoon or this evening, when I get the chance," she said,
very decidedly: "if I am to help you, it must be as I think best, and
at my own time. Do not think me unkind, for I am doing this for your
own good: it would not help you if your wife were to be brought to the
brink of a nervous illness. Leave it to me. Miss Mewlstone will serve
us best, and she will know." And then she took her hand from his arm,
and bade him drop behind a little, that she might not be seen in the
town walking with him. "Good-bye! keep up your courage. I will help
you all I can," she said, with a kindly smile, as he reluctantly
obeyed her behest. She was his good angel, but he must not walk any
longer in her shadow: angels do their good deeds invisibly, as Phillis
hoped to do hers. He thought of this as he watched her disappearing in
the distance.

Phillis walked rapidly towards the cottage. Archie, who was letting
himself in at his own door, saw the girl pass, carrying her head high,
and stepping lightly as though she were treading on air. "Here comes
Atalanta," he said to himself; but, though a smile came over his tired
face, he made no effort to arrest her. The less he saw of any of them
the better, he thought, just now.

Nan looked up reproachfully as the truant entered the work-room, and
Mrs. Challoner wore her gravest expression; evidently she had prepared
a lecture for the occasion. Phillis looked at them both with sparkling
eyes.

"Listen to me, Nan and mother. Oh, I am glad Dulce is not here, she is
so young and giddy; and she might talk--No, not a word from either of
you, until I have had my turn." And then she began her story.

Nan listened with rapt speechless attention, but Mrs. Challoner gave
vent to little pitying moans and exclamations of dismay.

"Oh, my child!" she kept saying, "to think of your being mixed up in
such an adventure! How could you be so imprudent and daring? Mrs.
Williams's lodger--a strange man! in that outlandish cloak, too! and
you walked home with him that dark night! Oh, Phillis, I shall never
be at peace about you again!" and so on.

Phillis bore all this patiently, for she knew she had been incautious:
and when her mother's excitement had calmed down a little, she
unfolded to them her plan.

"I must see Miss Mewlstone quite alone; and that unfinished French
merino will be such a good excuse, Nan. I will take the body with me
this afternoon, and beg her to let me try it on; the rest must come
afterwards, but this will be the best way of getting her to myself."
And, as Nan approved of this scheme, and Mrs. Challoner did not
dissent, Phillis had very soon made up her parcel, and was walking
rapidly towards the White House.

As she turned in at the gates she could see a shadow on the blind in
Mrs. Williams's little parlor, and waved her hand towards it. He was
watching her, she knew: she longed to go back and give him a word of
encouragement and exhortation to patience; but some one, Mr. Drummond
perhaps, might see her, and she dare not venture.

She sent her message by Jeffreys, and Miss Mewlstone soon came
trotting into the room; but she wore a slightly-disturbed expression
on her good-natured face.

She had been reading the third volume of a very interesting novel, and
had most unwillingly laid down her book at the young dressmaker's
unseasonable request. Like many other stout people, Miss Mewlstone was
more addicted to passivity than activity after her luncheon; and,
being a creature of habit, this departure from her usual rules
flurried her.

"Dear, dear! to think of your wanting to try on that French merino
again!" she observed; "and the other dress fitted so beautifully, and
no trouble at all. And there has Miss Middleton being calling just
now, and saying they are expecting her brother Hammond home from India
in November; and it is getting towards the end of September now. I
was finishing my book, but I could not help listening to her,--she has
such a sweet voice. Ah, just so--just so. But aren't you going to open
your parcel, my dear?"

"Never mind the dress," returned Phillis, quickly. "Dear Miss
Mewlstone, I was sorry to disturb you; but it could not be helped.
Don't look at the parcel: that is only an excuse. My business is far
more important. I want you to put on your bonnet, and come with me
just a little way across the road. There is some one's identity that
you must prove."

Phillis was commencing her task in a somewhat lame fashion; but Miss
Mewlstone was still too much engrossed with her novel to notice her
visitor's singular agitation.

"Ah, just so--just so," she responded; "that is exactly what the last
few chapters have been about. The real heir has turned up, and is
trying to prove his own identity; only he is so changed that no one
believes him. It is capitally worked out. A very clever author, my
dear----"

But Phillis interrupted her a little eagerly:

"Is that your tale, dear Miss Mewlstone? How often people say truth is
stranger than fiction! Do you know, I have heard a story in real life
far more wonderful than that? Some one was telling me about it just
now. There was a man whom every one, even his own wife, believed to be
dead; but after four years of incredible dangers and hardships--oh,
such hardships!--he arrived safely in England, and took up his abode
just within sight of his old house, where he could see his wife and
find out all about her without being seen himself. He put on some sort
of disguise, I think, so that people could not find him out."

"That must be a make-up story, I think," returned Miss Mewlstone, a
little provokingly; but her head was still full of her book. Poor
woman! she wanted to get back to it. She looked at Phillis and the
parcel a little plaintively. "Ah, just so,--a very pretty story, but
improbable,--very improbable, my dear."

"Nevertheless, it is true!" returned Phillis, so vehemently that Miss
Mewlstone's little blue eyes opened more widely. "Never mind your
book. I tell you I have business so important that nothing is of
consequence beside it. Where is Mrs. Cheyne? She must not know we are
going out."

"Going out!" repeated Miss Mewlstone, helplessly. "My dear, I never go
out after luncheon, as Magdalene knows."

"But you are going out with me," replied Phillis, promptly. "Dear Miss
Mewlstone, I know I am perplexing and worrying you; but what can I do?
Think over what I have just said,--about--about that improbable story,
as you called it; and then, you will not be so dreadfully startled.
You must come with me now to Mrs. Williams's cottage: I want you to
see her lodger."

"Her lodger!" Miss Mewlstone was fully roused now; and, indeed,
Phillis's pale face and suppressed eager tones were not without their
due effect. Had the girl taken leave of her senses? Why, the ladies at
the White House led the lives of recluses. Why should she be asked to
call upon any stranger, but especially a gentleman,--Mrs. Williams's
lodger? "My dear," she faltered, "you are very strange this
afternoon.--Magdalene and I seldom call on any one, and certainly not
on gentlemen."

"You must come with me," replied Phillis, half crying with excitement.
She found her task so difficult. Miss Mewlstone was as yielding as a
feather bed in appearance, and yet it was impossible to move her. "He
calls himself Mr. Dancy; but now he says that is not all his name: let
me whisper it in your ear, if it will not startle you too much. Think
of Mrs. Cheyne, and try and command yourself. Mrs. Williams's lodger
says that he is Herbert Cheyne,--poor Mrs. Cheyne's husband!"



XXXV.

"BARBY, DON'T YOU RECOLLECT ME?"


"I do not believe it!--stuff and nonsense! You are crazy, child, to
come to me with this trumped-up story! The man is an impostor. I will
have the police to him. For heaven's sake don't let Magdalene hear
this nonsense!"

Phillis recoiled a few steps, speechless with amazement. Miss
Mewlstone's face was crimson; her small eyes were sparkling with angry
excitement: all her softness and gentle inanity had vanished.

"Give me a bonnet,--shawl,--anything, and I will put this matter
straight in a moment. Where is Jeffreys? Ring the bell, please, Miss
Challoner! I must speak to her."

Phillis obeyed without a word.

"Ah, just so. Jeffreys," resuming her old purring manner as the maid
appeared, "this young lady has a friend in trouble, and wants me to go
down to the cottage with her. Keep it from your mistress if you can,
for she hates hearing of anything sad; say we are busy,--I shall be in
to tea,--anything. I know you will be discreet, Jeffreys."

"Yes, ma'am," returned Jeffreys, adjusting the shawl over Miss
Mewlstone's shoulders; "but this is your garden-shawl, surely?"

"Oh, it does not matter; it will do very well. Now Miss Challoner, I
am ready." And so noiseless and rapid were her movements that Phillis
had much to do to keep up with her.

"Won't you listen to me?" she pleaded. "Dear Miss Mewlstone, it is no
made-up story; it is all true;" but to her astonishment, Miss
Mewlstone faced round upon her in a most indignant manner:

"Be silent, child! I cannot, and will not, hear any more. How should
you know anything about it? Have you ever seen Herbert Cheyne? You are
the tool of some impostor. But I will guard Magdalene; she shall not
be driven mad. No, no, poor dear! she shall not, as long as she has
old Bathsheba to watch over her." And Phillis, in despair, very wisely
held her peace. After all she was a stranger: had she any proof but
Mr. Dancy's word?

Just towards the last, Miss Mewlstone's pace slackened; and her hand
shook so, as she tried to unlatch the little gate, that Phillis was
obliged to come to her assistance. The cottage door stood open as
usual, but there was no tall figure lurking in the background,--no
shadow on the blind.

"We had better go in there," whispered Phillis, pointing to the closed
door of the parlor; and Miss Mewlstone, without knocking, at once
turned the handle and went in, while Phillis followed trembling.

"Well, sir," said Miss Mewlstone, sternly, "I have come to know what
you mean by imposing your story on this child."

Mr. Dancy, who was standing with his back to them, leaning for support
against the little mantle-shelf, did not answer for a moment; and then
he turned slowly round, and looked at her.

"Oh, Barby!" he said; "don't you recollect me?" And then he held out
his thin hands to her imploringly, and added "Dear old Barby! but you
are not a bit changed."

"Herbert--why, good heavens! Ah, just so--just so," gasped the poor
lady, rather feebly, as she sat down, feeling her limbs were deserting
her, and every scrap of color left her face. Indeed, she looked so
flabby and lifeless that Phillis was alarmed and flew to her
assistance; only Mr. Cheyne waved her aside rather impatiently.

"Let her be; she is all right. She knows me, you see: so I cannot be
so much altered. Barby," he went on, in a coaxing voice, as he knelt
beside her and chafed her hands, "you thought I was an impostor, and
were coming to threaten me: were you not? But now you see Miss
Challoner was in the right. Have you not got a word for me? Won't you
talk to me about Magdalene? We have got to prepare her, you know."

Then, as he spoke his wife's name, and she remembered her sacred
charge, the faithful creature suddenly fell on his neck in piteous
weeping.

"Oh, the bonnie face," she wept, "that has grown so old, with the
sorrow and the gray hair! My dear, this will just kill her with joy,
after all her years of bitter widowhood." And then she cried again,
and stroked his face as though he were a child, and then wrung her
hands for pity at the changes she saw. "It is the same face, and yet
not the same," she said, by and by. "I knew the look of your eyes, my
bonnie man, for all they were so piercing with sadness. But what have
they done to you, Herbert?--for it might be your own ghost,--so thin;
and yet you are brown, too; and your hair!" And she touched the gray
locks over the temples with tender fluttering fingers.

"Magdalene never liked gray hairs," he responded, with a sigh. "She is
as beautiful as ever, I hear; but I have not caught a glimpse of her.
Tell me, Barby,--for I have grown timorous with sorrow,--will she hate
the sight of such a miserable scarecrow?"

"My dear! hate the sight of her own husband, who is given back to her
from the dead? Ay, I have much to hear. Why did you never write to us,
Herbert? But there! you have all that to explain to her by and by."

"Yes; and you must tell me about the children,--my little Janie," he
returned, in a choked voice.

"Ah, the dear angels! But, Herbert, you must be careful. Nobody speaks
of them to Magdalene, unless she does herself. You are impetuous, my
dear; and Magdalene--well, she has not been herself since you left
her. It is pining, grief, and the dead weight of loss that has ailed
her being childless and widowed at once. There, there! just so. We
must be tender of her, poor dear! and things will soon come right."

"You need not fear me, Barby. I have learned my lesson at last. If I
only get my wife back, you shall see--you shall see how I will make up
to her for all I have ever made her suffer! My poor girl! my poor
girl!" And then he shaded his face, and was silent.

Phillis had stolen out in the garden, and sat down on a little bench
outside, where passers-by could not discern her from the road, and
where only the sound of their voices reached her faintly. Now and
then, chance words fell on her ear,--"Magdalene" over and over again;
and "Janie" and "Bertie,"--always in the voice she had so admired. By
and by she heard her own name, and rose at once, and found them
looking for her.

"Here is my good angel, Barby," observed Mr. Cheyne, as she came up
smiling. "Not one girl in a thousand would have acted as bravely and
simply as she has done. We are friends for life, Miss Challoner, are
we not?" And he stretched out his hand to her, and Phillis laid her
own in it.

"I was a bit harsh with you, dearie, was I not?" returned Miss
Mewlstone, apologetically: "but there! you were such a child that I
thought you had been deceived. But I ought to have known better,
craving your pardon, my dear. Now we will just go back to Magdalene;
and you must help my stupid old head, for I am fairly crazy at the
thought of telling her. Go back into the parlor and lie down, Herbert,
for you are terribly exhausted. You must have patience, my man, a wee
bit longer, for we must be cautious,--cautious, you see."

"Yes, I must have patience," he responded, rather bitterly. But he
went back into the room and watched them until they disappeared into
the gates of his own rightful paradise.

Miss Mewlstone was leaning on Phillis's arm. Her gait was still rather
feeble, but the girl was talking energetically to her.

"What a spirit she has! just like Magdalene at her age," he thought,
"only Magdalene never possessed her even temper. My poor girl! From
what Barby says, she has grown hard and bitter with trouble. But it
shall be my aim in life to comfort her for all she has been through!"
And then, as he thought of his dead children, and of the empty
nursery, he groaned, and threw himself face downward upon the couch.
But a few minutes afterwards he had started up again, unable to rest,
and began to pace the room; and then, as though the narrow space
confined him, he continued his restless walk into the garden, and then
into the shrubberies of the White House.

"My dear, I am not as young as I was. I feel as if all this were too
much for me," sighed Miss Mewlstone, as she pressed her companion's
arm. "One needs so much vitality to bear such scenes. I am terrified
for Magdalene, she has so little self-control! and to have him given
back to her from the dead! I thank God! but I am afraid, for all
that." And a few more quiet tears stole over her cheeks.

"Thinking of it only makes it worse," returned Phillis, feverishly.
She, too, dreaded the ordeal before them; but she was young, and not
easily daunted. All the way through the shrubbery she talked on
breathlessly, trying to rally her own courage. It was she who entered
the drawing-room first, for poor Miss Mewlstone had to efface the
signs of her agitation.

Mrs. Cheyne looked up, surprised to see her alone.

"Jeffreys told me you and Miss Mewlstone had gone out together on a
little business. What have you done with poor old Barby?" And, as
Phillis answered as composedly and demurely as she could, Mrs. Cheyne
arched her eyebrows in her old satirical way:

"She is in her room, is she? Never mind answering, if you prefer your
own counsel. Your little mysteries are no business of mine. I should
have thought the world would have come to an end, though, before Barby
had thrown down the third volume of a novel for anything short of a
fire. But you and she know best." And, as Phillis flushed and looked
confused under her scrutiny, she gave a short laugh and turned away.

It was a relief when Miss Mewlstone came trotting into the room with
her cap-strings awry.

"Dear, dear! have we kept you waiting for your tea, Magdalene?" she
exclaimed, in a flurried tone, as she bustled up to the table. "Miss
Challoner had a little business, and she thought I might help her.
Yes; just so! I have brought her in, for she is tired, poor thing! and
I knew she would be welcome."

"It seems to me that you are both tired. You are as hot as though you
had walked for miles, Barby. Oh, you have your secrets too. But it is
not for me to meddle with mysteries." And then she laughed again, and
threw herself back on her couch, with a full understanding of the
discomfort of the two people before her.

Phillis saw directly she was in a hard, cynical mood.

"You shall know our business by and by," she said, very quietly. "Dear
Miss Mewlstone, I am so thirsty, I must ask you for another cup of
tea." But, as Miss Mewlstone took the cup from her, the poor lady's
hand shook so with suppressed agitation that the saucer slipped from
her grasp, and the next moment the costly china lay in fragments at
her feet.

"Dear! dear!--how dreadfully careless of me!" fumed Miss Mewlstone.

But Mrs. Cheyne made no observation. She only rang the bell, and
ordered another cup. But, when the servant had withdrawn, she said,
coldly,--

"Your hand is not as steady as usual this evening, Barby;" and somehow
the sharp incisive tone cut so keenly that, to Phillis's alarm, Miss
Mewlstone became very pale, and then suddenly burst into tears.

"This is too much!" observed Mrs. Cheyne, rising in serious
displeasure. She had almost a masculine abhorrence to tears of late
years; the very sight of them excited her strangely.

"Miss Challoner may keep her mysteries to herself if she likes, but I
insist on knowing what has upset you like this."

"Oh dear! oh, dear!" sobbed the simple woman, wringing her hands
helplessly. "This is just too much for me! Poor soul, how am I to tell
her?" And then she looked at Phillis in affright at her own words,
which revealed so much and so little.

Mrs. Cheyne turned exceedingly pale, and a shadow passed over her
face.

"'Poor soul!' does she mean me? Is it of me you are speaking, Barby?
Is there something for me to know, that you dread to tell me? Poor
soul, indeed!" And then her features contracted and grew pinched. "But
you need not be afraid. Is it not the Psalmist who says, 'All thy
waves and thy billows have gone over me'? Drowned people have nothing
to fear: there is no fresh trouble for them." And her eyes took an
awful stony look that terrified Phillis.

"Oh, it is no fresh trouble!" stammered the girl. "People are not
tormented like that: they have not to suffer more than they can
bear."

But Mrs. Cheyne turned upon her fiercely:

"You are wrong, altogether wrong. I could not bear it, and it drove me
mad,--at least as nearly mad as a sane woman could be. I felt my
reason shaken; my brain was all aflame, and I cried out to heaven for
mercy; and a blank answered me. Barby, if there be fresh trouble, tell
me instantly, and at once. What do I care? What is left to me, but a
body that will not die, and a brain that will not cease to think? If I
could only stop the thoughts! if I could only go down into silence and
nothingness! but then I should not find Herbert and the children.
Where are they? I forget!" She stopped, pressed her hands to her brow
with a strange bewildered expression; but Miss Mewlstone crept up to
her, and touched her timidly.

"My bonnie Magdalene!" she exclaimed; "don't let the ill thoughts
come; drive them away, my poor dear. Look at me. Did old Barby ever
deceive you? There is no fresh trouble, my pretty. In his own good
time the All-Merciful has had mercy!"

Mrs. Cheyne's hand dropped down to her sides, but her brilliant eyes
showed no comprehension of her words.

"Why did you frighten me like that?" she repeated, rocking herself to
and fro; and her voice had a high, strained tone in it. "There is no
trouble, but your face is pale, and there are tears in your eyes; and
look how your hand shakes! Miss Challoner--Phillis, what does she
mean? Barby, you are a foolish old woman; your wits are gone."

"If they are gone, it is with joy!" she sobbed. "Yes, my precious one!
for sheer joy!" but then she broke down utterly. It was Phillis who
came to the rescue.

"Dear Mrs. Cheyne, I think I could tell you best," she began, in her
sweet sensible voice, which somehow stilled Mrs. Cheyne's frightful
agitation. "There has been some news,--a letter that has been lost,
which ought to have arrived months ago. We have heard about it this
afternoon." She stopped, for there seemed to be a faint sound of
footsteps in the hall below. Could he have followed them? What would
be the result of such imprudence? But, as she faltered and hesitated,
Mrs. Cheyne gripped her arm with an iron force:

"A letter from Herbert! Did he write to me? oh, my darling! did he
write to me before he died? Only one word--one word of forgiveness,
and I will say heaven indeed is merciful! Give it to me, Barby! Why do
you keep me waiting? Oh, this is blessed, blessed news!" But Miss
Mewlstone only clasped her gently in her arms.

"One moment, my dearie! There is more than that. It is not a message
from heaven. There is still one living on earth that loves you! Try
and follow my meaning," for the perplexed stare had returned again.
"Say to yourself, 'Perhaps, after all, Herbert is not dead. Nobody saw
him die. He may be alive; he may have written to me----" She stopped,
for Mrs. Cheyne had suddenly flung up her arms over her head with a
hoarse cry, that rang through the house:

"Herbert! Herbert! Herbert!"

"I am here,--Magdalene! Magdalene!" A tall figure that had crept
unperceived through the open hall door, and had lurked unseen in the
shadow of the portiere, suddenly dashed into the room, and took his
wife's rigid form into his arms. "Magdalene!--love--wife! It is
Herbert! Look up, my darling!--I am here! I am holding you!" But there
was no response. Magdalene's face was like the face of the dead.

They took her from him almost by force, for he refused to give her up.
Over and over again they prayed him to leave her to their care, but he
seemed like a deaf man that did not hear.

"She is dead! I have killed her; but there is no reason why I should
give her up," he had said, with terrible calm in his voice.

"She is not dead!" returned Miss Mewlstone, almost angrily. "She has
been like this before; but Jeffreys and I know what to do. Ay, you
were always wilful, Herbert; but when it comes to killing your own
wife----" And after this he consented to lay her down on her couch.

He watched them with wistful eyes as they tried the usual remedies;
but it was long before even the flicker of an eyelid spoke to them of
life. At the first sign of returning animation Herbert crept just
behind his wife's pillow, where he could see the first unclosing of
the drooping lids. When Magdalene opened her eyes at last, they fell
full on her husband's face.

Phillis, who was beside her, marvelled at the strange beauty of that
rapt look, as she lay and gazed at him.

"Herbert's face!" they heard her whisper, in an awe-struck voice.
"Then I have died at last, and am in heaven. Oh, how merciful! but I
have not deserved it,--a sinner such as I."

"Magdalene, my darling, you are in our own home! It is I who was lost,
and have come back to you. Look at me. It is only the children that
are in heaven. You and I are spared to each other on earth." But for a
long time her scattered faculties failed to grasp the truth.

Phillis went home at last, and left them. There was nothing she could
do, and she was utterly spent; but Miss Mewlstone kept watch beside
her charge until late into the night.

Little by little the truth dawned slowly on the numbed brain; slowly
and by degrees the meaning of her husband's tears and kisses sank into
the clouded mind. Now and again she wandered, but Herbert's voice
always recalled her.

"Then I am not dead?" she asked him, again and again. "They do not cry
in heaven, and Barby was crying just now. Barby, am I dreaming! Who is
this beside me? is it Herbert's ghost? only his hands are warm, and
mine are so terribly cold. Why you are crying too, love; but I am to
tired to understand." And then she crept wearily closer and closer
into his arms, like a tired-out child who has reached home.

And when Herbert stooped over her gently, he saw that the long lashes
lay on her cheek. Magdalene had fallen asleep.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

MOTES IN THE SUNSHINE.


That sleep was, humanly speaking, Magdalene's salvation.

At the greatest crisis of her life, when reason hung in the
balance,--when the sudden influx of joy might have paralyzed the
overwrought heart and brain,--at that moment physical exhaustion saved
her by that merciful, overpowering sleep.

When she woke, it was to the resurrection of her life and love. Months
afterwards she spoke of that waking to Phillis, when she lay in her
bed weak as a new born babe, and the early morning light streamed full
on the face of her slumbering husband.

They were alone; for Miss Mewlstone had just crept softly from the
room. Her movement had roused Magdalene. Herbert, who was utterly worn
out by his long watching, had just dropped asleep, with his head
resting against the wood-work. He was still sitting in the arm-chair
beside her, and only the thin profile was visible.

The previous night had been passed by Magdalene in a semi-conscious
state: delirious imaginations had blended with realities. There were
flashes and intervals of comparative consciousness, when the truth
rushed into her mind; but she had been too weak to retain it long.
That she was dreaming or dead was her fixed idea: that this was her
husband's greeting to her in paradise seemed to be her one thought.
"Strange that the children do not kiss me too," they heard her say
once.

But now, as she opened her eyes, there was no blue misty haze through
which she ever feebly sought to pierce. She was lying in her own room,
where she had passed so many despairing days and nights. The window
was open; the sweet crisp morning air fanned her temples; the birds
were singing in the garden below; and there beside her was the face so
like, yet so unlike, the face from which she had parted four years
ago.

For a little while she lay and watched it in a sort of trance; and
then in the stillness full realization came to her, and she knew that
she was not mad or dreaming. This was no imagination: it was reality.

With incredible effort, for she felt strangely weak, she raised
herself on her elbow to study that dear face more closely, for the
change in it baffled her. Could this be her Herbert? How bronzed and
thin he had grown! Those lines that furrowed his forehead, those
hollows in the temples and under the eyes, were new to her. And, oh,
the pity of those gray hairs in the place of the brown wavy locks she
remembered! But it was when she laid her lips against the scarred
wrist that Herbert woke, and met the full look of recognition in his
wife's eyes, for which he had waited so long.

Now he could fall upon his knees beside her, and crave that
forgiveness for words and acts that had seared his conscience all
these years like red-hot iron. But at the first word she stopped him,
and drew his head to her breast:

"Oh, Herbert, hush! What! ask forgiveness of me, when I have sinned
against you doubly,--trebly,--when I was no true wife, as you know?
Oh, do not let us ask it of each other, but of God, whom we have so
deeply offended! He has punished us; but He has been merciful too. He
has taken our children because we did not deserve them. Oh, Herbert!
what will you do without them?--for you loved Janie so!" And then for
a little while the childless parents could only hold each other's
hands and weep, for to Herbert Cheyne the grief was new, and at the
sight of her husband's sorrow Magdalene's old wounds seemed to open
and bleed afresh; only now--now she did not weep alone.

When Miss Mewlstone entered the room, shortly afterwards, she found
Magdalene lying spent and weary, holding her husband's hand.

Joy had indeed returned to the White House, but for a long time it was
joy that was strangely tempered with sorrow. Upstairs no sound greeted
Herbert from the empty nurseries; there were no little feet pattering
to meet the returned wanderer, no little voices to cry a joyous
"Father!" And for years the desolate mother had borne this sorrow
alone.

As the days passed on, Magdalene regained her strength slowly, but
neither wife nor husband could hide from each other the fact that
their health was broken by all they had gone through. Herbert's
constitution was sadly impaired for the remainder of his life: he knew
well that he must carry with him the consequences of those years of
suffering. Often he had to endure intense neuralgic agony in his limbs
and head; an unhealed wound for a long time troubled him sorely.
Magdalene strove hard to regain strength, that she might devote
herself to nurse him, but, though her constitution was superb, she had
much to bear from her disordered nerves. At times the old irritability
was hard to vanquish; there were still dark moods of restlessness when
her companionship was trying; but it was now that Herbert proved the
nobleness and reality of his repentance.

For he was ever gentle with her, however much she might try him. Some
talk he had had with her doctor had convinced him that she was not to
blame for these morbid moods; that the nerves had become disorganized
by those years of solitary misery. "We must bear all our troubles
together," as he often told her; and so he bore this, as he did the
trial of his children's loss, with grave fortitude, and a patience
that surprised all who knew him.

And he was not without his reward, for, the dark fit over, Magdalene's
smile would greet him like sunshine after a storm, and she would thank
him with tears and caresses for his forbearance.

"I can't think what makes me still so horrid, when I am so happy," she
said once to him, when the first year of their reunion had passed. "I
do my best to fight against these moods, but they seem stronger than
myself and overcome me. Do not be so good to me next time, Herbert;
scold me and be angry with me, as you used in the old days."

"I cannot," he answered, smiling. "I never loved you in the old days
as I do now. I would not change my wife, in spite of all the trouble
she gives me, for any other woman upon earth. You believe this, love,
do you not?" looking at her beautiful face anxiously, for it had
clouded a little at his last words.

"Yes, but I do not like to trouble you: it is that that frets me. I
wanted to be a comfort to you, and never to give you a moment's
uneasiness; but I cannot help myself, somehow. I love you, I don't
believe you know yet how I love you, Herbert; but it seems as if I
must grieve you sometimes."

"Never mind; I will hear your trouble and my own too," he answered,
cheerily; and in this way he always comforted her. But to Magdalene
her own self ever remained a mystery; the forces of her own nature
were too strong for her, and yet she was not a weak woman. She had
expected that in her case love and happiness would have worked a
miracle, as though miracles were ever effected by mere human
agencies,--that she would rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of her
past, reborn, rejuvenated, with an inexhaustible fund of moral
strength.

Now she had Herbert, all would go smoothly; she would no longer mourn
for her little ones. Since her husband was there to comfort her, with
his constant presence to sustain her, all must be well; never again
would she be nervous, irritable, or sarcastic. Poor Magdalene! she was
creating heaven for herself upon earth; she was borrowing angels'
plumes before the time; she had forgotten the conditions of humanity,
"the body of the flesh," which weighed down greater souls than hers.

There are Gethsemanes of the spirit to the weary ones of earth, hours
of conflict that must be lived through and endured. Nature that
groaneth and travaileth cannot find its abiding place of rest here. To
the end of time it seems to be written in enduring characters that no
human lot shall be free from suffering: sooner or later, more or
less,--that is all! Magdalene had still to learn this lesson
painfully: that she was slow in learning it, proved the strength and
obduracy of her will. True, she was rarely sarcastic,--never in her
husband's presence, for a word or a look from him checked her, and she
grew humble and meek at once. It was her unruly nerves that baffled
her; she was shocked to find that irritable words still rose to her
lips; that the spirit of restlessness was not quelled forever; that
thunder still affrighted her; and that now and then her mind seemed
clouded with fancied gloom.

She once spoke of this to Miss Middleton, with tears in her eyes.

"It is so strange," she said. "Herbert is different, but I am still so
unchanged."

"The conditions of your health are unchanged, you mean," answered
Elizabeth, with that quiet sympathy that always rested people. "This
is the mistake that folk make: they do not distinguish between an
unhealthy mind and a diseased soul: the one is due to physical
disorganization, the other to moral causes. In your case, dear Mrs.
Cheyne, one may safely lay the blame on the first cause."

"Oh, do you think so?" she asked, earnestly. "I dare not cheat my
conscience in that way: it is my bad temper, my undisciplined nature,
that ought to bear the blame."

"No; believe me," answered Elizabeth, for they had grown great friends
of late, "I have watched you narrowly, and I know how you try to
conquer this irritability; there is no black spot of anger in your
heart, whatever words come to your lips. You are like a fretful child
sometimes, I grant you that, who is ailing and unconscious of its
ailment. When you would be calm, you are strangely disturbed; you
speak sharply, hoping to relieve something that oppresses you."

"Oh, yes!" sighed Magdalene; "and yet Herbert never speaks crossly to
me."

"He never will, for he knows what you suffer. Well, dear friend, what
of this? This is a cross that you must carry perhaps all your life.
You are not the only one who has to bear the torment of disordered
nerves: it must be borne with resignation, as we bear other troubles.
Once you felt you could not love God; you ceased to pray to Him; now
you love Him a little. Go on loving; thank him for your husband's
patience, and pray that you may have patience with yourself. One is
weary of always living with one's self, I know that well," finished
Elizabeth, with a charming smile.

Mr. Drummond would have verified Miss Middleton's opinion that
Magdalene was not so unchanged as she believed herself to be.

At his first interview with her after Herbert Cheyne's return, he
could almost have sworn that she was a different woman.

Phillis, who spent all her spare time at the White House,--for they
both made much of Herbert's "good angel," as he still called her
jestingly,--was sitting alone with Mrs. Cheyne when Archie was
announced.

His old enemy greeted him with a frank smile.

"This is kind of you, Mr. Drummond," she said, quite warmly. "How I
wish my husband were not out, that I could introduce him to you! I
have told him how good you have tried to be to me, but that I was
ungrateful and repulsed you."

Archie was shaking hands with Phillis, who seemed a little disturbed
at his entrance. He turned around and regarded the beautiful woman
with astonishment. Was this really Mrs. Cheyne? Where was the hard,
proud droop of the lip, the glance of mingled coldness and _hauteur_,
the polished sarcasm of voice and manner? Her face looked clear and
open as a child's; her eyes were brilliant with happiness.

Magdalene was in one of her brightest moods when she was most truly
herself.

"I have met him just now. He stopped and introduced himself. We had
quite a long talk outside of Mrs. Williams's cottage. I called upon
him there, you know, but he had good reasons for refusing my visits.
Mrs. Cheyne, you must allow me to congratulate you most earnestly. You
will own now that Providence has been good to you."

"I will own that and everything," returned Magdalene, joyously. "I
will own, if you like, that I treated you shamefully, and took a
pleasure in tormenting you; and you were so patient,--oh, so patient,
Mr. Drummond! I could have called you back sometimes and apologized,
but I would not. In my bitter moments I felt it was such a relief to
mock at people."

"Never mind all that. Let bygones be bygones. I wish I could have
served you better." And then, as he changed the subject, and spoke
feelingly about the miracle of her husband's restoration, Mrs. Cheyne
looked at him rather wistfully.

"Oh, how good you are!" she said, softly. "Do you know, the world
seems full of good people to me now; and yet once it appeared too bad
a place for any one to live in. We create our own atmosphere,--at
least so Herbert tells me. But you are looking thin, Mr.
Drummond,--thin and pale. You must be working too hard."

"Oh, as to that, hard work never hurts any one," he replied,
carelessly; but there was something forced in his tone.

Phillis, who had been sitting apart quite silently, raised her eyes
involuntarily from her work. Was it her fancy, or had some undefinable
change passed over him? They had seen him so little of late. Since all
this had happened at the White House he had called once or twice; and
once Nan had been there, and he had spoken to her much as usual. No
one would have detected any difference in his manner, except that he
was a little grave and preoccupied. Nan had not noticed anything; but
then she was singularly blind in such matters. Had she not vaguely
hinted that his visits were on Phillis's account?--that mere hint
conveying exquisite pain to Phillis.

Now, as she stole a glance at him, the conviction was strong within
her that the arrow had gone deep. He certainly looked a little thin
and care-worn, and something of a young man's vigor and hopefulness
seemed temporarily impaired. But, as it happened, that girlish
scrutiny was not unperceived by Archie. In a moment he was on the
alert. His eyes challenged hers boldly, and it was Phillis who flushed
and looked conscious.

It was as though he said to her, "Ah! you think you know all about it.
But you need not trouble yourself to be sorry for me; you do not know
what a man's strength can do. And I am determined to bear this by
myself, and to myself; for in silence there is power."

It certainly seemed as though a new strength had come to Archie. He
had been a man who was prone to speak much of his feelings. Irritable
and sensitive, he had demanded much sympathy from his womankind. His
was a nature that craved support in his work; but now, not even to
Grace, could he speak of this trouble that had befallen him.

Was it a trouble, after all, this vague shadow that lay about his
path? No one but he himself knew the sweetness and graciousness of the
dream that had come to him. It had only been a dream, after all; and
now he was awake. The vision he had conjured up to himself had faded
into unreality. She was not his second self: never by look or word had
he wooed her; she was only the woman he could have loved. This was how
he put it; and now he would bury this faint hope that was
still-born,--that had never had breathed into it the breath of life.
And if for a little while his future should be cloudy and bereft of
its sunshine, was he the only one to whom "some days must be dark and
dreary"?

Phillis's unspoken sympathy drooped under this stern repression; and
yet in her heart she reverenced him all the more for this moral
strength,--for there is nothing a true woman abhors more than weakness
in a man. After this silent rebuff, Archie took himself well in hand,
and began to speak of other things: he told Mrs. Cheyne, being certain
now of her interest, of his sister's intended marriage, and how he and
Mattie were going down to the wedding.

"He is a very good fellow, this intended brother-in-law of mine,--a
sort of rough diamond; but hardly good enough for Isabel," he said.
"Oh, yes, he is very rich. My poor little sister will have her head
turned by all her magnificence; for his parents are so generous: they
quite load her with gifts." And he smiled to himself at the notion of
the little sister, just fresh from her narrow school-room life,
rejoicing over her trousseau and her handsome house, and driving away
from the church in her own carriage. No wonder his father and mother
were pleased. As for the bridegroom-elect, Archie spoke of him with
half-contemptuous amusement: "Oh, he was a good fellow,--no one wished
to deny that;" but there was a want of culture and polish that grated
upon the susceptibilities of the Oxford fellow.

Phillis listened with undivided interest--especially when he mentioned
Grace.

"Mattie and I are in hopes that we shall bring her back with us; but,
at all events, my mother has promised to spare her at Christmas." This
time he addressed himself to Phillis.

"Oh, that will be nice for you!" she returned a little eagerly. "You
have told us so much about her that I quite long to know her."

"I should say you would suit each other perfectly," he replied, as he
rose to take his leave. "Sometimes you remind me of her, Miss
Challoner; and yet you are not really alike. Good-bye, if I do not see
you again before we go to Leeds." And Phillis gave him her hand, and a
cordial smile.

But when he had gone out of the room, his hostess accompanying
him--for she had a word for his private ear,--Phillis sat down, and
thought over those last words with a strange feeling of pleasure:
"Sometimes you remind me of her, Miss Challoner." Was it possible that
he could trace any resemblance between her and this dearly-beloved
sister, this Grace, whom he seemed to regard as absolute perfection?

"Oh, I hope she will come! I am sure we shall be such friends," she
said to herself: and from this time Phillis looked anxiously for Grace
Drummond's arrival.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

"A MAN HAS A RIGHT TO HIS OWN THOUGHTS."


There were great rejoicings in the house in Lowder Street on the
occasion of Isabel Drummond's marriage.

There is always something pathetic in the first wedding in a
family,--the first severing of the family circle,--the first break,
the first ingathering of new interest. But when there are small means,
and seven portionless daughters, very few of whom can be said to be
gifted with good looks, a wealthy son-in-law must indeed be regarded
as a direct blessing from Providence.

That Mr. Drummond did so regard it, was evident from the jovial good
humor that had replaced his usual moody and irritable manner; while
his wife's beaming face, softened by maternal tenderness for the
child who would no longer share the daily life with them, was a
surprising spectacle to those acquainted with Mrs. Drummond's ordinary
reserve and somewhat severe bearing. But it is not too much to say
that on this occasion Mrs. Drummond was a happy woman.

The tide of fortune, long so adverse to their interests, seemed
turning in their favor at last. Archie had done great things for
himself, and the mother's eyes rested on him proudly as he performed
the marriage ceremony for his young sister, the gravity of his
priestly office setting him apart, as it were, for her reverence as
well as love. That Isabel had done great things for herself also could
not be denied. But there were other causes for content in the mother's
heart.

Both the boys were doing well. Clyde had been articled to a lawyer, an
old friend of Mr. Drummond's, and had won golden opinions from his
chief, who pronounced him an intelligent, likely lad, and as sharp as
a needle. Fred had lately obtained a clerkship in an old-established
house in Leeds, and was also doing well, and his salary was a great
boon to the straitened household. Grace, too, was doing her duty
vigorously, and no longer vexed her mother's soul by her drooping
looks of uncomplaining discontent,--that silent protest of many, that
is so irritating to the home-rule. True, it might be only the
quiescence of despair, but at least she veiled it decently under a
show of Spartan cheerfulness. The fox of bitterness might gnaw, but
she drew the mantle of her pride closer round her. She might suffer
and pine, like a caged lark in her narrow cage, but at least no one,
not even Archie, and least of all her mother, should guess the extent
of her sufferings. So there was peace in Lowder Street. A truce had
silently proclaimed itself between the two strong wills of the
household; and, touched by a submission that somehow appealed to her
generosity, Mrs. Drummond was secretly revolving schemes for her
daughter's future happiness.

"Mothers are mothers," as Nan had once sweetly said, and Mrs. Drummond
was no exception to the rule. She could be hard to her own flesh and
blood; she could exact obedience that was difficult to yield, and
sacrifices that cost tears in plenty; but she was a just woman, and,
when the right time came, she knew how to reward such obedience.

But there was still another drop that filled the maternal cup of
content almost to overflowing, and of this she spoke to Grace, as they
were together in the mother's room, folding up the bridal finery. The
little bride had just driven off, all tears and smiles. Archie and the
boys had started off for a long walk. Mattie was with her sisters in
the small ugly enclosure they called a garden; and Grace and her
mother had gone up to shake out the satin dress and lay it between
tissue-paper.

"I hope she will be happy, poor little dear!" observed Grace, touching
tenderly the Brussels-lace veil; for Isabel had been her first pupil
and charge. "I do think and believe Ellis is really very fond of
her."

"Without doubt he is. His manners were all your father and I could
wish. What a magnificent present, and how thoughtful, his bringing
those diamond ear-drops just the last moment! Isabel has such pretty
little ears. He is as proud of her as he can be. And really she looked
quite lovely. Take care how you fold that veil, Grace. It is a perfect
beauty."

"Yes, mother," returned Grace, meekly.

She was ready to drop with fatigue, for she had been up since six, and
had dressed all her sisters one after another in their pretty
bridesmaids' dresses, Mattie's skill as a lady's-maid being distrusted
even by Dottie. But Mrs. Drummond was not satisfied, and took the lace
out of her hand.

"And, Grace, did you ever see any one so improved as Mattie? Her visit
to Hadleigh is doing wonders for her. Last evening I could hardly help
looking at her. She holds herself so much better, and her dresses are
so pretty and well made. I never knew before that her figure was so
nice."

"Yes, indeed; she is wonderfully improved," returned Grace.

But she said the words mechanically. Her mother's speech had touched a
sore place in her memory. She knew who had transformed Mattie's
dowdiness into comeliness and neatness. She might be an ordinary
little woman in the world's opinion, but in the eyes of her family she
was quite another Mattie. Those tasteful dresses had been made by
those Challoners of whom Mattie spoke so much and Archie so little.

Mrs. Drummond, who had not noticed her daughter's sudden abstraction,
went on in the same satisfied tone:

"She is not pretty, of course,--no one could ever call Mattie that at
the best of times,--but now she has left off making a fright of
herself, and hunching her shoulders with every word, she is quite
passable-looking. I am glad you talked her out of being a bridesmaid.
She would have looked absurd among the girls. But that green surah
just suited her. It was good of Archie to buy her such a pretty dress;
and yours that came from Hadleigh was even prettier, and wonderfully
well made, considering they had only a pattern gown."

"Yes; it fitted admirably;" but Grace spoke without enthusiasm.

Archie, who knew her tastes, had chosen a soft, creamy stuff which he
informed Mattie must be trimmed with no end of lace. Phillis had
received and executed the order with such skill and discernment that a
most ravishing costume had been produced. But Grace, who had her own
ideas on the subject of those "Challoner girls," had received the gift
somewhat coldly, and had even seemed displeased when her father
pinched her ear and told her that Archie's gown had transformed her
into a princess fit for a fairy-tale. "And there is always a prince
in that, my dear,--eh, Gracie?" continued the lucky father, who could
afford to laugh when one of the seven daughters had got a husband. But
Grace would have nothing to do with the jest. She even got up a little
frown, like her mother's on similar occasions.

"Archie is so generous, dear old fellow!" continued Mrs. Drummond,
breaking out afresh after a minute's interval, as she skilfully
manipulated the veil. "That is what I always say. There never was such
a son or brother. Do you think he is overworking, Grace, or that
Mattie really looks after him well? But he strikes me as a little
thin,--and--yes--perhaps a little grave."

Grace's lips closed with an expression of pain. But her mother was
looking at her and she must answer.

"Well, if you ask me, mother," she returned, a little huskily, "I do
not think Archie looks very well, or in his usual spirits; but I am
sure Mattie takes good care of him," she continued, with careful
veracity.

"Humph! I am sorry to find you endorsing my opinion," replied Mrs.
Drummond, thoughtfully. "I hoped you would say it was my fancy. He has
not said anything to you that makes you uneasy?" with a touch of her
old sharpness, remembering that Grace, and not she, was Archie's
confidante; but Grace replied so quickly and decidedly, "Oh, no,
mother; we have not exchanged a word together since he and Mattie
arrived," that her maternal jealousy was allayed.

But the next night, when she was alone with him for a few minutes, she
was struck afresh by the gravity of his look as he sat by the window,
pretending to read, but for the last half-hour he had not turned his
page.

"A penny for your thoughts, my son!" she said, so archly and abruptly
that Archie started, and his brow grew crimson at finding himself
watched.

"Oh, they were nothing particular," he stammered; and then he said
something about the fineness of the evening, and the possibility of
his father coming in in time for a long walk.

But Mrs. Drummond was not to be put off so easily. She left her seat,
where she had been sewing as usual, and came and stood beside him a
moment. He would have jumped up and given her his own chair, but she
pressed his shoulder gently, as though to forbid the movement.

"I like to stand, Archie. Yes, it is a lovely evening; but I think you
ought to ask Grace, and not your father, to accompany you. Grace was
always your companion, you know, and you must not drop old habits too
suddenly." Then Archie saw that his avoidance of Grace had been
marked.

"Very well, I will ask her," he returned; but he showed none of his
old alacrity and spirit in claiming his favorite.

Mrs. Drummond noticed this; and the shade of anxiety on her face grew
deeper.

"Archie, you are not quite your old self with Grace; and I am sure she
feels it. What has come between you, my dear?"

"Why, nothing, mother;" and here he attempted a laugh. "Grace and I
never quarrel, as you know."

"I was not speaking of quarrelling," she returned, in a graver voice;
"but you do not seek her out as you used. Before, when you arrived,
you always disappointed me by shutting yourself up in the school-room,
where no one could get at you; and now Grace tells me she has not had
a word with you these four days."

"Has Grace complained of me, then?"

"You know Grace never complains of you. It was not said in any
fault-finding way. We agreed you were not quite yourself, or in your
usual spirits; and I asked her the reason. Tell me, my son, is there
anything troubling you?" Archie sat silent. Mrs. Drummond was so
rarely demonstrative to her children that even this well-beloved son
had never heard before such chords of tenderness in his mother's
voice; and, looking up, he saw that her keen gray eyes were softened
and moist with tears. "You are not quite yourself, Archie,--not quite
happy?" she went on.

Then he took counsel with himself; and after a moment he answered
her:

"No, mother; you are right. I am not--not quite myself nor quite
happy; but I mean to be both presently." And then he looked up in her
face pleadingly, with an expression of entreaty that went to her
heart, and continued: "But my own mother will not pain me by
unnecessary questions that I could not answer." And then she knew that
his will was that she should be silent.

"Very well," she returned, with a sigh. "But you will tell me one
thing, will you not, my dear! Is it--is it quite hopeless?" her
mother's instinct, like that of the Eastern Caliph, immediately
suggesting a woman in the case.

"Quite--quite hopeless!--as dead as this!" bringing down his hand on a
large defunct moth. "Talking will not bring to life, or help a man, to
carry a real burden."

Then, as she kissed him, she knew that his pain had been very great,
but that he meant to bear it with all the strength he could bring.

Grace went up to prepare for her walk that evening with no very
pleasurable anticipations. Her mother had given her Archie's message
in due form, as she sat somewhat sadly by the school-room window,
mending a frock Dottie had just torn.

"Archie wants you to go out with him, Grace," Mrs. Drummond said, as
she came in, in her usual active bustling way. "The grass never grew
under her feet," as she was often pleased to observe. "Loitering and
lagging make young bones grow prematurely old," she would say, coining
a new proverb for the benefit of lazy Susie. "Never measure your
footsteps when you are about other people's business," she would say
to Laura, who hated to be hunted up from her employment for any
errand. "He thinks of going over to Blackthorn Farm, as it is so fine;
and the walk will do you good," continued Mrs. Drummond, with a keen
look at her daughter's pale face. "Give me Dottie's frock: that little
monkey is always getting into mischief." But Grace yielded her task
reluctantly.

"Are you sure he wishes me to go, mother?"

"Quite sure," was the brief answer; but she added no more.

Silence was ever golden to this busy, hard-working mother. She was
generally sparing of words. Grace, who saw that her mother was bent on
her going, made no further demur; but, as she put on her
walking-things, she told herself that Archie was only making a virtue
of necessity. He was so little eager for her society that he had not
sought her himself, but had sent her a message. Ever since his return,
no light-springing footsteps had been heard on the uncarpeted stairs
leading to the school-room. He had forsaken their old haunt, where
they had once talked so happily, sitting hand in hand on the old
window-seat.

Grace felt herself grievously wounded. For months a barrier had been
between her and Archie. He had written seldom; and his letters, when
they came, told her nothing. In manner he was kindness itself. That
there was no change in his affection was evident; but the key to his
confidence was mislaid. He had withdrawn himself into some inner
citadel, where he seemed all at once inaccessible, and her sisterly
soul was vexed within her.

He met her at the door with his usual smile of welcome.

"That is right, Grace; you have not kept me long waiting," he said,
pleasantly, as she came towards him; and then, as they walked down
Lowder Street, he commenced talking at once. He had so much to tell
her, he said; and here Grace's pulses began to throb expectantly; but
the eager light died out of her face when he went on to detail a long
conversation he had had with his mother the previous night. Was that
all? she thought. Was the longed-for confidence still to be withheld?

Archie did not seem to notice her silence: he rattled on volubly.

"I think we were hard on the mother, Gracie, you and I," he said.
"After all, I believe she was right in not giving us our own way in
the spring."

"I am glad you think so," replied Grace, coldly. Archie winced at her
tone, but recovered himself, and went on gayly:

"It does one good sometimes to have one's wishes crossed; and, after
all, it was only fair that poor Mattie, being the eldest, should have
her turn. She does her best, poor little soul! and, though I find her
terribly trying sometimes, I can hold out pretty patiently until
Christmas; and then mother herself suggested that you should take her
place at the vicarage."

"I! oh, no, Archie!" And here the color flushed over Gracie's face,
and her eyes filled with tears. The news was so unexpected,--so
overwhelming. Another time the sweetness of it would have filled her
with rapture. But now! "Oh, no, no!" she cried, in so vehement a tone
that her brother turned in surprise, and something of her meaning came
home to him.

"Wait a moment," he said, deprecatingly. "I have not finished yet what
I want to say. Mother said Mattie was greatly improved by her visit,
and that she was infinitely obliged to me for yielding to her wish.
She told me plainly that it was impossible to have spared you
before,--that you were her right hand with the girls, and that even
now your loss would be great."

"I do not mean to leave mother," returned Grace, in a choked voice.

"Not if I want you and ask you to come?" he replied, with reproachful
tenderness, "Why, Grace, what has become of our old compact?"

"You do not need me now," she faltered, hardly able to speak without
weeping.

"We will talk of that by and by," was the somewhat impatient answer.
"Just at this minute I want to tell you all the mother said on the
subject. Facts before feelings, please," with a touch of sarcasm; but
he pointed it with a smile. "You see, Grace, Isabel's marriage makes a
difference. There is one girl off my father's hands. And then the boys
are doing so well. Mother thinks that in another three months Clara
may leave the school-room; she will be seventeen then, and, as Ellis
has promised her a course of music-lessons, to develop her one talent,
you may consider her off your hands."

"Clara will never do me credit," returned his sister, mournfully: "she
works steadily and takes pains, but she was never as clever as
Isabel."

"No; she is no shining light, as mother owns; but she will play
beautifully, if she be properly trained. Well, as to the other girls,
it appears that my father has decided to accept my offer of sending
Susie to a first-class boarding-school; and, as he has determined to
do the same for Laura, there is only Dottie for Mattie to manage or
mismanage. So you see, Gracie, your school-room drudgery is over.
Mother herself, by her own will, has opened the prison-doors."

He spoke in a light jesting tone, but Grace answered, almost
passionately,--

"I tell you no, Archie! I no longer wish it so; it is too late: things
are now quite different."

"What do you mean?" he returned, with a long steady look that seemed
to draw out her words in spite of her resolve not to speak them.

"I mean that things are changed--that you no longer need me, or wish
me to live with you."

"I need you more," he returned, calmly; "perhaps I have never needed
you so much. As for living with me, is it your desire to condemn me to
an existence of perfect loneliness?--for after Christmas Mattie leaves
me. You are mysterious, Grace; you are not your old self."

"Oh, it is you that are not yourself!" she retorted, in a tone of
grief. "Why have you avoided me? why do you withhold your confidence?
why do your letters tell me nothing? and then you come and are still
silent."

"What is it that you would have me tell you?" he asked; but this time
he did not look her in the face.

"I would know this thing that has come between us and robbed me of
your confidence. You are ill at ease; you are unhappy, Archie! You
have never kept a trouble from me before: it was always I who shared
your hopes and fears."

"You may still share them. I am not changed, as you imagine Grace. All
that I can tell you I will, even if you demand it in that
'money-or-your-life' style, as you are doing now," trying to turn it
off with a jest.

"Oh, Archie!"

"Well, what of Archie, now?"

"That you should laugh away my words! you have never done that
before."

"Very well, I will be serious; nay, more, I will be solemn. Grace, I
forbid you ever to mention this thing again, on pain of my bitter
displeasure!"

Then, as she looked at him, too much startled to answer, he went on:

"A man has a right to his own thoughts, if he choose to keep them to
himself and his Maker. There are some things with which even you may
not meddle, Grace. What if my life holds a grief which I would bury
from all eyes but my own? would you tear up the clods with unhallowed
fingers? To no living person but my Saviour"--and here Archie looked
up with reverent eyes--"will I speak of this thing." Then she clung to
his arm, and tears flowed over her cheeks.

"Oh, Archie! forgive me! forgive me! I never meant to hurt you like
this; I will not say another word!"

"You have not hurt me," he returned, striving after his old manner,
"except in refusing to live with me. I am lonely enough, God knows!
and a sister who understands me, and with whom I could have sympathy,
would be a great boon."

"Then I will come," she replied; drying her eyes. "If you want me, I
will come, Archie."

"I do want you; and I have never told you anything but the truth. But
you must come and be happy, my dear. I want you, yourself, and not a
grave, reticent creature who has gone about the house the last few
days, looking at me askance, as though I had committed some deadly
sin."

Then the dimple showed itself in Grace's cheek.

"Have I really been so naughty, Archie?"

"Yes, you have been a very shadowy sort of Grace; but I give you full
absolution, only don't go and do it any more." And, as she looked at
him with her eyes full of sorrowful yearning, he went on, hastily:
"Oh, I am all right, and least said is soonest mended. I am like the
dog in Æsop's fable, who mistook the shadow for the substance. A poor
sort of dog, that fellow. Well, is your poor little mind at rest,
Grace?" And the tone in which she said "Yes" seemed to satisfy him,
for he turned their talk into another channel.

When Mrs. Drummond saw her daughter's face that evening, she knew the
cloud had passed between the brother and sister.

Grace followed her to her room that night,--a thing she had not done
for months.

"Mother, I must thank you for being so good to us," she began,
impulsively, as soon as she had crossed the threshold.

"How have I been good to you, Grace?" observed her mother, calmly, as
she unfastened her brooch. "Of course, I have always tried to be good
to my children, although they do not seem to think so."

"Ah, but this is very special goodness: and I am more grateful than I
can say. Are you sure you will be able to spare me, mother?"

"After Christmas?--oh, yes: things will be possible then. If I
remember rightly, I had to endure some very bitter words from you on
this very subject. I hope you will do justice to my judgment at that
time."

"Yes, mother," with downcast eyes. "I am afraid Archie and I were very
wilful."

"You were wilful, Grace,"--for Mrs. Drummond never suffered any one to
find fault with her son in her hearing,--"you who ought to have known
better. And yet I do believe that, but for my determination to enforce
the right thing, you would have left your post, and all your duties,
because Archie wanted you."

"I was wrong. I see that plainly."

"Yes, you were wrong: for a long time you bore yourself towards me as
no daughter ought to bear herself to her mother. You angered me
sorely, Grace, because I saw you were hardening yourself against me,
only because I insisted that no child of mine should neglect her
duty."

"Mother, surely I am humbling myself now?"

"True; but how long have I waited for this confession? Night after
night I have said to myself, 'Surely Grace will come and tell me that
she feels herself in the wrong!' But no such words came. At last I
ceased to hope for them; and now at this eleventh hour you can hardly
expect me to show much joy at hearing them spoken."

Then Grace's head drooped, and she was silent. She knew she deserved
all these hard words, bitter as they were to bear; but Mrs. Drummond
had said her say.

"Well, well, better late than never; and we will say no more about it.
Next time you will understand me better, Grace."

Then, as her mother kissed her, Grace knew that her sin was condoned.
Nevertheless, as she left the room a few minutes later, her heart was
not quite so light in her bosom; she felt that her mother had been
just, but hardly generous.

"I thought mothers forgave more easily," she said to herself, in
somewhat aggrieved fashion. She had no idea that her mother was
equally disappointed.

Mrs. Drummond was a hard, but not an unloving woman; and she would
have liked more demonstration from her daughters. If Grace, for
example, instead of all these words, had thrown herself into her arms
and owned herself in the wrong, with a child-like pleading for
forgiveness, Mrs. Drummond would have felt herself satisfied, and
would have pressed her to her bosom with a loving word or two that
Grace would have remembered when her mother was in her grave. But such
outward forms of tenderness were not possible to Mrs. Drummond's
daughters: for in such matters we must reap as we sow; and Mrs.
Drummond's manner hardly merited softness. For there are mothers and
mothers; and the world must produce its Drummonds and its Challoners
until the end of time.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

ABOUT NOTHING PARTICULAR.


It was as well that Grace had had this talk with her brother; for,
during the two days that remained of his brief visit, they were not
alone together until the last half-hour before his departure. The
young vicar had to return for his Sunday duties; but Mattie remained
behind for another week. Archie, indeed, had once sought her in his
old fashion,--running up to the school-room for a chat; but Susie had
been there all the time. In former days, Archie would have sent her
away with blunt peremptoriness; but now he seemed well content to have
her there. He had no secrets to discuss, as he sat in his old place in
the window-seat; yet Grace was too happy to see him there to find
fault with his discourse.

But on the morning of his departure she had come down early to pour
out his coffee. He had bidden his mother good-bye in her room; but he
knew that, in spite of the earliness of the hour, Grace would be in
her place to minister to his wants.

"Well, Grace," he said, entering with his travelling-plaid over his
arm, "so it is to be good-bye until Christmas."

"Yes," she returned, looking at him with a sort of wistfulness; "but
the time will pass quickly now. It is so nice to think that we shall
begin our new year together." And, as her brother checked an
involuntary sigh, she went on eagerly: "If you knew how happy I am
about it! It will be something to wake every morning and know you are
not a hundred miles off,--that when I come down to breakfast I shall
find you there,--that I shall be able to talk to you as much as I
like; and as for work, why, it will be play to me to work for you,
Archie!"

"Of course I know that," rather mischievously.

"I would work for you like a servant: would I not, dear? I mean to be
ever so good to you. Your friends shall be my friends; your likes and
dislikes shall be mine too."

"Why, Gracie," he said, humoring her, "this is more than a wife would
do for me!"

"Ah! but it is not too much to ask from a sister," she returned,
earnestly. "When you bring home your wife, Archie, I mean to be good
to her too. I shall have to leave you then, and come back here; but if
you are happy I shall not be miserable." But he interrupted her a
little impatiently.

"What put such nonsense into your head? I shall never marry. We shall
be a pattern of old-bachelor brother and maiden sister." And then he
pushed away his plate, and went to the window. "Is it not Mrs. Carlyle
who quotes that quaint old story about some one who always thanked God
'for the blessings that passed over his or her head'? Is not that a
curious idea, when one comes to think it out? Fancy thanking heaven
really and seriously for all our disappointed hopes and plans,--for
'the blessings that go over our heads'! It would be a new clause in
our petitions,--eh, Gracie?"

"Why, yes," she replied, as she came and stood near him. "I am afraid
I could never say that from my heart."

"It is not easy," he returned, quietly; "but I do not know that we
ought to give up trying, for all that." And then his manner changed,
and he put his arm round her in his old fashion. "Recollect, I want
you very much, Grace: your coming will make me far happier. Mattie
only touches the outside of things; I want some one near me who can go
deeper than that,--who will help me with real work, and put up with my
bad humors; for I am a man who is very liable to discouragement." And
when he had said this, he bade her good-bye.

It was a comfort to Archie to find himself hard at work again. These
few days of idleness had been irksome to him. Now he could throw
himself without stint or limit into his pastoral labors, walking miles
of country road until he was weary, and planning new outlets for the
feverish activity that seemed to stimulate him to fresh efforts.

People began to talk of the young vicar. His sermons were changed
somehow. There was more in them,--"less of the husk, and more of the
kernel," as Miss Middleton once remarked rather pithily.

They were wonderfully brief discourses; but, whereas they had once
been elegant and somewhat scholarly productions, they were now earnest
and even pungent. If the sentences were less carefully compiled, more
rough-hewn, and deficient in polish, there was matter in them that
roused people and made them think.

"I never could remember Mr. Drummond's sermons before," Dulce once
observed, "but now I can recollect whole sentences quite nicely."

Phillis, to whom she spoke, assented by a nod. If she had chosen, she
could have admitted the fact that she could remember not sentences,
but the entire sermon itself. In secret she marvelled also at the
change.

"He is more earnest," she would say to herself. "He preaches now, not
from the outside, but from the inside of things,--from his own
experience, not from other people's. That makes the difference."

And to Nan, who was her other conscience, she said one day, when they
were discussing this subject,--

"I have been thinking a great deal about sermons lately. I wish I
could publish the result of my cogitation. I feel inclined to write a
pamphlet and entitle it 'Hints to the Clergy.' I think it would take
vastly."

It was Sunday afternoon, and they were sitting together on their
favorite boulder. Phillis had christened it her "thinking-stone."

"I never think to more purpose than when I am sitting here," she would
say.

Nan, who was looking out to sea rather dreamily, intent on her usual
vision, Dick, roused herself at this, and began to smile in a lofty
way.

"You think yourself very clever, Phillis, and so do I; but sermons are
hardly in your province, my dear."

Phillis shook her head gravely. She dissented from this view of the
case.

"Common sense is in every one's province," she persisted. "I am a
practical woman, and some of my hints would be valuable. Sermons are
failures, Nan. They go over people's heads like a flight of badly-shot
arrows. Does not Goulburn say that? Now and then one touches the mark.
When they are all let fly hither and thither and anyhow, the preacher
shuts up his book, and his hearers cease to yawn."

"Oh, Phillis, how absurd you are! Suppose Mr. Drummond were to hear
you?"

"I should have no objection. But, Nan, seriously, do you not notice
how formal and cut-and-dried most sermons are? They come round
regularly, like Sunday. People have to bear being preached at, and so
the unfortunate parson must hammer it out of his head somehow. He
picks out his text, writes out his composition, drags in his learning
by the ear, and delivers it in his best fashion; and people listen to
it politely, and the best behaved do not yawn."

"Phillis, you are positively irreverent! I am shocked at you!"

"On the contrary, I am very reverent. Well, in my 'Hints to the
Clergy' I would say, first, 'Never preach what you do not feel
yourself, or the current of electricity or sympathy, or whatever it is
that communicates between preacher and people, will be checked or
impeded. Do not preach out of the book: we can read that for
ourselves. Preach out of your own head and your own experience, just
as much as you can.' Bless you," continued Phillis, in a wise,
half-sad tone, "half the pulpits would be empty: we should get
sometimes no sermons at all!"

This was too much for Nan's simplicity.

"But people would be so disappointed," she observed, plaintively. "All
the middle-aged people like sermons."

"It would not hurt them to be disappointed sometimes. They would
appreciate the real thing all the more when it came. It is as well to
go without food altogether as to be fed on husks. After all, people
forget that they come to church to say their prayers all together, and
sing glorias."

"That is very nicely said, dear," was Nan's admiring comment on this.

But Phillis waved aside the praise. She was quite in earnest.

"But if I were speaking to one of these real and not make-believe
preachers, I would say to him, 'Never be discouraged. Say what you
have got to say: if you really feel it and mean it, some one will feel
it too. You can't see into people's hearts: and a good thing, too, my
friend. But "the arrow at the venture" may tell; some one may be "hit
between the joints of the armor."' There, come along; you shall have
more of my hints another time. I have said my say for the present."
And Phillis rose from the boulder, with her eyes bright and kindled by
some moving thought, and went down to the edge of the water, and
watched a sea-gull dipping towards the shore in the midst of the windy
lights; while Nan, marvelling at her sister's unusual earnestness,
followed more slowly.

The Challoners were holding up their heads in the place now. There was
no denying that. By the people at the vicarage and the White House
they were owned and regarded as equals. Mrs. Cheyne made no secret of
her affection for Phillis; and she was full of kindness also to Nan
and Dulce. It was their own fault if they declined her frequent
invitations. But there was one person who refused to hold out the hand
of amity to the eccentric new-comers.

Colonel Middleton still shook his white head, and delivered his
protest into his daughter's ear. Elizabeth, declared, laughingly,
"that the Challoner girls were to her father what a red rag is to a
bull." He never met one of them without coming home and relieving his
mind, as he called it. "My father is dying to know them," she would
say to Mr. Drummond. "He has fallen in love with them all,--mother and
daughters too; but he is denying himself an introduction for a certain
reason." But, though Archie looked curious and questioned her very
closely, she chose to be provoking and say no more. It was Colonel
Middleton who at last enlightened the young man.

They were walking from the town together. The colonel was carrying his
stick musket-wise over his shoulder, and had the vicar by the arm,
when Phillis and Dulce came out of the gateway of the White House. As
the girls passed Archie, they smiled at him and nodded, and Phillis,
in a pretty way she had, waved her hand; and then they went on rapidly
towards the Friary. As they did so, Colonel Middleton groaned, and
touched his companion's arm impressively.

"There, now, Drummond, did you ever see girls with a better
carriage?--heads up--light springy step? Why, it is a pleasure even to
an old fellow like myself to watch them. Fancy that taller one on
horseback in the Row! Why, she would cut out half the girls. And think
that one dare not notice them!" And he struck his stick into the
ground almost angrily.

Archie smiled: he could not help it. The colonel was so whimsical in
his wrath.

"They had plenty of notice from the folk at the White House," he
returned, quietly.

"Ah, Cheyne was always a bit of a Radical, and madam is no better.
They can do as they like, without being afraid of consequences. But
that is not my case." And, as Archie looked at him rather mystified,
he went on: "Bless me, you do not suppose I am afraid of knowing them
for my own sake? Elizabeth tells me that she is intimate with them.
But that is not my business, so long as she does not have them at
Brooklyn. 'We must draw the line there, Elizabeth,' I said. 'If you
choose to visit your dressmakers, it is not for me to prevent you; you
are old enough to select your own friends, so you may be as eccentric
as you like. But your brother is coming home. Young men are young men;
and I do not choose to expose Hammond to such temptation.'"

"Oh, Hammond! That is your son, I suppose?" asked Archie, who was much
amused at the colonel's earnestness.

"Yes; my boy Hammond! the finest fellow in the regiment, though I say
it, who should not. Do you think that I, his father, would expose him
to such danger as to throw him into the society of a set of
fascinating young women who have chosen to emancipate themselves from
all conventionality, and who call themselves--stuff and
rubbish!--dressmakers?"

"Not call themselves, so: they are excellent dressmakers!" was
Archie's somewhat malicious reply.

"All the more reason that my son should not know them!" thundered the
old man. "What, sir! an officer in one of her Majesty's regiments--the
son and grandson of officers,--is such a one to be mixed up with a
family that has lost caste,--to flirt with or make love to girls who
are not above making gowns for my butcher's wife? Before Hammond does
such a thing as that----" And here the colonel paused from excess of
emotion.

"You are perfectly right to defend your son from such danger,"
returned the young clergyman with covert sarcasm. "In your case I
should probably feel the same. But, in my position, being intimate
with those ladies of whom you speak, and having had good opportunity
to form my opinions of them, I cannot help saying, in their defence,
that even your son, excellent officer as he is,--and, I am sure, a
most worthy young man,--would scarcely be dishonored by an alliance
with the finest young gentlewomen I ever met!" And, as he said this,
with all due gravity, Archie released his arm, and, with a farewell
nod, went off, leaving the colonel, open-mouthed and gasping with
astonishment, at his own gate.

Elizabeth met him on the threshold.

"Oh, father, why did you not bring Mr. Drummond in!" she said,
reproachfully; "it is so long since he has paid us a visit."

"Poor Drummond!" replied the colonel, with a mournful shake of his
head: "it is just as I thought. He has almost owned it, in fact. He is
seriously smitten with one of those Challoner girls, and before long
there will be a wedding in the place."

"Now, father, this is just one of your whimsies," replied Elizabeth,
placidly. "Mr. Drummond is going to have his favorite sister, Grace,
to live with him and keep his house. He told me so himself; and that
does not look as though he expected to bring home a wife. So you may
just put this idea out of your head." But, though Elizabeth was well
aware of the truth of her words, that no new mistress was to come to
the vicarage, still her fine sympathy and unerring woman's divination
had read the meaning of the young vicar's clouded brow, and she knew
that he, too, had to try and be grateful for "the blessings that went
over his head."

Archie's grand and somewhat heroic speech failed in its effect, as far
as the colonel was concerned. Elizabeth was right in saying her father
was longing to know the Challoners. The old man's fancy had been
mightily taken by the girls; but for Hammond, for his boy's sake, he
was capable of any amount of self-denial. Once he was sorely tempted
to give in. When turning the corner of the Braidwood Road, not far
from his own house, he came suddenly upon his daughter, who was
standing on the side-path, talking to Dulce.

Dulce, who always seemed a sort of reflection and shadow of her
sisters, and who withdrew somewhat in the background, obscured a
little by Nan's beauty and Phillis's sprightliness, was nevertheless
in her way a most bewitching little maiden.

"There comes my father!" observed Elizabeth, tranquilly, never
doubting that he would join them; and Dulce looked up a little shy and
fluttered from under her broad-brimmed hat; for she had taken a fancy
to the colonel, with his white moustache and kindly inquisitive
eyes. He was a sort of hero in her fancy; and Dulce loved
heroes,--especially when they wore a medal.

Colonel Middleton saw the little girl dimpling and blushing with
pleasure, and his old heart thumped a little with excitement and the
conflict of feeling: the innocent child-look appealed to his fatherly
sympathies. There was a moment's wavering; then he lifted his white
hat, with a muttered "Good-morning," and the next minute he was
walking on with squared shoulders and tremendous energy.

Poor little Dulce's lip quivered with disappointment: she thought it
hard, when other people were so kind to them. Elizabeth said nothing;
but she bade the child good-bye with greater tenderness than usual,
and sent all sort of messages to her mother and Nan.

The colonel, meanwhile, had retreated into the house, and was opening
his papers with more than his usual fuss.

"It is for Hammond," he murmured to himself. "When one has boys, one
must do one's duty by them; but it was confoundedly hard, by Jove!"
And all the remainder of the day a pair of appealing eyes seemed to
reproach him with unkindness. But Elizabeth never said a word; it was
not her place to find fault with her father.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

"HOW DO YOU DO, AUNT CATHERINE?"


One drizzling November morning, Mattie was standing at the hall door,
looking out a little blankly through the open gateway at the prospect
before her,--at the rotting leaves that lay heaped up in the road, and
at the gray, humid sky,--when a very big man suddenly blocked up the
entrance, and startled her dreadfully.

Mattie afterwards described the occurrence very graphically to her
brother:

"He was the biggest man I ever saw in my life, Archie. He looked as
strong as a navvy; and his shoulders reminded me of one of those men
one sees in brewers' drays. And his face was so red, and his hair,
too,--that dreadfully red color, you know, that no one admires; and
his hands, and even his voice, were big."

"What a fascinating description!" laughed Archie. "Upon my word,
Mattie, you are rather tremendous in your language. Well, and what did
the navvy say to you?"

"Oh, he was not a navvy, really! Of course he was a gentleman. He
could not help his big voice, and what he said was nice; but, I assure
you, Archie, he nearly took my breath away;" and so on, and so on, to
the end of her story.

But it was enough to surprise any one whose nerves were not of the
strongest, when one lives in a lonely country road, and the master of
the house is out, to see a gigantic specimen of manhood, not very
carefully dressed, and with hair like a red glory, come suddenly
striding through one's open gate, without "by your leave," or waiting
for any possible permission.

Mattie dropped her umbrella,--for she was dressed in her waterproof,
and her oldest hat, ready for her district-work; and the stranger
picked it up, and handed it to her promptly, and then he removed his
hat politely.

"How do you do, cousin?" he said; and a broad, genial smile revealed a
set of white teeth.

Mattie retreated a step in genuine affright.

"For you know, Archie," she explained afterwards, in her simple way,
"we have no cousins worth mentioning, except Sophy Trinder, who is not
our cousin at all, but mother's; and so you see it sounded so very
odd."

"Very odd indeed," muttered Archie.

"If you please, Mr. Drummond--that is my brother--is out, and I am
going out too," faltered Mattie, who was not a specially heroic little
person, and who decidedly had not got her wits about her just then.

"I do not want Mr. Drummond, whoever he may be. I never heard of him
in my life. I only want my aunt and cousins. Which of them are you,
eh? Why, you must be Nan, I suppose?" And the big man looked down at
her with a sort of supercilious good nature. The name gave Mattie
instant enlightenment.

"Nan!--Oh, you must mean the Challoners!" she exclaimed, with a little
gasp of surprise.

"Yes, of course; I am a Challoner myself. Well, which of them are you,
eh? You are a long time telling me your name." And the new-comer
peered down at her still more curiously, as though he were surprised
to find anything so small and ordinary-looking.

Mattie never looked to advantage in her waterproof. More than once her
brother had threatened to burn the old rag of a thing.

"My name is Mattie Drummond," replied the bewildered Mattie, trying
to speak with dignity,--she never would call herself Matilda, she
hated it so,--"and I live with my brother, who is the clergyman of the
parish. This is the vicarage: if you want the Friary, it is a little
lower down the road."

"Where?" he asked, striding to the gate; and then he came back again,
taking the few steps at a single bound,--so at least it appeared to
Mattie. "Why--why--there is no house at all--only a miserable cottage,
and----"

"That is the Friary," repeated Mattie, decidedly; "but it is not
miserable at all: it is very nice and pretty. The Challoners are very
poor, you know; but their house looks beautiful for all that."

"Oh, yes; I know all about it. I have been down to that place,
Oldfield, where they lived; and what I heard has brought me here like
an express train. I say, Miss Mattie Drummond, if you will excuse
ceremony in a fellow who has never seen his father's country before,
and who has roughed it in the colonies, may I come in a moment and ask
you a few questions about my cousins?"

"Oh, by all means," returned Mattie, who was very good-natured and was
now more at her ease. "You will be very welcome, Mr. Challoner."

"Sir Henry Challoner, at your service," responded that singular
individual with a twinkle of his eye, as Mattie became confused all at
once. "You see," he continued, confidentially, as she led the way
rather awkwardly to her brother's study, hoping fervently that Archie
would come in, "I have been making up my mind to come to England for
years, but somehow I have never been able to get away; but after my
father's death--he was out in Australia with me--I was so lonely and
cut up that I thought I would take a run over to the mother-country
and hunt up my relations. He was not much of a father perhaps; but, as
one cannot have a choice in such matters, I was obliged to put up with
him;" which was perhaps the kindest speech Sir Francis's son could
make under the circumstances.

Mattie listened intelligently, but she was so slightly acquainted with
the Challoners' past history that she did not know they possessed any
relations. But she had no need to ask any questions: the new-comer
seemed determined to give a full account of himself.

"So do you see, Miss Drummond, having made my fortune by a stroke of
good luck, and not knowing quite how to spend it--the father and
mother both gone,--and having no wife or chick of my own, and being
uncommon lonely under the circumstances, I thought I would just run
over and have a look at my belongings. I have a sort of fancy for Aunt
Catherine; she used to write me such pretty letters when I was a
little chap in Calcutta, and tell me about Nan, and Phillis, and--what
was the baby's name?--Dulce. I believe she and the poor old governor
never hit it off: the old man had been a sad sinner in his day. But I
never forgot those letters: and when he was gone, poor old boy! I said
to myself, Now I will go and see Aunt Catherine."

"And you went down to Oldfield, Sir Henry?"

"Eh, what? meaning me, I suppose? but out there they called me Sir
Harry, or Harry mostly, for what was the use of a title there? Oh,
yes, I went down and found out all about them from a chatty little
woman, rather like yourself, and she sent me on here."

"Oh, dear, I am so glad!" exclaimed Mattie, who was now thoroughly
herself: "they will be so pleased to see you, and you will think them
all so charming. I am sure I never saw any one the least like them,
except Grace, and she is not half so pretty as Nan; and as for
Phillis, I admire her even more, she lights up so when she talks."

"Aunt Catherine used to be beautiful," observed Sir Harry, gravely;
for then and afterwards he insisted on that form of address. He was
not English enough or sufficiently stiff for Henry, he would say.

"Oh, dear, yes! she is quite lovely now,--at least Archie and I think
so; and Dulce is the dearest little thing. I am ever so fond of them;
if they were my own sisters I could not love them more," continued
Mattie, with a little gush; but, indeed the girls' gentle high-bred
ways had won her heart from the first.

Sir Harry's eyes positively sparkled with delight; he had pleasant
eyes which redeemed his other features, for it must be confessed he
was decidedly plain.

"I must shake hands with you, Miss Drummond," he said, stretching out
a huge hand, with a diamond ring on it that greatly impressed Mattie.
"We shall be good friends, I see that." And though poor Mattie winced
with pain under that cordial grasp, she hid it manfully.

"Did they tell you at Oldfield how poor they are?" she said, when this
ceremony had been performed, and Sir Harry's face looked more like a
sunset than ever with that benevolent glow on it.

"Oh, yes," he returned, indifferently; "but all that is over now."

"You know they have to work for their living; the girls are
dressmakers," bringing out the news rather cautiously, for fear he
should be shocked; a baronet must be sensitive on such points. But Sir
Harry only laughed.

"Well, they are plucky girls," he said, admiringly; "I like them for
that." And then he asked, a little anxiously, if his aunt sewed gowns
too,--that was how he put it,--and seemed mightily relieved to hear
that she did very little but read to the girls.

"I would not like to hear she was slaving herself at her age," he
remarked, seriously. "Work will not hurt the girls: it keeps them out
of mischief. But now I have come, we must put a stop to all this." And
then he got up and threw back his shoulders, as though he were
adjusting them to some burden; and Mattie, as she looked up at him,
thought again of the brewer's dray.

"I was afraid when he got off his chair he would touch the ceiling,"
she said, afterwards. "He quite stooped of his own accord going
through the study doorway."

When Sir Henry had shaken himself into order, and pulled an end of his
rough red moustache, he said, quite suddenly,--

"As you are a friend of the family, Miss Drummond, I think it would be
as well if you would go with me to the Friary and introduce me in due
form; for, though you would not believe it in a man of my size, I am
painfully shy, and the notion of all these girls, unless I take them
singly, is rather overwhelming." And, though this request took Mattie
a little by surprise, she saw no reason for refusing to do him this
kindness. So she assented willingly, for in her heart Mattie was fond
of a scene. It gave her such a hold on Archie's attention afterwards;
and, to do him justice, when the Challoners were on the _tapis_, he
made a splendid listener.

Sir Henry walked very fast, as though he were in a tremendous hurry;
but he was nervous, poor fellow, and, though he did not like to own as
much to a woman, he would almost have liked to run away, in spite of
his coming all those thousands of miles to see his relations. He had
pressed Mattie into the service to cover his confusion, but the little
woman herself hardly saw how she was needed, for, instead of waiting
for her introduction, or sending in his name or card by Dorothy, he
just put them both aside and stepped into the first room that stood
handy, guided by the sound of voices.

"How do you do, Aunt Catherine?" he said, walking straight up to the
terrified lady, who had never seen anything so big in her life. "I am
Harry,--Harry Challoner, you know,--to whom you used to write when I
was a little slip of a boy."

A strange queen in a hive of bees could not have produced more
confusion. Dulce stopped her sewing-machine so suddenly that her
thread broke; Phillis, who was reading aloud, let her book fall with
quite a crash; and Nan said, "Oh, dear!" and grew quite pale with
surprise and disappointment: for a moment she thought it was Dick. As
for Mrs. Challoner, who had a right to her nerves from years of
injudicious spoiling and indulgence, and would not have been without
her feelings for worlds, she just clasped her hands and murmured "Good
heavens!" in the orthodox lady-like way.

"Why, yes, Aunt Catherine, I am Harry; and I hope you have not
forgotten the existence of the poor little beggar to whom you were so
kind in the old Calcutta days." And his big voice softened
involuntarily in the presence of this dignified aunt.

"Oh, no, my dear!--no!" touched by his manner, and remembering the
boyish scrawls that used to come to her, signed "Your affectionate
nephew, Harry." "And are you indeed my nephew?--are you Harry?" And
then she held out her slim hand, which he took awkwardly enough.
"Girls, you must welcome your cousin. This is Nan, Harry, the one they
always say is like me; and this is Phillis, our clever one; and this
is my pet Dulce." And with each one did their cousin solemnly shake
hands, but without a smile; indeed, his aspect became almost
ludicrous, until he caught sight of his homely little acquaintance,
Mattie, who stood an amused spectator of this family tableau, and his
red, embarrassed face brightened a little.

"Aunt Catherine was such an awfully grand creature, you know," as he
observed to her afterwards, in a confidential aside: "her manners
make a fellow feel nowhere. And as for my cousins, a prettier lot
of girls I never saw anywhere; and of course, they are as jolly and
up to larks as other girls; but just at first, you know, I had a
bull-in-a-china-shop sort of feeling among them all."

Mrs. Challoner, in spite of her fine manners, was far too nervous
herself to notice her nephew's discomfort. She had to mention a name
that was obnoxious to her, for of course she must ask after his
father. She got him into a chair by her at length, where he stared
into his hat to avoid the bright eyes that seemed to quiz him so
unmercifully.

"And how is Sir Francis?" she asked, uttering the name with languid
interest.

"My father! Oh, did you not know, Aunt Catherine?--he died out in
Sydney a year ago. Poor old fellow! he had a terrible illness. There
was no pulling him through it."

Mrs. Challoner roused up at this:

"Your father dead! Then, Harry, you have come to the title?"

But her nephew burst into a boisterous laugh at this:

"Yes,--a title and an old ruin. A precious heritage, is it not? Not
that I care what people call me. The most important part is that
another fellow--Dalton they call him--and I made a grand hit out in
Sydney. When I saw the money flowing in, I just sent for the poor old
governor to join me; and we did not have a bad time of it, until the
gout took him off. And then I got sick of it all, and thought I would
have a look at England and hunt up my relations."

Sir Harry had blurted out this long speech as he still attentively
regarded the lining of his hat; but, happening to look up, he caught
Phillis's eyes, which were contemplating him. The mischievous look of
fun in them was not to be resisted. Sir Harry first got redder, if
possible; then his own eyes began to twinkle, and finally they both
laughed. And after that the ice was broken, and they got on famously.

The girls chattered to him like magpies. They made Mattie take off her
hat and hideous old waterproof and stay to luncheon. Nan smoothed her
hair, which was sadly ruffled, and Phillis settled her brooch and
collar.

There was only cold mutton in the larder; but what did that matter?
Dulce ran out in the garden and picked dahlias for the table; and Nan
took her mother's keys and drew from the recesses of a dim
sweet-smelling press some dainty napkins and a fine old cloth that
might have suited a princess. There was a bottle of rare Madeira that
remained from their stock of wine; and Dorothy had made a batch of
fresh dinner-rolls. Dorothy was always full of resources in an
emergency.

"Don't fash yourself, Miss Nan," she said, when her young mistress
came into the kitchen. "The cold mutton can't be helped; but we have
got angels in the larder, and I will just pop them into the oven."

Sir Harry roared with laughter when Dorothy's speech was repeated to
him. The little puddings were declared by Mattie to be delicious; but
Sir Harry could scarcely eat his for laughing.

"Who ever heard of baked angels, Aunt Catherine!" he exclaimed, after
another explosion.

"My dear, it is only a name," she returned, mildly. "Will you have
another, Harry? And, Nan, you must pass your cousin the Madeira."

They were all seated round the table in the small parlor. It was felt
to be a triumph when Sir Harry contrived to seat himself without
grazing himself seriously against the chiffonnier or knocking over a
piece of the blue-and-gold china.

"What a cosey little cabin of a place!" he said with critical
approval; "but it is rather small to hold you all,--eh, Aunt
Catherine?"

"Yes: it is small after Glen Cottage," she sighed. "We had such a
pretty drawing-room there."

"And such a lovely garden!" added Dulce.

"Oh, this crib in not fit for you? We will alter all that," he
returned, complacently. "I am the head of the family now, and I must
take my uncle's place. I am awfully rich, Aunt Catherine; so you have
only got to tell me what you and the girls want, you know." And then
he rubbed his hands as though he were pleased about something.

But no one took any notice of this speech, hardly knowing how to treat
it.

When luncheon--which was, indeed, the family dinner--was over, the
girls carried him off to the work-room, and showed him specimens of
their skill.

"Very nice; very well done," he observed, approvingly.

"I am glad you showed such pluck; for why any woman should think it
_infra dig._ to make a gown for another woman quite beats me. Why,
bless you, in the colonies we fellows turned our hands to anything!
Well, Aunt Catherine, they are plucky ones, these girls of yours. But
we must put a stop to this sort of thing, you and I. I don't think my
uncle would have liked it. And as I am in his place----" And here he
thrust aside some amber satin with his great hands, with a movement
full of suggestive possibilities.

He took them all out to walk after that. Mrs. Challoner, indeed,
begged to be excused,--the poor lady was already sadly fatigued, and
longed for her nap,--but he would not dispense with Mattie's company.

"We were acquaintances first," he said to her; "and I look upon you as
a sort of cousin too, Miss Mattie." And poor little Mattie, who had
never met with so much friendliness before, quite blushed and bridled
with pleasure.

Mr. Drummond, who was coming out of his own gate, stood as though
transfixed as the procession came towards him. The four girls were
walking all abreast, Mattie in the middle; and beside them stalked a
huge man, in rough, rather outlandish attire, looking like a son of
the Anakin, or a red-headed Goliath.

Archie stood still in the middle of the road, and Mattie rushed up to
him:

"We are going for a walk. Oh, Archie, I wish you would come too! It
would be such fun!"

"Yes; do come!" cried unconscious Nan, seconding her out of pure good
nature. "Mr. Drummond, this is our cousin, Sir Henry Challoner, who
has just come from Australia; and we have never seen him before." And
then the young clergyman shook hands with him very stiffly, and spoke
a few conventional words.

"They have not a man belonging to them," he had said to himself,
triumphantly, and then that odious Dick had turned up and now this
extraordinary-looking being who called himself Sir Henry Challoner.

Archie took down the "Peerage" when he got home, for he could not be
induced to join the merry party in their walk. He found the name there
all right,--"Henry Fortescue Challoner, son of Sir Francis Challoner,
son of Sir Henry Challoner," and so on. It was an old baronetcy,--one
of the oldest in England,--but the estates had dwindled down to a
half-ruined residence and a few fields. "Challoner Place," as it was
called, was nothing but a heap of mouldering walls; but Mattie had
whispered to him gleefully that he was "awfully rich, and the head of
the family, and unmarried; and he did not mean to let his cousins make
gowns anymore for other people, though they might do it for
themselves."

Mattie never forgot that walk. Never in her life had she enjoyed such
fun. Archie, with his grave face and prim ways, would have spoiled the
hilarity.

First Sir Henry took his cousins to the hotel, where they heard him
order his apartments and dinner: he evidently considered he had not
dined; and there was a good deal of discussion about some game that he
ordered, and a certain brand of champagne that was to his liking.

"If they make me comfortable, I may stop on a goodish bit," he
informed them, "until we have settled where my aunt would like to
live. I shall run up to London every few days, and can do all your
commissions. By the bye, I got some trinkets for you girls on my way
down; we will haul them over when I come up for the cup of coffee Aunt
Catherine promised me this evening."

"Now, Harry, we don't want presents," remarked Phillis, taking him to
task as easily as though she had known him all her life long.

In spite of his bigness, his great burly figure and plain face, there
was something very pleasant about him. He was rough and unpolished,
his dress was careless and of colonial cut; and yet one could not fail
to see he was a gentleman. His boyishness and fun would have delighted
Dick, who was of the same calibre; only Dick was far cleverer, and had
more in his little finger than this great lumbering Harry in his whole
body.

He was slow and clumsy, but his heart and intentions were excellent;
he was full of tenderness for women, and showed a touching sort of
chivalry in his intercourse with them. In some way, his manners were
far finer than those of a New Bond Street gentleman; for he could not
sneer at a woman, he believed in the goodness of the sex, in spite of
much knowledge to the contrary, he could not tell a lie, and he only
cheated himself. This was saying a good deal for the son of that very
black sheep Sir Francis; but, as Sir Harry once simply observed, "his
mother was a good woman:" if this were the case, her husband's vices
must have shortened her life, for she died young.

Phillis was glad when they turned their backs on the town: she found
her cousin's long purse a difficulty: it seemed an impossibility to
get him past the shops.

First, he was sure Aunt Catherine was fond of champagne,--all ladies
liked sweet sparkling things; but he would see about that at the hotel
presently. Then his attention was attracted by some grouse hanging up
at the poulterer's: Aunt Catherine must have some grouse, as he
remembered the cold mutton. Phillis made no objection to the grouse,
for she knew her mother's fondness for game; but she waxed indignant
when partridges and a hare were added, and still more when Sir Harry
ransacked the fruiterers for a supply of the rarest fruit the town
could afford. After this, he turned his attention to cakes and
bonbons; but here Dulce took his part, for she loved bonbons. Phillis
caught Nan by the arm, and compelled her to leave them; but Mattie
deserted her friends, and remained to watch the fun.

Dulce grew frightened at last, and tried to coax her cousin away.

"Oh, no more--no more?" she pleaded. "Phillis and Nan will be so angry
with us."

"I don't see anything more worth getting," returned her cousin,
contemptuously. "What a place this is, to be sure! Never mind, Dulce;
I am going up to London to-morrow, and I will bring you down as many
bonbons as you like from the French place in Regent Street. I will
bring Miss Mattie some too," he continued, as the girls hurried him
along. "And, Dulce, just write out a list of what you girls want; and
I will get them, as sure as my name is Harry."



CHAPTER XL.

ALCIDES.


There was quite a battle-royal on the sea-shore after that: Dulce and
Phillis pelted Laddie with bonbons; while their mother enjoyed her nap
in the snug parlor. And Dorothy, pleased, bewildered, and half
frightened at what the mistress might say, stowed away game and fruit
and confectionery in the tiny larder, and then turned her attention to
such a tea as her young ladies had not seen since the Glen Cottage
days.

Laddie raced and barked, and nearly made himself ill with the sweet
things; and Nan laughed, and then grew serious as she remembered an
afternoon in the Longmead Meadows, when Dick, in wild spirits, had
pelted her and Phillis with roses until their laps were full of the
delicious, fragrant leaves. "'Sweets to the sweet,'--so look out for
yourself, Nan!" he had said, in his half-rough, boyish way. But that
was in the days when both were very young and Dick had not learned to
make love.

Mattie joined in the game a little awkwardly,--it was so long since
the poor little woman had played at anything. Her younger sisters
never chose Mattie in their games. "She makes such mistakes, and puts
us out; and that spoils the fun," they said; and so Grace was their
favorite playfellow.

For it is perfectly true that some grown-up people have forgotten how
to play, while others are such children at heart that they can abandon
themselves most joyously and gracefully to any game, however romping;
but Mattie, who was sobered by frequent snubbing, was not one of
these. She loved fun still, in her way, but not as Phillis and Dulce,
who thought it the cream of life and would not be content with the
sort of skimmed-milk existence of other young ladies.

Sir Harry watched them admiringly, and his enthusiasm grew every
moment.

"I say, you are the right sort, and no mistake. I never met jollier
girls in my life. A fellow would not know which to choose: would he,
Miss Mattie?"

Mattie took this seriously.

"Nan is chosen:--are you not, Nan?" she said, in her downright
fashion. And then, as Sir Harry stared at this, and Nan blushed and
looked even prettier, Phillis first scolded Mattie soundly for her
bluntness, and then took upon herself to describe Dick's perfections:

"The dearest fellow in the world, Harry, when you come to know him;
but not handsome, and dreadfully young looking, some people think.
But, as Nan will not look at any one else, we must make the best of
him."

"And when are they to be married?" asked her cousin, curiously. He was
not quite pleased with this discovery.

"When?--Oh, Harry, there is an 'if' in the case," returned Phillis,
solemnly. "The dearest fellow in the world has an ogre of a father,--a
man so benighted, so narrow in his prejudices, that he thinks it
decidedly _infra dig._ for his intended daughter in-law to sew other
people's gowns. I do love that expression. Harry: it is so forcible.
So he forbids the banns."

"No, really!--Is she serious, Nan?" But Nan grew shy all at once, and
would not answer.

"I am serious, Sir Henry Challoner," replied Phillis, pompously. "The
path of true love is impeded. Poor Dick is pining in his rooms at
Oxford; and Nan--well, I am afraid her looks belie her; only you know
appearances are sometimes deceitful." And indeed Nan's pink cheeks and
air of placid contentment scarcely bore out her sister's words.

The newly found cousin sat in silent perplexity staring at them both.
Love-affairs were not much in his way; and until now he had never been
thrown much with his equals in the other sex. His rough colonial life,
full of excitement and money-getting, had engrossed his youth. He was
now a man of thirty; but in disposition, in simplicity, and in a
certain guilelessness of speech, he seemed hardly more than an
overgrown boy.

"Well, now, is it not like a book?" he said, at last, breaking the
silence quite abruptly. "It must be an awful bother for you, Nan; but
we must put a stop to all that. I am the head of the family; and I
shall have a word to say to that Mr.--what is his name?"

"Mr. Mayne," returned Nan, softly.

It was at this moment that the name of Hercules came into Phillis's
head for her cousin. What feats of strength did he mean to undertake
on their behalf? Would he strangle the hydra-headed monster of public
opinion that pronounced "women who sewed other women's gowns" were
not to be received into society? Would he help Nan gather the golden
apples of satisfied love and ambition? What was it that he meant to do
by dint of sheer force and good nature?

Harry Challoner did not long leave them in ignorance of his
intentions. In the coolest possible way he at once assumed the
headship of the family,--adopting them at once, and giving them the
benefit of his opinions on every point that could possibly be mooted.

"I had not a soul belonging to me until now," he said, looking around
on his cousins' bright faces with a glow of honest satisfaction on his
own. "It made a fellow feel precious lonely out there, I can tell
you."

"You ought to have married, Harry," suggested Dulce.

"I never thought any one would care for such a great hulking fellow,"
he returned, simply; "and then the girls over there were not to my
taste. Besides, I never thought of it; I was too busy. I am going to
take a holiday now, and look about me a little; and when you and Aunt
Catherine are settled, I may have a try myself at some one," he
finished, with a big laugh.

This notion amused the girls immensely, then and afterwards. They
began to talk of the future Lady Challoner. Nan proposed one of the
Paines. Phillis thought if Grace Drummond were only as sweet-looking
as her photograph he could hardly help falling in love with her. And
Dulce was of opinion that Adelaide Sartoris, handsome and queenly as
she was, would not consider a baronet beneath her. They confided all
these thoughts to Sir Harry, who thanked them quite gravely for their
interest and promised to consider the matter. He even wrote down the
names in his pocket-book one after another.

"Adelaide Sartoris, did you say? Ah, we had an Adelaide at Sydney, a
little, dark thing, with hair blown all over her temples, and such a
pair of mischievous eyes: that girl was always laughing at me,
somehow. And yet she seemed sorry to bid me good-bye."

"Perhaps she was in love with you?" observed Dulce. But Phillis
frowned at this. She thought they had gone too far in their jokes
already with a cousin who was such a complete stranger. But he
returned, quite gravely,--

"Well, now, you know, such a thing never came into my head. I talked
to her because a fellow likes to be amused by a lively girl like Miss
Addie. But as to thinking seriously of her--well, I could not stand
that, you know to be laughed at all one's life; eh, Miss Mattie?" And
Mattie, at this appeal, looked up with round, innocent eyes, and said,
"Certainly not," in such an impressive tone that the other girls burst
out laughing.

They all went home after that. Sir Harry escorted his cousins and
Mattie to the Friary, and then returned to his hotel to dinner. But
the girls, who were in a merry mood, would not part with Mattie. They
sent her home to put on her green silk dress, with strict orders that
she was to return as soon as possible.

"We are all going to make ourselves pretty," announced Phillis. "A
cousin does not turn up every day; and when he promises to be a good
fellow, like Harry, we cannot do him too much honor."

"Ah, I should like to come," returned Mattie. "I have had such a nice
day; and, if Archie will not mind----" And then she bustled into the
vicarage, and into her brother's study.

Archie roused himself a little wearily from his abstraction to listen
to his sister's story; but at the end of it he said good-naturedly,
for he had taught himself to be tolerant of Mattie's little
gaucheries,--

"And the long and short of it is that you want to be gadding again.
Well, run and get ready, or you will keep their tea waiting; and do
put on your collar straight, Mattie." But this slight thrust was lost
on Mattie as she delightedly withdrew. Archie sighed as he tried to
compose himself to his reading. He had not been asked to join Mattie.
For the last few weeks he had become a stranger to the cottage. Did
they notice his absence? he wondered. Did they miss the visits that
had once been so frequent? By and by he would resume his old habits of
intimacy, and go among them as he had done; but just now the effort
was too painful. He dreaded the unspoken sympathy in Phillis's eyes.
He dreaded anything like an understanding between them. Nan's perfect
unconsciousness was helpful to him; but there was something in
Phillis's manner that stirred up an old pain. For the present he was
safer and happier alone in his study, though Mattie did not think so,
and told her friends that Archie looked terribly dull.

Mrs. Challoner proposed sending for him; but Phillis, greatly to her
mother's surprise, negatived the proposition:

"Oh, no, mother; pray do not! Mattie, you must excuse me. I do not
mean to be rude, but we should all have to be so dreadfully
well-behaved if Mr. Drummond came, and I just feel myself in a
'nonsense mood,' as Dulce used to say when she was a baby." And then
they all forgot Archie, and fell to discussing the new cousin.

"He is dreadfully ugly, mammie, is he not?" observed Dulce, who had a
horror of red hair. But Mrs. Challoner demurred:

"Well, no, pet; I cannot agree with you. He is very plain, but so is
Dick; but it struck me they were both rather alike." An indignant "How
can you, mother!" from Nan. "Well, my dear," she continued, placidly,
"I do not mean really alike, for they have not a feature in common;
but they have both got the same honest, open look, only Dick's face is
more intelligent." But this hardly appeased Nan, who was heard to say
under her breath "that she thought Dick had the nicest face in the
world."

"And Sir Harry has a nice face too: has he not, Mrs. Challoner?"
exclaimed Mattie, who never could be silent in a discussion. "It takes
time to get used to such very red hair; and, of course, he is
dreadfully big,--almost too big, I should say. But when he talks he
has such a good-natured way with him; now, hasn't he?" appealing to
Nan, who looked just a little glum,--that is, glum for Nan, for she
could not do the sulks properly; she could only look dignified.

Mrs. Challoner grew a little alarmed at her daughter's demure face:
"Nan, darling, you know I am as fond of Dick as possible; but I cannot
help being pleased with my new nephew, can I? And I must say I think
Harry is very nice, in spite of his roughness." But here Phillis, who
had been unaccountably silent, suddenly struck in:

"Mother, it was a mistake mentioning Dick: the name is sacred. Nan, if
it will please you we will declare that he is beautiful as a young
Apollo."

"Don't be a goose, Phil!" from her sister. But Nan was smiling.

"As for Harry, he is a perfect hero. I expect great things from the
great man. To my imagination he is a perfect Hercules,--Heracles, son
of Zeus and Alcmene. I wonder if Harry could tell us the name of
Hercules's mother?"

"Of course not, and no one else either," retorted Dulce.

But Phillis did not heed this.

"To me he shall be the young Alcides. He has promised to fight the
Nemæan lion, in the shape of Richard Mayne the elder. By and by we
shall have him striking off the heads of the Lernean Hydra. You look
mystified, Nan. And I perceive Mattie has a perplexed countenance. I
am afraid you are deficient in heathen mythology; but I will spare
your ignorance. You will see, though, I am right----"

"But, Phillis----" broke in Dulce, eagerly. But Phillis waved her hand
majestically at the interruption:

"Mother, to be serious, I consider Harry in the light of a
providential interposition. You are always mourning that there is not
a man belonging to us. Well, now we have got one, large as life, and
larger, and a very good fellow, as you say; and we are no longer
'forlorn females.'"

"And indeed, Phillis, I am most thankful for that, my dear; for if
Harry be only as good as a brother to you----"

"He means to be more," returned Phillis, with a sage nod of her head.
"He talks in the coolest way, as though he had adopted the whole
family and meant to put a spoke into the domestic wheel. 'I must put a
stop to this,' or, 'That must be altered,' has been a frequent remark
of his. Mother, if he is dreadfully rich, as he says, does he mean to
make us rich too?"

"My dear, we have no claim on him."

"He thinks we have the strongest possible claim: does he not, Nan? You
should have heard him talk this afternoon! According to him, we were
never to sew gowns again; Nan and Dick were to be immediately united;
the Friary was to be pulled down, and a glorified Glen Cottage to be
erected in its stead. But mother,"--here Phillis's lip grew
plaintive,--"you won't desert your own girls, and be talked over even
by an Alcides? We do not mean to have our little deeds all put on the
shelf in that off-hand fashion. I shall sew gowns as long as I like,
in spite of a hundred Sir Harrys."

And then they perceived that under Phillis's fun there was a vein of
serious humor, and that, in spite of her admiration of her hero, she
was a little afraid that her notions of independence would be
wounded.

They became divided on the question. Mrs. Challoner, who had never had
a son of her own, and did not much like the idea of a son-in-law, was
disposed to regard her nephew warmly, and to accord to him at once his
privilege of being head of the family.

"In this case, a cousin is as good as a brother," she averred; and Nan
rather leaned to her opinion.

"You see," she said, in her practical way, addressing no one in
particular, but looking at Phillis, "it has been terribly against us,
having no one belonging to us of the same name; and it will really
give us a standing with some sort of people."

"Fie, Nan! what a worldly speech! You are thinking of that tiresome
Mayne _pere_ again."

"I have to think of him," returned Nan, not at all put out by this.
"Dick's father must be a person of great importance to me. He has
often hinted in my hearing that we have no relations, and that the
Challoner name will die out. I expect he will be rather taken aback at
Harry's appearance."

"Yes; and Dick will be jealous: he always is of other fellows, as he
calls them. You must score that up against Dick, please. Well, I won't
deny that Harry may make himself useful there: all I protest against
is the idea that he will bundle us out of this dear old Friary, and
make us grand, in spite of ourselves."

"Dear old Friary!--Oh, oh!" gasped Dulce; and even Nan looked mildly
surprised.

"He will not make me give up my work until I choose," continued
Phillis, who was in an obstinate mood. "It is not make-believe
play-work, I can tell him that;" but Mrs. Challoner grew tearful at
this.

"Phillis, my dear, pray hush! Indeed--indeed I cannot have you talking
as though you meant and wished to be a dressmaker all your life."

And when Phillis asked, "Why not?" just for the sake of argument,--for
in her heart she was growing heartily sick of her employment,--her
mother threw up her hands in despair:

"Oh, my dear Miss Drummond, do not believe her: Phillis is a good
girl; but she is always like that,--hard to be convinced. She does not
really mean it. She has worked harder than any of them; but she has
only done it for her mother's sake."

"Of course she does not mean it," echoed Nan, affectionately, and much
struck by a sudden yearning look on Phillis's face,--an expression of
smothered pain; but Phillis drew away from her sister's gentle grasp.

"I do mean it!" she said, almost passionately. "I am dreadfully tired
of the work sometimes, and hate it. Oh, how I hate it! But I think I
have been happy, too. I liked the excitement of the fighting, and the
novelty of the thing; it was such fun,--first shocking people, and
then winning them over in spite of themselves. One felt 'plucky,' as
Harry said. And then one's friends were so real." And her eyes fell
unconsciously on Mattie.

"Oh, yes," returned Mattie, with her usual gush: "Archie and I took to
you from the first. I must say I was surprised, knowing how fastidious
Archie was, and his notions about young ladies in general. But, dear,
he never would hear a word against you: he was even angry with Colonel
Middleton the other day because--but there! I ought not to have told
you that."

"Oh, we know all about it," returned Phillis, carelessly; but Dulce's
bright face looked a little overcast. "Son Hammond is in the case; and
we can all judge of a father's feelings by a certain example that
shall be nameless. Good gracious, mammie! there comes the Alcides
himself, and Dorothy has not cleared the tea-things! I vote we meet
him in the garden, to avert breakages." And Phillis's proposition was
carried out.

But when they were all seated in the little parlor again, and the lamp
was brought, sundry packages made their appearence, and were
delightedly unpacked by the girls, Phillis assisting with great
interest, in spite of her heroic speeches.

"One can accept gifts from a cousin," she said, afterwards.

Sir Harry had shown good taste in his purchases. The ornaments and
knick-knacks were all pretty and well chosen. The good-natured fellow
had ransacked the shops in Paris for such things as he thought would
please his unknown cousins. The bracelets, and fans, and gloves, and
laces, made Dulce almost dance with glee. The lace was for Aunt
Catherine, he said; and there were gloves for everybody,--dozens and
dozens of them. But the fans and bracelets were for the girls; and
to-morrow he would get the bonbons for Dulce. And then, as the girls
laughingly apportioned the spoil, he whispered something to Nan, at
which she nodded and smiled.

Mattie, who was carefully admiring the lace in her short-sighted way,
felt something touch her elbow, and found Nan pushing a fan and a
parcel of gloves towards her,--beautiful gloves, such as Isabel had in
her trousseau.

"Yes; take them; we have so many; and, indeed, we have no use for more
than a fan apiece. Oh, you extravagant Harry!"

Sir Harry laughed as he balanced the fan clumsily on his huge finger:

"Take it; you are very welcome, Miss Mattie. You know we are quite old
acquaintances; and, indeed, I look on you as a sort of cousin."

"Oh, dear!--thank you; you are very good, Sir Harry," cried poor
Mattie, blushing with pleasure.

Never had she spent such a day in her life,--a day wherein she had not
been once snubbed, except in that remark of Archie's about her collar,
and that did not matter.

"Poor little woman, she looks very happy!" observed Mrs. Challoner,
benevolently, as Mattie gathered up her spoils and went out of the
room, accompanied by Dulce. "She is such a good little soul, and so
amiable, that it is a pity Mr. Drummond is always finding fault with
her. It spoils him, somehow; and I am sure she bears it very well."
She spoke to Nan, for her nephew seemed engrossed with tying up
Laddie's front paw with his handkerchief.

"I am afraid, from what she says, that they all snub her at home,"
returned Nan. "It seems Grace is the favorite; but you know, mother,
Mattie is just a little tiresome and awkward at times."

"Yes; but she is very much improved. And I must say her temper is of
the sweetest; for she never bears her brother any malice." But at that
moment Mattie re-entered the room: and Sir Harry, releasing Laddie,
proceeded, as in duty bound, to escort her to the vicarage.



CHAPTER XLI.

SIR HARRY BIDES HIS TIME.


Phillis might have spared herself that little outburst to which she
had given vent on the day of her cousin's arrival. For, in spite of
the lordly way in which he had claimed his prerogative as the only
male Challoner, Sir Harry took no further steps to interfere with her
liberty: indeed, as the days and even the weeks passed away, and
nothing particular happened in them, she was even a little
disappointed.

For it is one thing to foster heroic intentions, but quite another
when one has no choice in the matter. The heroism seemed lost,
somehow, when no one took the trouble to combat her resolution.
Phillis began to tire of her work,--nay, more, to feel positive
disgust at it. The merry evenings gave her a distaste for her morning
labors, and the daylight seemed sometimes as though it would never
fade into dark, so as to give her an excuse for folding up her work.

These fits of impatience were intermittent, and she spoke of them to
no one: in other respects the new cousin brought a great deal of
brightness and pleasure into their daily life.

They all grew very fond of him. Mrs. Challoner, indeed, was soon heard
to say that she almost loved him like a son,--a speech that reached
Dick's ears by and by and made him excessively angry. "I should like
to kick that fellow," he growled, as he read the words. But then Dick
never liked interlopers. He had conceived a hatred of Mr. Drummond on
the spot. Sir Harry took up his quarters at the same hotel where Dick
and his father had spent that one dreary evening. He gave lavish
orders and excited a great deal of attention and talk by his careless
munificence. Without being positively extravagant he had a free-handed
way of spending his money: as he often said, "he liked to see things
comfortable about him." And, as his notions of comfort were somewhat
expensive, his host soon conceived a great respect for him,--all the
more that he gave himself no airs, never talked about his wealth
except to his cousins, and treated his title as though it were not of
the slightest consequence to himself or any one else; indeed, he was
decidedly modest in all matters pertaining to himself.

But, being a generous soul, he loved to give. Every few days he went
up to London, and he never returned without bringing gifts to the
Friary. Dulce, who was from the first his chief favorite, revelled in
French bonbons; hampers of wine, of choice game, or fruit from Covent
Garden, filled the tiny larder to overflowing. Silks and ribbons, and
odds and ends of female finery, were sent down from Marshall &
Snelgrove's, or Swan & Edgar's. In vain Mrs. Challoner implored him
not to spoil the girls, who had never had so many pretty things in
their lives, and hardly knew what to do with them. Sir Harry would not
deny himself this pleasure; and he came up evening after evening,
overflowing with health and spirits, to join the family circle in the
small parlor and enliven them with his stories of colonial life.

People began to talk about him. He was too big and too prominent a
figure to pass unnoticed in Hadleigh. The Challoners and their odd
ways, and their cousin the baronet who was a millionaire and
unmarried, were canvassed in many a drawing-room. "We always knew they
were not just 'nobodies,'" as one young lady observed; and another
remarked, a little scornfully, "that she supposed Sir Henry Challoner
would put a stop to all that ridiculous dressmaking now." But when
they found that Nan and Phillis went about as usual, taking orders
and fitting on dresses, their astonishment knew no bounds.

Sir Harry watched them with a secret chuckle. "He must put a stop to
all that presently," he said; but just at first it amused him to see
it all. "It was so pretty and plucky of them," he thought.

He would saunter into the work-room in the morning, and watch them for
an hour together as he sat and talked to them. After the first they
never minded him, and his presence made no difference to them. Nan
measured and cut out, and consulted Phillis in her difficulties, as
usual. Dulce sang over her sewing-machine, and Phillis went from one
to the other with a grave, intent face. Sometimes she would speak
petulantly to him, and bid him not whistle or tease Laddie: but that
was when one of her fits of impatience was on her. She was generally
gracious to him, and made him welcome.

When he was tired of sitting quiet, he would take refuge with Aunt
Catherine in her little parlor, or go into the vicarage for a chat
with Mattie and her brother: he was becoming very intimate there.
Sometimes, but not often, he would call at the White House; but,
though the Cheynes liked him, and Magdalene was amused at his
simplicity, there was not much in common between them.

He had taken a liking to Colonel Middleton and his daughter, and would
have found his way to Brooklyn over and over again, only the colonel
gave him no encouragement. They had met accidentally in the grounds of
the White House, and Mr. Cheyne had introduced them to each other; but
the colonel bore himself very stiffly on that occasion and ever after
when they met on the Parade and in the reading-room. In his heart he
was secretly attracted by Sir Harry's blunt ways and honest face; but
he was a cousin of those Challoners, and intimacy was not to be
desired: so their intercourse was limited to a brief word or two.

"Your father does not want to know me," he said once, in his outspoken
way, to Miss Middleton, when they met at the very gate of Brooklyn,
and she had asked him, with some little hesitation, if he were coming
in. "It is a pity," he added, regretfully, "for I have taken a fancy
to him: he seems a downright good sort, and we agree in politics."

Elizabeth blushed; for once her courtesy and love of truth were sadly
at variance.

"He does like you very much, Sir Harry," she said; and then she
hesitated.

"Only my cousins sew gowns," he returned, with a twinkle of amusement
in his eyes, "so he must not encourage me,--eh, Miss Middleton?--as we
are all in the same boat. Well, we must allow for prejudice. By and by
we will alter all that." And then he gave her a good-natured nod, and
sauntered away to tell his old friend Mattie all about it; for he had
a kindly feeling towards the little woman, and made her his
confidante on these occasions.

Phillis still called him Alcides, to his endless mystification: but
she privately wondered when his labors were to begin. After that first
afternoon he did not speak much of his future intentions: indeed, he
was a little reserved with the girls, considering their intimacy; but
to his aunt he was less reticent.

"Do you know, Aunt Catherine," he said one day to her, "that that old
house of yours--Glen Cottage, is it not?--will soon be in the market?
Ibbetson wants to get off the remainder of the lease."

Mrs. Challoner leaned back in her chair and put down her knitting:

"Are you sure, Harry? Then Adelaide was right: she told me in her last
letter that Mrs. Ibbetson's health was so bad that they thought of
wintering at Hyeres, and that there was some talk of giving up the
house."

"Oh, yes, it is true," he returned, carelessly; "Ibbetson told me so
himself. It is a pretty little place enough, and they have done a good
deal to it, even in a few months: they want to get off the lease, and
rid themselves of the furniture, which seems to be all new. It appears
they have had some money left to them unexpectedly; and now Mrs.
Ibbetson's health is so bad, he wants to try travelling, and thinks it
a great pity to be hampered with a house at present. I should say the
poor little woman is in a bad way, myself."

"Dear me, how sad! And they have been married so short a time,--not
more than six months. She comes of a weakly stock, I fear. I always
said she looked consumptive, poor thing! Dear little Glen Cottage! and
to think it will change hands so soon again!"

"You seem fond of it, Aunt Catherine," for her tone was full of
regret.

"My dear," she answered, seriously, "I always loved that cottage so!
The drawing-room and the garden were just to my taste; and then the
girls were so happy there."

"Would you not like a grander house to live in?" he asked, in the same
indifferent tone. "I do not think it is half good enough for you and
the girls."

Mrs. Challoner opened her eyes rather widely at this: but his voice
gave her no clue to his real meaning, and she thought it was just his
joking way with her.

"It would seem a palace after this!" she returned, with a sigh.
"Somehow, I never cared for great big houses, they are so much expense
to keep up; and when one has not a man in the house----"

"Why, you have me, Aunt Catherine!" speaking up rather briskly.

"Yes, my dear; and you are a great comfort to us all. It is so nice to
have some one to consult; and, though I would not say so to Nan for
the world, Dick is so young that I never could consult him."

"By the bye, that reminds me I must have a look at that young fellow,"
returned her nephew. "Let me see, the Oxford term is over, and he will
be home again. Suppose I run over to Oldfield--it is no distance from
town--and leave my card on Mr. Mayne senior?"

"You, Harry!" And Mrs. Challoner looked quite taken aback at the
proposition.

"Well," he remarked, candidly, "I think it is about time something was
done: Nan looks awfully serious sometimes. What is the good of being
the head of one's family, if one is not to settle an affair like that?
I don't feel inclined to put up with any more nonsense in that
quarter, I can tell you that, Aunt Catherine."

"But, Harry,"--growing visibly alarmed,--"you do not know Mr. Mayne:
he can make himself so excessively disagreeable."

"So can most men when they like."

"Yes; but not exactly in that way. I believe he is really very fond of
Dick; but he wants to order his life in his own way, and no young man
will stand that."

"No, by Jove! that is rather too strong for a fellow. I should say
Master Dick could not put up with that."

"It seems my poor Nan is not good enough for his son, just because she
had no money and has been obliged to make herself useful. Does it not
seem hard, Harry?--my beautiful Nan! And the Maynes are just nobodies:
why, Mr. Mayne's father was only a shopkeeper in a very small way, and
his wife's family was no better!"

"Well, you must not expect me to understand all that," replied her
nephew, in a puzzled tone. "In the colonies, we did not think much
about that sort of thing: it would not have done there to inquire too
narrowly into a man's antecedents. I knew capital fellows whose
fathers had been butchers, and bakers, and candlestick-makers; and,
bless me! what does it matter if the fellow is all right himself?" he
finished; for the last Challoner was a decided Radical.

But Mrs. Challoner, who was mildly obstinate in such matters, would
not yield her point:

"You would think differently if you had been educated at Eton. In
England, it is necessary to discriminate among one's acquaintances. I
find no fault with Dick: he is as nice and gentlemanly as possible;
but his father has not got his good-breeding; possibly he had not his
advantages. But it is they--the Maynes--who would be honored by an
alliance with one of my daughters." And Mrs. Challoner raised her head
and drew herself up with such queenly dignity that Sir Harry dared not
argue the point.

"Oh, yes; I see," he returned, hastily. "Well, I shall let him know
what you think. You need not be afraid I shall lower your dignity,
Aunt Catherine. I meant to be rather high and mighty myself,--that is,
if I could manage it." And he broke into one of his huge laughs.

Mrs. Challoner was very fond of her nephew; but she was not a clever
woman, and she did not always understand his hints. When they were
alone together, he was perpetually making this sort of remarks to her
in a half-serious, half-joking way, eliciting her opinions, consulting
her tastes, with a view to his future plans.

With the girls he was provokingly reticent. Phillis and Dulce used to
catechise him sometimes; but his replies were always evasive.

"Do you know, Harry," Phillis said to him once, very gravely, "I think
you are leading a dreadfully idle life? You do nothing absolutely all
day but walk to and fro between the hotel and the Friary."

"Come, now," retorted her cousin, in an injured tone, "I call that
confoundedly hard on a fellow who has come all these thousands of
miles just to cultivate his relations and enjoy a little relaxation.
Have I not worked hard enough all my life to earn a holiday now?"

"Oh, yes," she returned, provokingly, "we all know how hard you have
worked; but all the same it does not do to play at idleness too long.
You are very much improved, Harry. Your tailor has done wonders for
you; and I should not be ashamed to walk down Bond Street with you any
afternoon, though the people do stare, because you are so big. But
don't you think it is time to settle down? You might take rooms
somewhere. Lord Fitzroy knows of some capital ones in Sackville
Street; Algie Burgoyne had them."

"Well, no, thank you, Phillis: I don't think I shall go in for
rooms."

"Well, then, a house: you know you are so excessively rich, Harry,"
drawling out her words in imitation of his rather slow pronunciation.

"Oh, of course I shall take a house; but there is plenty of time for
that."

And when she pressed him somewhat eagerly to tell her in what
neighborhood he meant to live, he only shrugged his shoulders, and
remarked, carelessly, that he would have a look round at all sorts of
places by and by.

"But do you mean to take a house and live all alone?" asked Dulce.
"Won't you find it rather dull?"

"What's a fellow to do?" replied her cousin, enigmatically. "I suppose
Aunt Catherine will not undertake the care of me?--I am too big, as
you call it, for a houseful of women!"

"Well, yes; perhaps you are," she replied, contemplating him
thoughtfully. "We should not know quite what to do with you."

"I wish I could get rid of a few of my superfluous inches," he
remarked, dolorously; "for people seem to find me sadly in the way
sometimes."

But Dulce said, kindly,--

"Oh, no, Harry; we never find you in the way: do we, mammie? We should
be dreadfully dull without you now. I can hear you whistling a quarter
of a mile off, and it sounds so cheerful. If there were only a house
big enough for you next door, that would do nicely."

"Oh. I dare say I shall not be far off: shall I, Aunt Catherine?" for,
to his aunt's utter bewilderment, he had established a sort of
confidence between them, and expected her to understand all his vague
hints. "You will not speak about this to the girls; this is just
between you and me," he would say to her, when sometimes she had not a
notion what he meant.

"I don't understand you, Harry," she said, once. "Why did you stop me
just now when I was going to tell Phillis about the Ibbetsons leaving
Glen Cottage? She would have been so interested."

"You must keep that to yourself a little while, Aunt Catherine: it
will be such a surprise to the girls, you know. Did I tell you about
the new conservatory Ibbetson has built? It leads out of the
drawing-room, and improves the room wonderfully, they say."

"My dear Harry! what an expense! That is just what Mr. Mayne was
always wanting us to do; and Nan was so fond of flowers. It was just
what the room needed to make it perfect." And Mrs. Challoner folded
her hands, with a sigh at the remembrance of the house she had loved
so dearly.

"They say Gilsbank is for sale," remarked her nephew, rather suddenly,
after this.

"What! Gilsbank, where old Admiral Hawkins lived? Nan saw the
announcement of his death the other day, and she said then the place
would soon be put up for sale. Poor old man! He was a martyr to
gout."

"I had a look at it the other day," he replied, coolly. "Why, it is
not a hundred yards from your old cottage. There is a tidy bit of
land, and the house is not so bad, only it wants doing up; but the
furniture--that is for sale too--is very old-fashioned and shabby."

"Are you thinking of it for yourself?" asked his aunt, in surprise.
"Why, Gilsbank is a large place; it would never do for a single man.
You would find the rooms Phillis proposed far handier."

"Why, Aunt Catherine!" in a tone of strong remonstrance. "You don't
mean to condemn me to a life of single blessedness because of my
size?"

"Oh, Harry, of course not! My dear boy, what an idea!"

"And some one may be found in time who could put up even with red
hair."

"Oh, yes; that need not be an obstacle." But she looked at him with
vague alarm. Of whom could he be thinking?

He caught her expression, and threw back his head with one of his
merry laughs:

"Oh, no, Aunt Catherine; you need not be afraid. I am not going to
make love to one of my cousins; I know your views on the subject, and
that would not suit my book at all. I am quite on your side there."

"Surely you will tell me, my dear, if you are serious?"

"Oh, yes, when I have anything to tell; but I think I will have a good
look round first." And then, of his own accord, he changed the
subject. He was a little sparing of his hints after that, even to his
aunt.

It was shortly after this that he came into the Friary one evening and
electrified his cousins by two pieces of news. He had just called at
the vicarage, he said; but he had not gone in, for Miss Mattie had run
downstairs in a great bustle to tell him her sister Grace had just
arrived. Her brother had been down to Leeds and brought her up with
him. Phillis put down her work; her face had become suddenly rather
pale.

"Grace has come," she half whispered to herself. And then she added
aloud, "Poor Mattie will be glad, and sorry too! She will like to have
her sister with her for the New Year; but in a few weeks she will have
to pack up her own things and go home. And she was only saying the
other day that she has never been so happy in her life as she has been
here."

"Why can't she stay, then?" asked Sir Harry, rather abruptly. "I don't
hold with people making themselves miserable for nothing: that does
not belong to my creed."

"Oh, poor Mattie has not a choice in the matter," returned Nan, who
had grown very fond of her little neighbor. "Though she is thirty, she
must still do as other people bid her. They cannot both be spared from
home,--at least, I believe not,--and so her mother has recalled her."

"Oh, but that is nonsense!" replied Sir Harry, rather crossly for him.
"Girls are spared well enough when they are married. And I thought the
Drummonds were not well off. Did not Phillis tell me so?"

"They are very badly off; but then, you see, Mr. Drummond does not
want two sisters to take care of his house; and, though he tries to be
good to Mattie, he is not so fond of her as he is of his sister Grace;
and they have always planned to live together, and so poor Mattie has
to go."

"Yes, and I must say I am sorry for the poor little woman," observed
Mrs. Challoner. "There is a large family of girls and boys,--I think
Mr. Drummond told us he had seven sisters,--and Mattie seems left out
in the cold among them all: they laugh at her oddities, and quiz her
most unmercifully; even Mr. Drummond does, and Nan scolds him for it;
but he has not been so bad lately. It is rather hard that none of
them seem to want her."

"You forget Grace is very good to her, mother," broke in Phillis,
somewhat eagerly. "Mattie always says so."

"By the by, I must have a look at this paragon. Is not her name among
those in my pocket-book?" returned her cousin, wickedly. "I saw Miss
Sartoris at Oldfield that day, and she was too grand for my taste.
Why, a fellow would never dare to speak to her. I have scored that one
off the list, Phillis."

"My dears, what have you been saying to Harry?"

"Oh, nothing, mammie," returned Dulce, hastily, fearing her mother
would be shocked. "Phillis was only in her nonsense-mood; but Harry is
such a goose, and will take things seriously. I wish you would let me
have your pocket-book a moment, and I would tear out the page." But
Sir Harry returned it safely to his pocket.

"What was your other piece of news?" asked Nan, in her quiet voice,
when all this chatter had subsided.

"Oh, I had almost forgotten it myself! only Miss Middleton charged me
to tell you that 'son Hammond' has arrived by the P. and O. Steamer
the 'Cerberus,' and that she and her father were just starting for
Southampton to meet him."



CHAPTER XLII.

"COME, NOW, I CALL THAT HARD."


Phillis was unusually silent during the remainder of the evening; but,
as she bade Nan good-night at the door of her little room, she
lingered a moment, shading the flame of her candle with her hand.

"Do you think Mattie will bring her sister round to see us,
to-morrow?" she asked, in a very low tone.

"Oh, yes,--I am sure I hope so," returned Nan, sleepily, not noticing
the restrained eagerness of Phillis's manner. "We can hardly call
first, under our present circumstances. Mr. Drummond knows that." And
Phillis withdrew, as though she were satisfied with the answer.

Nothing more was said on the subject; and they settled themselves to
their work as usual on the following morning, Dulce chattering and
singing snatches of songs,--for she was a most merry little soul,--Nan
cheerful and ready for conversation with any one; but Phillis withdrew
herself to the farthest window and stitched away in grave silence.
And, seeing such was her mood, her sisters wisely forbore to disturb
her.

At twelve o'clock the gate-bell sounded, and Dulce, who hailed any
interruption as a joyful reprieve, announced delightedly that Mattie
and a tall young lady were coming up the flagged walk; and in an
instant Phillis's work lay untouched on her lap.

"Are you all here? Oh, dear, I am so glad," exclaimed Mattie, bustling
into the room with a radiant face. "I have brought Grace to see you;
she arrived last night." And in a moment the young stranger was
surrounded and welcomed most cordially.

Phillis looked at her curiously for a moment: indeed, during the whole
visit her eyes rested upon Grace's face from time to time, as though
she were studying her. She had heard so much of this girl that she had
almost feared to be disappointed in her; but every moment her interest
increased.

Grace Drummond was not a pretty girl,--with the exception of Isabel
and the boys, the Drummond family had not the slightest pretension to
beauty,--but she was fair and tranquil-looking, and her expression was
gentle and full of character. She had very soft clear eyes, with a
trace of sadness in them; but her lips were thin--like her
mother's--and closed firmly, and the chin was a little massively cut
for a woman.

In looking at the lower part of this girl's face, a keen observer
would read the tenacity of a strong will; but the eyes had the
appealing softness that one sees in some dumb creatures.

They won Phillis at once. After the first moment, her reserved manner
thawed and became gracious; and before half an hour had passed she and
Grace were talking as though they had known each other all their
lives.

Nan watched them smilingly as she chatted with Mattie: she knew her
sister was fastidious in her likings, and that she did not take to
people easily. Phillis was pleasant to all her friends and
acquaintances: but she was rarely intimate with them, as Nan and Dulce
were wont to be. She held her head a little high, as though she felt
her own superiority.

"Phillis is very amusing and clever; but one does not know her as well
as Nan and Dulce," even Carrie Paine had been heard to say; and
certainly Phillis had never talked to Carrie as she did to this
stranger.

Grace was just as must charmed on her side. On her return, she
delighted and yet pained her brother by her warm praises of his
favorites.

"Oh, Archie!" she exclaimed, as they sat at luncheon in the old
wainscoted dining-room at the vicarage, "you are quite right in saying
the Challoners are not like any other girls. They are all three so
nice and pretty; but the second one--Miss Phillis--is most to my
taste."

Archie checked an involuntary exclamation, but Mattie covered it.

"Dear me, Grace!" she observed, innocently; "I rather wonder at your
saying that. Nan is by far the prettiest: is she not, Archie? Her
complexion and coloring are perfect."

"Oh, yes! If you are talking of mere looks, I cannot dispute that,"
returned Grace, a little impatiently; "but, in my opinion, there is
far more in her sister's face: she has the beauty of expression, which
is far higher than that of form or coloring. I should say she has far
more character than either of them."

"They are none of them wanting in that," replied Archie, breaking up
his bread absently.

"No; that's just what I say: they are perfectly unlike other girls.
They are so fresh, and simple, and unconscious, that it is quite a
pleasure to be with them: but if I were to choose a friend from among
them I should certainly select Miss Phillis." And to this her brother
made no reply.

"They are all so pleased about Tuesday," interrupted Mattie, at this
point,--"Nan was so interested and amused about my grand tea-party, as
she called it. They have all promised to come, only Mrs. Challoner's
cold will not allow her to go out this severe weather. And then we met
Sir Harry, and I introduced him to Grace, and he will be delighted to
come too. I wish you would let me ask Miss Middleton and her brother,
Archie; and then we should be such a nice little party."

"How can you be so absurd, Mattie?" returned Archie, with a touch of
his old irritability. "A nice confusion you would make, if you were
left to arrange things! You know the colonel's one object in life is
to prevent his son from having any intercourse with the Challoners;
and you would ask him to meet them the first evening after his arrival
in the place."

"Is the father so narrow in his prejudices as that?" asked Grace, who
had quite forgotten her own shocked feelings when she first heard that
Archie was visiting a family of dressmakers on equal terms.

"Oh, dear! I forgot," sighed Mattie, taking her brother's blame
meekly, as usual. "How very stupid of me! But would you not like the
Cheynes or the Leslies invited, Archie? Grace ought to be introduced
to some of the best people."

"You may leave Grace to me," returned her brother, somewhat haughtily:
"I will take care of her introductions. As for your tea-party, Mattie,
I shall be much obliged if you will keep it within its first
limits,--just the Challoners and Sir Harry. If any one be asked, it
ought to be Noel Frere: he has rather a dull time of it, living alone
in lodgings,"--the Rev. Noel Frere being a college chum of Archie's,
who had come down to Hadleigh to recruit himself by a month or two of
idleness. "Perhaps we had better have him, as there will be so many
ladies."

"Oh, yes,--of course! He is so nice and clever," observed Grace, not
noticing the shade on Mattie's face. "How pleased you must be to have
him staying here so long, Archie!--you two were always such
friends."

"He comes nearly every evening," returned Mattie, disconsolately. "He
may suit you, Grace, because you are clever yourself; but I am
dreadfully afraid of him, he is so dry and sarcastic. Must he really
be asked for Tuesday, Archie?"

"Yes, indeed: you ought to have thought of him first. I am sorry for
your bad taste, Mattie, if you do not like Frere: he is a splendid
fellow, though terribly delicate, I fear. Now, Gracie, if we have
finished luncheon, I should like you to put on your wraps, and I will
show you some of my favorite haunts; and perhaps we shall meet
Frere."

Grace hesitated for a moment. She thought Archie would have included
Mattie in his invitation; but he did nothing of the kind, and she knew
him too well to suggest such a thing.

"Good-bye, Mattie dear. I hope you will have some tea ready for us
when we come back," she said, kissing her sister affectionately; but
they neither of them noticed the pained wistfulness of Mattie's look
as the door closed upon them.

They were going out without her; and on Grace's first day, too. Archie
was going to show her the church, and the schools, and the model
cottages where his favorite old women lived,--all those places that
Mattie had visited and learned to love during the eight months she had
lived with her brother. In a few weeks she must say good-bye to them
all, and go back to the dull old house at Leeds, to be scolded by her
mother for her awkward ways, and to be laughed at and teased by her
brothers and sisters. Archie was bad enough sometimes, but then he was
Archie, and had a right to his bad humors; but with the boys and girls
it was less endurable. It was, "Oh, you stupid old Matt! Of course it
was all your fault;" or, "Mattie, you goose!" from Fred; or, "You
silly child, Mattie" from her father, who found her a less amusing
companion than Grace; and even Dottie would say, "Oh, it is only
Mattie: I never care if she scolds me."

The home atmosphere was a little depressing, Mattie thought, with a
sigh, dearly as she loved her young torments. She knew she would find
it somewhat trying after these eight months of comparative freedom.
True, Archie had snubbed her and kept her in order; but one tyrant is
preferable to many. At home the thirty-years-old Mattie was only one
of the many daughters,--the old maid of the family,--the unattractive
little wall-flower who was condemned to wither unnoticed on its stalk.
Here, in her brother's vicarage, she had been a person of consequence,
whom only the master of the house presumed to snub.

The maids liked their good-natured mistress, who never found fault
with them, and who was so bustling and clever a little housekeeper.
The poor people and the school-children liked Mattie too. "Our Miss
Drummond" they called her for a long time, rather to Grace's
discomfiture. "Ah, she is a rare one, when a body is low!" as old
Goody Saunders once said.

And Archie's friends respected the little woman, in spite of her
crudities and decidedly odd ways. Miss Middleton and the Challoners
were quite fond of her. So no wonder Mattie grew low at the thought of
leaving her friends.

Grace had come to take her place. Nevertheless, she had welcomed her
on the previous evening with the utmost cheerfulness and
unselfishness. She had shown her the house; she had introduced her to
the Challoners; she had overwhelmed her with a thousand little
attentions; and Grace had not been ungrateful.

"I am afraid this is hard for you, Mattie," Grace had said to her, as
the sisters were unpacking late the previous night. "I ought not be so
happy to come, when I know I am turning you out." And Mattie had
winked away a tear, and answered, quite cheerily,--

"Oh, no, Grace; you must not feel that. I have had a nice time, and
enjoyed myself so much with dear Archie, and now it is your turn; and,
you know, he has always wanted you from the first."

"Poor dear fellow!" murmured Grace; "but he looks thin, Mattie.
Perhaps I ought to be here, as he wants me; but I shall never keep his
house as beautifully as you have done. Mother would be astonished if
she saw it." And this piece of well-deserved praise went far to
console Mattie that night.

But she began to feel just a little sore at breakfast-time. Once or
twice, Archie decidedly ignored her, and turned to Grace; he even
brought her his gloves to mend, though Mattie had been his faithful
mender all these months.

"Come into the study, and we will have a talk, Grace," he had said,
and as Grace had involuntarily waited for her sister to accompany
them, he had-added, hastily: "Oh, Mattie is always busy at this time
with butchers and bakers! Come along, Grace:" and, though Mattie had
no such business on her hands, she dared not join them.

It was only when a parish meeting called the young vicar away that
Mattie bethought herself of the Challoners.

Poor Mattie! Low spirits were not much in her line. She had never
thought enough of herself to indulge in the luxury of wounded
susceptibility,--the atmosphere that surrounded her had been too rough
and bracing for that; but nevertheless this afternoon she longed to
indulge in a good cry. Happily, however, before the first tear had
begun to redden her eyelids--indeed, she hardly got her mouth into the
proper pucker--a vigorous pull at the bell warned her of an impending
visitor, and immediately afterwards Sir Harry marched into the room,
looking ruddier than ever with the cold air and exercise, his warm
coloring kindling a glow in the room.

His heavy footsteps shook the old flooring of the vicarage; but as he
greeted Mattie he looked round him, as though somewhat surprised to
find her alone.

"How do you do, Miss Mattie? Why, what have you done with your
sister?" he asked, in rather a disappointed tone. "I came to have a
chat with you both."

Another little sting for Mattie: he had only come to see Grace.

"She has gone out with Archie," she returned, in a subdued voice. "He
is showing her the church and the schools."

"I was up at the Friary just now," he said, carelessly, "and they were
all talking about your sister, praising her up to the skies. What an
odd capacity women have for falling in love with each other at first
sight! Phillis especially seemed very far gone. So I told them I would
just come and have a good look at this paragon: one cannot judge of a
person in a hat and veil."

"I am sure you will like Grace," replied Mattie, reviving a little at
the idea of her sister's perfections. "She is not pretty, exactly,
though Archie and I think her so; but she is so nice and clever. Oh,
you should hear those two talk! it is perfectly wonderful to listen to
them!"

"It strikes me you are a little left out in the cold, aren't you, Miss
Mattie?" asked Sir Harry, with one of his shrewd good-humored looks.
"Why did you not go out with them?"

"Oh, Archie never wants me when he has Grace," answered Mattie, with a
sudden pang at the truthfulness of this speech. "They have always been
so much to each other, those two."

"He would want you fast enough if Miss Grace--is that not her
name?--were to marry and leave him to shift for himself," was the
somewhat matter-of-fact answer.

But Mattie shook her head at this with a faint smile:

"Grace will never marry. She would not leave Archie."

"Oh, but that is nonsense, do you know?--sheer nonsense! Many girls
talk like that, but they change their mind in the end. Why, the parson
may marry himself. You don't suppose a good looking fellow like that
intends to be an old bachelor? And then what will Miss Grace do?"

"I don't know. I am afraid she will miss him dreadfully."

"Oh, but she will get over it all right. It does not do to make a fuss
over that sort of thing. Sentimentality between brothers and sisters
is all very well in its way, but it won't hold against a wife's or
husband's claims. I never had any myself, so I don't know; but I find
it precious lonely without them. That is why I have adopted my
cousins. A man must care for some one."

"Yes, indeed," echoed Mattie, with a sigh.

"I am afraid your people do not use you very well, Miss Mattie," he
went on, with cheerful sympathy that was quite a cordial in its way.
"You look a bit down this afternoon; a fellow would call it in the
blues, and he would be thinking of a cigar and brandy-and-soda. What a
pity women don't smoke! it is no end soothing to the spirits!"

"We have got afternoon tea," returned Mattie, beginning to smile at
this.

"Well, why don't you ring and order some?" he replied, quite
seriously. "Do, please, Miss Mattie, if it will put a little heart
into you. Why, I should like a cup myself uncommonly. There never was
such a fellow for afternoon tea." And then Mattie did ring the bell,
and, Sir Harry having stirred the fire into a cheerful blaze, and the
little brass kettle beginning to sing cheerily on its trivet, things
soon looked more comfortable.

"Now you are all right," he remarked, presently. "You look quite a
different sort of body now. When I first came in you reminded me of
Cinderella in a brown dress, sitting all alone, by a very black fire.
I do believe you were on the verge of crying. Now, weren't you, Miss
Mattie?" And Mattie, with much shame, owned to the impeachment.

"And what was it all about, eh?" he asked, with such a coaxing
peremptoriness that Mattie confessed that she was rather dull at the
thought that nobody wanted her, and that she must go home; and, on
being further pressed and questioned, out it all came,--Mattie's
shortcomings, her stupid ways, and the provocation she offered to home
criticism. Sir Harry listened and laughed, and every now and then
threw in a jesting remark; but so encouraging was his manner and so
evident his interest that Mattie found herself talking as she had
never done to any one but Miss Middleton. Before she had finished, Sir
Harry knew all about the household in Lowder Street, and had formed a
tolerable estimate of every member of the family,--the depressed
father; the care-worn and some what stern mother; the boys, clever and
handsome and flippant; the girls in all stages of awkwardness; and the
quiet, talented Grace, who was every one's right hand, and who had
come to the vicarage to dispossess Mattie.

"Come, now, I call that hard; I do, upon my word!" he repeated more
than once at the end of Mattie's little narrative. "Women have a lot
put upon them. I dare say if I had had sisters I should have bullied
them sometimes. Men are awful tyrants, aren't they, Miss Mattie?"

Mattie took this literally.

"I do not think you would be a tyrant, Sir Harry," she returned,
simply, and then wondered why he suddenly colored up to the roots of
his hair.

"Oh, there is no knowing," he replied, in an embarrassed tone. "I have
never had any one to bully. I think I shall try my hand on Dulce, only
she is such a little spit-fire. Well, I must be going," he went on,
straightening himself. "By the bye, I shall not see you again until
Tuesday; I have to run over to Oldfield about a lot of business I have
in hand. Do you know Oldfield?"

"Oh, no; but Nan and Phillis have described it so often that I seem as
though I have been there."

"It is a niceish place, and I am half inclined to settle there myself;
there is a house going that would just suit me."

Mattie's face lengthened: she did not like the idea of losing Sir
Harry, he had been so good-natured and kind to her.

"One would never see you if you live at Oldfield," she said, a little
sorrowfully; and again Sir Harry looked embarrassed.

"Oh, but you will be at Leeds, so it won't make much difference. But I
do not want to be parted from Aunt Catherine and the girls: there is a
great deal to arrange. Perhaps, before you go, I shall be able to tell
you that things are settled. Anyhow, good-bye till Tuesday." And then
he nodded to her in a friendly way, and Mattie returned to her
fireplace refreshed and comforted.

Archie and Grace came in presently, bringing another current of cold
air with them. They both looked bright and happy, as though they had
enjoyed their walk. Grace's pale cheeks had the loveliest tinge in
them.

"Have we left you too long alone, Mattie dear?" she asked, as she took
the cup of tea offered her. "How cosy this dear old room looks! and
what a beautiful fire!"

"Sir Harry has been emptying the coal-scuttle!" laughed Mattie. "What
a pity you missed him, Grace! he has been so amusing."

Grace smiled incredulously:

"Why, that great big Sir Harry Challoner whom you introduced this
morning! my dear Mattie, I am sure he could never be amusing. I was
not greatly prepossessed with him."

"Mattie's geese are all swans. I don't think much of him myself,"
broke in Archie, in a satirical voice. "I like quality better than
quantity. He is so big, I am sure his brains must suffer by
comparison. Now, there is Frere."

"Oh, yes, we met Mr. Frere!" interrupted Grace, eagerly; "and Archie
and he had such a talk: it was delightful only to listen to it. I
liked his ideas on ecclesiastical architecture, Archie." And then
followed an animated discussion between the sister and brother, about
a book of Ruskin's that they had both been reading. Mattie tried to
follow them; but she had not read Ruskin, and they soon left her miles
behind; indeed, after the first few minutes they seemed to have
forgotten her existence; but somehow Mattie did not feel so forlorn as
usual.

"Come, now, I call that hard," a sympathizing voice seemed to say in
her ear. Sir Harry's genial presence, his blunt, kindly speeches, had
done Mattie good: he had called her Cinderella, and made the fire
blaze for her, and had coaxed her in quite a brotherly manner to tell
him her little troubles and Mattie felt very grateful to him.

So she stared into the fire wistful and happy, while the others talked
over her head, and quite started when she heard her own name.

"We are forgetting Mattie; all this must be so dull for her," Grace
was saying, as she touched her shoulder caressingly. "Come upstairs
with me, dear: we can have a chat while we get ready for dinner. You
must not let your friends make themselves so much at home, you
extravagant child, for your fire is far too large for comfort;" but
Mattie turned away from it reluctantly as she followed her sister out
of the room.



CHAPTER XLIII.

"I WILL WRITE NO SUCH LETTER."


The new year had not opened very auspiciously at Longmead, neither had
the Christmas festivities been great.

Dick on his first return home had put on a great appearance of
cheerfulness, and had carried himself much as usual; but Mr. Mayne had
been glum, decidedly glum, and Mrs. Mayne had found it difficult to
adjust the balance of her sympathy between Dick's voluble quicksilver
on the one hand, and her husband's dead weight of ill humor on the
other.

The truth was, Mr. Mayne's sharp eyes had discerned from the first
moment of his son's entrance into the house that there was no change
in his purpose.

To an outsider, Dick's behavior to his father was as nice as possible.
He still kept up his old jokes, rallying him on his matutinal
activity, and saying a word about the "early worm," "so bad for the
worm, poor beggar," observed Dick. And he sauntered after him into the
poultry-yard, and had a great deal to say about some Spanish fowls
that had been lately imported into Longmead and that were great
sources of pride to Mr. Mayne.

Dick paid a great deal of dutiful attention to his father's hobbies:
he put on his thickest boots every day after luncheon, that his father
might enjoy the long walks in which he delighted. Dick used to sally
forth whistling to his dogs when they went down Sandy Lane; he was
careful to pause where the four roads met, that Mr. Mayne might enjoy
his favorite view. In all these things Dick's behavior was perfect.
Nevertheless, on their return from one of these walks they each had a
secret grievance to pour into Mrs. Mayne's ear.

Dick's turn would come first.

"Mother," he would say, as he lounged into the room where she sat
knitting by the firelight and thinking of her boy--for just now she
was heart and soul on Dick's side--and full of yearning for the sweet
girl whom he wanted for his wife, "I don't know how long this sort of
thing is going on, but I don't think I can put up with it much
longer."

"Have you not had a nice walk with your father?" she asked,
anxiously.

"Oh, yes; the walk was well enough. We had some trouble with Vigo,
though, for he startled a pheasant in Lord Fitzroy's preserve, and
then he bolted after a hare. I had quite a difficulty in getting him
to heel."

"These walks do your father so much good, Dick."

"That is what you always say; but I do not think I can stand many more
of them. He will talk of everything but the one subject, and that he
avoids like poison. I shall have to bring him to book directly, and
then there will be no end of a row. It is not the row I mind,"
continued Dick, rather ruefully; "but I hate putting him out and
seeing him cut up rough. If he would only be sensible and give me my
way in this, there is nothing I would not do to please him. You must
talk to him; you must indeed, mother." And then Mrs. Mayne, with a
sinking heart, promised that she would do what she could.

And after that it would be her husband's turn.

"I tell you what Bessie; I am not satisfied about that boy," he
remarked, once, as he came in to warm his hands before going upstairs
to dress for dinner. "I don't know from whom he gets his
obstinacy,--not from either of us, I am sure of that,--but his
cheerfulness does not deceive me. He means mischief; I can see that
plainly."

"Oh, Richard! And Dick has been so nice to you ever since he came
home. Why, he has not once asked to have any of his friends down to
stay. And before this he was never content unless we filled the house.
He takes walks with you, and is as domesticated and quiet as possible,
so different from other young fellows, who are always racketing
about."

"That is just what bothers me," returned her husband, crossly. "You
have no discernment, Bessie, or you would know what I mean. I should
not care a straw if Dick were to cram the house with young fellows:
that sort of larking is just natural at his age. Why, he quite
pooh-poohed the idea of a dinner-party the other night, though I
planned it for his pleasure. His mind is set on other things, and that
is why I say he is up to mischief."

Mrs. Mayne sighed as she smoothed down her satin dress with her plump
white hands; but she could not gainsay the truth of this speech: his
father was right,--Dick's mind was set on other things.

"I wish you would let him talk to you," she began, timidly,
remembering her promise. "Do, my dear; for I am sure Dick is very much
in earnest."

"So am I very much in earnest," he returned, wrathfully; and his small
eyes grew bright and irritable. "No, it is no use your looking at me
in that way, Bessie. I am determined not to allow that boy to ruin
his prospects for life. He will thank me one day for being firm; and
so will you, though you do turn against your own husband."

This was too much for Mrs. Mayne's affectionate nature to bear.

"Oh, Richard, how can you talk so? and I have been a good wife to you
all these years!" And here the poor woman began to sob. "You might
make allowance for a mother's feelings; he is my boy as well as yours,
and I would cut off my right hand to make him happy; and I do--I do
think you are very hard upon him about Nan."

Mr. Mayne stared at her in speechless amazement. Bessie, his
long-suffering Bessie,--the wife of his bosom, over whom he had a
right to tyrannize,--even she had turned against him, and had taken
his son's part. "Et tu, Brute!" he could have said, in his bitterness;
but his wrath was too great.

"I tell you what," he said, rising from the seat that was no longer
restful to him, and pointing his finger at her, "you and your boy
together will be the death of me."

"Oh, Richard, how can you be so wicked?"

"Oh, I am wicked, am I? That is a nice wifely speech."

"Yes, you are, when you say such things to me!" she returned, plucking
up spirit that amazed herself afterwards. "If you do not know when you
have a good wife and son, I am sorry for you. I say again, I think you
are making a grievous mistake, Richard. Dick's heart is set on the
girl; and I don't wonder at it, a dear pretty creature like that. And
if you cross him, and set him wrong, you will have to answer to both
of us for the consequences." And then she, too, rose, trembling in
every limb, and with her comely face very much flushed. Even a worm
will turn, and Bessie Mayne had for once ventured to speak the truth
to her husband.

She had the victory that night, for he was too much dumbfounded by her
rebellion to indulge in his usual recriminations: he had never
imagined before that Bessie owned a will of her own; but he felt now,
with a pang of wounded self-love, that the younger Richard had proved
a formidable rival.

His wife's heart relented when she saw his moody looks; but he would
not be reconciled to her, in spite of her coaxing speeches.

"Come Richard,--come, my dear! you must not be so cross with me," she
said to him later on that night. "We have been married
three-and-twenty years, and have never had a serious quarrel; and I
don't like your black looks at me."

"Then you should not anger me by taking that boy's part," was his only
answer; and he could not be induced to say anything more conciliatory.
And the poor woman went to bed weeping.

Things were in this uncomfortable state, when, one morning, Dick
thrust his head into the study where his father was jotting down some
household accounts; for he managed all such minor details himself,
much to his wife's relief.

"Are you particularly busy, father?--I want to have a talk with you."

Mr. Mayne looked up quickly, and his bushy eyebrows drew together.

"Well, yes, I am, Dick,--most particularly busy just now;" for there
was a look on his son's face that made him feel disinclined for
conversation.

"Oh, very well, then; I can leave it until after luncheon," was the
cheerful response; then Mr. Mayne knew that Dick was determined to
take the bull by the horns.

They went out after luncheon, taking the dogs with them, and turning
their steps in the direction of Sandy Lane. For the first mile, Dick
said very little; he had his eye on Vigo, who seemed to be inclined to
bolt. But when they had reached the second mile-stone, he cleared his
throat; and then Mr. Mayne knew that his trouble was beginning.

"Well, father," commenced Dick, "I think it is about time we had a
little serious talk together about my future plans. Of course I want
to know if I am to go down next term."

"I don't see that we need discuss that. You will read for your degree,
of course."

Mr. Mayne spoke fast and nervously; but Dick was quite cool,--at
least, outwardly so.

"There is no 'of course' in the matter. I can only read for my degree
on one condition."

"And what is that, may I ask?" with rising choler in his voice.

"That you will have Nan down to Longmead, and that you and my mother
sanction our engagement."

"Never, sir! never!" in a vehement tone.

"Please don't excite yourself, father. I think it is I who ought to be
excited; but, you see, I am quite cool,--perfectly so. I am far too
much in earnest to be otherwise. When a man's future prospects are at
stake, and his own father seems determined to thwart him, it is time
to summon up all one's energies. I hope you are not serious in what
you say,--that you do absolutely refuse to sanction my engagement with
Nan?"

"There is no engagement. If there were, I do absolutely refuse; nay,
more, I am determined actively to oppose it."

"I am sorry to find you have not changed your mind; for it makes all
the difference to me, I assure you. Very well: then I must go in for a
City life."

"Do you threaten me, sir?"

"No, father, I would not be so undutiful; but it is a pity your
throwing all that money away on my education if I am not to complete
it. If I had taken a good degree, I might have turned out something;
but never mind,--it can't be helped now. Then you will be kind enough
to write a letter of introduction to Stansfield & Stansfield?"

"No, sir; I will write no such letter!" thundered Mr. Mayne; and Dick
put his hands in his pocket and whistled. He felt himself losing
patience; but, as he said afterwards, his father was in such an awful
rage that it was necessary for one of them to keep cool. So, as soon
as he recovered, he said, quite pleasantly,--

"Well, if you will not, you will not. We may take a horse to the
water, but we can't make him drink. And the time has not come yet for
a son to order his own father, though we are pretty well advanced
now."

"I think we are, Dick."

"I confess I am rather disappointed at not getting that letter. Mr.
Stansfield would have attached some importance to it; but I dare say I
shall get on with the old boy without it. I may as well tell you that
I shall accept anything he likes to offer me,--even if it be only a
clerkship at eighty pounds a year. After all, I am not worse off than
you were at my age. You began at the bottom of the ladder: so I need
not grumble."

"Do you mean to say," demanded his father, in a tone of grief, "that
you really intend to throw me over, and not only me, but all your
advantages, your prospects in life, for the sake of this girl?"

"I think it is you who are throwing me over," returned his son,
candidly. "Put yourself in my place. When you were a young man,
father, would you have given up my mother, if my grandfather had
wished you to do so?"

"The cases are different,--altogether different," was the angry
response. "I never would have married a dressmaker."

"There are dressmakers and dressmakers: but at least my _fiancee_ is a
gentlewoman," returned his son, hotly.

Dick meant nothing by this speech more than his words implied: he was
far too good-natured for an _arriere-pensee_. But his father chose to
consider himself insulted.

"You insolent young fellow!" he exclaimed, fuming. "Do you mean your
mother was not as good as Miss Nancy, any day? I never did believe in
those Challoners,--never, in spite of the mother's airs. I tell you
what, Dick, you are treating me shamefully; after all the money I have
wasted on you, to turn round on me in this way and talk about the
City. I wash my hands of you, sir. I will have nothing to do with
introductions: you may go your way, but you will never see a penny of
my money." And he walked on with a very black look indeed.

"All right," returned Dick. But he was not quite so cool now. "Thank
you for all you have done for me, and for letting me know your future
intentions. I am thinking it is a good thing Nan has learned her
business, for, as we shall be tolerably poor, it will be handy for her
to make her own gowns."

"Very well, Dick."

"I shall go up to Mr. Stansfield to-morrow; and the day after I
suppose I had better write to the Dean. You may not believe me,
father,"--and here Dick's lip quivered for the first time,--"but I am
awfully sorry to cross you in this way; but my heart is so set on Nan
that I could not possibly bring myself to live without her." But to
this Mr. Mayne made no reply, and they walked the remainder of the way
in silence.

Mrs. Mayne's heart grew sick with apprehension when she saw their
faces at dinner.

Dick looked decidedly cross. To do him justice, the poor fellow was
thoroughly miserable; but his aspect was cheerful compared to that of
her husband.

Mr. Mayne would not speak; neither would he eat. And even the footman,
who took away the untasted viands, looked at his master with fear and
trembling, his countenance was so gloomy.

Dick did not seem to notice his father's failure of appetite; but Mrs.
Mayne was one of those women who are given to fancy that if a man
refuse his dinner there is something serious the matter with him. And
as the meal proceeded she cast piteous looks at her son, but Dick
totally ignored them.

As soon as the servants had handed round the fruit, and had left the
room, Mr. Mayne rose from the table, leaving his claret untasted, and
shut himself into the library, first banging the door behind him, a
sound that made his wife's heart palpitate.

"Oh, Dick, what was happened to your father?" she asked, turning to
her boy for comfort. But Dick was unusually sulky, and refused to
answer.

"You had better ask him, mother, if you are anxious to know," he
replied, in a voice he very seldom used to her. "As for me, I am so
sick of the whole thing, and feel myself so badly used, that I would
rather not open my lips on the subject."

Then Mrs. Mayne sighed, for she knew Dick had one of his obstinate
fits on him, and that there would be no further word spoken by him
that night.

Poor woman! She knew it was her duty to go into the library and speak
a word of comfort to her husband. It might be that Dick had been
contumacious, and had angered his father, and it might be her task to
pour in the balm of sympathy. Even if he had been hard on her boy, she
must not forget that he was her husband.

But as she opened the door she forgot her doubts in a moment. Mr.
Mayne's face was so pale, despite its blackness, that she was moved to
instant pity.

"Oh, Richard, what is it?" she said, hurrying to him, "My dear, you
must not take it to heart in this way." And she took his forehead
between her hands and kissed it with the old tenderness she had once
felt for him, when they, too, had lived and worked for each other, and
there was no Master Dick to plague them and rule over his mother's
heart.

"Bessie, that boy will be the death of me," he groaned. But,
notwithstanding the despondency of these words, the comfort of his
wife's presence was visibly felt, and by and by he suffered her to
coax the truth from him.



CHAPTER XLIV.

MR. MAYNE ORDERS A BASIN OF GRUEL.


On the following morning Mr. Mayne did open his lips to address a word
to his son:

"I shall be obliged to you, Dick, if you will postpone your intended
visit to town, for this day at least;" for Dick had an "ABC" beside
him, and was picking out a fast train while he ate his breakfast.

"All right," replied Dick: "I can wait another four-and-twenty hours."
But though he yielded the point graciously enough, he did not look at
his father, or say anything more on the subject; and as soon as his
appetite was satisfied, he took up the "Times," and lounged into his
den. Shortly afterwards they heard him whistling to his dogs, and knew
that he would not appear until luncheon.

Mrs. Mayne wished that her husband would follow his example; but he
had put on his slippers, and showed no inclination to leave the
fireside. He read his paper and dozed a good deal, and snapped up
Bessie if she spoke to him: so, on the whole, Mrs. Mayne had rather a
dull morning. When the luncheon-bell rang, he chose to put on invalid
airs, and ordered a basin of gruel to be brought to him in the
library. Mrs. Mayne who knew he was not ill, and that his
indisposition was purely mental and imaginary, was yet wise enough to
fall in with his whim.

"Your master would like his gruel nicely flavored, James," she said to
the footman. "Please ask Mrs. Simpkins to prepare it in the way he
likes." And then she placed his favorite little table beside him, and
stirred the fire into a more cheerful blaze.

"Your father does not feel himself well enough to come in to luncheon,
Dick," she said to her son, probably for the benefit of the servant,
who was waiting to remove the covers; and Dick, for the same reason,
testified a proper amount of sympathy.

"He takes too long walks for a man of his age," he said, applying
himself vigorously to the dismemberment of a chicken. "Mother, I will
trouble you for some of that game-pie." And then he told her another
anecdote about Vigo.

After luncheon Dick again disappeared, and Mrs. Mayne, who dreaded an
afternoon's _tete-a-tete_ with her husband in his present mood, went
up to her own room, for some feminine business, or to take a nap. Mr.
Mayne, a little mollified by the gruel, which had been flavored
exactly to his liking with a _soupcon_ of rum, was just composing
himself for another doze, when he was roused by the loud pealing of
the hall bell, and the next moment the door was flung open by James,
and Sir Henry Challoner was announced.

It was a dark wintry afternoon, and the library was somewhat sombre:
the fire had died down, owing to Mr. Mayne's drowsiness. In the dim
light Sir Harry's big burly figure looked almost gigantic. Mr. Mayne,
with his little lean shoulders and sharp face, looked beside him much
as a small gray-hound would beside a mastiff.

"How do you do?" began Sir Harry, in his loud voice. "I must apologize
for my intrusion; but I think my name is well known to you, and needs
no introduction. I have often heard of Mr. Mayne, I can assure you."

"You do me too much honor," returned that gentleman, stiffly; and he
glanced at the card in his hand. There it was, "Sir Henry Challoner."
"But what the----" And here his favorite expletive rose to his lips.

"We can scarcely see each other's faces," observed Sir Harry,
cheerfully. "Will you allow me to take the liberty, though I have not
known you for seven years--and hardly for seven minutes!" And then he
seized the poker, and broke up an obstinate piece of coal.

"Actually, in my own house, and before my own eyes," as Mr. Mayne told
his wife afterwards.

"There, now! I have made a glorious blaze. These are first-rate coals.
Now we can have our talk comfortably together. You do not know me
personally; but I dare say you have heard of my father,--Sir Francis
Challoner? Poor old fellow! I am afraid too many people heard of him
in his time."

"Yes, sir: but, as it is hardly becoming of me to say to his son, I
have never heard much good of him. If I remember rightly, he did poor
Challoner a bad turn once."

"Hush, my good friend!" And Sir Harry's ruddy face looked a little
disturbed. "I thought no one but myself and Aunt Catherine knew that
story. It is rather hard on a man to have this sort of things brought
up. And the poor old governor is dead now: so, if you will permit me
to observe, bygones had better be bygones on that subject."

"Oh, by all means, Sir Harry; but you introduced the matter
yourself."

"Excuse me, Mr. Mayne," rather haughtily, "I introduced myself. I am
the son of Sir Francis. Well, if you know so much, you will understand
the sort of interest I take in my cousins and how I consider it my
duty to make up to them for what they have lost."

"Very proper, I am sure."

"As to that, duty is a pleasure. They are such awfully jolly girls,
and so uncommonly plucky, that I am as proud of them as though they
were my own sisters. Nan is so confoundedly pretty, too. I don't
wonder at your son's taste. He must be a lucky fellow who gets Nan."

"Sir!" vociferated Mr. Mayne; and Sir Harry immediately changed his
tactics:

"That is a tidy place opposite you,--Gilsbank, I mean. I have been
over there settling about the purchase. I am afraid Crauford is rather
a screw: he wanted to drive too close a bargain. But I said, 'No; you
shall have your money down, right and tight, but not a farthing over.'
And I insisted on my right to change the name if I like. I have half a
mind to call it 'Challoner Place.'"

Mr. Mayne was wide awake now; his astonishment knew no bounds.

"You are going to buy Gilsbank!"

"I have bought it," was the cool response; "and I am now in treaty for
Glen Cottage. My aunt has a fancy for her old home; and, though it is
not much of a place, it is big enough for her and the girls; and
Ibbetson has done a good deal to improve it. You look surprised, Mr.
Mayne; but I suppose a man must live somewhere!"

"Of course it is none of my business; but I thought Sir Francis was as
poor as a church mouse. Mrs. Challoner was my informant; and she
always led me to suppose so."

"She was perfectly right. The poor old man never could keep money in
his pocket: it always seemed to slip through his fingers. But that is
not my case. I have been a lucky fellow all my life. I roughed it a
bit in the colonies at first; but it did me no harm. And then we made
a splendid hit out in Sydney,--coined money, in fact. I would not like
to tell you what I made in one year: it seems blowing one's trumpet,
somehow. But I soon got sick of making it; and here I am, with a tidy
fortune,--plenty for myself, and enough to set up my aunt and the
girls comfortably without feeling the loss. And now, Mr. Mayne when
they are back at Glen Cottage, I want to know what you will do about
your son."

To do Mr Mayne justice, he was far too perplexed to answer off-hand;
in fact, he was almost rendered dumb by excessive astonishment. To
borrow his own forcible expression, used to his wife afterwards, "he
hardly knew where he was, things were so topsy-turvy."

In the old days, before Dick had produced that wonderful moustache
that was so long in growing, Mr. Mayne had been very partial to his
neighbors at Glen Cottage. It is always pleasant to a man to patronize
and befriend a pretty woman; and Mrs. Challoner was an exceedingly
pretty woman. It was quite an occupation to a busy man like the master
of Longmead to superintend their garden and give his advice on all
subjects that belong to a man's province.

But for the last year, since Dick had so greatly developed in mental
culture, his father had been growing very weary even of the name of
Challoner; it had become a habit with him to decry them on every
possible occasion. "What is in a name?" he would say, when some person
would lament the dead-and-gone glories of Challoner Place. "There is
not a soul belonging to them, except that disreputable Sir Francis;
and he is as good as a beggar."

But since Glen Cottage had given way to the Friary, and the
dressmaking scheme had been carried out, his opposition had become
perfectly frantic: he could have sworn at Dick for his senselessness,
his want of pride, his lamentable deficiency in ambition. "Never, as
long as my name is Richard Mayne, will I give in to that boy," he had
vowed inwardly.

And now there had suddenly started up, like a piece of gilded
clap-trap, this amazing man of inches, calling himself their cousin,
Sir Henry Challoner; a man who was absolutely tired of making
money,--who called Gilsbank, a far finer house than Longmead, a tidy
little place, and who could throw in Glen Cottage, that bijou
residence, as a sort of dower-house for widowed Challoners; a man who
would soon be talked about in Hadleigh, not because he was rich,--most
of the Hadleigh families were rich,--but because he was restoring an
ancient name to something of its old respectability.

Mr. Mayne was essentially a shrewd, far-sighted man. Like other
self-made men, he attached great importance to good blood. In a moment
he realized that Nan Challoner of the Friary was a very different
person from Nan Challoner of Glen Cottage, the cousin of Sir Henry
Challoner. Under the latter circumstances she would be received on
equal terms at Fitzroy Lodge and at the other houses of the
aristocracy. In marrying her, Dick would be at once on an intimate
footing with those very people who only just tolerated his father.

"Well," observed Sir Harry, after a lengthy pause, "what do you say
about the matter, eh? Though I have accumulated a pretty sum of money,
I do not pretend to be a millionaire; and of course, as I may settle
down some day and have a family of my own, I must not treat my cousins
as though they were my sisters. I think of allowing my aunt a
sufficient income during her lifetime to keep up Glen Cottage, and I
do not mind paying the girls three thousand pounds down on their
wedding-day just for pin-money; but more than that cannot be expected
of me."

"Of course not," returned Mr. Mayne; and then he hesitated. Three
thousand pounds was not much of a fortune. Why, the girl he wanted for
Dick had fifteen thousand, at least; but then Dick would not look at
her; and even three thousand was better than nothing. "I had hoped
better things for my son," he went on, stiffly. "I always meant Dick
to marry money."

"Oh, true, money is very good in its way; but then, you see, young
fellows are not always to be coerced. I believe there is a very strong
attachment between your son and my cousin Nan."

"It has cost me a great deal of vexation," replied Mr. Mayne very
testily,--all the more that his resolution was wavering. "I do not
wish to hurt your feelings, Sir Henry, but this confounded dressmaking
of theirs----" But here Sir Harry stopped him by a most extraordinary
facial contraction, which most certainly resembled a wink.

"Hush!" he exclaimed, in a very loud whisper. "It does not matter to
me, of course; but if I were you, I would not mention this little fact
to any one else. Girls are girls, and they will have their fling. A
good steady husband, that is what they want, the best of them, to
sober them when the right time comes. I mean to put a stop to this
nonsense; but after all, a little bit of larking like that with a lot
of high-spirited generous creatures, what does it matter in the long
run? You just settle things with me off-hand, and I will come to terms
with the young ladies. I am the head of the family, as they know." And
Sir Harry threw out his big chest with a sudden movement of importance
and pride. "I am the head of the family: they will be pleased to
remember that," he repeated pompously.

It was just at this moment, when victory lay within his grasp, that
Dick sauntered lazily into the room.

Dick was in an execrable humor: he was tired and worried, and his
boots were muddy. And what was the use of being still contumacious,
unless his obstinacy were to be a spectacle to men and gods,--unless
he were to flaunt his ill humor in the face of his tyrant, and make
his father's soul wretched within him? Such is youthful reasoning,
that hates to veil its feelings unobserved.

Dick had not perceived Sir Harry's card, so he stared at the intruder
a little coolly. Sir Harry returned his look with a glance of mingled
surprise and amusement.

"Is this the young gentleman in question?" he asked, in a tone that
roused Dick's ire. To tell the truth, he was a little disappointed by
Nan's choice. It was not so much Dick's want of good looks, but in Sir
Harry eyes he appeared somewhat insignificant; and then a scowl is not
always becoming to a face. Dick's bright genial expression was
wanting; he looked a little too like his father at this moment for Sir
Harry's taste.

"Do you mean me?" observed Dick, in a magnificent tone. "Is it I who
am the young gentleman in question?--Father, will you have the
goodness to introduce me to this gentleman with whom you have been
talking me over?" And Dick twirled his moustache angrily.

Mr. Mayne looked at his son's moody face, and his feelings underwent a
sudden revulsion; but before he could speak Sir Harry stepped in
nimbly before him:

"Well now, I like spirit--no one cares to be talked about behind
one's back. Supposing we shake hands, you and I, as we are to be so
nearly related. I am Nan's guardian, her next of kin,--Sir Harry
Challoner, at your service; and Nan sends her love and you are a lucky
fellow, that is what you are!" exclaimed Sir Harry, genially, as he
struck Dick a sounding blow on his shoulder. But Dick did not wince;
and, though the diamond ring cut into his hand as they exchanged that
grasp, no expression of pain crossed his face, which became all at
once quite radiant.

Sir Harry hailed the metamorphosis with delight. Here was the real
Dick emerging like a young sun-god from the clouds.

"Come, that is first-rate; I like the look of you better now," he
said, with an appreciative nod.

"Father, what does this mean?" faltered Dick.

"It means," growled Mr. Mayne, for he could not get quite amiable all
at once, though his heart was lightening in his bosom, "it means that
I am an old fool, Dick, and that you are a young one."

"No, father,--not really,--does it?" And Dick beamed still more.

"And it means that you are not to plague me any more about the City.
But there! though you have behaved so badly to me, Dick, I forgive
you. Sir Harry and I have been talking over things, and if you will
work hard for your degree your mother shall ask the girl down here,
and we will see about it, and that is all I can say at present. And so
we may as well shake hands upon it too."

But Dick did more than that; he threw his arm over his father's
shoulder with a movement that was almost caressing.

"Thank you, pater; you are a brick and no mistake!" was all the
undemonstrative Briton's tongue could say. But Mr. Mayne, as he looked
in his boy's face and felt that pressure on his shoulder, thought them
sufficiently eloquent.

"There! get along with you, and have it out with your mother," he
growled. But, in spite of his surly tone, Mr. Mayne felt an amount of
relief that astonished himself: to see Dick's face happy again, to
have no cloud between them, to know that no domestic discord would
harass his soul and render gruel necessary to his well-being, was
restoring him to his old self again. Sir Harry longed to throw back
his head and indulge in a good laugh as he witnessed this little scene
of reconciliation.

Mrs. Mayne, who was sitting somewhat sadly by her own fireside,
thinking over that day's discomfort, was quite taken aback by hearing
Dick coming upstairs in his old way--three steps at a time--and then
bursting into the room after a hasty knock at the door.

"Mother," he cried, breathlessly, "Sir Harry Challoner is in the
library--and pater wants you to come down and give them some tea--and
Sir Henry is going to stop to dinner--and the woodcock is to be
cooked--and you are to get the best room ready. But first of all--like
the dear, darling mother you are--you are to sit down and write a
letter to Nan."

But the letter was not written then; for how could Bessie keep her
husband and his guest waiting for their tea after such an urgent
message? And had she not first of all to listen to Dick's incoherent
story, which she heard better from Sir Harry afterwards, who took
great pains to explain it to the poor bewildered woman?

Mr. Mayne thought he had never seen Bessie look so handsome since the
days he courted her, as she sat smiling at the head of the table in
her velvet gown. And Sir Harry, too, was quite charmed with the soft,
comely creature.

Later on, while the two elder gentlemen were chatting confidentially
over their cigars and whisky-and-water, she did manage to write a few
lines to Nan. But it was not much of a letter; for how was she to
construct a decent sentence with that torment Dick hanging over the
back of her chair and interrupting her every moment? But Nan was not
ill pleased by the missive when she received it.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"My own dear girl," it said,--"my dearest girl,--for no daughter could
ever be so dear to me as you will be, Nan, for my boy's sake, and
because he loves you so." ("You are right there, mother!" struck in
Dick, in a tone of ecstasy.) "Everything has come right, through Sir
Henry's intercession and my Richard's goodness." ("Humph!" coughed
Dick. "Well, it is not for the like of me to contradict you.")

"You are to come to us--at once--at once,"--underlined,--"for Dick
will be going back to Oxford, so there is no time to lose; and you
have not got any good of your engagement yet." ("Only just at that
last moment," muttered her son at this.)

"My precious boy looks so happy that I could cry with joy to see him."
("Oh, shut up, mother! Nan knows all that.") "And his dear father
looks as pleased as possible, and he sends his love." ("He did indeed,
Dick," as an incredulous sound broke from his lips), "and he says
bygones are bygones. And you are on no account to feel yourself
awkward as regards him, for of course Dick's _fiancee_" ("Are you sure
that is spelt right, Dick?") "will bring her own welcome. Is not that
a sweet speech for my Richard to say? So you will come, my dear, will
you not? And I remain, just what I always was, my Nan's loving
friend,

                                                       "Bessie Mayne."

                  *       *       *       *       *

And then the letter was carefully consigned to Dick's pocket, and in
due course of time was delivered into Nan's fair hands.



CHAPTER XLV.

AN UNINVITED GUEST.


During the next few days Grace and Phillis made great strides towards
intimacy; and, as though some magnetic influence attracted each to
each, they were to be found constantly together. Neither of them was a
girl to indulge in gushing sentimentality; but Grace, whose refined
intellectual nature had hitherto met with no response except from her
brother, perceived at once Phillis's innate superiority and clear
generous temperament. For the first time she felt feminine friendship
a possibility, and hailed it as a new-found joy. Nan testified her
pleasure on more than one occasion: jealousy never found a
resting-place in a corner of her heart.

"I am so glad, Phillis," she observed, once, "that you and Grace
Drummond like each other so much. You have never found any girl equal
to you yet; and I was always too stupid to give you what you wanted."

"Oh, Nannie, as though I would change you for a dozen Grace
Drummonds!" returned Phillis, stanch as ever to her domestic creed,
that there never was and never could be such another as Nan.

"Oh, of course we shall always be the same to each other, you and I,"
returned Nan, seriously, "we are such old comrades, Phil; but then I
have Dick, and it is only fair you should have some one too;" but she
did not understand why Phillis suddenly sighed and turned away.

An amusing little incident happened to Phillis after this, which she
greatly enjoyed. Colonel Middleton's avoidance of them had long been a
sore point with her, as it was with Dulce.

"I feel almost like that wicked Haman," she said, once, in a
serio-comic voice, "and as if he were my Mordecai. I shall never think
we have achieved perfect success until I have forced him to shake
hands with me." But Nan, who cared very little about such things, only
laughed.

On Sunday morning Colonel Middleton marched up the aisle rather more
pompously than usual, and there followed him a tall, very solemn-faced
young man, with serious eyes that reminded them of Elizabeth.

"Son Hammond," whispered Phillis, who was not always as devout as she
ought to be; and Dulce tried hard to compose her dimples.

Possibly the young officer was not as solemn as his looks, for he
certainly paid more attention to the opposite pew than he did to his
prayer-book; and as he walked home with his sister, Colonel Middleton
being just then out of earshot, he questioned her rather closely on
the subject:

"Who were those girls, Elizabeth? I mean the three who were just
opposite us with their mother. Are they visitors or residents?" Then
Elizabeth told him very briefly their name and occupation.

"Good gracious!" he returned, in a thunderstruck tone; and then all at
once he burst out laughing, as though at a good joke:

"I call that a piece of splendid pluck. Do you know, I could see in a
moment there was something out of the common about them? They are all
very pretty,--at least good-looking,--and I liked their quiet style of
dress. You must introduce me to-morrow."

"My dear Hammond, I can do nothing of the kind," returned Elizabeth,
glancing round in an alarmed way. "Father has refused to have them at
Brooklyn; and it will annoy him terribly if you were to take any
notice of them." But to this Hammond turned a deaf ear, and, though he
forbore to question her any further on that occasion, he had fully
made up his mind that the introduction should take place as soon as
possible.

As it fell out, accident favored him the very next day; for, as he was
calling with his sister, at the White House, who should be announced
the next minute but the Misses Challoner,--Phillis and Dulce, who had
been bidden to afternoon tea!

Mrs. Cheyne kissed and welcomed them both. Then Captain Middleton was
introduced; and they were soon chatting merrily together, to
Elizabeth's secret amusement.

Captain Middleton made himself very agreeable to the two girls, as
Dulce observed afterwards. She had never before been so deceived in a
man's appearance,--for he was not solemn at all; and, though the
serious brown eyes certainly inspected them rather critically from
time to time, he proved himself a bright amusing companion, and fully
bore out his father's and sister's encomiums.

The Middletons were easily induced to prolong their visit. Elizabeth
felt herself a traitor to her father; but she could not refuse
Hammond's imploring glance. And so they stayed, and all took their
leave together.

Mr. Cheyne walked down to the gate with them. He had an errand in the
town; and he and Elizabeth walked behind the young people, talking
them over in a low voice.

Now, it so happened that Colonel Middleton was trudging down the
Braidwood Road; and as he neared the White House he looked up, and
there was his son walking contentedly with a Challoner girl on each
side of him, and the three were laughing merrily.

It was Dulce who saw him first.

"There comes your father!" she said; and she began to blush as she
had done on the day when he had left her at the gate of Brooklyn,
talking to Elizabeth.

Hammond proved himself quite worthy of the occasion.

"Well met, father," he called out, cheerily, "We seem all going one
way. I suppose no one needs any introduction? Of course you know my
father, Miss Challoner?"

Then the colonel threw down his arms. He had fought very bravely on
his son's behalf; but, after all his labors, his bristling defences
and skilful retreats, Hammond had of his own free will delivered
himself into the hands of the Philistines. What was the use of
guarding an empty citadel?--his treasure was already in the enemy's
grasp.

All this was written on the colonel's lugubrious face as he bowed
stiffly and walked in sorrowful silence beside them, shaking his white
head at intervals; but no one but Dulce took any notice of his sombre
mood.

Dulce was very timid by nature. She was the least outspoken of the
three, and always kept in the background, like a modest little flower
that loved the shade; but she was very soft-hearted, and had great
regard for people's feelings. And the old man's downcast looks pained
her; for how was she to know that he was secretly pleased at this
meeting?

"I hope--I wish--you did not mind knowing us so much. But it has not
been our fault this afternoon," sighed Dulce, stammering and blushing
over her words. "You will believe that, will you not, Colonel
Middleton?"

If a cannon shot had been fired into the old warrior's ear, he could
hardly have started more than he did at these childish words. He
looked round. There was the little girl, looking up at him with the
innocent eyes he remembered so well, and her mouth puckered a little
as though she wanted to cry.

This was more than any man could bear, even if he had a harder heart
than Colonel Middleton.

"My dear," he said, taking the little hand, "I have always wanted to
know you; Elizabeth will tell you that. I lost my heart to your
sisters the first day I saw them. I am sure we shall be good friends
in time, if you will forgive an old man's pride." And then he patted
her hand as though she had been an infant.

When Mr. Drummond sat down to dinner that evening, he astonished
Mattie very much by saying,--

"You can ask the Middletons, after all, for your tea-party, if you
like, Mattie. What wonderful sight do you think I saw just now? Why,
the colonel himself coming out from the Friary, and all the three
girls were round him, chattering as though they had known him all
their life; and I am pretty sure that in spite of the dark, I saw 'son
Hammond' behind him." And Mattie, glad of the permission, gave the
invitation the next day.

Mattie grew a little alarmed as the evening approached. It was her
first party and she knew Archie would be critical; but Grace proved
herself a useful ally.

In spite of her efforts to keep in the background and leave Mattie in
her position as mistress of her brother's house, she felt herself
becoming insensibly its presiding spirit.

Archie was tolerably good-natured to Mattie; but the habits of a
lifetime were too strong for him, and he still snubbed and repressed
her at intervals. Mattie felt herself of no importance now that Grace
had come: her duties were usurped before her eyes. Archie made a fresh
demand on her forbearance every day.

"Why cannot you keep to the housekeeping, and let Grace do the schools
and visitings?" he said, once. "It must come to her by and by, when
you are gone; and I want her to begin as soon as possible. It will not
do to let her think she has come too soon," implying that good taste
should lead Mattie to resign of her own account.

Poor Mattie! she had many a good cry in secret before that Tuesday.
She could hardly help feeling pained to see how all-in-all those two
were to each other, and the glad eagerness Grace threw into her work,
knowing the reward of commendation she would reap. "It must be so
strange never to be snubbed or scolded,--to do everything right,"
Mattie thought.

Grace felt very sorry for her, and petted her a good deal. The dark
little face had always a pained wistfulness on it now that touched
her. She spoke kindly of Mattie to her brother on all possible
occasions.

"I think Mattie is so generous in giving up to me as she does," she
observed, as Archie joined her in the drawing-room in expectation of
their guests. Mattie had not yet made her appearance. She had been
lighting the wax candles and trimming a refractory lamp that refused
to burn, and had just run past her brother with blackened fingers and
hot, tired face.

"Oh, yes, she is good enough," he returned, indifferently, as he
straightened a crooked candle; "but I wish she would not always be
late. She has not begun to dress, and it is the time we appointed for
the Challoners to come. Of all things I hate unpunctuality and fuss,
and Mattie is always so fussy."

Grace's conscience pricked her. "I am afraid I left her too much to
do," she said, penitently. "Phillis asked me to go for a walk with
them; but I ought not to have left her. I will go and help her now."

But Archie objected:

"No, no; let her be. You must not leave me alone to receive them. How
nice you look in that cream-colored dress, Grace! I thought it would
suit you." But, though his eyes rested on her as he spoke, he seemed
rather absent. And when the door-bell rang a moment afterwards, a
sudden flush came to his face.

It was very odd to feel that he was receiving Nan as his guest. He
had dreaded the ordeal greatly, but after the first moment it was not
so bad. Grace, who had her suspicions and watched them closely, had
them verified without doubt during the moment that followed the
Challoners' entrance; but no other eyes but hers would have read
anything amiss in the young vicar's gravely composed face.

Nan, who was looking beautiful, met him with her usual
unconsciousness: though neither of them knew it, it was this very
unconsciousness that was fast healing the wound. One cannot mourn long
after a lost dream, and there had never been any reality in it. Not
one of Nan's thoughts had ever belonged to him for a moment: his
existence, his individuality had never grazed the outer edge of her
susceptibilities. Dick had encased her from childhood in armor of
proof against all manhood. Archie felt this even as he touched her
hand, and his lips gave her welcome.

"I am so sorry your mother could not come," he said, politely. And
then he turned to Phillis, who was regarding him with an odd, dubious
look.

Archie felt the look, and his spirit rose in instant opposition.

"Do you know the Middletons are to be here, after all?" he said,
moving a little into the background, for this girl had keen vision,
and, as of old, her sympathy moved him strangely.

"Oh, then we shall be quite a party," she returned, brightly. "It
seems ages since we have been at one, and I feel disposed to enjoy
myself. The very sight of wax candles is exhilarating. I am half
afraid to touch coffee, for fear it will get into my head. And how
sweet Grace looks in that dress!"

"Your _chef-d'oeuvre_!" he replied, rather wickedly.

"Oh, yes, I recognize my handiwork," returned Phillis, nonchalantly.
"I am quite as proud of it as an artist would be of a picture. Here
comes Mattie; poor little thing! she seems tired, but she looks nice,
too."

Archie moved away after this, for the Middletons were announced; but
he thought as he left her that he had never seen her look so handsome.
Nan's beauty had so blinded him that he had hardly been aware what a
charming face Phillis really had: when she was pleased or excited she
lighted up quite radiantly.

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Mattie, fussily coming up at that moment. "I
don't know what has become of your cousin; but Captain Middleton says
all the trains have been snowed up."

"If the train he is in has been snowed up, of course we must not
expect to see him this evening," was Phillis's laughing reply. "Never
mind; I dare say we shall all survive it; though Harry is such a good
fellow, and I am immensely fond of him."

"Oh, but the tea and coffee will be spoiled. I must go and pour it out
now. Look, Grace is making signs to me."

"Shall I come and help you?" was the ready response. "What a pretty
little tea-table, Mattie, and how charmingly snug it looks in the
bay-window! The gentlemen will wait on us, of course. I like this way
better than servants handing round lukewarm cups from the kitchen: it
is not so grand, but it is cosier. Was it your arrangement, Mattie?"

"Oh, yes," returned Mattie, in a disconsolate tone, as she took her
place. "But, Phillis, are you really not anxious about your cousin? It
is so dreadful to think of him snowed up all night, with nothing to
eat and drink!"

Phillis laughed outright at this.

"My imagination will not conjure up such horrors. I believe Harry is
at this moment sitting in the hotel discussing a good dinner before a
blazing fire." And, as Mattie looked injured at this, she continued,
still more merrily: "My dear, are you such an ignoramus as to believe
that any amount of wax candles and charming women will induce an
Englishman to forego his dinner? He will come by and by; and if he
gets cold coffee, he will have his deserts." And then Mattie's anxious
face grew more cheerful.

The tea-table became the nucleus of the whole room before long. Even
Mr. Frere, a tall scholarly-looking man, with spectacles and a very
bald head, though he was still young, seemed drawn magnetically into
the circle that closed round Phillis. The girl was so natural and
sprightly, there was such buoyancy and brightness in her manner; and
yet no man could ever have taken a liberty with her, or mistaken the
source of that pure rippling fun. The light jesting tone, the
unembarrassed manner, were as free from consciousness as though there
were gray-headed dons round her. And yet, alas for Phillis! there was
not a word uttered in a certain voice that did not reach her ear
somehow; not a movement that was lost upon her, even when she chatted
and laughed with those who stood round her.

Colonel Middleton was stanch to his little favorite, and sat on the
couch between her and Grace, while Nan and Miss Middleton talked
apart. Nan watched the tea-table smilingly. She did so love to see
Phillis happy; it never occurred to her to feel herself a little
neglected, or to wonder why the grave young master of the house so
seldom addressed her: thoughts of this sort never entered Nan's head.

But she grew a little silent by and by, and began to answer Elizabeth
somewhat absently. She did not know what it meant, but a certain
strong longing took possession of her,--a sort of craving to see
Dick's face and hear his voice. It was foolish, of course; and then
she roused herself with difficulty.

"How late Harry is! I wonder if the train be really snowed up! Oh,
that must be he!" as the door-bell sounded. "Mattie will be glad; she
was so afraid the coffee would be cold." For Mattie had poured this
grievance into every one's ears.

Of course it was Sir Harry. Yes, as the door opened, there were the
broad, genial face and the massive shoulders that could only belong
to one person. And who was this young man following him,--a somewhat
insignificant young man compared to this son of Anak,--a young man
with sandy hair, with a trivial moustache, with a free, careless
expression of good-nature that seemed somehow stamped on his
features?

Nan did not speak or move in her corner; but she locked her hands
together tightly, and a most wonderful blush came to her face; for the
young man's eyes had moved quickly round the room, with an eager
expression in them, and had just rested upon her.

Nan sat immovable while Sir Harry, gave the necessary introduction in
his loud, jovial voice:

"I am sorry to be late,--I am, 'pon my honor, Miss Mattie! but it
could not be helped: could it, Mayne? Mr. Drummond, I have taken the
liberty to bring a friend with me; he is my guest at present,--Mr.
Richard Mayne. He has come down to Hadleigh to see some old
acquaintances of his."

"Dick! Oh, Dick!" the words would come out now. Miss Middleton had
judiciously vacated the corner of the couch, and Dick had boldly
placed himself there instead, after first touching Nan's trembling
hand. "What does it mean? Why have you startled me so?" she whispered,
for they were in a snug corner, and no one was near them.

"I suppose a man has a right to come and look after his own
belongings?" returned Dick, in the coolest possible manner. But his
eyes were more eloquent than his words, as usual. "How lovely you are
looking, Nan! I do believe you grow prettier every day. And are you
glad to see me?--half or a quarter as glad as I am to see you?"

"I was thinking of you," she returned, softly. "I was wondering what
you were doing, and picturing you at Longmead; and then the door
opened, and there you were, half hidden by Harry; and I thought I was
dreaming."

"Well, that was transmission of thought, don't you see?--animal
magnetism, and all that sort of thing. You thought of me because I was
thinking of you; but you did not know that only the door divided us.
Oh, Nan! isn't it awfully jolly to be together again?"

"Yes; but I don't understand it yet," she replied. "Have you come
without your father's permission, Dick? Are you sure he will not be
very angry?"

"Oh, no; the pater is all right. Sir Harry--what a brick that fellow
is!--has talked him over, and he has given his consent to our
engagement. Look here, Nan! what you have got to do is to pack up your
things, and I am to take you down to-morrow. This is a note from
mother, and you will see what she says." And Nan's gloved hand closed
eagerly upon the precious missive.

The letter could not be read just then. Nan sent Dick away after that,
though he would willingly have remained in his corner during the
remainder of the evening. He went off grumbling, to be civil to his
hostess, and Nan remained behind trying to calm herself. It was "all
right," Dick had told her. She was to go down with him the next day to
dear Longmead. Were their troubles really over? Well, she would hear
all about it to-morrow. She must wait patiently until then.

Nan did not long remain alone. Archie, who had watched this little
scene from the bay-window, suddenly took his opportunity and crossed
the room.

Nan looked up at him with a happy smile.

"You have had a surprise this evening, have you not, Miss Challoner?
Sir Harry has just been telling me all about it. You will permit me
now to offer my congratulations?"

"Most certainly, Mr. Drummond."

"I am so glad, for both your sakes, that things should be so
comfortably settled," he went on, placing himself beside her,--a
movement that mightily displeased Dick, who had conceived a dislike to
the handsome parson from the first. "A parent's opposition is always a
serious drawback in such cases; but Sir Harry tells me that Mr. Mayne
has given his full consent."

"I believe so," returned Nan, blushing a little; "but I really hardly
know any particulars. It is such a surprise to me altogether; but his
mother has written to me, and I am expected down there."

"You have my warmest wishes for your happiness," continued Archie,
gravely; and then Nan thanked him.

But here Dick interrupted them. He was still new to his _role_, and
hardly had the assurance that belongs to the engaged man, who feels
himself safely steering towards the desired haven of matrimony. It
appeared to him that on this evening he ought not to lose sight of Nan
for a moment. To see Mr. Drummond taking his place was too much for
him, and he put down his untasted coffee.

"I am afraid it is rather cold," observed Mattie, anxiously; but she
spoke to deaf ears.

Dick was already half-way to the corner. Nan received him a little
shyly; but Mr. Drummond at once took the hint.

"Oh, Dick, people will notice! you must take care," remonstrated Nan.

She was preparing one of those gentle little lectures to which she
sometimes treated him, and to which he was wont to listen with the
utmost submission; but, to her intense surprise, he turned restive.

"That was all very well when things were not settled between us,"
observed Dick, decidedly. "Now we are engaged, of course I shall
assert my rights publicly. What does it matter if people notice? They
will only think what a lucky fellow I am, and how they would like to
be in my place. Do you think I was going to remain at the other end of
the room while that parson was talking to you?" And then Nan all at
once discovered that, in spite of Dick's boyish looks and easy
temper, she had found her master,--that, like other men, he was
capable of jealousy and insisted on an entire and undivided
allegiance.

Nan was weak enough to like him all the better for this little touch
of tyranny; and, after all, though she felt it a little hard on Mr.
Drummond, who was so harmless and good-natured, the sense of this
monopoly was very sweet to her.



CHAPTER XLVI.

A NEW INVASION OF THE GOTHS.


It was the most successful evening--every one said so; but, somehow,
Mattie had not enjoyed it. She supposed she was tired; that lamp had
worried her; but, though every one had been very pleasant, and had
said nice things to her,--even that formidable Mr. Frere,--Mattie felt
something had been lacking. She had been very pleased to see Sir
Harry, and he had come up to her at once and spoken to her in his
usual genial manner; but after the first few minutes, during which he
had drunk his coffee standing beside her, she did not remember that he
had again addressed her. After that, he had made his way to Grace, and
did not stir for a long time.

Mattie had Colonel Middleton on her hands then; but her eyes would
stray to that part of the room. How pretty Grace looked in that soft
creamy dress, with the dainty lace ruffles that Archie had sent her!
Her face generally wanted color and animation, but to-night she was
quite rosy by comparison. She seemed to find Sir Harry amusing, for
she looked up at him very brightly. And then Archie joined them: he
would not be _de trop_ there, he knew. And the three talked as though
they never meant to leave off.

When Sir Harry came to take his leave, he said, a little abruptly,--

"I like that sister of yours, Miss Mattie. She is sensible for a girl;
and yet she knows how to laugh. Clever girls are generally a little
priggish, do you know? But one need not be afraid of Miss Grace." And
Mattie knew that from Sir Harry this was high praise.

"Every one likes Grace," she faltered.

"I am not surprised at that," was the ready response; and then he
shook hands and thanked her for the pleasant evening. He did not even
look at her as he spoke, Mattie remembered afterwards: he was watching
Nan, who was smiling on Dick's arm.

The young vicar stood bare-headed on the snowy door-step, as his
guests merrily trooped out together. Dick and Nan came first: Nan had
a scarlet hood over her bright hair, and Dick was grumbling over the
lightness of her cloak, and was wrapping his gray overcoat round her.

"Nonsense, Nan! I insist upon it! and you know nothing gives me cold!"
Dick was saying, in his authoritative way; and then of course Nan
yielded.

"'Oh, wert thou in the cauld blast,'" sang Phillis, mockingly, who was
following them under Captain Middleton's escort. "Don't you think
engaged people are sometimes very masterful?" She spoke, of course, to
her companion; but he had turned to warn his father and Dulce of an
awkward step, and Archie intercepted the sentence:

"Most men are masterful, Miss Challoner. You will find that out some
day for yourself." He meant nothing by this little speech, and he was
rather taken aback by the sudden hot blush that came to the girl's
face, and the almost angry light in her eyes, as she turned away from
him and ran down the slippery steps, to Captain Middleton's alarm.

"'On yonder lea, on yonder lea,'" they heard her humming gayly; and
Hammond caught the refrain, and finished it in a fine manly bass,
while Archie stood still under the wintry sky. Why had she looked like
that at him? What was there in his lightly-uttered speech to offend
her?

Grace was standing alone when he re-entered the drawing-room. Most of
the wax candles were extinguished, but the soft glow of the firelight
irradiated the farthest corner of the room.

"What a glorious fire!" he said, warming his chilly hands at it, and
then throwing himself into the easy-chair that Grace silently placed
for him. "And where is Mattie? Really, she did very well to-night."

"You must tell her to-morrow, she will be so pleased; she seems tired,
and her head aches, so I advised her to go to bed." And, though Archie
did not say openly that he approved of this sensible advice, he
implied it by the way he drew a low chair forward for Grace,--so close
beside him that she could rest her arm upon the cushioned elbow of
his.

They remained comfortably silent for along time: it was Grace who
spoke first.

"Archie," she said, rather nervously, but her eyes had a settled
purpose in them, "shall you be angry if I disobey you, dear, and speak
again on a certain subject?"

"What subject?" he asked, rather surprised by her manner. He had not a
notion to what she was referring; he did not know how during that long
silence their thoughts had been couching the same point, and that all
this time she was seeking courage to speak to him.

"I know your secret, Archie; I discovered it to-night."

"My secret!" he returned, in utter amazement. "I have no secret,
Gracie." And then, as he caught her meaning, a cloud came to his brow.
"But this is nonsense!" he continued harshly,--"pure nonsense; put it
out of your head."

"I saw it to-night," she went on, in a very low voice, undisturbed by
his evident displeasure. "She is good and sweet, and quite lovely,
Archie, and that young man is not half worthy of her; but she has no
thought but for him."

"Do you think I do not know that?" he returned, in an exasperated
tone. "Grace, I will not have you talk in this way. I am cured,--quite
cured: it was nothing but a passing folly."

"A folly that made you very unhappy, my poor Archie; but--hush! you
must not interrupt me--I am not going to talk about her."

"Oh, that is well," he returned, in a relieved tone.

"I was sorry--just a little sorry--at first, because I knew how much
it had cost you; but this evening I could have found it in my heart to
be angry with you,--yes, even with you. 'Oh, the blindness of these
men!' I thought: 'why will they trample on their own happiness?'"

"Are you speaking of me?" he asked, in a bewildered tone.

"Of whom should I be speaking?" she answered; and her voice had a
peculiar meaning in it. "You are my dear brother,--my dearest brother;
but you are no more sensible than other men."

"I suppose not," he returned, staring at her; "I suppose not."

"Many men have done what you are doing," she went on, quietly. "Many
have wanted what belonged to another, and have turned their backs upon
the blessing that might have been theirs. It is the game of
cross-purposes. Do you remember that picture, Archie,--the lovely
print you longed to buy--the two girls and the two men? There was the
pretty demure maiden in front, and at the back a girl with a far
sweeter face to my mind, watching the gloomy-looking fellow who is
regarding his divinity from afar. There was a face here to-night that
brought that second girl strongly to my mind; and I caught an
expression on it once----" Here Archie violently started.

"Hush! hush! what are you implying? Grace, you are romancing; you do
not mean this?"

"As there is a heaven above us, I do mean it, Archie."

"Then, for God's sake, not another word!" And then he rose from his
seat, and stood on the rug.

"You are not really angry with me?" she urged, frightened at his
vehemence.

"No; I am not angry. I never am angry with you, Grace, as you know;
but all the same there are some things that never should be said."
And, when he had thus gravely rebuked her speech, he kissed her
forehead, and muttering some excuse about the lateness of the hour,
left the room.

Grace crept away to her chamber a little discomfited by this rebuff,
gently as it had been given; but if she had only guessed the commotion
those few hinted words had raised in her brother's mind!

He had understood her; in one moment he had understood her. As though
by a lightning-flash of intelligence, the truth had dawned upon him;
and if an electric shock had passed through his frame and set all his
nerves tingling he could not have been more deeply shaken.

Was that what she thought, too, when she had turned away from him with
that quiet look of scorn on her face! Did she know of any possible
blessing that might have been his, only that he had turned his back
upon it, crying out childishly for a shadowy happiness? Did she mutter
to herself also, "Oh, the blindness of these men!"?

There is an old saying, greatly credited by the generality of people,
that hearts are often caught at the rebound,--that in their painful
tossings from uneven heights and depths, and that sad swinging over
uncertain abysses, some are suddenly attracted and held fast; and
there is sufficient proof to warrant the truth of this adage.

The measurements of pain are unequal: different natures hold different
capacities. A trouble that seems very real at the time, and full of
stings, may be found later on to be largely alloyed by wounded
self-love and frustrated vanity. Sound it with the plumb-line of
experience, of time, of wakening hopefulness, and it may sink fathoms,
and by and by end in nothingness, or perhaps more truly in just a
sense of salt bitterness between the teeth, as when one plunges in a
waning tide.

Not that Archie realized all this as he paced his room that night: no;
he was very strangely moved and excited. Something, he knew not what,
had again stirred the monotony of his life. He had been sick and sad
for a long time; for men are like children, and fret sometimes after
the unattainable, if their hearts be set upon it. And yet, though he
forbore to question himself too closely that night, how much of his
pain had been due to wounded vanity and crossed wilfulness!

It was long before he could sleep, for the sudden broadening of the
prospective of his future kept him wide awake and restless. It was as
though he had been straining his eyes to look down a long, gray vista,
where he saw things dimly, and that suddenly there was a low light on
the horizon,--not brilliant, not even clear; but it spoke of
approaching daybreak. By and by the path would be more plainly
visible.

There was great excitement at the Friary on the next day. They had
found it hard to get rid of Dick the previous night; but Sir Harry,
who read his aunt's tired face rightly, had carried him off almost by
sheer force, after a lengthy leave-taking with Nan in the passage.

It was only Mrs. Challoner who was tired. Poor woman! she was fairly
worn out by the violence of her conflicting feeling,--by sympathy with
Nan in her happiness, with pleasure in Dick's demonstrative joy, and
sorrow at the thought of losing her child. The girl herself was far
too much excited for sleep.

She and Phillis did all the packing for the next day, and it was not
until Dulce sleepily warned them of the lateness of the hour that they
consented to separate; and then Nan sat by the parlor fire a long time
alone, enjoying the luxury of undisturbed meditation.

But the next morning, just as they had gone into the work-room,--not
to settle to any business,--that was impossible under the present
exciting circumstances,--but just to fold up and despatch a gown that
had been finished for Mrs. Squails, while Dulce put the
finishing-touches to Mrs. Cheyne's tweed dress, Nan announced in a
glad voice that their cousin and Dick were at the gate; "and I am so
thankful we packed last night," she continued, "for Dick will not let
me have a free moment until we start."

"You should keep him in better order," observed Phillis, tersely: "if
you give him his own way so much, you will not have a will of your own
when you are married: will she, mother?" Mrs. Challoner smiled a
little feebly in answer to this: she could not remember the time when
she had had a will of her own.

Nan went out shyly to meet them; but she could not understand her
reception at all. Dick's grasp of her hand was sufficiently eloquent,
but he said nothing; and Nan thought he was trying not to laugh, for
there was a gleam of fun in his eyes, though he endeavored to look
solemn. Sir Harry's face, too, wore an expression of portentous
gravity.

"Are you all in the work-room, Nan?" he asked, in a tone as though
they were assembled at a funeral.

"Yes; mother and all," answered Nan, brightly. "What is the matter
with you both? You look dreadfully solemn."

"Because we have a little business before us," returned Sir Harry,
wrinkling his brows and frowning at Dick. "Come, Mayne, if you are
ready."

"Wait a minute, Nan. I will speak to you afterwards," observed that
young gentleman, divesting himself of his gray overcoat; and Nan, very
much puzzled, preceded them into the room.

"How do you do, Aunt Catherine? Good-morning, girls," nodded Sir
Harry; and then he looked at Dick. And what were they both doing? Were
they mad? They must have taken leave of their senses; for Dick had
raised his foot gently,--very gently,--and Mrs. Squails's red merino
gown lay in the passage. At the same moment, Sir Harry's huge hand had
closed over the tweed, and, by a dexterous thrust, had flung it as far
as the kitchen. And now Dick was bundling out the sewing-machine.

"Dick! oh, Dick!" in an alarmed voice from Dulce. And Phillis flew to
the great carved wardrobe, that Sir Harry was ransacking; while Nan
vainly strove to rescue the fashion-books that Dick was now flinging
into the fender.

"Oh, you great Goth! You stupid, ridiculous Harry!" observed Phillis,
scornfully, while the rolls of silk and satin and yards of trimming
were tossed lightly into a heap of _debris_.

Laddie was growling and choking over the buttons. Dorothy afterwards
carried away a whole shovelful of pins and hooks and eyes.

Nan sat down by her mother and folded her hands on her lap. When men
were masterful, it was time for maidens to sit still. Dulce really
looked frightened; but Phillis presently broke into a laugh.

"This is a parable of nature," she said. "Mammie, does your head ache?
Would you like to go into the next room?"

"There, we have about done!" observed Sir Harry. "The place is pretty
well clear: isn't it, Mayne?" And, as Dick nodded a cheerful assent,
he shut the door of the wardrobe, locked it, and, with much solemnity,
put the key in his pocket. "Now for my parable," he said. "Aunt
Catherine, you will excuse a bit of a spree, but one must take the
high hand with these girls. I have bundled out the whole lot of
trumpery; but, as head of this family, I am not going to stand any
more of this nonsense."

"Oh, indeed!" put in Phillis. "I hope Mrs. Squails will take her
creased gown! Dulce, the sewing-machine is right on the top of it,--a
most improving process, certainly."

"Now, Phillis, you will just shut up with your nonsense! As head of
the family, I am not going to stand any more of this sort of thing."

"What sort of thing?" asked Mrs. Challoner, timidly. "My dears, I
thought it was only fun; but I do believe your cousin is in earnest."

"I am quite in earnest, Aunt Catherine," returned Sir Harry, sitting
down beside her, and taking her hand. "I hope our bit of larking has
not been too much for you; but that fellow vowed it would be a good
joke." Here Dick's eyes twinkled. "If Mrs. Squails's gown is spoiled,
I will buy her another; but on your peril, girls, if you put a stitch
in any but your own from this day forward!"

"Please your honor, kindly," whined Phillis, dropping a courtesy, "and
what will your honor have us do?"

"Do!" and then he broke into a laugh. "Oh, I will tell you that
presently. All I know is, Nan is engaged to my friend Mayne here; and
I have promised his father, on my word as a gentleman and head of this
family, that this dressmaking humbug shall be given up."

"You had no right to give such a promise," returned Phillis, offended
at this; but Nan's hand stole into Dick's. She understood now.

"But, Harry, my dear," asked Mrs. Challoner, "what would you have them
do?"

"Oh, play tennis,--dance,--flirt, if they like! How do young ladies
generally occupy their time? Don't let us talk about such petty
details as this. I want to tell you about my new house. You all know
Gilsbank? Well, it is 'Challoner Place' now."

"You have bought it, Harry?"

"Yes; I have bought it," he returned, coolly. "And what is more, I
hope to settle down there in another month's time. How soon do you
think you will be ready to move, Aunt Catherine?"

"My dear!" in a voice of mild astonishment. But Dulce clapped her
hands: she thought she guessed his meaning. "Are we to live with you,
Harry? Do you really mean to take us with you?"

"Of course I shall take you with me; but not to Challoner Place. That
would be rather close quarters; and--and--I may make different
arrangements," rather sheepishly. "Aunt Catherine, Glen Cottage will
be all ready for you and the girls. I have settled about the
furniture; and Mrs. Mayne will have fires lighted whenever you like to
come down. Why, aunt,--dear Aunt Catherine," as he felt her thin hand
tremble in his, and the tears started to her eyes, "did you not tell
me how much you loved your old home? And do you think, when you have
no son to take care of you, that I should ever let you be far from
me?"

"Confound you!" growled Dick. "Is not a son-in-law as good as a son
any day."

But no one heard this but Nan.

Mrs. Challoner was weeping for joy, and Dulce was keeping her company;
but Phillis walked up to her cousin with a shamefaced look:

"I am sorry I called you a Goth, Harry. I ought to have remembered
Alcides. You are as good as gold. You are a dear generous fellow. And
I love you for it; and so do Nan and Dulce. And I was not a bit cross,
really; but you did look such a great goose, turning out that
wardrobe." But, though she laughed at the remembrance, the tears were
in Phillis's eyes.

Dick was nobody after this: not that he minded that. How could they
help crowding round this "big hero" of theirs who had performed such
wonders?

Gilsbank turned into Challoner Place; Glen Cottage, with its
conservatory and brand-new furniture, theirs again,--their own,--their
very own (for Sir Harry intended to buy that too as soon as possible);
Nan engaged to her dearest Dick, and all the neighborhood prepared to
welcome them back!

"If you please, Miss Phillis, Mrs. Squails desires her compliments,
and she is waiting for her dress."

We forbare to repeat Sir Harry's answer. Nevertheless, with Dick's
help, the unfortunate gown was extricated, and privately ironed by
Dorothy.

"That is a good morning's work of yours," observed Phillis, quietly
looking down at the heap at her feet. "Dorothy, it seems Sir Harry is
master here. If any more orders come for us, you may as well say, 'The
Misses Challoner have given up business.'"



CHAPTER XLVII.

"IT WAS SO GOOD OF YOU TO ASK ME HERE."


Mrs. Challoner heaved a gentle little sigh when in the afternoon the
fly carried off Nan and Dick to the station: it brought to her mind
another day that would come far too soon. Phillis spoke out this
thought boldly as she ran back to the cottage.

"I wanted to throw an old shoe for luck, mammie," she said, laughing,
"only I knew Nan would be so dreadfully shocked. How happy they
looked! And Dick was making such a fuss over her, bringing out his
plaid to wrap her in. Certainly he is much improved, and looks five
years older."

Perhaps Dick shared Mrs. Challoner's thought too, for an expression of
deep gravity crossed his face as he sat down by Nan,--a look that was
tender, and yet wistful, as he took her hand.

"Oh, Nan! it does seem so nice to have you all to myself for a
little,--just you and I, alone, and all the rest of the world outside
somewhere! Do you know it is possible to be almost too happy!" And
Dick sighed from the very fulness of content.

Nan gave a merry little laugh at this.

"Oh, no: to me it seems only natural to be happy. When things were at
their worst I knew that they would come right some day; and I could
not be quite miserable, even then. It was hard, of course; but when
one is young, one ought not to mind a little waiting. And we have not
waited long, have we, dear?" But to this Dick demurred.

"It was the longest term I ever passed," he returned, seriously. "When
a fellow is in that sort of unsettled state, one cannot measure time
in the ordinary way. Well, the ordeal is over, thank heaven!" And then
he paused, and continued, a little thoughtfully: "What I have to do
now is to work hard and do my best to deserve you. I shall never be
worthy of you, Nan; I know that."

"I think you quite worthy of me," she answered, softly, and now there
were tears in her eyes.

"Oh, no; no fellow could be that," he replied, decidedly. "I am well
enough in my way, and compared with other men I am not so bad,"
continued Dick, who had a sufficiently good opinion of his own merits,
in spite of the humility of his speech; "but as to coming up to you,
Nan, by a long way, why, the thing is impossible! But I tell you this,
it helps a fellow to keep right and steady when he believes in the
goodness of the girl belonging to him."

"You must not make me vain," she half whispered, and her lips trembled
a little at his praise. But he disregarded this remonstrance, and went
on:

"You have kept me right all my life. How could I ever do a mean or a
shabby action to make you ashamed of me? When I was tempted once or
twice,--for idle young fellows will be tempted,--I used to say to
myself, No, Nan would not approve if she knew it. And I held tight to
this thought, and I am glad now that I can look in your dear face and
tell you this. It makes me feel so happy." And indeed Dick's face was
radiant.

They were almost sorry when the journey was over; they had so much to
say to each other. The wintry landscape was growing gray and
indistinct as they reached their destination, and, though Nan peered
anxiously into the darkness for a glimpse of each well-remembered
spot, she could only just discern the dim outline of Glen Cottage
before the carriage turned in at the gates of Longmead.

Mr. Mayne had determined to pay his intended daughter-in-law all
becoming honors, and as soon as the carriage wheels were heard he had
the hall door thrown back to show the bright, welcoming light, and he
himself descended the flight of steps to the terrace. "Just as though
I were a royal personage," laughed Nan. But she was a little nattered
by the compliment.

Most girls would have felt the awkwardness of the situation, but not
Nan. The moment Dick assisted her out of the carriage she walked up to
his father, and put up her face to be kissed in the most natural way.
"It was so good of you to ask me here; and I am so glad to come," she
said, simply.

"There, there! run in out of the cold," was all his answer; and he
patted her hand a little awkwardly. But, though his voice had its
usual gruffness, his manner was otherwise kind. "How are you, Dick? I
hope Roper did not keep you waiting at the station, for you are a
quarter of an hour behind your time." And then he took his son's arm
and walked up the steps again.

Nan, meanwhile, had run through the hall and into the warm,
softly-lighted drawing-room, and there she soon found herself in Mrs.
Mayne's motherly arms. When the gentlemen came in they interrupted
quite a little scene, for Mrs. Mayne was actually crying over the
girl, and Nan was kissing her.

"Don't you think you had better stop that sort of thing, Bessie,"
observed her husband, drily, "and get Nan a cup of tea? You would like
some tea, my dear, would you not?" in a more gracious voice.

Of course Nan said she would like some, just to show her appreciation
of his thoughtfulness; and then Dick said he should like some too, and
his father quizzed him a little as he rang the bell. And as Mrs. Mayne
obediently dried her eyes at her husband's behest, they were soon very
happy and comfortable. When Nan's cup was empty, Dick darted to take
it, that it might be replenished; but his father was before him.

All that evening Mr. Mayne waited on Nan, quite ignoring his son's
claims. He had a special brand of champagne served that Nan had once
said she liked; and he reminded her of this, and pressed her to
partake of it.

"This is to your health, my dear," he said, lifting his glass of port
to his lips when the servants had withdrawn; "and to yours too, Dick."
And then Nan blushed very becomingly, and Dick thanked him a little
gravely.

"I do think the old boy has fallen in love with you himself, for he
has not let me come near you all the evening," whispered Dick later on
that night, pretending to grumble, but in reality looking very happy.

"He has been so good to me," returned the girl; and she repeated this
for Mrs. Mayne's benefit, when at last the two women found themselves
free to indulge in a little talk. Nan had coaxed her friend to sit
beside her fire for a few minutes, and then she had knelt down beside
her, wrapping her arms round her in the most affectionate way.

"Dear, dear Mrs. Mayne, how nice all this is! and how good Mr. Mayne
has been to me all this evening!"

"My Richard never does things by halves," returned Mrs. Mayne,
proudly. "People cannot always understand him, because his manner is a
little rough sometimes; but I know, and none better, his real goodness
of heart. Why, he is so pleased with himself and you and Dick this
evening that he hardly knows how to contain himself; but he is a
little awkward in showing it."

"Oh, no; I did not think him awkward at all."

"I must say you behaved beautifully, Nan, never seeming as though you
remembered that there had been anything amiss, but just taking
everything as he meant it. Of course I knew how you would act: I was
not afraid that I should be disappointed."

"Of course I could not do otherwise."

"And Dick, too, behaved so well, keeping in the background just to
give his father full freedom. I must say I was pleased with him, too,
for most young men are so thoughtless; but then his behavior to his
father has been perfect throughout."

"I knew it would be," whispered Nan.

"I am sure it made my heart ache to see him. Sometimes he would come
in whistling and pretending to be his old self, so light-hearted and
cheerful; and all the time he was fretting himself to death, as I told
Richard. Richard was terribly trying sometimes,--you know his
way,--but the boy bore it so well. It was not till the last, when they
had that walk, and Dick was goaded into positive anger, that he ever
lost his temper in the least. I will say this, Nan, that though my
Dick may not be much to look at, he has the sweetest temper and the
kindest heart." And so the simple woman ran on, and Nan listened, well
pleased.

When Mr. Mayne came up to his dressing-room that evening, his wife
stole in after him, and laid her hands on his shoulder as he stood
thoughtfully contemplating the fire.

"Well, Richard, won't you own she is lovely now?"

"Humph! yes; I suppose people would call her pretty," he returned, in
his grudging way. "But I tell you what, Bessie," suddenly kindling
into animation, "she is better than handsome; she is out and out good,
and she will make a man of Dick."

"God bless him, and her too!" whispered the mother, as she withdrew
softly, but not before she caught the sound of an "Amen" uttered
distinctly in her husband's voice.

Nan made Dick take her to all their old haunts the next morning; but
first of all they went to Glen Cottage. Nan ran through all the rooms
with almost a child's glee: nothing could exceed her delight when Dick
showed her the drawing-room, with the new conservatory opening out of
it.

"It always was a pretty room," she said, glancing round her; "but the
conservatory and the new furniture have quite transformed it. How
charmed mother and the girls will be! The whole house looks better
than when we were in it."

"Nonsense!" returned Dick, stoutly. "There never was a house to
compare with it. I always loved it; and so did you, Nan. What a summer
we shall have here, when I am reading up for honors in the long
vacation! I mean to work pretty hard; for when a fellow has such an
object as that----" And then he looked at Nan meaningly; but she was
not to be beguiled into that subject.

They were so happy, and so young, that they could afford to wait a
little; and she did not wish Dick to speak yet of that day that was
looming in the distance.

She could only be sure of one summer at Glen Cottage; but what a time
they would have! She stood for a long while looking out on the lawn
and calling up possible visions of summer afternoons. The
tennis-ground was marked out already in her imagination; the tea-table
in its old place under the trees; there was her mother knitting in her
favorite wicker-chair; there were Dulce and Phillis, surrounded by
their friends

"Come away, Nan. Are you moon-struck, or dreaming?" questioned Dick,
drawing her arm through his. "Do you remember what we have to do
before luncheon? And Vigo looks so impatient for his run." But even
Dick paused for a moment in the veranda to show Nan the rose she had
picked for him just there, and which still lay in his pocket-book.

All her old friends crowded round Nan to welcome her back; and great
were the rejoicings when they heard that Glen Cottage was to be in the
Challoners' possession again. Carrie Paine and Adelaide Sartoris
called first. Carrie embraced Nan with tearful effusion: she was an
honest, warm-hearted creature. But Adelaide looked at her a little
curiously.

"Oh, my dear, the scandal that has been talked about you all!" she
said, in a mysterious tone. "Carrie and I would not believe it: would
we, Car? We told people to hold their tongues, and not talk such
nonsense."

"Never mind that now, Addie," returned Nan, cheerfully. She felt she
must be careful of what she said, for Dick's sake. "We have had our
worries, and have worked as better people have before us; but now it
is all over."

"But is it true that your cousin, Sir Henry Challoner, has bought
Gilsbank?" broke in Carrie. "Tell us about him, dear. Addie thought
she saw him once. Is he a tall man, with red hair?"

"Very red hair," responded Nan, laughing.

"Then I did see him," replied Miss Sartoris, decidedly. "He is quite a
giant, Nan; but he looks very good-natured."

Miss Sartoris was just engaged to a dapper little colonel in the
Hussars, so she could afford to be quizzical on the subject of Sir
Harry's inches; but Carrie, who was at present unattached, was a
little curious about the future master of Gilsbank.

After this, Nan called at Fitzroy Lodge, and Dick went with her. Lady
Fitzroy, who was looking very pretty and delicate, welcomed Nan with
the greatest kindness. When Lord Fitzroy came in with the rest of the
gentlemen from hunting, he questioned Nan very closely about their new
neighbor, Sir Henry Challoner, and made a great many kind inquiries
after his favorite, Miss Phillis.

"So we are to have you all back, eh," he queried, pleasantly. "Well, I
call that good news. I am bound that Evelyn is as pleased to hear it
as I am."

"I am very much pleased," returned Lady Fitzroy graciously. "And you
must tell your mother so, with my love. Percival, will you ring for
some more hot water, please? I shall not be long: but I am going to
take Miss Challoner upstairs to see our boy."

Nan knew that a great privilege was being conferred on her as she
followed Lady Fitzroy into the grand nursery, where the tiny heir lay
in his bassinette.

"Is he not just like Fitzroy?" exclaimed the proud young mother, as
they stood looking down on the red crumpled features of the new-comer.
"Nurse says she has never seen such a striking likeness."

"He is a darling!" exclaimed Nan, who was, like other girls, a devout
baby-worshipper; and then they discoursed very eloquently on his
infantile beauties.

It was after this that Lady Fitzroy congratulated Nan on her
engagement, and kissed her in quite a sisterly way.

"Fitzroy and I do not think him half good enough for you," she said,
very prettily. "But no one who knows Mr. Mayne can fail to like him,
he is so thoroughly genuine and nice. Will the engagement be a long
one, Miss Challoner?"

"Not so very long," Nan returned, blushing. "Dick has to read for
honors; but, when he has taken his degree, his father has promised to
make things straight for us, while Dick reads for the bar."

"He is to be a barrister, then?" asked Lady Fitzroy, in surprise. "You
must not think me inquisitive, but I thought Mr. Mayne was so very
well off."

"So he is," replied Nan, smiling,--"quite rich, I believe; but Dick
would not like an idle life, and during his father's lifetime he can
only expect a moderate income."

"You will live in London, then?"

"Oh, yes; I suppose so;" was Nan's answer. "But we have not talked
much about that yet. Dick must work hard for another year, and after
that I believe things are to be settled." And then Lady Fitzroy kissed
her again, and they went downstairs.

Nan wrote home that she was _fêted_ like a queen, and that Dick
grumbled sadly at having her so little to himself; but then Dick was
much given to that sort of good-natured grumbling.

The visit was necessarily a very brief one, as term-time was
approaching, and Dick had to go up to Oxford. On the last morning he
took Nan for a walk down to Sandy Lane. Vigo and the other dogs were
with them, and at the point where the four roads met, Dick stopped and
leaned his arms over a gate.

"It will seem a long time to Easter, Nan," he said, rather
lugubriously.

"Oh, no," she replied brightly to this; "you will have my
letters,--such long ones, Dick,--and you know Mr. Mayne has promised
to bring Phillis and me down for a couple of days. We are to stay at
the Randolph, and of course we shall have afternoon tea in your
rooms."

"Yes; I will ask Hamilton and some of the other fellows to meet you. I
want all my friends to see you, Nan." And as Dick thought of the glory
of this introduction, and of the envy of Hamilton and the other
fellows, his brow cleared and his old spirits returned.

"I shall think of nothing but my work and those letters, Nan," were
his last words. "I am determined that next summer shall see you my
wife." His voice dropped over the last word almost shyly; but Nan saw
a great brightness come into his eyes.

"You must not work too hard," was all her answer to this, as she moved
gently away from him. But her heart beat a little faster at his words.
No; she would only have another summer at Glen Cottage. She knew that,
and then the new life would lie before them, which she and Dick were
to live together.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

MRS. SPARSIT'S POODLE.


While Nan was being _fêted_ and petted at Longmead, Mattie's visit was
dragging heavily to its close. Since the evening of the tea-party
things had been more unsatisfactory than ever.

Archie and Grace were a good deal out. Grace was perpetually at the
Friary, and Archie had resumed his old habit of dropping in there for
a morning or evening chat. Sir Harry came almost daily, and often
spent his disengaged hours with them; but Mattie never saw him for a
moment alone. Grace was always in the room, and his conversation was
chiefly addressed to her. When Mattie dropped sadly out of the talk,
or sat silent in her corner, he did not in his old kind fashion try to
include her in the conversation: indeed, he rarely noticed her, except
in his brief leave-taking. It hurt Mattie inexpressibly to be thus
ignored by her old friend, for from the first his cordiality had had a
sunshiny influence over her,--he had been so good to her, so
thoughtful for her comfort, before Grace came; but now he seemed to
forget sometimes that such a person as Mattie even existed. Was it
because Grace's fair, serious face had bewitched him, or was there
anything on his mind? for more than once Mattie thought he seemed
absent and ill at ease.

Mattie could not understand it at all. She was not a very acute little
person, neither was she over-sensitive by nature, but this sudden
coldness on Sir Harry's part was wounding and perplexing in the
extreme. Had she done anything to offend him? Mattie wondered, or was
he simply bored by her as most people were?

Once Archie had snubbed her very severely in his presence; something
had put him out, and he had spoken to Mattie as though no one were
present but their two selves. It was Grace who called him so gently to
order, and made him feel ashamed of himself. Sir Harry did not even
seem to notice it: he had a paper in his hand, and he went on reading
it. But as Mattie left the room she heard him speaking to Grace in
his usual way about some political question or other.

Mattie cried bitterly in her room that day. Somehow, she had never
taken Archie's snubbing so much to heart before. How could he speak to
her like that, she thought? What would Sir Harry think of her, and of
him too? Archie's conscience pricked him when he saw the traces of
tears on Mattie's face that afternoon, and he was very kind to her all
the remainder of the day; but he did not apologize for his words: no
one ever did apologize to Mattie. But to his surprise, and Grace's
too, Mattie's sad face did not clear.

It was her last afternoon but one at the vicarage, and Mattie was
sitting alone. All the morning she and Grace had been packing
together, for Grace, in her sensible way, had begged her sister not to
leave things for the last day. It would tire her for her journey, she
said; and the Challoners were coming to spend Mattie's last evening
with her at the vicarage; and there were the Middletons probably
coming for an afternoon visit, and so Mattie had better keep herself
free for her friends. Mattie had assented to this, and she had been
very grateful to Grace for all the help she had given her. Her boxes
were ready for cording, and her little parting gifts for the servants
laid ready labelled in her drawers, and nothing remained for her busy
hands to do.

It was a cold, cheerless afternoon; a cutting north wind and a gray
cloudy sky made the fireside all the more tempting by comparison; but
Mattie knew there was one duty unfulfilled that she ought to perform.
She had promised to call and say good-bye to an old acquaintance of
hers who lived at Rock Building.

Mrs. Chamberlain was not a favorite with most people: she was an
invalid of somewhat uncertain temper, and most of her friends felt her
society an infliction on their patience. Mattie, who was very
good-natured, had often done kindly little offices for her, sitting
with her for an hour or two at a time, and teaching her some new
stitch, to beguile her tedious and often painful days.

Mrs. Chamberlain would feel herself aggrieved if Mattie disappointed
her. And she never had stayed at home for the weather; only she was
lazy,--tired, perhaps, from her packing,--and reluctant to move.

Sir Harry was in the study, she knew: she had heard his voice some
time ago. He often turned in there of his own accord or perhaps Archie
had waylaid him and brought him in, for they were excellent friends
now; Grace was there, of course, but Mattie had hesitated to join
them: none of them wanted her, she said bitterly to herself.

A dim hope that Grace might come in search of her, or that even Sir
Henry might saunter in by and by and ask for a cup of tea in his old
way, had kept Mattie in her place; but now it was getting a little
late, and perhaps after all Grace would ring, and have the tea in
there, as she had done once before: and it was no use waiting. And so,
when Mattie reached this point, she hurried upstairs and put on her
hat and thick jacket, and then, after a moment's hesitation, opened
the study door.

It was just the scene she pictured. Sir Harry was in the big chair in
front of the blazing fire, and Grace in her low wicker seat, facing
him, with a Chinese screen in her hand. Archie was standing on the
rug, with his elbow against the narrow wooden mantelpiece, and all
three were talking merrily. Sir Harry stopped in the middle of a
laugh, as Mattie entered, and shook hands with her a little gravely.

"How comfortable you all look!" faltered Mattie. The words came in
spite of her efforts not to say them.

"Then come and join us," returned Archie, with unusual affability.
"Grace was just wondering what you were doing."

"I was in the drawing-room alone. No, I cannot sit down, Archie, thank
you. I am just going to bid old Mrs. Chamberlain good-bye: she is
expecting me, and I must not disappoint her."

"Oh, but it is not fit for you," remonstrated Grace. "Sir Harry says
the wind is piercing. Do put off your visit until to-morrow, Mattie,
and we will go together."

"Fie, Miss Grace! never put off until to-morrow what can be done
to-day," observed Sir Harry, in his joking voice. "What is it the
copy-books say?--is it procrastination or money that is the root of
all evil?"

"Sir Harry is quite right, and I must go," stammered Mattie, made
quite desperate by this joke; he knew how the wind was sweeping over
the gray sea, and yet he had not said a word about her remaining. Poor
Mattie! a miserable choking feeling came into her throat, as she
closed the door on another laugh and struggled along in the teeth of
the wind. Another time she would not have minded it, for she was hardy
by nature; but now the cold seemed to freeze her very heart; she
looked quite blue and pinched when she entered Mrs. Chamberlain's
drawing-room. It seemed to Mattie as though hours had passed before
she brought her visit to a close, and yet she had been sitting there
only three quarters of an hour before she took her leave. The old lady
was very gracious this afternoon; she pressed Mattie again and again
to wait a little until Sallie brought up the tea and a nice hot cake
she was baking. But Mattie steadily refused even these tempting
delicacies: she was not cold any longer, she said; but it was growing
late, or the afternoon was darker than usual. And then she wished her
old friend good-bye,--oh, good-bye for such a long time, Mattie
thought,--and sallied forth bravely into the wind gain.

It had lulled a little, but the scene before her was very desolate;
just the gray expanse of sea, with the white line of surge breaking
into the shore; and here and there a wave tossing up its foamy head
in the distance. The air seemed full of that continuous low rolling
and splashing of breakers on the beach: a sea-gull was flying inland;
the Parade looked white and wind-bleached,--not a creature in sight
but a coast-guard on duty, moving backwards and forwards in a rather
forlorn manner, except----Here Mattie turned her head quickly: yes, a
little beyond there was a man in a rough pilot's coat, looking out
seaward,--a nautical man, Mattie thought, by the way he stood, as
though summer gales were blowing about his ears.

Mattie passed quite close to him, for the wind drifted her a little as
she did so. He turned coolly round and confronted her.

"Sir Harry! Oh, I did not know you in the least," faltered Mattie,
standing still in her surprise.

"I dare say not," he replied, quietly: "you have never seen me in this
costume before, and I had my back turned towards you. I saw you
coming, though, walking as unsteadily as a duck in a storm. What a
time you have been, Miss Mattie! You ladies are so fond of a gossip."

"Were you waiting for me?" she asked, rather breathlessly, and then
colored painfully at her question. How absurd! Of course he was not
waiting for her; his hotel was just opposite, and he was probably
taking a constitutional before his dinner. "Mrs. Chamberlain pressed
me to take tea with her," she went on, by way of saying something,
"but I told her I would rather go home."

"Miss Grace was just ringing for tea when I left," he returned. "No
wonder you look cold or like a starved robin, Miss Mattie. Why are you
walking so fast? there is no hurry, is there? I think you owe me some
amends for keeping me standing for an hour in this bitter wind. There!
why don't you take my arm and hold on, or you will be blown away?"

Mattie always did as she was bidden, and Sir Harry's tone was a little
peremptory. He had been waiting for her, then; he had not quite
forgotten her. Mattie began to feel a little less chilled and numb. If
he would only say a kind word to her, she thought, she could go away
more happily.

"I am thinking about that rejected cup of tea," he said, suddenly,
when they had walked for a moment in silence: "it will be all cleared
away at the vicarage, and you do look so cold, Miss Mattie."

"Oh, no, not very," she corrected.

"But I say that you do," he persisted, in quite a determined manner:
"you are cold, and tired, and miserable,--there!"

"I--I am not particularly miserable," but there were tears in Mattie's
voice, as she uttered this little fib. "I don't quite like going away
and saying good-bye to people."

"Won't your people be kind to you?" Then changing his tone, "I tell
you what, Miss Mattie, no one is in a hurry for you at home, and I
don't see why we should not enjoy ourselves. You remember my old
friend Mrs. Sparsit, who lives up at Rose Cottage,--you know I saved
her poodle from drowning one rough day, when some boys got hold of it:
well, Mrs. Sparsit and I are first-rate friends, and I will ask her to
give us some tea."

"Oh, no," faltered Mattie, quite shocked at this; for what would Grace
say? "I only know Mrs. Sparsit a very little."

"What does that matter?" returned Sir Harry, obstinately: "I am always
dropping in myself for a chat. Now, it is no use your making any
objection, Miss Mattie, for I have got a lot to say to you, and I
don't mean to part with you yet. They will only think you are still at
Rock Building, and I suppose you are old enough to act without Miss
Grace's advice sometimes."

Mattie hung her head without replying to this. What a feeble, helpless
sort of creature he must think her! his voice seemed to express a
good-humored sort of contempt. Well, he was right; she was old enough
to do as she pleased, and she would like very much to go with him to
Mrs. Sparsit's. It was rather a reckless proceeding, perhaps; but
Mattie was too down and miserable to argue it out, so she walked
beside Sir Harry in a perfectly unresisting manner. Perhaps this was
the last time she would enjoy his company for a long time: she must
make the most of it.

"We need not walk quite so fast," he said, checking her, for she was
hurrying again. "Look here, Miss Mattie, I want to ask you a queer
sort of question, if only this confounded wind will let me make myself
heard. Please don't laugh; I don't want to be laughed at, for I am
quite in earnest. But have you any special objection to red hair?--I
mean, do you particularly dislike it?"

Mattie opened her eyes rather widely at this. "No, I rather like it,"
she returned, without a moment's hesitation, and quite in the dark as
to his possible meaning.

"Oh, that is all right," he returned, cheerfully. "You won't believe
it, Miss Mattie, but, though I am such a great big fellow, I am as
bashful as anything; and I have always had a fancy that no one would
have me because of my red hair."

"What an idea!" observed Mattie, with a little laugh, for she thought
this so droll, and had not the dimmest idea of his real purpose in
asking her such a question.

"Don't laugh, please," he remonstrated, "for I am quite serious; I
never was more serious in my life; for this sort of thing is so
awkward for a fellow. Then, Miss Mattie, you won't say 'No' to me?"

Mattie stared; but Sir Harry's face, red and embarrassed as it was,
gave her no clue to his meaning.

"I don't think you understand me," he said, a little impatiently; "and
yet I am sure I am putting it very plainly. You don't object to me,
do you, Miss Mattie? I am sure I will do my best to make you happy.
Gilsbank is a pretty place, and we shall have Aunt Catherine and the
girls near us. We shall all be as merry as larks, if you will only
promise to marry me, for I have liked you from the first; I have
indeed, Miss Mattie."

Sir Harry was a gentleman, in spite of his rough ways. He understood
in a moment, when Mattie's answer to this was a very feeble clutch at
his arm, as though her strength were deserting her. What with the
sudden surprise of these words, and the force of the wind, the poor
little woman felt herself reeling.

"Stand here for a moment, and I will shelter you from the wind. No,
don't speak; just hold on, and keep quiet: there is no hurry. No one
shall scold you, if I can help it. I am afraid"--speaking as gently as
to a child--"that I have been a little rough and sudden with you. Do
you feel faint? I never saw you look so pale. What a thoughtless brute
I have been!"

"No,--oh, no," panted Mattie; "only I am so giddy, and--so happy." The
last words were half whispered, but he caught them. "Are you sure you
really mean this, Sir Harry?"

"As sure as that the wind blows," he returned, cheerfully. "Well,
that's settled. You and I are to be in the same boat for good and
all,--eh, Miss Mattie? Now let us walk on; and I won't say another
word until we reach Mrs. Sparsit's."

Perhaps he had taken this resolution because he saw that Mattie found
speech impossible. Her very footsteps tottered as she struggled
against the opposing wind. Only the arm on which she leaned seemed to
give her strength; and yet Mattie no longer shivered in the cutting
blast. She was no longer cold, and numb, and desolate. Something
wonderful and incredible and altogether unreal had befallen
her,--something that had turned her dizzy with happiness, and which
she could not in the least believe. All she knew was that he had told
her that no one should scold her now.

"Here we are!" exclaimed Sir Harry, stopping at a trim little cottage,
with a side-view of the sea; "and, by Jove, there is the poodle
himself at the window. How do you do, Mrs. Sparsit?" as a pleasant,
wrinkled dame appeared on the threshold. "You know Miss Drummond, I
believe? though not as well as you know me. How is Popples? Oh, there
you are, old fellow,--ready to give me your paw, as usual! Look at
him, Miss Mattie! Now, Mrs. Sparsit," in a coaxing voice, "this lady
is dreadfully tired; and I know your kettle is boiling----" but here
Mrs. Sparsit interrupted him:

"Oh, yes, indeed, Sir Harry; and you shall have some tea directly.
Dear me, Miss Drummond, you do look poorly, to be sure! Let me stir
the fire a little, and draw out the couch. Bettie has gone out to see
her sick mother, Sir Harry; but if you don't mind my leaving you a
minute, while I just brew the tea----" And without waiting for his
answer, the worthy creature bustled off to her tiny kitchen, leaving
Popples to entertain her guests.

Sir Harry closed the door, and then he helped Mattie to divest herself
of her warm jacket, and placed her in a snug corner of the
old-fashioned couch.

"You will be all right directly," he said, as he sat down beside her.
"The wind was too strong; and I was a little sudden: wasn't I,
Mattie?" And now the color began to come into Mattie's face.

Sir Harry found plenty to tell her as Mrs. Sparsit brewed the tea and
prepared the hot buttered cakes.

Mattie shed tears of pure happiness when she heard from his own lips
how good and unselfish and amiable he thought her, and how he had
liked her from the first in a sort of way,--"not quite the right way,
you know," explained Sir Harry, candidly; "but every one was so hard
on you, and you bore it so well, and were such a good little woman,
that I quite longed to stand your friend; and we were friends,--were
we not, Mattie? And then somehow it came to me what a nice little wife
you would make; and so----" but here Mattie timidly interrupted him:

"But Grace,--I thought you liked Grace best!"

Sir Harry laughed outright at this; but he had the grace to look
ashamed of himself:

"So I did like her very much; but I was only trying you, Mattie. I was
not sure how much you liked me; but you seemed such a miserable little
Cinderella among them all that I could hardly keep it up. If they snub
you now, they will have to answer to me." And at this moment Mrs.
Sparsit entered with the tea-tray.

Dinner was nearly over at the vicarage when Mattie's step was heard in
the hall. Archie, who was the soul of punctuality, frowned a little
when the sound reached his ear.

"This is too bad of Mattie," he said, rather fretfully. "She has no
right to put us to such inconvenience. I suppose we must have the fish
up again?"

"Miss Drummond desires that you will go on with your dinner, sir,"
observed the maid, entering at that moment. "She has had a late tea,
and will not require anything more."

"Very strange!" fumed Archie; but he was a little pacified by the
message. But Grace slightly elevated her eyebrows with an expression
of surprise. Such independence was new in Mattie.

The brother and sister had adjourned to the drawing-room, and Archie
was about to ring for his coffee, before Mattie made her appearance.

Grace uttered a little exclamation when she saw her sister:

"My dear Mattie, we have no visitors coming in this evening! Why have
you put on your best gown? You extravagant child!" for Mattie had
come into the room rustling in her green silk dress, and her little
dark face glowing from the wind. "She looked almost pretty," as Grace
said afterwards; but at her sister's quizzical observation Mattie
blushed and seemed confused.

"It is no use saving it," she began. "Sir Harry is coming in by and
by. And, oh, Archie! he told me to say it, but I don't know how to do
it." And then, to Archie's intense surprise,--for she had never done
such a thing in her life,--she suddenly threw her arms round his neck.
"Oh, Archie! he says you are never to scold me again,--any of you,"
she sobbed, "because I belong to him now. And he--Sir Harry, I
mean--is so good to me; and I am so happy. And won't you wish me joy,
both of you? And what--what will mother say?" finished Mattie, as
though this were the climax of everything.

"Good heavens, Mattie!" gasped Archie; but he did not shake her off:
on the contrary, he kissed her very kindly. "Do you mean you are going
to marry Sir Harry Challoner?"

"He means to marry me," returned Mattie, smiling, in spite of her
tears; and then Grace came forward, and took her in her arms.

"I am so glad, dear Mattie," she whispered, soothingly. "Of course we
none of us expected it; and we are all very much surprised. Oh, dear!
how happy mother will be!"

"I tell you what," exclaimed Archie, in great excitement, "I will take
you down myself to Lowder Street, and see what she says. They will all
be out of their senses with joy; and, upon my word, Mattie, I never
was so pleased about anything in my life. He is a right-down good
fellow, I am sure of that; and you are not such a bad little thing
yourself, Mattie. There!"



CHAPTER XLIX.

MATTIE IN A NEW CHARACTER.


The family at Lowder Street were all gathered together when the
travellers made their appearance. There was a general shout of delight
when Archie's face peered in at them from the dusky hall over Mattie's
shoulder. Mrs. Drummond's thin face flushed with the unexpected
pleasure.

"Oh, Archie! my dear boy, I never thought you would surprise us in
this way!" she said, throwing down her work with tremulous hands. She
kissed Mattie affectionately; but that dark glow of tenderness in her
eyes was for Archie. In spite of her ordinary undemonstrativeness, she
seldom spoke to him without that involuntary softening of her voice.
However much she loved her other children, her maternal passion was
reserved for her first-born son.

"How naughty of you to steal a march on us in this manner!" she said,
playfully. "We have only prepared a meat-tea for Mattie, because I
knew she would not mind; but if you had telegraphed I would have had
dinner ready for you, Archie."

"Stuff! nonsense! why need he have telegraphed? I suppose what is good
enough for Mattie and the rest of us is good enough for Archie!"

Mr. Drummond spoke testily as he put down the paper. These hints about
the late dinners always nettled him. His renunciation of them years
ago had been a heavy piece of self-denial, for he was a man rather
fond of creature comforts; he had done it for his children's sake; but
it was more than flesh and blood could bear that this renounced luxury
should be served for his son's benefit. Was he not as good as Archie,
though he had not been to a University and become fellow of his
college?

"Father is quite right," returned Archie, cheerfully. "I would not
telegraph, because I wanted to surprise you; and I knew you were such
a good manager, mother, that you would have plenty of aired sheets
ready for my bed. Of course what is good enough for Mattie is right
for me. As we are both as hungry as hunters, we shall do justice to
anything you have prepared."

"There is only some cold meat and some ham and eggs," observed Mrs.
Drummond, a little plaintively. She did not dare anger her husband
further by proposing even a chop, for she knew how touchy he was about
Archie's fastidiousness; but if she could have had her own way she
would have killed the fatted calf for this dearest son. Nothing was
too good for him in her eyes; and yet for the sake of tranquillity she
dared not even hazard the question of a chop.

"Cold meat,--that is just what I should like," replied Archie, with
excellent _sang-froid_. He detested that stock-dish of the Lowder
Street larder, ham and eggs. The eggs were dubious, he
considered,--not actually new-laid, but a little suggestive of lime.
"But there! you must not give me all your attention, mother," he
continued. "I have brought Mattie home, you see, and you have never
told her even how she looks."

"She looks very well," replied Mrs. Drummond. In spite of her anxiety
about Archie, she had been looking at her daughter more than once with
puzzled eyes. There was something different about her, she thought. It
was hardly like Mattie to come in so quietly among them all and take
her place beside her father. Mattie seldom did anything without a
fuss: it was her ordinary way to stand among them chattering as fast
as her tongue would go, until some one reminded her that it was time
for her to take off her hat and jacket or she would be late for tea.
But to-night Mattie had hardly opened her lips, except to answer her
father's questions about the journey. She had kissed her sisters very
quietly, and had asked after Isabel, and had then proposed of her own
accord to go upstairs.

"Clara, go up with your sister. No, not Laura; you will all get
chattering, and then we shall be kept waiting. Isabel is upstairs,
Archie: she has come in to sit with us this evening, as Ellis has to
go to a business dinner. He will call for her on his way."

"I am very glad she is here," returned Archie, "for I have to go back
by the early train to-morrow. Ah, there she is. Well, how are you,
Belle?" greeting her affectionately as she came up to him rather
shyly. Archie could hardly help smiling at the contrast between
Isabel's brilliant evening toilet and his other sister's brown stuff
dress. It was a little trying to his gravity to see her putting on
such pretty little airs of matronly dignity. Mrs. Ellis Burton was an
important person now; that was sufficiently obvious; the plump little
figure was most lavishly adorned. But the round childish face was
certainly very pretty; and, as every other sentence brought in
"Ellis," and as Ellis's opinion appeared always right in her eyes,
Archie deduced that his sister was satisfied with her choice.

"Oh, dear, Mattie! how droll it is to see you home again!" exclaimed
Susie, who was noted for making awkward speeches. "And how funny you
look beside Isabel!"

"We are very glad to have her back," returned Mrs. Drummond, in her
repressive tones. She was just refilling her teapot from the urn, but
she found opportunity to shake her head at Susie. "People do not
generally look smart in their travelling-dress; but I think she looks
very nice. Had you not a commoner gown, my dear? That looks almost too
good for the purpose;" for Mrs. Drummond's sense of economy was a
little shocked by perceiving that Mattie's gown was a new one.

"It is very well made," observed Isabel, critically. "I am so glad,
Mattie, that you have given up that hideous plaid: it never suited
you."

"If I had been you, I would have travelled in it," persisted Mrs.
Drummond, who never could remember that Mattie was over thirty and
might possibly have opinions of her own.

Archie listened to all this with great amusement.

"Don't you think it is about time I started a pleasanter subject,
Mattie?" he asked, laughing. "Have you finished your tea, my dear? for
I do not want to spoil your appetite; but time is getting on, and----"
here he glanced at the clock.

Every one stared at this, for Archie had never spoken in exactly that
way to Mattie before; and, as he did so, Mattie's cheeks were burning.
But what was their surprise when Archie suddenly rose from his seat
and laid his hand kindly on Mattie's shoulder!

"She is too shy to tell you herself; I have come all these miles to do
it for her. Isabel, you need not look so consequential. Ellis is a
good fellow, I dare say, but our little Mattie has done better for
herself than even you. Mother, you have achieved a success in one of
your seven daughters: let me introduce to you the future Lady
Challoner!" And then, still keeping his hand upon her shoulder, he
looked blandly round on them all.

"Well, I am sure!" from Isabel, half pouting; but no one else spoke
except Mr. Drummond:

"What does this mean, Archie? Can't you speak for yourself, my girl?
Is this a joke? Does he mean something amusing?" asked the father; but
his lip quivered a little: if it should be true,--if it were no joke!

"It is just as Archie says!" replied Mattie, timidly, not daring to
raise her eyes. "Sir Harry asked me to marry him, and I said yes,
because--because he was always so good to me." And here Mattie laughed
a little hysterically. "And I did not think you would object,
father."

"Me object!" replied Mr. Drummond, oblivious of grammar just then.
"Why, my little Mattie, what news is this? Come here and kiss me, my
girl. I am proud of you; I am delighted to think a daughter of mine is
going to make such a splendid match. Why don't you speak to her, my
dear?" addressing his wife, with some excitement. "Bless my
soul,--Lady Challoner, my plain little Mattie Lady Challoner! Is it
possible? Why, you were telling us, Archie, what a Croesus this Sir
Henry was, and how he had just bought quite a fine place for
himself."

"Mattie, come here." Her children could hardly recognize their
mother's voice, it was so broken, and the tears were running down her
cheeks, though not one of them remembered seeing her cry before.
Mattie never felt her triumph greater, never understood the
magnificence of her own success, until she saw those tears, and felt
the presence of her mother's arms round her. Never since the child
Mattie had had to make way for the new-born brother, and had toddled
away with the never-forgotten words, "Mammy's arms are full; no room
for Mattie now," had she laid her head upon that mother's shoulder to
indulge in the good cry that was needed to relieve her. Isabel looked
almost affronted as she twirled her diamond rings round her plump
fingers. When she and Ellis had been engaged, her mother had not made
all this fuss. And Mattie was such an old thing; and it was so
ridiculous; and her father seemed on the verge of crying too. "But
then," as Susie said afterwards, "Belle did not like her consequence
to be set aside; and she and Ellis were just nobodies at all."

No one enjoyed the scene so much as Archie: that was how his mother
ought to be with her girls. Nevertheless, he interrupted them
ruthlessly:

"Don't make your eyes too red, Mattie: remember who will be in by and
by." And as she started up at this and began to smooth her rumpled
hair, he explained to them generally that they had not travelled
alone; Sir Harry had accompanied them to Leeds, and was at present
dining, he believed at the Star Hotel, where he had bespoken a room.
"He thought it best to make himself known personally to you; and, as
Mattie raised no objection, he announced his intention of calling this
evening----" but before Archie could finish his sentence, or the
awe-struck domestic announce him properly, Sir Harry himself was among
them all, shaking hands with everybody, down to Dottie.

And, really, for a shy man he did his part very well: he seemed to
take his welcome for granted, and beamed on them all most genially.

"I suppose the parson has already introduced me," he said, when Mr.
Drummond senior held out his hand, "What a lot of you there are!" he
continued, as he reached Dottie, who, dreadfully frightened at his
size, tried to hide behind Susie. Dottie compared him in her own mind
to one of their favorite giants. "He was so dreadfully like Fee-fo-fum
in 'Jack the Giant-Killer,'" she pouted, when Mattie afterwards took
her to task, "when he kissed me I thought he was going to eat me up."

Mattie's dark little face lit up with shy happiness when she saw him
sit down beside her mother and talk to her in his frank pleasant way.
In her eyes he was nothing less than an angel of light. True, the room
had never looked so small and shabby as it looked to-night, but what
did that matter to Mattie?--the poor little Cinderella in the brown
gown had found her prince. By and by the pumpkin-coach would fetch her
to a grand house, she would have jewels and fine clothes,--everything
that the heart of woman could desire; but it may be doubted if such
thoughts ever crossed Mattie's mind. That he had chosen her, this was
the miracle; that she was never to be scolded, and laughed at, and
teased; that he had stooped to her, this noble, great-hearted man, to
raise her from her humbleness; that he could care for her, in spite of
her plainness and her many faults. No wonder if such happiness almost
beautified Mattie, as she sat a little apart, surrounded by her young
sisters.

Mrs. Drummond's stern face glowed with pleasure when Sir Harry in a
few simple words spoke to her of his pride in winning her daughter.
Could it be her homely, old-fashioned little Mattie of whom he was
speaking, whose unselfishness and goodness he praised so highly! "I
have never known a more beautiful nature: she does not seem to me to
have an unkind thought of any one. All my cousins love her. If you
will trust her to me, I think I can promise, as far as a man can, that
her life shall be a happy one." No wonder if the mother's eyes filled
with joyous tears at such words as these.

"Mattie, dear," said Sir Harry to her the next day, when they found
themselves alone,--a rather difficult thing to achieve in the crowded
household, but Mrs. Drummond had just left the room,--"I have been
talking to your mother. She is a sensible woman, and she thinks in six
weeks everything can be ready. What do you say?"

"If mother thinks so, I suppose she is right," returned Mattie, very
much confused by this sudden appeal to her opinion. Sir Harry had
already importuned for a speedy marriage, and she had in much
trepidation referred him to her mother, feeling herself unequal to the
task of answering him.

"Yes, your mother is a sensible woman," continued Sir Harry, taking no
notice of her confusion. "She knows that a great house full of
servants is more than a man can manage alone; and so, as I told her
that Gilsbank was ready, and its master waiting, she was quite of my
opinion that there should be no delay. You see, Mattie," in a tone of
great gentleness, "though I am very fond of you, I cannot help feeling
stifled in a small house full of people. There is no getting you to
myself, or being comfortable; and a man of my size feels out of place
among a lot of girls. So if you are willing, as of course you are,"
very coaxingly, "and I am willing, we may as well get the thing over.
It takes a good deal out of a fellow to go through this sort of thing
properly, and I don't fancy I hit it off well: so we will say this day
six weeks. And to-morrow you will be a good little woman, and let me
go back to my comfortable quarters at Hadleigh, for one breathes only
smoke here; and how you have always borne it all these years is a
mystery to me."

So Mattie let him go cheerfully. She had never been selfish in her
life, and of course she spoke no word to dissuade him; but, though she
had but few letters from him, and those of the briefest possible
kind,--for Sir Harry was not fond of penmanship,--those six weeks were
far from being unhappy. How could they be, when they were all so good
to her, Mattie thought?--when her opinion was deferred to even by her
mother, and when her brothers and sisters treated her with such
respect and affection?

Mattie had no sense of the ludicrous, or she would have laughed at the
change in Clyde's tone, or at the way Fred boxed Dottie's ears for
speaking rudely to Mattie: in their eyes the future Lady Challoner was
a person of the utmost importance. The boys vied with each other in
waiting on her; the girls were always ready with their little
services. Mattie felt herself almost overwhelmed sometimes.

"Oh, mother, ask them not to do it!" she said, one day, with tears in
her eyes. "I am only Mattie; I am not different; I never shall be
different. I shall want to wait on you all my life,--on you and all of
them!"

"It is for them to wait on you more!" returned her mother, gravely. "I
am afraid they have not always been good to you, and they want to make
up for it."

But not all the attentions she received could move Mattie from her own
humble estimate of herself; and yet in some ways, if she could have
seen herself, she would have owned there was a difference. Mattie no
longer fussed and fidgeted: always sweet-natured, she grew placid in
her new happiness.

"I consider myself a fortunate fellow, for I have the dearest little
wife in the world," Sir Harry said to her a few days after they were
married, when Mattie had, as usual, said something disparaging of
herself. "Never mind what you think, so long as I am satisfied; and it
is very rude of you to be always finding fault with my choice,--ay,
Lady Challoner!"



CHAPTER L.

PHILLIS'S FAVORITE MONTH.


Archie had been persuaded to remain until the following evening, and
to take the night mail up to London. "You know you always sleep so
soundly in a railway-carriage," his mother had said, with her eyes
full of pleading.

"Perhaps so; but all the same it is dreary work to be shunted on to a
platform in the middle of the night, and to have to find your way
across London to catch a Sussex train." But, in spite of his grumbling
he had remained. For once it was difficult to tear himself away from
that happy family party.

But all through that night he scarcely closed his eyes, but sat
staring at the swinging-lamp and his drowsy fellow-passengers, or out
into the blank wall of darkness, too wide awake and full of thought to
lose himself in his usual placid slumbers. The fortunes of the
Drummond family seemed rising a little, he thought, with pleasure. How
alert and full of energy his father had seemed when he had parted from
him at the station! he had lost that subdued despondent look that had
grown on him of late. Even his shoulders were a little less bowed, as
though the burden did not press quite so heavily.

"All this makes a great difference to me, Archie," he had said, as
they had walked to and fro on the platform. "Two such wealthy
sons-in-law ought to satisfy any father's ambition. I can hardly
believe yet that my little Mattie--whom her sisters always called 'the
old maid'--should have secured such a prize. If it had been Grace,
now, one need not have wondered so much."

"You may leave Grace out of your reckoning," returned Archie, smiling
assent to this, "and consider you have three out of your seven
daughters provided for, for Grace will always be my care. Whatever
happens in the future, I think I can promise as much as that."

"Ay, ay! I remember when she was a little thing she always called
herself Archie's wife. Well, well, the mother must bring on Clara now:
it would be a shame to separate you two. Look, there is your train, my
boy! Jump in, and God bless you! You will come down to the wedding of
course, and bring Grace."

"Archie's wife." It was these two words that were keeping him so wide
awake in the rushing darkness. A dusky flush mounted to the young
man's forehead as he pondered over them.

He knew himself better now. Only a few weeks, scarcely more than a
fortnight, had passed since Grace had given him that hint; but each
day since then had done the work of years. Caught at the rebound
indeed, and that so securely and strongly that the man's heart could
never waver from its fixed purpose again.

Now it was that he wondered at his blindness; that he began to
question with a perfect anguish of doubt whether he should be too
late; whether his vacillation and that useless dream of his would
hinder the fulfilment of what was now his dearest hope.

Would he ever bring her to believe that he had never really loved
before,--not, at least, as he could love now? Would he ever dare to
tell her so, when she had known and understood that first stray fancy
of his for Nan's sweet face?

Now, as day after day he visited the cottage and talked apart with her
mother, his eyes would follow Phillis wistfully. Once the girl had
looked up from her work and caught that long, watchful glance; and
then she had grown suddenly very pale, and a pained expression crossed
her face, as though she had been troubled.

Since that night when the young vicar had stood bare-headed on the
snowy steps, and had told Phillis laughingly that one day she would
find out for herself that all men were masterful, and she had run down
the steps flashing back that disdainful look at him, he had felt there
was a change in her manner to him.

They had been such good friends of late; it had become a habit with
him to turn to Phillis when he wanted sympathy. A silent, scarcely
perceptible understanding had seemed to draw them together; but in one
moment, at a word, a mere light jest of his that meant nothing, the
girl had become all at once reserved, frozen up, impenetrable even to
friendship.

In vain he strove to win her back to her old merry talk. Her frank
recklessness of speech seemed over for the present. In his presence
she was almost always silent,--not with any awkwardness of
embarrassment, but with a certain maidenly reserve of bearing, as
though she had marked out a particular line of conduct for herself.

When Grace was in the room, things were better: Phillis could not be
otherwise than affectionate to her chosen friend. And when they were
alone together, all Phillis's bright playfulness seemed to return; but
nothing would induce her to cross the threshold of the vicarage.

The evening after his return from Leeds, Archie, as usual, dropped in
at the Friary; but this time he brought Grace with him. They were all
gathered in the work-room, which had now become their favorite resort.
On some pretext or other, the lamp had not been brought in; but they
were all sitting round the fire, chatting in an idle desultory way.

Phillis was half hidden behind her mother's chair: perhaps this was
the reason why her voice had its old merry chord. She had welcomed
Archie rather gravely,--hardly turning her face to him as she spoke;
but as soon as she was in her corner again, she took up the thread of
their talk in her usual frank way. But it was Grace that she
addressed.

"Poor dear Harry! We have all been laughing a little at the notion of
Alcides being in love. Somehow, it seems so droll that Mattie should
turn out his Deianeira; but, after all, I think he has shown very good
sense in his choice. Mattie will wear well."

"You seem to agree with the 'Vicar of Wakefield,' Miss Challoner,"
observed Archie, rather amused at this temperate praise. "Did not that
excellent man choose his wife for the same reason that she choose her
wedding-dress, with a view to durability?"

"Oh, there is a vast amount of wisdom in all that," returned Phillis,
with mock solemnity; for she did not mind what nonsense she talked in
the darkness. "If life had nothing but fair-weather days, it might be
excusable for a man to choose his wife for mere beauty; but when one
thinks of fogs and east-winds, and smoky chimneys, and all such minor
evils, they may need something a little more sustaining than a pink
complexion. At least," catching herself up, and hurrying on as though
the real meaning of her words only just occurred to her, "though
Mattie may not be beautiful outwardly, she is just the right sort of
person for a regular east-windy day. Not even a smoky chimney and a
fog together will put her out of temper."

"I will recollect your advice when the time comes," replied Archie
rather audaciously at this, as he laughed and stroked his beard.

It pleased him to see the old fun brimming over again, fresh and
sparkling; but, as he answered her in the same vein of pleasantry, she
colored up in her dark corner and shrank back into herself, and all
the rest of the evening he could hardly win a smile from her.

"My dear, I think Mr. Drummond comes very often," Mrs. Challoner said
to her eldest daughter that night. "He is very gentlemanly, and a most
excellent young man: but I begin to be afraid what these visits
mean." But Nan only laughed at this.

"Poor mother!" she said, stroking her face. "Don't you wish you had us
all safe at Glen Cottage again? There are so few young men at
Oldfield."

"I cannot bear young men," was the somewhat irritable answer. "What is
the use of having children, when just when they grow up to be a
comfort to you, every one tries to deprive you of them? Dick has
robbed me of you,"--and here Mrs. Challoner grew tearful,--"and Dulce
is always with the Middletons; and I am not at all sure that Captain
Middleton is not beginning to admire her."

"Neither am I," observed Nan, a little gravely; for, though they
seldom talked of such things among themselves, "son Hammond's"
attentions were decidedly conspicuous, and Dulce was looking as shy
and pretty as possible.

No; she could not give her mother any comfort there, for the
solemn-faced young officer was clearly bent on mischief. Indeed, both
father and son were making much of the little girl. But as regarded
Mr. Drummond there could be no question of his intentions. The growing
earnestness, the long wistful looks, were not lost on Nan who knew all
such signs by experience. It was easy to understand the young vicar:
it was Phillis who baffled her.

They had never had any secrets between them. From their very
childhood, Nan had shared Phillis's every thought. But once or twice
when she had tried to approach the subject in the gentlest manner,
Phillis had started away like a restive colt, and had answered her
almost with sharpness:

"Nonsense, Nannie! What is it to me if Mr. Drummond comes a dozen
times a day?" arching her long neck in the proudest way, but her
throat contracting a little over the uttered falsehood; for she knew,
none better, what these visits were to her. "Do you think I should
take the trouble to investigate his motives? Don't you know, Nan," in
her sweet whimsical voice, "that the masculine mind loves to conjugate
the verb 'to amuse'? Mr. Drummond is evidently bored by his own
company; but there! the vagaries of men are innumerable. One might as
well question the ebbing tide as inquire of these young divinities the
reason of all their eccentric actions. He comes because we amuse him,
and we like to see him because he amuses us: and when he bores us, we
can tell him so, which is better than Canute and the waves, after
all." And of course, after this, Nan was compelled to drop the
subject.

But she watched Phillis anxiously; for she saw that the girl was
restless and ill at ease. The thoughtful gray eyes had a shadow in
them. The bright spirits were quenched, and only kindled by a great
effort; and, as the time for their leaving the Friary grew closer day
by day, until the last week approached, she flagged more, and the
shadow grew deeper.

"If he would only speak and end all this suspense!" thought Nan, who
knew nothing of the real state of things, and imagined that Mr.
Drummond had cared for Phillis from the first.

They had already commenced their packing. Sir Harry was back in his
hotel, solacing himself with his cousin's company, and writing brief
letters to his homely little bride-elect, when one fine afternoon he
met them and Grace just starting for the shore.

This was their programme on most afternoons, and of course they had
not gone far before Captain Middleton and his father and sister joined
them; and a little later on, just as they were entering the town, they
overtook Mr. Drummond.

Phillis nodded to him in a friendly manner, and then walked on with
Grace, taking no further notice; but when they were on the shore,
admiring the fine sunset effect, Grace quietly dropped her arm and
slipped away to join the others. Phillis stood motionless: her eyes
were riveted on the grand expanse of sky and ocean. "It is so like
life," she said at last, not seeing who stood beside her, while all
the others were walking on in groups of twos and threes, Dulce close
to the colonel, as usual. "Do you see those little boats, Grace? one
is sailing so smoothly in the sunlight, and the other scarcely
stirring in the shadow,--brightness to some, you see, and shade to
others; and beyond, that clear line of light, like the promise of
eternity."

"Don't you think it lies within most people's power to make their own
lives happier?" returned Archie so quietly to this that she scarcely
started. "The sunshine and shade are more evenly balanced than we
know. To be sure, there are some lives like that day that is neither
clear nor dark,--gray, monotonous lives, with few breaks and pleasures
in them. But perhaps even that question may be happily solved when one
looks out a little farther to the light beyond."

"Yes, if one does not grow tired of waiting for the answer," she said,
a little dreamily. "There is so much that cannot be clear here." And
then she roused with a little difficulty from her abstraction, and
looked around her. The others had all gone on: they were standing
alone on the shingly beach, just above a little strip of yellow
sand,--only they two. Was it for this reason that her eyes grew wide
and troubled, and she moved away rather hurriedly? But he still kept
close to her, talking quietly as he did so.

"Do you remember this place?" he said: "it reminds me of a picture I
once saw. I think it was 'Atalanta's Race,' only there was no Paris.
It was just such as scene as this: there was the dark breakwater, and
the long line of surf breaking on the shore, and the sun was shining
on the water; and there was a girl running with her head erect, and
she scarcely seemed to touch the ground, and she stopped just here,"
resting his hand on the black, shiny timber.

"Do not," she answered, in a low voice, "do not recall that day: it
stings me even now to remember it." And as the words "Bravo Atalanta!"
recurred to her memory, the hot blush of shame mounted to her face.

"I have no need to recall it," he returned, still more quietly, for
her discomposure was great, "for I have never forgotten it. Yes, this
is the place, not where I first saw you, but where I first began to
know you. Phillis, that knowledge is becoming everything to me now!"

"Do not," she said, again, but she could hardly bring out the words.
But how wonderful it was to hear her name pronounced like that! "The
others have gone on: we must join them."

"May I not tell you what I think about you first?" he asked, very
gently.

"Not now,--not yet," she almost whispered; and now he saw that she was
very pale, and her eyes were full of tears. "I could not bear it yet."
And then, as she moved farther away from him, he could see how great
was her agitation.

It was a proof of his love and earnestness that he suffered the girl
to leave him in this way, that he did not again rejoin her until they
were close to the others. In spite of his impatience and his many
faults, he was generous enough to understand her without another word.
She had not repelled him; she had not silenced him entirely; she had
not listened to him and then answered him with scorn. On the contrary,
her manner had been soft and subdued, more winning than he had ever
known it; and yet she had refused to hearken to his suit. "Not
now,--not yet," she had said, and he could see that her lip quivered,
and her beautiful eyes were full of tears. It was too soon, that was
what she meant; too soon for him to speak and for her to listen. She
owed it to her own dignity that his affection should be put to greater
proof than that. She must not be so lightly won; she must not stoop
down from her maidenly pride and nobleness at his first words because
she had grown to care for him. "It must not be so, however much the
denial may cost me," Phillis had said to herself. But as she joined
the others, and came to Nan's side, she could scarcely steady her
voice or raise her eyes, for fear their shy consciousness would betray
her. "At last," and "at last!"--that was the refrain that was ringing
so joyously in her heart. Well, and one day he should tell her what he
would.

She thought she had silenced him entirely, but she forgot that men
were masterful and had cunning ways of their own to compass their
ends. Archie had recovered his courage; he had still a word to say,
and he meant to say it; and just before the close of the walk, as they
were in the darkest part of the Braidwood Road, just where the trees
meet overhead, before one reaches the vicarage, Phillis found him
again at her side.

"When may I hope that you will listen?" he said. "I am not a patient
man: you must remember that, and not make it too hard for me. I should
wish to know how soon I may come."

"Spring is very beautiful in the country," she answered, almost too
confused by this unexpected address to know what she was saying. "I
think May is my favorite month, when the hawthorns are out."

"Thank you, I will come in May." And then Phillis woke up to the
perception of what she had said. "Oh, no, I did not meant that," she
began, incoherently; but this time it was Archie who moved away, with
a smile on his face and a certain vivid brightness in his eyes, and
her stammered words were lost in the darkness.

The whole week was much occupied by paying farewell visits. On the
last afternoon Phillis went down to the White House to say good-bye.
It was one of Magdalene's bad days; but the unquiet hour had passed,
and left her, as usual, weak and subdued. Her husband was sitting
beside her: as Phillis entered he rose with a smile on his lips. "That
is right, Miss Challoner!" he said, heartily. "Magdalene always looks
better the moment she hears your voice. Barby is unfortunately out,
but I can leave her happily with you."

"Is he not good?" exclaimed his wife, as soon as he had left them. "He
has been sitting with me all the afternoon, my poor Herbert, trying to
curb his restlessness, because he knows how much worse I am without
him. Am I not a trying wife to him? and yet he says he could not do
without me. There, it has passed: let us talk of something else. And
so you are going to leave us?" drawing the fresh face down to hers,
that she might kiss it again.

"Yes, to-morrow!" trying to stifle a sigh.

"There are some of us that will not know what to do without you. If I
am not very much mistaken, there is one person who----" but here the
girl laid her hand hurriedly on her lips. "What! I am not to say that?
Well, I will try to be good. But all the same this is not good-bye.
Tell your mother from me that she will not have her girls for long.
Captain Middleton has lost his heart, and is bent on making that
pretty little sister of yours lose hers to; and as for you,
Phillis----" but here Phillis stooped, and silenced her this time by a
kiss.

"Ah, well!" continued Magdalene, after a moment's silence, as she
looked tenderly into the fair face before her; "so you have finished
your little bit of play-work, and are going back into your
young-ladyhood again?"

"It was not play-work!" returned Phillis, indignantly: "you say that
to provoke me. Do you know," she went on, earnestly, "that if we
should have had to work all our lives as dressmakers, Nan and I would
have done it, and never given in. We were making quite a fine business
of it. We had more orders then we could execute; and you call that
play? Confess, now, that you repent of that phrase!"

"Oh, I was only teasing you," returned Magdalene, smiling. "I know how
brave you were, and how terribly in earnest. Yes, Phillis, you are
right; nothing would have daunted you; you would have worked without
complaint all your life long, but for that red-haired Alcides of
yours."

"Dear Harry! how much we owe to him!" exclaimed Phillis.

"No, dear, you will owe your happiness to yourself,--the happiness,"
as the girl looked at her in surprise, "that is coming to you and
Dulce. It was because you were not like other girls--because you were
brave, self-reliant gentlewomen, afraid of nothing but dishonor; not
fearful of small indignities, or of other people's opinions, but just
taking up the work that lay to your hands, and going through with
it--that you have won his heart: and, seeing this, how could he help
loving you as he does?" But to this Phillis made no answer.

The next day was rather trying to them all. Phillis's cheerfulness was
a little forced, and for some time after they had left the
Friary--with Grace and Archie waving their farewells from the
road--she was very silent.

But no sooner had they crossed the threshold of Glen Cottage than
their girlhood asserted itself. The sight of the bright snug rooms,
with their new furniture, the conservatory, with its floral treasures,
and Sir Harry's cheery welcome, as he stood in the porch with Mrs.
Mayne, was too much even for Phillis's equanimity. In a few minutes
their laughing faces were peering out of every window and into every
cupboard.

"Oh, the dear, beautiful home! Isn't it lovely of Harry to bring us
back!" cried Phillis, oblivious of everything at that moment but her
mother's satisfied face.

In a few days they had settled down into their old life. It was too
early for tennis while snowdrops and crocuses were peeping out of the
garden borders. But in the afternoon friends dropped in in the old
way, and gathered round the Challoner tea-table; and very soon--for
Easter fell early that year--Dick showed himself among them, and then,
indeed, Nan's cup of happiness was full.

But as April passed on Phillis began to grow a little silent again;
and it became a habit with her to coax Laddie to take long walks with
her, when Nan and Dulce were otherwise engaged. The exercise seemed to
quiet her restlessness; and the spring sights and sounds, the budding
hedgerows, and the twittering of the birds as they built their nests,
and the fresh leafy green, unsoiled by summer heat and dust, seemed to
refresh her flagging spirits.

It was the 1st of May, when one afternoon she called to Laddie, who
was lying drowsily in the sunny porch. Nan, who was busily engaged in
training the creeper round the pillars of the veranda, looked up in a
little surprise:

"Are you going out again, Phil? And neither Dulce nor I can come with
you. Mrs. Mayne has some friends coming to five-o'clock tea, and she
wants us to go over for an hour. It is so dull for you, dear, always
to walk alone."

"Oh no; I shall not be dull, Nannie," returned Phillis, with an
unsteady smile, for her spirits were a little fluctuating that
afternoon. "I am restless, and want a good walk: so I shall just go to
Sandy Lane, and be back in time to make tea for mother." And then she
waved her hand, and whistled to Laddie as she unlatched the little
gate. It was a long walk. But, as usual, the quiet and the sweet air
refreshed her, and by the time she reached Sandy Lane her eyes were
brilliant with exercise, and a pretty pink tinge of color was in her
cheeks. It is May-day,--the 1st of May. I wonder how soon he will
come, she thought, as she leaned on the little gate where poor Dick
had leaned that day.

There were footsteps approaching, but they made no sound over the
sandy ruts. A tall man, with a fair beard and a clerical felt hat, was
walking quickly up the road that leads from Oldfield; and as he walked
his eyes were scanning the path before him, as though he were looking
for some one. At the sight of the girl leaning against the gate his
face brightened, and he slackened his steps a little, that he might
not startle her. She was looking out across the country with a
far-off, dreamy expression, and did not turn her head as he
approached. It was Laddie who saw him first, and jumped up with a
joyous bark to welcome him; and then she looked round, and for a
moment her eyes grew wide and misty, for she thought it was a
continuation of her dream.

"Laddie saw me first," he said, stepping up quietly to her side,--for
he still feared to startle her,--and his voice was very gentle.
"Phillis, you must not look so surprised! Surely you expected me? It
is the 1st of May!"

"Oh, I knew that," she said; and then she turned away from him. But he
had not dropped her hand, but was holding it very quietly and firmly.
"But I could not tell the day; and----"

"Did you think I should wait an hour beyond the time you fixed?" he
answered, very calmly. "May is your favorite month; and what could be
more beautiful than May-day for the purpose I have in hand! Phillis,
you will not go back from your promise now? You said you would listen
to me in May."

There was no answer to this; but, as Archie looked in her face, he
read no repulse there. And so, in that quiet lane, with Laddie lying
at their feet, he told all he had to tell.

"Are you sure you can trust me now, Phillis?" he asked, rather
wistfully, when he had finished. "You know what I am, dear--a man with
many faults."

"Yes; now and forever," she answered, without a moment's hesitation.
"I am not afraid--I never should have been afraid to trust you, I have
faults of my own: so why should I wish you to be perfect? I care for
you as you are; you will believe that?" for there was almost a sad
humility in his face as he pleaded with her that went to her heart.

"Oh, yes; I believe what you tell me. You are truth itself, my
darling,--the bravest and truest woman I have ever met. You do not
know how happy you have made me, or how different my life will be when
I have you by my side. Phillis, do you know how glad Grace will be
about this?"

"Will she?" returned Phillis, shyly. They were walking homeward now,
hand in hand toward the sunset,--so, at least, it seemed to the girl.
No one was in sight, only the quiet country round them bathed in the
evening light, and they two alone. "Archie!" she exclaimed, suddenly,
and her beautiful eyes grew wistful all at once, "you will not let
this make any difference to Grace? She loves you so; and you are all
she has at present. You must never let me stand between you two. I am
not so selfish as that."

"You could not be selfish if you tried, dearest. How I wish Grace
could have heard you! No; you are right. We must not let her suffer
from our happiness. But, Phillis, you know who must come first now."
And then, as she smiled in full understanding, he put her hand upon
his arm, and held it there. His promised wife,--Archie's wife! Ah, the
Drummond star was rising now in earnest! His life lay before him, like
the road they were now entering, white and untrodden and bathed in the
sunlight. What if some clouds should come, and some shadows fall, if
they might tread it together to the end? And so, growing silent with
happiness, they walked home through the sunset, till the spring dusk
and the village lights saw them standing together on the threshold of
Glen Cottage, and the dear faces and loving voices of home closed
around them and bade them welcome.

THE END



HOW TO BECOME RICH.
A TREATISE ON PHRENOLOGY

A Choice of Professions and Matrimony--A Self-Instructor
By Prof. William Windsor, Ph. D.
Fully illustrated.

[Illustration]

Every young man and woman of reasonable intelligence is, or ought to
be, possessed of a laudable ambition to be self-sustaining. To win a
competency, to secure the necessities, to have even the luxuries of
life, is perfectly praiseworthy, provided they are obtained in a
legitimate manner. Every rational man seeks the occupation, trade or
profession which insures the profitable employment of his best talents,
and the science which discloses to the youth at the beginning of his
education what those talents are and how they may be developed to
perfection in early manhood, confers upon him the greatest favor within
the gift of knowledge, from a financial standpoint. That a knowledge of
Phrenology does this, and more, this book proves beyond all question.

Paper, 184 pages. Price, 25 cents.

FACIOLOGY
OR, THE SCIENCE OF CHARACTER · A SELF-INSTRUCTOR

By L. B. Stevens, LL. B.
95 Illustrations

[Illustration]

"Faciology" opens up an old, familiar and picturesque field of
observation in a new and scientific light; it gives one a mortgage on
man, a quasi-ownership in every creature and individual that comes
within our range of contemplation; this science stimulates our
observation and augments our reason; it teaches us to interrogate the
causes and meaning of human actions, intensifies our interest in
humanity, and fills the heart with a higher and more ardent devotion to
philanthropy.

Paper, 208 pages. Price, 25 cents.

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[Illustration]

Illustrated Holiday and Presentation Editions

QUO VADIS
By Henryk Stenkiewicz.

530 pages and illustrated with 32 photographs and scenes in half-tones;
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IN HIS STEPS
By Charles M. Sheldon.

[Illustration]

275 pages, illustrated with 8 beautiful half-tone engravings. Printed
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SAPPHO
By Alphonse Daudet.

[Illustration]

224 pages, illustrated with 8 half-tone reproductions of the striking
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Price....$1.00

UNCLE TOM'S CABIN
By Harriet Beecher Stowe

[Illustration]

With two portraits of the author and 25 full-page illustrations by
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M. A. DONOHUE & CO., CHICAGO.



PATRIOTIC RECITATIONS AND READINGS
Compiled by Charles Walter Brown

[Illustration]

This is the choicest, newest and most complete collection of Patriotic
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Handsomely bound in Paper Covers    25 Cents
Cloth                               50 Cents

COMPLETE GUIDE TO DANCING

Ball Room Etiquette and Quadrille Call Book

[Illustration]

Containing all the new and modern square dances and tabulated forms for
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Minuet, Waltz Quadrilles, etc., etc.

The "German" introduces over One Hundred of the newest and most popular
Figures, fully described, and conveniently grouped for ready reference.

Every information in regard to the service of Ball-Room Etiquette,
duties of Leaders and general instruction is fully and clearly given.

Handsomely bound in Paper Covers    25 Cents
Cloth                               50 Cents

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THE SELF-EDUCATOR SERIES
Edited by John Adams, M. A., B. Sc.

12Mo. Cloth. Uniform in Size and Binding.
List Price. 75 Cents Each

[Illustration]

The object of this series is to meet the needs of students who are
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exhaust a whole subject in one book. Each volume contains all the
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Self-Educator In Algebra
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OUR SUNDAY SCHOOL LIBRARY FOR VERY YOUNG CHILDREN

12 Volumes--Cloth--Illustrated

We take pleasure in announcing the publication of new and enlarged
editions of the following books, comprising our Sunday School Library
for very young children. Thousands of Sunday Schools and Kindergartens
throughout America have ordered the entire set. In some instances
several sets have been ordered for one school where the enrollment is
very large. Approved by teachers and ministers of all denominations.

[Illustration]

 1. PAPA'S PET
 2. SUNBEAMS AND SHADOWS
 3. MISS ROSY
 4. BEACH FARM CHILDREN
 5. GOOD NIGHT STORIES
 6. HELPING MAMMA
 7. PLEASANT TIMES
 8. BOBBY'S TEETH
 9. PLAY DAY
10. LITTLE TEACHERS
11. PRETTY STORIES
12. AUNT ELIZABETH

Each volume contains about 50 pages printed on an extra quality of heavy
book paper, profusely illustrated and bound in an excellent quality of
silk cloth, assorted colors, and stamped with unique dies in two colors
ink.

Price, 25c each, any 2 for 45c, 5 for $1.00 or the 12 for $2.00
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NATURAL HISTORY STORIES.

[Illustration]

We have included in this series a carefully selected number of books
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Price of each book is $1.00, postpaid.

History of Animals, Their Varieties and Oddities.

Comprising graphic descriptions of nearly all known species of beasts
and reptiles the world over, illustrating their varied habits, mode of
life and distinguishing peculiarities by means of delightful anecdotes
and spirited engravings, by the. Rev. W. Bingley, A. M. Containing 586
pages of large, clear type, and over 500 illustrations; bound in Cloth;
stamped in silks from unique dies.

Price, $1.00.

History of Birds.

Containing their varieties and habits, and comprising sketches of every
known species of birds in all climes; illustrating their use, value and
culture, by the Rev. W. Bingley, A. M. Containing 500 pages of clear
type text and nearly 500 illustrations, made especially for this work;
bound in Cloth and stamped in Inks from unique dies. Large 12mo, 6-1/2 x
9 inches.

Price, $1.00.

History of the Sea.

Comprising a complete description of all the varieties of the finny
inhabitants of the sea, showing their mode of life, and illustrating
their habits and usefulness, by Rev. W. Bingley, A. M. Containing over
500 pages of large, clear type, and nearly 500 illustrations; bound in
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LIVES OF FAMOUS MEN
Edited by Charles Walter Brown, A. M.

In this series of historical and biographical works the publishers have
included only such books as will interest and instruct the youth of both
sexes. A copy should be in every public school and private library.
Special discount made when entire set is ordered. They are printed from
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attractively bound in cloth, stamped in inks and gold from original
designs. Each book is fully illustrated. Price, $1.00 per copy,
postpaid.

LIFE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON.
By George Washington Parke Curtis, the adopted son of our first
president. Cloth, 664 pages, large, 12mo.

LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
By Hon. Joseph H. Barrett, ex-member of Congress, Cloth, 842 pages,
large, 12mo.

LIFE OF U. S. GRANT.
By Hon. B. P. Poore and Rev. O. H. Tiffany, D. D. Cloth, 594 pages,
large, 12mo.

LIFE OF WILLIAM McKINLEY.
By Murat Halstead, Chauncey M. Depew and John Sherman, Cloth, 450 pages,
large, 12mo.

LIFE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
By Thomas W. Handford. Cloth, 255 pages, large, 16mo.

LIFE OF HENRY M. STANLEY,
By A. M. Godbey, A. M. Cloth, 560 pages, large, 12mo.

LIFE OF JOHN PAUL JONES.
By Charles Walter Brown, A. M. Cloth, nearly 300 pages, 12mo.

LIFE OF ETHAN ALLEN,
By Charles Walter Brown, A. M. Cloth, nearly 300 pages, 12mo.

LIFE OF W. T. SHERMAN.
By Hon. W. Fletcher Johnson and Gen. O. O. Howard. Cloth, 607 pages,
large, 12mo.

LIFE OF P. T. BARNUM.
By Hon. Joel Benton. Cloth, 621 pages, large, 12mo.

LIFE OF T. DEWITT TALMAGE.
By Charles Francis Adams. Cloth, nearly 500 pages.

LIFE OF D. L. MOODY.
By Charles Francis Adams. Cloth, 318 pages, large, 12mo.

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"HARKAWAY" SERIES OF BOOKS FOR BOYS
By Bracebridge Hemyng

[Illustration]

"Jack Harkaway's School Days" is one of the most fascinating and
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before his 15th year. After reading this book the other 14 should be
read in the order in which they are given since each is a continuation
of the one preceding.

They are uniformly bound in linen cloth, stamped with original designs,
in inks, on backs and sides.

Price Per Volume, 75 Cents

"No more readable books for the young have ever been printed than these
fifteen volumes."--Book and Newsdealer.

 1 Jack Harkaway's School Days
 2 Jack Harkaway After School Days
 3 Jack Harkaway Afloat and Ashore
 4 Jack Harkaway at Oxford, Part 1
 5 Jack Harkaway at Oxford, Part 2
 6 Jack Harkaway Among the Brigands, Part 1
 7 Jack Harkaway Among the Brigands, Part 2
 8 Jack Harkaway's Adventures Around the World
 9 Jack Harkaway in America and Cuba
10 Jack Harkaway's Adventures in China
11 Jack Harkaway's Adventures in Greece, Part 1
12 Jack Harkaway's Adventures in Greece, Part 2
13 Jack Harkaway's Adventures in Australia
14 Jack Harkaway and His Boy Tinker, Part 1
15 Jack Harkaway and His Boy Tinker, Part 2

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THE GREATEST LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN YET PUBLISHED

By Hon. Jos. H. Barrett,
and Charles Walter. Brown, A. M.

[Illustration]

In this great work which embraces the complete life of the greatest man
of modern times, nothing has been omitted or slighted. His early
History, Political Career, Speeches, both in and out of Congress, the
great Lincoln-Douglas Debates, every state paper, speech, message and
two inaugural addresses are given in full, together with many
characteristic STORIES AND YARNS by and concerning Lincoln, which have
earned for him the sobriquet "The Story Telling President."

In addition there is included a COMPLETE ACCOUNT OF HIS ASSASSINATION,
death and burial, together with the trial and execution of his
assassins.

This immense volume of 850 pages contains nearly 360,000 words, being
six times larger than the average school history. Size of book 6-1/2x9,
3 inches thick, weighing nearly 3 pounds.

Price, $1.00

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THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BLACKSMITHING, HORSESHOEING, CARRIAGE AND WAGON
BUILDING AND PAINTING

[Illustration]

For all general mechanical work, this is the most valuable book for the
farmer, blacksmith, carpenter, carriage and wagon building, painting and
varnishing trades published. The department on Blacksmithing is based on
the various text books by Prof. A. Lungwitz, Director of the Shoeing
School of the Royal Veterinary College at Dresden, while the chapters on
Carriage and Wagon Building, Painting, Varnishing are by Charles F.
Adams, one of the most successful builders in Wisconsin. The language
employed is so simple that any young man of average ability can, in a
short time become proficient in all of these useful and profitable
occupations. Each chapter is fully illustrated, there being more than 50
drawings throughout the book.

Full Cloth Binding, Price, $1.00

THE COMPLETE HOUSE BUILDER
With Practical Hints on Construction

[Illustration]

The subject of house building is of interest to all, even though
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A few months or a year may so change the aspect of one's affairs as to
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for Farms, Country Seats, Suburban Homes, etc.; accurate estimates of
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Materials, with 50 plans and Specifications on buildings from $476
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COMPLETE HYPNOTISM
Or, How to Hypnotize

[Illustration]

A manual of self-instruction based on the new and improved system of
mental and bodily healing. Pronounced by all who have read it to be the
most fascinating and instructive book of its kind published. Inductive
Hypnotism, Mesmerism, Suggestive Therapeutics and Magnetic Healing,
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100 lessons especially prepared for self-instruction. This is positively
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Paper covers, 25 cents; Cloth, 50 cents.

THE COMPLETE PALMIST

[Illustration]

Prepared for self-instruction by Ina Oxenford, the world-renowned author
and acknowledged authority on Palmistry. This is the simplest
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trait, no characteristic, no inherited tendency that is not marked on
the palm of the hand and can be traced with unerring accuracy by
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will enable one to know his own character better and give convincing
proof of the constancy of friends, or the professing ones. The Bible
attests the truth of Palmistry.

Paper covers, 25 cents; Cloth, 50 cents.

THE MYSTIC FORTUNE TELLER,
Dream Book and Policy Players' Guide

[Illustration]

This book contains an alphabetical list of dreams with their
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COMIC READINGS AND RECITATIONS
Compiled by CHARLES WALTER. BROWN, A. M.

[Illustration]

Few of the selections contained in this book have ever before appeared
in print. Copyright matter has been procured at great expense from the
greatest wits of the age. Such delightful entertainers as Ezra Kendall,
Lew Dockstadter, Josh Billings, James Whitcomb Kiley, Marshall P.
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Paper covers, printed in two colors on enameled paper, 25 cents.
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THE AMERICAN STAR SPEAKER AND MODEL ELOCUTIONIST
By CHARLES WALTER. BROWN, A. M.

[Illustration]

Many Speakers are advertised to be the best, but a comparison is all
that is necessary to convince anyone that our claim that The American
Star Speaker & Model Elocutionist is beyond all question the best from
an Elocutionary point of view. Of the 500 or more selections there is
not one that is not available for reading on any desired occasion. The
treatise on Acting, Delsarte, Elocution, Oratory and Physical Culture is
by the professor of these departments in the Missouri State University,
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It gives more for the money than any similar work published. Space
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DOROTHY VERNON
or, THE BEAUTY of HADDON HALL

The author has produced a powerful love story, replete with stirring
and pathetic incidents. This book will be read and re-read with
increasing interest, and will long be remembered as one of the purest,
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great sensation.

12mo, Paper   Price, $0.35
12mo, Cloth     "     1.00

SWEET DANGER
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

The public has long awaited a prose work from the pen of this gifted
writer that should deal with the sentiments and emotions as forcibly as
she has done in verse. "Sweet Danger," represents that effort in the
fullest sense. It is creating a sensation even among readers of the
French school of fiction.

12mo, Paper   Price, $0.50
12mo, Cloth     "     1.25

MADAME DUBARRY, The King's Mistress
by George Moorehead.

Mrs. Leslie Carter, the famous American actress, having selected
Madame Dubarry as the central figure in her new play, the life story
of the famous mistress of Louis XV of France becomes a topic of
universal interest to American readers.

12mo, Paper   Price, $0.50
12mo, Cloth     "     1.25

TOLD BY TWO
By Marie St. Felix

Author of "Little Game With Destiny," "Two Bad Brown Eyes,"
"Patricia," Etc.

This book is full of thrilling romance, with innumerable happenings to a
giddy young married woman of New York and a bachelor from Boston. Plenty
of rich, spicy dialogue--it is replete with up-to-date expletives.
Lovers of realistic fiction will revel in this literary feast.

12mo, Paper   Price, $0.50
12mo, Cloth     "     1.25

ANY THREE IN PAPER COVERS FOR $1.00, OR THE 4 FOR $1.30

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FAMOUS BOOKS FOR BOYS

These are new and superior editions of these famous authors' books for
boys. They are printed from new plates on an excellent quality of paper
while many are profusely illustrated. Each book is sewed, thus making a
flexible back, so that it opens easily, making its reading a pleasure
and a comfort. The covers are printed in two colors from appropriate
designs on a heavy coated enameled paper in assorted colors.

FROM THE MODERN AUTHORS' LIBRARY

By Q. A. Henty

260 Boy Knight, A
271 Cornet of Horse
280 Facing Death
285 Final Reckoning
295 In Freedom's Cause
298 In Times of Peril
297 In the Reign of Terror
299 Jack Archer
317 One of the 28th
318 Orange and Green
319 Out on the Pampas
337 True to the Old Flag
349 Under Drake's Flag
348 With Lee in Virginia

By J. Fenimore Cooper

170 Last of the Mohicans, The
178 Pathfinder, The
179 Pioneers, The
180 Prairie, The
187 Spy, The
354 Deerslayer

By Victor Hugo

 36 By Order of the King
272 Cosette
283 Fantine
106 Hans of Iceland
 37 History of a Crime
300 Jean Valjean
308 Marins
 38 Ninety-Three
 39 Notre Dame de Paris
331 St. Denis
 40 Toilers of the Sea

By Emile Gaboriau

284 File No. 113--
287 Gilded Clique
108 Lecoq, the Detective
199 Lerouge Case, The
312 Mystery of Orcival

By Jules Verne

245 Michael Strogoff
219 Mysterious Island
180 Tour of the World in 80 Days
121 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

By H. Rider Haggard

158 Allan Quatermain
223 Allan's Wife
160 Cleopatra
100 Jess
167 King Solomon's Mines
112 Miawa's Revenge
244 Mr. Meeson's Will
186 She

Price, Postpaid 25c Each or Any Five for $1.00

For sale by all book and newsdealers or sent postpaid to any address in
the United States, Canada or Mexico upon receipt of price in currency,
stamps, postal or express money order.

M. A. DONOHUE & CO.
407-429 Dearborn St., CHICAGO



FORTUNE TELLING, MAGIC, TABLEAUX, PANTOMIMES, PLAYS, SPEAKERS, ETC.

Twentieth Century Wonder Book
By Wm. C. Hunter

[Illustration]

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Bound in Cloth....50c.
Bound in Paper....25c.

DEARBORN SPEAKER

182 Pages
12mo, Cloth

Embracing original and select readings, recitations, declamations and
dialogues, with introductory observations of eminent elocutionists and
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plates, substantially bound, with title stamped in gold.

Price....75c.

TOMMY'S FIRST SPEAKER

160 Pages, 12mo, Cloth

[Illustration]

Containing selections for boys and girls that are simple, serious,
quaint and pleasant and so short that they can be easily memorized.
Over 300 selections, bound in art vellum cloth, titles stamped on the
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Price....50c.

TOMMY'S SECOND SPEAKER

160 Pages, 12mo, Cloth

Comprising selections for boys and girls of a more advanced age than
those for whom Tommy's First Speaker was written Over 200 selections,
bound in art vellum cloth, title stamped on front cover in ink from
ornamental design.

Price....50c.

M. A. DONOHUE & CO., CHICAGO.





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