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Title: Airy Fairy Lilian
Author: Duchess, 1855?-1897
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Airy Fairy Lilian" ***

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AIRY FAIRY LILIAN

BY

"THE DUCHESS"
AUTHOR OF "PORTIA," "MOLLY BAWN," ETC., ETC.

NEW YORK
INTERNATIONAL BOOK COMPANY
3, 4, 5 AND 6 MISSION PLACE



AIRY FAIRY LILIAN.



CHAPTER I.

     "Home, sweet Home."
     --_Old English Song._


Down the broad oak staircase--through the silent hall--into the
drawing-room runs Lilian, singing as she goes.

The room is deserted; through the half-closed blinds the glad sunshine
is rushing, turning to gold all on which its soft touch lingers, and
rendering the large, dull, handsome apartment almost comfortable.

Outside everything is bright, and warm, and genial, as should be in the
heart of summer; within there is only gloom,--and Lilian clad in her
mourning robes. The contrast is dispiriting: there life, here death, or
at least the knowledge of it. There joy, here the signs and trappings of
woe.

The black gown and funereal trimmings hardly harmonize with the girl's
flower-like face and the gay song that trembles on her lips. But, alas!
for how short a time does our first keen sorrow last! how swiftly are
our dead forgotten! how seldom does grief kill! When eight long months
have flown by across her father's grave Lilian finds, sometimes to her
dismay, that the hours she grieves for him form but a short part of her
day.

Not that her sorrow for him, even at its freshest, was very deep; it was
of the subdued and horrified rather than the passionate, despairing
kind. And though in truth she mourned and wept for him until her pretty
eyes could hold no longer tears, still there was a mildness about her
grief more suggestive of tender melancholy than any very poignant
anguish.

From her the dead father could scarcely be more separated than had been
the living. Naturally of a rather sedentary disposition, Archibald
Chesney, on the death of the wife whom he adored, had become that most
uninteresting and selfish of all things, a confirmed bookworm. He went
in for study, of the abstruse and heavy order, with an ardor worthy of a
better cause. His library was virtually his home; he had neither
affections nor desires beyond. Devoting himself exclusively to his
books, he suffered them to take entire possession of what he chose to
call his heart.

At times he absolutely forgot the existence of his little three-year-old
daughter; and if ever the remembrance of her did cross his mind it was
but to think of her as an incubus,--as another misfortune heaped upon
his luckless shoulders,--and to wonder, with a sigh, what he was to do
with her in the future.

The child, deprived of a tender mother at so early an age, was flung,
therefore, upon the tender mercies of her nurses, who alternately petted
and injudiciously reproved her, until at length she bade fair to be as
utterly spoilt as a child can be.

She had one companion, a boy-cousin about a year older than herself. He
too was lonely and orphaned, so that the two children, making common
cause, clung closely to each other, and shared, both in infancy and in
early youth, their joys and sorrows. The Park had been the boy's home
ever since his parents' death, Mr. Chesney accepting him as his ward,
but never afterward troubling himself about his welfare. Indeed, he had
no objection whatever to fill the Park with relations, so long as they
left him undisturbed to follow his own devices.

Not that the education of these children was neglected. They had all
tuition that was necessary; and Lilian, having a talent for music,
learned to sing and play the piano very charmingly. She could ride, too,
and sit her horse _a merveille_, and had a passion for reading,--perhaps
inherited. But, as novels were her principal literature, and as she had
no one to regulate her choice of them, it is a matter of opinion whether
she derived much benefit from them. At least she received little harm,
as at seventeen she was as fresh-minded and pure-hearted a child as one
might care to know.

The County, knowing her to be an heiress,--though not a large
one,--called systematically on her every three months. Twice she had
been taken to a ball by an enterprising mother with a large family of
unpromising sons. But as she reached her eighteenth year her father
died, and her old home, the Park, being strictly entailed on heirs male,
passed from her into the hands of a distant cousin utterly unknown. This
young man, another Archibald Chesney, was abroad at the time of his
kinsman's death,--in Egypt, or Hong-Kong, or Jamaica,--no one exactly
knew which--until after much search he was finally discovered to be in
Halifax.

From thence he had written to the effect that, as he probably should not
return to his native land for another six months, he hoped his cousin
(if it pleased her) would continue to reside at the Park--where all the
old servants were to be kept on--until his return.

It did please his cousin; and in her old home she still reigned as
queen, until after eight months she received a letter from her father's
lawyer warning her of Archibald Chesney's actual arrival in London.

This letter failed in its object. Lilian either would not or could not
bring herself to name the day that should part her forever from all the
old haunts and pleasant nooks she loved so well. She was not brave
enough to take her "Bradshaw" and look up the earliest train that ought
to convey her away from the Park. Indeed, so utterly wanting in decency
and decorum did she appear at this particular epoch of her existence
that the heart of her only aunt--her father's sister--was stirred to its
depths. So much so that, after mature deliberation (for old people as
well as great ones move slowly), she finally packed up the venerable
hair-trunk that had seen the rise and fall of several monarchs, and
marched all the way from Edinburgh to this Midland English shire, to try
what firm expostulation could do in the matter of bringing her niece to
see the error of her ways.

For a whole week it did very little.

Lilian was independent in more ways than one. She had considerable
spirit and five hundred pounds a year in her own right. Not only did she
object to leave the Park, but she regarded with horror the prospect of
going to reside with the guardians appointed to receive her by her
father. Not that this idea need have filled her with dismay. Sir Guy
Chetwoode, the actual guardian, was a young man not likely to trouble
himself overmuch about any ward; while his mother, Lady Chetwoode, was
that most gracious of all things, a beautiful and lovable old lady.

Why Mr. Chesney had chosen so young a man to look after his daughter's
interests must forever remain a mystery,--perhaps because he happened to
be the eldest son of his oldest friend, long since dead. Sir Guy
accepted the charge because he thought it uncivil to refuse, and chiefly
because he believed it likely Miss Chesney would marry before her
father's death. But events proved the fallacy of human thought. When
Archibald Chesney's demise appeared in the _Times_ Sir Guy made a little
face and took meekly a good deal of "chaffing" at his brother's hands;
while Lady Chetwoode sat down, and, with a faint sinking at her heart,
wrote a kindly letter to the orphan, offering her a home at Chetwoode.
To this letter Lilian had sent a polite reply, thanking "dear Lady
Chetwoode" for her kindness, and telling her she had no intention of
quitting the Park just at present. Later on she would be only too happy
to accept, etc., etc.

Now, however, standing in her own drawing-room, Lilian feels, with a
pang, the game is almost played out; she must leave. Aunt Priscilla's
arguments, detestable though they be, are unhappily quite unanswerable.
To her own heart she confesses this much, and the little gay French song
dies on her lips, and the smile fades from her eyes, and a very dejected
and forlorn expression comes and grows upon her pretty face.

It is more than pretty, it is lovely,--the fair, sweet childish face,
framed in by its yellow hair; her great velvety eyes, now misty through
vain longing, are blue as the skies above her; her nose is pure Greek;
her forehead, low, but broad, is partly shrouded by little wandering
threads of gold that every now and then break loose from bondage, while
her lashes, long and dark, curl upward from her eyes, as though hating
to conceal the beauty of the exquisite azure within.

She is not tall, and she is very slender but not lean. She is willful,
quick-tempered, and impetuous, but large-hearted and lovable. There is a
certain haughtiness about her that contrasts curiously but pleasantly
with her youthful expression and laughing kissable mouth. She is
straight and lissome as a young ash-tree; her hands and feet are small
and well shaped; in a word, she is _chic_ from the crown of her fair
head down to her little arched instep.

Just now, perhaps, as she hears the honest sound of her aunt's footstep
in the hall, a slight pout takes possession of her lips and a flickering
frown adorns her brow. Aunt Priscilla is coming, and Aunt Priscilla
brings victory in her train, and it is not every one can accept defeat
with grace.

She hastily pulls up one of the blinds; and as old Miss Chesney opens
the door and advances up the room, young Miss Chesney rather turns her
shoulder to her and stares moodily out of the window. But Aunt Priscilla
is not to be daunted.

"Well, Lilian," she says, in a hopeful tone, and with an amount of faith
admirable under the circumstances, "I trust you have been thinking it
over favorably, and that----"

"Thinking what over?" asks Lilian; which interruption is a mean
subterfuge.

"----And that the night has induced you to see your situation in its
proper light."

"You speak as though I were the under house-maid," says Lilian with a
faint sense of humor. "And yet the word suits me. Surely there never yet
was a situation as mine. I wish my horrid cousin had been drowned
in----. No, Aunt Priscilla, the night has not reformed me. On the
contrary, it has demoralized me, through a dream. I dreamt I went to
Chetwoode, and, lo! the very first night I slept beneath its roof the
ceiling in my room gave way, and, falling, crushed me to fine powder.
After such a ghastly warning do you still advise me to pack up and be
off? If you do," says Lilian, solemnly, "my blood be on your head."

"Dreams go by contraries," quotes Miss Priscilla, sententiously. "I
don't believe in them. Besides, from all I have heard of the Chetwoodes
they are far too well regulated a family to have anything amiss with
their ceilings."

"Oh, how _you do_ add fuel to the fire that is consuming me!" exclaims
Lilian, with a groan. "A well-regulated family!--what can be more awful?
Ever since I have been old enough to reason I have looked with righteous
horror upon a well-regulated family. Aunt Priscilla, if you don't change
your tune I vow and protest I shall decide upon remaining here until my
cousin takes me by the shoulders and places me upon the gravel outside."

"I thought, Lilian," says her aunt, severely, "you promised me yesterday
to think seriously of what I have now been saying to you for a whole
week without cessation."

"Well, so I am thinking," with a sigh. "It is the amount of thinking I
have been doing for a whole week without cessation that is gradually
turning my hair gray."

"It would be all very well," says Miss Priscilla, impatiently, "if I
could remain with you; but I cannot. I must return to my duties." These
duties consisted of persecuting poor little children every Sunday by
compelling them to attend her Scriptural class (so she called it) and
answer such questions from the Old Testament as would have driven any
experienced divinity student out of his mind; and on week-days of
causing much sorrow (and more bad language) to be disseminated among the
women of the district by reason of her lectures on their dirt. "And your
cousin is in London, and naturally will wish to take possession in
person."

"How I wish poor papa had left the Park to me!" says Lilian,
discontentedly, and somewhat irrelevantly.

"My dear child, I have explained to you at least a dozen times that such
a gift was not in his power. It goes--that is, the Park,--to a male
heir, and----"

"Yes, I know," petulantly. "Well, then I wish it _had_ been in his power
to leave it to me."

"And how about writing to Lady Chetwoode?" says Aunt Priscilla, giving
up the argument in despair. (She is a wise woman.) "The sooner you do so
the better."

"I hate strangers," says Lilian, mournfully. "They make me unhappy. Why
can't I remain where I am? George or Archibald, or whatever his name is,
might just as well let me have a room here. I'm sure the place is large
enough. He need not grudge me one or two apartments. The left wing, for
instance."

"Lilian," says Miss Chesney, rising from her chair, "how old are you? Is
it possible that at eighteen you have yet to learn the meaning of the
word 'propriety'? You--a _young girl_--to remain here alone with a
_young man_!"

"He need never see me," says Lilian, quite unmoved by this burst of
eloquence. "I should take very good care of that, as I know I shall
detest him."

"I decline to listen to you," says Miss Priscilla, raising her hands to
her ears. "You must be lost to all sense of decorum even to imagine such
a thing. You and he in one house, how should you avoid meeting?"

"Well, even if we did meet," says Lilian, with a small rippling laugh
impossible to quell, "I dare say he wouldn't bite me."

"No,"--sternly,--"he would probably do worse. He would make love to you.
Some instinct warns me," says Miss Priscilla, with the liveliest horror,
gazing upon the exquisite, glowing face before her, "that within five
days he would be making _violent_ love to you."

"You strengthen my desire to stay," says Lilian, somewhat frivolously,
"I should so like to say 'No' to him!"

"Lilian, you make me shudder," says Miss Priscilla, earnestly. "When I
was your age, even younger, I had a full sense of the horror of allowing
any man to mention my name lightly. I kept all men at arm's length, I
suffered no jesting or foolish talking from them. And mark the result,"
says Miss Chesney, with pride: "I defy any one to say a word of me but
what is admirable and replete with modesty."

"Did any one ever propose to you, auntie?" asks Miss Lilian with a
naughty laugh.

"Certainly. I had many offers," replies Miss Priscilla, promptly,--which
is one of the few lies she allows herself; "I was persecuted by suitors
in my younger days; but I refused them all. And if you will take my
advice, Lilian," says this virgin, with much solemnity, "you will never,
_never_ put yourself into clutches of a _man_." She utters this last
word as though she would have said a tiger or a serpent, or anything
else ruthless and bloodthirsty. "But all this is beside the question."

"It is, rather," says Lilian, demurely. But, suddenly brightening,
"Between my dismal dreaming last night I thought of another plan."

"Another!" with open dismay.

"Yes,"--triumphantly,--"it occurred to me that this bugbear my cousin
might go abroad again. Like the Wandering Jew, he is always traveling;
and who knows but he may take a fancy to visit the South Pole, or
discover the Northwestern Passage, or go with Jules Verne to the centre
of the earth? If so, why should not I remain here and keep house for
him? What can be simpler?"

"Nothing,"--tritely,--"but unfortunately he is not going abroad again."

"No! How do you know that?"

"Through Mr. Shrude, the solicitor."

"Ah!" says Lilian, in a despairing tone, "how unhappy I am! Though I
might have known that wretched young man would be the last to do what is
his palpable duty." There is a pause. Lilian's head sinks upon her hand;
dejection shows itself in every feature. She sighs so heavily that Miss
Priscilla's spirits rise and she assures herself the game is won. Rash
hope.

Suddenly Lilian's countenance clears; she raises her head, and a faint
smile appears within her eyes.

"Aunt Priscilla, I have yet another plan," she says, cheerfully.

"Oh, my dear, I do hope not," says poor Miss Chesney, almost on the
verge of tears.

"Yes, and it emanated from you. Supposing I were to remain here, and he
did fall in love with me, and married me: what then? Would not that
solve the difficulty? Once the ceremony was performed he might go prying
about all over the known globe for all that I should care. I should have
my dear Park. I declare," says Lilian, waxing valiant, "had he but one
eye, or did he appear before me with a wooden leg (which I hold to be
the most contemptible of all things), nothing should induce me to refuse
him under the circumstances."

"And are you going to throw yourself upon your cousin's generosity and
actually ask him to take pity on you and make you his wife? Lilian, I
fancied you had some pride," says Miss Chesney, gravely.

"So I have," says Lilian, with a repentant sigh. "How I wish I hadn't!
No, I suppose it wouldn't do to marry him in that way, no matter how
badly I treated him afterward to make up for it. Well, my last hope is
dead."

"And a good thing too. Now, had you not better sit down and write to
Lady Chetwoode or your guardian, naming an early date for going to them?
Though what your father could have meant by selecting so young a man as
a guardian is more than I can imagine."

"Because he wished me to live with Lady Chetwoode, who was evidently an
old flame; and because Sir Guy, from all I hear, is a sort of Admirable
Crichton--something as prosy as the Heir of Redclyffe, as dull as Sir
Galahad. A goody-goody old-young man. For my part, I would have
preferred a hoary-headed gentleman, with just a little spice of
wickedness about him."

"Lilian, don't be flippant," in a tone of horror. "I tremble when I
reflect on the dangers that must attend your unbridled tongue."

"Well, but, Aunt Priscilla,"--plaintively,--"one doesn't relish the
thought of spending day after day with a man who will think it his duty
to find fault every time I give way to my sentiments, and probably grow
pale with disgust whenever I laugh aloud. Shan't I lead him a life!"
says the younger Miss Chesney, viciously, tapping the back of one small
hand vigorously against the palm of the other. "With the hope of giving
that young man something to cavil at, I shall sustain myself."

"Child," says Miss Priscilla, "let me recommend a course of severe study
to you as the best means of subduing your evil inclinations."

"I shall take your advice," says the incorrigible Lilian; "I shall study
Sir Guy. I expect that will be the severest course of study I have ever
undergone."

"Get your paper and write," says Miss Priscilla, who, against her will,
is smiling grimly.

"I suppose, indeed, I must," says Lilian, seating herself at her
davenport with all the airs of a finished martyr. "'Needs must,' you
know, Aunt Priscilla. I dare say you recollect the rest of that rather
vulgar proverb. I shall seal my fate this instant by writing to Lady
Chetwoode. But, oh!" turning on her chair to regard her aunt with an
expression of the keenest reproach, "how I wish you had not called them
a 'well-regulated family!'"



CHAPTER II.

     "Be not over-exquisite
     To cast the fashion of uncertain evils."--MILTON.


Through the open windows the merry-making sun is again dancing, its
bright rays making still more dazzling the glory of the snowy
table-cloth. The great silver urn is hissing and fighting with all
around, as though warning his mistress to use him, as he is not one to
be trifled with; while at the lower end of the table, exactly opposite
Sir Guy's plate, lies the post upon a high salver, ready to the master's
hand, as has been the custom at Chetwoode for generations.

Evidently the family is late for breakfast. As a rule, the Chetwoode
family always is late for breakfast,--just sufficiently so to make them
certain everything will be quite ready by the time they get down.

Ten o'clock rings out mysteriously from the handsome marble clock upon
the chimney-piece, and precisely three minutes afterward the door is
thrown open to admit an elderly lady, tall and fair, and still
beautiful.

She walks with a slow, rather stately step, and in spite of her years
carries her head high. Upon this head rests the daintiest of morning
caps, all white lace and delicate ribbon bows, that match in color her
trailing gown. Her hands, small and tapering, are covered with rings;
otherwise she wears no adornment of any kind. There is a benignity about
her that goes straight to all hearts. Children adore her, dogs fawn upon
her, young men bring to her all their troubles,--the evil behavior of
their tailors and their mistresses are alike laid before her.

Now, finding the room empty, and knowing it to be four minutes after
ten, she says to herself, "The first!" with a little surprise and much
pardonable pride, and seats herself with something of an air before the
militant urn. When we are old it is so sweet to us to be younger than
the young, when we are young it is so sweet to us to be just _vice
versa_. Oh, foolish youth!

An elderly butler, who has evidently seen service (in every sense of the
word), and who is actually steeped in respectability up to his port-wine
nose, hovers around the breakfast, adjusting this dish affectionately,
and straightening that, until all is carefully awry, when he leaves the
room with a sigh of satisfaction.

Perhaps Lady Chetwoode's self-admiration would have grown beyond bounds,
but that just at this instant voices in the hall distract her thoughts.
The sounds make her face brighten and bring a smile to her lips. "The
boys" are coming. She draws the teacups a little nearer to her and makes
a gentle fuss over the spoons. A light laugh echoes through the hall; it
is answered and then the door once more opens, and her two sons enter,
Cyril, being the youngest, naturally coming first.

On seeing his mother he is pleased to make a gesture indicative of the
most exaggerated surprise.

"Now, who could have anticipated it?" he says. "Her gracious majesty
already assembled, while her faithful subjects---- Well," with a sudden
change of tone, "for my part I call it downright shabby of people to
scramble down-stairs before other people merely for the sake of putting
them to the blush."

"Lazy boy! no wonder you are ashamed of yourself when you look at the
clock," says Lady Chetwoode, smiling fondly as she returns his greeting.

"Ashamed! Pray do not misunderstand me. I have arrived at my
twenty-sixth year without ever having mastered the meaning of that word.
I flatter myself I am a degree beyond that."

"Last night's headache quite gone, mother?" asks Sir Guy, bending over
her chair to kiss her; an act he performs tenderly, and as though the
doing of it is sweet to him.

"Quite, my dear," replies she; and there is perhaps the faintest, the
_very_ faintest, accession of warmth in her tone, an almost
imperceptible increase of kindliness in her smile as she speaks to her
eldest son.

"That's right," says he, patting her gently on the shoulder; after which
he goes over to his own seat and takes up the letters lying before him.

"Positively I never thought of the post," says Lady Chetwoode. "And here
I have been for quite five minutes with nothing to do. I might as well
have been digesting my correspondence, if there is any for me."

"One letter for you; five, as usual, for Cyril; one for me," says Guy.
"All Cyril's." Examining them critically at arm's length. "Written
evidently by _very_ young women."

"Yes, they _will_ write to me," returns Cyril, receiving them with a
sigh and regarding them with careful scrutiny. "It is nothing short of
disgusting," he says presently, singling out one of the letters with his
first finger. "This is the fourth she has written me this week, and as
yet it is only Friday. I won't be able to bear it much longer; I shall
certainly make a stand one of these days."

"I would if I were you," says Guy, laughing.

"I have just heard from Lilian Chesney," suddenly says Lady Chetwoode,
speaking as though a bombshell had fallen in their midst. "And she is
really coming here next week!"

"No!" says Guy, without meaning contradiction, which at the moment is
far from him.

"Yes," replies his mother, somewhat faintly.

"Another!" murmurs Cyril, weakly,--he being the only one of the three
who finds any amusement in the situation. "Well, at all events, _she_
can't write to me, as we shall be under the same roof; and I shall
dismiss the very first servant who brings me a _billet-doux_. How
pleased you do look, Guy! And no wonder;--a whole live ward, and all to
yourself. Lucky you!"

"It is hard on you, mother," says Guy, "but it can't be helped. When I
promised, I made sure her father would have lived for years to come."

"You did what was quite right," says Lady Chetwoode, who, if Guy were to
commit a felony, would instantly say it was the only proper course to be
pursued. "And it might have been much worse. Her mother's daughter
cannot fail to be a lady in the best sense of the word."

"I'm sure I hope she won't, then," says Cyril, who all this time has
been carefully laying in an uncommonly good breakfast. "If there is one
thing I hate, it is a young lady. Give me a girl."

"But, my dear, what an extraordinary speech! Surely a girl may be a
young lady."

"Yes, but unfortunately a young lady isn't always a girl. My experience
of the former class is, that, no matter what their age, they are as old
as the hills, and know considerably more than they ought to know."

"And just as we had got rid of one ward so successfully we must needs
get another," says Lady Chetwoode, with a plaintive sigh. "Dear Mabel!
she was certainly very sweet, and I was excessively fond of her, but I
do hope this new-comer will not be so troublesome."

"I hope she will be as pleasant to talk to and as good to look at," says
Cyril. "I confess I missed Mab awfully; I never felt so down in my life
as when she declared her intention of marrying Tom Steyne."

"I never dreamed the marriage would have turned out so well," says Lady
Chetwoode, in a pleased tone. "She was such an--an--unreasonable girl.
But it is wonderful how well she gets on with a husband."

"Flirts always make the best wives. You forget that, mother."

"And what a coquette she was? If Lilian Chesney resembles her, I don't
know what I shall do. I am getting too old to take care of pretty
girls."

"Perhaps Miss Chesney is ugly."

"I hope not, my dear," says Lady Chetwoode, with a strong shudder. "Let
her be anything but that. I can't bear ugly women. No, her mother was
lovely. I used to think"--relapsing again into the plaintive
style--"that one ward in a lifetime would be sufficient, and now we are
going to have another."

"It is all Guy's fault," says Cyril. "He does get himself up so like the
moral Pecksniff. There is a stern and dignified air about him would
deceive a Machiavelli, and takes the hearts of parents by storm. Poor
Mr. Chesney, who never even saw him, took him on hearsay as his only
child's guardian. This solitary fact shows how grossly he has taken in
society in general. He is every bit as immoral as the rest of us,
only----"

"Immoral! My _dear_ Cyril----" interrupts Lady Chetwoode, severely.

"Well, let us say frivolous. It has just the same meaning nowadays, and
sounds nicer. But he looks a 'grave and reverend,' if ever there was
one. Indeed, his whole appearance is enough to make any passer-by stop
short and say, 'There goes a good young man.'"

"I'm sure I hope not," says Guy, half offended, wholly disgusted. "I
should be inclined to shoot any one who told me I was a 'good young
man.' I have no desire to pose as such: my ambition does not lie that
way."

"I don't believe you know what you are saying, either of you," says Lady
Chetwoode, who, though accustomed to them, can never entirely help
showing surprise at their sentiments and expressions every now and then.
"I should be sorry to think everybody did not know you to be (as I do)
good as gold."

"Thank you, Madre. One compliment from you is worth a dozen from any one
else," says Cyril. "Any news, Guy? You seem absorbed. I cannot tell you
how I admire any one who takes an undisguised interest in his
correspondence. Now I"--gazing at his five unopened letters--"cannot
get up the feeling to save my life. Guy,"--reproachfully,--"don't you
see your mother is dying of curiosity?"

"The letter is from Trant," says Guy, looking up from the closely
written sheet before him. "He wants to know if we will take a tenant for
'The Cottage.' 'A lady'"--reading from the letter--"'who has suffered
much, and who wishes for quietness and retirement from the world.'"

"I should recommend a convent under the circumstances," says Cyril. "It
would be the very thing for her. I don't see why she should come down
here to suffer, and put us all in the dumps, and fill our woods with her
sighs and moans."

"Is she young?" asks Lady Chetwoode, anxiously.

"No,--I don't know, I'm sure. I should think not, by Trant's way of
mentioning her. 'An old friend,' he says, though, of course, that might
mean anything."

"Married?"

"Yes. A widow."

"Dear me!" says Lady Chetwoode, distastefully. "A most objectionable
class of people. Always in the way, and--er--very designing, and that."

"If she is anything under forty she will want to marry Guy directly,"
Cyril puts in, with an air of conviction. "If I were you, Guy, I should
pause and consider before I introduced such a dangerous ingredient so
near home. Just fancy, mother, seeing Guy married to a woman probably
older than you!"

"Yes,--I shouldn't wonder," says Lady Chetwoode, nervously. "My dear
child, do nothing in a hurry. Tell Colonel Trant you--you--do not care
about letting The Cottage just at present."

"Nonsense, mother! How can you be so absurd? Don't you think I may be
considered proof against designing widows at twenty-nine? Never mind
Cyril's talk. I dare say he is afraid for himself. Indeed, the one thing
that makes me hesitate about obliging Trant is the knowledge of how
utterly incapable my poor brother is of taking care of himself."

"It is only too true," says Cyril, resignedly. "I feel sure if the widow
is flouted by you she will revenge herself by marrying me. Guy, as you
are strong, be merciful."

"After all, the poor creature may be quite old, and we are frightening
ourselves unnecessarily," says Lady Chetwoode, in all sincerity.

At this both Guy and Cyril laugh in spite of themselves.

"Are you really afraid, mother?" asks Cyril, fondly. "What a goose you
are about your 'boys'! Are we always to be children in your eyes? Not
that I wonder at your horror of widows. Even the immortal Weller shared
your sentiments, and warned his 'Samivel' against them. Never mind,
mother; console yourself. I for one swear by all that is lovely never to
seek this particular 'widder' in marriage."

False oath.

"You see he seems to take it so much for granted, my giving The Cottage
and that, I hardly like to refuse."

"It would not be of the least consequence, if it was not situated
actually in our own woods, and not two miles from the house. There lies
the chief objection," says Lady Chetwoode.

"Yes. Yet what can I do? It is a pretty little place, and it seems a
pity to let it sink into decay. This tenant may save it."

"It is a lovely spot. I often fancy, Guy," says his mother, somewhat
sadly, "I should like to go and live there myself when you get a wife."

"Why should you say that?" says Guy, almost roughly. "If my taking a
wife necessitates your quitting Chetwoode, I shall never burden myself
with that luxury."

"You don't follow out the Mater's argument, dear boy," says Cyril,
smoothly. "She means that when your sylvan widow claims you as her own
she _must_ leave, as of course the same roof could not cover both. But
you are eating nothing, mother; Guy's foolish letter has taken away your
appetite. Take some of this broiled ham!"

"No, thank you, dear, I don't care for----"

"Don't perjure yourself. You know you have had a positive passion for
broiled ham from your cradle up. I remember all about it. I insist on
your eating your breakfast, or you will have that beastly headache back
again."

"My dear," says his mother, entreatingly, "do you think you could be
silent for a few minutes while I discuss this subject with your
brother?"

"I shan't speak again. After that severe snubbing consider me dumb. But
do get it over quick," says Cyril. "I can't be mute forever."

"I suppose I had better say yes," says Guy, doubtfully. "It looks
rather like the dog in the manger, having The Cottage idle and still
refusing Trant's friend."

"That reminds me of a capital story," breaks in the irrepressible Cyril,
gayly. "By Jove, what a sell it was! One fellow met another fellow----"

"I shall refuse, of course, if you wish it," Guy goes on, addressing his
mother, and scorning to notice this brilliant interruption.

"No, no, dear. Write and say you will think about it."

"Won't you listen to my capital story?" asks Cyril, in high disgust.
"Very good. You will both be sorry afterward,--when it is too late."

Even this awful threat takes no effect.

"Unfortunately, I can't do that," says Guy, answering Lady Chetwoode.
"His friend is obliged to leave the place she is now in, immediately,
and he wants her to come here next week,--next"--glancing at the
letter--"Saturday."

"Misfortunes never come single," remarks Cyril; "ours seem to crowd.
First a ward, and then a widow, and all in the same week."

"Not only the same week, but the same day," exclaims Lady Chetwoode,
looking at her letter; whereupon they all laugh, though they scarcely
know why.

"What! Is she too coming on Saturday?" asks Guy. "How ill-timed! I am
bound to go to the Bellairs, on that day, whether I like it or not, to
dine, and sleep and spend my time generally. The old boy has some young
dogs of which he is immensely proud, and has been tormenting me for a
month past to go and see them. So yesterday he seized upon me again, and
I didn't quite like to refuse, he seemed so bent on getting my opinion
of the pups."

"Why not go early, and be back in time for dinner?"

"Can't, unfortunately. There is to be a dinner there in the evening for
some cousin who is coming to pay them a visit; and I promised Harry, who
doesn't shine in conversation, to stay and make myself agreeable to her.
It's a bore rather, as I fear it will look slightly heathenish my not
being at the station to meet Miss Chesney."

"Don't put yourself out about that: I'll do all I can to make up for
your loss," says Cyril, who is eminently good-natured. "I'll meet her if
you wish it, and bring her home."

"Thanks, old man: you're awfully good. It would look inhospitable
neither of us being on the spot to bid her welcome. Take the carriage
and----"

"Oh, by Jove, I didn't bargain for the carriage. To be smothered alive
in July is not a fascinating idea. Don't you think, mother,"--in an
insinuating voice,--"Miss Chesney would prefer the dogcart or the----"

"My dear Cyril! Of course you must meet her in the carriage," says his
mother, in the shocked tone that usually ends all disputes.

"So be it. I give in. Though when I arrive here in the last stage of
exhaustion, reclining in Miss Chesney's arms, you will be to blame,"
says Cyril, amiably. "But to return to your widow, Guy; who is to
receive her?"

"I dare say by this time she has learned to take care of herself,"
laughing. "At all events, she does not weigh upon my conscience, even
should I consent to oblige Trant,"--looking at his mother--"by having
her at The Cottage as a tenant."

"It looks very suspicious, her being turned out of her last place,"
Cyril says, in an uncomfortable tone. "Perhaps----" Here he pauses
somewhat mysteriously.

"Perhaps what?" asks his mother, struck by his manner.

"Perhaps she is mad," suggests Cyril, in an awesome whisper. "An escaped
lunatic!--a maniac!"

"I know no one who borders so much on lunacy as yourself," says Guy.
"After all, what does it matter whether our tenant is fat, fair, and
forty, or a lean old maid! It will oblige Trant, and it will keep the
place together. Mother, tell me to say yes."

Thus desired, Lady Chetwoode gives the required permission.

"A new tenant at The Cottage and a young lady visitor,--a permanent
visitor! It only requires some one to leave us a legacy in the shape of
a new-born babe, to make up the sum of our calamities," says Cyril, as
he steps out of the low French window and drops on to the sward beneath.



CHAPTER III.

     "She was beautiful as the lily-bosomed Houri that gladdens the
     visions of the poet when, soothed to dreams of pleasantness and
     peace, the downy pinions of Sleep wave over his turbulent
     soul!"--_From the Arabic._


All the flowers at Chetwoode are rejoicing; their heads are high
uplifted, their sweetest perfumes are making still more sweet the soft,
coquettish wind that, stealing past them, snatches their kisses ere they
know.

It is a glorious day, full of life, and happy sunshine, and music from
the throats of many birds. All the tenors and sopranos and contraltos of
the air seem to be having one vast concert, and are filling the woods
with melody.

In the morning a little laughing, loving shower came tumbling down into
the earth's embrace, where it was caught gladly and kept forever,--a
little baby shower, on which the sunbeams smiled, knowing that it had
neither power nor wish to kill them.

But now the greedy earth has grasped it, and others, knowing its fate,
fear to follow, and only the pretty sparkling jewels that tremble on the
grass tell of its having been.

In the very centre of the great lawn that stretches beyond the
pleasure-grounds stands a mighty oak. Its huge branches throw their arms
far and wide, making a shelter beneath them for all who may choose to
come and seek there for shade. Around its base pretty rustic chairs are
standing in somewhat dissipated order, while on its topmost bough a crow
is swaying and swinging as the soft wind rushes by, making an inky blot
upon the brilliant green, as it were a patch upon the cheek of a court
belle.

Over all the land from his lofty perch this crow can see,--can mark the
smiling fields, the yellowing corn, the many antlered deer in the Park,
the laughing brooklets, the gurgling streams that now in the great heat
go lazily and stumble sleepily over every pebble in their way.

He can see his neighbors' houses, perhaps his own snug nest, and all the
beauty and richness and warmth of an English landscape.

But presently--being a bird of unformed tastes or unappreciative, or
perhaps fickle--he tires of looking, and flapping heavily his black
wings, rises slowly and sails away.

Toward the east he goes, the sound of his harsh but homely croak growing
fainter as he flies. Over the trees in their gorgeous clothing, across
the murmuring brooks, through the uplands, over the heads of the deer
that gaze at him with their mournful, gentle eyes, he travels, never
ceasing in his flight until he comes to a small belt of firs, evidently
set apart, in the centre of which stands "The Cottage."

It is considerably larger than one would expect from its name. A long,
low, straggling house, about three miles from Chetwoode entrance-gate,
going by the road, but only one mile, taking a short cut through the
Park. A very pretty house,--with a garden in front, carefully hedged
round, and another garden at the back,--situated in a lovely
spot,--perhaps the most enviable in all Chetwoode,--silent, dreamy,
where one might, indeed, live forever, "the world forgetting, by the
world forgot."

In the garden all sorts of the sweetest old-world flowers are
blooming,--pinks and carnations, late lilies and sweet-williams; the
velvety heartsease, breathing comfort to the poor
love-that-lies-a-bleeding; the modest forget-me-not, the fragrant
mignonette (whose qualities, they rudely say surpass its charms), the
starry jessamine, the frail woodbine; while here and there from every
nook and corner shines out the fairest, loveliest, queenliest flower of
all,--the rose.

Every bush is rich with them; the air is heavy with their odor. Roses of
every hue, of every size, from the grand old cabbage to the smallest
Scotch, are here. One gazes round in silent admiration, until the great
love of them swells within the heart and a desire for possession arises,
when, growing murderous, one wishes, like Nero, they had but one neck,
that they might all be gathered at a blow.

Upon the house only snow-white roses grow. In great masses they uprear
their heads, peeping curiously in at the windows, trailing lovingly
round the porches, nestling under the eaves, drooping coquettishly at
the angles. To-day a raindrop has fallen into each scented heart, has
lingered there all the morning, and is still loath to leave. Above the
flowers the birds hover twittering; beneath them the ground is as a
snowy carpet from their fallen petals. Poor petals! How sad it is that
they must fall! Yet, even in death, how sweet!

It is Saturday. In the morning the new tenant was expected; the evening
is to bring the new ward. Lady Chetwoode, in consequence, is a little
trouble-minded. Guy has gone to the Bellairs'. Cyril is in radiant
spirits. Not that this latter fact need be recorded, as Cyril belongs to
those favored ones who at their birth receive a dowry from their fairy
godparents of unlimited good-humor.

He is at all times an easy-going young man, healthy, happy, whose path
in life up to this has been strewn with roses. To him the world isn't
"half a bad place," which he is content to take as he finds it, never
looking too closely into what doesn't concern him,--a treatment the
world evidently likes, as it regards him (especially the gentler portion
of it) with the utmost affection.

Even with that rare class, mothers blessed with handsome daughters, he
finds favor, either through his face or his manner, or because of the
fact that though a younger son, he has nine hundred pounds a year of his
own and a pretty place called Moorlands, about six miles from Chetwoode.
It was his mother's portion and is now his.

He is tall, broad-shouldered, and rather handsome, with perhaps more
mouth than usually goes to one man's share; but, as he has laughed
straight through from his cradle to his twenty-sixth year, this is
scarcely to be wondered at. His eyes are gray and frank, his hair is
brown, his skin a good deal tanned. He is very far from being an Adonis,
but he is good to look at, and to know him is to like him.

Just now, luncheon being over, and nothing else left to do, he is
feeling rather bored than otherwise, and lounges into his mother's
morning-room, being filled with a desire to have speech with somebody.
The somebody nearest to him at the moment being Lady Chetwoode, he
elects to seek her presence and inflict his society upon her.

"It's an awful nuisance having anything on your mind, isn't it, mother?"
he says, genially.

"It is indeed, my dear," with heartfelt earnestness and a palpable
expectation of worse things yet to come. "What unfortunate mistake have
you been making now?"

"Not one. 'You wrong me, Brutus.' I have been as gently behaved as a
skipping lamb all the morning. No; I mean having to fetch our visitor
this evening weighs upon my spirits and somehow idles me. I can settle
to nothing."

"You seldom can, dear, can you?" says Lady Chetwoode, mildly, with
unmeant irony. "But"--as though suddenly inspired--"suppose you go for a
walk?"

This is a mean suggestion, and utterly unworthy of Lady Chetwoode. The
fact is, the day is warm and she is sleepy, and she knows she will not
get her forty winks unless he takes himself out of the way. So, with a
view to getting rid of him, she grows hypocritically kind.

"A walk will do you good," she says. "You don't take half exercise
enough. And, you know, the want of it makes people fat."

"I believe you are right," Cyril says, rising. He stretches himself,
laughs indolently at his own lazy figure in an opposite mirror, after
which he vanishes almost as quickly as even she can desire.

Five minutes later, with an open book upon her knee, as a means of
defense should any one enter unannounced, Lady Chetwoode is snoozing
comfortably; while Cyril, following the exact direction taken by the
crow in the morning, walks leisurely onward, under the trees, to meet
his fate!

Quite unthinkingly, quite unsuspiciously, he pursues his way, dreaming
of anything in the world but The Cottage and its new inmate, until the
house, suddenly appearing before him, recalls his wandering thoughts.

The hall-door stands open. Every one of the windows is thrown wide.
There is about everything the unmistakable _silent_ noise that belongs
to an inhabited dwelling, however quiet. The young man, standing still,
wonders vaguely at the change.

Then all at once a laugh rings out; there is an undeniable scuffle, and
presently a tiny black dog with a little mirthful yelp breaks from the
house into the garden and commences a mad scamper all round and round
the rose trees.

An instant later he is followed by a trim maid-servant, who, flushed but
smiling, rushes after him, making well-directed but ineffectual pounces
on the truant. As she misses him the dog gives way to another yelp (of
triumph this time), and again the hunt goes on.

But now there comes the sound of other feet, and Cyril, glancing up from
his interested watch over the terrier's movements, sees surely
something far, far lovelier than he has ever seen before.

Even at this early moment his heart gives a little bound and then seems
to cease from beating.

Upon the door-step stands a girl--although quite three-and-twenty she
still looks the merest girl--clad in a gown of clear black-and-white
cambric. A huge coarse white apron covers all the front of this gown,
and is pinned, French fashion, half-way across her bosom. Her arms,
white and soft, and rounded as a child's, are bared to the elbows, her
sleeves being carefully tucked up. Two little feet, encased in Louis
Quinze slippers, peep coyly from beneath her robe.

Upon this vision Cyril gazes, his whole heart in his eyes, and marks
with wondering admiration each fresh beauty. She is tall, rather _posée_
in figure, with a small, proud head, and the carriage of a goddess. Her
features are not altogether perfect, and yet (or rather because of it)
she is extremely beautiful. She has great, soft, trusting eyes of a deep
rare gray, that looking compel the truth; above her low white forehead
her hair rolls back in silky ruffled waves, and is gathered into a loose
knot behind. It is a rich nut-brown in color, through which runs a faint
tinge of red that turns to burnished gold under the sun's kiss. Her skin
is exquisite, pale but warm, through which as she speaks the blood comes
and lingers awhile, and flies only to return. Her mouth is perhaps,
strictly speaking, in a degree imperfect, yet it is one of her principal
charms; it is large and lovable, and covers pretty teeth as white as
snow. For my part I love a large mouth, if well shaped, and do not
believe a hearty laugh can issue from a small one. And, after all, what
is life without its laughter?

A little white cap of the "mob" description adorns her head, and is
trimmed fancifully with black velvet bows that match her gown. Her hands
are small and fine, the fingers tapering; just now they are clasped
together excitedly; and a brilliant color has come into her cheeks as
she stands (unconscious of criticism) and watches the depravity of her
favorite.

"Oh! catch him, Kate," she cries, in a clear, sweet voice, that is now
rather impetuous and suggests rising indignation. "Wicked little wretch!
He shall have a good whipping for this. Dirty little dog,"--(this to the
black terrier, in a tone of reproachful disgust)--"not to want his nice
clean bath after all the dust of yesterday and to-day!"

This rebuke is evidently lost upon the reprobate terrier, who still
flies before the enemy who follows on his heels in hot pursuit. Round
and round, in and out, hither and thither he goes, the breathless maid
after him, the ceaseless upbraiding of his mistress ringing in his ears.
The nice clean bath has no charms for this degenerate dog, although his
ablutions are to be made sweet by the touch of those snowy dimpled hands
now clasped in an agony of expectation. No, this miserable animal,
disdaining all the good things in store for him, rushes past Kate, past
his angry mistress, past the roses, out through the bars of the gate
right into Cyril's arms! Oh, ill-judging dog!

Cyril, having caught him, holds him closely, in spite of his vehement
struggles, for, scenting mischief in the air, he fights valiantly for
freedom.

Kate runs to the garden-gate, so does the bare-armed goddess, and there,
on the path, behold their naughty treasure held fast in a stranger's
arms!

When she sees him the goddess suddenly freezes and grows gravely
dignified. The smile departs from her lips, the rich crimson dies, while
in its place a faint, delicate blush comes to suffuse her cheeks.

"This is your dog, I think?" says Cyril, pretending to be doubtful on
the subject; though who could be more sure?

"Yes,--thank you." Then as her eyes fall upon her lovely naked arms the
blush grows deeper and deeper, until at length her face is red as one of
her own perfect roses.

"He was very dusty after yesterday's journey, and I was going to wash
him," she says, with a gentle dignity but an evident anxiety to explain.

"Lucky dog!" says Cyril gravely, in a low tone.

Kate has disappeared into the background with the refractory pet, whose
quavering protests are lost in the distance. Again silence has fallen
upon the house, the wood, the flowers. The faintest flicker of a smile
trembles for one instant round the corners of the stranger's lips, then
is quickly subdued.

"Thank you, sir," she says, once more, quietly, and turning away, is
swallowed up hurriedly by the envious roses.

All the way home Cyril's mind is full of curious thought, though one
topic alone engrosses it. The mistress of that small ungrateful terrier
has taken complete and entire possession of him, to the exclusion of all
other matter. So the widow has not arrived in solitary state,--that is
evident. And what a lovely girl to bring down and bury alive in this
quiet spot. Who on earth can she be?

How beautiful her arms were, and her hands!--Even the delicate, tinted
filbert nails had not escaped his eager gaze. How sweet she looked, how
bright! Surely a widow would not be fit company for so gay a creature;
and still, when she grew grave at the gate, when her smile faded, had
not a wistful, sorrowful expression fallen across her face and into her
exquisite eyes? Perhaps she, too, has suffered,--is in trouble, and,
through sympathy, clings to her friend the widow.

After a moment or two, this train of thought being found unsatisfactory,
another forces its way to the surface.

By the bye, why should she not be her sister,--that is, the widow's? Of
course; nothing more likely. How stupid of him not to have thought of
that before! Naturally Mrs. Arlington has a sister, who has come down
with her to see that the place is comfortable and well situated and
that, and who will stay with her until the first loneliness that always
accompanies a change has worn away.

And when it has worn away, what then? The conclusion of his thought
causes Cyril an unaccountable pang, that startles even himself. In five
minutes--in five short minutes--surely no woman's eyes, however lovely,
could have wrought much mischief; and yet--and yet--what was there about
her to haunt one so?

He rouses himself with an effort and refuses to answer his own question.
Is he a love-sick boy, to fancy himself enthralled by each new pretty
face he sees? Are there only one laughing mouth and one pair of deep
gray eyes in the world? What a fool one can be at times!

One can indeed!

He turns his thoughts persistently upon the coming season, the
anticipation of which, only yesterday, filled him with the keenest
delight. But three or four short weeks to pass, and the 12th will be
here, bringing with it all the joy and self-gratulation that can be
derived from the slaying of many birds. He did very well last year, and
earned himself many laurels and the reputation of being a crack shot.
How will it be this season? Already it seems to him he scents the
heather, and feels the weight of his trusty gun upon his shoulder, and
hears the soft patter of his good dog's paws behind him. What an awful
sell it would be if the birds proved scarce! Warren spoke highly of them
the other day, and Warren is an old hand; but still--but still----

How could a widow of forty have a sister of twenty--unless, perhaps, she
was a step-sister? Yes, that must be it. Step---- Pshaw!

It is a matter of congratulation that just at this moment Cyril finds
himself in view of the house, and, pulling out his watch, discovers he
has left himself only ten minutes in which to get himself ready before
starting for the station to meet Miss Chesney.

Perforce, therefore, he leaves off his cogitations, nor renews them
until he is seated in the detested carriage _en route_ for Trustan and
the ward, when he is so depressed by the roof's apparent intention of
descending bodily upon his head that he lets his morbid imagination hold
full sway and gives himself up to the gloomiest forebodings, of which
the chief is that the unknown being in possession of such great and
hitherto unsurpassed beauty is, of course, not only beloved by but
hopelessly engaged to a man in every way utterly unworthy of her.

When he reaches Trustan the train is almost due, and two minutes
afterward it steams into the station.

The passengers alight. Cyril gazes anxiously up and down the platform
among the women, trying to discover which of them looks most likely to
bear the name of Chesney.

A preternaturally tall young lady, with eyes like sloes and a very
superior figure, attracts him most. She is apparently alone, and is
looking round as though expecting some one. It is--it must be she.

Raising his hat, Cyril advances toward her and makes a slight bow, which
is not returned. The sloes sparkle indignantly, the superior figure
grows considerably more superior; and the young lady, turning as though
for protection from this bad man who has so insolently and openly
molested her in the broad daylight, lays her hand with an expression of
relief upon the arm of a gentleman who has just joined her.

"I thought you were never coming," she says, in a clear distinct tone
meant for Cyril's discomfiture, casting upon that depraved person a
glance replete with scorn.

As her companion happens to be Harry Bellair of Belmont, Mr. Chetwoode
is rather taken aback. He moves aside and colors faintly. Harry Bellair,
who is a young gentleman addicted to huge plaids, and low hats, and
three or four lockets on his watch chain, being evidently under the
impression that Cyril has been "up to one of his larks," bestows upon
him in passing a covert but odiously knowing wink, that has the effect
of driving Cyril actually wild, and makes him give way to low
expressions under his breath.

"Vulgar beast!" he says at length out loud with much unction, which
happily affords him instant relief.

"Are you looking for me?" says a soft voice at his elbow, and turning he
beholds a lovely childish face upturned somewhat timidly to his.

"Miss Chesney?" he asks, with hesitation, being mindful of his late
defeat.

"Yes," smiling. "It _is_ for me, then, you are looking? Oh,"--with a
thankful sigh,--"I am so glad! I have wanted to ask you the question for
two minutes, but I was afraid you might be the wrong person."

"I wish you had spoken," laughing: "you would have saved me from much
ignominy. I fancied you something altogether different from what you
are," with a glance full of kindly admiration,--"and I fear I made
rather a fool of myself in consequence. I beg your pardon for having
kept you so long in suspense, and especially for having in my ignorance
mistaken you for that black-browed lady." Here he smiles down on the
fair sweet little face that is smiling up at him.

"Was it that tall young lady you called a 'beast'?" asks Miss Lilian,
demurely. "If so, it wasn't very polite of you, was it?"

"Oh,"--with a laugh,--"did you hear me? I doubt I have begun our
acquaintance badly. No, notwithstanding the provocation I received (you
saw the withering glance she bestowed upon me?), I refrained from evil
language as far as she was concerned, and consoled myself by expending
my rage upon her companion,--the man who was seeing after her. Are you
tired?--Your journey has not been very unpleasant, I hope?"

"Not unpleasant at all. It was quite fine the entire time, and there
was no dust."

"Your trunks are labeled?"

"Yes."

"Then perhaps you had better come with me. One of the men will see to
your luggage, and will drive your maid home. She is with you?"

"Yes. That is, my nurse is; I have never had any other maid. This is
Tipping," says Miss Chesney, moving back a step or two, and drawing
forward with an affectionate gesture, a pleasant-faced, elderly woman of
about fifty-five.

"I am glad to see you, Mrs. Tipping," says Cyril, genially, who does not
think it necessary, like some folk, to treat the lower classes with
studied coldness, as though they were a thing apart. "Perhaps you will
tell the groom about your mistress's things, while I take her out of
this draughty station."

Lilian follows him to the carriage, wondering as she goes. There is an
air of command about this new acquaintance that puzzles her. Is he Sir
Guy? Is it her guardian in _propria persona_ who has come to meet her?
And could a guardian be so--so--likable? Inwardly she hopes it may be
so, being rather impressed by Cyril's manner and handsome face.

When they are about half-way to Chetwoode she plucks up courage to say,
although the saying of it costs her a brilliant blush, "Are you my
guardian?"

"I call that a most unkind question," says Cyril. "Have I fallen short
in any way, that the thought suggests itself? Do you mean to insinuate
that I am not guarding you properly now? Am I not taking sufficiently
good care of you?"

"You _are_ my guardian then?" says Lilian, with such unmistakable hope
in her tones that Cyril laughs outright.

"No, I am not," he says; "I wish I were; though for your own sake it is
better as it is. Your guardian is no end a better fellow than I am. He
would have come to meet you to-day, but he was obliged to go some miles
away on business."

"Business!" thinks Miss Chesney, disdainfully. "Of course it would never
do for the goody-goody to neglect his business. Oh, dear! I know we
shall not get on at all."

"I am very glad he did not put himself out for me," she says, glancing
at Cyril from under her long curling lashes. "It would have been a pity,
as I have not missed him at all."

"I feel intensely grateful to you for that speech," says Cyril. "When
Guy cuts me out later on,--as he always does,--I shall still have the
memory of it to fall back upon."

"Is this Chetwoode?" Lilian asks, five minutes later, as they pass
through the entrance gate. "What a charming avenue!"--putting her head
out of the window, "and so dark. I like it dark; it reminds me of"--she
pauses, and two large tears come slowly, slowly into her blue eyes and
tremble there--"my home," she says in a low tone.

"You must try to be happy with us," Cyril says, kindly, taking one of
her hands and pressing it gently, to enforce his sympathy; and then the
horses draw up at the hall door, and he helps her to alight, and
presently she finds herself within the doors of Chetwoode.



CHAPTER IV.

     "Ye scenes of my childhood, whose loved recollection
     Embitters the present, compared with the past."--BYRON.


When Lady Chetwoode, who is sitting in the drawing-room, hears the
carriage draw up to the door, she straightens herself in her chair,
smoothes down the folds of her black velvet gown with rather nervous
fingers, and prepares for an unpleasant surprise. She hears Cyril's
voice in the hall inquiring where his mother is, and, rising to her
feet, she makes ready to receive her new ward.

She has put on what she fondly hopes is a particularly gracious air, but
which is in reality a palpable mixture of fear and uncertainty. The door
opens; there is a slight pause; and then Lilian, slight, and fair, and
pretty, stands upon the threshold.

She is very pale, partly through fatigue, but much more through
nervousness and the self-same feeling of uncertainty that is weighing
down her hostess. As her eyes meet Lady Chetwoode's they take an
appealing expression that goes straight to the heart of that kindest of
women.

"You have arrived, my dear," she says, a ring of undeniable cordiality
in her tone, while from her face all the unpleasant fear has vanished.
She moves forward to greet her guest, and as Lilian comes up to her
takes the fair sweet face between her hands and kisses her softly on
each cheek.

"You are like your mother," she says, presently, holding the girl a
little way from her and regarding her with earnest attention.
"Yes,--very like your mother, and she was beautiful. You are welcome to
Chetwoode, my dear child."

Lilian, who is feeling rather inclined to cry, does not trust herself to
make any spoken rejoinder, but, putting up her lips of her own accord,
presses them gratefully to Lady Chetwoode's, thereby ratifying the
silent bond of friendship that without a word has on the instant been
sealed between the old woman and the young one.

A great sense of relief has fallen upon Lady Chetwoode. Not until now,
when her fears have been proved groundless, does she fully comprehend
the amount of uneasiness and positive horror with which she has regarded
the admittance of a stranger into her happy home circle. The thought
that something unrefined, disagreeable, unbearable, might be coming has
followed like a nightmare for the past week, but now, in the presence of
this lovely child, it has fled away ashamed, never to return.

Lilian's delicate, well-bred face and figure, her small hands, her
graceful movements, her whole air, proclaim her one of the world to
which Lady Chetwoode belongs, and the old lady, who is aristocrat to her
fingers' ends, hails the fact with delight. Her beauty alone had almost
won her cause, when she cast that beseeching glance from the doorway;
and now when she lets the heavy tears grow in her blue eyes, all doubt
is at end, and "almost" gives way to "quite."

Henceforth she is altogether welcome at Chetwoode, as far as its present
gentle mistress is concerned.

"Cyril took care of you, I hope?" says Lady Chetwoode, glancing over her
guest's head at her second son, and smiling kindly.

"Great care of me," returning the smile.

"But you are tired, of course; it is a long journey, and no doubt you
are glad to reach home," says Lady Chetwoode, using the word naturally.
And though the mention of it causes Lilian a pang, still there is
something tender and restful about it too, that gives some comfort to
her heart.

"Perhaps you would like to go to your room," continues Lady Chetwoode,
thoughtfully, "though I fear your maid cannot have arrived yet."

"Miss Chesney, like Juliet, boasts a nurse," says Cyril; "she scorns to
travel with a mere maid."

"My nurse has always attended me," says Lilian, laughing and blushing.
"She has waited on me since I was a month old. I should not know how to
get on without her, and I am sure she could not get on without me. I
think she is far better than any maid I could get."

"She must have an interest in you that no new-comer could possibly
have," says Lady Chetwoode, who is in the humor to agree with anything
Lilian may say, so thankful is she to her for being what she is. And yet
so strong is habit that involuntarily, as she speaks, her eyes seek
Lilian's hair, which is dressed to perfection. "I have no doubt she is a
treasure,"--with an air of conviction. "Come with me, my dear."

They leave the room together. In the hall the housekeeper, coming
forward, says respectfully:

"Shall I take Miss Chesney to her room, my lady?"

"No, Matthews," says Lady Chetwoode, graciously; "it will give me
pleasure to take her there myself."

By which speech all the servants are at once made aware that Miss
Chesney is already in high favor with "my lady," who never, except on
very rare occasions, takes the trouble to see personally after her
visitors' comfort.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Lilian has been ten minutes in her room Mrs. Tipping arrives, and
is shown up-stairs, where she finds her small mistress evidently in the
last stage of despondency. These ten lonely minutes have been fatal to
her new-born hopes, and have reduced her once more to the melancholy
frame of mind in which she left her home in the morning. All this the
faithful Tipping sees at a glance, and instantly essays to cheer her.

Silently and with careful fingers she first removes her hat, then her
jacket, then she induces her to stand up, and, taking off her dress,
throws round her a white wrapper taken from a trunk, and prepares to
brush the silky yellow hair that for eighteen years has been her own to
dress and tend and admire.

"Eh, Miss Lilian, child, but it's a lovely place!" she says, presently,
this speech being intended as a part of the cheering process.

"It seems a fine place," says the "child," indifferently.

"Fine it is indeed. Grander even than the Park, I'm thinking."

"'Grander than the Park'!" says Miss Chesney, rousing to unexpected
fervor. "How can you say that? Have you grown fickle, nurse? There is no
place to be compared to the Park, not one in all the world. You can
think as you please, of course,"--with reproachful scorn,--"but it is
_not_ grander than the Park."

"I meant larger, ninny," soothingly.

"It is not larger."

"But, darling, how can you say so when you haven't been round it?"

"How can _you_ say so when _you_ haven't been round it?"

This is a poser. Nurse meditates a minute and then says:

"Thomas--that's the groom that drove me--says it is."

"Thomas!"--with a look that, had the wretched Thomas been on the spot,
would infallibly have reduced him to ashes; "and what does Thomas know
about it? It is _not_ larger."

Silence.

"Indeed, my bairn, I think you might well be happy here," says nurse,
tenderly returning to the charge.

"I don't want you to think about me at all," says Miss Chesney, in
trembling tones. "You agreed with Aunt Priscilla that I ought to leave
my dear, dear home, and I shall never forgive you for it. I am not happy
here. I shall never be happy here. I shall die of fretting for the Park,
and when I am _dead_ you will perhaps be satisfied."

"Miss Lilian!"

"You shan't brush my hair any more," says Miss Lilian, dexterously
evading the descent of the brush. "I can do it for myself very well. You
are a traitor."

"I am sorry, Miss Chesney, if I have displeased you," says nurse, with
much dignity tempered with distress: only when deeply grieved and
offended does she give her mistress her full title.

"How dare you call me Miss Chesney!" cries the young lady, springing to
her feet. "It is very unkind of you, and just now too, when I am all
alone in a strange house. Oh, nurse!" throwing her arms round the neck
of that devoted and long-suffering woman, and forgetful of her
resentment, which indeed was born only of her regret, "I am so unhappy,
and lonely, and sorry! What shall I do?"

"How can I tell you, my lamb?"--caressing with infinite affection the
golden head that lies upon her bosom. "All that I say only vexes you."

"No, it doesn't: I am wicked when I make you think that. After
all,"--raising her face--"I am not quite forsaken; I have you still, and
you will never leave me."

"Not unless I die, my dear," says nurse, earnestly. "And, Miss Lilian,
how can you look at her ladyship without knowing her to be a real
friend. And Mr. Chetwoode too; and perhaps Sir Guy will be as nice, when
you see him."

"Perhaps he won't," ruefully.

"That's nonsense, my dear. Let us look at the bright side of things
always. And by and by Master Taffy will come here on a visit, and then
it will be like old times. Come, now, be reasonable, child of my heart,"
says nurse, "and tell me, won't you look forward to having Master Taffy
here?"

"I wish he was here now," says Lilian, visibly brightening. "Yes;
perhaps they will ask him. But, nurse, do you remember when last I saw
Taffy it was at----"

Here she shows such unmistakable symptoms of relapsing into the tearful
mood again, that nurse sees the necessity of changing the subject.

"Come, my bairn, let me dress you for dinner," she says, briskly, and
presently, after a little more coaxing, she succeeds so well that she
sends her little mistress down to the drawing-room, looking her
loveliest and her best.



CHAPTER V.

     "Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty's self,
     Recluse amid the close-embowering woods."
     --THOMSON.


Next morning, having enjoyed the long and dreamless sleep that belongs
to the heart-whole, Lilian runs down to the breakfast-room, with the
warm sweet flush of health and youth upon her cheeks. Finding Lady
Chetwoode and Cyril already before her, she summons all her grace to her
aid and tries to look ashamed of herself.

"Am I late?" she asks, going up to Lady Chetwoode and giving her a
little caress as a good-morning. Her very touch is so gentle and
childish and loving that it sinks straight into the deepest recesses of
one's heart.

"No. Don't be alarmed. I have only just come down myself. You will soon
find us out to be some of the laziest people alive."

"I am glad of it: I like lazy people," says Lilian; "all the rest seem
to turn their lives into one great worry."

"Will you not give me a good-morning, Miss Chesney?" says Cyril, who is
standing behind her.

"Good-morning," putting her hand into his.

"But that is not the way you gave it to my mother," in an aggrieved
tone.

"No?--Oh!"--as she comprehends,--"but you should remember how much more
deserving your mother is."

"With sorrow I acknowledge the truth of your remark," says Cyril, as he
hands her her tea.

"Cyril is our naughty boy," Lady Chetwoode says; "we all spend our lives
making allowances for Cyril. You must not mind what he says. I hope you
slept well, Lilian; there is nothing does one so much good as a sound
sleep, and you looked quite pale with fatigue last night. You
see"--smiling--"how well I know your name. It is very familiar to me,
having been your dear mother's."

"It seems strangely familiar to me also, though I never know your
mother," says Cyril. "I don't believe I shall ever be able to call you
Miss Chesney. Would it make you very angry if I called you Lilian?"

"Indeed, no; I shall be very much obliged to you. I should hardly know
myself by the more formal title. You shall call me Lilian, and I shall
call you Cyril,--if you don't mind."

"I don't think I do,--much," says Cyril; so the compact is signed.

"Guy will be here surely by luncheon," says Lady Chetwoode, with a view
of giving her guest pleasure.

"Oh! will he really?" says Lilian, in a quick tone, suggestive of
dismay.

"I am sure of it," says Guy's mother fondly: "he never breaks his word."

"Of course not," thinks Lilian to herself. "Fancy a paragon going wrong!
How I hate a man who never breaks his word! Why, the Medes and Persians
would be weak-minded compared with him."

"I suppose not," she says aloud, rather vaguely.

"You seem to appreciate the idea of your guardian's return," says Cyril,
with a slight smile, having read half her thoughts correctly. "Does the
mere word frighten you? I should like to know your real opinion of what
a guardian ought to be."

"How can I have an opinion on the subject when I have never seen one?"

"Yet a moment ago I saw by your face you were picturing one to
yourself."

"If so, it could scarcely be Sir Guy,--as he is not old."

"Not very. He has still a few hairs and a few teeth remaining. But won't
you then answer my question? What is your ideal guardian like?"

"If you press it I shall tell you, but you must not betray me to Sir
Guy," says Lilian, turning to include Lady Chetwoode in her caution. "My
ideal is always a lean old gentleman of about sixty, with a stoop, and
any amount of determination. He has a hooked nose on which gold-rimmed
spectacles eternally stride; eyes that look one through and through; a
mouth full of trite phrases, unpleasant maxims, and false teeth; and a
decided tendency toward the suppression of all youthful follies."

"Guy will be an agreeable surprise. I had no idea you could be so
severe."

"Nor am I. You must not think me so," says Lilian, blushing warmly and
looking rather sorry for having spoken; "but you know you insisted on an
answer. Perhaps I should not have spoken so freely, but that I know my
real guardian is not at all like my ideal."

"How do you know? Perhaps he too is toothless, old, and unpleasant. He
is a great deal older than I am."

"He can't be a great deal older."

"Why?"

"Because"--with a shy glance at the gentle face behind the urn--"Lady
Chetwoode looks so young."

She blushes again as she says this, and regards her hostess with an air
of such thorough good faith as wins that lady's liking on the spot.

"You are right," says Cyril, laughing; "she _is_ young. She is never to
grow old, because her 'boys,' as she calls us, object to old women. You
may have heard of 'perennial spring;' well, that is another name for my
mother. But you must not tell her so, because she is horribly conceited,
and would lead us an awful life if we didn't keep her down."

"Cyril, my dear!" says Lady Chetwoode, laughing, which is about the
heaviest reproof she ever delivers.

All this time, her breakfast being finished, Lilian has been carefully
and industriously breaking up all the bread left upon her plate, until
now quite a small pyramid stands in the centre of it.

Cyril, having secretly crumbled some of his, now, stooping forward,
places it upon the top of her hillock.

"I haven't the faintest idea what you intend doing with it," he says,
"but, as I am convinced you have some grand project in view, I feel a
mean desire to be associated with it in some way by having a finger in
the pie. Is it for a pie? I am dying of vulgar curiosity."

"I!"--with a little shocked start; "it doesn't matter, I--I quite
forgot. I----"

She presses her hand nervously down upon the top of her goodly pile, and
suppresses the gay little erection until it lies prostrate on her plate,
where even then it makes a very fair show.

"You meant it for something, my dear, did you not?" asks Lady Chetwoode,
kindly.

"Yes, for the birds," says the girl, turning upon her two great earnest
eyes that shine like stars through regretful tears. "At home I used to
collect all the broken bread for them every morning. And they grew so
fond of me, the very robins used to come and perch upon my shoulders and
eat little bits from my lips. There was no one to frighten them. There
was only me, and I loved them. When I knew I must leave the Park,"--a
sorrowful quiver making her voice sad,--"I determined to break my going
gently to them, and at first I only fed them every second day,--in
person,--and then only every third day, and at last only once a week,
until"--in a low tone--"they forgot me altogether."

"Ungrateful birds," says Cyril, with honest disgust, something like
moisture in his own eyes, so real is her grief.

"Yes, that was the worst of all, to be so _soon_ forgotten, and I had
fed them without missing a day for five years. But they were not
ungrateful; why should they remember me, when they thought I had tired
of them? Yet I always broke the bread for them every morning, though I
would not give it myself, and to-day"--she sighs--"I forgot I was not at
home."

"My dear," says Lady Chetwoode, laying her own white, plump, jeweled
hand upon Lilian's slender, snowy one, as it lies beside her on the
table, "you flatter me very much when you say that even for a moment you
felt this house home. I hope you will let the feeling grow in you, and
will try to remember that here you have a true welcome forever, until
you wish to leave us. And as for the birds, I too love them,--dear,
pretty creatures,--and I shall take it as a great kindness, my dear
Lilian, if every morning you will gather up the crumbs and give them to
your little feathered friends."

"How good you are!" says Lilian, gratefully, turning her small palm
upward so as to give Lady Chetwoode's hand a good squeeze. "I know I
shall be happy here. And I am so glad you like the birds; perhaps here
they may learn to love me, too. Do you know, before leaving the Park, I
wrote a note to my cousin, asking him not to forget to give them bread
every day?--but young men are so careless,"--in a disparaging tone,--"I
dare say he won't take the trouble to see about it."

"I am a young man," remarks Mr. Chetwoode, suggestively.

"Yes, I know it," returns Miss Chesney, coolly.

"I dare say your cousin will think of it," says Lady Chetwoode, who has
a weakness for young men, and always believes the best of them.
"Archibald is very kind-hearted."

"You know him?"--surprised.

"Very well, indeed. He comes here almost every autumn to shoot with the
boys. You know, his own home is not ten miles from Chetwoode."

"I did not know. I never thought of him at all until I knew he was to
inherit the Park. Do you think he will come here this autumn?"

"I hope so. Last year he was abroad, and we saw nothing of him; but now
he has come home I am sure he will renew his visits. He is a great
favorite of mine; I think you, too, will like him."

"Don't be too sanguine," says Lilian; "just now I regard him as a
usurper; I feel as though he had stolen my Park."

"Marry him," says Cyril, "and get it back again. Some more tea,
Miss--Lilian?"

"If you please--Cyril,"--with a light laugh. "You see, it comes easier
to me than to you, after all."

"_Place aux dames!_ I felt some embarrassment about commencing. In the
future I shall put my _mauvaise honte_ in my pocket, and regard you as
something I have always longed for,--that is, a sister."

"Very well, and you must be very good to me," says Lilian, "because
never having had one, I have a very exalted idea of what a brother
should be."

"How shall you amuse yourself all the morning, child?" asks Lady
Chetwoode. "I fear you're beginning by thinking us stupid."

"Don't trouble about me," says Lilian. "If I may, I should like to go
out and take a run round the gardens alone. I can always make
acquaintance with places quicker if left to find them out for myself."

When breakfast is over, and they have all turned their backs with gross
ingratitude upon the morning-room, she dons her hat and sallies forth
bent on discovery.

Through the gardens she goes, admiring the flowers, pulling a blossom or
two, making love to the robins and sparrows, and gay little chaffinches,
that sit aloft in the branches and pour down sonnets on her head. The
riotous butterflies, skimming hither and thither in the bright sunshine,
hail her coming, and rush with wanton joy across her eyes, as though
seeking to steal from them a lovelier blue for their soft wings. The
flowers, the birds, the bees, the amorous wind, all woo this creature,
so full of joy and sweetness and the unsurpassable beauty of youth.

She makes a rapid rush through all the hothouses, feeling almost stifled
in them this day, so rich in sun, and, gaining the orchard, eats a
little fruit, and makes a lasting conquest of Michael, the
head-gardener, who, when she has gone into generous raptures over his
arrangements, becomes her abject slave on the spot, and from that day
forward acknowledges no power superior to hers.

Tiring of admiration, she leaves the garrulous old man, and wanders away
over the closely-shaven lawn, past the hollies, into the wood beyond,
singing as she goes, as is her wont.

In the deep green wood a delicious sense of freedom possesses her; she
walks on, happy, unsuspicious of evil to come, free of care (oh, that we
all were so!), with nothing to chain her thoughts to earth, or compel
her to dream of aught but the sufficing joy of living, the glad earth
beneath her, the brilliant foliage around, the blue heavens above her
head.

Alas! alas! how short is the time that lies between the child and the
woman! the intermediate state when, with awakened eyes and arms
outstretched, we inhale the anticipation of life, is as but one day in
comparison with all the years of misery and uncertain pleasure to be
eventually derived from the reality thereof!

Coming to a rather high wall, Lilian pauses, but not for long. There are
few walls either in Chetwoode or elsewhere likely to daunt Miss Chesney,
when in the humor for exploring.

Putting one foot into a friendly crevice, and holding on valiantly to
the upper stones, she climbs, and, gaining the top, gazes curiously
around.

As she turns to survey the land over which she has traveled, a young man
emerges from among the low-lying brushwood, and comes quickly forward.
He is clad in a light-gray suit of tweed, and has in his mouth a
meerschaum pipe of the very latest design.

He is very tall, very handsome, thoughtful in expression. His hair is
light brown,--what there is of it,--his barber having left him little to
boast of except on the upper lip, where a heavy, drooping moustache of
the same color grows unrebuked. He is a little grave, a little indolent,
a good deal passionate. The severe lines around his well-cut mouth are
softened and counterbalanced by the extreme friendliness of his kind,
dark eyes, that are so dark as to make one doubt whether their blue is
not indeed black.

Lilian, standing on her airy perch, is still singing, and imparting to
the surrounding scenery the sad story of "Barb'ra Allen's" vile
treatment of her adoring swain, and consequent punishment, when the
crackling of leaves beneath a human foot causing her to turn, she finds
herself face to face with a stranger not a hundred yards away.

The song dies upon her lips, an intense desire to be elsewhere gains
upon her. The young man in gray, putting his meerschaum in his pocket as
a concession to this unexpected warbler, advances leisurely; and Lilian,
feeling vaguely conscious that the top of a wall, though exalted, is not
the most dignified situation in the world, trusting to her activity,
springs to the ground, and regains with mother earth her self-respect.

"How could you be so foolish? I do hope you are not hurt," says the gray
young man, coming forward anxiously.

"Not in the least, thank you," smiling so adorably that he forgets to
speak for a moment or two. Then he says with some hesitation, as though
in doubt:

"Am I addressing my--ward?"

"How can I be sure," replies she, also in doubt, "until I know whether
indeed you are my--guardian?"

"I am Guy Chetwoode," says he, laughing, and raising his hat.

"And I am Lilian Chesney," replies she, smiling in return, and making a
pretty old-fashioned reverence.

"Then now I suppose we may shake hands without any breach of etiquette,
and swear eternal friendship," extending his hand.

"I shall reserve my oath until later on," says Miss Chesney, demurely,
but she gives him her hand nevertheless, with unmistakable _bonhommie_.
"You are going home?" glancing up at him from under her broad-brimmed
hat. "If so, I shall go with you, as I am a little tired."

"But this wall," says Guy, looking with considerable doubt upon the
uncompromising barrier on the summit of which he had first seen her.
"Had we not better go round?"

"A thousand times no. What!"--gayly--"to be defeated by such a simple
obstacle as that? I have surmounted greater difficulties than that wall
many a time. If you will get up and give me your hands, I dare say I
shall be able to manage it."

Thus adjured, Guy climbs, and, gaining the top, stoops to give her the
help desired; she lays her hand in his, and soon he draws her in triumph
to his side.

"Now to get down," he says, laughing. "Wait." He jumps lightly into the
next field, and, turning, holds out his arms to her. "You must not risk
your neck the second time," he says. "When I saw you give that
tremendous leap a minute ago, my blood froze in my veins. Such terrible
exertion was never meant for--a fairy!"

"Am I so very small?" says Lilian. "Well, take me down, then."

She leans toward him, and gently, reverentially he takes her in his arms
and places her on the ground beside him. With such a slight burden to
lift he feels himself almost a Hercules. The whole act does not occupy
half a minute, and already he wishes vaguely it did not take so _very_
short a time to bring a pretty woman from a wall to the earth beneath.
In some vague manner he understands that for him the situation had its
charm.

Miss Chesney is thoroughly unembarrassed.

"There is something in having a young guardian, after all," she says,
casting upon him a glance half shy half merry, wholly sweet. She lays a
faint emphasis upon the "young."

"You have had doubts on the subject, then?"

"Serious doubts. But I see there is truth in the old saying that 'there
are few things so bad but that they might have been worse.'"

"Do you mean to tell me that I am 'something bad'?"

"No"--laughing; "how I wish I could! It is your superiority frightens
me. I hear I must look on you as something superlatively good."

"How shocking! And in what way am I supposed to excel my brethren?"

"In every way," with a good deal of malice: "I have been bred in the
belief that you are a _rara avis_, a model, a----"

"Your teachers have done me a great injury. I shudder when I contemplate
the bitter awakening you must have when you come to know me better."

"I hope so. I dare say"--naively--"I could learn to like you very well,
if you proved on acquaintance a little less immaculate than I have been
led to believe you."

"I shall instantly throw over my pronounced taste for the Christian
virtues, and take steadily to vice," says Guy, with decision: "will that
satisfy your ladyship?"

"Perhaps you put it a little too strongly," says Lilian, demurely. "By
the bye"--irrelevantly,--"what business took you from home yesterday?"

"I have to beg your pardon for that,--my absence, I mean; but I could
not help it. And it was scarcely business kept me absent," confesses
Chetwoode, who, if he is anything, is strictly honest, "rather a promise
to dine and sleep at some friends of ours, the Bellairs, who live a few
miles from us."

"Then it wasn't really that bugbear, business? I begin to revive," says
Miss Chesney.

"No; nothing half so healthy. I wish I had some more legitimate excuse
to offer for my seeming want of courtesy than the fact of my having to
attend a prosy dinner; but I haven't. I feel I deserve a censure, yet I
hope you won't administer one when I tell you I found a very severe
punishment in the dinner itself."

"I forgive you," says Lilian, with deep pity.

"It was a long-standing engagement, and, though I knew what lay before
me, I found I could not elude it any longer. I hate long engagements;
don't you?"

"Cordially. But I should never dream of entering on one."

"I did, unfortunately."

"Then don't do it again."

"I won't. Never. I finally make up my mind. At least, most certainly not
for the days you may be expected."

"I fear I'm a fixture,"--ruefully: "you won't have to expect me again."

"Don't say you fear it: I hope you will be happy here."

"I hope so, too, and I think it. I like your brother Cyril very much,
and your mother is a darling."

"And what am I?"

"Ask me that question a month hence."

"Shall I tell you what I think of you?"

"If you wish," says Lilian, indifferently, though in truth she is dying
of curiosity.

"Well, then, from the very first moment my eyes fell upon you, I thought
to myself: She is without exception the most---- After all, though, I
think I too shall reserve my opinion for a month or so."

"You are right,"--suppressing valiantly all outward symptoms of
disappointment: "your ideas then will be more formed. Are you fond of
riding, Sir Guy?"

"Very. Are you?"

"Oh! am I not? I could ride from morning till night."

"You are enthusiastic."

"Yes,"--with a saucy smile,--"that is one of my many virtues. I think
one should be thoroughly in earnest about everything one undertakes. Do
you like dancing?"

"Rather. It entirely depends upon whom one may be dancing with. There
are some people"--with a short but steady glance at her--"that I feel
positive I could dance with forever without knowing fatigue, or what is
worse, _ennui_. There are others----" an expressive pause. "I have
felt," says Sir Guy, with visible depression, "on certain occasions, as
though I could commit an open assault on the band because it would
insist on playing its waltz from start to finish, instead of stopping
after the first two bars and thereby giving me a chance of escape."

"Poor 'others'! I see you can be unkind when you choose."

"But that is seldom, and only when driven to desperation. Are you fond
of dancing? But of course you are: I need scarcely have asked. No doubt
you could dance as well as ride from morning until night."

"You wrong me slightly. As a rule, I prefer dancing from night until
morning. You skate?"

"Beautifully!" with ecstatic fervor; "I never saw any one who could
skate as well."

"No? You shan't be long so. Prepare for a downfall to your pride. I can
skate better than any one in the world."

Here they both laugh, and, turning, let their eyes meet. Instinctively
they draw closer to each other, and a very kindly feeling springs into
being.

"They maligned you," says Lilian, softly raising her lovely face, and
gazing at him attentively, with a rather dangerous amount of
ingenuousness. "I begin to fancy you are not so very terrific as they
said. I dare say we shall be quite good friends after all."

"I wish I was as sure of most things as I am of my own feeling on that
point," says Guy, with considerable warmth, holding out his hand.

She slips her cool, slim fingers into his, and smiles frankly. There
they lie like little snow-flakes on his broad palm, and as he gazes on
them a great and most natural desire to kiss them presents itself to his
mind.

"I think we ought to ratify our vow of good-fellowship," says he,
artfully, looking at her as though to gain permission for the theft, and
seeing no rebuff in her friendly eyes, stoops and steals a little
sweetness from the white hand he holds.

They are almost at the house by this time, and presently, gaining the
drawing-room, find Lady Chetwoode sitting there awaiting them.

"Ah, Guy, you have returned," cries she, well pleased.

"Yes, I found my guardian straying aimlessly in a great big wood, so I
brought him home in triumph," says Lilian's gay voice, who is in high
good humor. "Is luncheon ready? Dear Lady Chetwoode, do not say I am
late for the second time to-day."

"Not more than five minutes, and you know we do not profess to live by
rule. Run away, and take off your hat, child, and come back to me
again."

So Lilian does as she is desired, and runs away up the broad stairs in
haste, to reduce her rebellious locks to order; yet so pleased is she
with her _rencontre_ with her guardian, and the want of ferocity he has
displayed, and the general desirableness of his face and figure, that
she cannot refrain from pausing midway in her career to apostrophize a
dark-browed warrior who glowers down upon her from one of the walls.

"By my halidame, and by my troth, and by all the wonderful oaths of your
period, Sir Knight," says she, smiling saucily, and dropping him a
wicked curtsey, "you have good reason to be proud of your kinsman. For,
by Cupid, he is a monstrous handsome man, and vastly agreeable!"

After this astounding sally she continues her flight, and presently
finds herself in her bedroom and almost in nurse's arms.

"Lawks-amussy!" says that good old lady, with a gasp, putting her hand
to her side, "what a turn you did give me! Will the child never learn to
walk?"

"I have seen him!" says Lilian, without preamble, only pausing to give
nurse a naughty little poke in the other side with a view to restoring
her lost equilibrium.

"Sir Guy?" anxiously.

"Even so. The veritable and awful Sir Guy! And he isn't a bit awful, in
spite of all we heard; isn't that good news? and he is very handsome,
and quite nice, and apparently can enjoy the world as well as another,
and can do a naughty thing at a pinch; and I know he likes me by the
expression of his eyes, and he actually unbended so far as to stoop to
kiss my hand! There!" All this without stop or comma.

"Kissed your hand, my lamb! So soon! he did not lose much time. How the
world does wag nowadays!" says nurse, holding aloft her hands in pious
protest. "Only to know you an hour or so, and to have the face to kiss
your hand! Eh, but it's dreadful, it's brazen! I do hope this Sir Guy is
not a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"It was very good clothing, anyhow. There is consolation in that. I
could never like a man whose coat was badly cut. And his hands,--I
particularly noticed them,--they are long, and well shaped, and quite
brown."

"You seem mightily pleased with him on so short an acquaintance," says
nurse, shrewdly. "Brown hand, forsooth,--and a shapely coat! Eh, child,
but there's more wanting than that. Maybe it's thinking of being my Lady
Guy you'll be, one of these days?"

"Nurse, I never met so brilliant a goose as you! And would you throw
away your lovely nursling upon a paltry baronet? Oh! shame! And
yet"--teasingly--"one might do worse."

"I'll tell you that, when I see him," says cautious nurse, and having
given one last finishing touch to her darling's golden head, dismisses
her to her luncheon and the pernicious attentions of the daring wolf.



CHAPTER VI.

     "CLAUD: 'In mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked
     on.'"--_Much Ado About Nothing_.


It is that most satisfactory hour of all the twenty-four,--dinner-hour.
Even yet the busy garish day has not quite vanished, but peeps in upon
them curiously through the open windows,--upon Lady Chetwoode mild and
gracious, upon the two young men, upon airy Lilian looking her bravest
and bonniest in some transparent gown of sombre black, through which her
fair young neck and arms gleam delicately.

Her only ornaments are roses,--rich, soft white roses, gathered from the
gardens outside: one, sweeter and happier than its fellows, slumbers
cozily in her golden hair.

Cyril and she, sitting opposite to each other, smile and jest and
converse across the huge bowl of scented flowers that stands in the
centre of the table, while Guy, who is a little silent, keeps wondering
secretly whether any other woman has skin so dazzlingly fair, or eyes so
blue, or hair so richly gilded.

"I have seen the widow," he says at length, rousing himself to a sense
of his own taciturnity. "On my way home this morning, before I met
you,"--turning to Lilian,--"I thought it my duty to look her up, and say
I hoped she was comfortable, and all that."

"And you saw her?" asks Cyril, regarding Guy attentively.

"Yes; she is extremely pretty, and extremely coy,--cold I ought to say,
as there didn't seem to be even the smallest spice of coquetry about
her."

"That's the safest beginning of all," says Cyril confidentially to his
mother, "and no doubt the latest. I dare say she looked as though she
thought he would never leave."

"She did," says Guy, laughing, "and, what is more unflattering, I am
sure she meant it."

"Clever woman!"

"However, if she intended what you think, she rather defeated her
object; as I shan't trouble her again in a hurry. Can't bear feeling
myself in the way."

"Is she really pretty?" Cyril asks, curiously, though idly.

"Really; almost lovely."

"Evidently a handsome family," thinks Cyril. "I wonder if he saw my
friend the sister, or step-sister, or companion."

"She looks sad, too," goes on Guy, "and as though she had a melancholy
story attached to her."

"I do hope not, my dear," interrupts his mother, uneasily. "There is
nothing so objectionable as a woman with a story. Later on one is sure
to hear something wrong about her."

"I agree with you," Cyril says, promptly. "I can't bear mysterious
people. When in their society, I invariably find myself putting a check
on my conversation, and blushing whenever I get on the topic of
forgeries, burglaries, murders, elopements, and so forth. I never can
keep myself from studying their faces when such subjects are mentioned,
to see which it was had ruffled the peace of their existence. It is
absurd, I know, but I can't help it, and it makes me uncomfortable."

"Does this lady live in the wood, where I met you?" asks Lilian,
addressing Guy, and apparently deeply interested.

"Yes, about a mile from that particular spot. She is a new tenant we
took to oblige a friend, but we know nothing about her."

"How very romantic!" says Lilian; "it is just like a story."

"Yes; the image of the 'Children of the Abbey,' or 'The Castle of
Otranto,'" says Cyril. "Has she any one living with her, Guy?"
carelessly.

"Yes, two servants, and a small ill-tempered terrier."

"I mean any friends. It must be dull to be by one's self."

"I don't know. I saw no one. She don't seem ambitious about making
acquaintances, as, when I said I hoped she would not find it lonely, and
that my mother would have much pleasure in calling on her, she blushed
painfully, and said she was never lonely, and that she would esteem it a
kindness if we would try to forget she was at the cottage."

"That was rather rude, my dear, wasn't it?" says Lady Chetwoode mildly.

"It sounds so, but, as she said it, it wasn't rude. She appeared
nervous, I thought, and as though she had but lately recovered from a
severe illness. When the blush died away, she was as white as death."

"Well, I shan't distress her by calling," says Lady Chetwoode, who is
naturally a little offended by the unknown's remark. Unconsciously she
has been viewing her coming with distrust, and now this unpleasing
message--for as a message directly addressed to herself she regards
it--has had the effect of changing a smouldering doubt into an
acknowledged dislike.

"I wonder how she means to employ her time down here," says Cyril.
"Scenery abounds, but lovely views don't go a long way with most people.
After a while they are apt to pall."

"Is there pretty scenery round Truston?" asks Lilian.

"Any amount of it. Like 'Auburn,' it is the 'loveliest village of the
plain.' But I can't say we are a very enterprising people. Sometimes it
occurs to one of us to give a dinner-party, but no sooner do we issue
the invitations than we sit down and repent bitterly; and on rare
occasions we may have a ball, which means a drive of fourteen miles on a
freezing night, and universal depression and sneezing for a week
afterward. Perhaps the widow is wise in declining to have anything to do
with our festive gatherings. I begin to think there is method in her
madness."

"Miss Chesney doesn't agree with you," says Guy, casting a quick glance
at Lilian: "she would go any distance to a ball, and dance from night
till morning, and never know depression next day."

"Is that true, Miss Chesney?"

"Sir Guy says it is," replies Lilian, demurely.

"When I was young," says Lady Chetwoode, "I felt just like that. So long
as the band played, so long I could dance, and without ever feeling
fatigue. And provided he was of a good figure, and could dance well, I
never much cared who my partner was, until I met your father. Dear me!
how long ago it seems!"

"Not at all," says Cyril; "a mere reminiscence of yesterday. When I am
an old gentleman, I shall make a point of never remembering anything
that happened long ago, no matter how good it may have been."

"Perhaps you won't have anything good to remember," says Miss Lilian,
provokingly.

"Guy, give Miss Chesney another glass of wine," says Cyril, promptly:
"she is evidently feeling low."

"Sir Guy," says Miss Chesney, with equal promptitude, and a treacherous
display of innocent curiosity, "when you were at Belmont last evening
did you hear Miss Bellair say anything of a rather rude attack made upon
her yesterday at the station by an ill-bred young man?"

"No," says Sir Guy, rather amazed.

"Did she not speak of it? How strange! Why, I fancied----"

"Miss Chesney," interposes Cyril, "if you have any regard for your
personal safety, you will refrain from further speech."

"But why?"--opening her great eyes in affected surprise. "Why may I not
tell Sir Guy about it? Poor Miss Bellair! although a stranger to me, I
felt most genuine pity for her. Just fancy, Sir Guy, a poor girl alone
upon a platform, without a soul to take care of her, what she must have
endured, when a young man--_apparently_ a gentleman--walked up to her,
and taking advantage of her isolated position, bowed to her, simpered
impertinently, and was actually on the very point of addressing her,
when fortunately her cousin came up and rescued her from her unhappy
situation. Was it not shameful? Now, what do you think that rude young
man deserved?"

"Extinction," replies Guy, without hesitation.

"I think so too. Don't you, Lady Chetwoode?"

Lady Chetwoode laughs.

"Now, I shall give my version of the story," says Cyril. "I too was
present----"

"And didn't fly to her assistance? Oh, fie!" says Lilian.

"There was once an unhappy young man, who was sent to a station to meet
a young woman, without having been told beforehand whether she was like
Juno, tall enough to 'snuff the moon,' or whether she was so
insignificant as to require a strong binocular to enable you to see her
at all."

"I am not insignificant," says Lilian, her indignation getting the
better of her judgment.

"Am I speaking of you, Miss Chesney?"

"Well, go on."

"Now, it came to pass that as this wretched young man was glaring wildly
round to see where his charge might be, he espied a tall young woman,
apparently in the last stage of exhaustion, looking about for some one
to assist her, and seeing no one else, for the one he sought had meanly,
and with a view to his discomfiture, crept silently behind his back----"

"Oh, Cyril!"

"Yes, I maintain it; she crept silently behind his back, and bribed her
maid to keep silence. So this wretched young man walked up to Juno, and
pulled his forelock, and made his very best Sunday bow, and generally
put his foot in it. Juno was so frightened by the best bow that she
gave way to a stifled scream, and instantly sank back unconscious into
the arms of her betrothed, who just then ran frantically upon the scene.
Upon this the deluded young man----"

"That will do," interrupts Lilian, severely. "I am certain I have read
it somewhere before; and--people should always tell the truth."

"By the bye," says Guy, "I believe Miss Bellair did say something last
night about an unpleasant adventure at the station,--something about a
very low person who had got himself up like a gentleman, but was without
doubt one of the swell mob, and who----"

"You needn't go any further. I feel my position keenly. Nevertheless,
Miss Bellair made a mistake when she rejected my proffered services. She
little knows what a delightful companion I can be. Can't I, Miss
Chesney?"

"Can he, Lady Chetwoode? I am not in a position to judge."

"If a perpetual, never-ceasing flow of conversation has anything to do
with it, I believe he must be acknowledged the most charming of his
sex," says his mother, laughing, and rising, bears away Lilian with her
to the drawing-room.



CHAPTER VII.

     "A dancing shape, an image gay,
     To haunt, to startle, and waylay."
     --WORDSWORTH.


When seven long uneventful days have passed away, every one at Chetwoode
is ready to acknowledge that the coming of Lilian Chesney is an
occurrence for which they ought to be devoutly thankful. She is a boon,
a blessing, a merry sunbeam, darting hither and thither about the old
place, lighting up the shadows, dancing through the dark rooms, casting
a little of her own inborn joyousness upon all that comes within her
reach.

To Lady Chetwoode, who is fond of young life, she is especially
grateful, and creeps into her kind heart in an incredibly short time,
finding no impediment to check her progress.

Once a day, armed with huge gloves and a gigantic scissors, Lady
Chetwoode makes a tour of her gardens, snipping, and plucking, and
giving superfluous orders to the attentive gardeners all the time. After
her trots Lilian, supplied with a basket and a restless tongue that
seldom wearies, but is always ready to suggest, or help the thought that
sometimes comes slowly to her hostess.

"As you were saying last night, my dear Lilian----" says Lady Chetwoode,
vaguely, coming to a full stop before the head gardener, and gazing at
Lilian for further inspiration; she had evidently remembered only the
smallest outline of what she wants to say.

"About the ivy on the north wall? You wanted it thinned. You thought it
a degree too straggling."

"Yes,--yes; of course. You hear, Michael, I want it clipped and thinned,
and---- There was something else about the ivy, my child, wasn't there?"

"You wished it mixed with the variegated kind, did you not?"

"Ah, of course. I wonder how I ever got on without Lilian," says the old
lady, gently pinching the girl's soft peach-like cheek. "Florence,
without doubt, is a comfort,--but--she is not fond of gardening. Shall
we come and take a peep at the grapes, dear?" And so on.

Occasionally, too,--being fond of living out of doors in the summer, and
being a capital farmeress,--Lady Chetwoode takes a quiet walk down to
the home farm, to inspect all the latest arrivals. And here, too, Miss
Lilian must needs follow.

There are twelve merry, showy little calves in one field, that run all
together in their ungainly, jolting fashion up to the high gate that
guards their domain, the moment Lady Chetwoode and her visitor arrive,
under the mistaken impression that she and Lilian are a pair of
dairy-maids coming to solace them with unlimited pans of milk.

Lilian cries "Shoo!" at the top of her gay young voice, and instantly
all the handsome, foolish things scamper away as though destruction were
at their heels, leaving Miss Chesney delighted at the success of her own
performance.

Then in the paddock there are four mad little colts to be admired, whose
chief joy in life seems to consist in kicking their hind legs wildly
into space, while their more sedate mothers stand apart and compare
notes upon their darlings' merit.

This paddock is Lilian's special delight, and all the way there, and
all the way back she chatters unceasingly, making the old lady's heart
grow young again, as she listens to, and laughs at, all the merry
stories Miss Chesney tells her of her former life.

To-day--although the morning has been threatening--is now quite fine.
Tired of sulking, it cleared up half an hour ago, and is now throwing
out a double portion of heat, as though to make up for its early
deficiencies.

The


     "King of the East, ... girt
     With song and flame and fragrance, slowly lifts
     His golden feet on those empurpled stairs
     That climb into the windy halls of heaven,"


and, casting his million beams abroad, enlivens the whole earth.

It is a day when one might saunter but not walk, when one might dream
though wide awake, when one is perforce amiable because argument or
contradiction would be too great an exertion.

Sir Guy--who has been making a secret though exhaustive search through
the house for Miss Chesney--now turns his steps toward the orchard,
where already instinct has taught him she is usually to be found.

He is not looking quite so _insouciant_, or carelessly happy, as when
first we saw him, now two weeks ago; there is a little gnawing,
dissatisfied feeling at his heart, for which he dare not account even to
himself.

He thinks a good deal of his ward, and his ward thinks a good deal of
him; but unfortunately their thoughts do not amalgamate harmoniously.

Toward Sir Guy Miss Chesney's actions have not been altogether just.
Cyril she treats with affection, and the utmost _bonhommie_, but toward
his brother--in spite of her civility on that first day of meeting--she
maintains a strict and irritating reserve.

He is her guardian (detestable, thankless office), and she takes good
care that neither he or she shall ever forget that fact. Secretly she
resents it, and openly gratifies that resentment by denying his
authority in all things, and being specially willful and wayward when
occasion offers; as though to prove to him that she, for one, does not
acknowledge his power over her.

Not that this ill-treated young man has the faintest desire to assert
any authority whatever. On the contrary, he is most desirous of being
all there is of the most submissive when in her presence; but Miss
Chesney declines to see his humility, and chooses instead to imagine him
capable of oppressing her with all sorts of tyrannical commands at a
moment's notice.

There is a little cloud on his brow as he reaches the garden and walks
moodily along its principal path. This cloud, however, lightens and
disappears, as upon the southern border he hears voices that tell him
his search is at an end.

Miss Chesney's clear notes, rather raised and evidently excited, blend
with those of old Michael Ronaldson, whose quavering bass is also
uplifted, suggesting unwonted agitation on the part of this easy-going
though ancient gentleman.

Lilian is standing on tip-toe, opposite a plum-tree, with the long tail
of her black gown caught firmly in one hand, while with the other she
points frantically in a direction high above her head.

"Don't you see him?" she says, reproachfully,--"there--in that corner."

"No, that I don't," says Michael, blankly, sheltering his forehead with
both hands from the sun's rays, while straining his gaze anxiously
toward the spot named.

"Not see him! Why, he is a big one, a _monster_! Michael," says Lilian,
reproachfully, "you are growing either stupid or short-sighted, and I
didn't expect it from you. Now follow the tip of my finger; look right
along it now--now"--with growing excitement, "don't you see it?"

"I do, I do," says the old man, enthusiastically; "wait till I get
'en--won't I pay him off!"

"Is it a plum you want?" asks Guy, who has come up behind her, and is
lost in wonder at what he considers is her excitement about the fruit.
"Shall I get it for you?"

"A plum! no, it is a snail I want," says Lilian eagerly, "but I can't
get at it. Oh, that I had been born five inches taller! Ronaldson, you
are not tall enough; Sir Guy will catch him."

Sir Guy, having brought a huge snail to the ground, presents him gravely
to Lilian.

"That is the twenty-third we have caught to-day," says she, "and
twenty-nine yesterday,--in all forty-eight. Isn't it, Michael?"

"I think it makes fifty-two," suggests Sir Guy, deferentially.

"Does it? Well, it makes no difference," says Miss Chesney, with a fine
disregard of arithmetic; "at all events, either way, it is a tremendous
number. I'm sure I don't know where they come from,"--despairingly,--
"unless they all walk back again during the night."

"And I wouldn't wonder too," says Michael, _sotto voce_.

"Walk back again!" repeats Guy, amazed. "Don't you kill them?"

"Miss Chesney won't hear of 'en being killed, Sir Guy," says old
Ronaldson, sheepishly; "she says as 'ow the cracklin' of 'en do make her
feel sick all over."

"Oh, yes," says Lilian, making a little wry face, "I hate to think of
it. He used to crunch them under his heel, so," with a shudder, and a
small stamp upon the ground, "and it used to make me absolutely faint.
So we gave it up, and now we just throw them over the wall,
so,"--suiting the action to the word, and flinging the slimy creature
she holds with dainty disgust, between her first finger and thumb, over
the garden boundary.

Guy laughs, and, thus encouraged, so does old Michael.

"Well, at all events, it must take them a long time to get back," says
Lilian, apologetically.

"On your head be it if we have no vegetables or fruit this year," says
Chetwoode, who understands as much about gardening as the man in the
moon, but thinks it right to say something. "Come for a walk, Lilian,
will you? It is a pity to lose this charming day." He speaks with marked
diffidence (his lady's moods being uncertain), which so far gains upon
Miss Chesney that in return she deigns to be gracious.

"I don't mind if I do," she replies, with much civility. "Good-morning,
Michael;" and with a pretty little nod, and a still prettier smile in
answer to the old man's low salutation, she walks away beside her
guardian.

Far into the woods they roam, the teeming woods all green and bronze and
copper-colored, content and happy in that no actual grief disturbs them.


     "The branches cross above their eyes,
     The skies are in a net;"


the fond gay birds are warbling their tenderest strains. "Along the
grass sweet airs are blown," and all the myriad flowers, the "little
wildings" of the forest, "earth's cultureless buds," are expanding and
glowing, and exhaling the perfumed life that their mother, Nature, has
given them.

Chetwoode is looking its best and brightest, and Sir Guy might well be
proud of his possessions; but no thought of them enters his mind just
now, which is filled to overflowing with the image of this petulant,
pretty, saucy, lovable ward, that fate has thrown into his path.

"Yes, it is a lovely place!" says Lilian, after a pause spent in
admiration. She has been looking around her, and has fallen into honest
though silent raptures over all the undulating parks and uplands that
stretch before her, far as the eye can see. "Lovely!--So," with a sigh,
"was my old home."

"Yes. I think quite as lovely as this."

"What!" turning to him with a start, while the rich, warm, eager flush
of youth springs to her cheeks and mantles there, "you have been there?
You have seen the Park?"

"Yes, very often, though not for years past. I spent many a day there
when I was younger. I thought you knew it."

"No, indeed. It makes me glad to think some one here can remember its
beauties with me. But you cannot know it all as I do: you never saw my
own particular bit of wood?"--with earnest questioning, as though
seeking to deny the hope that strongly exists. "It lies behind the
orchard, and one can get to it by passing through a little gate in the
wall, that leads into the very centre of it. There at first, in the
heart of the trees one sees a tangled mass with giant branches
overhanging it, and straggling blackberry bushes protecting it with
their angry arms, and just inside, the coolest, greenest, freshest bit
of grass in all the world,--my fairy nook I used to call it. But you--of
course you never saw it."

"It has a huge horse-chestnut at its head, and a silver fir at its
feet."

"Yes,--yes!"

"I know it well," says Chetwoode, smiling at her eagerness. "It was your
mother's favorite spot. You know she and my mother were fast friends,
and she was very fond of me. When first she was married, before you
were born, I was constantly at the Park, and afterward too. She used to
read in the spot you name, and I--I was a delicate little fellow at that
time, obliged to lie a good deal, and I used to read there beside her
with my head in her lap, by the hour together."

"Why, you know more about my mother than I do," says Lilian, with some
faint envy in her tones.

"Yes,"--hastily, having already learned how little a thing can cause an
outbreak, when one party is bent on war,--"but you must not blame me for
that. I could not help it."

"No,"--regretfully,--"I suppose not. Before I was born, you say. How old
that seems to make you!"

"Why?"--laughing. "Because I was able to read eighteen years ago? I was
only nine, or perhaps ten, then."

"I never could do my sums," says Lilian: "I only know it sounds as
though you were the Ancient Mariner or Methuselah, or anybody in the
last stage of decay."

"And yet I am not so very old, Lilian. I am not yet thirty."

"Well, that's old enough. When I am thirty I shall take to caps with
borders, and spectacles, and long black mittens, like nurse. Ha, ha!"
laughs Lilian, delighted at the portrait of herself she has drawn,
"shan't I look nice then?"

"I dare say you will," says Guy, quite seriously. "But I would advise
you to put off the wearing of them for a while longer. I don't think
thirty old. I am not quite that."

"A month or two don't signify,"--provokingly; "and as you have had
apparently a very good life I don't think it manly of you to fret
because you are drawing to the close of it. Some people would call it
mean. There, never mind your age: tell me something more about my
mother. Did you love her?"

"One could not help loving her, she was so gentle, so thoroughly
kind-hearted."

"Ah! what a pity it is I don't resemble her!" says Lilian, with a
suspiciously deep sigh, accepting the reproach, and shaking her head
mournfully. "Was she like that picture at home in the drawing-room? I
hope not. It is very lovely, but it lacks expression, and has no
tenderness about it."

"Then the artist must have done her great injustice. She was all
tenderness both in face and disposition as I remember her, and children
are very correct in their impressions. She was extremely beautiful. You
are very like her."

"Am I, Sir Guy? Oh, thank you. I didn't hope for so much praise. Then in
one thing at least I do resemble my mother. Am I more beautiful or less
so?"

"That is quite a matter of opinion."

"And what is yours?" saucily.

"What can it matter to you?" he says, quickly, almost angrily. "Besides,
I dare say you know it."

"I don't, indeed. Never mind, I shall find out for myself. I am so
glad"--amiably--"you knew my mother, and the dear Park! It sounds
horrible, does it not, but the Park is even more dear to me than--than
her memory."

"You can scarcely call it a 'memory'; she died when you were so
young,--hardly old enough to have an idea. I recollect you so well, a
little toddling thing of two."

"The plot thickens. You knew _me_ also? And pray, Sir Guardian, what was
I like?"

"You had blue eyes, and a fair skin, a very imperious will, and the
yellowest hair I ever saw."

"A graphic description! It would be madness on the part of any one to
steal me, as I should infallibly be discovered by it. Well, I have not
altered much. I have still my eyes and my hair, and my will, only
perhaps rather more of the latter. Go on: you are very unusually
interesting to-day: I had no idea you possessed such a fund of
information. Were you very fond of me?"

"Very," says Chetwoode, laughing in spite of himself. "I was your slave,
as long as I was with you. Your lightest wish was my law. I used
even----"

A pause.

"Yes, do go on: I am all attention. 'I used even----'"

"I was going to say I used to carry you about in my arms, and kiss you
into good humor when you were angry, which was pretty often," replies
Guy, with a rather forced laugh, and a decided accession of color; "but
I feared such a very grown-up young lady as you might be offended."

"Not in the least,"--with a gay, perfectly unembarrassed enjoyment at
his confusion. "I never heard anything so amusing. Fancy you being my
nurse once on a time. I feel immensely flattered when I think such an
austere individual actually condescended to hold me in his arms and kiss
me into good humor. It is more than I have any right to expect. I am
positively overwhelmed. By the bye, had your remedy the desired effect?
Did I subdue my naughty passion under your treatment?"

"As far as I can recollect, yes," rather stiffly. Nobody likes being
laughed at.

"How odd!" says Miss Chesney.

"Not very," retorts he: "at that time _you_ were very fond of _me_."

"That is even odder," says Miss Chesney, who takes an insane delight in
teasing him. "What a pity it is you cannot invent some plan for reducing
me to order now!"

"There are some tasks too great for a mere mortal to undertake," replies
Sir Guy, calmly.

Miss Chesney, not being just then prepared with a crushing retort,
wisely refrains from speech altogether, although it is by a superhuman
effort she does so. Presently, however, lest he should think her
overpowered by the irony of his remark, she says, quite pleasantly:

"Did Cyril ever see me before I came here?"

"No." Then abruptly, "Do you like Cyril?"

"Oh, immensely! He suits me wonderfully, he is so utterly devoid of
dignity, and all that. One need not mind what one says to Cyril; in his
worst mood he could not terrify. Whereas his brother----" with a little
malicious gleam from under her long, heavy lashes.

"Well, what of his brother?"

"Nay, Sir Guy, the month we agreed on has not yet expired," says Lilian.
"I cannot tell you what I think of you yet. Still, you cannot imagine
how dreadfully afraid I am of you at times."

"If I believed you, it would cause me great regret," says her guardian,
rather hurt. "I am afraid, Lilian, your father acted unwisely when he
chose Chetwoode as a home for you."

"What! are you tired of me already?" asks she hastily, with a little
tremor in her voice, that might be anger, and that might be pain.

"Tired of you? No! But I cannot help seeing that the fact of my being
your guardian makes me abhorrent to you."

"Not quite that," says Miss Chesney, in a little soft, repentant tone.
"What a curious idea to get into your head? dismiss it; there is really
no reason why it should remain."

"You are sure?" with rather more earnestness than the occasion demands.

"Quite sure. And now tell me how it was I never saw you until now, since
I was two years old."

"Well, for one thing, your mother died; then I went to Eton, to
Cambridge, got a commission in the Dragoons, tired of it, sold out, and
am now as you see me."

"What an eventful history!" says Lilian, laughing.

At this moment, who should come toward them, beneath the trees, but
Cyril, walking as though for a wager.

"'Whither awa?'" asks Miss Lilian, gayly stopping him with outstretched
hands.

"You have spoiled my quotation," says Cyril, reproachfully, "and it was
on the very tip of my tongue. I call it disgraceful. I was going to say
with fine effect, 'Where are you going, my pretty maid?' but I fear it
would fall rather flat if I said it now."

"Rather. Nevertheless, I accept the compliment. Are you in training? or
where are you going in such a hurry?"

"A mere constitutional," says Cyril, lightly,--which is a base and ready
lie. "Good-bye, I won't detain you longer. Long ago I learned the useful
lesson that where 'two is company, three is trumpery.' Don't look as
though you would like to devour me, Guy: I meant no harm."

Lilian laughs, so does Guy, and Cyril continues his hurried walk.

"Where does that path lead to?" asks Lilian, looking after him as he
disappeared rapidly in the distance.

"To The Cottage first, and then to the gamekeeper's lodge, and farther
on to another entrance-gate that opens on the road."

"Perhaps he will see your pretty tenant on his way?"

"I hardly think so. It seems she never goes beyond her own garden."

"Poor thing! I feel the greatest curiosity about her, indeed I might say
an interest in her. Perhaps she is unhappy."

"Perhaps so; though her manner is more frozen than melancholy. She is
almost forbidding, she is so cold."

"She may be in ill health."

"She may be," unsympathetically.

"You do not seem very prepossessed in her favor," says Lilian,
impatiently.

"Well, I confess I am not," carelessly. "Experience has taught me that
when a woman withdraws persistently from the society of her own sex, and
eschews the companionship of her fellow-creatures, there is sure to be
something radically wrong with her."

"But you forget there are exceptions to every rule. I confess I would
give anything to see her," says Lilian, warmly.

"I don't believe you would be the gainer by that bargain," replies he,
with conviction, being oddly, unaccountably prejudiced against this
silent, undemonstrative widow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime, Cyril pursues his way along the path, that every day of late
he has traveled with unexampled perseverance. Seven times he has passed
along it full of hope, and only twice has been rewarded, with a bare
glimpse of the fair unknown, whose face has obstinately haunted him
since his first meeting with it.

On these two momentous occasions, she has appeared to him so pale and
wan that he is fain to believe the color he saw in her cheeks on that
first day arose from vexation and excitement, rather than health,--a
conclusion that fills him with alarm.

Now, as he nears the house between the interstices of the hedge he
catches the gleam of a white gown moving to and fro, that surely covers
his divinity.

Time proves his surmise right. It is the admired incognita, who almost
as he reaches the gate that leads to her bower, comes up to one of the
huge rose-bushes that decorate either side of it, and--unconscious of
criticism--commences to gather from it such flowers as shall add beauty
to the bouquet already growing large within her hands.

Presently the restless feeling that makes us all know when some
unexpected presence is near, compels her to raise her head. Thereupon
her eyes and those of Cyril Chetwoode meet. She pauses in her occupation
as though irresolute; Cyril pauses too; and then gravely, unsmilingly,
she bows in cold recognition. Certainly her reception is not
encouraging; but Cyril is not to be daunted.

"I hope," he says, deferentially, "your little dog has been conducting
himself with due propriety since last I had the pleasure of restoring
him to your arms?"

This Grandisonian speech surely calls for a reply.

"Yes," says Incognita, graciously. "I think it was only the worry caused
by change of scene made him behave so very badly that--last day."

So saying, she turns from him, as though anxious to give him a gentle
_congé_. But Cyril, driven to desperation, makes one last effort at
detaining her.

"I hope your friend is better," he says, leaning his arms upon the top
of the gate, and looking full of anxiety about the absent widow. "My
brother--Sir Guy--called the other day, and said she appeared extremely
delicate."

"My friend?" staring at him in marked surprise, while a faint deep rose
flush illumines her cheek, making one forget how white and fragile she
appeared a moment since.

"Yes. I mean Mrs. Arlington, our tenant. I am Cyril Chetwoode," raising
his hat. "I hope the air here will do her good."

He is talking against time, but she is too much occupied to notice it.

"I hope it will," she replies, calmly, studying her roses attentively,
while the faintest suspicion of a smile grows and trembles at the corner
of her mobile lips.

"You are her sister, perhaps?" asks Cyril, the extreme deference of his
whole manner taking from the rudeness of his questioning.

"No--not her sister."

"Her friend?"

"Yes. Her dearest friend," replies Incognita, slowly, after a pause, and
a closer, more prolonged examination of her roses; while again the
curious half-suppressed smile lights up her face. There are few things
prettier on a pretty face than an irrepressible smile.

"She is fortunate in possessing such a friend," says Cyril, softly; then
with some haste, as though anxious to cover his last remark, "My brother
did not see you when he called?"

"Did he say so?"

"No. He merely mentioned having seen only Mrs. Arlington. I do not think
he is aware of your existence."

"I think he is. I have had the pleasure of speaking with Sir Guy."

"Indeed!" says Cyril, and instantly tells himself he would not have
suspected Guy of so much slyness. "Probably it was some day since--you
met him----"

"No, it was on that one occasion when he called here."

"I dare say I misunderstood," says Cyril, "but I certainly thought he
said he had seen only Mrs. Arlington."

"Well?"

"Well?"

"_I_ am Mrs. Arlington!"

"What!" says Cyril, with exaggerated surprise,--and a moment later is
shocked at the vehemence of his own manner. "I beg your pardon, I am
sure," he says, contritely; "there is no reason why it should not be so,
but you seem so--I had no idea you wore a--that is--I mean I did not
think you were married."

"You had no idea I was a widow," corrects Mrs. Arlington, coldly. "I do
not see why you need apologize. On the contrary, I consider you have
paid me a compliment. I am glad I do not look the character.
Good-morning, sir; I have detained you too long already."

"It is I who have detained you, madam," says Cyril, speaking coldly
also, being a little vexed at the tone she has employed toward him,
feeling it to be undeserved. "I fear I have been unhappy enough to err
twice this morning,--though I trust you will see--unwittingly." He
accompanies this speech with a glance so full of entreaty and a mute
desire for friendship as must go straight to the heart of any true
woman; after which, being a wise young man, he attempts no further
remonstrance, but lifts his hat, and walks away gloomily toward his
home.

Mrs. Arlington, who is not proof against so much reproachful humility,
lifts her head, sees the dejected manner of his departure, and is
greatly struck by it. She makes one step forward; checks herself; opens
her lips as though to speak; checks herself again; and finally, with a
little impatient sigh, turns and walks off gloomily toward her home.



CHAPTER VIII.

     "And sang, with much simplicity,--a merit
     Not the less precious, that we seldom hear it."
     --_Don Juan_.


The rain is beating regularly, persistently, against the window-panes;
there is no hope of wandering afield this evening. A sullen summer
shower, without a smile in it, is deluging gardens and lawns, tender
flowers and graveled walks, and is blotting out angrily all the glories
of the landscape.

It is half-past four o'clock. Lady Chetwoode is sitting in the library
reclining in the coziest arm-chair the room contains, with her knitting
as usual in her hands. She disdains all newer, lighter modes of passing
the time, and knits diligently all day long for her poor.

Lilian is standing at the melancholy window, counting the diminutive
lakes and toy pools forming in the walk outside. As she looks, a laurel
leaf, blown from the nearest shrubbery, falls into a fairy river, and
floats along in its current like a sedate and sturdy boat, with a small
snail for cargo, that clings to it bravely for dear life.

Presently a stick, that to Lilian's idle fancy resolves itself into an
iron-clad, runs down the poor little skiff, causing it to founder with
all hands on board.

At this heart-rending moment John enters with a tea-tray, and, drawing a
small table before Lady Chetwoode, lays it thereon. Her ladyship, with a
sigh, prepares to put away her beloved knitting, hesitates, and then is
lost in so far that she elects to finish that most mysterious of all
things, the rounding of the heel of her socks, before pouring out the
tea. Old James Murland will be expecting these good gray socks by the
end of the week, and old James Murland must not be disappointed.

"Lady Chetwoode," says Lilian, with soft hesitation, "I want to ask you
a question."

"Do you, dear? Then ask it."

"But it is a very odd question, and perhaps you will be angry."

"I don't think I shall," says Lady Chetwoode ("One, two, three, four,"
etc.)

"Well, then, I like you so much--I love you so much," corrects Lilian,
earnestly, "that, if you don't mind, I should like to call you some name
a little less formal than Lady Chetwoode. Do you mind?"

Her ladyship lays down her knitting and looks amused.

"It seems no one cares to give me my title," she says. "Mabel, my late
ward, was hardly here three days when she made a request similar to
yours. She always called me 'Auntie.' Florence calls me, of course,
'Aunt Anne;' but Mabel always called me 'Auntie.'"

"Ah! that was prettier. May I call you 'Auntie' too? 'Auntie Nannie,'--I
think that a dear little name, and just suited to you."

"Call me anything you like, darling," says Lady Chetwoode, kissing the
girl's soft, flushed cheek.

Here the door opens to admit Sir Guy and Cyril, who are driven to
desperation and afternoon tea by the incivility of the weather.

"The mother and Lilian spooning," says Cyril. "I verily believe women,
when alone, kiss each other for want of something better."

"I have been laughing at Lilian," says Lady Chetwoode: "she, like Mabel,
cannot be happy unless she finds for me a pet name. So I am to be
'Auntie' to her too."

"I am glad it is not to be 'Aunt Anne,' like Florence," says Cyril, with
a distasteful shrug; "that way of addressing you always grates upon my
ear."

"By the bye, that reminds me," says Lady Chetwoode, struggling vainly in
her pocket to bring to light something that isn't there, "Florence is
coming home next week. I had a letter from her this morning telling me
so, but I forgot all about it till now."

"You don't say so!" says Cyril, in a tone of unaffected dismay.

Now, when one hears an unknown name mentioned frequently in
conversation, one eventually grows desirous of knowing something about
the owner of that name.

Lilian therefore gives away to curiosity.

"And who is Florence?" she asks.

"'Who is Florence?'" repeats Cyril; "have you really asked the question?
Not to know Florence argues yourself unknown. She is an institution. But
I forgot, you are one of those unhappy ones outside the pale of
Florence's acquaintance. How I envy--I mean pity you!"

"Florence is my niece," says Lady Chetwoode: "she is at present staying
with some friends in Shropshire, but she lives with me. She has been
here ever since she was seventeen."

"Is that very long ago?" asks Lilian, and her manner is so _naïve_ that
they all smile.

"She came here----" begins Lady Chetwoode.

"She came here," interrupts Cyril, impressively, "precisely five years
ago. Have you mastered that date? If so, cling to it, get it by heart,
never lose sight of it. Once, about a month ago, before she left us to
go to those good-natured people in Shropshire, I told her, quite
accidentally, I thought she came here _nine_ years ago. She was very
angry, and I then learned that Florence angry wasn't nice, and that a
little of her in that state went a long way. I also learned that she
came here five years ago."

"Am I to understand," asks Lilian, laughing, "that she is twenty-six?"

"My dear Lilian, I do hope you are not 'obtoose.' Has all my valuable
information been thrown away? I have all this time been trying to
impress upon you the fact that Florence is only twenty-two, but it is
evidently 'love's labor lost.' Now do try to comprehend. She was
twenty-two last year, she is twenty-two this year, and I am almost
positive that this time next year she will be twenty-two again!"

"Cyril, don't be severe," says his mother.

"Dearest mother, how can you accuse me of such a thing? Is it severe to
say Florence is still young and lovely?"

"Do you and Florence like each other?" asks Lilian.

"Not too much. I am not staid enough for Florence. She says she likes
earnest people,--like Guy."

"Ah!" says Lilian.

"What?" Guy hearing his name mentioned looks up dreamily from the
_Times_, in the folds of which he has been buried. "What about me?"

"Nothing. I was only telling Lilian in what high esteem you are held by
our dear Florence."

"Is that all?" says Guy, indifferently, going back to the thrilling
account of the divorce case he has been studying.

"What a very ungallant speech!" says Miss Chesney, with a view to
provocation, regarding him curiously.

"Was it?" says Guy, meeting her eyes, and letting the interesting paper
slip to the floor beside him. "It was scarcely news, you see, and there
is nothing to be wondered at. If I lived with people for years, I am
certain I should end by being attached to them, were they good or bad."

"She doesn't waste much of her liking upon me," says Cyril.

"Nor you on her. She is just the one pretty woman I ever knew to whom
you didn't succumb."

"You didn't tell me she was pretty," says Lilian, hastily, looking at
Cyril with keen reproach.

"'Handsome is as handsome does,' and the charming Florence makes a point
of treating me very unhandsomely. You won't like her, Lilian; make up
your mind to it."

"Nonsense! don't let yourself be prejudiced by Cyril's folly," says Guy.

"I am not easily prejudiced," replies Lilian, somewhat coldly, and
instantly forms an undying dislike to the unknown Florence. "But she
really is pretty?" she asks, again, rather persistently addressing
Cyril.

"Lovely!" superciliously. "But ask Guy all about her: he knows."

"Do you?" says Lilian, turning her large eyes upon Guy.

"Not more than other people," replies he, calmly, though there is a
perceptible note of irritation in his voice, and a rather vexed gleam in
his blue eyes as he lets them fall upon his unconscious brother. "She is
certainly not lovely."

"Then she is very pretty?"

"Not even _very_ pretty in my eyes," replies Sir Guy, who is inwardly
annoyed at the examination. Without exactly knowing why, he feels he is
behaving shabbily to the absent Florence. "Still, I have heard many men
call her so."

"She is decidedly pretty," says Lady Chetwoode, with decision, "but
rather pale."

"Would you call it pale?" says Cyril, with suspicious earnestness.
"Well, of course that may be the new name for it, but I always called it
sallow."

"Cyril, you are incorrigible. At all events, I miss her in a great many
ways," says Lady Chetwoode, and they who listen fully understand the
tone of self-reproach that runs beneath her words in that she cannot
bring herself to miss Florence in all her ways. "She used to pour out
the tea for me, for one thing."

"Let me do it for you, auntie," says Lilian, springing to her feet with
alacrity, while the new name trips melodiously and naturally from her
tongue. "I never poured out tea for any one, and I should like to
immensely."

"Thank you, my dear. I shall be much obliged; I can't bear to leave off
this sock now I have got so far. And who, then, used to pour out tea for
you at your own home?"

"Nurse, always. And for the last six months, ever since"--with a gentle
sigh--"poor papa's death, Aunt Priscilla."

"That is Miss Chesney?"

"Yes. But tea was never nice with Aunt Priscilla; she liked it weak,
because of her nerves, she said (though I don't think she had many), and
she always would use the biggest cups in the house, even in the evening.
There never," says Lilian, solemnly, "was any one so odd as my Aunt
Priscilla. Though we had several of the loveliest sets of china in the
world, she never would use them, and always preferred a horrid glaring
set of blue and gold that was my detestation. Taffy and I were going to
smash them all one day right off, but then we thought it would be
shabby, she had placed her affections so firmly on them. Is your tea
quite right, Lady Chetwoode--auntie, I mean,"--with a bright smile,--"or
do you want any more sugar?"

"It is quite right, thank you, dear."

"Mine is without exception the most delicious cup of tea I ever tasted,"
says Cyril, with intense conviction. Whereat Lilian laughs and promises
him as many more as he can drink.

"Will you not give me one?" says Guy, who has risen and is standing
beside her, looking down upon her lovely face with a strange expression
in his eyes.

How pretty she looks pouring out the tea, with that little assumption of
importance about her! How deftly her slender fingers move among the
cups, how firmly they close around the handle of the quaint old teapot!

A lump of sugar falls with a small crash into the tray. It is a
refractory lump, and runs in and out among the china and the silver
jugs, refusing to be captured by the tongs. Lilian, losing patience (her
stock of it is small), lays down the useless tongs, and taking up the
lump between a dainty finger and thumb, transfers it triumphantly to her
own cup.

"Well caught," says Cyril, laughing, while it suddenly occurs to Guy
that Florence would have died before she would have done such a thing.
The sugar-tongs was made to pick up the sugar, therefore it would be a
flagrant breach of system to use anything else, and of all other things
one's fingers. Oh, horrible thought!

Methodical Florence. Unalterable, admirable, tiresome Florence!

As Sir Guy speaks, Lilian being in one of her capricious moods, which
seem reserved alone for her guardian, half turns her head toward him,
looking at him out of two great unfriendly eyes, says:

"Is not that yours?" pointing to a cup that she has purposely placed at
a considerable distance from her, so that she may have a decent excuse
for not offering it to him with her own hands.

"Thank you," Chetwoode says, calmly, taking it without betraying the
chagrin he is foolish enough to feel, but he is very careful not to
trouble her a second time. It is evident to him that, for some reason or
reasons unknown, he is in high disgrace with his ward; though long ago
he has given up trying to discover just cause for her constant displays
of temper.

Lady Chetwoode is knitting industriously. Already the heel is turned,
and she is on the fair road to make a most successful and rapid finish.
Humanly speaking, there is no possible doubt about old James Murland
being in possession of the socks to-morrow evening. As she knits she
speaks in the low dreamy tone that always seems to me to accompany the
click of the needles.

"Florence sings very nicely," she says; "in the evening it was pleasant
to hear her voice. Dear me, how it does rain, to be sure! one would
think it never meant to cease. Yes, I am very fond of singing."

"I have rather a nice little voice," says Miss Chesney, composedly,--"at
least"--with a sudden and most unlooked-for accession of modesty--"they
used to say so at home. Shall I sing something for you, auntie? I should
like to very much, if it would give you any pleasure."

"Indeed it would, my dear. I had no idea you were musical."

"I don't suppose I can sing as well as
Florence,"--apologetically,--"but I will try the 'Banks of Allan Water,'
and then you will be able to judge for yourself."

She sits down, and sings from memory that very sweet and dear old
song,--sings it with all the girlish tenderness of which she is capable,
in a soft, sweet voice, that saddens as fully as it charms,--a voice
that would certainly never raise storms of applause, but is perfect in
its truthfulness and exquisite in its youth and freshness.

"My dear child, you sing rarely well," says Lady Chetwoode, while Guy
has drawn near, unconsciously to himself, and is standing at a little
distance behind her. How many more witcheries has this little tormenting
siren laid up in store for his undoing? "It reminds me of long ago,"
says auntie, with a sigh for the gay hours gone: "once I sang that song
myself. Do you know any Scotch airs, Lilian? I am so fond of them."

Whereupon Lilian sings "Comin' thro' the Rye" and "Caller Herrin',"
which latter brings tears into Lady Chetwoode's eyes. Altogether, by the
time the first dressing-bell rings, she feels she has made a decided
success, and is so far elated by the thought that she actually
condescends to forego her ill-temper for this occasion only, and bestows
so gracious a smile and speech upon her hapless guardian as sends that
ill-used young man to his room in radiant spirits.



CHAPTER IX.

     "So young, and so untender."--_King Lear._


"I wonder why on earth it is some people cannot choose proper hours in
which to travel," says Cyril, testily. "The idea of electing--(not any
more, thank you)--to arrive at ten o'clock at night at any respectable
house is barely decent."

"Yes, I wish she had named any other hour," says Lady Chetwoode. "It is
rather a nuisance Guy having to go to the station so late."

"Dear Florence is so romantic," remarks Cyril: "let us hope for her sake
there will be a moon."

It is half-past eight o'clock, and dinner is nearly over. There has
been some haste this evening on account of Miss Beauchamp's expected
arrival; the very men who are handing round the jellies and sweetmeats
seem as inclined to hurry as their pomposity will allow: hence Cyril's
mild ill-humor. No man but feels aggrieved when compelled to hasten at
his meals.

Miss Chesney has arrayed herself with great care for the new-comer's
delectation, and has been preparing herself all day to dislike her
cordially. Sir Guy is rather silent; Cyril is not; Lady Chetwoode's
usual good spirits seem to have forsaken her.

"Are you really going to Truston after dinner?" asks Lilian, in a tone
of surprise, addressing Sir Guy.

"Yes, really; I do not mind it in the least," answering his mother's
remark even more than hers. "It can scarcely be called a hardship,
taking a short drive on such a lovely night."

"Of course not, with the prospect before him of so soon meeting this
delightful cousin," thinks Lilian. "How glad he seems to welcome her
home! No fear he would let Cyril meet _her_ at the station!"

"Yes, it certainly is a lovely evening," she says, aloud. Then, "Was
there no other train for her to come by?"

"Plenty," answers Cyril; "any number of them. But she thought she would
like Guy to 'meet her by moonlight alone.'"

It is an old and favorite joke of Cyril's, Miss Beauchamp's admiration
for Guy. He has no idea he is encouraging in any one's mind the
impression that Guy has an admiration for Miss Beauchamp.

"I wonder you never tire of that subject," Guy says, turning upon his
brother with sudden and most unusual temper. "I don't fancy Florence
would care to hear you forever making free with her name as you do."

"I beg your pardon a thousand times. I had no idea it was a touchy
subject with you."

"Nor is it," shortly.

"She will have her wish," says Lilian, alluding to Cyril's unfortunate
quotation, and ignoring the remark that followed. "I am sure it will be
moonlight by ten,"--making a critical examination of the sky through the
window, near which she is sitting. "How charming moonlight is! If I had
a lover,"--laughing,--"I should never go for a drive or walk with him
except beneath its cool white rays. I think Miss Beauchamp very wise in
choosing the hour she has chosen for her return home."

This is intolerable. The inference is quite distinct. Guy flushes
crimson and opens his mouth to give way to some of the thoughts that are
oppressing him, but his mother's voice breaking in checks him.

"Don't have any lovers for a long time, child," she says: "you are too
young for such unsatisfactory toys. The longer you are without them, the
happier you will be. They are more trouble than gratification."

"I don't mean to have one," says Lilian, with a wise shake of her blonde
head, "for years and years. I was merely admiring Miss Beauchamp's
taste."

"Wise child!" says Cyril, admiringly. "Why didn't you arrive by
moonlight, Lilian? I'm never in luck."

"It didn't occur to me: in future I shall be more considerate. Are you
fretting because you can't go to-night to meet your cousin? You see how
insignificant you are: you would not be trusted on so important a
mission. It is only bad little wards you are sent to welcome."

She laughs gayly as she says this; but Guy, who is listening, feels it
is meant as a reproach to him.

"There are worse things than bad little wards," says Cyril, "if you are
a specimen."

"Do you think so? It's a pity every one doesn't agree with you. No,
Martin," to the elderly servitor behind her chair, who she knows has a
decided weakness for her: "don't take away the ice pudding yet: I am
very fond of it."

"So is Florence. You and she, I foresee, will have a stand-up fight for
it at least once a week. Poor cook! I suppose she will have to make two
ice puddings instead of one for the future."

"If there is anything on earth I love, it is an ice pudding."

"Not better than me, I trust."

"Far, far better."

"Take it away instantly, Martin; Miss Chesney mustn't have any more: it
don't agree with her."

At this Martin smiles demurely and deferentially, and presents the
coveted pudding to Miss Chesney; whereat Miss Chesney makes a little
triumphant grimace at Cyril and helps herself as she loves herself.

Dinner is over. The servants,--oh, joy!--have withdrawn: everybody has
eaten as much fruit as they feel is good for them. Lady Chetwoode looks
at Lilian and half rises from her seat.

"It is hardly worth while your leaving us this evening, mother," Guy
says, hastily: "I must so soon be running away if I wish to catch the
train coming in."

"Very well,"--re-seating herself: "we shall break through rules, and
stay with you for this one night. You won't have your coffee until your
return?"

"No, thank you." He is a little _distrait_, and is following Lilian's
movements with his eyes, who has risen, thrown up the window, and is now
standing upon the balcony outside, gazing upon the slumbering flowers,
and upon the rippling, singing brooks in the distance, the only things
in all creation that never seem to sleep.

After a while, tiring of inanimate nature, she turns her face inward and
leans against the window-frame, and being in an idle mood, begins to
pluck to pieces the flower that has rested during dinner upon her bosom.

Standing thus in the half light, she looks particularly fair, and
slight, and childish,--


     "A lovely being, scarcely formed or moulded,
     A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded."


Some thought crossing Lady Chetwoode's mind, born of the long and loving
glance she has been bestowing upon Lilian, she says:

"How I detest fat people. They make me feel positively ill. Mrs.
Boileau, when she called to-day, raised within me the keenest pity."

"She is a very distressing woman," says Guy, absently. "One feels
thankful she has no daughter."

"Yes, indeed; the same thought occurred to me. Though perhaps not fat
now, she would undoubtedly show fatal symptoms of a tendency toward it
later on. Now you, my dear Lilian, have happily escaped such a fate: you
will never be fat."

"I'm sure I hope not, if you dislike the idea so much," says Lilian,
amused, letting the ghastly remains of her ill-treated flower fall to
the ground.

"If you only knew the misery I felt on hearing you were coming to us,"
goes on Lady Chetwoode, "dreading lest you might be inclined that way;
not of course but that I was very pleased to have you, my dear child,
but I fancied you large and healthy-looking, with a country air, red
cheeks, black hair, and unbounded _gaucherie_. Imagine my delight,
therefore, when I beheld you slim and self-possessed, and with your
pretty yellow hair!"

"You make me blush, you cover me with confusion," says Miss Chesney,
hiding her face in her hands.

"Yes, yellow hair is my admiration," goes on Lady Chetwoode, modestly:
"I had golden hair myself in my youth."

"My dearest mother, we all know you were, and are, the loveliest lady in
creation," says Guy, whose tenderness toward his mother is at times a
thing to be admired.

"My dear Guy, how you flatter!" says she, blushing a faint, sweet old
blush that shows how mightily pleased she is.

"Do you know," says Lilian, "in spite of being thought horrid, I like
comfortable-looking people? I wish I had more flesh upon my poor bones.
I think," going deliberately up to a glass and surveying herself with a
distasteful shrug,--"I think thin people have a meagre, gawky, hard look
about them, eminently unbecoming. I rather admire Mrs. Mount-George, for
instance."

"Hateful woman!" says Lady Chetwoode, who cherishes for her an old
spite.

"I rather admire her, too," says Sir Guy, unwisely,--though he only
gives way to this opinion through a wild desire to help out Lilian's
judgment.

"Do you?" says that young lady, with exaggerated emphasis. "I shouldn't
have thought she was a man's beauty. She is a little too--too--
demonstrative, too _prononcée_."

"Oh, Guy adores fat women," says Cyril, the incorrigible; "wait till you
see Florence: there is nothing of the 'meagre, gawky, hard' sort about
her. She has a decided leaning toward _embonpoint_."

"And I imagined her quite slight," says Lilian.

"You must begin then and imagine her all over again. The only flesh
there isn't about Florence is fool's flesh. It is hardly worth while,
however, your creating a fresh portrait, as the original," glancing at
his watch, "will so soon be before you. Guy, my friend, you should
hurry."

Lilian returns to the balcony, whither Chetwoode's eyes follow her
longingly. He rises reluctantly to his feet, and says to Cyril, with
some hesitation:

"You would not care to go to meet Florence?"

"I thank you kindly,--no," says Cyril, with an expressive shrug; "not
for Joe! I shall infinitely prefer a cigar at home, and Miss Chesney's
society,--if she will graciously accord it to me." This with a smile at
Lilian, who has again come in and up to the table, where she is now
eating daintily a showy peach, that has been lying neglected on its dish
since dinner, crying vainly, "Who'll eat me? who'll eat me?"

She nods and smiles sweetly at Cyril as he speaks.

"I am always glad to be with those who want me," she says, carefully
removing the skin from her fruit; "specially you, because you always
amuse me. Come out and smoke your cigar, and I will talk to you all the
time. Won't that be a treat for you?" with a little low, soft laugh, and
a swift glance at him from under her curling lashes that, to say the
truth, is rather coquettish.

"There, Guy, don't you envy me, with such a charming time before me?"
says Cyril, returning her glance with interest.

"No, indeed," says Lilian, raising her head and gazing full at
Chetwoode, who returns her glance steadily, although he is enduring
grinding torments all this time, and almost--_almost_ begins to hate his
brother. "The last thing Sir Guy would dream of would be to envy you my
graceless society. Fancy a guardian finding pleasure in the frivolous
conversation of his ward! How could you suspect him of such a weakness?"

Here she lets her small white teeth meet in her fruit with all the airs
of a little _gourmande_, and a most evident enjoyment of its flavor.

There is a pause.

Cyril has left the room in search of his cigar-case. Lady Chetwoode has
disappeared to explore the library for her everlasting knitting. Sir Guy
and Lilian are alone.

"I cannot remember having ever accused you of being frivolous, either in
conversation or manner," says Chetwoode, presently, in a low, rather
angry tone.

"No?" says naughty Lilian, with a shrug: "I quite thought you had. But
your manner is so expressive at times, it leaves no occasion for mere
words. This morning when I made some harmless remark to Cyril, you
looked as though I had committed murder, or something worthy of
transportation for life at the very least."

"I cannot remember that either. I think you purposely misunderstand
me."

"What a rude speech! Oh, if I had said that! But see how late it is,"
looking at the clock: "you are wasting all these precious minutes here
that might be spent so much more--profitably with your cousin."

"You mean you are in a hurry to be rid of me," disdaining to notice her
innuendo; "go,--don't let me detain you from Cyril and his cigar."

He turns away abruptly, and gives the bell a rather sharp pull. He is so
openly offended that Lilian's heart smites her.

"Who is misunderstanding now?" she says, with a decided change of tone.
"Shall you be long away, Sir Guy?"

"Not very," icily. "Truston, as you know, is but a short drive from
this."

"True." Then with charmingly innocent concern, "Don't you like going out
so late?--you seem a little cross."

"Do I?"

"Yes. But perhaps I mistake; I am always making mistakes," says Miss
Lilian, humbly; "I am very unfortunate. And you know what Ouida says,
that 'one is so often thought to be sullen when one is only sad.' Are
_you_ sad?"

"No," says Guy, goaded past endurance; "I am not. But I should like to
know what I have done that you should make a point at all times of
treating me with incivility."

"Are you speaking of me?"--with a fine show of surprise, and
widely-opened eyes; "what can you mean? Why, I shouldn't dare be uncivil
to my guardian. I should be afraid. I should positively die of fright,"
says Miss Chesney, feeling strongly inclined to laugh, and darting a
little wicked gleam at him from her eyes as she speaks.

"Your manner"--bitterly--"fully bears out your words. Still I
think---- Why doesn't Granger bring round the carriage? Am I to give the
same order half a dozen times?"--this to a petrified attendant who has
answered the bell, and now vanishes, as though shot, to give it as his
opinion down-stairs that Sir Guy is in "a h'orful wax!"

"Poor man, how you have frightened him!" says Lilian, softly. "I am
sorry if I have vexed you." Holding out a small hand of amity,--"Shall
we make friends before you go?"

"It would be mere waste of time," replies he, ignoring the hand; "and,
besides, why should you force yourself to be on friendly terms with me?"

"You forget----" begins Lilian, somewhat haughtily, made very indignant
by his refusal of her overture; but, Cyril and Lady Chetwoode entering
at this moment simultaneously, the conversation dies.

"Now I am ready," Cyril says, cheerfully. "I took some of your cigars,
Guy; they are rather better than mine; but the occasion is so felicitous
I thought it demanded it. Do you mind?"

"You can have the box," replies Guy, curtly.

To have a suspected rival in full possession of the field, smoking one's
choicest weeds, is not a thing calculated to soothe a ruffled breast.

"Eh, you're not ill, old fellow, are you?" says Cyril, in his laziest,
most good-natured tones. "The whole box! Come, my dear Lilian, I pine to
begin them."

Miss Chesney finishes her peach in a hurry and prepares to follow him.

"Lilian, you are like a baby with a sweet tooth," says Lady Chetwoode.
"Take some of those peaches out on the balcony with you, child: you seem
to enjoy them. And come to me to the drawing-room when you tire of
Cyril."

So the last thing Guy sees as he leaves the room is Lilian and his
brother armed with peaches and cigars on their way to the balcony; the
last thing he hears is a clear, sweet, ringing laugh that echoes through
the house and falls like molten lead upon his heart.

He bangs the hall-door with much unnecessary violence, steps into the
carriage, and goes to meet his cousin in about the worst temper he has
given way to for years.

       *       *       *       *       *

Half-past ten has struck. The drawing-room is ablaze with light. Lady
Chetwoode, contrary to custom, is wide awake, the gray sock lying almost
completed upon her lap. Lilian has been singing, but is now sitting
silent with her idle little hands before her, while Cyril reads aloud to
them decent extracts from the celebrated divorce case, now drawing to
its unpleasant close.

"They ought to be here now," says Lady Chetwoode, suddenly, alluding
not so much to the plaintiff, or the defendant, or the co-respondents,
as to her eldest son and Miss Beauchamp. "The time is up."

Almost as she says the words the sound of carriage-wheels strikes upon
the ear, and a few minutes later the door is thrown wide open and Miss
Beauchamp enters.

Lilian stares at her with a good deal of pardonable curiosity. Yes, in
spite of all that Cyril said, she is very nearly handsome. She is tall,
_posée_, large and somewhat full, with rather prominent eyes. Her mouth
is a little thin, but well shaped; her nose is perfect; her figure
faultless. She is quite twenty-six (in spite of artificial aid), a fact
that Lilian perceives with secret gratification.

She walks slowly up the room, a small Maltese terrier clasped in her
arms, and presents a cool cheek to Lady Chetwoode, as though she had
parted from her but a few hours ago. All the worry and fatigue of travel
have not told upon her: perhaps her maid and that mysterious
closely-locked little morocco bag in the hall could tell upon her; but
she looks as undisturbed in appearance and dress as though she had but
just descended from her room, ready for a morning's walk.

"My dear Florence, I am glad to welcome you home," says Lady Chetwoode,
affectionately, returning her chaste salute.

"Thank you, Aunt Anne," says Miss Beauchamp, in carefully modulated
tones. "I, too, am glad to get home. It was quite delightful to find Guy
waiting for me at the station!"

She smiles a pretty lady-like smile upon Sir Guy as she speaks, he
having followed her into the room. "How d'ye do, Cyril?"

Cyril returns her greeting with due propriety, but expresses no
hilarious joy at her return.

"This is Lilian Chesney whom I wrote to you about," Lady Chetwoode says,
putting out one hand to Lilian. "Lilian, my dear, this is Florence."

The girls shake hands. Miss Beauchamp treats Lilian to a cold though
perfectly polite stare, and then turns back to her aunt.

"It was a long journey, dear," sympathetically says "Aunt Anne."

"Very. I felt quite exhausted when I reached Truston, and so did
Fanchette; did you not, _ma bibiche_, my treasure?"--this is to the
little white stuffy ball of wool in her arms, which instantly opens two
pink-lidded eyes, and puts out a crimson tongue, by way of answer. "If
you don't mind, aunt, I think I should like to go to my room."

"Certainly, dear. And what shall I send you up?"

"A cup of tea, please, and--er--anything else there is. Elise will know
what I fancy; I dined before I left. Good-night, Miss Chesney.
Good-night, Guy; and thank you again very much for meeting me"--this
very sweetly.

And then Lady Chetwoode accompanies her up-stairs, and the first
wonderful interview is at an end.

"Well?" says Cyril.

"I think her quite handsome," says Lilian, enthusiastically, for Guy's
special benefit, who is sitting at a little distance, glowering upon
space. "Cyril, you are wanting in taste."

"Not when I admire you," replies Cyril, promptly. "Will you pardon me,
Lilian, if I go to see they send a comfortable and substantial supper to
my cousin? Her appetite is all that her best friend could wish."

So saying, he quits the room, bent on some business of his own, that has
very little to do, I think, with the refreshment of Miss Beauchamp's
body.

When he has gone, Lilian takes up Lady Chetwoode's knitting and examines
it critically. For the first time in her life she regrets not having
given up some of her early years to the mastering of fancy work; then
she lays it down again, and sighs heavily. The sigh says quite
distinctly how tedious a thing it is being alone in the room with a man
who will not speak to one. Better, far better, be with a dummy, from
whom nothing could be expected.

Sir Guy, roused to activity by this dolorous sound, crosses the room and
stands directly before her, a contrite expression upon his face.

"I have behaved badly," he says. "I confess my fault. Will you not speak
to me, Lilian?" His tone is half laughing, half penitent.

"Not"--smiling--"until you assure me you have left all your ill-temper
behind you at Truston."

"I have. I swear it."

"You are sure?"

"Positive."

"I do hope you did not bestow it upon poor Miss Beauchamp?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. I hope not," says Guy, lightly; and there is
something both in his tone and words that restores Miss Chesney to
amiability. She looks at him steadily for a moment, and then she smiles.

"I am forgiven?" asks Guy, eagerly, taking courage from her smile.

"Yes."

"Shake hands with me, then," says he, holding out his own.

"You expect too much," returns Lilian, recoiling. "Only an hour ago, you
refused to take my hand: how then can I now accept yours?"

"I was a brute, nothing less!" declares he, emphatically. "Yet do accept
it, I implore you."

There is a good deal more meaning in his tone than even he himself is
quite aware of. Miss Chesney either does not or will not see it. Raising
her head, she laughs out loud, a low but thoroughly amused laugh.

"Any one listening would say you were proposing to me," she says,
mischievously; whereupon he laughs too, and seats himself upon the low
ottoman beside her.

"I shouldn't mind," he says; "should you?"

"Not much. I suppose one must go through it some time or other."

"Have you ever had a--proposal?"

"Why do you compel me to give you an answer that must be humiliating?
No; I have never had a proposal. But I dare say I shall have one or two
before I die."

"I dare say. Unless you will now accept mine"--jestingly--"and make me
the happiest of men."

"No, thank you. You make me such an admirable guardian that I could not
bear to depose you. You are now in a proud position (considering the
ward you have); do not rashly seek to better it."

"Your words are golden. But all this time you are keeping me in terrible
suspense. You have not yet quite made friends with me."

Then Lilian places her hand in his.

"Though you don't deserve it," she says, severely, "still----"

"Still you do accept me--it, I mean," interrupts Guy, purposely, closing
his fingers warmly over hers. "I shall never forget that fact. Dear
little hand!" softly caressing it, "did I really scorn it an hour ago? I
beg its pardon very humbly."

"It is granted," answers Lilian, gayly. But to herself she says, "I
wonder how often has he gone through all this before?"

Nevertheless, in spite of doubts on both sides, the truce is signed for
the present.



CHAPTER X.

     "How beautiful is the rain!
     After the dust and heat.
     To the dry grass, and the drier grain,
     How welcome is the rain!"--LONGFELLOW.


Miss Chesney, who, had she been born a man and a gardener, could have
commanded any wages, is on her knees beside some green plants, busily
hunting for slugs. These ravishers of baby flowers and innocent
seedlings are Miss Chesney's especial abhorrence. It is in vain to tell
her that they must be fed,--that they, as well as the leviathan, must
have their daily food; she declines to look upon their frequent
depredations in any other light than as wanton mischief.

Upon their destruction she wastes so much of her valuable time that,
could there be a thought in their small, slimy, gelatinous bodies, they
must look upon her as the fell destroyer of their race,--a sort of
natural enemy.

She is guiltless of gloves, and, being heated in the chase, has flung
her hat upon the velvet sward beside her. Whereupon the ardent sun,
availing of the chance, is making desperate love to her, and is kissing
with all his might her priceless complexion. It is a sight to make a
town-bred damsel weep aloud!

Miss Beauchamp, sailing majestically toward this foolish maiden, with
her diaphanous skirts trailing behind her, a huge hat upon her carefully
arranged braids, and an enormous garden umbrella over all, looks with
surprise, largely mingled with contempt, upon the kneeling figure. She
marks the soft beauty of the skin, the exquisite penciling of the
eyebrows, the rich color on the laughing lips, and, marking, feels some
faint anger at the reckless extravagance of the owner of these
unpurchasable charms.

To one long aware of the many advantages to be derived from such
precious unguents as creme d'Ispahan, velvetine, and Chinese rouge, is
known also all the fear of detection arising from the daily use of them.
And to see another richly and freely endowed by Nature with all the most
coveted tints, making light of the gift, seems to such a one a gross
impertinence, a miserable want of gratitude, too deep for comprehension.

Pausing near Lilian, with the over-fed Maltese panting and puffing
beside her, Miss Beauchamp looks down upon her curiously, upon the
rose-leaf face, the little soiled hands, the ruffled golden head, and
calculates to a fraction the exact amount of mischief that may be done
by the possession of so much youth and beauty.

The girl is far too pretty. There is really no knowing what irremediable
harm she may not have done already.

"What a mess you are making of yourself!" says Florence, in a tone
replete with lady-like disgust.

"I am, rather," says Lilian, holding aloft the small hand, on which five
dusty fingers disport themselves, while she regards them
contemplatively; "but I love it, gardening I mean. I would have made a
small fortune at flower-shows, had I given my mind to it earlier: not a
prize would have escaped me."

"Every one with an acre of garden thinks that," says Miss Beauchamp.

"Do they?" smiling up at the white goddess beside her. "Well, perhaps
so. 'Hope springs eternal in the human breast,' and a good thing, too."

"Don't you think you will be likely to get a sunstroke?" remarks
Florence, with indifferent concern.

"No; I am accustomed to go about without my hat," answers Lilian: "of
course, as a rule, I wear it, but it always gives me a feeling of
suffocation; and as for a veil, I simply couldn't bear one."

Miss Beauchamp, glancing curiously at the peach-like complexion beneath
her, wonders enviously how she does it, and then reflects with a certain
sense of satisfaction that a very little more of this mad tampering with
Nature's gifts will create such havoc as must call for the immediate aid
of the inestimable Rimmel and his fellows.

The small terrier, awaking from the tuneful snooze that always
accompanies her moments of inactivity, whether she be standing or lying,
now rolls over to Lilian and makes a fat effort to lick her dear little
Grecian nose. At which let no one wonder, as a prettier little nose was
never seen. But Lilian is so far unsympathetic that she strongly objects
to the caress.

"Poor Fanchette!" she says, kindly, recoiling a little, "you must
forgive me, but the fact is I can't bear having my face licked. It is
bad taste on my part, I know, and I hope you will grant me pardon. No, I
cannot pet you either, because I think my earthy fingers would not
improve your snowy coat."

"Come away, Fanchette; come away, _petite_, directly; do you hear?"
cries Miss Beauchamp, in an agony lest the scented fleece of her "curled
darling" should be defiled. "Come to its own mistress, then. Don't you
see you are disturbing Lilian?" this last as a mild apology for the
unaffected horror of her former tone.

So saying, she gathers up Fanchette, and retires into the shaded
shrubberies beyond.

Almost as she disappears from view, Guy comes upon the scene.

"Why, what are you doing?" he calls out while yet a few yards from her.

"I have been shocking your cousin," returns Lilian, laughing. "I doubt
she thinks me a horrible unlady-like young woman. But I can't help that.
See how I have soiled my hands!" holding up for his inspection her ten
little grimy fingers.

"And done your utmost to ruin your complexion, all for the sake of a few
poor slugs. What a blood-thirsty little thing you are!"

"I don't believe there is any blood in them," says Lilian.

"Do come away. One would think there wasn't a gardener about the place.
You will make yourself ill, kneeling there in the sun; and look how warm
you are; it is a positive shame."

"But I have preserved the lives, and the beauty of all these little
plants."

"Never mind the plants. Think of your own beauty. I came here to ask you
if you will come for a walk in the woods. I have just been there, and it
is absolutely cool."

"I should like to immensely," springing to her feet; "but my
hands,"--hesitating,--"what am I to do with them? Shall I run in and
wash them? I shan't be one minute."

"Oh, no!"--hastily, having a wholesome horror of women's minutes, "come
down to the stream, and we will wash them there."

This suggestion, savoring of unconventionality, finds favor in Miss
Chesney's eyes, and they start, going through the lawn, for the tiny
rivulet that runs between it and the longed-for woods.

Kneeling beside it, Lilian lets the fresh gurgling water trail through
her fingers, until all the dust falls from them and floats away on its
bosom; then reluctantly she withdraws her hands and, rising, looks at
them somewhat ruefully.

"Now, how shall I dry them?" asks she, glancing at the drops of water
that fall from her fingers and glint and glisten like diamonds in the
sun's rays.

"In your handkerchief," suggests Guy.

"But then it would be wet, and I should hate that. Give me yours," says
Miss Chesney, with calm selfishness.

Guy laughs, and produces an unopened handkerchief in which he carefully,
and, it must be confessed, very tardily dries her fingers, one by one.

"Do you always take as long as that to dry your own hands?" asks Lilian,
gravely, when he has arrived at the third finger of the second hand.

"Always!" without a blush.

"Your dressing, altogether, must take a long time?"

"Not so long as you imagine. It is only on my hands I expend so much
care."

"And on mine," suggestively.

"Exactly so. Do you never wear rings?"

"Never. And for the very best reason."

"And that?"

"Is because I haven't any to wear. I have a few of my mother's, but they
are old-fashioned and heavy, and look very silly on my hands. I must get
them reset."

"I like rings on pretty hands, such as yours."

"And Florence's. Yes, she has pretty hands, and pretty rings also."

"Has she?"

"What! Would you have me believe you never noticed them? Oh, Sir Guy,
how deceitful you can be!"

"Now, that is just the very one vice of which I am entirely innocent.
You wrong me. I couldn't be deceitful to save my life. I always think it
must be so fatiguing. Most young ladies have pretty hands, I suppose;
but I never noticed those of Miss Beauchamp, or her rings either, in
particular. Are you fond of rings?"

"Passionately fond," laughing. "I should like to have every finger and
both of my thumbs covered with them up to the first knuckle."

"And nobody ever gave you one?"

"Nobody," shaking her head emphatically. "Wasn't it unkind of them?"

With this remark Sir Guy does not coincide: so he keeps silence, and
they walk on some yards without speaking. Presently Lilian, whose
thoughts are rapid, finding the stillness irksome, breaks it.

"Sir Guy----"

"Miss Chesney."

As they all call her "Lilian," she glances up at him in some surprise at
the strangeness of his address.

"Well, and why not," says he, answering the unmistakable question in her
eyes, "when you call me 'Sir Guy' I wish you would not."

"Why? Is it not your name?"

"Yes, but it is so formal. You call Cyril by his name, and even with my
mother you have dropped all formality. Why are you so different with me?
Can you not call me 'Guy'?"

"Guy! Oh, I _couldn't_. Every time the name passed my lips I should
faint with horror at my own temerity. What! call my guardian by his
Christian name? How can you even suggest the idea? Consider your age and
bearing."

"One would think I was ninety," says he, rather piqued.

"Well, you are not far from it," teasingly. "However, I don't object to
a compromise. I will call you Uncle Guy, if you wish it."

"Nonsense!" indignantly. "I don't want to be your uncle."

"No? Then Brother Guy."

"That would be equally foolish."

"You won't, then, claim relationship with me?" in a surprised tone. "I
fear you look upon me as a _mauvais sujet_. Well, then,"--with sudden
inspiration,--"I know what I shall do. Like Esther Summerson, in 'Bleak
House,' I shall call you 'Guardian.' There!" clapping her hands, "is not
that the very thing? Guardian you shall be, and it will remind me of my
duty to you every time I mention your name. Or, perhaps,"--hesitating--
"'Guardy' will be prettier."

"I wish I wasn't your guardian," Guy says, somewhat sadly.

"Don't be unkinder than you can help," reproachfully. "You won't be my
uncle, or my brother, or my guardian? What is it, then, that you would
be?"

To this question he could give a very concise answer, but does not dare
do so. He therefore maintains a discreet silence, and relieves his
feelings by taking the heads off three dandelions that chance to come in
his path.

"Does it give you so very much trouble, the guardianship of poor little
me," she asks, with a mischievous though charming smile, "that you so
much regret it?"

"It isn't that," he answers, slowly, "but I fear you look coldly on me
in consequence of it. You do not make me your friend, and that is
unjust, because it was not my fault. I did not ask to be your guardian;
it was your father's wish entirely. You should not blame me for what he
insisted on."

"I don't,"--gayly,--"and I forgive you for having acceded to poor papa's
proposal: so don't fret about it. After all,"--naughtily,--"I dare say I
might have got worse; you aren't half bad so far, which is wise of you,
because I warn you I am an _enfant gaté_; and should you dare to thwart
me I should lead you such a life as would make you rue the day you were
born."

"You speak as though it were my desire to thwart you."

"Well, perhaps it is. At all events," with a relieved sigh,--"I have
warned you, and now it is off my mind. By the bye, I was going to say
something to you a few minutes ago when you interrupted me."

"What was it?"

"I want you"--coaxingly--"to take me round by The Cottage, so that I may
get a glimpse at this wonderful widow."

"It would be no use; you would not see her."

"But I might."

"And if so, what would you gain by it? She is very much like other
women: she has only one nose, and not more than two eyes."

"Nevertheless she rouses my curiosity. Why have you such a dislike to
the poor woman?"

"Oh, no dislike," says Guy, the more hastily in that he feels there is
some truth in the accusation. "I don't quite trust her: that is all."

"Still, take me near The Cottage; _do_, now, Guardy," says Miss Chesney,
softly, turning two exquisite appealing blue eyes upon him, which of
course settles the question. They instantly turn and take the direction
that leads to The Cottage.

But their effort to see the mysterious widow is not crowned with
success. To Miss Chesney's sorrow and Sir Guy's secret joy, the house
appears as silent and devoid of life as though, indeed, it had never
been inhabited. With many a backward glance and many a wistful look,
Lilian goes by, while Guy carefully suppresses all expressions of
satisfaction and trudges on silently beside her.

"She must be out," says Lilian, after a lengthened pause.

"She must be always out," says Guy, "because she is never to be seen."

"You must have come here a great many times to find that out," says Miss
Chesney, captiously, which remark puts a stop to all conversation for
some time.

And indeed luck is dead against Lilian, for no sooner has she passed out
of sight than Mrs. Arlington steps from her door, and, armed with a book
and a parasol, makes for the small and shady arbor situated at the end
of the garden.

But if Lilian's luck has deserted her, Cyril's has not. He has walked
down here this evening in a rather desponding mood, having made the same
journey vainly for the last three days, and now--just as he has reached
despair--finds himself in Mrs. Arlington's presence.

"Good-evening," he says, gayly, feeling rather elated at his good
fortune, raising his hat.

"Good-evening," returns she, with a faint blush born of a vivid
recollection of all that passed at their last meeting.

"I had no idea I should see you to-day," says Cyril; which is the exact
truth,--for a wonder.

"Why? You always see me when you come round here, don't you?" says Mrs.
Arlington; which is not the truth, she having been the secret witness of
his coming many times, when she has purposely abstained from being seen.

"I hope," says Cyril, gently, "you have forgiven me for having
inadvertently offended you last--month."

"Last week, you mean!" in a surprised tone.

"Is it really only a week? How long it seems!" says Cyril. "Are you sure
it was only last week?"

"Quite sure," with a slight smile. "Yes, you are forgiven. Although I do
not quite know that I have anything to forgive."

"Well, I had my own doubts about it at the time," says Cyril; "but I
have been carefully tutoring myself ever since into the belief that I
was wrong. I think my principal fault lay in my expressing a hope that
the air here was doing you good; and that--to say the least of it--was
mild. By the bye, _is_ it doing you good?"

"Yes, thank you."

"I am glad of it, as it may persuade you to stay with us. What lovely
roses you have! Is that one over there a 'Gloire de Dijon'? I can
scarcely see it from this, and I'm so fond of roses."

"This, do you mean?" plucking one. "No, it is a Marshal Neil."

"Ah, so it is. How stupid of me to make the mistake!" says Cyril, who in
reality knows as much about roses as about the man in the Iron Mask.

As he speaks, two or three drops of rain fall heavily upon his
face,--one upon his nose, two into his earnest eyes, a large one finds
its way cleverly between his parted lips. This latter has more effect
upon him than the other three combined.

"It is raining," he says, naturally but superfluously, glancing at his
coat-sleeve for confirmation of his words.

Heavier and heavier fall the drops. A regular shower comes pattering
from the heavens right upon their devoted heads. The skies grow black
with rain.

"You will get awfully wet. Do go into the house," Cyril says, anxiously
glancing at her bare head.

"So will you," with hesitation, gazing with longing upon the distant
arbor, toward which she is evidently bent on rushing.

"I dare say,"--laughing,--"but I don't much mind even if I do catch it
before I get home."

"Perhaps"--unwillingly, and somewhat coldly--"you would like to stand in
the arbor until the shower is over?"

"I should," replies Mr. Chetwoode, with alacrity, "if you think there
will be room for two."

There _is_ room for two, but undoubtedly not for three.

The little green bower is pretty but small, and there is only one seat.

"It is extremely kind of you to give me standing-room," says Cyril,
politely.

"I am very sorry I cannot give you sitting-room," replies Mrs.
Arlington, quite as politely, after which conversation languishes.

Cyril looks at Mrs. Arlington; Mrs. Arlington looks at Marshal Neil, and
apparently finds something singularly attractive in his appearance. She
even raises him to her lips once or twice in a fit of abstraction:
whereupon Cyril thinks that, were he a marshal ten times over, too much
honor has been done him.

Presently Mrs. Arlington breaks the silence.

"A little while ago," she says, "I saw your brother and a young lady
pass my gate. She seemed very pretty."

"She is very pretty," says Cyril, with a singular want of judgment in so
wise a young man. "It must have been Lilian Chesney, my brother's ward."

"He is rather young to have a ward."

"He is, rather."

"He is older than you?"

"Unfortunately, yes, a little."

"You, then, are very young?"

"Well, I'm not exactly an infant,"--rather piqued at the cool
superiority of her tone: "I am twenty-six."

"So I should have thought," says Mrs. Arlington, quietly, which
assertion is as balm to his wounded spirit.

"Are your brother and his ward much attached to each other?" asks she,
idly, with a very palpable endeavor to make conversation.

"Not very much,"--laughing, as he remembers certain warlike passages
that have occurred between Guy and Lilian, in which the former has
always had the worst of it.

"No? She prefers you, perhaps?"

"I really don't know: we are very good friends, and she is a dear little
thing."

"No doubt. Fair women are always to be admired. You admire her very
much?"

"I think her pretty; but"--with an indescribable glance at the
"nut-brown locks" before him, that says all manner of charming
things--"her hair, to please me, is far too golden."

"Oh, do you think so?" says Mrs. Arlington, surprised. "I saw her
distinctly from my window, and I thought her hair very lovely, and she
herself one of the prettiest creatures I have ever seen."

"That is strong praise. I confess I have seen others I thought better
worthy of admiration."

"You have been lucky, then,"--indifferently. "When one travels, one of
course sees a great deal, and becomes a judge on such matters."

"I didn't travel far to find that out."

"To find what out?"

"A prettier woman than Miss Chesney."

"No?" with cold unconcern and an evident want of interest on the
subject. "How lovely the flowers look with those little drops of rain in
their hearts!--like a touch of sorrow in the very centre of their joy."

"You like the country?"

"Yes, I love it. There is a rest, a calm about it that to some seems
monotony, but to me is peace."

A rather troubled shade falls across her face. An intense pity for her
fills Cyril's breast together with a growing conviction (which is not a
pleasing one) that the dead and gone Arlington must have been a king
among his fellows.

"I like the country well enough myself," he says, "but I hardly hold it
in such esteem as you do. It is slow,--at times unbearable. Indeed, a
careful study of my feelings has convinced me that I prefer the strains
of Albani or Nilsson to those of the sweetest nightingale that ever
'warbled at eve,' and the sound of the noisiest cab to the bleating of
the melancholy lamb; while the most exquisite sunrise that could be
worked into poetry could not tempt me from my bed. Have I disgusted
you?"

"I wonder you are not ashamed to give way to such sentiments,"--with a
short but lovely smile.

"One should never be ashamed of telling the truth, no matter how
unpleasant it may be."

"True!" with another smile, more prolonged, and therefore lovelier,
that lights up all her face and restores to it the sweetness and
freshness of a child's.

Cyril, looking at her, forgets the thread of his discourse, and says
impulsively, as though speaking to himself, "It seems impossible."

"What does?" somewhat startled.

"Forgive me; I was again going to say something that would undoubtedly
have brought down your heaviest displeasure on my head."

"Then don't say it," says Mrs. Arlington, coloring deeply.

"I won't. To return to our subject: the country is just now new to you,
perhaps. After a while you will again pine for society."

"I do not think so. I have seen a good deal of the world in my time, but
never gained anything from it except--sorrow."

She sighs heavily; again the shadow darkens her face and dims the beauty
of her eyes.

"It must have caused you great grief losing your husband so young," says
Cyril, gently, hardly knowing what to say.

"No, his death had nothing to do with the trouble of which I am
thinking," replies Mrs. Arlington, with curious haste, a quick frown
overshadowing her brow. Her fingers meet and clasp each other closely.

Cyril is silent, being oppressed with another growing conviction which
completely routs the first and leads him to believe the dead and gone
Arlington a miserable brute, deserving of hanging at the very least.
This conviction, unlike the first, carries consolation with it. "I am
sorry you would not let my mother call on you," he says, presently.

"Did Sir Guy say I would not see her?" asks she, with some anxiety. "I
hope he did not represent me as having received her kind message with
ingratitude."

"No, he merely said you wished to see no one."

"He said the truth. But then there are ways of saying things, and I
should not like to appear rude. I certainly do not wish to see any one,
but for all that I should not like to offend your mother."

There is not the very smallest emphasis on the word "your," yet somehow
Cyril feels flattered.

"She is not offended," he says, against his conscience, and is glad to
see his words please her. After a slight pause he goes on: "Although I
am only a stranger to you, I cannot help feeling how bad it is for you
to be so much alone. You are too young to be so isolated."

"I am happier so."

"What! you would care to see no one?"

"I would care to see no one," emphatically, but with a sigh.

"How dreadfully in the way you must have found me!" says Cyril,
straightening himself preparatory to departure. "The rain, I see, is
over." (It has been for the last ten minutes.) "I shall therefore
restore you to happiness by taking myself away."

Mrs. Arlington smiles faintly.

"I don't seem to mind you much," she says, kindly, but with a certain
amount of coldness. "Pray do not think I have wished you away."

"This is the first kind thing you have ever said to me," says Cyril,
earnestly.

"Is it? I think I have forgotten how to make pretty speeches," replies
she, calmly. "See, the sun is coming out again. I do not think, Mr.
Chetwoode, you need be afraid any longer of getting wet."

"I'm afraid--I mean--I am sure not," says Cyril, absently. "Thank you
very much for the shelter you have afforded me. Would you think me very
_exigeant_ if I asked you to give me that rose you have been
ill-treating for the last half hour?"

"Certainly not," says Mrs. Arlington, hospitably; "you shall have it if
you care for it; but this one is damaged; let me get you a few others,
fresher and sweeter."

"No, thank you. I do not think you _could_ give me one either fresher or
sweeter. Good-evening."

"Good-bye," returns she, extending her hand; and, with the gallant
Marshal firmly clasped in his hand, Cyril makes a triumphant exit.

He has hardly gone three yards beyond the gate that guards the widow's
bower when he finds himself face to face with Florence Beauchamp, rather
wet, and decidedly out of temper. She glances at him curiously, but
makes no remark, so that Cyril hopes devoutly she may not have noticed
where he has just come from.

"What a shower we have had!" he says, with a great assumption of
geniality and much politeness.

"You do not seem to have got much of it," replies she, with lady-like
irritability, looking with open disfavor upon the astonishing dryness of
his clothes.

"No,"--amiably,--"I have escaped pretty well. I never knew any cloth to
resist rain like this,--doesn't even show a mark of it. I am sorry I
cannot say the same for you. Your gown has lost a good deal of its
pristine freshness; while as for your feather, it is, to say the least
of it, dejected."

No one likes to feel one's self looking a guy. Cyril's tender solicitude
for her clothes has the effect of rendering Miss Beauchamp angrier than
she was before.

"Oh, pray don't try to make me more uncomfortable than I am," she says,
sharply. "I can imagine how unlovely I am looking. I detest the country:
it means simply destruction to one's clothes and manners," pointedly.
"It has been raining ever since I came back from Shropshire."

"What a pity you did come back just yet!" says Cyril, with quite
sufficient pause to throw an unpleasant meaning into his words. "As to
the country, I entirely agree with you; give me the town: it never rains
in the town."

"If it does, one has a carriage at hand. How did you manage to keep
yourself so dry, Cyril?"

"There is plenty of good shelter round here, if one chooses to look for
it."

"Evidently; very good shelter, I should say. One would almost think you
had taken refuge in a house."

"Then one would think wrong. Appearances, you know, are often
deceitful."

"They are indeed. What a beautiful rose that is!"

"Was, you mean. It has seen its best days. By the bye, when you were so
near The Cottage, why didn't you go in and stay there until the rain was
over?"

"I shouldn't dream of asking hospitality from such a very suspicious
sort of person as this Mrs. Arlington seems to be," Miss Beauchamp
replies, with much affectation and more spitefulness.

"You are right,--you always _are_," says Cyril, calmly. "One should shun
the very idea of evil. Extreme youth can never be too careful. Good-bye
for the present, Florence; I fear I must tear myself away from you, as
duty calls me in this direction." So saying, he turns into another path,
preferring a long round to his home to a further _tête-à-tête_ with the
charming Florence.

But Florence has not yet quite done with him. His supercilious manner
and that last harmless remark about "extreme youth" rankles in her
breast; so that she carries back to Chetwoode with her a small stone
carefully hidden in her sleeve wherewith to slay him at a convenient
opportunity.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same shower that reduces Miss Beauchamp to sullen discontent behaves
with equal severity to Lilian, who reaches home, flushed and laughing,
drenched and out of breath, with the tail of her gown over her shoulders
and a handkerchief round her neck. Guy is with her; and it seems to Lady
Chetwoode (who is much concerned about them) as though they had rather
enjoyed than otherwise their enforced run.

Florence, who arrives some time after them, retires to her room, where
she spends the two hours that must elapse before dinner in repairing all
dilapidations in face and figure. At seven o'clock precisely she
descends and gains the drawing-room as admirably dressed as usual, but
with her good humor still conspicuous by its absence.

She inveighs mildly against the evening's rain, as though it had been
specially sent for the ruin of her clothes and complexion, and says a
good deal about the advantages to be derived from a town life, which is
decidedly gracious, considering how glad she has been all these past
years to make her home at Chetwoode.

When dinner is almost over she turns to Cyril and says, with deliberate
distinctness:

"Until to-day I had no idea you were acquainted with--the widow."

There is no mistaking whom she means. The shot is well fired, and goes
straight home. Cyril changes color perceptibly and does not reply
instantly. Lady Chetwoode looks at him with marked surprise. So does
Lilian. So does Sir Guy. They all await his answer. Miss Beauchamp's
petty triumph is complete.

"Had you not?" says Cyril. "I wonder so amazing a fact escaped your
knowledge."

"Have you met Mrs. Arlington? You never mentioned it, Cyril," says Lady
Chetwoode.

"Oh, yes," says Miss Beauchamp, "he is quite intimate there: aren't you,
Cyril? As I was passing The Cottage to-day in a desperate plight, I met
Cyril coming out of the house."

"Not out of the house," corrects Cyril, calmly, having quite recovered
his self-possession; "out of the garden."

"Was it? You were so enviably dry, in spite of the rain, I quite thought
you had been in the house."

"For once your usually faultless judgment led you astray. I was in an
arbor, where Mrs. Arlington kindly gave me shelter until the rain was
over."

"Was Mrs. Arlington in the arbor too?"

"Yes."

"How very romantic! I suppose it was she gave you the lovely yellow rose
you were regarding so affectionately?" says Miss Beauchamp, with a low
laugh.

"I always think, Florence, what a fortune you would have made at the
bar," says Cyril, thoughtfully; "your cross-examinations would have had
the effect of turning your witnesses gray. I am utterly convinced you
would have ended your days on the woolsack. It is a pity to see so much
native talent absolutely wasted."

"Not altogether wasted," sweetly: "it has at least enabled me to
discover how it was you eluded the rain this evening."

"You met Mrs. Arlington before to-day?" asks Guy, who is half amused and
half relieved, as he remembers how needlessly jealous he has been about
his brother's attentions to Lilian. He feels also some vague doubts as
to the propriety of Cyril's losing his heart to a woman of whom they
know nothing; and his singular silence on the subject of having made her
acquaintance is (to say the least of it) suspicious. But, as Cyril has
been in a chronic state of love-making ever since he got into his first
tall hat, this doubt causes him but little uneasiness.

"Yes," says Cyril, in answer to his question.

"Is she as pretty as Sir Guy says?" asks Lilian, smiling.

"Quite as pretty, if not more so. One may always depend upon Guy's
taste."

"What a good thing it was you knew her! It saved you from that dreadful
shower," says Lilian, good-naturedly, seeing intuitively he is vexed.
"We were not so fortunate: we had to run for our lives all the way home.
It is a pity, Florence, you didn't know her also, as, being so near the
house, you might have thrown yourself upon her hospitality for a little
while."

"I hardly think I see it in that light," drawls Florence, affectedly.
"I confess I don't feel exactly ambitious about making the acquaintance
of this Mrs.--er----"

"Arlington is her name," suggests Cyril, quietly. "Have you forgotten
it? My dear Florence, you really should see some one about your memory:
it is failing every day."

"I can still remember _some_ things," retorts Miss Beauchamp, blandly.

By this time it has occurred to Lady Chetwoode that matters are not
going exactly smoothly; whereupon she glances at Miss Beauchamp, then at
Lilian, and finally carries them both off with her to the drawing-room.

"If there is one thing I detest," says Cyril, throwing himself back in
his chair, with an impatient movement, when he has closed the door upon
them, "it is a vindictive woman. I pity the man who marries Florence
Beauchamp."

"You are rather hard upon her, are you not?" says Guy. "I have known her
very good-natured."

"Lucky you! I cannot recall many past acts of kindness on her part."

"So you met Mrs. Arlington?" says Guy, carelessly.

"Yes; one day I restored to her her dog; and to-day she offered me
shelter from the rain, simply because she couldn't help it. There our
acquaintance rests."

"Where is the rose she gave you?" asks Guy, with a laugh, in which,
after a moment's struggle, Cyril joins.

"Don't lose your heart to her, old boy," Guy says, lightly; but Cyril
well knows he has meaning in what he says.

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER XI.

     "There were two cousins almost like to twins;
     And so they grew together, like two flowers
     Upon one stem."--SHELLEY.

     "It was a babe, beautiful from its birth."--SHELLEY.


The next day awakes calm and fair, and full of the rich ripeness that
belongs to August. Lilian, opening her blue eyes upon the world at
half-past seven, calls her nurse, and being dressed rushes forth into
the garden to drink in all the first sweet freshness of the day.

The dew still lingers upon lawn and blossom; the spiders' webs glisten
like jeweled nets in the dancing sunbeams; the exquisite opal flush of
the morning sky has grown and spread and deepened, until all the heavens
are tinged with warmest carmine.

There is "splendor in the grass," and "glory in the flower," and Lilian,
flitting from bush to bush, enjoys everything to its utmost; she plucks
two pale roses for her own bosom, and one, deep red and richly perfumed,
to lay beside Lady Chetwoode's plate. This is a usual morning offering
not to be neglected.

Just as she has made a careful choice, the breakfast bell rings loudly,
and, running at her quickest--most reckless--speed through the hall, she
barely succeeds in stopping herself as she comes up to Sir Guy at the
door of the morning-room.

"Oh," cries she, with a little gasp, "another moment and I should have
been in your arms. I never saw you. Good-morning, Guardy," gayly.

"Good-morning, my ward. I beg you to understand I could have welcomed
that other moment. Why, what an early little bird you are! How long have
you been abroad?"

"For hours and hours, half a day, while you--lazy man--were sound
asleep. See what spoil I have gathered:" pointing to the heavy roses at
her breast.

"Lovely, indeed," says Guy, who is secretly of opinion that the
wild-rose complexion she has snatched from the amorous wind is by far
the loveliest spoil of the two.

"And is not this sweet?" she says, holding up to his face the "red, red
rose," with a movement full of grace.

"Very," replies he, and stooping presses his lips lightly to her white
hand.

"I meant the rose, not the hand," says she, with a laugh and a faint
blush.

"Did you? I thought the hand very much the sweeter of the two. Is it for
me?"

"No!" says Miss Chesney, with much emphasis; and, telling him he is
quite too foolish to be listened to any longer, she opens the door of
the breakfast-room, and they both enter it together, to find all the
others assembled before them, and the post lying in the centre of the
table. All, that is, that remains of it,--namely, one letter for Lilian
and two or three for Guy.

These latter, being tinged with indigo, are of an uninteresting
description and soon read. Miss Chesney's, on the contrary, is evidently
full of information. It consists of two whole sheets closely covered by
a scrawling handwriting that resembles nothing so much as the struggles
of a dying fly.

When she has read it twice over carefully--and with considerable
difficulty--she lays it down and looks anxiously at Lady Chetwoode.

"Auntie," she begins, with a bright blush and a rather confused air.

"Yes, dear?"

"This letter"--touching it--"is from my cousin."

"Yes,--from your cousin? The lad who grew up with you at the Park?" says
Lady Chetwoode, with a kindly nod of comprehension.

Then ensues a pause. Somehow every one has stopped talking, and Lady
Chetwoode has set down the teapot and turned to Lilian with an air full
of expectancy. They all feel that something yet remains to be said.

Possessed with this idea, and seeing Lilian's hesitation, Lady Chetwoode
says, in her gentlest tones:

"Well, dear?"

"He is unhappy," says Lilian, running one of her fingers up and down the
table-cloth and growing more and more embarrassed: "every year he used
to come to the Park for his holidays, and now----"

"And now he cannot go to the Park: is that it?"

"Yes. A little while ago he joined his regiment, and now he has leave of
absence, and he has nowhere to spend it except at Colonel Graham's, who
is his guardian and his uncle, and he _hates_ Colonel Graham," says
Lilian, impressively, looking at Lady Chetwoode with appealing eyes.

"Poor boy," says that kindest of women, "I do not like to hear of his
being unhappy. Perhaps, Lilian, you would wish----"

"I want you to ask him here," says Lilian, quickly and boldly, coloring
furiously, and fixing her great honest eyes on Lady Chetwoode. "He said
nothing about it, but I know he would like to be where I am."

"My dear, of course," says Lady Chetwoode, with most unusual briskness
for her, "ask him instantly to come here as _soon_ as you like, to stay
as _long_ as you like."

"Auntie Nannie," says Lilian, rising tumultuously from her chair, "you
are the dearest, kindest, best of women!" She presses her lips gently,
although rapturously, to her auntie's cheek, after which she returns to
her seat. "Now I am thoroughly content," she says naively: "I could not
bear to picture Taffy wretched, and that old Colonel Graham is a
downright Tartar!"

"'Taffy'! what an extraordinary name!" says Florence. "Is it a fancy
name?"

"No; it is, I am ashamed to say, a nickname. I believe he was christened
James, but one day when we were both almost babies he stole from me my
best doll and squeezed the eyes out of it to see what lay behind, and I
was very angry, and said he was a regular 'Taffy' to do such a thing.
You know the old rhyme?" turning to Lady Chetwoode with a blush and a
light laugh:


     "Taffy was a Welshman,
     Taffy was a thief,
     Taffy came to my house
     And stole a piece of beef.


There is a good deal more of it, quite as interesting, but of course you
know it. Nurse laughed when I so christened him, and after that he was
always called 'Master Taffy' by the servants, and nothing else."

"How nicknames do cling to one!"

"I don't believe I should know him by any other now. It suits him much
better than his own, as he doesn't look the least in the world like a
James."

"How old is your cousin?" asks Florence, with an eye to business.

"A year older than I am."

"And that is----"

"Nineteen."

"Indeed! I should have thought you older than that."

"He is very like me, and he is a dragoon!" says Lilian, proudly. "But I
have never seen him since he was gazetted."

"Then you have not seen him in his uniform?" says Guy.

"No. But he tells me," glancing at her letter, "he looks 'uncommonly
jolly' in it."

They all laugh. Even Florence condescends to be amused.

"When may we expect this hero?" asks Guy, kindly.

"His leave begins next week," answers Lilian, looking at Lady Chetwoode.
"If he might come then, it would be such a comfort to him."

"Of course he must come then," says Lady Chetwoode. "Do not let him lose
a day of his precious leave. I remember when Guy was in the army how
stingy they were about granting him a few days now and then."

"The Mater's 'few days' always meant eight months out of the twelve,"
says Cyril, laughing, "and anything like the abuse she used to shower
upon the colonel because he didn't see it in the light that she did, was
never heard. It is unfit for publication."

"Archibald Chesney is coming here the twenty-ninth," says Guy. "So you
will be able to make choice between your two cousins."

"Is Archibald coming?" surprised. "But my choice is already made. No one
shall ever get inside Taffy in my affections."

"Thrice blessed Taffy," says Cyril. "See what it is to be a young and
gallant plunger!"

"That wouldn't weigh with me," says Lilian, indignantly.

"Would it not?" asks Guy. "I was hoping otherwise. I was a plunger once.
What is the renowned Taffy's other name?"

"Musgrave," says Lilian.

"A very pretty name," remarks Miss Beauchamp, who has received an
unexpected check by the morning's post, and is consequently in high good
humor.

"I think so too," returns Lilian.

"Five distinct blushes, and all about Taffy," says Cyril, meditatively.
"Happy Taffy! I have counted them religiously. Are you very much in love
with him, Lilian?"

"'In love'! nonsense!" laughing. "If you only saw Taffy! (But," with a
glad smile, "you soon will.) He never remembers anything half an hour
after he has said it, and besides," scornfully, "he is only a boy."

"'Only a boy'! Was there ever such willful waste! Such reckless,
extravagant, woful waste! To throw away five priceless, divine blushes
upon 'only a boy'! Oh, that I were a boy! Perhaps, Lilian, when you come
to know me longer I shall be happy enough to have one whole blush all
to myself."

"Be consoled," says Miss Chesney, saucily: "I feel assured the longer I
know you, the more reason I shall have to blush for you!"

       *       *       *       *       *

All through the day Miss Chesney's joy makes itself felt. She is
thoroughly happy, and takes very good care every one shall know it. She
sings through the house, "up-stairs, down-stairs, and in my lady's
chamber," gay as any lark, and inundates her nurse with vain conjectures
and interrogations; as for example, whether she thinks Taffy will be
much changed,--and whether twelve months could possibly produce a
respectable moustache,--and if she really believes the fact of his being
a full-blown dragoon will have a demoralizing effect upon him.

"An' no doubt it will, ninny," says nurse, shaking her beribboned head
very solemnly, "I have no opinion of those soldiering ways myself. I
fear me he will be growing wilder an' wilder every day."

"Oh! if that's all!" says Miss Lilian, with a relieved sigh. "I am only
afraid he will be growing steadier and steadier; and Taffy would be
ruined if he gave himself airs. I can't endure dignified young men."

"I don't think you need fret about that, my dear," says nurse, with
conviction. "I never yet saw much signs of it about him."

Having used up all nurse's powers of conversation, Lilian goes on to
Lady Chetwoode's boudoir, and finds out from her the room Taffy will be
likely to occupy. Having inspected it, and brought up half the servants
to change every article of furniture in the room into a different
position, and given as much trouble as possible, and decided in her own
mind the precise flowers she will place upon his dressing-table the
morning of his arrival, she goes back to her auntie to tell her all she
has done.

In fact, any one so busy as Miss Chesney during all this day can
scarcely be imagined. Her activity is surprising, and draws from Cyril
the remark that she ought to go as hospital nurse to the wounded Turks,
as she seems eminently fitted for an energetic life.

After luncheon she disappears for a while, so that at last--though not
for long--something like repose falls upon the house, which sinks into
a state of quietude only to be equaled by that of Verne's "Van
Tricasse."

Miss Beauchamp is in her room, studying art; Cyril is walking with a
heart full of hope toward The Cottage; Lilian is absent; Guy is
up-stairs with his mother, relating to her a new grievance anent
poachers.

The lad now in trouble is an old offender, and Guy is puzzled what to do
with him. As a rule all scamps have something interesting about them,
and this Heskett is an unacknowledged favorite of Sir Guy's.

"Still I know I ought to dismiss him," he says, with a rather troubled
air, and an angry, disappointed expression upon his face.

"He is young, poor lad," says Lady Chetwoode.

"So he is, and his mother is so respectable. One hardly knows what to
do. But this last is such a flagrant act, and I swore I would pack him
about his business if it occurred again. The fact is, I rather fancy the
boy, and his wild ways, and don't like driving him to destruction. What
shall I do, mother?"

"Don't do anything, my dear," replies she, easily.

"I wish I could follow your advice,"--smiling,--"but, unfortunately, if
I let him off again I fear it will be a bad example to the others. I
almost think----"

But what he thinks on this particular subject is never known.

There is a step outside the door,--a step well known to one at least of
those within,--the "soft frou-frou and rustle" of a woman's gown,--and
then the door is pushed very gently open, and Lilian enters, with a
curious little bundle in her arms.

"See what I've got!" she cries, triumphantly, going over to Lady
Chetwoode, and kneeling down beside her. "It's a baby, a real live baby!
look at it, auntie; did you ever see such a beauty?"

"A baby," says Lady Chetwoode, fearfully, putting up her glasses, and
staring cautiously down upon the rosy little fellow who in Lilian's
encircling arms is making a desperate effort to assert his dignity, by
sitting up and glaring defiantly around him.

"Yes, indeed; I carried him away when I found him, and have been playing
with him for the last ten minutes in my own room. Then I began to think
that you might like to see him, too."

"That was very nice of you, my dear," with some hesitation. "It is
certainly a very clean baby, but its dress is coarse. Whose baby is it?"

"He belongs to the laundress, I think," says Lilian, "but I'm not quite
sure. I was running through the kitchen when I saw him; isn't he a
rogue?" as baby puts up a chubby hand to seize the golden locks so near
him: "look at his eyes, as big as saucers."

She laughs delightedly, and baby laughs back at her again, and makes
another violent jump at her yellow hair. Sir Guy, gazing intently at the
pretty picture, at Lilian's flushed and lovely face, thinks he has never
before seen her look half so sweet. Gay, merry, fascinating she always
is, but with this new and womanly tenderness within her eyes, her beauty
seems trebled. "See, he wants my hair: is he not a darling?" she says,
turning her face, rose-red with pleasure, up to Sir Guy.

"The laundress's child,--Lilian, my _dear_!" says Lady Chetwoode, in a
faint tone of expostulation.

"Well, Jane was holding it in her arms, but it can't be hers, decidedly,
because she hasn't got one."

"Proof positive," says Guy.

"Nor can it be cook's, because hers is grown up: so it must be the
laundress's. Besides, she was standing by, and she looked so glad about
it and so pleased when I took it that I am sure she must be his mother.
And of course she is proud of you, you bonny boy: so should I be, with
your lovely face. Oh, look at his little fists! he is doubling them up
just as though he were going to fight the world. And so he shall fight
it, if he likes, a darling! Come; your mammy is pining for you."

As she speaks she rises, but baby is loath to go yet awhile. He crows so
successfully at Lady Chetwoode that he makes another conquest of her,
and receives several gentle pats and a kiss from her, to Lilian's great
gratification.

"But he is too heavy for you," says her ladyship, addressing Lilian.
"Guy, ring the bell for one of the servants to take him down."

"And offend his mother mortally. No indeed, auntie. We should get no
clothes fit to wear next week if we committed such a _betise_. As I
brought him up, so I shall carry him down, though, to do him justice, he
_is_ heavy. No servant shall touch him, the sweet boy,"--this to baby in
a fond aside.

"I will carry him down for you," says Guy, advancing slowly from the
window where he has been standing.

"You! Oh, Sir Guy, fancy you condescending to touch a baby. Though I
forgot," with a quick, mischievous look at him from her azure eyes, "I
believe there once was a baby you even professed to be fond of; but that
was long ago. By the bye, what were you looking so stern about just as I
came in? Were you passing sentence of death on any one?"

"Not quite so bad as that," says Lady Chetwoode. "It is another of those
tiresome poachers. And this Heskett, is certainly a very naughty boy. He
was caught in the act last night, and Guy doesn't know what to do with
him."

"Let him off, forgive him," says Lilian, lightly, speaking to her
guardian. "You can't think how much pleasanter you will feel if you do."

"I believe you are right," says Guy, laughing, "and I dare say I should
give him a last chance, but that I have passed my word. Give me that
great heavy child: he looks as though he were weighing you down to the
ground."

"I think she holds him very prettily," says Lady Chetwoode: "I should
like to have a picture of her just so."

"Perhaps some day she will gratify you," returns Guy, encouragingly.
"Are you going to give me that _enfant terrible_, Miss Chesney, before
you expire?"

"I am stronger than you think. And are you quite sure you can hold a
baby? that you won't let it fall? Take care, now, and don't look as
though you thought he would break. That will do. Auntie, don't you think
he would make a capital nurse?"

"I hope that child will reach its mother alive," says auntie, in a tone
suggestive of doubt, after which Guy, escorted by Lilian, leaves the
room.

Half-way down the stairs this brilliant procession meets Florence coming
up.

"What is that?" she asks, stopping short in utter amazement, and staring
blankly at the baby, who is blinking his great eyes in a most
uncompromising fashion and is evidently deriving much refreshment from
his little fat, red thumb.

"A baby," says Guy, gravely.

"A real live baby," says Lilian, "a real small duck," giving the
child's plump cheek a soft pinch over Guy's shoulder. "Don't be
frightened, Florence; he don't bite; you may give him a kiss in all
safety."

"Thanks," says Florence, drawing her skirts closer round her, as though
the very idea has soiled her garments. "I don't care about kissing
promiscuous babies. Really, Guy, if you only knew how ridiculous you
look, you would spare yourself the humiliation of being so seen by your
servants."

"Blame Lilian for it all," returns Guy. "I know I shall blush myself to
death if I meet any of the women."

"I think Sir Guy never before looked so interesting," says Miss Chesney,
who is making frantic play all this time with the baby; but its mood has
changed, and now her most energetic efforts are received--not with
smiles--but with stolid indifference and unblinking contempt by the
young gentleman in arms.

"I cannot say I agree with you," Miss Beauchamp says, with much subdued
scorn, "and I do not think it is kind to place any one in a false
position."

She lets a little disdainful angry glance fall upon Lilian,--who
unfortunately does not profit by it, as she does not see it,--and sweeps
up the stairs to her aunt's apartments, while Guy (who is not to be
sneered out of his undertaking) stalks on majestically to the kitchen,
followed by Lilian, and never pauses until he places the chubby little
rogue he carries in its mother's arms,--who eventually turns out to be
the laundress.

"I am not a judge," he says to this young woman, who is curtsying
profusely and is actually consumed with pride, "but Miss Chesney has
declared your son to be the loveliest child in the world, and I always
agree with Miss Chesney,--for reasons of my own."

"Oh, thank you, Sir Guy; I'm sure I'm much obliged to you, Miss
Chesney," says the laundress, turning the color of a full-blown peony,
through excitement.

"What is his name?" asks Lilian, giving the boy a last fond poke with
her pretty slender finger.

"Abiram, miss," replies the mother, which name much displeases Lilian,
who would have liked to hear he was called Alaric, or Lancelot, or any
other poetical appellation suitable for the most beautiful child in the
world.

"A very charming name," says Guy, gravely; and, having squeezed a
half-sovereign into the little fellow's fat hand, he and Lilian go
through the passages into the open air.

"Guardy," says Lilian, "what is a 'promiscuous baby'?"

"I wish I knew," replies he: "I confess it has been puzzling me ever
since. We must ask Florence when we go in."

Here they both laugh a little, and stroll on for a time in silence. At
length, being prompted thereto by her evil genius, Lilian says:

"Tell me, who is the Heskett you and auntie were talking about just
now?"

"A boy who lives down in the hollow beneath Leigh's farm,--a dark boy we
met one day at the end of the lawn; you remember him?"

"A lad with great black eyes and a handsome face with just a little
_soupçon_ of wickedness about him? of course I do. Oh! I like that boy.
You must forgive him, Sir Guy, or I shall be unhappy forever."

"Do you know him?"

"Yes, well. And his mother, too: she is a dear old thing, and but that
she has an undeniable penchant for tobacco, would be perfection. Guardy,
you _must_ forgive him."

"My dear child, I can't."

"Not when I ask you?" in a tone of purest astonishment.

"Not even then. Ask me something else,--in fact, anything,--and I will
grant it, but not this."

"I want nothing else," coldly. "I have set my heart on freeing this poor
boy and you refuse me: and it is my first request."

"It is always your first request, is it not?" he says, smiling a rather
troubled smile. "Yesterday----"

"Oh, don't remind me of what I may have said yesterday," interrupts Miss
Chesney, impatiently: "think of to-day! I ask you to forgive
Heskett--for my sake."

"You should try to understand all that would entail," speaking the more
sternly in that it makes him positively wretched to say her nay: "if I
were to forgive Heskett this time, I should have every second man on my
estate a poacher."

"On the contrary, I believe you would make them all your devoted slaves.


     'The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
     It droppeth, as the gentle dew from heaven,
     Upon the place beneath; it is twice bless'd.'"


"I have said I would not, and even you can hardly think it right that I
should break my word."

"No, you would rather break his mother's heart!" By this time the
spoiled Lilian has quite made up her mind to have her own way, and is
ready to try any means to gain it. "Your word!" she says disdainfully:
"if you are going to emulate the Medes and Persians, of course there is
no use of my arguing with you. You ought to be an ancient Roman; even
that detestable Brutus might be considered soft-hearted when compared
with you."

"Sneering, Lilian, is a habit that should be confined to those old in
sorrow or worldly wisdom: it sits badly on such lips as yours."

"Then why compel me to indulge in it? Give me my way in this one
instance, and I will be good, and will probably never sneer again."

"I cannot."

"Then don't!" naughtily, made exceeding wroth by (what she is pleased to
term) his obstinacy. "I was foolish in thinking I could influence you in
any way. Had Florence asked you, you would have said yes instantly."

"Florence would never have asked me to do anything so unreasonable."

"Of course not! Florence never does wrong in your eyes. It is a pity
every one else does not regard her as favorably as you do."

"I think every one thinks very highly of her," angrily.

"Do you? It probably pleases you to think so. I, for one, do not."

"There is a certain class of people whose likes and dislikes cannot
possibly be accounted for," says Guy, somewhat bitterly. "I think you
would find a difficulty in explaining to me your vehement antipathy
toward Miss Beauchamp. You should remember 'unfounded prejudices bear no
weight.'"

"That sounds like one of Miss Beauchamp's own trite remarks," says
Lilian, with a disagreeable laugh. "Did you learn it from her?"

To this Chetwoode makes no reply, and Lilian, carried away by resentment
at his open support of Florence, and by his determination not to accede
to her request about young Heskett, says, passionately:

"Why should you lose your temper about it?" (it is her own temper that
has gone astray). "It is all not worth a quarrel. Any one may plainly
see how hateful I am to you. In a thousand ways you show me how badly
you think of me. You are a petty tyrant. If I could leave your house,
where I feel myself unwelcome,--at least as far as _you_ are
concerned,--I would gladly do so."

Here she stops, more from want of breath than eloquence.

"Be silent," says Guy, turning to confront her, and thereby showing a
face as pale as hers is flushed with childish rage and bafflement. "How
dare you speak like that!" Then, changing his tone, he says quietly,
"You are wrong; you altogether mistake. I am no tyrant; I do what is
just according to my own conscience. No man can do more. As to what else
you may have said, it is _impossible_ you can feel yourself unwelcome in
my house. I do not believe you feel it."

"Thank you," still defiant, though in truth she is a little frightened
by his manner: "that is as much as to say I am telling a lie, but I do
believe it all the same. Every day you thwart and disappoint me in one
way or another, and you know it."

"I do not, indeed. It distresses me much that you should say so. So
much, that against my better judgment I give in to you in this matter of
Heskett, if only to prove to you how you wrong me when you say I wish to
thwart you. Heskett is pardoned."

So saying, he turns from her abruptly and half contemptuously, and,
striking across the grass, makes for a path that leads indirectly to the
stables.

When he has gone some yards it occurs to Miss Chesney that she feels
decidedly small. She has gained her point, it is true, but in a sorry
fashion, and one that leaves her discontented with her success. She
feels that had he done rightly he would have refused to bandy words with
her at all upon the subject, and he would not have pardoned the
reprehensible Heskett; something in his manner, too, which she chooses
to think domineering, renders her angry still, together with a vague,
uneasy consciousness that he has treated her throughout as a child and
given in to her merely because it is a simpler matter to surrender one's
judgment than to argue with foolish youth.

This last thought is intolerable. A child, indeed! She will teach him
she is no child, and that women may have sense although they have not
reached the admirable age of six-and-twenty.

Without further thought she runs after him, and, overtaking him just as
he turns the corner, says, very imperiously, with a view to sustaining
her dignity:

"Sir Guy, wait: I want to speak to you."

"Well," he says, stopping dead short, and answering her in his iciest
tones. He barely looks at her; his eyes, having once met hers, wander
away again without an instant's lingering, as though they had seen
nothing worthy of attention. This plain ignoring of her charms is bitter
to Miss Chesney.

"I do not want you to forgive that boy against your will," she says,
haughtily. "Take back your promise."

"Impossible! You have made me break my word to myself; nothing shall
induce me to break my word to you. Besides, it would be unfair to
Heskett. If I were to dismiss him now I should feel as though I had
wronged him."

"But I will not have his pardon so."

"What!"--scornfully,--"after having expended ten minutes in hurling at
me some of the severest eloquence it has ever been my fate to listen to,
all to gain this Heskett's pardon, you would now have it rescinded! Am I
to understand so much?"

"No; but I hate ungraciousness."

"So do I,"--meaningly,--"even more than I hate abuse."

"Did I abuse you?"

"I leave you to answer that question."

"I certainly," with some hesitation, "said you were a tyrant."

"You did," calmly.

"And that----"

"Do not let us go over such distasteful ground again," interrupts he,
impatiently: "you said all you could say,--and you gained your object.
Does not even that satisfy you?"

"I wish I had never interested myself in the matter," she says, angrily,
vexed with herself, and with him, and with everything.

"Perhaps your wisdom would have lain in that direction," returns he,
coolly. "But as you did interest yourself, and as victory lies with
you, you should be the one to rejoice."

"Well, I don't," she says impulsively. And then she looks at him in a
half-defiant, half-penitent, wholly charming way, letting her large soft
eyes speak for her, as they rest full upon his face. There is something
in her fresh young beauty almost irresistible. Guy, with an angry sigh,
acknowledges its power, and going nearer to her, takes both her clasped
hands in his.

"What a bad-tempered little girl you are!" he says, in a jesting tone,
that is still full of the keenest reproach. "Am I as bad as Brutus and
all those terrible Medes and Persians? I confess you made me tremble
when you showered upon me all those awful comparisons."

"No, no, I was wrong," she says, hastily, twining her small fingers
closely round his; then very softly, "You are always forgiving me, are
you not? But yet--tell me, Guardy--are you not really glad you have
pardoned that poor Heskett? I cannot be pleased about it myself so long
as I think I have only wrung your promise from you against your will.
Say you are glad, if only to make me happy."

"I would do anything to make you happy,--anything," he says, in a
strange tone, reading anxiously her lovely _riante_ face, that shows no
faintest trace of such tenderness as he would fain see there; then,
altering his voice with an effort, "Yes, I believe I am glad," he says,
with a short laugh: "your intercession has removed a hateful duty from
my shoulders."

"Where is the boy? Is he locked up, or confined anywhere?"

"Nowhere. I never incarcerate my victims," with a slight trace of
bitterness still in his manner. "He is free as air, in all human
probability poaching at this present moment."

"But if he knows there is punishment in store for him, why doesn't he
make his escape?"

"You must ask him that, because I cannot answer the question. Perhaps he
does not consider me altogether such a fiend as you do, and may think it
likely I will show mercy at the last moment."

"Or perhaps," says Lilian, "he has made his escape long ago."

"I don't think so. Indeed, I am almost sure, if you look straight along
that field"--pointing in a certain direction--"you will see the young
gentleman in question calmly smoking the pipe of peace upon a distant
wall."

"It is he," says Lilian, in a low tone, after a careful examination of
the youthful smoker. "How little he seems to fear his fate!"

"Yes, just fancy how lightly he views the thought of falling into the
clutches of a monster!" remarks Chetwoode, with a mocking smile.

"I think you are a little hard on me," says Lilian, reproachfully.

"Am I?" carelessly preparing to leave her. "If you see that promising
_protégé_ of yours, Lilian, you can tell him from me that he is quite at
liberty to carry on his nightly games as soon as he pleases. You have no
idea what a solace that news will be to him; only, if you have any
regard for him, advise him not to be caught again."

So saying, he leaves her and continues his interrupted march to the
stables.

When Miss Chesney has spent a moment or two inveighing silently against
the hardness and uncharitableness of men in general and Sir Guy
Chetwoode in particular, she accepts the situation, and presently starts
boldly for the hollow in which lies the modest homestead of the
venerable Mrs. Heskett.

The unconscious cause of the battle royal that has just taken place has
evidently finished his pipe and lounged away through the woods, as he is
nowhere to be seen. And Miss Chesney makes up her mind, with a view to
killing the time that must elapse before dinner, to go straight to his
mother's cottage, and, by proclaiming Sir Guy's leniency, restore peace
to the bosom of that ancient dame.

And as she walks she muses on all that has passed between herself and
her guardian during the last half-hour. After all, what did she say that
was so very bad?

She had certainly compared him to Brutus, but what of that? Brutus in
his day was evidently a shining light among his people, and, according
to the immortal Pinnock, an ornament to his sex. Suppose he did condemn
his only son to death, what did that signify in a land where the deed
was looked upon as meritorious? Weak-minded people of the present day
might call him an old brute for so doing, but there are two sides to
every question, and no doubt the young man was a regular nuisance at
home, and much better out of the way.

Then again she had likened him to the Medes and Persians; and why not?
Who should say the Medes and Persians were not thoroughly respectable
gentlemen, polished and refined? and though in this case again there
might be some who would prefer the manners of a decent English gentleman
to those of the present Shah, that is no reason why the latter should be
regarded so ignominiously.

She has reached this highly satisfactory point in her argument when a
body dropping from a tree near her, almost at her feet, startles her
rudely from her meditations.

"Dear me!" says Lilian, with much emphasis, and then knows she is face
to face with Heskett.

He is a tall lad, brown-skinned as an Italian, with eyes and hair of
gypsy dye. As he stands before Lilian now, in spite of his daring
nature, he appears thoroughly abashed, and with his eyes lowered, twirls
uneasily between his hands the rather greasy article that usually adorns
his brow.

"I beg your pardon, miss," he says, slowly, "but might I say a word to
you?"

"I am sorry to hear such bad accounts of you, Heskett," says Miss
Chesney, in return, with all the airs of a dean and chapter.

"Sir Guy has been telling you, miss?" says the lad, eagerly; "and it is
about my trouble I wanted to see you. They say you have great weight
with the baronet, miss, and once or twice you spoke kindly to me, and I
thought maybe you would say a word for me."

"You are mistaken: I have no influence," says Lilian, coloring faintly.
"And besides, Heskett, there would be little use in speaking for you, as
you are not to be trusted."

"I am, Miss Chesney, I am indeed, if Sir Guy would only try me again. I
don't know what tempted me last night, but I got my lesson then, and
never again, I swear, Miss----"

Here a glance at Lilian's face checks further protestations. She is not
looking at him; her gaze is concentrated upon the left pocket of his
coat, though, indeed, there is little worthy of admiration in the cut of
that garment. Following the direction of her eyes, Heskett's fall
slowly, until at length they fasten upon the object that has so
attracted her.

Sticking up in that luckless left pocket, so as plainly to be seen, is
a limp and rather draggled brown wing, the undeniable wing of a young
grouse.

"Heskett," says Lilian, severely, "what have you been doing?"

"Nothing, miss," desperately.

"Heskett," still more severely, and with just a touch of scorn in her
tone, "speak the truth: what have you got in your pocket?"

"It's just a grouse, then," says the boy, defiantly, producing the bonny
brown bird in question.

"And a fat one," supplements Lilian. "Oh, Heskett, when you know the
consequences of poaching, how can you do it?"

"'Tis because I do know it,"--recklessly: "it's all up with me this time
because the baronet swore he'd punish me next time I was caught, and he
never breaks his word. So I thought, miss, I'd have a last fling,
whatever came of it."

"But it isn't 'all up' with you," says Lilian. "I have spoken to Sir
Guy, and he has promised to give you one more chance. But I cannot speak
again, Heskett, and if you still persist in your evil ways I shall have
spoken in vain."

"You spoke for me?" exclaims he, incredulously.

"Yes. But I fear I have done no good."

The boy's eyes seek the ground.

"I didn't think the likes of you would care to say a kind word for such
as me,--and without the asking," he says, huskily. "Look here, Miss
Chesney, if it will please you, I swear I will never again snare a
bird."

"Oh, Heskett, will you promise really?" returns Lilian, charmed at her
success, "and can I trust you? You know you gave your word before to Sir
Guy."

"But not to you, miss. Yes, I will be honest to please you. And indeed,
Miss Chesney, when I left home this morning I never meant to kill a
thing. I started with a short oak stick in my hand, quite innocent like,
and up by the bit of heather yonder this young one ran across my path; I
didn't seek it, and may bad luck go with the oak stick, for, before I
knew what I meant, it flew from me, and a second later the bird lay dead
as mutton. Not a stir in it. I was always a fine shot, miss, with a
stick or a stone," says the accomplished Heskett, regarding his grouse
with much pride. "Will you have it, miss?" he says then, holding it out
to her.

"No, thank you," loftily: "I am not a receiver of stolen goods; and it
is stolen, remember that."

"I suppose so, miss. Well, as I said before, I will be honest now to
please you, you have been so good to me."

"You should try to please some One higher," says Lilian, with a
solemnity that in her is sweeter than it is comical.

"Nay, then, miss,--to please you first, if I may."

"Tell me," says Lilian, shifting ground as she finds it untenable, "why
do you never come to church?"

"It's so mighty dull, miss."

"You shouldn't find it so. Come and say your prayers, and afterward you
may find it easier to be good. You should not call church dull," with a
little reproving shake of the head.

"Do _you_ never find it stupid, Miss Chesney?" asks Heskett, with all
diffidence.

Lilian pauses. This is a home-thrust, and her innate honesty prevents
the reply that trembles on her lips. She _does_ find it very stupid now
and then.

"Sometimes," she says, with hesitation, "when Mr. Austen is preaching I
cannot think it quite as interesting as it might be: still----"

"Oh, as for him," says Heskett, with a grin, "he ought to be shot, miss,
begging your pardon, that's what he ought. I never see him I don't wish
he was a rabbit snug in one o' my snares as was never known to fail.
Wouldn't I wring his neck when I caught him! maybe not! comin' around
with his canting talk, as though he was the archbishop hisself."

"How dare you speak of your clergyman in such a way?" says Lilian,
shocked; "you are a bad, bad boy, and I am very angry with you."

"Don't then, Miss Chesney," piteously; "I ask your pardon humbly, and
I'll never again speak of Mr. Austen if you don't like. But he do
aggravate awful, miss, and frightens the life out o' mother, because she
do smoke a bit of an evenin', and it's all the comfort she have, poor
soul. There's the Methody parson below, even he's a better sort, though
he do snivel horrid. But I'll do anything to please you, miss, an' I'll
come to church next Sunday."

"Well, mind you do," says Lilian, dismissing him with a gracious nod.

So Heskett departs, much exercised in mind, and in the lowest spirits,
being full of vague doubts, yet with a keen consciousness that by his
promise to Miss Chesney he has forfeited his dearest joy, and that from
him the glory of life has departed. No more poaching, no more snaring,
no more midnight excursions fraught with delicious danger: how is he to
get on in future, with nothing to murder but time?

Meanwhile Miss Chesney, coming home flushed with victory, encounters
Florence in the garden wandering gracefully among the flowers, armed as
usual with the huge umbrella, the guardian of her dear complexion.

"You have been for a walk?" she asks Lilian, with astonishing
_bonhommie_. "I hope it was a pleasant one."

"Very, thank you."

"Then you were not alone. Solitary walks are never pleasant."

"Nevertheless, mine was solitary."

"Then, Guy did not go with you?" somewhat hastily.

"No. He found he had something to do in the stables," Lilian answers,
shortly.

Miss Beauchamp laughs a low, soft, irritative laugh.

"How stupid Guy is!" she says. "I wonder it never occurs to him to
invent a new excuse: whenever he wants to avoid doing anything
unpleasant to him, he has always some pressing business connected with
the stables to take him away. Have you noticed it?"

"I cannot say I have. But then I have not made a point of studying his
eccentricities. Now you have told me this one, I dare say I shall remark
it in future. You see," with a slight smile, "I hold myself in such good
esteem that it never occurred to me others might find my company
disagreeable."

"Nor do they, I am sure,"--politely,--"but Guy is so peculiar, at times
positively odd."

"You amaze me more and more every moment. I have always considered him
quite a rational being,--not in the least madder than the rest of us. I
do hope the new moon will have no effect upon him."

"Ah! you jest," languidly. "But Guy does hold strange opinions,
especially about women. No one, I think, quite understands him but me.
We have always been so--fond of each other, he and I."

"Yes? Quite like brother and sister, I suppose? It is only natural."

"Oh, _no_" emphatically, her voice taking a soft intonation full of
sentimental meaning, "not in the very _least_ like brother and sister."

"Like what then?" asks Lilian, somewhat sharply for her.

"How downright you are!" with a little forced laugh, and a modest
drooping of her white lids; "I mean, I think a brother and sister are
hardly so necessary to each other's happiness as--as we are to each
other, and have been for years. To me, Chetwoode would not be Chetwoode
without Guy, and I fancy--I am sure--it would scarcely be home to Guy
without me." This with a quiet conviction not to be shaken. "Perhaps you
can see what I mean? though, indeed," with a smile, "I hardly know
myself what it is I _do_ mean."

"Ah!" says Lilian, a world of meaning in her tone.

"The only fault I find with him," goes on Florence, in the low, prettily
modulated tone she always adopts, "is, that he is rather a flirt. I
believe he cannot help it; it is second nature to him now. He adores
pretty women, and at times his manner to them is rather--er--caressing.
I tell him it is dangerous. Not perhaps that it makes much difference
nowadays, does it? when women have learned to value attentions exactly
at what they are worth. For my own part, I have little sympathy with
those foolish Ariadnes who spend their lives bemoaning the loss of their
false lovers. Don't you agree with me?"

"Entirely. Utterly," says Lilian, in a curious tone that might be
translated any way. "But I cannot help thinking Fortune very hard on the
poor Ariadnes. Is that the dressing-bell? How late it has grown! I am
afraid we must go in if we wish to be in time for dinner."

Miss Beauchamp being possessed with the same fear, they enter the house
together, apparently in perfect amity with each other, and part in peace
at their chamber doors. Lilian even bestows a little smile upon her
companion as she closes hers, but it quickly changes into an
unmistakable little frown as the lock is turned. A shade falls across
her face, an impatient pucker settles comfortably upon her forehead, as
though it means to spend some time there.

"What a hateful girl that is!" Lilian says to herself, flinging her hat
with a good deal of vehemence on to the bed (where it makes one
desperate effort to range itself and then rolls over to the floor at the
other side), and turning two lovely wrathful eyes toward the door, as
though the object of her anger were still in sight. "Downright
detestable! and quite an old maid; not a doubt of it. Women close on
thirty are always so spiteful!"

Here she picks up the unoffending hat, and almost unconsciously
straightens a damaged bow while her thought still runs on passionately.

So Sir Guy "adores pretty women." By the bye, it was a marvelous
concession on Miss Beauchamp's part to acknowledge her as such, for
without doubt all that kindly warning was meant for her.

Going up to her glass, Lilian runs her fingers through the rippling
masses of her fair hair, and pinches her soft cheeks cruelly until the
red blood rushes upward to defend them, after which, she tells herself,
even Florence could scarcely have said otherwise.

And does Miss Beauchamp think _herself_ a "pretty woman?" and does Sir
Guy "adore _her_?" She said he was a flirt. But is he? Cyril is
decidedly given that way, and some faults run in families. Now she
remembers certain lingering glances, tender tones, and soft innuendoes
meant for her alone, that might be placed to the account of her
guardian. She smiles somewhat contemptuously as she recalls them. Were
all these but parts of his "caressing" manner? Pah! what a sickening
word it is.

She blushes hotly, until for a full minute she resembles the heart of a
red, red rose. And for that minute she positively hates her guardian.
Does he imagine that she--_she_--is such a baby as to be flattered by
the attentions of any man, especially by one who is the lover of another
woman? for has not Florence both in words and manner almost claimed him
as her own? Oh, it is too abominable! And----

But never mind, wait, and when she has the opportunity, won't she show
him, that's all?

What she is to show him, or how, does not transpire. But this awful
threat, this carefully disguised and therefore sinister menace, is
evidently one of weight, because it adds yet a deeper crimson to Miss
Chesney's cheeks, and brings to life a fire within her eyes, that gleams
and sparkles there unrebuked.

Then it quietly dies, and nurse entering finds her little mistress again
calm, but unusually taciturn, and strangely forgetful of her teasing
powers.



CHAPTER XII.

     "Sae sweet his voice, sae smooth his tongue
       His breath's like caller air;
     His very fit has music in't,
       As he comes up the stair.

     And will I see his face again?
       And will I hear him speak?
     I'm downright dizzy with the thought,
       In troth I'm like to greet."--W. J. MICKLE.


It is the most important day of all the three hundred and sixty-five, at
least to Lilian, because it will bring her Taffy. Just before dinner he
will arrive, not sooner, and it is now only half-past four.

All at Chetwoode are met in the library. The perfume of tea is on the
air; the click of Lady Chetwoode's needles keeps time to the
conversation that is buzzing all round.

Miss Beauchamp, serene and immovable as ever, is presiding over the
silver and china, while Lilian, wild with spirits, and half mad with
excitement and expectation, is chattering with Cyril upon a distant
sofa.

Sir Guy, upon the hearthrug, is expressing his contempt for the views
entertained by a certain periodical on the subject of a famous military
scandal, in real parliamentary language, and Florence is meekly agreeing
with him straight through. Never was any one (seemingly) so thoroughly
_en rapport_ with another as Florence with Sir Guy. Her amiable and
rather palpable determination to second his ideas on all matters, her
"nods and becks and wreathed smiles," when in his company, would, if
recited, fill a volume in themselves. But I don't deny it would be a
very stupid volume, from the same to the same: so I suppress it.

"Sir Guy," says Lilian, suddenly, "don't look so stern and don't stand
with one hand in your breast, and one foot advanced, as though you were
going to address the House."

"Well, but he is going to address the House," says Cyril, reprovingly:
"we are all here, aren't we?"

"It is perfectly preposterous," says Guy, who is heated with his
argument, and scarcely hears what is going on around him, so great is
his righteous indignation. "If being of high birth is a reason why one
must be dragged into notoriety, one would almost wish one was born
a----"

"Sir Guy," interrupts Lilian again, throwing at him a paper pellet she
has been preparing for the last two minutes, with sure and certain aim,
"didn't you hear me desire you not to look like that?"

Sir Guy laughs, and subsides into a chair. Miss Beauchamp shrugs her
shapely shoulders and indulges in a smile suggestive of pity.

"I begin to feel outrageously jealous of this unknown Taffy," says
Cyril. "I never knew you in such good spirits before. Do you always
laugh when you are happy?"

"'Much laughter covers many tears,'" returns Lilian, gayly. "Yes, I am
very happy,--so happy that I think a little would make me cry."

"Oh, don't," says Cyril, entreatingly; "if you begin I'm safe to follow
suit, and weeping violently always makes me ill."

"I can readily believe it," says Miss Chesney. "Your expression is
unmistakably doleful, O knight of the rueful countenance!"

"And his manner is so dejected," remarks his mother, smiling. "Have you
not noticed how silent he always is? One might easily imagine him the
victim of an unhappy love tale."

"If you say much more," says Mr. Chetwoode, "like Keats, I shall 'die of
a review.' I feel much offended. It has been the dream of my life up to
this that society in general regarded me as a gay and brilliant
personage, one fitted to shine in any sphere, concentrating (as I hoped
I did) rank, beauty, and fashion in my own body."

"_Did_ you hope all that?" asks Lilian, with soft impertinence.

"'A modest hope, but modesty's my forte,'" returns he, mildly. "No, Miss
Chesney, I won't be told I am conceited. This is a case in which we
'all do it;' every one in this life thinks himself better than he is."

"I am glad you so scrupulously exonerate the women," says Lilian,
maliciously.

At this moment a step is heard in the hall outside. Lilian starts, and
rises impulsively to her feet; her face lights; a delicate pink flush
dawns upon it slowly, and then deepens into a rich carnation.
Instinctively her eyes turn to Lady Chetwoode, and the breath comes a
little quicker from her parted lips.

"But," she murmurs, raising one hand, and speaking in the low tone one
adopts when intently listening,--"but that I know he can't be here for
another hour, I should say that was--Taffy!"

The door has opened. A tall, very young man, with a bright boyish face,
fair brown hair, and a daring attempt at a moustache, stands upon the
threshold. Lilian, with a little soft glad cry, runs to him and throws
herself into his arms.

"Oh, dear, dear boy, you have come!" she says, whereupon the tall young
man laughs delightedly, and bestows upon her an honest and most palpable
hug.

"Hug," quotha! and what is a "hug"? asks the fastidious reader: and yet,
dear ignorance, I think there is no word in all the English language, or
in any other language, that so efficiently describes the enthusiasm of a
warm embrace as the small one of three letters.

Be it vulgar or not, however, I cannot help it: the fact remains. Taffy
openly and boldly hugged Miss Chesney before her guardian's eyes, and
Miss Chesney does not resent it; on the contrary, she kisses him with
considerable _empressement_, and then turns to Lady Chetwoode, who is an
admiring spectator of the scene. Cyril is visibly amused; Sir Guy a
trifle envious; Miss Beauchamp thinks the new-comer far too grown for
the reception of such a public demonstration of affection on the part of
a well-conducted young woman, but is rather glad than otherwise that
Lilian has so far committed herself before her guardian.

"It is Taffy," says Lilian, with much pride. "I knew it was. Do you
know," turning her sweet, flushed, excited face to her cousin, "the
moment I heard your step outside, I said, 'That is Taffy,' and it
_was_," with a charming laugh.

Meanwhile Mr. Musgrave is being kindly received by Lady Chetwoode and
her sons.

"It was so awfully good of you to ask me here!" he is saying,
gratefully, and with all a boy's delightful frankness of tone and
manner. "If you hadn't, I shouldn't have known what to do, because I
hate going to my guardian's, one puts in such a bad time there, the old
man is so grumpy. When I got your invitation I said to myself, 'Well, I
_am_ in luck!'"

Here he is introduced to Miss Beauchamp, and presses the hand she
extends to him with much friendliness, being in radiant spirits with
himself and the world generally.

"Why, Taffy, you aren't a bit altered, though I do think you have grown
half an inch or so," says Lilian, critically, "and I am so glad of it.
When I heard you had really joined and become an undeniable 'heavy,' I
began to fear you would change, and grow grand, and perhaps think
yourself a man, and put on a great deal of 'side;' isn't that the word,
Sir Guy?" saucily, peeping at him from behind Taffy's back. "You mustn't
correct me, because I heard you use that word this morning; and I am
sure you would not give way to a naughty expression."

"We are all very glad to have you, Mr. Musgrave," says Lady Chetwoode,
graciously, who has taken an instantaneous fancy to him. "I hope your
visit will be a happy one."

"Thank you, I know it will; but my name is Taffy," says young Musgrave.
"I hope you will call me by it. I hardly know myself by any other name
now." He says this with a laugh so exactly like Lilian's that they all
notice it, and comment upon it afterward. Indeed, both in feature and
manner he strongly resembles his cousin. Lady Chetwoode smiles, and
promises to forget the more formal address for the future.

"I have so many things to show you," exclaims Lilian, fondly. "The
stables here are even better than at the Park, and I have a brown mare
all my own, and I am sure I could beat you at tennis now, and there are
six lovely new fat little puppies; will you come and see them? but
perhaps"--doubtfully--"of course you are tired."

"He must be tired, I think, and hungry too," says Guy, coming up to him
and laying his hand upon his shoulder, "If you can spare him for a
moment or two, Lilian, I will show Taffy his room." Here Guy smiles at
his new guest, and when Guy smiles he is charming. Mr. Musgrave likes
him on the spot.

"I will go with you," says Lilian promptly, who is never troubled with
the pangs of etiquette, and who cannot as yet bear to lose sight of her
boy. "Such a pretty room as it is! It is near mine, and has an exquisite
view from it,--the lake, and the swans, and part of the garden. Oh,
Taffy, I am so _glad_ you are come!"

They are half-way up the stairs by this time, and Lilian, putting her
hand through her cousin's arm, beams upon him so sweetly that Guy, who
is the looker-on, feels he would give a small fortune for permission to
kiss her without further delay. Taffy does kiss her on the instant
without having to waste any fortune or ask any permission; and
Chetwoode, seeing how graciously the caress is received and returned,
feels a strange trouble at his heart. How fond she is of this boy!
Surely he is more to her than any cousin ever yet was to another.

At the head of the stairs another interruption occurs. Advancing toward
them, arrayed in her roomiest, most amazing cap, and clad in her Sunday
gown, appears Mrs. Tipping, shining with joy and expectation. Seeing
Taffy, she opens wide her capacious arms, into which Mr. Musgrave
precipitates himself and is for the moment lost.

When he comes to light again, he embraces her warmly, and placing his
hands upon her shoulders, regards her smilingly.

"Bless the boy, how he has grown, to be sure!" says nurse, with tears in
her eyes; taking out her spectacles with much deliberation, she
carefully adjusts them on her substantial nose, and again subjects him
to a loving examination.

"Yes; hasn't he, nurse? I said so," remarks Lilian, in raptures, while
Sir Guy stands behind, much edified.

"So have you, nurse," says Master Taffy,--"_young_. I protest it is a
shame the way you go on deceiving the public. Every year only sees you
fresher and lovelier. Why, you are ten years younger than when last I
saw you. It's uncommonly mean of you not to give us a hint as to how you
manage it."

"Tut," says nurse, giving him a scornful poke with her first finger,
though she is tremendously flattered; "be off with you; you are worse
than ever. Eh, but I always knew how it would be if you took to
soldiering. All the millingtary has soft tongues, and the gift o' the
gab."

"How do you know, nurse?" demands Mr. Musgrave: "I always understood the
fortunate Tipping was a retired mason. I am afraid at some period of
your life you must have lost your heart to a bold dragoon. Never mind:
my soldiering shan't bring me to grief, if only for your sake."

"Eh, darling, I hope not," says nurse, surveying with fond admiration
his handsome boyish face: "such bonnie looks as yours should aye sit
upon a high head."

"I decline to listen to any more flattery. It is downright
demoralizing," says Mr. Musgrave, virtuously, and presently finds
himself in his pretty room, that is sweet with the blossoms of Lilian's
gathering.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Musgrave on acquaintance proves as great a success as his cousin:
indeed, to like one is to like the other, as no twins could be more
similar. He takes very kindly to the house and all its inmates, and is,
after one day's association, as much at home with them as though they
had been his chosen intimates all his life.

His disposition is certainly sweeter than Lilian's,--bad temper of any
sort being quite unknown to him; whereas Miss Chesney possesses a will
of her own, and a very quick temper indeed. He is bright, sunny, lovable
in disposition, and almost "without guile." So irresistible is he that
even Miss Beauchamp smiles upon him, and is singularly gracious to him,
considering he is not only a youngster but--far worse--a detrimental.

He has one very principal charm. Unlike all the youthful soldiers it has
been my misfortune to meet, he does not spend his days wearying his
friends with a vivid description of his rooms, his daily duties when on
parade, his colonel, and his brother officers. For this grace alone his
familiars should love him and be grateful to him.

Nevertheless, he is so far human that, the evening after his arrival, he
whispers to Lilian how he has brought his uniform with him, for her
inspection only. Whereupon Lilian, delighted, desires him to go up that
instant and put it on, that she may pass judgment upon him without
delay. No, she will not wait another second; she cannot know peace or
happiness until she beholds him in all his grandeur.

After a faint demur, and the suggestion that as it is late he could
scarcely get it on and have time afterward to dress for dinner, he gives
in, and, binding her to secrecy, runs up-stairs, having named a certain
time for her to follow him.

Half an hour later, Miss Beauchamp, sweeping slowly along the corridor
up-stairs, hears the sound of merriment coming from young Musgrave's
room, and stops short.

Is that Lilian's voice? surely it is; and in her cousin's room! The door
is almost closed,--not quite; and, overcome by curiosity, she lays her
hand against it, and, pushing it gently open, glances in.

Before the dressing-table, clothed in military garments of the most
_recherché_ description, is Taffy, while opposite to him, full of open
admiration, stands Miss Chesney. Taffy is struggling with some part of
his dress that declines to fall into a right position, and Lilian is
flouting him merrily for the evident inexperience he betrays.

Florence, astonished--nay, electrified--by this scene, stands
motionless. A young woman in a young man's bedroom! Oh, shocking! To her
carefully educated mind, the whole thing borders on the improper, while
to have it occur in such a well-regulated household as Chetwoode fills
her with genuine horror.

So struck is she by the criminality of it all that she might have stayed
there until now, but that a well-known step coming up the stairs warns
her that eavesdropping is not the most honorable position to be caught
in. She moves away, and presently finds herself face to face with Guy.
He is coming lazily along the corridor, but stops as he sees her.

"What is it, Florence? You look frightened," he says, half jestingly.

"No, not frightened," Florence answers, coldly, "though I confess I am a
good deal amazed,"--her tone says "disgusted," and Guy knows the tone.
"Really, that girl seems absolutely ignorant of the common decencies of
society!"

"Of whom are you speaking?" asks Guy, coloring.

"Of whom can I say such things but Lilian? She is the only one of my
acquaintance deserving of such a remark, and it is not my fault that we
are acquainted. I think it is clearly Aunt Anne's duty to speak to her,
or yours. There are moments when one positively blushes for her."

"Why, what has she been doing?" asks Guy, overcome with astonishment at
this outburst on the part of the usually calm Florence.

"Doing! Do you not hear her in her cousin's room? Is that the proper
place for a young lady?"

At this instant a sound of laughter coming from Mr. Musgrave's apartment
gives truth to her accusations, and with a slight but expressive shrug
of her white shoulders, Florence sails majestically down the stairs,
while Sir Guy instinctively moves on toward Taffy's quarters.

Miss Beauchamp's touch has left the door quite open, so that, standing
on the threshold, he can see clearly all that is within.

By this time Taffy is quite arrayed, having finally resorted to his
cousin's help.

"There!" says Lilian, triumphantly, "now you are ready. Oh! I say,
Taffy, how nice you do look!"

"No; do I?" returns Mr. Musgrave, with admirable modesty, regarding
himself bashfully though complacently in a full-length mirror. His tall
young figure is well drawn up, his head erect; unconsciously he has
assumed all the full-blown, starchy airs of a military swell. "Does the
coat fit well, do you think?" he asks, turning to await her answer with
doubtful anxiety.

"It is simply perfection," returns she reassuringly, "not a wrinkle in
it. Certainly you owe your tailor something for turning you out so
well."

"I do," says Taffy, feelingly.

"I had no idea it would make such a difference in you," goes on Lilian;
"you look quite grown up."

"Grown up,--nonsense," somewhat indignantly; "I should think I was
indeed. Just twenty, and six feet one. There are very few fellows in the
service as good a height as I am. 'Grown up,' indeed!"

"I beg your pardon," Lilian says, meekly. "Remember I am only a little
rustic, hardly aware of what a man really means. Talking of fitting,
however, do you know," thoughtfully, and turning her head to one side,
the better to mark the effect, "I think--I fancy--there is just a little
pucker in your trousers, just at the knee."

"No; is there?" says Taffy, immediately sinking into the deepest
melancholy as he again refers to the glass.

Here Sir Guy comes forward and creates a diversion. He is immensely
amused, but still sore and angry at Florence's remarks, while wishing
Lilian would not place herself in such positions as to lay her open to
unkind criticism.

"Oh, here is Sir Guy," says that young lady, quite unembarrassed; "he
will decide. Sir Guy, do you think his trousers fit very well? Look
here, now, is there not the faintest pucker here?"

"I think they fit uncommonly well," says Guy, gravely. Taffy has turned
a warm crimson and is silent; but his confusion arises not from Miss
Chesney's presence in his room, but because Chetwoode has discovered him
trying on his new clothes like a school-boy.

"Lilian wanted so much to see me in my uniform," he says, meanly,
considering how anxious he himself has been to show himself to her in
it.

"Yes, and doesn't he look well in it?" asks Lilian, proudly; "I had no
idea he could look so handsome. Most men appear perfect fools in
uniform, but it suits Taffy. Don't you think so?"

"I do; and I think something else, too; your auntie is coming up-stairs,
and if she catches you in Taffy's room she will give you a small lecture
on the proprieties."

This is the mildest rebuke he can think of. Not that he thinks her at
all worthy of rebuke, but because he is afraid of Florence's tongue for
her sake.

"Why?" asks Lilian, opening large eyes of utter amazement, after which
the truth dawns upon her, and as it dawns amuses her intensely. "Do you
mean to say," blushing slightly, but evidently struck with the
comicality of the thought,--"what would auntie say, then, if she knew
Taffy had been in mine? Yes; he was,--this afternoon,--just before
lunch," nodding defiantly at Sir Guy, "actually in mine; and he stole my
eau de Cologne, which I thought mean of him. When I found it was all
gone, I was very near running across to your room to replenish my
bottle. Was it not well I didn't? Had I done so I should of course have
earned two lectures, one from auntie and one from--you!" provokingly.
"Why, Guardy, how stupid you are! Taffy is just the same as my brother."

"But he is not your brother," says Guy, beginning to feel bewildered.

"Yes, he is, and better than most brothers: aren't you, Taffy?"

"Are you angry with Lil for being in my room?" asks Mr. Musgrave,
surprised; "she thinks nothing of it: and why should she? Bless you,
all last year, when we were at home--at the Park--she used to come in
and settle my ties when we were going out anywhere to dinner, or that."

"Sir Guy never had a sister, so of course he doesn't understand," says
Lilian, disdainfully, whereupon Guy gives up the point. "I wish you
would come down and show yourself to auntie. Do now, Taffy,"--coaxingly:
"you can't think how well you look. Come, if only to please me."

"Oh, I couldn't," says Taffy. "I really couldn't, you know. She would
think me such an awful fool, and Miss Beauchamp would laugh at me, and
altogether it wouldn't be form. I only meant to show myself to you,
but----"

"Guy, my dear," says Lady Chetwoode from the doorway, "why, what is
going on here?" advancing and smiling gently.

"Oh, auntie, I am so glad you have come!" says Lilian, going forward to
welcome her: "he would not go down-stairs to you, though I did my best
to persuade him. Is he not charming in uniform?"

"He is, indeed. Quite charming! He reminds me very much of what Guy was
when first he joined his regiment." Not for a moment does Lady
Chetwoode--dear soul--think of improprieties, or wrong-doing, or the
"decencies of society." And, watching her, Guy grows gradually ashamed
of himself. "It was really selfish of you, my dear Taffy, to deny me a
glimpse of you."

"Well, I didn't think you'd care, you know," says Mr. Musgrave, who is
positively consumed with pride, and who is blushing like a demoiselle.

"I couldn't resist coming in when I saw you from the doorway. All my
people were in the army: so I have quite an affection for it. But
Lilian, darling, dinner is almost ready, and you have not yet changed
your dress."

"I shan't be a minute," says Lilian; and Guy, lighting a candle, escorts
her to her own room, while Lady Chetwoode goes down-stairs.

"Shall I get you the eau de Cologne now?" he asks, pausing on her
threshold for a moment.

"If," says Miss Chesney, lowering her eyes with affected shyness, "you
are _quite_ sure there would be nothing reprehensible in my accepting
it, I should like it very much, thank you. By the bye, that reminds me,"
glancing at him with a mocking smile, "Lady Chetwoode quite forgot to
deliver that small lecture. You, Sir Guy, as my guardian, should have
reminded her."



CHAPTER XIII.

     "Sweets to the sweet."--_Hamlet._


"I am going to London in the morning. Can I do anything for anybody?"
asks Sir Guy, at exactly twenty minutes past ten on Wednesday night.
"Madre, what of you?"

"Nothing, dear, thank you," says the Madre, lazily enough, her eyes
comfortably closed. "But to-morrow, my dear boy! why to-morrow? You know
we expect Archibald."

"I shall be home long before he arrives, if I don't meet him and bring
him with me."

"Some people make a point of being from home when their guests are
expected," says Miss Lilian, pointedly, raising demure eyes to his.

"Some other people make a point of being ungenerous," retorts he.
"Florence, can I bring you anything?"

"I want some wools matched: I cannot finish the parrot's tail in my
crewel-work until I get them, and you will be some hours earlier than
the post."

"What! you expect me to enter a fancy shop--is that what you call
it?--and sort wools, while the young woman behind the counter makes love
to me? I should die of shame."

"Nonsense! you need only hand in the envelope I will prepare for you,
and wait until you receive an answer to it."

"Very good. I dare say I shall survive so much. And you, my ward? How
can I serve you?"

"In a thousand ways, but modesty forbids my mentioning them. _Au reste_,
I want bonbons, a new book or two, and--the portrait of the handsomest
young man in London."

"I thoroughly understand, and am immensely flattered. I shall have
myself taken the moment I get there. Would you prefer me sitting or
standing, with my hat on or off? A small size or a cabinet?"

Miss Chesney makes a little grimace eminently becoming, but disdains
direct reply. "I said a _young_ man," she remarks, severely.

"I heard you. Am not I in the flower of my youth and beauty?"

"Lilian evidently does not think so," says Florence, with a would-be air
of intense surprise.

"Why should I, when it suits me to think differently?" returns Lilian,
calmly. Florence rather amuses her than otherwise. "Sir Guy and I are
quite good friends at present. He has been civil to me for two whole
days together, and has not once told me I have a horrid temper, or held
me up to scorn in any way. Such conduct deserves reward. Therefore I
liken him to an elderly gentleman, because I adore old men. You see,
Guardy?" with an indescribably fascinating air, that has a suspicion of
sauciness only calculated to heighten its charm.

"I should think he is old in reality to you," says Florence: "you are
such a child."

"I am," says Lilian, agreeably, though secretly annoyed at the other's
slighting tone. "I like it. There is nothing so good as youth. I should
like to be eighteen always. But for my babyish ways and utter
hopelessness, I feel positive Sir Guy would have beaten me long ago. But
who could chastise an infant?"

"In long robes," puts in Cyril, who is deep in the intricacies of chess
with Mr. Musgrave.

"Besides, I am 'Esther Summerson,' and he is 'Mr. Jarndyce,' and
Esther's 'Guardy' very rightly was in perfect subjection to his ward."

"Esther's guardian, if I remember correctly, fell in love with her; and
she let him see"--dreamily but spitefully--"that she preferred another."

"Ah, Sir Guy, think of that. See what lies before you," says Lilian,
coloring warmly, but braving it out to the end.

"I am sure you are going to ask me what I should like, Guy," breaks in
Cyril, languidly, who is not so engrossed by his game but that he can
heed Lilian's embarrassment. "Those cigars of yours are excellent. I
shall feel obliged by your bringing me (as a free gift, mind) half a
dozen boxes. If you do, it will be a saving, as for the future I shall
leave yours in peace."

"Thank you: I shall make a note of it," says Guy, laughing.

"Do you go early, Sir Guy?" asks Lilian, presently. She is leaning back
in a huge lounging-chair of blue satin that almost conceals from view
her tiny figure. In her hands is an ebony fan, and as she asks the
question she closes and uncloses it indolently.

"Very early. I must start at seven to catch the train, if I wish to get
my business done and be back by five."

"What an unearthly hour for a poor old gentleman like you to rise! You
won't recover it in a hurry. You will breakfast before you go?"

"Yes."

"What a lunch you will eat when you get to town! But don't overdo it,
Guardy. You will be starving, no doubt; but remember the horrors of
gout. And who will give you your breakfast at seven?"

She raises her large soft eyes to his and, unfurling her fan, lays it
thoughtfully against her pretty lips. Sir Guy is about to make an eager
reply, when Miss Beauchamp interposes.

"I always give Guy his breakfast when he goes to London," she says,
calmly yet hastily.

"Check!" says Cyril, at this instant, with his eyes on the board. "My
dear Musgrave, what a false move!--a fatal delay. Don't you know bold
play generally wins?"

"Sometimes it loses," retorts Taffy, innocently; which reply, to his
surprise, appears to cause Mr. Chetwoode infinite amusement.

"Whenever you do go," says Lilian to Sir Guy, "don't forget my
sweetmeats: I shall be dreaming of them until I see you again. Have you
a pocket-book? Yes. Well, put down in it what I most particularly love.
I like chocolate creams and burnt almonds better than anything in the
world."

Cyril, with dreamy sentiment, "How I wish I was a burnt almond!"

Miss Chesney, viciously, "If you were, what a bite I would give you!"

Taffy, to Sir Guy, "Lilian's tastes and mine are one. If you are really
going to bring lollypops, please make the supply large. When I think of
burnt almonds I feel no end hungry."

Lilian, vigorously, "You shan't have any of mine, Taffy. Don't imagine
it! Yesterday you ate every one Cyril brought me from Fenston. I crossed
the room for one instant, and when I came back the box was literally
cleared. Wasn't it a shame? I shan't go into partnership with you over
Sir Guy's confections."

Taffy, _sotto voce_, "Greedy little thing!" Then suddenly addressing Sir
Guy, "I think I saw your old colonel--Trant--about the neighborhood
to-day."

Cyril draws himself up with a start and looks hard at the lad, who is
utterly unconscious of the private bombshell he has discharged.

"Trant!" says Guy, surprised; "impossible. Unless, indeed," with a light
laugh, "he came to look after his _protégée_, the widow."

"Mrs. Arlington? I saw her yesterday," says Taffy, with animation. "She
was in her garden, and she is lovely. I never saw anything so perfect as
her smile."

"I hope you are not _épris_ with her. We warn everybody against our
tenant," Guy says, smiling, though there is evident meaning in his tone.
"We took her to oblige Trant,--who begged we would not be inquisitive
about her; and literally we are in ignorance of who she is, or where she
came from. Widows, like cousins, are dangerous," with a slight glance at
his brother, who is leaning back in his chair, a knight between his
fingers, taking an exhaustive though nonchalant survey of the painted
ceiling, where all the little loves and graces are playing at a very
pronounced game of hide-and-seek among the roses.

"I hope," says Florence, slowly, looking up from the _rara avis_ whose
tail she is elaborately embroidering,--the original of which was never
yet (most assuredly) seen by land or sea,--"I hope Colonel Trant, in
this instance, has not played you false. I cannot say I admire Mrs.
Arlington's appearance. Though no doubt she is pretty,--in a certain
style," concludes Miss Beauchamp, who is an adept at uttering the faint
praise that damns.

"Trant is a gentleman," returns Guy, somewhat coldly. Yet as he says it
a doubt enters his mind.

"He has the name of being rather fast in town," says young Musgrave,
vaguely; "there is some story about his being madly in love with some
mysterious woman whom nobody knows. I don't remember exactly how it
is,--but they say she is hidden away somewhere."

"How delightfully definite Taffy always is!" Lilian says, admiringly;
"it is so easy to grasp his meaning. Got any more stories, Taffy? I
quite begin to fancy this Colonel Trant. Is he as captivating as he is
wicked?"

"Not quite. I am almost sure I saw him to-day in the lane that runs down
between the wood and Brown's farm. But I may be mistaken; I was
certainly one or two fields off, yet I have a sure eye, and I have seen
him often in London."

"Perhaps Mrs. Arlington is the mysterious lady of his affections," says
Guy, laughing, and, the moment the words have passed his lips, regrets
their utterance. Cyril's eyes descend rapidly from the ceiling and meet
his. On the instant a suspicion unnamed and unacknowledged fills both
their hearts.

"Do you really think Trant came down to see your tenant?" asks Cyril,
almost defiantly.

"Certainly not," returning the other's somewhat fiery glance calmly. "I
do not believe he would be in the neighborhood without coming to see my
mother."

At the last word, so dear to her, Lady Chetwoode wakes gently, opens her
still beautiful eyes, and smiles benignly on all around, as though
defying them to say she has slumbered for half a second.

"Yes, my dear Guy, I quite agree with you," she says, affably, _apropos_
of nothing unless it be a dream, and then, being fully roused, suggests
going to bed. Whereupon Florence says, with gentle thoughtfulness,
"Indeed yes. If Guy is to be up early in the morning he ought to go to
bed now," and, rising as her aunt rises, makes a general move.

When the women have disappeared and resigned themselves to the tender
mercies of their maids, and the men have sought that best beloved of all
apartments, the Tabagie, a sudden resolution to say something that lies
heavy on his mind takes possession of Guy. Of all things on earth he
hates most a "scene," but some power within him compels him to speak
just now. The intense love he bears his only brother, his fear lest harm
should befall him, urges him on, sorely against his will, to give some
faint utterance to all that is puzzling and distressing him.

Taffy, seduced by the sweetness of the night, has stepped out into the
garden, where he is enjoying his weed alone. Within, the lamp is almost
quenched by the great pale rays of the moon that rush through the open
window. Without, the whole world is steeped in one white, glorious
splendor.

The stars on high are twinkling, burning, like distant lamps. Anon, one
darts madly across the dark blue amphitheatre overhead, and is lost in
space, while the others laugh on, unheeding its swift destruction. The
flowers are sleeping, emitting in their dreams faint, delicate perfumed
sighs; the cattle have ceased to low in the far fields: there is no
sound through all the busy land save the sweet soughing of the wind and
the light tread of Musgrave's footsteps up and down outside.

"Cyril," says Guy, removing the meerschaum from between his lips, and
regarding its elaborate silver bands with some nervousness, "I wish you
would not go to The Cottage so often as you do."

"No? And why not, _très cher_?" asks Cyril, calmly, knowing well what is
coming.

"For one thing, we do not know who this Mrs. Arlington is, or anything
of her. That in itself is a drawback. I am sorry I ever agreed to
Trant's proposal, but it is too late for regret in that quarter. Do not
double my regret by making me feel I have done you harm."

"You shall never feel that. How you do torture yourself over shadows,
Guy! I always think it must be the greatest bore on earth to be
conscientious,--that is, over-scrupulous, like you. It is a mistake,
dear boy, take my word for it,--will wear you out before your time."

"I am thinking of you, Cyril. Forgive me if I seem impertinent. Mrs.
Arlington is lovely, graceful, everything of the most desirable in
appearance, but----" A pause.

"_Après?_" murmurs Cyril, lazily.

"But," earnestly, "I should not like you to lose your heart to her, as
you force me to say it. Musgrave says he saw Trant in the lane to-day.
Of course he may have been mistaken; but was he? I have my own doubts,
Cyril," rising in some agitation,--"doubts that may be unjust, but I
cannot conquer them. If you allow yourself to love that woman, she will
bring you misfortune. Why is she so secret about her former life? Why
does she shun society? Cyril, be warned in time; she may be a----, she
may be anything," checking himself slowly.

"She may," says Cyril, rising with a passionate irrepressible movement
to his feet, under pretense of lighting the cigar that has died out
between his fingers. Then, with a sudden change of tone and a soft
laugh, "The skies may fall, of course, but we scarcely anticipate it. My
good Guy, what a visionary you are! Do be rational, if you can. As for
Mrs. Arlington, why should she create dissension between you and me?"

"Why, indeed?" returns Guy, gravely. "I have to ask your pardon for my
interference. But you know I only speak when I feel compelled, and
always for your good."

"You are about the best fellow going, I know that," replies Cyril,
deliberately, knocking the ash off his cigar; "but at times you are wont
to lose your head,--to wander,--like the best of us. I am safe enough,
trust me. 'What's Hecuba to me, or I to Hecuba?' Come, don't let us
spoil this glorious night by a dissertation on what we neither of us
know anything about. What a starlight!" standing at the open casement,
and regarding with quick admiration the glistening dome above him. "I
wonder how any one looking on it can disbelieve in a heaven beyond!"

Here Musgrave's fair head makes a blot in the perfect calm of the night
scene.

"Is that you, Taffy? Where have you been all this time?--mooning?--you
have had ample opportunity. But you are too young for Melancholy to mark
you as her own. It is only old folk like Guy," with a laughing though
affectionate glance backward to where his brother stands, somewhat
perplexed, beside the lamp, "should fall victims to the blues."

"A fig for melancholy!" says Taffy, vaulting lightly into the room, and
by his presence putting an end to all private conversation between the
brothers.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Lilian (to whom early rising is a pure delight),
running down the broad stone stairs two steps at a time, finds Guy on
the eve of starting, with Florence beside him, looking positively
handsome in the most thrilling of morning gowns. She has forsaken her
virtuous couch, and slighted the balmy slumber she so much loves, to
give him his breakfast, and is still unremitting in her attentions, and
untiring with regard to her smiles.

"Not gone!" says Lilian, wickedly: "how disappointed I am, to be sure! I
fancied my bonbons an hour nearer to me than they really are. Bad
Guardy, why don't you hurry?" She says this with the prettiest
affectation of infantile grace, accompanied by a coquettish glance from
under her sweeping lashes that creates in Florence a mad desire to box
her ears.

"You forget it will not hasten the train five seconds, Guy's leaving
this sooner than he does," she says, snubbingly. "To picture him sitting
in a draughty station could not--I should think--give satisfaction to
any one."

"It could"--willfully--"to me. It would show a proper anxiety to obey my
behests. Guardy," with touching concern, "are you sure you are warm
enough? Now do promise me one thing,--that you will beware of the
crossings; they say any number of old men come to grief in that way
yearly, and are run over through deafness, or short sight, or stupidity
in general. Think how horrid it would be if they sent us home your
mangled remains."

"Go in, you naughty child, and learn to speak to your elders with
respect," says Guy, laughing, and putting her bodily inside the
hall-door, from whence she trips out again to wave him a last adieu, and
kiss her hand warmly to him as he disappears round the corner of the
laurustinus bush.

And Sir Guy drives away full of his ward's fresh girlish loveliness, her
slender lissome figure, her laughing face, the thousand tantalizing
graces that go to make her what she is; forgetful of Miss Beauchamp's
more matured charms,--her white gown,--her honeyed words,--everything.

All day long Lilian's image follows him. It is beside him in the crowded
street, enters his club with him, haunts him in his business, laughs at
him in his most serious moods; while she, at home, scarce thinks of him
at all, or at the most vaguely, though when at five he does return she
is the first to greet him.

"He has come home! he is here!" she cries, dancing into the hall. "Have
you escaped the crossings? and rheumatism? and your old enemy, lumbago?
Good old Guardy, let me help you off with your coat. So. Positively, he
is all here,--not a bit of him gone,--and none the worse for wear!"

"Tired, Guy?" asks Florence, coming gracefully forward,--slowly, lest
by unseemly haste she should disturb the perfect fold of her train, that
sets off her figure to such advantage. She speaks warmly,
appropriatingly, as one's wife might, after a long journey.

"Tired! not he," returns Lilian irreverently: "he is quite a gay old
gentleman. Nor hungry either. No doubt he has lunched profusely in town,
'not wisely, but too well,' as somebody says. Where are my sweeties, Sir
Ancient?"

"My dear Lilian,"--rebukingly,--"if you reflect, you will see he must be
both tired and hungry."

"So am I for my creams: I quite pine for them. Sir Guy, where _are_ my
sweeties?"

"Here, little cormorant," says Guy, as fondly as he dares, handing her a
gigantic _bonbonnière_ in which chocolates and French sweetmeats fight
for mastery: "have I got you what you wanted?"

"Yes, indeed; _best_ of Guardys, I only wish I might kiss my thanks."

"You may."

"Better not. Such a condescension on my part might turn your old head.
Oh, Taffy," with an exclamation, "you bad greedy boy; you have taken
half my almonds! Well, you shan't have any of the others, for
punishment. Auntie and Florence and I will eat the rest."

"Thanks," drawls Florence, languidly, "but I am always so terrified
about toothache."

"What a pity!" says Miss Chesney. "If I had toothache, I should have all
my teeth drawn instantly, and false ones put in their place."

To this Miss Beauchamp, being undecided in her own mind as to whether it
is or is not an impertinence, deigns no reply. Cyril, with a gravity
that belies his innermost feelings, gazes hard at Lilian, only to
acknowledge her innocent of desire to offend.

"You did not meet Archibald?" asks Lady Chetwoode of Guy.

"No: I suppose he will be down by next train. Chesney is always up to
time."

"Lilian, my dear, where is my fourth knitting-needle?" asks auntie,
mildly. "I lent it to you this morning for some purpose."

"It is up-stairs; you shall have it in one moment," returns Lilian,
moving toward the door; and Sir Guy, muttering something about getting
rid of the dust of travel, follows her out of the room.

At the foot of the stairs he says:

"Lilian."

"Yes?"

"I have brought you yet another bonbon. Will you accept it?"

As he speaks he holds out to her an open case, in which lies a pretty
ring composed of pearls and diamonds.

"For me? Oh, Sir Guy!" says Lilian, flushing with pleasure, "what a
lovely present to bring me!" Then her expression changes, and her face
falls somewhat. She has lived long enough to know that young men do not,
as a rule, go about giving costly rings to young women without a motive.
Perhaps she ought to refuse it. Perhaps auntie would think it wrong of
her to take it. And if there is really anything between him and
Florence---- Yet what a pretty ring it is, and how the diamonds glitter!
And what woman can resign diamonds without a struggle?

"Will auntie be vexed if I take it?" she asks, honestly, after a pause,
raising her clear eyes to his, thereby betraying the fear that is
tormenting her.

"Why should she? Surely," with a smile, "an elderly guardian may make a
present to his youthful ward without being brought to task for it."

"And Florence?" asks Lilian, speaking impulsively, but half jestingly.

"Does it signify what she thinks?" returns he, a little stiffly. "It is
a mere bauble, and scarcely worth so much thought. You remember that day
down by the stream, when you said you were so fond of rings?"

"No."

"Well, I do, as I remember most things you say, be they kind or cruel,"
softly. "To-day, though I cannot explain why, this ring reminded me of
you, so I bought it, thinking you might fancy it."

"So I do: it is quite too lovely," says Lilian, feeling as though she
had been ungracious, and, what is worse, prudish. "Thank you very much.
I shall wear it this evening with my new dress, and it will help me to
make an impression on my unknown cousin."

She holds out her hand to him; it is the right one, and Guy slips the
ring upon the third finger of it, while she, forgetting it is the
engaged finger, makes no objection.

Sir Guy, still holding the little cool slim hand, looks at her fixedly,
and, looking, decides regretfully that she is quite ignorant of his
meaning.

"How it sparkles!" she says, moving her hand gently to and fro so that
the light falls upon it from different directions. "Thank you again,
Guardy; you are always better to me than I deserve." She says this
warmly, being desirous of removing all traces of her late hesitation,
and quite oblivious of her former scruples. But the moment she leaves
him she remembers them again, and, coming down-stairs with Lady
Chetwoode's needle, and finding her alone, says, with a heightened
color, "See what a charming present Sir Guy has brought me."

"Very pretty indeed," Lady Chetwoode says, examining the ring with
interest. "Dear Guy has such taste, and he is always so thoughtful, ever
thinking how to please some one. I am glad it has been you this time,
pussy," kissing the girl's smiling lips as she bends over her. So that
Miss Chesney, reassured by her auntie's kind words, goes up to dress for
the reception of her cousin Archibald, with a clear and therefore happy
conscience. Not for all the diamonds in Christendom would she have
concealed even so small a secret as the acceptance of this ring from one
whom she professes to love, and who she knows trusts in her.



CHAPTER XIV.

     "_Kate._ I never saw a better fashioned gown,
     More quaint, more pleasing, nor more commendable."
     --_Taming of the Shrew._


This dressing of Lilian for the undoing of her cousin is a wonderful
affair, and occupies a considerable time. Not that she spends any of it
in a dainty hesitation over the choice of the gown fated to work his
overthrow; all that has been decided on long ago, and the fruit of many
days' deep thought now lies upon her bed, bearing in its every fold--in
each soft fall of lace--all the distinguishing marks that stamp the work
of the inimitable Worth.

At length--nurse having admired and praised her to her heart's content,
and given the last fond finishing touches to her toilet--Miss Chesney
stands arrayed for conquest. She is dressed in a marvelous robe of black
velvet--cut _à la Princesse_, simply fashioned, fitting _à
merveille_,--being yet in mourning for her father. It is a little open
at the throat, so that her neck--soft and fair as a child's--may be
partly seen (looking all the whiter for the blackness that frames it
in), and has the sleeves very tight and ending at the elbow, from which
rich folds of Mechlin lace hang downward. Around her throat are a narrow
band of black velvet and three little strings of pearls that once had
been her mother's. In her amber hair a single white rose nestles
sleepily.

Standing erect before her glass, she contemplates herself in
silence,--marks the snowy loveliness of her neck and arms, her slender
hands (on one of which Guy's ring is sparkling brilliantly), her
rippling yellow hair in all its unstudied sleekness, the tender,
exquisite face, rose-flushed, and, looking gladly upon it all,--for very
love of it,--stoops forward and presses a kiss upon the delicate beauty
that smiles back upon her from the mirror.

"How do I look, nurse?" she asks, turning with a whimsical grace to the
woman who is regarding her with loving admiration. "Shall we captivate
our cousin?"

"Ay, so I think, my dear," replies nurse, quietly. "Were you willing, my
beauty, I'm nigh sure you could coax the birds off the bushes."

"You are an old dear," says Miss Chesney, tenderly, pressing her own
cheek, soft with youth's down, against the wrinkled one near her. "But I
must go and show myself to Taffy."

So saying, she opens the door, and trips away from Mrs. Tipping's
adoring eyes, down the corridor, until she stops at Taffy's door.

"Taffy!"

"Yes." The answer comes in muffled tones.

"May I come in?"

"Yes," still more muffled.

Turning the handle of the door, Lilian enters, to find Mr. Musgrave in
his shirt-sleeves before a long mirror, struggling with his hair, which
is combed straight over his forehead.

"It won't come right," he says, casting a heart-rending glance at
Lilian, who laughs with most reprehensible cruelty, considering the
situation.

"I am glad to find you are not suffocated," she says. "From your tone, I
prepared myself--outside--for the worst. Here, bend your head, you
helpless boy, and I will do it for you."

Taffy kneeling before her submissively, she performs her task deftly,
successfully, and thereby restores peace once more to the bosom of the
dejected dragoon.

"You should hire me as your valet," she says, lightly; "when you are
away from me, I am afraid to think of all the sufferings you must
undergo. Are you easier in your mind now, Taffy?"

"Oh, I say! what a swell you are!" says that young man, when he is
sufficiently recovered to glance round. "I call that rig-out downright
fetching. Where did you get that from?"

"Straight from Monsieur Worth," returns Lilian, with pardonable pride,
when one remembers what a success she is, drawing up her slim young
figure to its fullest height, and letting her white hands fall clasped
before her, as she poses for well-earned admiration. "Is not it pretty?
And doesn't it fit like a glove?"

"It does. It gives you really a tolerably good figure," with all a
brother's calm impertinence, while examining her critically. "You have
got yourself up regardless, so I suppose you mean mischief."

"Well, if this doesn't soften his heart, nothing will," replies Miss
Chesney, vainly regarding her velvet, and alluding, as Musgrave well
knows, to her cousin Archibald. "You really think I look nice, Taffy?
You think I am _chic_?"

"I do, indeed. I am not a judge of women's clothing, but I like black
velvet, and when I have a wife she shall wear nothing else. I would say
more in your favor, but that I fear over-much praise might have a bad
effect upon you, and cause you to die of your 'own dear loveliness.'"

"_Méchant!_" says Lilian, with a charming pout. "Never mind, I know you
admire me intensely."

"Have I not said so in the plainest Queen's English? But that time has
fatally revealed to me the real character of the person standing in
those costly garments, I feel I should fall madly in love with you
to-night."

"Silly child!"--turning up her small nose with immeasurable
disdain,--"do you think I would deign to accept your boyish homage? No;
I like _men_! Indeed!"--with disgraceful affectation,--"I think it my
duty to warn you not to waste time burning your foolish fingers at _my_
shrine."

She moves him aside with one small finger, the better to see how
charming she is in another glass. This one reveals to her all the
sweetness she has seen before--and something more. Scarcely has she
glanced into it, when her complexion, that a moment since was a soft and
lovely pink, changes suddenly, and flames into a deep crimson. There, at
the farthest end of the long room reflected in the glass,--staring back
at her,--coatless, motionless, with a brush suspended from each hand,
stands a man, lost in wonder and most flattering astonishment.

Miss Chesney, turning round with a start, finds that this vision is not
belonging to the other world, but is a real _bona fide_ creature of
flesh and blood,--a young man, tall, broad-shouldered, and very dark.

For a full minute they stare silently at each other, oppressed with
thoughts widely different in character, while Taffy remains blissfully
ignorant of the situation, being now engaged in a desperate conflict
with a refractory tie. Then one of the brushes falls from the stranger's
hand, and the spell is broken. Miss Chesney, turning impetuously,
proceeds to pour out the vials of her wrath upon Taffy.

"I think you might have told me," she says, in clear, angry tones,
casting upon him a glance meant to wither. But Mr. Musgrave distinctly
refuses to be withered.

"Eh? What? _By Jove!_" he says, vaguely, as the awful truth dawns upon
him. Meanwhile Lilian sweeps majestically to the door, her velvets
trailing behind her. All her merry kittenish ways have disappeared; she
walks as a young queen might who has been grossly affronted in open
court.

"Give you my honor I quite forgot him," murmurs Taffy, from the spot
where he is rooted through sheer dismay. His tones are dismal in the
extreme, but Miss Chesney disdains to hear or argue, and, going out,
closes the door with much determination behind her. The stranger,
suppressing a smile, stoops to pick up the fallen brush, and the scene
is at an end.

Down the stairs, full of vehement indignation, goes Lilian, thoughts
crowding upon her thick and heavy. Could anything be more unfortunate?
Just when she had got herself up in the most effective style,--just when
she had hoped, with the aid of this velvet gown, to make a pleasing and
dignified _entrée_ into his presence in the drawing-room below,--she has
been led into making his acquaintance in Taffy's bedroom! Oh! horror!
She has been face to face with him in his shirt-sleeves, with his odious
brushes in his hands, and a stare of undeniable surprise upon his
hateful face! Oh! it is insupportable!

And what was it she said to Taffy? What did she do? Hastily her mind
travels backward to the conversation that has just taken place.

First, _she combed Taffy's hair_. Oh! miserable girl! She closes two
azure eyes with two slender fingers from the light of day, as this
thought occurs to her. Then, she smirked at her own graceful image in
Taffy's glass, and made all sorts of conceited remarks about her
personal appearance, and then she said she hoped to subjugate "_him_."
What "him" could there be but this one? and of course he knows it. Oh!
unhappy young woman!

As for Taffy, bad, bad boy that he is, never to give her a hint.
Vengeance surely is in store for him. What right had he to forget? If
there is one thing she detests, it is a person devoid of tact. If there
is one thing she could adore, it would be the power to shake the
wretched Taffy out of his shoes.

What is there left to her but to gain her room, plead bad headache, and
spend the remainder of the evening in retirement? In this mood she gains
the drawing-room door, and, hesitating before it, thinks better of the
solitary-confinement idea; and, entering the room, seats herself in a
cozy chair and prepares to meet her fate with admirable calmness.

Dinner is ready,--waiting,--and still no Archibald. Then there is a step
in the hall, the door is thrown open, and he enters, as much hurried as
it is possible for a well-bred young man to be in this nineteenth
century.

Lady Chetwoode instantly says, with old-fashioned grace, the sweeter
that it is somewhat obsolete,----

"Lilian, permit me to introduce to you your cousin, Archibald Chesney."

Whereupon Lilian bows coldly and refuses to meet her cousin's eyes,
while kind Lady Chetwoode thinks it is a little stiff of the child, and
most unlike her, not to shake hands with her own kin.

An awkward pause is almost inevitable, when Taffy says out loud, to no
one in particular, but with much gusto:

"How odd it is they should never have seen each other until now!" after
which he goes into silent agonies of merriment over his own wit, until
brought to his senses by an annihilating glance from Lilian.

The dinner-hour is remarkable for nothing except Lilian's silence. This,
being so utterly unexpected, is worthy of note. After dinner, when the
men gain the drawing-room, Archibald, coming over, deliberately pushes
aside Miss Chesney's velvet skirts, and seats himself on the low ottoman
beside her with modest determination.

Miss Chesney, raising her eyes, regards him curiously.

He is tall, and eminently gloomy in appearance. His hair is of a rare
blackness, his eyes are dark, so is his skin. His eyebrows are slightly
arched, which gives him an air of melancholy protest against the world
in general. His nose is of the high and mighty order that comes under
the denomination of aquiline, or hooked, as may suit you best. Before
his arrival Cyril used to tell Lilian that if Nature had meant him for
anything it was to act as brigand in a private theatre; and Lilian, now
calling to mind this remark, acknowledges the truth of it, and almost
laughs in the face of her dark-browed cousin. Nevertheless she refrains
from outward mirth, which is wisdom on her part, as ridicule is his
_bête noir_.

Despite the extreme darkness of his complexion he is unmistakably
handsome, though somewhat discontented in expression. Why, no one knows.
He is rich, courted, as are all young men with a respectable rent-roll,
and might have made many a titled _débutante_ Mrs. Chesney had he so
chosen. He has not even a romantic love-affair to fall back upon as an
excuse for his dejection; no unfortunate attachment has arisen to sour
his existence. Indeed, it is seldom the owner of landed property has to
complain on this score, all such luxuries being reserved for the poor of
the earth.

Archibald Chesney's gloom, which is becoming if anything, does not sink
deeper than his skin. It gives a certain gentleness to his face, and
prevents the ignorant from guessing that he is one of the wildest,
maddest young men about London. Lilian, regarding him with quiet
scrutiny, decides that he is good to look at, and that his eyes are
peculiarly large and dark.

"Are you angry with me for what happened up-stairs?" he asks, gently,
after a pause spent in as earnest an examination of her as any she has
bestowed upon him.

"Up-stairs?" says Lilian, with raised brows of inquiry and carefully
studied ignorance.

"I mean my unfortunate _rencontre_ with you in Musgrave's room."

"Oh, dear, no," with clear denial. "I seldom grow angry over _trifles_.
I have not thought of it since." She utters her fib bravely, the truth
being that all during dinner she has been consumed with shame.

"Have you not? _I_ have. I have been utterly miserable ever since you
bestowed that terrible look upon me when your eyes first met mine. Won't
you let me explain my presence there? I think if you do you will forgive
me."

"It was not your fault: there is nothing about which you need
apologize," says Lilian; but her tone is more cordial, and there is the
faintest dimpling of a smile around her mobile lips.

"Nevertheless I hate myself in that I caused you a moment's uneasiness,"
says Mr. Chesney, that being the amiable word he employs for her
ill-temper. "I shall be discontented until I tell you the truth: so pray
let me."

"Then tell it," says Lilian.

"I have a man, a perfect treasure, who can do all that man can possibly
do, who is in fact faultless,--but for one small weakness."

"And that is?"

"Like Mr. Stiggins, his vanity is--brandy hot. Now and then he drinks
more of it than is good for him, though to do him justice not very
often. Once in six months, regular as clockwork, he gets hopelessly
drunk, and just now the time being up, he, of course, chose this
particular day to make his half-yearly exhibition of himself, and having
imbibed brandy _ad lib._, forgot to bring himself and my traps to
Chetwoode in time for the first dressing-bell."

"What a satisfactory sort of servant!"

"He is, very, when he is sober,--absolutely invaluable. And then his
little mistakes occur so seldom. But I wish he had not chosen this
night of all others in which to play me false. I don't know what I
should have done had I not thrown myself upon Musgrave's mercy and
borrowed his brushes and combs and implements of war generally. As it
was, I had almost given up hope of being able to reach the drawing-room
at all to-night, when just at the last moment my 'treasure' arrived with
my things and--any amount of concealed spirits. Do I bore you with my
explanation? It is very good of you to listen so patiently, but I should
have been too unhappy had I been prevented from telling you all this."

"I think, after all, it is I should explain my presence in that room,"
says Lilian, with a gay, irresistible laugh that causes Guy, who is at
the other end of the room, to lift his head and regard her anxiously.

He is sitting near Florence, on a sofa (or rather, to speak more
correctly, she is sitting near him), and is looking bored and _gêné_.
Her laugh pains him unaccountably; glancing next at her companion he
marks the still admiration in the dark face as it gazes into her fair
one. Already--_already_--he is surely _empressé_.

"But the fact is," Lilian is saying, "I have always been in the habit of
visiting Taffy's room before he has quite finished his dressing, to see
if there be any little final touch required that I might give him. Did
you meet him in London?"

"No; never saw him until a couple of hours ago. Very nice little fellow,
I should say. Cousin of yours?"

"Yes: isn't he a pet?" says Lilian, eagerly, always glad to hear praise
of her youthful plunger. "There are very few like him. He is my nearest
relative, and you can't think how I love that boy."

"That boy is, I should say, older than you are."

"Ye--es," doubtfully, "so he says: about a year, I think. Not that it
matters," says Miss Chesney, airily, "as in reality I am any number of
years older than he is. He is nothing but a big child, so I have to look
after him."

"You have, I supposed, constituted yourself his mother?" asks Archibald,
intensely amused at her pretty assumption of maternity.

"Yes," with a grave nod, "or his elder sister, just as I feel it my duty
at the moment to pet or scold him."

"Happy Taffy!"

"Not that he gives me much trouble. He is a very good boy generally."

"He is a very handsome boy, at all events. You have reason to be proud
of your child. I am your cousin also."

"Yes?"

"Yes."

A pause, after which Mr. Chesney says, meekly:

"I suppose you would not take me as a second son?"

"I think not," says Lilian, laughing; "you are much too important a
person and far too old to be either petted or scolded."

"That is very hard lines, isn't it? You might say anything you liked to
me, and I am almost positive I should not resent it. And if you will be
kind enough to turn your eyes on me once more, I think you will
acknowledge I am not so very old."

"Too old for me to take in hand. I doubt you would be an unruly
member,--a _mauvais sujet_,--a disgrace to my teaching. I should lose
caste. At dinner I saw you frown, and frowns,"--with a coquettishly
plaintive sigh--"frighten me!"

"Do you imagine me brutal enough to frown upon my mother?--and such a
mother?"

"Nevertheless, I cannot undertake your reformation. You should remember
you are scarcely in my good books. Are you not a usurper in my eyes?
Have you not stolen from me my beloved Park?"

"Ah! true. But you can have it back again, you know," returns he, in a
low tone, half jest, though there is a faint under-current--that is
almost earnestness--running through it.

At this moment Lady Chetwoode saves Lilian the embarrassment of a reply.

"Sing us something, darling," she says.

And Lilian, rising, trails her soft skirts after her across the room,
and, sitting down at the piano, commences "Barbara Allen," sweetly,
gravely, tenderly, as is her wont.

Guy's gaze is following her. The pure though _piquante_ face, the golden
hair, the rich old-fashioned texture of the gown, all combine to make a
lovely picture lovelier. The words of the song make his heart throb, and
bring to life a certain memory of earlier days, when on the top of a
high wall he first heard her singing it.

Pathetically, softly, she sings it, without affectation or pretense of
any kind, and, having finished, still lets her fingers wander idly over
the notes (drawing from them delicate minor harmonies that sadden the
listener), whilst the others applaud.

Guy alone being silent, she glances at him presently with a smile full
of kindliness, that claims and obtains an answering smile in return.

"Have I ever seen that gown on you before?" he asks, after a pause.

"No. This dress is without doubt an eminent success, as everybody
admires it. No; you never saw it before. Do you like it?"

"More than I can say. Lilian, you have formed your opinion of your
cousin, and--you like him?"

"Very much, indeed. He is handsome, _debonnaire_, all that may be
desired, and--he quite likes Taffy."

"A passport to your favor," says Chetwoode, smiling. "Though no one
could help liking the boy." Then his eyes seeking her hands once more,
fasten upon the right one, and he sees the ring he had placed upon the
third finger a few hours before now glistens bravely upon the second.

The discovery causes him a pang so keen that involuntarily he draws
himself up to his full height, and condemns himself as a superstitious
fool. As if she divines his thought,--though in reality she knows
nothing of it,--Lilian says, gazing admiringly at the glittering trinket
in question:

"I think your ring grows prettier and prettier every time I look at it.
But it would not stay on the finger you chose; while I was dressing it
fell off; so, fearing to lose it, I slipped it upon this one. It looks
as well, does it not?"

"Yes," said Chetwoode, though all the time he is wishing with all his
heart it had not fallen from the engagement finger. When we love we grow
fearful; and with fear there is torment.

"Why don't you ask Florence to sing?" asks Lilian, suddenly.

Archibald Chesney has risen and lounged over to the piano, and now is
close beside her. To Guy's jealous ears it seems as though the remark
was made to rid her of his presence.

"Because I detest French songs," he answers, somewhat sharply,--Miss
Beauchamp being addicted to such foreign music.

"Do you?" says Lilian, laughing at his tone, which she fully
understands, and straightway sings one (the gayest, brightest, most
nonsensical to be found in her _repertoire_) in her sweet fresh voice,
glancing at him with a comical challenge in her eyes every time the
foolish yet tender refrain occurs.

When she has finished she says to him, saucily:

"Well, Sir Guy?"

And he answers:

"I am vanquished, utterly convinced. I confess I now like French songs
as well as any others."

"I like them ten times better," says Archibald, impulsively, "when they
are sung by you. There is a _verve_, a gayety about them that other
songs lack. Have you any more? Do you know any of Gounod's? I like them,
though they are of a different style."

"They are rather beyond me," says Lilian, laughing. "But hear this: it
is one of Beranger's, very simply set, but I think pretty."

This time she sings to _him_,--unmistakably,--a soft little Norman
love-song, full of grace and tenderest entreaty, bestowing upon him all
the beguiling smiles she had a moment since given exclusively to her
guardian, until at length Sir Guy, muttering "coquette" to his own
heart, turns aside, leaving Chesney master of the field.

Lilian, turning from her animated discussion with Archibald, follows his
departing footsteps with her eyes, in which lies a faintly malicious
smile; an expression full of suppressed enjoyment curves her lips; she
is evidently satisfied at his abrupt retreat, and continues her
interrupted conversation with her cousin in still more joyous tones.
Perhaps this is how she means to fulfill her mysterious threat of
"showing" Sir Guy.



CHAPTER XV.

     "I will gather thee, he cried,
       Rosebud brightly blowing!
     Then I'll sting thee, it replied,
     And you'll quickly start aside
       With the prickle glowing.
     Rosebud, rosebud, rosebud red,
       Rosebud brightly blowing!"
     --GOETHE--_translated_.


"Nurse, wash my hair," says Lilian, entering her nurse's sanctum, which
is next her own, one lovely morning early in September when


     "Dew is on the lea,
     And tender buds are fretting to be free."


The fickle sun is flinging its broad beams far and near, now glittering
upon the ivied towers, and now dancing round the chimney-tops, now
necking with gold the mullioned window. Its brightness is as a smile
from the departing summer, the sweeter that it grows rarer every hour;
its merry rays spread and lengthen, the wind grows softer, balmier,
beneath its influence; it is as the very heart of lazy July.


     "And on the woods and on the deep
     The smile of heaven lay.
     It seemed as if the day were one
       Sent from beyond the skies,
     Which shed to earth above the sun
       A light of Paradise."


There is an "inviolable quietness" in all the air.

Some late roses have grown, and cluster round Lilian's window; stooping
out, she kisses and caresses them, speaking to them as though they were
(as indeed they are) her dear friends, when nurse's voice recalls her to
the present, and the inner room.

"La, my dear," says Mrs. Tipping, "it is only four days since I washed
it before."

"Never mind, ninny; wash it again. To-day is so delicious, with such a
dear little breeze, and such a prodigality of sun, that I cannot resist
it. You know how I love running through the air with my hair wet, and
feeling the wind rushing through it. And, nurse, be sure
now"--coaxingly--"you put plenty of soda in the water."

"What, and rot all your pretty locks? Not I, indeed!" says nurse, with
much determination.

"But you must; you will now, won't you?" in a wheedling tone. "It never
stands properly out from my head unless it is full of soda."

"An' what, I wonder, would your poor mamma say to me if she could see me
spoiling your bonny hair this day, an' it the very color of her own? No,
no; I cannot indeed. It goes against my conscience, as it were. Go get
some one else to wash it, not me; it would sadden me."

"If you won't wash it, no one else shall," pouts Lilian. And when Lilian
pouts she looks so lovely, and so naughty, and so irresistible, that,
instead of scolding her for ill-temper, every one instantly gives in to
her. Nurse gives in, as she has done to her little mistress's pout ever
since the latter was four years old, and forthwith produces soap and
water and plenty of soda.

The long yellow hair being at length washed, combed out carefully, and
brushed until it hangs heavily all down her back, Lilian administers a
soft little kiss to her nurse as reward for her trouble, and runs
delightedly down the stairs, straight into the open air, without hat, or
covering of any kind for her head.

The garden is listless and sleepy. The bees are silent, the flowers are
nodding drowsily, wakened into some sort of life by the teasing wind
that sighs and laughs around them unceasingly. Lilian plucks a blossom
here and there, and scatters far and near the gaudy butterfly in very
wantonness of enjoyment, while the wooing wind whistles through her
hair, drying it softly, lovingly, until at last some of its pristine
gloss returns to it, and its gold shines with redoubled vigor beneath
the sun's rays.

As she saunters, reveling--as one from Fairyland might revel--in the
warmth and gladness of the great heathen god, she sings; and to Guy in
his distant study the sound and the words come all too distinctly,--


     "Why shouldn't I love my love?
       Why shouldn't he love me?
     Why shouldn't he come after me,
       Since love to all is free?"


Beneath his window she pauses, and, finally, running up the steps of the
balcony, peers in, full of an idle curiosity.

Sir Guy's den is the most desirable room in the house,--the coziest,
the oddest, the most interesting. Looking at it, one guesses
instinctively how addicted to all pretty things the owner is, from women
down to less costly _bijouterie_.

Lovely landscapes adorn the walls side by side with Greuze-like faces,
angelic in expression, unlike in appearance. There are a few portraits
of beauties well known in the London and Paris worlds, frail as they are
fair, false as they are _piquante_, whose garments (to do him justice)
are distinctly decent, perhaps more so than their characters. But then
indecency has gone out of fashion.

There are two or three lounges, some priceless statuettes, a few bits of
_bric-a-brac_ worth their weight in gold, innumerable yellow-backed
volumes by Paul de Kock and his fellows, chairs of all shapes and sizes,
one more comfortable and inviting than the other, enough meerschaum
pipes and cigarette-holders and tobacco-stands to stock a small shop, a
couple of dogs snoozing peacefully upon the hearth-rug, under the
mistaken impression that a fire is burning in the grate, a
writing-table, and before it Sir Guy. These are the principal things
that attract Lilian's attention, as she gazes in, with her silken hair
streaming behind her in the light breeze.

On the wall she cannot see, there are a few hunters by Herring, a copy
of Millais' "Yes or No," a good deal of stable-ware, and beneath them,
on a table, more pipes, cheroots, and boxes of cigars, mixed up with
straw-covered bottles of perfume, thrust rather ignominiously into the
corner.

A shadow falling across the paper on which he is writing, Guy raises his
head, to see a fairy vision staring in at him,--a little slight figure,
clothed in airy black with daintiest lace frillings at the throat and
wrists, and with a wealth of golden hair brought purposely all over her
face, letting only the laughing sapphire eyes, blue as the skies above
her, gleam out from among it.

"Open the door, O hermit, and let a poor wanderer in," croons this
fairy, in properly saddened tones.

Rising gladly, he throws wide the window to her, whereupon she steps
into the room, still with her face hidden.

"You come?" asks he, in a deferential tone.

"To know what you are doing, and what can keep you in-doors this
exquisite day. Do you remember how late in the season it is? and that
you are slighting Nature? She will be angry, and will visit you with
storms and drooping flowers, if you persist in flouting her. Come out.
Come out."

"Who are you?" asks Guy. "Are you Flora?" He parts her hair gently and
throws it back over her shoulders. "I thought you a nymph,--a fairy,--a
small goddess, and----"

"And behold it is only Lilian! Naughty Lilian! Are you disappointed, Sir
Guardian?" She laughs, and running her fingers through all her amber
locks, spreading them out on either side of her like a silken veil, that
extends as far as her arms can reach. She is lovely, radiant, bright as
the day itself, fairer than the lazy flowers.

"What a child you are!" says Guy, with some discontent in his voice,
feeling how far, _far_ younger than he she is.

"Am I? Nonsense! Nurse says," going to a glass and surveying herself
with critical eyes, "nurse says I am a 'very well grown girl of my
age.'" Almost unconsciously she assumes nurse's pompous though adoring
manner to such perfection that Guy laughs heartily.

"That is right, Guardy," says Miss Lilian, with bland encouragement. "I
like to hear you laugh; of late you have grown almost as discontented to
look at as my cousin. Have I amused you?"

"Yes; your assumption of Mrs. Tipping was admirable. Though I am not
sure that I agree with her: you are not very much grown, are you? I
don't think you are up to my shoulder."

"What a tarradiddle!" says Lilian. "Get off that table directly and let
me convince you."

As Guy obeys her and draws himself up to his liberal six feet one, she
goes to him and lays her soft head against his arm, only to find he--not
she--is right; she is half an inch below his shoulder. Standing so, it
takes Guy all he knows to keep himself from throwing his arms round her
and straining her to the heart that beats for her so passionately,--that
beats for her alone.

"You have raised your shoulder," she says, most unfairly: "it wasn't
half so high yesterday. You shouldn't cheat!--What a charming room yours
is! I quite envy it to you. And the flowers are so well selected. Who
adorns your den so artistically? Florence? But of course it is the
invaluable Florence: I might have known. That good creature always does
the correct thing!"

"I think it is the mother sees to it," replies he, gently.

"Oh, is it? Kind auntie! What a delicious little bit of blue!
Forget-me-not, is it? How innocent it looks, and babyish, in its green
leaves! May I rob you, Sir Guy? I should like a spray or two for my
dress."

"You may have anything you wish that I can give you."

"What a noble offer!--Are you going to waste much more time over your
tiresome letters?" glancing with pretty impertinence at the
half-finished sheets lying on the table near her: "I suppose they are
all business, or love, or suchlike rubbish! Well, good-bye, Guardy, I
must go and finish the drying of my hair; you will find me in the garden
when you come to the end of your last _billet-doux_."

So saying, she trips away from him down the handsome oak-paneled room,
and disappears through the doorway that leads into the hall.

Where she goes the sunshine seems to follow her. To Guy's fancy it
appears as though a shadow has fallen suddenly into the room, when the
last glimpse of her yellow hair has vanished out of sight. With a rather
abstracted air he betakes himself once more to his writing, and tries to
forget her.

But somehow the impetus that urged him on half an hour ago is wanting;
the spur to his industry has lost its sharpness; and presently, throwing
down his pen with an impatient gesture, he acknowledges himself no
longer in the mood for work.

What a child she is!--again the thought occurs to him;--yet with what
power to torture! To-day all sweetness and honeyed gayety, to-morrow
indifferent, if not actually repellent. She is an anomaly,--a little
frail lily beset with thorns that puts forth its stings to wound, and
probe, and madden, when least expected.

Only yesterday--after an hour's inward conflict--he had convinced
himself of her love for her cousin Archibald, with such evident pleasure
did she receive his very marked attentions. And now,--to-day,--surely if
she loved Chesney her eyes could not have dwelt so kindly upon another
as they did a few minutes since upon her guardian. With what a pretty
grace she had demanded that blue forget-me-not and placed it in the
bosom of her dress! With what evident sincerity she had hinted at her
wish to see him in the garden when his work should be over!
Perhaps--perhaps----

Of late a passionate desire to tell her of the affection with which she
has inspired him consumes him daily,--hourly; but a fear, a sad
certainty of disappointment to follow on his declaration has hitherto
checked the words that so often tremble on his lips. Now the unwonted
gentleness of her manner tempts him to follow her and put his fate "to
the touch," and so end all the jealous anguish and heart-burnings that
torment him all day long.

Quitting his sanctum, he crosses the hall, and enters the drawing-room,
where he finds Florence alone.

She is, as usual, bending industriously over her crewel work; the
parrot's tail is now in a high state of perfection, not a color in the
rainbow being missing from it. Seeing Guy, she raises her head and
smiles upon him sweetly, blandly, invitingly.

"Where is Lilian?" asks Guy, abruptly, with all the tactless
truthfulness of a man when he has one absorbing object in view.

Miss Beauchamp's bland smile freezes on her lips, and shows itself no
more. She makes answer, nevertheless, in an unmoved tone:

"Where she always is,--in the garden with her cousin, Mr. Chesney."

"Always?" says Guy, lightly, though in reality his face has grown
suddenly pale, and his fingers clinch involuntarily.

"Well," in her unchangeable placid staccato voice, "generally. He seems
very _épris_ with her, and she appears to receive his admiration
favorably. Have you not noticed it?"

"I cannot say I have."

"No?"--incredulously--"how extraordinary! But men are proverbially dull
in the observation of such matters as love-affairs. Some, indeed," with
slow meaning, "are positively _blind_."

She lays her work upon the table before her and examines it critically.
She does not so much as glance at her victim, though secretly enjoying
the knowledge that he is writhing beneath the lash.

"Chesney would be a good match for her," says Guy, with the calmness of
despair. But his calmness does not deceive his companion.

"Very good. The Park, I am told, is even larger than Chetwoode. You, as
her guardian, should, I think, put carefully before her all the
advantages to be derived from such a marriage."

Here she smooths out her parrot, and, turning her head slightly to one
side, wonders whether a little more crimson in the wings would not make
them look more attractive. No, perhaps not: they are gaudy enough
already,--though one often sees--a parrot--with----

"I don't believe mere money would have weight with Lilian," Guy breaks
in upon her all-important reverie, with a visible effort.

"No? Perhaps not. But then the Park is her old home, and she, who
professes such childish adoration for it, might possibly like to regain
it. You really should speak to her, Guy. She should not be allowed to
throw away such a brilliant chance, when a few well-chosen words might
bias her in the right direction."

Guy makes no reply, but, stepping on to the balcony outside, walks
listlessly away, his heart in a tumult of fear and regret, while Miss
Beauchamp, calmly, and with a certain triumph, goes on contentedly with
her work. A nail in Lilian's coffin has, she hopes, been driven, and
sews her hopes into the canvas beneath her hand, as long ago the
Parisian women knitted their terrible revenge and cruel longings into
their children's socks, whilst all the flower and beauty and chivalry of
France fell beneath the fatal guillotine.

Guy, wandering aimlessly, full of dismal thought, follows out
mechanically his first idea, and turns in the direction of the garden,
the spot so beloved by his false, treacherous little mistress.

In the distance he sees her; she is standing motionless in the centre of
a grassplot, while behind her Chesney is busily engaged tying back her
yellow hair with a broad piece of black ribbon she has evidently given
him for the purpose. He has all her rich tresses gathered together in
one, and is lingering palpably over his task. In his coat is placed
conspicuously the blue forget-me-not begged of Guy by Lilian only a few
minutes ago as though her heart were set upon its possession.

"Coquette," mutters Chetwoode between his teeth.

"Not done yet?" asks the coquette at this moment of her cousin, giving
her head a little impatient shake.

"Yes, just done," finishing up in a hurry the somewhat curious bow he is
making.

"Well, now run," says Lilian, "and do as I bade you. I shall be here on
this spot when you return. You know how I hate waiting: so don't be
long,--do you hear?"

"Does that mean you will be impatient to see me again?"

"Of course," laughing. "I shall be _dying_ to see you again, longing,
pining for your return, thinking every minute an hour until you come
back to me."

Thus encouraged, Archibald quickly vanishes, and Guy comes slowly up to
her.

"I think you needn't have put that flower in Chesney's coat," he says,
in an aggrieved tone. "I had no idea you meant it for his adornment."

"Is it in his coat?" As she makes this mean reply she blushes a rich
warm crimson, so full of consciousness that it drives Guy absolutely
wild with jealousy. "Yes, now I remember," she says, with an assumption
of indifference; "he either took it from me, or asked me for it, I quite
forget which."

"Do you?"

"I do," resenting his manner, which borders on disbelief, and is in her
eyes highly objectionable. "Why should I trouble myself to recollect
such trifles?"

After a pause, and with a distinct effort, Chetwoode says:

"You were foolishly prejudiced against your cousin before his arrival. I
am glad you have learned to be civil to him."

"More than that, I have learned to like him very much indeed. He is
quite charming, and not in the least _exigeant_, or _difficile_," this
rather pronounced. "Besides, he is my cousin, and the master of my old
home. Whenever I think of the dear Park I naturally think of him, until
now they are both associated in my mind: this adds to my liking."

Guy's heart sinks within him as he remembers Florence's words and now
hears Lilian's own confession. He glances at her despairingly. She is
picking a flower to pieces, and as she does so a little soft sigh
escapes her. Is it for her lost home? Is she already dreaming of an hour
when she may return to it once more as its happy mistress? Is she
mercenary, as Florence hinted? or is it homesickness that is tempting
her? or can it be that at heart she loves this cousin?

"It is the same with all women," he says bitterly; "the last comer is
always the best, the newest face the dearest."

"I do not understand you,"--with cold reproof; "surely you are wandering
from the subject: we were saying nothing about last comers or new faces.
If you happen to be in a bad temper, Sir Guy, I really think it a little
hard that you should come here to inflict it upon me."

"I am not in a bad temper,"--indignantly.

"No? It seems very like it," says Miss Chesney. "I can't bear cross
people: they are always saying unpleasant as well as unmeaning things.
New faces, indeed! I really wish Archibald would come; he is always
agreeable, and never starts distasteful topics. Ah, here he is! Archie,
how long you have been! I thought you were never coming! Sir Guy is in
one of his terrible moods, and has frightened me out of my life. I was
in danger of being lectured off the face of the earth. No woman should
be pitied but she that has a guardian! You have come to my rescue barely
in time: another minute, and you would have found only a lifeless
Lilian."

Sir Guy, black with rage, turns aside. Archibald, ignorant of the storm
brewing, sinks beside her contentedly upon the grass.



CHAPTER XVI.

     "O spirit of love, how fresh and quick thou art!"--SHAKESPEARE.


It is the gloaming,--that tenderest, fondest, most pensive time of all
the day. As yet, night crouches on the borders of the land, reluctant to
throw its dark shadow over the still smiling earth, while day is slowly,
sadly receding. There is a hush over everything; above, on their leafy
perches, the birds are nestling, and crooning their cradle songs; the
gay breeze, lazy with its exertions of the day, has fallen asleep, so
that the very grasses are silent and unstirred. An owl in the distance
is hooting mournfully. There is a serenity on all around, an
all-pervading stillness that moves one to sadness and fills unwittingly
the eyes with tears. It is the peace that follows upon grief, as though
the busy world, that through all the heat and turmoil of the day has
been weeping and groaning in anguish, has now for a few short hours
found rest.

The last roses of summer in Mrs. Arlington's garden, now that those gay
young sparks the bees have deserted them, are growing drowsy, and hang
their heavy heads dejectedly. Two or three dissipated butterflies, fond
of late hours and tempted by the warmth, still float gracefully through
the air.

Cecilia, coming down the garden path, rests her arms upon her wicket
gate and looks toward Chetwoode.

She is dressed in an exquisite white cambric, fastened at the throat by
a bit of lavender ribbon; through her gown here and there are touches of
the same color; on her head is a ravishing little cap of the mob
description, that lends an additional charm to her face, making her
seem, if possible, more womanly, more lovable than ever.

As she leans upon the gate a last yellow sunbeam falls upon her, peeps
into her eyes, takes a good-night kiss from her parted lips, and,
descending slowly, lovingly, crosses her bosom, steals a little
sweetness from the white rose dying on her breast, throws a golden shade
upon her white gown, and finally dies chivalrously at her feet.

But not for the dear devoted sunbeam does that warm blush grow and
mantle on her cheek; not for it do her pulses throb, her heart beat
fast. Toward her, in his evening dress, and without his hat, regardless
of consequences, comes Cyril, the quickness of his step betraying a
flattering haste. As yet, although many weeks have come and gone since
their first meeting, no actual words of love have been spoken between
them; but each knows the other's heart, and has learned that eyes can
speak a more eloquent language, can utter tenderer thoughts, than any
the lips can frame.

"Again?" says Cecilia, softly, a little wonder, a great undisguised
gladness, in her soft gray eyes.

"Yes; I could not keep away," returns he, simply.

He does not ask to enter, but leans upon the gate from his side, very
close to her. Most fair men look well in evening clothes; Cyril looks
downright handsome: his blonde moustache seems golden, his blue eyes
almost black, in the rays of the departing sun: just now those eyes are
filled with love and passionate admiration.

Her arms, half bare, with some frail shadowy lace falling over them,
look rounded and velvety as a child's in the growing dusk; the fingers
of her pretty, blue-veined hands are interlaced. Separating them, Cyril
takes one hand between both his own and strokes it fondly, silently, yet
almost absently.

Suddenly raising his head, he looks at her, his whole heart in his
expression, his eyes full of purpose. Instinctively she feels the
warmth, the tenderness of his glance, and changes from a calm lily into
an expectant rose. Her hand trembles within his, as though meditating
flight, and then lies passive as his clasp tightens firmly upon it.
Slowly, reluctantly, as though compelled by some hidden force, she turns
her averted eyes to his.

"Cecilia," murmurs he, imploringly, and then--and then their lips meet,
and they kiss each other solemnly, with a passionate tenderness, knowing
it is their betrothal they are sealing.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I wish I had summoned courage to kiss you a week ago," he says,
presently. He is inside the gate now, and seems to have lost in this
shamefully short time all the hesitation and modesty that a few minutes
ago were so becoming. His arm is around her; even as he makes this
_risqué_ remark, he stoops and embraces her again, without even having
the grace to ask permission, while she (that I should live to say it of
Cecilia!) never reproves him.

"Why?" she asks, smiling up at him.

"See how I have wasted seven good days," returns he, drinking in gladly
all the beauty of her face and smile. "This day last week I might have
been as happy as I am now,--whereas I was the most miserable wretch
alive, the victim of suspense."

"You bore your misery admirably: had you not told me, I should never
have guessed your wretchedness. Besides, how do you know I should have
been so kind to you seven long days ago?"

"I know it,--because you love me."

"And how do you know that either?" asks she, with new-born coquetry that
sits very sweetly upon her. "Cyril, when did you begin to love me?"

"The very moment I first saw you."

"No, no; I do not want compliments from _you_: I want the very honest
truth. Tell me."

"I have told you. The honest truth is this. That morning after your
arrival when I restored your terrier to you, I fell in love with you:
you little thought then, when I gave your dog into your keeping, I was
giving my heart also."

"No," in a low, soft voice, that somehow has a smile in it, "how could
I? I am glad you loved me always,--that there was no time when I was
indifferent to you. I think love at first sight must be the sweetest and
truest of all."

"You have the best of it, then, have you not?" with a rather forced
laugh. "Not only did I love you from the first moment I saw you, but you
are the only woman I ever really cared for; while you," with some
hesitation, and turning his eyes steadily away from hers, "you--of
course--did love--once before."

"Never!"

The word comes with startling vehemence from between her lips, the new
and brilliant gladness of her face dies from it. A little chill shudder
runs through all her frame, turning her to stone; drawing herself with
determination from his encircling arms, she stands somewhat away from
him.

"It is time I told you my history," she says, in cold, changed tones,
through which quivers a ring of pain, while her face grows suddenly as
pale, as impenetrable as when they were yet quite strangers to each
other. "Perhaps when you hear it you may regret your words of to-night."
There is a doubt, a weariness in her voice that almost angers him.

"Nonsense!" he says, roughly, the better to hide the emotion he feels;
"don't be romantic; nobody commits murder, or petty larceny, or bigamy
nowadays, without being found out; unpleasant mysteries, and skeletons
in the closet have gone out of fashion. We put all our skeletons in the
_Times_ now, no matter how we may have to blush for their nakedness. I
don't want to hear anything about your life if it makes you unhappy to
tell it."

"It doesn't make me unhappy."

"But it does. Your face has grown quite white, and your eyes are full of
tears. Darling, I won't have you distress yourself for me."

"I have not committed any of the crimes you mention, or any other
particular crime," returns she, with a very wan little smile. "I have
only been miserable ever since I can remember. I have not spoken about
myself to any one for years, except one friend; but now I should like
to tell you everything."

"But not there!" holding out his hands to her reproachfully. "I don't
believe I could hear you if you spoke from such a distance." There is
exactly half a yard of sward between them. "If you are willfully bent on
driving us both to the verge of melancholy, at least let us meet our
fate together."

Here he steals his arm round her once more, and, thus supported, and
with her head upon his shoulder, she commences her short story:

"Perhaps you know my father was a Major in the Scots Greys; your brother
knew him: his name was Duncan."

Cyril starts involuntarily.

"Ah, you start. You, too, knew him?"

"Yes, slightly."

"Then," in a curiously hard voice, "you knew nothing good of him. Well,"
with a sigh, "no matter; afterward you can tell me what it was. When I
was eighteen he brought me home from school, not that he wanted my
society,--I was rather in his way than otherwise, and it wasn't a good
way,--but because he had a purpose in view. One day, when I had been
home three months, a visitor came to see us. He was introduced to me by
my father. He was young, dark, not ugly, well-mannered," here she pauses
as though to recover breath, and then breaks out with a passion that
shakes all her slight frame, "but hateful, vile, _loathsome_."

"My darling, don't go on; I don't want to hear about him," implores
Cyril, anxiously.

"But I must tell you. He possessed that greatest of all virtues in my
father's eyes,--wealth. He was rich. He admired me; I was very pretty
then. He dared to say he loved me. He asked me to marry him, and--I
refused him."

As though the words are forced from her, she utters them in short,
unequal sentences; her lips have turned the color of death.

"I suppose he went then to my father, and they planned it all between
them, because at this time he--that is, my father--began to tell me he
was in debt, hopelessly, irretrievably in debt. Among others, he
mentioned certain debts of (so-called) honor, which, if not paid within
a given time, would leave him not only a beggar, but a disgraced one
upon the face of the earth; and I believed him. He worked upon my
feelings day by day, with pretended tears, with vows of amendment. I
don't know," bitterly, "what his share of the bargain was to be, but I
do know he toiled for it conscientiously. I was young, unusually so for
my age, without companions, romantic, impressionable. It seemed to me a
grand thing to sacrifice myself and thereby save my father; and if I
would only consent to marry Mr. Arlington he had promised not only to
avoid dice, but to give up his habits of intemperance. It is an old
story, is it not? No doubt you know it by heart. Crafty age and foolish
youth,--what chance had I? One day I gave in, I said I would marry Mr.
Arlington, and he sold me to him three weeks later. We were married."

Here her voice fails her again, and a little moan of agonized
recollection escapes her. Cyril, clasping her still closer to him,
presses a kiss upon her brow. At the sweet contact of his lips she
sighs, and two large tears gathering in her eyes roll slowly down her
cheeks.

"A week after my wretched marriage," she goes on, "I discovered
accidentally that my father had lied to me and tricked me. His
circumstances were not so bad as he had represented to me, and it was on
the condition that he was to have a certain income from Mr. Arlington
yearly that he had persuaded me to marry him. He did not long enjoy it.
He died," slowly, "two months afterward. Of my life with--my husband I
shall not tell you; the recital would only revolt you. Only to think of
it now makes me feel deadly ill; and often from my dreams, as I live it
all over again, I start, cold with horror and disgust. It did not last
long, which was merciful: six months after our marriage he eloped with
an actress and went to Vienna."

"The blackguard! the scoundrel!" says Cyril, between his teeth, drawing
his breath sharply.

"I never saw him again. In a little while I received tidings of his
death: he had been stabbed in a brawl in some drinking-house, and only
lived a few hours after it. And I was once more free."

She pauses, and involuntarily stretches forth both her hands into the
twilight, as one might who long in darkness, being thrust into the full
light of day, seeks to grasp and retain it.

"When I heard of his death," she says, turning to Cyril, and speaking
in a clear intense tone, "I _laughed_! For the first time for many
months, I laughed aloud! I declared my thankfulness in a distinct voice.
My heart beat with honest, undisguised delight when I knew I should
never see him again, should never in all the years to come shiver and
tremble in his hated presence. He was dead, and I was heartily glad of
it."

She stops, in terrible agitation. An angry fire gleams in her large gray
eyes. She seems for the moment to have utterly forgotten Cyril's
nearness, as in memory she lives over again all the detested past. Cyril
lays his hand lightly upon her shoulder, her eyes meet his, and then the
anger dies from them. She sighs heavily, and then goes on:

"After that I don't know what happened for a long time, because I got
brain-fever, and, but for one friend who all through had done his best
for me, I should have died. He and his sister nursed me through it, and
brought me back to life again; but," mournfully, "they could not restore
to me my crushed youth, my ruined faith, my girlish hopes. A few months
had changed me from a mere child into a cold, unloving woman."

"Don't say that," says Cyril, gently.

"Until now," returns she, looking at him with eyes full of the most
intense affection; "now all is different."

"Beloved, how you have suffered!" he says, pressing her head down again
upon his breast, and caressing with loving fingers her rich hair. "But
it is all over, and if I can make you so, you shall be happy in the
future. And your one friend? Who was he?"

She hesitates perceptibly, and a blush creeping up dyes her pale face
crimson.

"Perhaps I know," says Cyril, an unaccountable misgiving at his heart.
"Was it Colonel Trant? Do not answer me if you do not wish it," very
gently.

"Yes, it was he. There is no reason why I should not answer you."

"No?"

"No."

"He asked Guy to let you have the cottage?"

"Yes; I had wearied of everything, and though by some chance I had come
in for all Mr. Arlington's property, I only cared to go away and hide
myself somewhere where I should find quiet and peace. I tried several
places, but I was always restless until I came here." She smiles
faintly.

Cyril, after a pause, says, hesitatingly:

"Cecilia, did you ever care for--for--Trant?"

"Never: did you imagine that? I never cared for any one but you; I never
shall again. And you, Cyril," the tears rushing thickly to her eyes, "do
you still think you can love me, the daughter of one bad man, the wife
of another? I can hardly think myself as good as other women when I
remember all the hateful scenes I have passed through."

"I shall treat you to a crowning scene if you ever dare say that again,"
says Cyril, whose spirits are rising now she has denied having any
affection for Trant. "And if every relation you ever had was as bad as
bad could be, I should adore you all the same. I can't say any more."

"You needn't," returns she, laughing a little. "Oh, Cyril, how sweet it
is to be beloved, to me especially, who never yet (until now) had any
love offered me; at least," correcting herself hastily, "any I cared to
accept!"

"But you had a lover?" asks he, earnestly.

"Yes, one."

"Trant again?" letting his teeth close somewhat sharply on his under
lip.

"Yes."

"Cecilia, I am afraid you liked that fellow once. Come, confess it."

"No, indeed, not in the way you mean; but in every other way more than I
can tell you. I should be the most ungrateful wretch alive if it were
otherwise. As a true friend, I love him."

"How dare you use such a word to any one but me?" says Cyril, bending to
smile into her eyes. "I warn you not to do it again, or I shall be
dangerously and outrageously jealous. Tears in your eyes still, my
sweet? Let me kiss them away: poor eyes! surely they have wept enough in
their time to permit of their only smiling in the future."

When they have declared over and over again (in different language every
time, of course) the everlasting affection each feels for the other,
Cecilia says:

"How late it grows! and you are in your evening dress, and without a
hat. Have you dined?"

"Not yet; but I don't want any dinner." (By this remark, O reader, you
may guess the depth and sincerity of his love.) "We generally dine at
half-past seven, but to-night we are to starve until eight to oblige
Florence, who has been spending the day somewhere. So I dressed early
and came down to see you."

"At eight," says Cecilia, alarmed: "it is almost that now. You must go,
or Lady Chetwoode will be angry with me, and I don't want any one
belonging to you to think bad thoughts of me."

"There is plenty of time: it can't be nearly eight yet. Why, it is only
half an hour since I came."

"It is a quarter to eight," says Cecilia, solemnly. "Do go, and come
again as early as you can to-morrow."

"You will be glad to see me?"

"Yes, if you come very early."

"And you are sure, my own darling, that you really love me?"

"Quite, _quite_ sure," tenderly.

"What a bore it is having to go home this lovely evening!"
discontentedly. "Certainly 'Time was made for slaves.' Well,"--with a
sigh,--"good-night. I suppose I must go. I shall run down directly after
breakfast. Good-night, my own, my dearest."

"Good-night, Cyril."

"What a cold farewell! I shan't go away at all if you don't say
something kinder."

Standing on tiptoe, Cecilia lays her arms around his neck.

"Good-night, my--darling," she whispers, tremulously, and with a last
lingering caress they part, as though years were about to roll by before
they can meet again.



CHAPTER XVII.

     "And, though she be but little, she is fierce."
     --_Midsummer Night's Dream._

     "RENE. Suffer love! A good epithet! I do suffer love, indeed,
     for I love thee against my will."--_Much Ado About Nothing._


It is a glorious evening toward the close of September. The heat is
intense, delicious, as productive of happy languor as though it was
still the very heart of summer.

Outside upon the grass sits Lilian, idly threading daisies into chains,
her riotous golden locks waving upon her fair forehead beneath the
influence of the wind. At her feet, full length, lies Archibald, a book
containing selections from the works of favorite poets in his hand. He
is reading aloud such passages as please him and serve to illustrate the
passion that day by day is growing deeper for his pretty cousin. Already
his infatuation for her has become a fact so palpable that not only has
he ceased to deny it to himself, but every one in the house is fully
aware of it, from Lady Chetwoode down to the lowest housemaid.
Sometimes, when the poem is an old favorite, he recites it, keeping his
dark eyes fixed the while upon the fair coquettish face just above him.

Upon the balcony looking down upon them sits Florence, working at the
everlasting parrot, with Guy beside her, utterly miserable, his whole
attention concentrated upon his ward. For the past week he has been
wretched as a man can be who sees a rival well received before his eyes
day after day. Miss Beauchamp's soft speeches and tender glances,
although many and pronounced, fail to console him, though to others he
appears to accept them willingly enough, and to make a generous return,
spending--how, he hardly knows, though perhaps _she_ does--a good deal
of time in her society. He must indeed be devoid of observation if now
he cannot pass a strict examination of the hues of that crewel bird
(this is not a joke), for wherever he may be, there Miss Beauchamp is
sure to show a few minutes later, always with her wools.

Noting all this, be sure Lilian draws from it her own conclusions.

As each clear silvery laugh reaches him from below, Guy frowns and
winces at every fond poetical sentiment that, floated upward by the
wind, falls upon his ears.


     "See the mountain kiss high heaven,
       And the waves clasp one another;
     No sister flower would be forgiven
       If it disdained its brother:
     And the sunlight clasps the earth,
       And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
     What are all these kissings worth,
       If thou kiss not me?"


The words recited by Mr. Chesney with much _empressement_ soar upward
and gain Guy's ear; Archibald is pointing his quotation with many
impassioned glances and much tender emphasis; all of which is rather
thrown away upon Lilian, who is not in the least sentimental.

"Read something livelier, Archie," she says, regarding her growing chain
with unlimited admiration. "There is rather too much honey about that."

"If you can snub Shelley, I'm sure I don't know what it is you _do_
like," returns he, somewhat disgusted. A slight pause ensues, filled up
by the faint noise of the leaves of Chesney's volume as he turns them
over impatiently.

"'Oh, my Luve's like a red, red, rose,'" he begins, bravely, but Lilian
instantly suppresses him.

"Don't," she says: "that's worse. I always think what a horrid 'luve'
she must have been. Fancy a girl with cheeks like that rose over there!
Fancy writing a sonnet to a milk-maid! Go on, however; the other lines
are rather pretty."


     "Oh, my love's like a melody
     That's sweetly played in tune,"


reads Archie, and then stops.

"It is pretty," he says, agreeably; "but if you had heard the last word
persistently called 'chune,' I think it would have taken the edge off
your fancy for it. I had an uncle who adored that little poem, but he
_would_ call the word 'chune,' and it rather spoiled the effect. He's
dead," says Mr. Chesney, laying down his book, "but I think I see him
now."


     "In the pride of youth and beauty,
     With a garland on his brow,"


quotes Lilian, mischievously.

"Well, not quite. Rather in an exceedingly rusty suit of evening clothes
at the Opera. I took him there in a weak moment to hear the 'late
lamented Titiens' sing her choicest song in 'Il Trovatore,'--you know
it?--well, when it was over and the whole house was in a perfect uproar
of applause, I turned and asked him what he thought of it, and he
instantly said he thought it was 'a very pretty "chune"!' Fancy Titiens
singing a 'chune'! I gave him up after that, and carefully avoided his
society. Poor old chap, he didn't bear malice, however, as he died a
year later and left me all his money."

"More than you deserved," says Lilian.

Here Cyril and Taffy appearing on the scene cause a diversion. They
both simultaneously fling themselves upon the grass at Lilian's feet,
and declare themselves completely used up.

"Let us have tea out here," says Lilian, gayly, "and enjoy our summer to
the end." Springing to her feet, she turns toward the balcony, careless
of the fact that she has destroyed the lovely picture she made sitting
on the greensward, surrounded by her attendant swains.

"Florence, come down here, and let us have tea on the grass," she calls
out pleasantly to Miss Beauchamp.

"Do, Florence," says Archibald, entreatingly.

"Miss Beauchamp, you really _must_," from Taffy, decides the point.

Florence, feeling it will look ungracious to refuse, rises with
reluctance, and sails down upon the _quartette_ below, followed by Sir
Guy.

"What an awful time we shall be having at Mrs. Boileau's this hour
to-morrow night," says Cyril, plaintively, after a long silence on his
part. "I shudder when I think of it. No one who has never spent an
evening at the Grange can imagine the agony of it."

"I vow I would rather be broken on the wheel than undergo it," says
Archibald. "It was downright mean of Lady Chetwoode to let us all in for
it. And yet no doubt things might have been worse; we ought to feel
devoutly thankful old Boileau is well under the sod."

"What was the matter with him?" asks Lilian.

"Don't name him," says Cyril, "he was past all human endurance; my blood
runs cold when I remember, I once did know him. I rejoice to say he is
no more. His name was Benjamin: and as he was small and thin, and she
was large and fat, she (that is, Mrs. Boileau) was always called
'Benjamin's portion.' That's a joke; do you see it?"

"I do: so you don't take any bobs off _my_ wages," retorts Miss Chesney,
promptly, with a distinct imitation of Kate Stantley. "And yet I cannot
see how all this made the poor man odious."

"No, not exactly that, though I don't think a well-brought-up man should
let himself go to skin and bone. He was intolerable in other ways. One
memorable Christmas day Guy and I dined with him, and he got beastly
drunk on the sauce for the plum-pudding. We were young at the time, and
it made a lasting impression upon us. Indeed, he was hardly the person
to sit next at a prolonged dinner-party, first because he was
unmistakably dirty, and----"

"Oh, Cyril!"

"Well, and why not? It is not impossible. Even Popes, it now appears,
can be indifferent to the advantages to be derived from soap and water."

"Really, Cyril, I think you might choose a pleasanter subject upon which
to converse," says Florence, with a disgusted curl of her short upper
lip.

"I beg pardon all round, I'm sure," returns Cyril, meekly. "But Lilian
should be blamed: she _would_ investigate the matter; and I'm nothing,
if not strictly truthful. He was a very dirty old man, I assure you, my
dear Florence."

"Mrs. Boileau, however objectionable, seems to have been rather the best
of the two: why did she marry him?" asks Lilian.

"Haven't the remotest idea, and, even if I had, I should be afraid to
answer any more of your pertinent questions," with an expressive nod in
the direction of Florence. "I can only say it was a very feeble
proceeding on the part of such a capable person as Mrs. Boileau."

"Just 'another good woman gone wrong,'" suggests Taffy, mildly.

"Quite so," says Archibald, "though she adored him,--she said. Yet he
died, some said of fever, others of--Mrs. Boileau; no attention was ever
paid to the others. When he _did_ droop and die she planted all sorts of
lovely little flowers over his grave, and watered them with her tears
for ever so long. Could affection farther go?"

"Horrible woman!" says Miss Chesney, "it only wanted that to finish my
dislike to her. I hope when I am dead no one will plant flowers on _my_
grave: the bare idea would make me turn in it."

"Then we won't do it," says Taffy, consolingly.

"I wish we had a few Indian customs in this country," says Cyril,
languidly. "The Suttee was a capital institution. Think what a lot of
objectionable widows we should have got rid of by this time; Mrs.
Boileau, for instance."

"And Mrs. Arlington," puts in Florence, quietly. An unaccountable
silence follows this speech. No one can exactly explain why, but every
one knows something awkward has been said. Cyril outwardly is perhaps
the least concerned of them all: as he bites languidly a little blade
of green grass, a faint smile flickers at the corners of his lips;
Lilian is distinctly angry.

"Poor Mrs. Boileau; all this is rather ill-natured, is it not?" asks
Florence, gently, rising as though a dislike to the gossip going on
around her compels her to return to the house. In reality it is a
dislike to damp grass that urges her to flight.

"Shall I get you a chair, Florence?" asks Cyril, somewhat irrelevantly
as it seems.

"Pray don't leave us, Miss Beauchamp," says Taffy. "If you will stay on,
we will swear not to make any more ill-natured remarks about any one."

"Then I expect silence will reign supreme, and that the remainder of the
_conversazione_ will be of the deadly-lively order," says Archibald;
and, Cyril at this moment arriving with the offered chair, Miss
Beauchamp is kindly pleased to remain.

As the evening declines, the midges muster in great force. Cyril and
Taffy, being in the humor for smoking,--and having cheroots,--are
comparatively speaking happy; the others grow more and more secretly
irritated every moment. Florence is making ladylike dabs at her forehead
every two seconds with her cambric handkerchief, and is regretting
keenly her folly in not retiring in-doors long ago. Midges sting her and
raise uninteresting little marks upon her face, thereby doing
irremediable damage for the time being. The very thought of such a
catastrophe fills her with horror. Her fair, plump hands are getting
spoiled by these blood-thirsty little miscreants; this she notices with
dismay, but is ignorant of the fact that a far worse misfortune is
happening higher up. A tasteless midge has taken a fancy to her nose,
and has inflicted on it a serious bite; it is swelling visibly, and a
swelled nose is not becoming, especially when it is set as nearly as
nature will permit in the centre of a pale, high-bred, but
expressionless face.

Ignorant, I say, of this crowning mishap, she goes on dabbing her brow
gently, while all the others lie around her dabbing likewise.

At last Lilian loses all patience.

"Oh! _hang_ these midges!" she says, naturally certainly but rather too
forcibly for the times we live in. The petulance of the soft tone, the
expression used, makes them all laugh, except Miss Beauchamp, who, true
to her training, maintains a demeanor of frigid disapproval, which has
the pleasing effect of rendering the swelled nose more ludicrous than it
was before.

"Have I said anything very _bizarre_?" demands Lilian, opening her eyes
wide at their laughter. "Oh!"--recollecting--"did I say 'hang them'? It
is all Taffy's fault, he will use schoolboy slang. Taffy, you ought to
be ashamed of yourself: don't you see how you have shocked Florence?"

"And no wonder," says Archibald, gravely; "you know we swore to her not
to abuse anything for the remainder of this evening, not even these
little winged torments," viciously squeezing half a dozen to death as he
speaks.

"How are we going to the Grange to-morrow evening?" asks Taffy,
presently.

The others have broken up and separated; Cyril and Archibald, at a
little distance, are apparently convulsed with laughter over some shady
story just being related by the former.

"I suppose," goes on Taffy, "as Lady Chetwoode won't come, we shall take
the open traps, and not mind the carriage, the evenings are so fine. Who
is to drive who, is the question."

"No; who is to drive poor little I, is the question. Sir Guy, will you?"
asks Lilian, plaintively, prompted by some curious impulse, seeing him
silent, handsome, moody in the background. A moment later she could have
killed herself for putting the question to him.

"Guy always drives me," says Florence, calmly: "I never go with any one
else, except in the carriage with Aunt Anne. I am nervous, and should be
miserable with any one I could not quite trust. Careless driving
terrifies me. But Guy is never careless," turning upon Chetwoode a face
she fondly hopes is full of feeling, but which unfortunately is
suggestive of nothing but a midge's bite. The nose is still the
principal feature in it.

Placed in this awkward dilemma, Guy can only curse his fate and be
silent. How can he tell Florence he does not care for her society, how
explain to Lilian his wild desire for hers? He bites his moustache, and,
with his eyes fixed gloomily upon the ground, maintains a disgusted
silence. Truly luck is dead against him.

"Oh,--that indeed!" says Lilian, and, being a thorough woman, of course
makes no allowance for his unhappy position. Evidently,--according to
her view of the case,--from his silent acquiescence in Miss Beauchamp's
plan, he likes it. No doubt it was all arranged between them early this
morning; and she, to have so far forgotten herself as to ask him to
drive her! Oh! it is intolerable!

"You are quite right," she says sweetly to Florence, even producing a
smile for the occasion, as women will when their hearts are sorest.
"There is nothing so depressing as nervousness when driving. Perhaps
Archibald will take pity upon me. Archie!" calling out to him, "come
here. I want you to do me a great favor,"--with an enchanting smile.
"Would it be putting you out dreadfully if I asked you to drive me to
Mrs. Boileau's to-morrow evening?"--another smile still more enchanting.

"You really mean it?" asks Archibald, delighted, his dark face lighting,
while Guy, looking on helplessly, almost groans aloud. "You know how
glad I shall be: I had no idea when I got up this morning such luck was
in store for me. _Dear_ Mrs. Boileau! if she could only guess how eager
I am to start for her _charming_ Grange!"

He says this in a laughing tone, but Chetwoode fully understands that,
like the famous well, it has truth at the bottom of it.

"It grows late, does it not?" Florence says, rising gracefully. "I think
we had better go in-doors. We have left Aunt Anne too long alone."

"Auntie is lying down. Her head is bad," says Lilian; "I was with her
just before I came out, and she said she wished to be alone."

"Yes; she can't bear noise," remarks Florence, calmly, but meaningly. "I
must go and see how she is." There is the faintest suspicion of an
emphasis upon the personal pronoun.

"That will be very kind of you, dear," says Miss Chesney, suavely. "And
Florence--would you like anything to rub your poor nose?--cold cream--or
glycerine--or that; nurse has all those sorts of things, I'm sure." This
is a small revenge of Lilian's, impossible to forego; while enjoying it,
she puts on the tenderest air of sympathetic concern, and carefully
regards Miss Beauchamp's nose with raised brows of solicitude.

"My nose?" repeats Florence, reddening.

"Yes, dear. One of those unkind little insects has bitten it
shamefully, and now it is all pink and swollen. Didn't you know it? I
have been feeling so sorry for you for the last ten minutes. It is too
bad,--is it not? I hardly think it will be well before dinner, and it is
so disfiguring." All this she utters in tones of the deepest
commiseration.

Florence wisely makes no reply. She would have borne the tortures of the
rack rather than exhibit any vehement temper before Guy; so she contents
herself with casting a withering glance upon Lilian,--who receives it
with the utmost _sang-froid_,--and, putting her handkerchief up to the
wounded member, sweeps into the house full of righteous indignation.

Sir Guy, after lengthened hesitation, evidently makes up his mind to do
something, and, with his face full of purpose, follows her. This
devotion on his part is more than Lilian--in spite of her
suspicions--has bargained for.

"Gone to console his 'sleepy Venus' for the damage done to her 'Phidian
nose,'" she says to Taffy, with rather a bitter laugh.

"Little girls should neither quote Don Juan nor say ill-natured things,"
replies that youth, with an air of lofty rebuke. But Lilian, not being
in the mood for even Taffy's playfulness, makes no answer, and walks
away to her beloved garden to seek consolation from the flowers.

Whatever Guy's conference with Florence was about, it was short and
decisive, as in five minutes he again emerged from the house, and,
looking vainly around him, starts in search of Lilian. Presently, at the
end of the long lawn, he sees her.

"Well, has her poor dear nose recovered all its pristine freshness?" she
asks him, in a rather reckless tone, as he comes up to her.

"Lilian," says Guy, abruptly, eagerly, taking no notice of this
sally,--indeed, scarcely hearing,--"it was all a mistake; I could not
speak plainly a moment ago, but I have arranged it all with Florence;
and--will you let me drive you to Mrs. Boileau's to-morrow evening?"

"No, thank you," a quick gleam in her large eyes that should have warned
him; "I would not make Florence unhappy for the world. Think of her
nerves!"

"She will be quite as safe with Cyril--or--your cousin."

"Which cousin?"

"Chesney."

"I think not, because I am going with Archibald."

"You can easily break off with him," anxiously.

"But supposing I do not wish to break off with him?"

"Am I to think, then, you prefer going with your cousin?" in a freezing
tone.

"Certainly, I prefer his society to yours, ten thousand times,"
forcibly; "it was mere idleness made me say I wished to go with you. Had
you agreed to my proposition I should probably have changed my mind
afterward, so everything is better as it is; I am glad now you did not
answer me differently."

"I did not answer you at all," returns Guy, unwisely.

"No, you were _afraid_," returns she, with a mocking laugh that sends
the red blood to his forehead.

"What do you mean?" he asks, angrily.

"Nothing. It was foolish my mentioning the subject. We are disputing
about a mere trifle. I am going with Archie whatever happens, because I
like him, and because I know he is always glad to be with me."

She turns as though to leave him, and Guy impulsively catches her hand
to detain her; as he does so, his eyes fall upon the little white
fingers imprisoned in his own, and there, upon one of them--beside his
own ring--he sees another,--newer.

"Who gave you that?" he asks, impulsively, knowing well the answer to
his question.

"Archibald," removing her hand quietly, but with determination.

A dead silence follows. Then, speaking calmly by a supreme effort, Guy
says:

"I suppose so. Are you going to marry your cousin, Lilian?"

"Is it in the capacity of guardian you ask that question?" defiantly.
"You should remember I don't acknowledge one."

"Must I understand by that you will accept him, or have accepted him?"

"Certainly not. You told me yesterday you found it impossible to
understand me at any time; why seek to do what is beyond your power?
However, I don't mind telling you that as yet Archibald has not made me
a formal offer of his heart and hand. No doubt"--mockingly--"when he
does me the honor to propose to me, he will speak to you on the
subject." Then she laughs a little. "Don't you think it is rather
absurd arranging matters for poor Archie without his consent? I assure
you he has as much idea of proposing to me as the man in the moon."

"If you are not engaged to him you should not wear his ring," severely.

"I am not engaged to you, and I wear your ring. If it is wrong to accept
a ring from a man to whom one is not engaged, I think it was very
reprehensible of you to give me this," pointing to it.

"With me it is different," Guy is beginning, rather lamely, not being
sure of his argument; but Miss Chesney, disdaining subterfuge,
interrupts him.

"A thing is either right or wrong," she says, superbly. "I may surely
wear either none, or both."

"Then remove both," says Guy, feeling he would rather see her without
his, if it must only be worn in conjunction with Chesney's.

"I shan't," returns Lilian, deliberately. "I shall wear both as long as
it suits me,--because I adore rings."

"Then you are acting very wrongly. I know there is little use in my
speaking to you, once you are bent upon having your own way. You are so
self-willed, and so determined."


     "Without a friend, what were humanity,
     To hunt our errors up with a good grace?"


quotes Lilian lightly. "There is no use in your lecturing me, Sir Guy;
it does me little good. _You_ want _your_ way, and I want _mine_; I am
not 'self-willed,' but I don't like tyranny, and I always said you were
tyrannical."

"You are of course privileged to say what you like," haughtily.

"Very well; then I _shall_ say it. One would think I was a baby, the way
you--scold--and torment me," here the tears of vexation and childish
wrath rise in her eyes; "but I do not acknowledge your authority; I have
told you so a hundred times, and I never shall,--never, never, never!"

"Lilian, listen to me----"

"No, I will not. I wonder why you come near me at all. Go back to
Florence; she is so calm, so sweet, so--_somnolent_,"--with a
sneer,--"that she will not ruffle your temper. As for me, I hate
disagreeable people! Why do you speak to me? It does neither of us any
good. It only makes you ill-mannered and me thoroughly unhappy."

"Unhappy!"

"Yes," petulantly, "_miserable_. Surely of late you must have noticed
how I avoid you. It is nothing but scold, scold, scold, all the time I
am with you; and I confess I don't fancy it. You might have known,
without my telling you, that I detest being with you!"

"I shall remember it for the future," returns he, in a low voice,
falling back a step or two, and speaking coldly, although his heart is
beating wildly with passionate pain and anger.

"Thank you," retorts Lilian: "that is the kindest thing you have said to
me for many a day."

Yet the moment his back is turned she regrets this rude speech, and all
the many others she has given way to during the last fortnight. Her own
incivility vexes her, wounds her to the heart's core, for, however
mischievously inclined and quick-tempered she may be, she is marvelously
warm-hearted and kindly and fond.

For full five minutes she walks to and fro, tormented by secret
upbraidings, and then a revulsion sets in. What does it matter after
all, she thinks, with an impatient shrug of her pretty soft shoulders. A
little plain speaking will do him no harm,--in fact, may do him untold
good. He has been so petted all his life long that a snubbing, however
small, will enliven him, and make him see himself in his true colors.
(What his true colors may be she does not specify even to herself.) And
if he is so devoted to Florence, why, let him then spend his time with
her, and not come lecturing other people on matters that don't concern
him. Such a fuss about a simple emerald ring indeed! Could anything be
more absurd?

Nevertheless she feels a keen desire for reconciliation; so much so
that, later on,--just before dinner,--seeing Sir Guy in the shrubberies,
walking up and down in deepest meditation,--evidently of the depressing
order,--she makes up her mind to go and speak to him. Yes, she has been
in the wrong; she will go to him, therefore, and make the _amende
honorable_; and he (he is not altogether bad!) will doubtless rejoice to
be friends with her again.

So thinking, she moves slowly though deliberately up to him, regarding
the while with absolute fervor the exquisite though frail geranium
blossom she carries in her hand. It is only partly opened, and is
delicately tinted as her own skin.

When she is quite close to her guardian she raises her head, and
instantly affects a deliciously surprised little manner at the fact of
his unexpected (?) nearness.

"Ah, Sir Guy, you here?" she says, airily, with an apparent consummate
forgetfulness of all past broils. "You are just in time: see what a
lovely flower I have for you. Is not the color perfect? Is it not
sweet?" proffering to him the pale geranium.

"It is," replies he, taking the flower mechanically, because it is held
out to him, but hardly looking at it. His face is pale with suppressed
anger, his lips are closely set beneath his fair moustache; she is
evidently not forgiven. "And yet I think," he says, slowly, "if you knew
my opinion of you, you would be the last to offer me a flower."

"And what then is your opinion?" demands Lilian, growing whiter and
whiter until all her pretty face has faded to the "paleness o' the
pearl." Instinctively she recoils a little, as though some slight blow
has touched and shaken her.

"I think you a heartless coquette," returns he, distinctly, in a low
tone that literally rings with passion. "Take back your gift. Why should
you waste it upon one who does not care to have it?" And, flinging the
flower contemptuously at her feet, he turns and departs.

For a full minute Miss Chesney neither stirs nor speaks. When he is
quite gone, she straightens herself, and draws her breath sharply.

"Well, I never!" she says, between her little white teeth, which is a
homely phrase borrowed from nurse, but very expressive, and with that
she plants a small foot viciously upon the unoffending flower and
crushes it out of all shape and recognition.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dinner is over, and almost forgotten; conversation flags. Even to the
most wakeful it occurs that it must be bordering upon bed-hour.

Lilian, whose nightly habit is to read for an hour or two in her bed
before going to sleep, remembering she has left her book where she took
off her hat on coming into the house some hours ago, leaves the
drawing-room, and, having crossed the large hall, turns into the smaller
one that leads to the library.

Midway in this passage one lamp is burning; the three others (because
of some inscrutable reason known only to the under-footman) have not
been lit: consequently to-night this hall is in semi-darkness.

Almost at the very end of it Miss Chesney finds herself face to face
with her guardian, and, impelled by mischief and coquetry, stops short
to confront him.

"Well, Sir Guy, have you got the better of your naughty temper?" she
asks, saucily. "Fie, to keep a little wicked black dog upon your
shoulder for so long! I hope by this time you are properly ashamed of
yourself, and that you are ready to promise me never to do it again."

Guy is silent. He is thinking how lovely she is, how indifferent to him,
how unattainable.

"Still unrepentant," goes on Lilian, with a mocking smile: "you are a
more hardened sinner than ever I gave you credit for. And what is it all
about, pray? What has vexed you? Was it my cousin's ring? or my refusing
to accompany you to-morrow to Mrs. Boileau's?"

"Both," replies he, feeling compelled to answer. "I still think you
should not wear your cousin's ring unless engaged to him."

"Nor yours either, of course," with a frown. "How you do love going over
the same ground again and again! Well," determinately, "as I told you
before, I shall wear both--do you hear?--just as long as I please. So
now, my puissant guardian," with a gesture that is almost a challenge,
"I defy you, and dare you to do your worst."

Her tone, as is intended, irritates him; her beauty, her open though
childish defiance madden him. Gazing at her in the uncertain light,
through which her golden hair and gleaming sapphire eyes shine clearly,
he loses all self-control, and in another moment has her in his arms,
and has kissed her once, twice, passionately.

Then recollection, all too late, returns, and shocked, horrified at his
own conduct, he releases her, and, leaning against the wall with folded
arms and lowered eyes, awaits his doom.

Standing where he has left her, pale as a little colorless ghost, with
her lips as white as death, and her great eyes grown black through
mingled terror and amazement, Lilian regards him silently. She does not
move, she scarcely seems to breathe; no faintest sound of anger escapes
her. Then slowly--slowly raising her handkerchief, she draws it lightly
across her lips, and with a gesture full of contempt and loathing flings
it far from her. After which she draws herself up to her extremest
height, and, with her head erect and her whole figure suggestive of
insulted pride and dignity, she sweeps past him into the library,
closing the door quietly behind her.

When the last sound of her footsteps has disappeared, Guy rouses himself
as if from a hateful dream, and presses his hand to his forehead.
Stooping, he picks up the disdained handkerchief, that lies mournfully
in the corner, thrusts it into his bosom, and turning away toward his
own quarters, is seen no more that night.



CHAPTER XVIII.

     "The best laid schemes o' mice and men
       Gang aft a-gley,
     And lea'e us nought but grief and pain,
       For promised joy."--BURNS.


All next day Lilian treats him as though to her eyes he is invisible.
She bestows upon him none of the usual courtesies of life; she takes no
"good-morrow," nor gives one. She is singularly deaf when he speaks;
except when common etiquette compels her to return an answer to one or
other of his speeches, she is dumb to him, or, when thus compelled,
makes an answer in her iciest tones.

At five o'clock they all start for the Grange, Mrs. Boileau being one of
those unpleasant people who think they can never see enough of their
guests, or that their guests can never see enough of them,--I am not
sure which,--and who consequently has asked them to come early, to
inspect her gardens and walk through her grounds before dinner.

As the grounds are well worth seeing, and the evening is charming for
strolling, this is about the pleasantest part of the entertainment. At
least so thinks Lilian, who (seeing Guy's evident depression) is in
radiant spirits. So does Archibald, who follows her as her shadow. They
are both delighted at everything about the Grange, and wander hither and
thither, looking and admiring as they go.

And indeed it is a charming old place, older perhaps than Chetwoode,
though smaller and less imposing. The ivy has clambered up over all its
ancient walls and towers and battlements, until it presents to the eye a
sheet of darkest, richest green, through which the old-fashioned
casements peep in picturesque disorder, hardly two windows being in a
line.

Inside, steps are to be met with everywhere in the most unexpected
places,--curious doors leading one never knows where,--ghostly corridors
along which at dead of night armed knights of by-gone days might tramp,
their armor clanking,--winding stairs,--and tapestries that tell of
warriors brave and maidens fair, long since buried and forgotten.

Outside, the gardens are lovely and rich in blossom. Here, too, the old
world seems to have lingered, the very flowers themselves, though born
yesterday, having all the grace and modesty of an age gone by.

Here


     "The oxlips and the nodding violet grow:
     Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine,
     with sweet musk-roses and with eglantine."


Here too the "nun-like lily" hangs its head, the sweet "neglected
wall-flower" blows, the gaudy sunflower glitters, and the "pale
jessamine, the white pink, and the pansy freaked with jet," display
their charms; while among them, towering over all through the might of
its majesty, shines the rose,--"Joy's own flower," as Felicia Hemans
sweetly calls it.

Now--being late in the season--the blossom is more scarce, though still
the air is heavy with delicate perfume, and the eyes grow drunk with
gazing on the beauty of the autumn flowers. Through them goes Lilian,
with Archibald gladly following.

All day long he has had her to himself, and she has been so good to him,
so evidently pleased and contented with his society alone, that within
his breast an earnest hope has risen, so strongly, that he only waits a
fitting opportunity to lay his heart and fortune at her feet.

"I can walk no more," says Lilian, at last, sinking upon the grass
beneath the shade of a huge beech that spreads its kindly arms above
her. "Let us sit here and talk."

Archibald throws himself beside her, and for a few minutes silence
reigns supreme.

"Well?" says Lilian, at length, turning lazy though inquisitive eyes
upon her companion.

"Well?" says Archibald in return.

"I said you were to talk," remarks Lilian, in an aggrieved tone. "And
you have not said one word yet. You ought to know by this time how I
dislike silence."

"Blame yourself: I have been racking my brains without success for the
last two minutes to try to find something suitable to say. Did you ever
notice how, when one person says to another, 'Come, let us talk,' that
other is suddenly stricken with hopeless stupidity? So it is now with
me: I cannot talk: I am greatly afraid."

"Well, I can," says Lilian, "and as I insist on your doing so also, I
shall ask you questions that require an answer. First, then, did you
ever receive a note from me on my leaving the Park, asking you to take
care of my birds?"

"Yes."

"And you fed them?"

"Regularly," says Archibald, telling a fearful lie deliberately, as from
the day he read that note to this he has never once remembered the
feathered friends she mentions, and even now as he speaks has only the
very haziest idea of what she means.

"I am glad of that," regarding him searchingly. "It would make me
unhappy to think they had been neglected."

"Don't be unhappy, then," returning her gaze calmly and unflinchingly:
"they are all right: I took care of that." His manner is truthful in the
extreme, his eyes meet hers reassuringly. It is many years since Mr.
Chesney first learned the advantage to be derived from an impassive
countenance. And now with Lilian's keen blue eyes looking him through
and through, he feels doubly thankful that practice has made him so
perfect in the art of suppressing his real thoughts. He has also learned
the wisdom of the old maxim,--


     "When you tell a lie, tell a good one,
     When you tell a good one, stick to it,"


and sticks to his accordingly.

"I am so pleased!" says Lilian, after a slight pause, during which she
tells herself young men are not so wretchedly thoughtless after all, and
that Archibald is quite an example to his sex in the matter of good
nature. "One of my chiefest regrets on leaving home was thinking how my
birds would miss me."

"I am sorry you ever left it."

"So am I, of course. I was very near declining to do so at the last
moment. It took Aunt Priscilla a full week to convince me of the error
of my ways, and prove to me that I could not live alone with a gay and
(as she hinted) wicked bachelor."

"I have never been so unfortunate as to meet her," says Archibald,
mildly, "but I would bet any money your Aunt Priscilla is a highly
objectionable and interfering old maid."

"No, she is not: she is a very good woman, and quite an old dear in some
ways."

"She is an old maid?" raising himself on his elbow with some show of
interest.

"Well, yes, she is; but I like old maids," says Lilian, stoutly.

"Oh, she _likes_ old maids," says Mr. Chesney, _sotto voce_, sinking
back once more into his lounging position. He evidently considers there
is nothing more to be said on that head. "And so she wouldn't let you
stay?"

"No. You should have seen her face when I suggested writing to you to
ask if I might have a suite of rooms for my own use, promising
faithfully never to interfere with you in any way. It was a picture!"

"It pained you very much to leave the Park?"

"It was death to me. Remember, it had been my home all my life; every
stick and stone about the place was dear to me."

"It was downright brutal, my turning you out," says Archibald, warmly:
"I could hate myself when I think of it. But I knew nothing of it,
and--I had not seen you then."

"If you had, would you have let me stay on?"

"I think so," returns he, softly, gazing with dangerous tenderness at
the delicate rose-tinted face above him. Then, "Even so, I wish you had
asked me; I so seldom go near the place, you would have been thoroughly
welcome to stay on in it, had you been the ugliest person breathing."

"So I said at the time, but Aunt Priscilla would not hear of it. I am
sure I heard enough about the proprieties at that time to last me all my
life. When all arguments failed," says Miss Chesney, breaking into a gay
laugh, as recollection crowds upon her, "I proposed one last expedient
that nearly drove auntie wild with horror. What do you think it was?"

"Tell me."

"I said I would ask your hand in marriage, and so put an end to all
slanderous tongues; that is, if you consented to have me. See what a
narrow escape you had," says Lilian, her merriment increasing: "it would
have been so awkward to refuse!"

Archibald gazes at her earnestly. He has been through the hands of a
good many women in his time, but now confesses himself fairly puzzled.
Is her laughter genuine? is it coquetry? or simply amusement?

"Had you ever a proposal, Lilian?" asks he, quietly, his eyes still
riveted upon her face.

"No," surprised: "what an odd question! I suppose it is humiliating to
think that up to this no man has thought me worth loving. I often
imagine it all," says Lilian, confidentially, taking her knees into her
embrace, and letting her eyes wander dreamily over to the hills far away
behind the swaying trees. "And I dare say some day my curiosity will be
gratified. But I do hope he won't write: I should like to _see_ him do
it. I wouldn't," says Miss Chesney, solemnly, "give a pin for a man who
wouldn't go down on his knees to his lady-love."

This last remark under the circumstances is eminently unwise. A moment
later Lilian is made aware of it by the fact of Archibald's rising and
going down deliberately on his knees before her.

"It can scarcely be news to you to tell you I love you," says he,
eagerly. "Lilian, will you marry me?"

"What are you saying?" says Miss Chesney, half frightened, half amused:
"you must be going mad! Do get up, Archie: you cannot think how
ridiculous you look."

"Tell me you will marry me," entreats that young man, unmoved even by
the fact of his appearing grotesque in the eyes of his beloved.

"No; I will not," shaking her head. "Archie, do move: there is the most
dreadful spider creeping up your leg."

"I don't care; let him creep," says Archibald, valiantly; "I shan't
stir until you give me a kind answer."

"I don't know what to say; and besides I can do nothing but laugh while
you maintain your present position. Get up instantly, you foolish boy:
you are ruining the knees of your best trousers."

Whether this thought carries weight with Mr. Chesney I know not, but
certainly he rises to his feet without further demur.

"You spoke about the Park a few minutes ago," he says, slowly; "you know
now you can have it back again if you will."

"But not in that way. Did you think I was hinting?" growing rather red.
"No; please don't say another word. I wonder you can be so silly."

"Silly!" somewhat aggrieved; "I don't know what you mean by that. Surely
a fellow may ask a woman to marry him without being termed 'silly.' I
ask you again now. Lilian, will you marry me?"

"No, no, no, certainly not. I have no intention of marrying any one for
years to come,--if ever. I think," with a charming pout, "it is very
unkind of you to say such things to me,--and just when we were such good
friends too; spoiling everything. I shall never be comfortable in your
society again; I'm sure I never should have suspected you of such a
thing. If I had----" A pause.

"You would not have come here with me to-day, you mean?" gloomily.

"Indeed I should not. Nothing would have induced me. You have put me out
terribly."

"I suppose you like Chetwoode," says Archibald, still more gloomily.
Having never been denied anything since his birth, he cannot bring
himself to accept this crowning misfortune with becoming grace.

"I like everybody,--except Florence," returns Lilian, composedly.

Then there is another pause, rather longer than the first, and
then--after a violent struggle with her better feelings--Miss Chesney
gives way, and laughs long and heartily.

"My dear Archibald, don't look so woe-begone," she says. "If you could
only see yourself! You look as though every relation you ever had was
dead. Why, you ought to be very much obliged to me. Have you never
heard Mr. Punch's advice to young men about to marry?"

"I don't want any one's advice; it is late for that, I fancy.
Lilian--darling--_darling_--won't you----"

"I won't, indeed," recoiling and waving him back, while feeling for the
first time slightly embarrassed; "don't come a step nearer; nobody ever
made love to me before, and I perfectly _hate_ it! I hope sincerely no
one will ever propose to me again."

"_I_ shall!" doggedly; "I shan't give you up yet. You have not thought
about it. When you know me better you may change your mind."

"Do not deceive yourself," gently, "and do not be offended. It is not
you I have an objection to, it is marriage generally. I have only begun
my life, and a husband must be such a bore. Any number of people have
told me so."

"Old maids, such as your Aunt Priscilla, I dare say," says Archibald,
scornfully. "Don't believe them. I wouldn't bore you: you should have
everything exactly your own way."

"I have that now."

"And I will wait for you as long as you please."

"So you may," gayly; "but mind, I don't desire you.

"May I take that as a grain of hope?" demands he, eagerly grasping this
poor shadow of a crumb with avidity, only to find later on it is no
crumb at all. "Don't be cruel, Lilian: every one thinks differently
after a while; you may also. You have said I am not hateful to you; if
then you would only promise to think it over----"

"Impossible," airily: "I never think: it is too fatiguing. So are you,
by the bye, just now. I shan't stay with you any longer, lest I should
be infected. Good-bye, Archie; when you are in a pleasanter mood you can
return to me, but until then adieu."

So saying, she catches her train in one hand and runs away from him fast
as her fleet little feet can carry her.

Down the pathway, round under the limes, into another path runs she,
where suddenly she finds herself in Taffy's presence.

"Whither away, fair maid?" asks that youth, removing the cigar from his
lips that he is enjoying all alone.

"I am running away from Archie. He was so excessively dull and
disagreeable that I could not bring myself to waste another moment on
him, so I ran away and left him just _planté là_," says Miss Chesney,
with a little foreign gesture and a delicious laugh that rings far
through the clear air, and reaches Archibald's ears as he draws nearer.

"Come, I hear footsteps," whispers she, slipping her hand into Taffy's.
"Help me to hide from him."

So together they scamper still farther away, until at last they arrive
breathless but secure in the shrubberies that surround one side of the
house.

When they have quite recovered themselves, it occurs to Taffy that he
would like to know all about it.

"What was he saying to you?" asks he _à propos_ of Chesney.

"Nothing," promptly.

Taffy, curiously: "Well, certainly that _was_ very disagreeable."

Lilian, demurely: "It was."

At this Taffy lays his hands upon her shoulders and gives her a good
shake.

"Tell me directly," says he, "what he was saying to you."

"How can I?" innocently; "he says so much and none of it worth
repeating."

"Was he making love to you?"

"No. Oh, no," mildly.

"I'm certain he was," with conviction. "And look here, Lil, don't you
have anything to do with him: he isn't up to the mark by any means. He
is too dark, and there is something queer about his eyes. I once saw a
man who had cut the throats of his mother, his grandmother, and all his
nearest relations,--any amount of them,--and his eyes were just like
Chesney's. Don't marry him, whatever you do."

"I won't," laughing: "I should hate to have my throat cut."

"There's Chetwoode, now," says Taffy, who begins to think himself a very
deep and delicate diplomatist. "He is a very decent fellow all round if
you like."

"I do like, certainly. It is quite a comfort to know Sir Guy is not
indecent."

"Oh, you know what I mean well enough. There's nothing underhand about
Chetwoode. By the bye, what have you been doing to him? He is awfully
down on his luck all day."

"I!" coldly. "What should I do to Sir Guy?"

"I don't know, I'm sure, but girls have a horrid way of teasing a fellow
while pretending to be perfectly civil to him all the time. It is my
private opinion," says Mr. Musgrave, mysteriously,--"and I flatter
myself I am seldom wrong,--that he is dead spoons on you."

"Really, Taffy!" begins Lilian, angrily.

"Yes, he is: you take my word for it. I'm rather a judge in such
matters. Bet you a fiver," says Mr. Musgrave, "he proposes to you before
the year is out."

"I wonder, Taffy, how you can be so vulgar!" says Lilian, with crimson
cheeks, and a fine show of superior breeding. "I never bet. I forbid you
to speak to me on this subject again. Sir Guy, I assure you, has as much
intention of proposing to me as I have of accepting him should he do
so."

"More fool you," says Taffy, unabashed. "I'm sure he is much nicer than
that melancholy Chesney. If I were a girl I should marry him straight
off."

"Perhaps he would not marry you," replies Lilian, cuttingly.

"Wouldn't he? he would like a shot, if I were like Lilian Chesney," says
Taffy, positively.

"'Like a shot'--what does that mean?" says Miss Chesney, with withering
sarcasm. "It is a pity you cannot forget your schoolboy slang, and try
to be a gentleman. I don't think you over hear that 'decent fellow' Sir
Guy, or even that cut-throat Archibald, use it."

With this parting shaft she marches off overflowing with indignation,
leaving Mr. Musgrave lost in wonder at her sudden change of manner.

"What on earth is up with her now?" he asks himself, desperately; but
the dressing-bell ringing at this moment disarms thought, and sends him
in-doors to prepare for dinner.

Mrs. Boileau has asked no one to meet them except a lank and dreary
curate, who is evidently a prime favorite with her. He is an Honorable
Mr. Boer, with nothing attractive about him except a most alarming voice
that makes one glance instinctively at his boots under the mistaken
impression that the sound must come from them. This is rather
unfortunate for the curate, as his feet are not (or rather _are_) his
strong point, Nature having endowed them with such a tremendous amount
of heel, and so much sole, innocent of instep, as makes them
unpleasantly suggestive of sledge-hammers.

He is painfully talkative, and oppressively evangelical, which renders
him specially abhorrent to Lilian, who has rather a fancy for flowers
and candles and nice little boys in white shirts. He is also undecided
whether it is Miss Beauchamp or Miss Chesney he most admires. They have
equal fortunes, and are therefore (in his clerical eyes) equally lovely.
There is certainly more of Miss Beauchamp, but then there is a vivacity,
a--ahem--"go," if one might say so, about Miss Chesney perfectly
irresistible. Had one of these rival beauties been an heiress, and the
other rich in love's charms, I think I know which one Mr. Boer would
have bowed before,--not that I even hint at mercenary motives in his
reverence, but as it is he is much exercised in his mind as to which he
shall honor with his attentions.

I think Lilian wins the day, because after dinner he bears down upon her
determinately, and makes for the fauteuil in which she lies ensconced
looking bored and _ennuyée_ to the last degree. Dinner has been insipid,
the whole evening a mistake; neither Guy nor Archibald will come near
her, or even look at her; and now Mr. Boer's meditated attack is the
last straw that breaks the camel's back.

"I consider the school-board very much to blame," begins that divine
while yet some yards distant, speaking in his usual blatant tones, that
never change their key-note, however long they may continue to insult
the air.

"So do I," says Lilian, very gently and sweetly, but with such
unmistakable haste as suggests a determination on her part to bring the
undiscussed subject to an ignominious close. "I quite agree with you; I
think them terribly to blame. But I beg your pardon for one moment: I
want to ask Mr. Chetwoode a question that has been haunting me for
hours."

Rising, she glides away from him over the carpet, leaving Mr. Boer--who
takes a long time to understand anything, and could not possibly believe
in a rebuff offered to himself in person--watching the tail of her long
sweeping gown, and wondering curiously if all the little white frillings
beneath it may not have something to do with a falling petticoat. At
this point he pulls himself together with a start, and fears secretly he
is growing immodest.

In the meantime Lilian has reached Cyril, who is sitting at a table
somewhat apart, gazing moodily at a book containing prints of the chief
villages in Wales. He, like herself, is evidently in the last stage of
dejection.

Bending over him, she whispers in an awful tone, but with a beaming
smile meant to mystify the observant Boer:

"If you don't instantly deliver me from that man I shall make a point of
going off into such a death-like swoon as will necessitate my being
borne from the room. He is now going to tell me about that miserable
school-board all over again, and I can't and won't stand it."

"Poor child," says Cyril, with deepest sympathy; "I will protect you. If
he comes a step nearer, I swear to you I will have his blood." Uttering
this comforting assurance in the mildest tone, he draws a chair to the
table, and together they explore Wales in print.

Then there is a little music, and a good deal of carefully suppressed
yawning, and then the carriages are announced and they all bid their
hostess good-night, and tell a few pretty lies about the charming
evening they have spent, etc.

"Cyril, will you drive me home?" Lilian says to him hurriedly in the
hall, while they are being finally cloaked and shawled. As she says it
she takes care to avoid his eyes, so she does not see the look of amused
scrutiny that lies in them.

"So soon!" he says, tragically. "It was an easy victory! I shall be only
too charmed, my dear Lilian, to drive you to the other end of the world
if need be."

So they start and drive home together placidly, through the cool, soft
night. Lilian is strangely silent, so is Cyril,--the calm beauty of the
heavens above them rendering their lips mute.


           "Now glowed the firmament
     With living sapphires; Hesperus, that led
     The starry host, rode brightest; till the moon,
     Rising in clouded majesty, at length--
     Apparent queen!--unveiled her peerless light,
     And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw."


The night is very calm, and rich in stars; brilliant almost as garish
day, but bright with that tender, unchanging, ethereal light--clear,
yet full of peaceful shadow--that day can never know.


         "There is no dew on the dry grass to-night,
     Nor damp within the shadow of the trees;
     The wind is intermitting, dry and light."


Lilian sighs gently as they move rapidly through the still air,--a sigh
not altogether born of the night's sweetness, but rather tinged with
melancholy. The day has been a failure, and though through all its
windings she has been possessed by the spirit of gayety, now in the
subdued silence of the night the reaction setting in reduces her to the
very verge of tears.

Cyril, too, is very quiet, but _his_ thoughts are filled with joy.
Lifting his gaze to the eternal vault above him, he seems to see in the
gentle stars the eyes of his beloved smiling back at him. A dreamy
happiness, an exquisite feeling of thankfulness, absorb him, making him
selfishly blind to the sadness of his little companion.

"How silent you are!" Lilian says, at length, unable to endure her
tormenting reverie any longer.

"Am I?" smiling. "I was thinking of some lines I read yesterday: the
night is so lovely it recalls them. Of course they are as well known to
you as to me; but hear them:


             "How beautiful is the night!
     A dewy freshness fills the silent air;
     No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor streak, nor stain,
             Breaks the serene of heaven:
     In full-orb'd glory yonder moon divine
             Rolls through the dark-blue depths."


"Yes, they are pretty lines: they are Southey's, I think," says Lilian,
and then she sighs again, and hardly another word is spoken between them
until they reach home.

As they pull up at the hall-door, Guy, who has arrived a little before
them, comes forward, and, placing one foot upon the step of Cyril's
T-cart, takes Lilian in his arms and lifts her to the ground. She is so
astonished at the suddenness of this demonstration on his part that she
forgets to make any protest, only--she turns slowly and meaningly away
from him, with lowered eyes and with averted head.

With a beseeching gesture he detains her, and gains for a moment her
attention. He is looking pale, miserable; there is an expression of deep
entreaty in his usually steady blue eyes.

"Lilian, forgive me," he whispers, anxiously, trying to read her face by
the moonlight: "I have been sufficiently punished. If you could guess
all I have endured to-day through your coldness, your scorn, you would
say so too. Forgive me."

"Impossible," returns she, haughtily, in clear tones, and, motioning him
contemptuously to one side, follows Cyril into the house.

Inside they find Lady Chetwoode not only up and waiting for them, but
wide awake. This latter is a compliment so thoroughly unexpected as to
rouse within them feelings of the warmest gratitude.

"What, Madre! you still here?" says Cyril. "Why, we imagined you not
only out of your first but far into your second beauty sleep by this
time."

"I missed you all so much I decided upon waiting up for you," Lady
Chetwoode answers, smiling benignly upon them all; "besides, early in
the evening--just after you left--I had a telegram from dear Mabel,
saying she and Tom will surely be here to dinner to-morrow night. And
the idea so pleased me I thought I would stay here to impart my news and
hear yours."

Every one in the room who knows Mrs. Steyne here declares his delight at
the prospect of so soon seeing her again.

"She must have made up her mind at the very last moment," says Guy.
"Last week she was undecided whether she should come at all. She hates
leaving London."

"She must be at Steynemore now," remarks Cyril.

"Lilian, my dear child, how pale you are!" Lady Chetwoode says,
anxiously taking Lilian's hand and rubbing her cheeks gently with loving
fingers. "Cold, too! The drive has been too much for you, and you are
always so careless about wraps. I ordered supper in the library an hour
ago. Come and have a glass of wine before going to bed."

"No, thank you, auntie: I don't care for anything."

"Thank you, Aunt Anne, I think I will take something," interposes
Florence, amiably; "the drive was long. A glass of sherry and one little
biscuit will, I feel sure, do me good."

Miss Beauchamp's "one little biscuit," as is well known, generally ends
in a substantial supper.

"Come to the library, then," says Lady Chetwoode, and still holding
Lilian's hand, draws it within her arm, and in her own stately Old-World
fashion leads her there.

When they have dismissed the butler, and declared their ability to help
one another, Lady Chetwoode says pleasantly:

"Now tell me everything. Had you an agreeable evening?"

"Too agreeable!" answers Cyril, with suspicious readiness: "I fear it
will make all other entertainments sink into insignificance. I consider
a night at Mrs. Boileau's the very wildest dissipation. We all sat round
the room on uneasy chairs and admired each other: it would perhaps have
been (if _possible_) a more successful amusement had we not been doing
the same thing for the past two months,--some of us for years! But it
was tremendously exciting all the same."

"Was there no one to meet you?"

"My dear mother, how could you suspect Mrs. Boileau of such a thing!"

"Yes,--there was a Mr. Boer," says Florence, looking up blandly from her
chicken, "a man of very good family,--a clergyman----"

"No, a curate," interrupts Cyril, mildly.

"He made himself very agreeable," goes on Florence, in her soft
monotone, that nothing disturbs. "He was so conversational, and so well
read. You liked him, Lilian?"

"Who? Mr. Boer? No; I thought him insufferable,--so dull,--so prosy,"
says Lilian, wearily. She has hardly heard Miss Beauchamp's foregoing
remarks.

"His manner, certainly, is neither frivolous nor extravagant," Florence
returns, somewhat sharply, "but he appeared sensible and earnest, rare
qualities nowadays."

"Did I hear you say he wasn't extravagant?" breaks in Cyril, lazily,
purposely misconstruing her application of the word. "My dear Florence,
consider! Could anything show such reckless extravagance as the length
of his coat-tails? I never saw so much superfluous cloth in any man's
garment before. It may be saintly, but it was cruel waste!"

"How did you amuse yourselves?" asks Lady Chetwoode, hastily,
forestalling a threatening argument.

"As best we might. Lilian and I amused each other, and I think we had
the best of it. If our visit to the Grange did no other good, it at
least awoke in me a thorough sense of loyalty: I cannot tell you," with
a glance at Lilian, "how often I blessed the 'Prints of Wales' this
night."

"Oh, Cyril, what a miserable joke!" says Lilian, smiling, but there is
little warmth in her smile, and little real merriment in her usually gay
tones. All this, Cyril--who is sincerely fond of her--notes with regret
and concern.

"Guy, give Lilian a glass of Moselle," says his mother at this moment;
"it is what she prefers, and it will put a little color into her cheeks:
she looks fatigued." As she says this she moves across the room to speak
to Florence, leaving Lilian standing alone upon the hearth-rug. Guy, as
desired, brings the wine and hands it to Lilian.

"No, thank you," turning from him coldly. "I do not wish for it."

"Nevertheless, take it," Guy entreats, in a low voice: "you are terribly
white, and," touching her hand gently, "as cold as death. Is it because
_I_ bring it you will not have it? Will you take it from Taffy?"

A choking sensation rises in Miss Chesney's throat; the unbidden tears
spring to her eyes; it is by a passionate effort alone she restrains
them from running down her cheeks. As I have said before, the day had
been a distinct failure. She will not speak to Guy, Archibald will not
speak to her. A sense of isolation is oppressing and weighing her down.
She, the pet, the darling, is left lonely, while all the others round
her laugh and jest and accept the good the gods provide. Like a spoilt
child, she longs to rush to her nurse and have a good cry within the
shelter of that fond woman's arms.

Afraid to speak, lest her voice betray her, afraid to raise her eyes,
lest the tell-tale tears within them be seen, she silently--though
against her will--takes the glass Sir Guy offers, and puts it to her
lips, whereupon he is conscious of a feeling of thankfulness,--the bare
fact of her accepting anything at his hands seeming to breathe upon him
forgiveness.

Lilian, having finished her Moselle, returns him the glass silently.
Having carried it to the table, he once more glances instinctively to
where he has left her standing. She has disappeared. Without a word to
any one, she has slipped from the library and sought refuge in her own
room.



CHAPTER XIX.

     "This much, however, I may add; her years
       Were ripe, they might make six-and-twenty springs;
     But there are forms which Time to touch forbears,
       And turns aside his scythe to vulgar things."--_Don Juan._


Next day creates but little change in Lilian's demeanor. So far as Guy
is concerned, her manner is still frozen and unrelenting. She shows no
sign of a desire to pardon, and Chetwoode noting this grows hardened,
and out-Herods Herod in his imitation of her coldness.

Archibald, on the contrary, gives in almost directly. Finding it
impossible to maintain his injured bearing beyond luncheon, he succumbs,
and, throwing himself upon her mercy, is graciously received and once
more basks in the full smiles of beauty. At heart Lilian is glad to
welcome him back, and is genial and sweet to him as though no ugly
_contretemps_ had occurred between them yesterday.

Mabel Steyne being expected in the evening, Lady Chetwoode is especially
happy, and takes no heed of minor matters, or else her eldest son's
distraction would surely have claimed her attention. But Mabel's coming
is an event, and a happy one, and at half-past seven, pleased and
complacent, Lady Chetwoode is seated in her drawing-room, awaiting her
arrival. Lilian and Florence are with her, and one or two of the others,
Guy among them. Indeed, Mrs. Steyne's coming is a gratification the more
charming that it is a rarity, as she seldom visits the country, being
strongly addicted to city pursuits and holding country life and ruralism
generally in abhorrence.

Just before dinner she arrives; there is a little flutter in the hall, a
few words, a few steps, and then the door is thrown open, and a young
woman, tall, with dark eyes and hair, a nose slightly celestial, and a
very handsome figure, enters. She walks swiftly up the room with the
grand and upright carriage that belongs to her, and is followed by a
tall, fair man, indolent though good to look at, with a straw-colored
moustache, and as much whisker as one might swear by.

"Dear auntie, I have come!" says Mrs. Steyne, joyfully, which is a fact
so obvious as to make the telling of it superfluous.

"Mabel, my dear, how glad I am to see you!" exclaims Lady Chetwoode,
rising and holding out her arms to her. A pretty pink flush comes to
life in the old woman's cheeks making her appear ten years younger, and
adding a thousand charms to her sweet old face.

They kiss each other warmly, the younger woman with tender
_empressement_.

"It is kind of you to say so," she says, fondly. "And you, auntie--why,
bless me, how young you look! it is disgraceful. Presently I shall be
the auntie, and you the young and lovely Lady Chetwoode. Darling auntie,
I am delighted to be with you again!"

"How do you do, Tom?" Lady Chetwoode says, putting her a little to one
side to welcome her husband, but still holding her hand. "I do hope you
two have come to stay a long time in the country."

"Yes, until after Christmas, so you will have time to grow heartily sick
of us," says Mrs. Steyne. "Ah, Florence."

She and Florence press cheeks sympathetically, as though no evil
passages belonging to the past have ever occurred between them. And then
Lady Chetwoode introduces Lilian.

"This is Lilian," she says, drawing her forward. "I have often written
to you about her."

"My supplanter," remarks Mabel Steyne, turning with a smile that lights
up all her handsome brunette face. As she looks at Lilian, fair and soft
and pretty, the rather _insouciant_ expression that has grown upon her
own during her encounter with Florence fades, and once more she becomes
her own gay self. "I hope you will prove a better companion to auntie
than I was," she says, with a merry laugh, taking and pressing Lilian's
hand. Lilian instinctively returns the pressure and the laugh. There is
something wonderfully fetching in Mrs. Steyne's dark, brilliant eyes.

"She is the best of children!" Lady Chetwoode says, patting Lilian's
shoulder; "though indeed, my dear Mabel, I saw no fault in you."

"Of course not. Have you noticed, Miss Chesney, Lady Chetwoode's
greatest failing? It is that she will not see a fault in any one."

"She never mentioned your faults, at all events," Lilian answers,
smiling.

"I hope your baby is quite well?" Florence asks, calmly, who is far too
well bred ever to forget her manners.

"The darling child,--yes,--I hope she is well," Lady Chetwoode says,
hastily, feeling as though she has been guilty of unkindness in not
asking for the baby before. Miss Beauchamp possesses to perfection that
most unhappy knack of placing people in the wrong position.

"Quite, thank you," answering Lady Chetwoode instead of Florence, while
a little fond glance that is usually reserved for the nursery creeps
into her expressive eyes. "If you admired her before, you will quite
love her now. She has grown so big and fat, and has such dear little
sunny curls all over her head!"

"I like fair babies," says Lilian.

"Because you are a fair baby yourself," says Cyril.

"She can say Mammy and Pappy quite distinctly, and I have taught her to
say Auntie very sweetly," goes on Mrs. Steyne, wrapt in recollection of
her offspring's genius. "She can say 'cake' too, and--and that is all, I
think."

"You forget, Mabel, don't you?" asks her husband, languidly. "You
underrate the child's abilities. The other day when she was in a frenzy
because I would not allow her to pull out my moustache in handfuls she
said----"

"She was never in a frenzy, Tom," indignantly: "I wonder how you can say
so of the dear angel."

"Was she not? if _you_ say so, of course I was mistaken, but at the time
I firmly believed it was temper. At all events, Lady Chetwoode, on that
momentous occasion she said, 'Nanna warragood,' without a mistake. She
is a wonderful child!"

"Don't pay any attention to him, auntie," with a contemptuous shrug. "He
is himself quite idiotic about baby, so much so that he is ashamed of
his infatuation. I shall bring her here some day to let you see her."

"You must name the day. Would next Monday suit you?"

"You needn't press the point," Tom Steyne says, warningly: "but for me,
the child and its nurse would be in the room at this moment. Mab and I
had a stand-up fight about it in the hall just before starting, and it
was only after a good deal of calm though firm expostulation I carried
the day. I represented to her that as a rule babies are not invited out
to dine at eight o'clock at night, and that children of her age are
generally more attractive to their mothers than to any one else."

"Barbarian!" says Lady Chetwoode.

"How have you been getting on in London, Mab," asks Cyril. "Made any new
conquests?"

"Several," replies Tom; "though I think on the whole she is going off.
She did not make up her usual number this season. She has, however, on
her list two nice boys in the F. O., and an infant in the Guards. She is
rather unhappy about them, as she cannot make up her mind which it is
she likes best."

"Wrong, Tom. Yesterday I made it up. I like the 'infant' best. But what
really saddens me is that I am by no means sure he likes _me_ best. He
is terribly fond of Tom, and I sometimes fear thinks him the better
fellow of the two."

At this moment the door opens and Taffy comes in.

"Why! Here is my 'infant,'" exclaims Mabel, surprised. "Dear Mr.
Musgrave, I had no idea I should meet you here."

"My dear Mrs. Steyne! I had no idea such luck was in store for me. I am
so glad to see you again! Lilian, why didn't you break it to me? Joyful
surprises are sometimes dangerous."

"I thought you knew. We have been discussing 'Mabel's' coming," with a
shy smile, "all the past month."

"But how could I possibly guess that the 'Mabel' who was occupying
everybody's thoughts could be my Mrs. Steyne?"

"Ours!" murmurs Tom, faintly.

"Yes, mine," says Taffy, who is not troubled with over-much shyness.

"Mr. Musgrave is your cousin?" Mabel asks, turning to Lilian.

"No, I am her son," says Taffy: "you wouldn't think it--would you? She
is a good deal older than she looks, but she gets herself up
wonderfully. She is not a bad mother," reflectively, "when one comes to
think of it."

"I dare say if you spoke the truth you would confess her your guardian
angel," says Mabel, letting a kindly glance fall on pretty Lilian. "She
takes care of you, no doubt."

"And such care," answers Lilian; "but for me I do believe Taffy would
have gone to the bad long ago."

"'Taffy'! what a curious name. So quaint,--and pretty too, I think. May
I," with a quick irrepressible glance, that is half fun, half natural
coquetry, "call you Taffy?"

"You may call me anything you like," returns that young gentleman, with
the utmost _bonhommie_


     "Call me Daphne, call me Chloris,
     Call me Lalage, or Doris,
     Only--_only_--call me thine!"


"It is really mortifying that I can't," says Mrs. Steyne, while she and
the others all laugh.

"Sir," says Tom Steyne, "I would have you remember the lady you are
addressing is my wife."

Says Taffy, reproachfully:

"Do you think I don't remember it,--to my sorrow?"

They have got down to dinner and as far as the fish by this time, so are
all feeling friendly and good-natured.

"Tell you what you'll do, Mab," says Guy. "You shall come over here next
week to stay with us, and bring baby and nurse with you,--and Tom,
whether he likes it or not. We can give him as much good shooting as
will cure him of his laziness."

"Yes, Mabel, indeed you must," breaks in Lady Chetwoode's gentle voice.
"I want to see that dear child very badly, and how can I notice all her
pretty ways unless she stays in the house with me?"

"Say yes, Mrs. Steyne," entreats Taffy: "I shall die of grief if you
refuse."

"Oh, that! Yes, auntie, I shall come, thank you, if only to preserve
Mr.--Taffy's life. But indeed I shall be delighted to get back to the
dear old home for a while; it is so dull at Steynemore all by
ourselves."

"Thank you, darling," says Tom, meekly.

After dinner Mrs. Steyne, who has taken a fancy to Lilian, seats herself
beside her in the drawing-room and chatters to her unceasingly of all
things known and unknown. Guy, coming in later with the other men, sinks
into a chair near Mabel, and with Miss Beauchamp's Fanchette upon his
knee employs himself in stroking it and answering Mabel's numerous
questions. He hardly looks at Lilian, and certainly never addresses her,
in which he shows his wisdom.

"No, I can't bear the country," Mrs. Steyne is saying. "It depresses
me."

"In the spring surely it is preferable to town," says Lilian.

"Is it? I suppose so, because I have so often heard it; but my taste is
vitiated. I am not myself out of London. Of course Tom and I go
somewhere every year, but it is to please fashion we go, not because we
like it. You will say I exaggerate when I tell you that I find music in
the very roll of the restless cabs."

Lilian tells her that she will be badly off for music of that kind at
Steynemore; but perhaps the birds will make up for the loss.

"No, you will probably think me a poor creature when I confess to you I
prefer Albani to the sweetest nightingale that ever trilled; that I
simply detest the discordant noise made by the melancholy lamb; that I
think the cuckoo tuneless and unmusical, and that I find no transcendent
pleasure in the cooing of the fondest dove that ever mourned over its
mate. These beauties of nature are thrown away upon me. Woodland groves
and leafy dells are to me suggestive of suicide, and make me sigh for
the 'sweet shady side of Pall Mall.' The country, in fact, is lonely,
and my own society makes me shudder. I like noise and excitement, and
the babel of tongues."

"You forget the flowers," says Lilian, triumphantly.

"No, my dear; experience has taught me I can purchase them cheaper and
far finer than I can grow them for myself. I am a skeptic, I know,"
smiling. "I will not try to convert you to my opinion."

"Certainly I can see advantages to be gained from a town life," says
Lilian, thoughtfully, leaning her elbow on a small table near her, and
letting her chin sink into her little pink palm. "One has a larger
circle of acquaintances. Here everything is narrowed. One lives in the
house with a certain number of persons, and, whether one likes them or
the reverse, one must put up with them. There is no escape. Yes,"--with
an audible and thoroughly meant sigh,--"that is very sad."

This little ungracious speech, though uttered in the most innocent
tone, goes home (as is intended) to Guy's heart. He conceals, however,
all chagrin, and pulls the ears of the sleepy snowball he is caressing
with an air of the calmest unconcern.

"You mention a fact," says Mrs. Steyne, the faintest inflection of
surprise in her manner. "But you, at least, can know nothing of such
misery. Chetwoode is famous for its agreeable people, and you,--you
appear first favorite here. For the last hour I have been listening, and
I have heard only 'Lilian, look at this,' or, 'Lilian, listen to that,'
or 'Lilian, child, what was it you told me yesterday?' You seem a great
pet with every one here."

Lilian laughs.

"Not with every one," she says.

"No?"--raising her straight dark brows. "Is there then an enemy in the
camp? Not Cyril, surely?"

"Oh, no, not Cyril."

Their voices involuntarily have sunk a little, and, though any one near
can still hear distinctly, they have all the appearance of people
carrying on a private conversation.

"Guy?"

Lilian is silent. Guy's face, as he still strokes the dog dreamily, has
grown haughty in the extreme. He, like Mabel, awaits her answer.

"What?" says Mrs. Steyne, in an amused tone, evidently treating the
whole matter as a mere jest. "So you are not a pet with Guy! How
horrible! I cannot believe it. Surely Guy is not so ungallant as to have
conceived a dislike for you? Guy, do you hear this awful charge she is
bringing against you? Won't you refute it? Dear boy, how stern you
look!"

"Do I? I was thinking of something disagreeable."

"Of me?" puts in Lilian, _sotto voce_, with a faint laugh tinged with
bitterness. "Why should you think what I say so extraordinary? Did you
ever know a guardian like his ward, or a ward like her guardian? I
didn't--especially the latter. They always find each other _such_ a
mistake!"

Sir Guy, raising his head, looks full at Lilian for a moment; his
expression is almost impossible to translate; then, getting up, he
crosses the room deliberately and seats himself beside Florence, who
welcomes him with one of her conventional smiles that now has something
like warmth in it.

"I think you are a very cruel little girl," says Mrs. Steyne, gently,
not looking at Lilian, and then turns the conversation in another
channel.

"You will stay in the country until after Christmas?" says Lilian,
somewhat hastily.

"Yes; something has gone wrong with our steward's accounts, and Tom is
dissatisfied with him. So he has been dismissed, and we shall stay on
here until we please ourselves with another."

"I am glad you live so near. Three miles is only a walk, after all."

"In good weather a mere nothing, though for my own part I am not
addicted to exercise of any sort: I believe, however, Steynemore's
proximity to Chetwoode was one of my chief reasons for marrying Tom."

"I am glad of any reason that made you do so. If you won't mind my
saying it, I will tell you I like you very much,"--with a slight blush.

"I am very charmed to hear it," says Mrs. Steyne, heartily, whose liking
for Lilian has grown steadily: "I should be very much disappointed if
you didn't. I foresee we shall be great friends, and that you and auntie
will make me fall quite in love with Tom's native soil.
But"--naively--"you must not be unkind to poor Guy."



CHAPTER XX.

       "_Orl._--Is't possible that on so little acquaintance
     You should like her? that, but seeing,
     You should love her?"--_As You Like It._


Four weeks have flown by swiftly, with ungracious haste,--as do all our
happiest moments,--leaving their mark behind them. In their train Taffy
has passed away from Chetwoode, and all in the house have mourned his
departure openly and sincerely. Miss Chesney for two whole days was
inconsolable, and cried her pretty eyes very nearly out; after which she
recovered, and allowed herself to find consolation in the thought that
he has promised to return to them for a fortnight at Christmas-tide.


     "Summer was dead, and Autumn was expiring,
     And infant Winter laughed upon the land
     All cloudlessly and cold."


The men spend half their days wondering if it will be a good
hunting-season, the women are wrapt in delicious dreams of fur and
velvet.

At The Cottage all the roses have fluttered into their graves, but in
their place a sweet flower has bloomed. Cecilia's eyes have grown
brighter, gladder, her step firmer, her cheek richer in the tint that
rivals the peach. In her calm home she has but one thought, one hope,
and that is Cyril. She has forbidden him to mention their engagement to
Lady Chetwoode, so as yet the sweet secret is all their own.

Florence has gained a _bona fide_ admirer, Mr. Boer--after much
deliberation--having, for private reasons, decided in favor of Miss
Beauchamp and her fifteen thousand pounds. But not for Mr. Boer, however
well connected, or however fondly cherished by a rich and aged uncle,
can Miss Beauchamp bring herself to resign all hope of Guy and
Chetwoode.

At Steynemore, Mabel and her baby are laughing the happy hours away;
though, to speak more accurately, it is at Chetwoode most of them are
spent. At least every second week they drive over there, to find their
rooms ready, and stay on well content to talk and crow at "auntie,"
until the handsome head of that dearest of old ladies is fairly turned.

Lilian has of course gone over heart and mind to Miss Steyne, who
rewards her affection by practicing upon her the most ingenious
tortures. With a craftiness terrible in one so young, she bides her
opportunity and then pulls down all her friend's golden hair; at other
times she makes frantic efforts at gouging out her eyes, tries to cut
her eye-teeth upon her slender fingers, and otherwise does all in her
power to tear her limb from limb. She also appears to find infinite
amusement in scrambling up and down Miss Chesney's unhappy knees, to the
detriment of that dainty lady's very dainty gowns, and shows symptoms of
fight when she refuses to consume all such uninviting remnants of cake
and bonbons as lie heavy on her hands.

Altogether Lilian has a lively time of it with Mabel's heiress, who,
nevertheless, by right of her sweet witcheries and tender baby tricks,
has gained a fast hold upon her heart.

But if Baby knows a slave in Lilian, Lilian knows a slave in some one
else. Up to this Archibald has found it impossible to tear himself away
from her loved presence; though ever since that fatal day at the Grange
he has never dared speak openly to her of his attachment. Day by day his
passion has grown stronger, although with every wind her manner toward
him seems to vary,--now kind, to-morrow cold, anon so full of
treacherous fancies and disdainful glances as to make him wonder whether
in truth it is hatred and not love for her that fills his heart to
overflowing. She is


     "One of those pretty, precious plagues, which haunt
       A lover with caprices soft and dear,
     That like to make a quarrel, when they can't
       Find one, each day of the delightful year;
     Bewitching, torturing, as they freeze or glow,
     And--what is worst of all--won't let you go."


Between her and Guy a silent truce has been signed. They now converse
with apparent geniality; at times they appear, to outsiders, even to
affect each other's society; but secretly they still regard each other
with distrust, and to them alone is known the frailty of the coating
that lies over their late hostility.

It is three o'clock, and the day for a wonder is fine, all the past week
having been sullen and full of a desire to rain. Now the clouds have
disappeared, and the blue sky dotted with tiny flakes of foam-like vapor
is overhead. The air is crispy, and, though cold, full of life and
invigorating power.

"I shall go for a walk," says Lilian, appearing suddenly in the
billiard-room, looking like a little northern fairy, so encased is she
in velvet and dark fur. Upon her yellow hair is resting the most
coquettish of fur caps, from beneath which her face smiles fairer and
fresher for its rich surroundings. The two men she addresses look up,
and let the honest admiration they feel for her beauty betray itself in
their eyes.

Outside of the window, seated on the sill, which is some little distance
from the ground, is Archibald, smoking. Archibald, as a rule, is always
smoking. Inside is Guy, also indulging in a cigar, and disputing
volubly about some knotty point connected with guns or cartridges, or
the proper size of shot to be used for particular birds, I cannot
remember exactly what; I do remember, however, that the argument
completely falls through when Lilian makes her appearance.

"Were there ever such lazy men?" says Miss Lilian, scornfully. "Did all
the shooting with Tom Steyne last week do you up so completely? I warned
you, if you will be pleased to recollect, that there wasn't much work in
you. Well, I am going to the wood. Who will come with me?"

"I will," say Guy and Archibald, in a breath. And then ensues a pause.

"_Embarras de richesses_," says Miss Chesney, with a gay laugh and a
slight elevation of her brows. "You shouldn't all speak at once. Now,
which shall I choose?" Then, impelled by the spirit of mischief that
always possesses her when in her guardian's presence, she says, "It
would be a shame to take you out, Sir Guy, would it not? You seem so
cozy here,"--glancing at the fire,--"while Archibald is evidently bent
on exercise."

"As you please, of course," says Guy, with well-feigned indifference,
too well feigned for Miss Chesney's liking; it angers her, and awakes
within her a desire to show how little she heeds it. Her smile ripens
and rests alone on Archibald, insensibly her manner toward her cousin
takes a warmer tinge; going over to the window, she lays her hand
lightly on his shoulder, and, leaning over, looks at the ground beneath.

"Could I get out there?" she asks, a little fearfully, though in truth
at another time she would regard with disdain the person who should tell
her she could not jump so small a distance. "It would be so much better
than going all the way round."

"Of course you can," returns he, dropping instantly downward, and then
looking up at her; "it is no height at all."

"It looks high from here, does it not?" still doubtful. "I should
perhaps break my neck if I tried to jump it. No," regretfully, "I must
go round, unless, indeed,"--with another soft glance meant for Guy's
discomfiture, and that alas! does terrible damage to Archibald's
heart,--"you think you could take me down."

"I know I could," replies he, eagerly.

"You are sure?" hesitating. "I am very heavy, mind."

Archibald laughs and holds out his arms, and in another moment has taken
her, slender fairy that she is, and deposited her safely on the ground.

Sir Guy, who has been an unwilling though fascinated spectator of this
scene, grows pale and turns abruptly aside as Archibald and Lilian,
laughing gayly, disappear into the shrubberies beyond.

But once out of sight of the billiard-room windows, Miss Chesney's
gayety cruelly deserts her. She is angry with Guy for reasons she would
rather die than acknowledge even to herself, and she is indignant with
Archibald for reasons she would be puzzled to explain at all, while
hating herself for what she is pleased to term her frivolity, such as
jumping out of windows as though she were still a child, and instead of
being a full-grown young woman! What must Gu----what would any one think
of her?

"It was awfully good of you to choose me," says Archibald, after a few
minutes, feeling foolishly elated at his success.

"For what?" coldly.

"For a walk."

"Did I choose you?" asks Lilian, in a tone that should have warned so
worldly-wise a young man as Chesney. He, however, fails to be warned,
and rushes wildly on his destruction.

"I thought so," returns he, growing perplexed: "Chetwoode was quite as
anxious to accompany you as I was, and you decided in my favor."

"Simply because you were outside the window, and looked more like moving
than he did."

"He was considerably sold for all that," says this foolish Archibald,
with an idiotic laugh, that under the circumstances is madness. Miss
Chesney freezes.

"Sold? how?" she asks, with a suspicious thirst for knowledge. "I don't
understand."

The continued iciness of her tone troubles Archibald.

"You seem determined not to understand," he says, huffily. "I only mean
he would have given a good deal to go with you, until you showed him
plainly you didn't want him."

"I never meant to show him anything of the kind. You quite mistake."

"Do I?" with increasing wrath. "Well, I think when a woman tells a
fellow she thinks it would be a pity to disturb him, it comes to very
much the same thing in the end. At all events, Chetwoode took it in that
light."

"How silly you can be at times, Archibald!" says Lilian, promptly: "I
really wish you would not take up such absurd notions. Sir Guy did _not_
look at it in that light; he knows perfectly well I detest long walks,
and that I seldom go for one, so he did not press the point. And in fact
I think I shall change my mind now: walking is such a bore, is it not?"

"Are you not coming then?" stopping short, and growing black with rage:
"you don't seem to know your own mind for two minutes together, or else
you are trying to provoke me! First you ask me to go to the wood with
you, and now you say you will not go. What am I to think of it?"

"I wouldn't be rude, if I were you," says Miss Chesney, calmly, "and I
wouldn't lose my temper. You make me absolutely uncomfortable when you
let that wicked look grow upon your face. One would think you would like
to murder me. Do try to be amiable! And as for trying to provoke you, I
should not take the trouble! No, I shall not go with you now, certainly:
I shall go with Cyril," pointing to where Cyril is sauntering toward the
entrance to the wood at some short distance from them.

Without waiting to address another word to the discomfited Archibald,
she runs to Cyril and slips her hand within his arm.

"Will you take me with you wherever you are going?" she says, smiling
confidently up into his face.

"What a foolish question! of course I am only too glad to get so dear a
little companion," replies he, smothering a sigh very successfully;
though, to be honest, he is hardly enraptured at the thought of having
Lilian's (or any one's) society just now. Nevertheless he buries his
chagrin, and is eminently agreeable to her as they stroll leisurely in
the direction of The Cottage.

When they come up to it Lilian pauses.

"I wish this wonderful goddess would come out. I want to see her quite
close," she says, peeping through the hedge. "At a distance she is
beautiful: I am always wondering whether 'distance lends enchantment to
the view.'"

"No, it does not," absently. He is looking over the hedge.

"You seem to know all about it," archly: "shall I ask how? What lovely
red berries!" suddenly attracted by some coloring a few yards away from
her. "Do you see? Wait until I get some."

Springing on to a bank, she draws down to her some bunches of
mountain-ash berry, that glow like live coals in the fading greenery
around them, and having detached her prize from the parent stem,
prepares to rejoin her companion, who is somewhat distant.

"Why did you not ask me to get them for you?" he asks, rousing himself
from his reverie: "how precipitate you always are! Take care, child:
that bank is steep."

"But I am a sure-footed little deer," says Miss Chesney, with a saucy
shake of her pretty head, and, as she speaks, jumps boldly forward.

A moment later, as she touches the ground, she staggers, her right ankle
refuses to support her, she utters a slight groan, and sinks helplessly
to the ground.

"You have hurt yourself," exclaims Cyril, kneeling beside her. "What is
it, Lilian? Is it your foot?"

"I think so," faintly: "it seems twisted. I don't know how it happened,
but it pains me terribly. Just there all the agony seems to rest. Ah!"
as another dart of anguish shoots through the injured ankle.

"My dear girl, what shall I do for you? Why on earth did you not take my
advice?" exclaims Cyril, in a distracted tone. A woman's grief, a
woman's tears, always unman him.

"Don't say you told me how it would be," murmurs Lilian, with a ghastly
attempt at a smile that dies away in another moan. "It would be adding
insult to injury. No, do not stir me: do not; I cannot bear it. Oh,
Cyril, I think my ankle is broken."

With this she grows a little paler, and draws her breath with a sharp
sound, then whiter, whiter still, until at last her head sinks heavily
upon Cyril's supporting arm, and he finds she has fallen into a deep
swoon.

More frightened than he cares to allow, Cyril raises her in his arms
and, without a moment's thought, conveys his slight burden straight to
The Cottage.

Cecilia, who from an upper window has seen him coming with his strange
encumbrance, runs down to meet him at the door, her face full of
anxiety.

"What is it?" she asks, breathlessly, bending over Lilian, who is still
fainting. "Poor child! how white she is!"

"It is Lilian Chesney. She has sprained her foot, I think," says Cyril,
who is white too with concern: "will you take her in while I go for a
carriage?"

"Of course. Oh, make haste: her lips are quivering. I am sure she is
suffering great agony. Bring her this way--or--no--shall I lay her on my
bed?"

"The drawing-room sofa will do very well," going in and laying her on
it. "Will you see to her? and give her some brandy and--and that."

"Yes, yes. Now go quickly, and send a messenger for Dr. Bland, while you
bring the carriage here. How pretty she is! what lovely hair! Poor
little thing! Go, Cyril, and don't be long."

When he has disappeared, Mrs. Arlington summons Kate, and together they
cut the boot off Lilian's injured foot, remove the dainty little silk
stocking, and do for her all that can be done until the doctor sees her.
After which, with the help of eau de Cologne, and some brandy, they
succeed in bringing her to life once more.

"What has happened?" she asks, languidly, raising her hand to her head.

"Are you better now?" Mrs. Arlington asks, in return, stooping kindly
over her.

"Yes, thank you, much better," gazing at her with some surprise: "it was
stupid of me to faint. But"--still rather dazed--"where am I?"

"At The Cottage. Mr. Chetwoode brought you here."

"And you are Mrs. Arlington?" with a slight smile.

"Yes," smiling in return. "Kate, put a little water into that brandy,
and give it to Miss Chesney."

"Please do not, Kate," says Lilian, in her pretty friendly fashion: "I
hate brandy. If"--courteously--"I may have some sherry instead, I should
like it."

Having drunk the sherry, she sits up and looks quietly around her.

The room is a little gem in its own way, and suggestive of refinement of
taste and much delicacy in the art of coloring. Between the
softly-tinted pictures that hang upon the walls, rare bits of Worcester
and Wedgwood fight for mastery. Pretty lounging-chairs covered with blue
satin are dispersed here and there, while cozy couches peep out from
every recess. _Bric-a-brac_ of all kinds covers the small velvet tables,
that are hung with priceless lace that only half conceals the spindle
legs beneath. Exquisite little marble Loves and Venuses and Graces smile
and pose upon graceful brackets; upon a distant table two charming
Dresden baskets are to be seen smothered in late flowers. All is bright,
pretty, and artistic.

"What a charming room!" says Lilian, with involuntary, and therefore
flattering admiration.

"You like it? I fear it must look insignificant to you after Chetwoode."

"On the contrary, it is a relief. There, everything is heavy though
handsome, as is the way in all old houses; here, everything is bright
and gay. I like it so much, and you too if you will let me say so," says
Lilian, holding out her hand, feeling already enslaved by the beauty of
the tender, lovely face looking so kindly into hers. "I have wanted to
know you so long, but we knew"--hesitating--"you wished to be quiet."

"Yes, so I did when first I came here; but time and solitude have taught
me many things. For instance,"--coloring faintly,--"I should be very
glad to know you; I feel sadly stupid now and then."

"I am glad to hear you say so; I simply detest my own society," says
Miss Chesney, with much vivacity, in spite of the foot. "But,"--with a
rueful glance at the bandaged member,--"I little thought I should make
your acquaintance in this way. I have given you terrible trouble, have I
not?"

"No, indeed, you must not say so. I believe"--laughing,--"I have been
only too glad, in spite of my former desire for privacy, to see some one
from the outer world again. Your hair has come down. Shall I fasten it
up again for you?" Hardly waiting an answer, she takes Lilian's hair and
binds and twists it into its usual soft knot behind her head, admiring
it as she does so. "How soft it is, and how long, and such a delicious
color, like spun silk! I have always envied people with golden hair. Ah,
here is the carriage: I hope the drive home will not hurt you very much.
She is ready now, Mr. Chetwoode, and I think she looks a little better."

"I should be ungrateful otherwise," says Lilian. "Mrs. Arlington has
been so kind to me, Cyril."

"I am sure of that," replies he, casting a curious glance at Cecilia
that rather puzzles Lilian, until, turning her eyes upon Cecilia, she
sees what a pretty pink flush has stolen into her cheeks. Then the truth
all at once flashes upon her, and renders her rather silent, while Cyril
and Mrs. Arlington are making the carriage more comfortable for her.

"Come," says Cyril, at length taking her in his arms. "Don't be
frightened; I will hurt you as little as I can help." He lifts her
tenderly, but the movement causes pain, and a touch of agony turns her
face white again. She is not a hero where suffering is concerned.

"Oh, Cyril, be careful," says Mrs. Arlington, fearfully, quite
unconscious in her concern for Lilian's comfort that she has used the
Christian name of her lover.

When Lilian is at length settled in the carriage, she raises herself to
stoop out and take Cecilia's hand.

"Good-bye, and thank you again so much," she says, earnestly. "And when
I am well may I come and see you?"

"You may, indeed,"--warmly. "I shall be anxiously expecting you; I shall
now"--with a gentle glance from her loving gray eyes--"have a double
reason for wishing you soon well."

Moved by a sudden impulse, Lilian leans forward, and the two women as
their lips meet seal a bond of friendship that lasts them all their
lives.

For some time after they have left Cecilia's bower Lilian keeps silence,
then all at once she says to Cyril, in tones of the liveliest reproach:

"I wouldn't have believed it of you."

"Would you not?" replies he, somewhat startled by this extraordinary
address, being plunged in meditation of his own. "You don't say so! But
what is it then you can't believe?"

"I think"--with keen upbraiding--"you might have told _me_."

"So I should, my dear, instantly, if I only knew what it was," growing
more and more bewildered. "If you don't want to bring on brain-fever, my
good Lilian, you will explain what you mean."

"You must have guessed what a treat a _real_ love-affair would be to
me, who never knew a single instance of one," says Lilian, "and yet you
meanly kept it from me."

"Kept what?" innocently, though he has the grace to color hotly.

"Don't be deceitful, Cyril, whatever you are. I say it was downright
unkind to leave me in ignorance of the fact that all this time there was
a real, unmistakable, _bona fide_ lover near me, close to me, at my
_very elbow_, as one might say."

"I know I am happy enough to be at your elbow just now," says Cyril,
humbly, "but, to confess the truth, I never yet dared to permit myself
to look upon you openly with lover's eyes. I am still at a loss to know
how you discovered the all-absorbing passion that I--that _any one_
fortunate enough to know you--must feel for you."

"Don't be a goose," says Miss Chesney, with immeasurable scorn. "Don't
you think I have wit enough to see you are head over ears in love with
that charming, beautiful creature down there in The Cottage? I don't
wonder at that: I only wonder why you did not tell me of it when we were
such good friends."

"Are you quite sure I had anything to tell you?"

"Quite; I have eyes and I have ears. Did I not see how you looked at
her, and how she blushed all up to the roots of her soft hair when you
did so? and when you were placing me in the carriage she said, 'Oh,
Cyril!' and what was the meaning of that, Master Chetwoode, eh? She is
the prettiest woman I ever saw," says Lilian, enthusiastically. "To see
her is indeed to love her. I hope _you_ love her properly, with all your
heart?"

"I do," says Cyril, simply. "I sometimes think, Lilian, it cannot be for
one's happiness to love as I do."

"Oh, this is delightful!" cries Lilian, clapping her hands. "I am glad
you are in earnest about it; and I am glad you are both so good-looking.
I don't think ugly people ought to fall in love: they quite destroy the
romance of the whole thing."

"Thanks awfully," says Cyril. "I shall begin to hold up my head now you
have said a word in my favor. But,"--growing serious--"you really like
her, Lilian? How can you be sure you do after so short an acquaintance?"

"I always like a person at once or not at all. I cannot explain why; it
is a sort of instinct. Florence I detested at first sight; your Mrs.
Arlington I love. What is her name?"

"Cecilia."

"A pretty name, and suited to her: with her tender beautiful face she
looks a saint. You are very fortunate, Cyril: something tells me you
cannot fail to be happy, having gained the love of such a woman."

"Dear little sibyl," says Cyril, lifting one of her hands to his lips,
"I thank you for your prophecy. It does me good only to hear you say
so."



CHAPTER XXI.

     "As on her couch of pain a child was lying."--_Song._


Lilian's injury turns out to be not only a sprain, but a very bad one,
and strict quiet and rest for the sufferer are enjoined by the fat
little family doctor. So for several days she lies supine and obedient
upon a sofa in Lady Chetwoode's boudoir, and makes no moan even when
King Bore with all his horrible train comes swooping down upon her. He
is in greatest force at such times as when all the others are
down-stairs dining and she is (however regretfully) left to her own
devices. The servants passing to and fro with dishes sometimes leave the
doors open, and then the sound of merry voices and laughter, that seems
more frequent because she is at a distance and cannot guess the cause of
their merriment, steals up to her, as she lies dolefully upon her
pillows with her hands clasped behind her sunny head.

When four days of penance have so passed, Lilian grows _triste_, then
argumentative, then downright irritable, distracting Lady Chetwoode by
asking her perpetually, with tears in her eyes, when she thinks she will
be well. "She is so tired of lying down. Her foot must be nearly well
now. It does not hurt her nearly so much. She is sure, if she might only
use it a little now and then, it would be well in half the time," and so
on.

At last, when a week has dragged itself to a close, Lilian turns her
cajoleries upon the doctor, who is her sworn vassal, and coaxes and
worries him into letting her go down-stairs, if only to dine.

"Eh? So soon pining for freedom? Why, bless me, you have been only two
or three days laid up."

"Six long, _long_ days, dear doctor."

"And now you would run the risk of undoing all my work. I cannot let you
put your foot to the ground for a long time yet. Well,"--softened by a
beseeching glance,--"if you must go down I suppose you must; but no
walking, mind! If I catch you walking I shall put you into irons and
solitary confinement for a month. I dare say, Lady Chetwoode,"--smiling
archly down upon Miss Chesney's slight figure,--"there will be some
young gentleman to be found in the house not only able but willing to
carry to the dining-room so fair a burden!"

"We shall be able to manage that easily. And it will be far pleasanter
for her to be with us all in the evening. Guy, or her cousin Mr.
Chesney, can carry her down."

"I think, auntie," speaking very slowly, "I should prefer Archibald."

"Eh! eh! you hear, madam, she prefers Archibald,--happy Archibald!"
cackles the little doctor, merrily, being immensely tickled at his own
joke.

"Archibald Chesney is her cousin," replies Lady Chetwoode, with a sigh,
gazing rather wistfully at the girl's flushed, averted face.

So Lilian gains the day, and Sir Guy coming into his mother's boudoir
half an hour later is told the glad news.

"Dr. Bland thinks her so much better," Lady Chetwoode tells him. "But
she is not to let her foot touch the ground; so you must be careful,
darling," to Lilian. "Will you stay with her a little while, Guy? I must
go and write some letters."

"I shan't be in the least lonely by myself, auntie," says Lilian,
smoothly, letting her fingers stray meaningly to the magazine beside
her; yet in spite of this chilling remark Sir Guy lingers. He has taken
up his station on the hearth-rug and is standing with his back to the
fire, his arms crossed behind him, and instead of seeking to amuse his
wounded ward is apparently sunk in reverie. Suddenly, after a protracted
silence on both sides, he raises his head, and regarding her earnestly,
says:

"May I take you down to dinner to-night, Lilian?"

"Thank you," formally: "it is very kind of you to offer, Sir Guy. But
Archie was here a moment ago, and he has promised to take that trouble
upon himself." Then, in a low but perfectly distinct tone, "I can trust
Archie!"

Although no more is said, Guy thoroughly understands her thoughts have
traveled backward to that one unlucky night when, through a kiss, he
sinned past all chance of pardon. As his own mind follows hers, the dark
color mounts slowly to his very brow.

"Am I never to be forgiven for that one offense?" he asks, going up to
her couch and looking gravely down upon her.

"I have forgiven, but unhappily I cannot forget," returns she, gently,
without letting her eyes meet his. Then, with an air of deliberation,
she raises her magazine, and he leaves the room.

So Sir Guy retires from the contest, and Archibald is elected to the
coveted position of carrier to her capricious majesty, and this very
night, to her great joy, brings her tenderly, carefully, to the
dining-room, where a sofa has been prepared for her reception.

It so happens that three days later Archibald is summoned to London on
business, and departs, leaving with Lilian his faithful promise to be
back in time to perform his evening duty toward her.

But man's proposals, as we know, are not always carried out, and
Chesney's fall lamentably short; as just at seven o'clock a telegram
arriving for Lady Chetwoode tells her he has been unexpectedly detained
in town by urgent matters, and cannot by any possibility get home till
next day.

Cyril is dining with some bachelor friends near Truston: so Lady
Chetwoode, who is always thoughtful, bethinks her there is no one to
bring Lilian down to dinner except Guy. This certainly, for some inward
reason, troubles her. She sighs a little as she remembers Lilian's
marked preference for Chesney's assistance, then she turns to her
maid--the telegram has reached her as she is dressing for dinner--and
says to her:

"A telegram from Mr. Chesney: he cannot be home to dinner. My hair will
do very well. Hardy: go and tell Sir Guy he need not expect him."

Hardy, going, meets Sir Guy in the hall below, and imparts her
information.

Naturally enough, he too thinks first of Lilian. Much as it displeases
his pride, he knows he must in common courtesy again offer her his
rejected services. There is bitterness in the thought, and perhaps a
little happiness also, as he draws his breath rather quickly, and
angrily suppresses a half smile as it curls about his lips. To ask her
again, to be again perhaps refused! He gazes irresolutely at the
staircase, and then, with a secret protest against his own weakness,
mounts it.

The second dinner-bell has already sounded: there is no time for further
deliberation. Going reluctantly up-stairs, he seeks with slow and
lingering footsteps his mother's boudoir.

The room is unlit, save by the glorious fire, half wood, half coal, that
crackles and laughs and leaps in the joy of its own fast living. Upon a
couch close to it, bathed in its warm flames, lies the little slender
black-robed figure so inexpressibly dear to him. She is so motionless
that but for her wide eyes, gazing so earnestly into the fire, one might
imagine her wrapt in slumber. Her left arm is thrown upward so that her
head rests upon it, the other hangs listlessly downward, almost touching
the carpet beneath her.

She looks pale, but lovely. Her golden hair shines richly against the
crimson satin of the cushion on which she leans. As Guy approaches her
she never raises her eyes, although without doubt she sees him. Even
when he stands beside her and gazes down upon her, wrathful at her
insolent disregard, she never pretends to be aware of his near presence.

"Dinner will be ready in three minutes," he says, coldly: "do you intend
coming down to-night?"

"Certainly. I am waiting for my cousin," she answers, with her eyes
still fixed upon the fire.

"I am sorry to be the conveyer of news that must necessarily cause you
disappointment. My mother has had a telegram from Chesney saying he
cannot be home until to-morrow. Business detains him."

"He promised me he would return in time for dinner," she says, turning
toward him at last, and speaking doubtfully.

"No doubt he is more upset than you can be at his unintended defection.
But it is the case for all that. He will not be home to-night."

"Well, I suppose he could not help it."

"I am positive he couldn't!" coldly.

"You have great faith in him," with an unpleasant little smile. "Thank
you, Sir Guy: it was very kind of you to bring me such disagreeable
news." As she ceases speaking she turns back again to the contemplation
of the fire, as though desirous of giving him his _congé_.

"I can hardly say I came to inform you of your cousin's movements,"
replies he, haughtily; "rather to ask you if you will accept my aid to
get down-stairs?"

"Yours!"

"Even mine."

"No, thank you," with slow surprise, as though she yet doubts the fact
of his having again dared to offer his services: "I would not trouble
you for worlds!"

"The trouble is slight," he answers, with an expressive glance at the
fragile figure below him.

"But yet a trouble! Do not distress yourself, Sir Guy: Parkins will help
me, if you will be so kind as to desire him."

"Your nurse"--hastily--"would be able, I dare say."

"Oh, no. I can't bear trusting myself to women. I am an arrant coward. I
always think they are going to trip, or let me drop, at every corner."

"Then why refuse my aid?" he says, even at the price of his
self-respect.

"No; I prefer Parkins!"

"Oh, if you prefer the assistance of a _footman_, there is nothing more
to be said," he exclaims, angrily, going toward the door much offended,
and with just a touch of disgust in his tone.

Now, Miss Chesney does not prefer the assistance of a footman; in fact,
she would prefer solitude and a lonely dinner rather than trust herself
to such a one; so she pockets her pride, and, seeing Sir Guy almost
outside the door, raises herself on her elbow and says, pettishly, and
with the most flagrant injustice:

"Of course I can stay here all by myself in the dark, if there is no one
to take me down."

"I wish I understood you," says Guy, irritably, coming back into the
room. "Do you mean you wish me to carry you down? I am quite willing to
do so, though I wish with all my heart your cousin were here to take my
place. It would evidently be much pleasanter for all parties.
Nevertheless, if you deign to accept my aid," proudly, "I shall neither
trip nor drop you, I promise."

There is a superciliousness in his manner that vexes Lilian; but, having
an innate horror of solitude, go down she will: so she says, cuttingly:

"You are graciousness itself! you give me plainly to understand how
irksome is this duty to you. I too wish Archie were here, for many
reasons, but as it is----" she pauses abruptly; and Guy, stooping,
raises her quietly, tenderly, in his arms, and, with the angry scowl
upon his face and the hauteur still within his usually kind blue eyes,
begins his march down-stairs.

It is rather a long march to commence, with a young woman, however
slender, in one's arms. First comes the corridor, which is of a goodly
length, and after it the endless picture-gallery. Almost as they enter
the latter, a little nail half hidden in the doorway catches in Lilian's
gown, and, dragging it roughly, somehow hurts her foot. The pain she
suffers causes her to give way to a sharp cry, whereupon Guy stops
short, full of anxiety.

"You are in pain?" he says, gazing eagerly into the face so close to his
own.

"My foot," she answers, her eyes wet with tears; "something dragged it:
oh, how it hurts! And you promised me to be so careful, and now----but I
dare say you are _glad_ I am punished," she winds up, vehemently, and
then bursts out crying, partly through pain, partly through nervousness
and a good deal of self-torturing thought long suppressed, and hides her
face childishly against his sleeve because she has nowhere else to hide
it. "Lay me down," she says, faintly.

There is a lounging-chair close to the fire that always burns brightly
in the long gallery: placing her in it, he stands a little aloof,
cursing his own ill-luck, and wondering what he has done to make her
hate him so bitterly. Her tears madden him. Every fresh sob tears his
heart. At last, unable to bear the mental agony any longer, he kneels
down beside her, and, with an aspect of the deepest respect, takes one
of her hands in his.

"I am very unfortunate," he says, humbly. "Is it hurting you very much?"

"It is better now," she whispers; but for all that she sobs on very
successfully behind her handkerchief.

"You are not the only one in pain,"--speaking gently but earnestly:
"every sob of yours causes me absolute torture."

This speech has no effect except to make her cry again harder than ever.
It is so sweet to a woman to know a man is suffering tortures for her
sake.

A little soft lock of her hair has shaken itself loose, and has wandered
across her forehead. Almost unconsciously but very lovingly, he moves it
back into its proper place.

"What have I done, Lilian, that you should so soon have learned to hate
me?" he whispers: "we used to be good friends."

"So long ago"--in stifled tones from behind the handkerchief--"that I
have almost forgotten it."

"Not so very long. A few weeks at the utmost,--before your cousin came."

"Yes,"--with a sigh,--"before my cousin came."

"That is only idle recrimination. I know I once erred deeply, but surely
I have repented, and---- Tell me why you hate me."

"I cannot."

"Why?"

"Because I don't know myself."

"What! you confess you hate me without cause?"

"That is not it."

"What then?"

"How can I tell you," she says, impatiently, "when I know I don't hate
you _at all_?"

"Lilian, is that true?" taking away the handkerchief gently but forcibly
that he may see her face, which after all is not nearly so tear-stained
as it should be, considering all the heart-rending sobs to which he has
been listening. "Are you sure? am I not really distasteful to you?
Perhaps even,"--with an accession of hope, seeing she does not turn from
him,--"you like me a little, still?"

"When you are good,"--with an airy laugh and a slight pout--"I do a
_little_. Yes,"--seeing him glance longingly at her hand,--"you may kiss
it, and then we shall be friends again, for to-night at least. Now do
take me down, Sir Guy: if we stay here much longer I shall be seeing
bogies in all the corners. Already your ancestors seem to be frowning at
me, and a more dark and blood-thirsty set of relatives I never saw. I
hope you won't turn out as bad to look at in your old age."

"It all depends. When we are happy we are generally virtuous. Misery
creates vice."

"What a sententious speech!" He has taken up his fair burden again, and
they are now (very slowly, I must say) descending the stairs. "Now here
comes a curve," she says, with a return of all her old sauciness:
"please do not drop me."

"I have half a mind to," laughing. "Suppose, now, I let you fall
cleverly over these banisters on to the stone flooring beneath, I should
save myself from many a flout and many a scornful speech, and rid myself
forever of a troublesome little ward."

Leaning her head rather backward, she looks up into his face and smiles
one of her sweetest, tenderest smiles.

"I am not afraid of you now, Guardy," she murmurs, softly; whereat his
foolish heart beats madly. The old friendly appellation, coming so
unexpectedly from her, touches him deeply: it is with difficulty he
keeps himself from straining her to his heart and pressing his lips upon
the beautiful childish mouth upheld to him. He has had his lesson,
however, and refrains.

He is still regarding her with unmistakable admiration, when Miss
Beauchamp's voice from the landing above startles them both, and makes
them feel, though why they scarcely know, partners in guilt.

There is a metallic ring in it that strikes upon the ear, and suggests
all sorts of lady-like disgust and condemnation.

"I am sure, Guy, if Lilian's foot be as bad as she says it is, she would
feel more comfortable lying on a sofa. Are you going to pose there all
the evening for the benefit of the servants? I think it is hardly good
taste of you to keep her in your arms upon the public staircase,
whatever you may do in private."

The last words are uttered in a rather lower tone, but are still
distinctly audible. Lilian blushes a slow and painful red, and Sir Guy,
giving way to a naughty word that is also distinctly audible, carries
her down instantly to the dining-room.



CHAPTER XXII.

     "For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
     Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

            *       *       *       *       *

     This thought is as a death."--SHAKESPEARE.


The next day is dark and lowering, to Lilian's great joy, who, now she
is prevented by lameness from going for one of her loved rambles, finds
infinite satisfaction in the thought that even were she quite well, it
would be impossible for her to stir out of doors. According to her mode
of arguing, this is one day not lost.

About two o'clock Archibald returns, in time for luncheon, and to resume
his care of Lilian, who gives him a gentle scolding for his desertion of
her in her need. He is full of information about town and their mutual
friends there, and imparts it freely.

"Everything is as melancholy up there as it can be," he says, "and very
few men to be seen: the clubs are deserted, all shooting or hunting, no
doubt. The rain was falling in torrents all the day."

"Poor Archie, you have been having a bad time of it, I fear."

"In spite of the weather and her ruddy locks, Lady Belle Damascene has
secured the prize of the season, out of season. She is engaged to Lord
Wyntermere: it is not yet publicly announced, but I called to see her
mother for five minutes, and so great was her exultation she could not
refrain from whispering the delightful intelligence into my ear. Lady
Belle is staying with his people now in Sussex."

"Certainly, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder.' She is painfully
ugly," says Miss Beauchamp. "Such feet, such hands, and such a shocking
complexion!"

"She is very kind-hearted and amiable," says Cyril.

"That is what is always said of a plain woman," retorts Florence. "When
you hear a girl is amiable, always conclude she is hideous. When one's
trumpeter is in despair, he says that."

"I am sure Lord Wyntermere must be a young man of good sound sense,"
says Lilian, who never agrees with Florence. "If she has a kind heart
he will never be disappointed in her. And, after all, there is no such
great advantage to be derived from beauty. When people are married for
four or five years, I dare say they quite forget whether the partner of
their joys and sorrows was originally lovely or the reverse: custom
deadens perception."

"It is better to be good than beautiful," says Lady Chetwoode, who
abhors ugly women: "you know what Carew says:


     "But a smooth and steadfast mind,
       Gentle thoughts and calm desires,
     Hearts with equal love combined,
       Kindle never-dying fires;
     Where these are not, I despise
     Lovely cheeks or lips or eyes."


"Well done, Madre," says Cyril. "You are coming out. I had no idea you
were so gifted. Your delivery is perfect."

"And what are you all talking about?" continues Lady Chetwoode: "I think
Belle Damascene very sweet to look at. In spite of her red hair, and a
good many freckles, and--and--a rather short nose, her expression is
very lovable: when she smiles I always feel inclined to kiss her. She is
like her mother, who is one of the best women I know."

"If you encourage my mother she will end by telling you Lady Belle is a
beauty and a reigning toast," says Guy, _sotto voce_.

Lady Chetwoode laughs, and Lilian says:

"What is every one wearing now, Archie?"

"There is nobody to wear anything. For the rest they had all on some
soft, shiny stuff like the dress you wore the night before last."

"What an accurate memory you have!" says Florence, letting her eyes rest
on Guy's for a moment, though addressing Chesney.

"Satin," translates Lilian, unmoved. "And their bonnets?"

"Oh, yes! they all wore bonnets or hats, I don't know which," vaguely.

"Naturally; mantillas are not yet in vogue. You are better than 'Le
Follet,' Archie; your answers are so satisfactory. Did you meet any one
we know?"

"Hardly any one. By the bye,"--turning curiously to Sir Guy,--"was
Trant here to-day?"

"No," surprised: "why do you ask?"

"Because I met him at Truston this morning. He got out of the train by
which I went on,--it seems he has been staying with the Bulstrodes,--and
I fancied he was coming on here, but had not time to question him, as I
barely caught the train; another minute's delay and I should have been
late."

Archibald rambles on about his near escape of being late for the train,
while his last words sink deep into the minds of Guy and Cyril. The
former grows singularly silent; a depressed expression gains upon his
face. Cyril, on the contrary, becomes feverishly gay, and with his mad
observations makes merry Lilian laugh heartily.

But when luncheon is over and they all disperse, a gloom falls upon him:
his features contract; doubt and a terrible suspicion, augmented by
slanderous tales that forever seem to be poured into his ears, make
havoc of the naturally kind expression that characterizes his face, and
with a stifled sigh he turns and walks toward the billiard-room.

Guy follows him. As Cyril enters the doorway, he enters too, and,
closing the door softly, lays his hand upon his shoulder.

"You heard, Cyril?" he says, with exceeding gentleness.

"Heard what?" turning somewhat savagely upon him.

"My dear fellow,"--affectionate entreaty in his tone,--"do not be
offended with me. Will you not listen, Cyril? It is very painful to me
to speak, but how can I see my brother so--so shamefully taken in
without uttering a word of warning."

"If you were less tragic and a little more explicit it might help
matters," replies Cyril, with a sneer and a short unpleasant laugh. "Do
speak plainly."

"I will, then,"--desperately,--"since you desire it. There is more
between Trant and Mrs. Arlington than we know of. I do not speak without
knowledge. From several different sources I have heard the same
story,--of his infatuation for some woman, and of his having taken a
house for her in some remote spot. No names were mentioned, mind; but,
from what I have unwillingly listened to it is impossible not to connect
these evil whispers that are afloat with him and her. Why does he come
so often to the neighborhood and yet never dare to present himself at
Chetwoode?"

"And you believe Trant capable of so far abusing the rights of
friendship as to ask you--_you_--to supply the house in the remote
spot?"

"Unfortunately, I must."

"You are speaking of your friend,"--with a bitter sneer,--"and you can
coldly accuse him of committing so blackguardly an action?"

"If all I have heard be true (and I have no reason to doubt it), he is
no longer any friend of mine," says Guy, haughtily. "I shall settle with
him later on when I have clearer evidence; in the meantime it almost
drives me mad to think he should have dared to bring down here, so close
to my mother, his----"

"What?" cries Cyril, fiercely, thrusting his brother from him with
passionate violence. "What is it you would say? Take care, Guy; take
care: you have gone too far already. From whom, pray, have you learned
your infamous story?"

"I beg your pardon," Guy says, gently, extreme regret visible in his
countenance. "I should not have spoken so, under the circumstances. It
was not from one alone, but from several, I heard what I now tell
you,--though I must again remind you that no names were mentioned;
still, I could not help drawing my own conclusions."

"They lied!" returns Cyril, passionately, losing his head. "You may tell
them so for me. And you,"--half choking,--"you lie too when you repeat
such vile slanders."

"It is useless to argue with you," Guy says, coldly, the blood mounting
hotly to his forehead at Cyril's insulting words, while his expression
grows stern and impenetrable. "I waste time. Yet this last word I will
say: Go down to The Cottage--now--this moment--and convince yourself of
the truth of what I have said."

He turns angrily away: while Cyril, half mad with indignation and
unacknowledged fear, follows this final piece of advice, and almost
unconsciously leaving the house, takes the wonted direction, and hardly
draws breath until the trim hedges and pretty rustic gates of The
Cottage are in view.

The day is showery, threatening since dawn, and now the rain is falling
thickly, though he heeds it not at all.

As with laggard steps he draws still nearer the abode of her he loves
yet does not wholly trust, the sound of voices smites upon his ear. He
is standing upon the very spot--somewhat elevated--that overlooks the
arbor where so long ago Miss Beauchamp stood and learned his
acquaintance with Mrs. Arlington. Here now he too stays his steps and
gazes spell-bound upon what he sees before him.

In the arbor, with his back turned to Cyril, is a man, tall, elderly,
with an iron-gray moustache. Though not strictly handsome, he has a fine
and very military bearing, and a figure quite unmistakable to one who
knows him: with a sickly chill at his heart, Cyril acknowledges him to
be Colonel Trant.

Cecilia is beside him. She is weeping bitterly, but quietly, and with
one hand conceals her face with her handkerchief. The other is fast
imprisoned in both of Trant's.

A film settles upon Cyril's eyes, a dull faintness overpowers him,
involuntarily he places one hand upon the trunk of a near elm to steady
himself; yet through the semi-darkness, the strange, unreal feeling that
possesses him, the voices still reach him cruelly distinct.

"Do not grieve so terribly: it breaks my heart to see you, darling,
_darling_," says Trant, in a low, impassioned tone, and raising the hand
he holds, presses his lips to it tenderly. The slender white fingers
tremble perceptibly under the caress, and then Cecilia says, in a voice
hardly audible through her tears:

"I am so unhappy! it is all my fault; knowing you loved me, I should
have told you before of----"

But her voice breaks the spell: Cyril, as it meets his ears, rouses
himself with a start. Not once again does he even glance in her
direction, but with a muttered curse at his own folly, turns and goes
swiftly homeward.

A very frenzy of despair and disappointment rages within him: to have so
loved,--to be so foully betrayed! Her tears, her sorrow (connected no
doubt with some early passages between her and Trant), because of their
very poignancy, only render him the more furious.

On reaching Chetwoode he shuts himself into his own room, and, feigning
an excuse, keeps himself apart from the rest of the household all the
remainder of the evening and the night. "Knowing you loved me,"--the
words ring in his ears. Ay, she knew it,--who should know it
better?--but had carefully kept back all mention of the fact when
pressed by him, Cyril, upon the subject. All the world knew what he,
poor fool, had been the last to discover. And what was it her tender
conscience was accusing her of not having told Trant before?--of her
flirtation, as no doubt she mildly termed all the tender looks and
speeches, and clinging kisses, and loving protestations so freely
bestowed upon Cyril,--of her flirtation, no doubt.

The next morning, after a sleepless night, he starts for London, and
there spends three reckless, miserable days that leave him wan and aged
through reason of the conflict he is waging with himself. After which a
mad desire to see again the cause of all his misery, to openly accuse
her of her treachery, to declare to her all the irreparable mischief she
has done, the utter ruin she has made of his life, seizes hold upon him,
and, leaving the great city, and reaching Truston, he goes straight from
the station to The Cottage once so dear.

In her garden Cecilia is standing all alone. The wind is sighing
plaintively through the trees that arch above her head, the thousand
dying leaves are fluttering to her feet. There is a sense of decay and
melancholy in all around that harmonizes exquisitely with the dejection
of her whole manner. Her attitude is sad and drooping, her air
depressed; there are tears, and an anxious, expectant look in her gray
eyes.

"Pining for her lover, no doubt," says Cyril, between his teeth (in
which supposition he is right); and then he opens the gate, and goes
quickly up to her.

As she hears the well-known click of the latch she turns, and, seeing
him, lets fall unheeded to the ground the basket she is holding, and
runs to him with eyes alight, and soft cheeks tinged with a lovely
generous pink, and holds out her hands to him with a little low glad
cry.

"At last, truant!" she exclaims, joyfully; "after three whole long, long
days; and what has kept you from me? Why, Cyril, Cyril!"--recoiling,
while a dull ashen shade replaces the gay tinting of her cheeks,--"what
has happened? How oddly you look! You,--you are in trouble?"

"I am," in a changed, harsh tone she scarcely realizes to be his, moving
back with a gesture of contempt from the extended hands that would so
gladly have clasped his. "In so far you speak the truth: I have
discovered all. One lover, it appears, was not sufficient for you; you
should dupe another for your amusement. It is an old story, but none the
less bitter. No, it is useless your speaking," staying her with a
passionate movement: "I tell you I know _all_."

"All what?" she asks. She has not removed from his her lustrous eyes,
though her lips have turned very white.

"Your perfidy."

"Cyril, explain yourself," she says, in a low, agonized tone, her pallor
changing to a deep crimson. And to Cyril hateful certainty appears if
possible more certain by reason of this luckless blush.

"Ay, you may well change countenance," he says, with suppressed fury in
which keen agony is blended; "have you yet the grace to blush? As to
explanation, I scarcely think you can require it; yet, as you demand it,
you shall have it. For weeks I have been hearing of you tales in which
your name and Trant's were always mingled; but I disregarded them; I
madly shut my ears and was deaf to them; I would not believe, until it
was too late, until I saw and learned beyond dispute the folly of my
faith. I was here last Friday evening!"

"Yes?" calmly, though in her soft eyes a deep well of bitterness has
sprung.

"Well, you were there, in that arbor"--pointing to it--"where
_we_"--with a scornful laugh--"so often sat; but then you had a more
congenial companion. Trant was with you. He held your hand, he caressed
it; he called you his 'darling,' and you allowed it, though indeed why
should you not? doubtless it is a customary word from him to you! And
then you wept as though your heart, your _heart_"--contemptuously--
"would break. Were you confessing to him your coquetry with me? and
perhaps obtaining an easy forgiveness?"

"No, I was not," quietly, though there is immeasurable scorn in her
tone.

"No?" slightingly. "For what, then, were you crying?"

"Sir,"--with a first outward sign of indignation,--"I refuse to tell
you. By what right do you now ask the question? yesterday, nay, an hour
since, I should have felt myself bound to answer any inquiry of yours,
but not now. The tie between us, a frail one as it seems to me, is
broken; our engagement is at an end: I shall not answer you!"

"Because you dare not," retorts he, fiercely, stung by her manner.

"I think you dare too much when you venture so to address me," in a low
clear tone. "And yet, as it is in all human probability the last time we
shall ever meet, and as I would have you remember all your life long the
gross injustice you have done me, I shall satisfy your curiosity. But
recollect, sir, these are indeed the final words that shall pass between
us.

"A year ago Colonel Trant so far greatly honored me as to ask me to
marry him: for many reasons I then refused. Twice since I came to
Chetwoode he has been to see me,--once to bring me law papers of some
importance, and last Friday to again ask me to be his wife. Again I
refused. I wept then, because, unworthy as I am, I know I was giving
pain to the truest, and, as I know now,"--with a faint trembling in her
voice, quickly subdued--"the _only_ friend I have! When declining his
proposal, I gave my reason for doing so! I told him I loved another!
That other was you!"

Casting this terrible revenge in his teeth, she turns, and, walking
majestically into the house, closes the door with significant haste
behind her.

This is the one solitary instance of inhospitality shown by Cecilia in
all her life. Never until now was she known to shut her door in the face
of trouble. And surely Cyril's trouble at this moment is sore and needy!

To disbelieve Cecilia when face to face with her is impossible. Her eyes
are truth itself. Her whole manner, so replete with dignity and offended
pride, declares her innocent. Cyril stands just where she had left him,
in stunned silence, for at least a quarter of an hour, repeating to
himself miserably all that she has said, and reminding himself with
cold-blooded cruelty of all he has said to her.

At the end of this awful fifteen minutes, he bethinks himself his hair
must now, if ever, be turned gray; and then, a happier and more resolute
thought striking him, he takes his courage in his two hands, and walking
boldly up to the hall door, knocks and demands admittance with really
admirable composure. Abominable composure, thinks Cecilia, who in spite
of her stern determination never to know him again, has been watching
him covertly from behind a handkerchief and a bedroom curtain all this
time, and is now stationed at the top of the staircase, with dim eyes,
but very acute ears.

"Yes," Kate tells him, "her mistress is at home," and forthwith shows
him into the bijou drawing-room. After which she departs to tell her
mistress of his arrival.

Three minutes, that to Cyril's excited fancy lengthen themselves into
twenty, pass away slowly, and then Kate returns.

"Her mistress's compliments, and she has a terrible headache, and will
Mr. Chetwoode be so kind as to excuse her?"

Mr. Chetwoode on this occasion is not kind. "He is sorry," he stammers,
"but if Mrs. Arlington could let him see her for five minutes, he would
not detain her longer. He has something of the utmost importance to say
to her."

His manner is so earnest, so pleading, that Kate, who scents at least a
death in the air, retires full of compassion for the "pore gentleman."
And then another three minutes, that now to the agitated listener appear
like forty, drag themselves into the past.

Suspense is growing intolerable, when a well-known step in the hall
outside makes his heart beat almost to suffocation. The door is opened
slowly, and Mrs. Arlington comes in.

"You have something to say to me?" she asks, curtly, unkindly, standing
just inside the door, and betraying an evident determination not to sit
down for any consideration upon earth. Her manner is uncompromising and
forbidding, but her eyes are very red. There is rich consolation in this
discovery.

"I have," replies Cyril, openly confused now it has come to the point.

"Say it, then. I am here to listen to you. My servant tells me it is
something of the deepest importance."

"So it is. In all the world there is nothing so important to me.
Cecilia,"--coming a little nearer to her,--"it is that I want your
forgiveness; I ask your pardon very humbly, and I throw myself upon your
mercy. You must forgive me!"

"Forgiveness seems easy to you, who cannot feel," replies she,
haughtily, turning as though to leave the room; but Cyril intercepts
her, and places his back against the door.

"I cannot let you go until you are friends with me again," he says, in
deep agitation.

"Friends!"

"Think what I have gone through. _You_ have only suffered for a few
minutes, _I_ have suffered for three long days. Think of it. My heart
was breaking all the time. I went to London hoping to escape thought,
and never shall I forget what I endured in that detestable city. Like a
man in a dream I lived, scarcely seeing, or, if seeing, only trying to
elude, those I knew. At times----"

"You went to London?"

"Yes, that is how I have been absent for three days; I have hardly slept
or eaten since last I saw you."

Here Cecilia is distinctly conscious of a feeling of satisfaction: next
to a man's dying for you the sweetest thing is to hear of a man's
starving for you!

"Sometimes," goes on Cyril, piling up the agony higher and higher, and
speaking in his gloomiest tones, "I thought it would be better if I put
an end to it once for all, by blowing out my brains."

"How dare you speak to me like this?" Cecilia says in a trembling voice:
"it is horrible. You would commit suicide? Am I not unhappy enough, that
you must seek to make me more so? Why should you blow your brains out?"
with a shudder.

"Because I could not live without you. Even now,"--reproachfully,--"when
I see you looking so coldly upon me, I almost wish I had put myself out
of the way for good."

"Cyril, I forbid you to talk like this."

"Why? I don't suppose you care whether I am dead or alive." This artful
speech, uttered in a heart-broken tone, does immense execution.

"If you were dead," begins she, forlornly, and then stops short, because
her voice fails her, and two large tears steal silently down her cheeks.

"Would you care?" asks Cyril, going up to her and placing one arm gently
round her; being unrepulsed, he gradually strengthens this arm with the
other. "Would you?"

"I hardly know."

"Darling, don't be cruel. I was wrong, terribly, unpardonably wrong ever
to doubt your sweet truth; but when one has stories perpetually dinned
into one's ears, one naturally grows jealous of one's shadow, when one
loves as I do."

"And pray, who told you all these stories?"

"Never mind."

"But I do mind," with an angry sob. "What! you are to hear lies of me,
and to believe them, and I am not even to know who told you them! I do
mind, and I insist on knowing."

"Surely it cannot signify now, when I tell you I don't believe them."

"It does signify, and I should be told. But indeed I need not ask," with
exceeding bitterness; "I know. It was your brother, Sir Guy. He has
always (why I know not) been a cruel enemy of mine."

"He only repeated what he heard. He is not to be blamed."

"It _was_ he, then?" quickly. "But 'blamed'?--of course not; no one is
in the wrong, I suppose, but poor me! I think, sir,"--tremulously,--"it
would be better you should go home, and forget you ever knew any one so
culpable as I am. I should be afraid to marry into a family that could
so misjudge me as yours does. Go, and learn to forget me."

"I can go, of course, if you desire it," laying hold of his hat: "that
is a simple matter; but I cannot promise to forget. To some people it
may be easy, to me impossible."

"Nothing is impossible. The going is the first step. Oblivion"--with a
sigh--"will quickly follow."

"I do not think so. But, since you wish my absence--"

He moves toward the door with lowered head and dejected manner.

"I did not say I wished it," in faltering tones; "I only requested you
to leave me for your own sake, and because I would not make your people
unhappy. Though"--piteously--"it should break my heart, I would still
bid you go."

"Would it break your heart?" flinging his hat into a corner (for my own
part, I don't believe he ever meant going): coming up to her, he folds
her in his arms. "Forgive me, I entreat you," he says, "for what I shall
never forgive myself."

The humbleness of this appeal touches Cecilia's tender heart. She makes
no effort to escape from his encircling arms; she even returns one out
of his many caresses.

"To think you could behave so badly to me!" she whispers,
reproachfully.

"I am a brute! I know it."

"Oh, no! indeed you are not," says Mrs. Arlington. "Well, yes,"--drawing
a long breath,--"I forgive you; but _promise_, promise you will never
distrust me again."

Of course he gives the required promise, and peace is once more
restored.

"I shall not be content with an engagement any longer," Cyril says,
presently. "I consider it eminently unsatisfactory. Why not marry me at
once? I have nine hundred a year, and a scrap of an estate a few miles
from this,--by the bye, you have never yet been to see your
property,--and, if you are not afraid to venture, I think we might be
very happy, even on that small sum."

"I am not afraid of anything with you," she says, in her calm, tender
fashion; "and money has nothing to do with it. If," with a troubled
sigh, "I ever marry you, I shall not come to you empty-handed."

"'If: dost thou answer me with ifs?'" quotes he, gayly. "I tell you,
sweet, there is no such word in my dictionary. I shall only wait a
favorable opportunity to ask my mother's consent to our marriage."

"And if she refuses it?"

"Why, then I shall marry you without hers, or yours, or the consent of
any one in the world."

"You jest," she says, tears gathering in her large appealing eyes. "I
would not have you make your mother miserable."

"Above all things, do not let me see tears in your eyes again," he says,
quickly. "I forbid it. For one thing, it makes me wretched,
and"--softly--"it makes me feel sure _you_ are wretched, which is far
worse. Cecilia, if you don't instantly dry those tears I shall be under
the painful necessity of kissing them away. I tell you I shall get my
mother's consent very readily. When she sees you, she will be only too
proud to welcome such a daughter."

Soon after this they part, more in love with each other than ever.



CHAPTER XXIII.

       "_Phebe._--I have more cause to hate him than to love him:
     For what had he to do to chide at me?"--_As You Like It._


When Lilian's foot is again strong and well, almost the first use she
makes of it is to go to The Cottage to see Cecilia. She is gladly
welcomed there; the two girls are as pleased with each other as even in
fond anticipation they had dreamed they should be: and how seldom are
such dreams realized! They part with a secret though mutual hope that
they shall soon see each other again.

Of her first two meetings with the lovely widow Lilian speaks openly to
Lady Chetwoode; but with such an utter want of interest is her news
received that instinctively she refrains from making any further mention
of her new acquaintance. Meantime the friendship ripens rapidly, until
at length scarcely a week elapses without Lilian's paying at least one
or two visits at The Cottage.

Of the strength of this growing intimacy Sir Guy is supremely ignorant,
until one day chance betrays to him its existence.

It is a bright but chilly morning, one of November's rawest efforts. The
trees, bereft of even their faded mantle, that has dropped bit by bit
from their meagre arms, now stand bare and shivering in their unlovely
nakedness. The wind, whistling shrilly, rushes through them with
impatient haste, as though longing to escape from their gaunt and most
untempting embraces. There is a suspicion of snow in the biting air.

In The Cottage a roaring fire is scolding and quarreling vigorously on
its way up the chimney, illuminating with its red rays the parlor in
which it burns; Cecilia is standing on one side of the hearth, looking
up at Lilian, who has come down by appointment to spend the day with
her, and who is mounted on a chair hanging a picture much fancied by
Cecilia. They are freely discussing its merits, and with their gay
chatter are outdoing the noisy fire. To Cecilia the sweet companionship
of this girl is not only an antidote to her loneliness, but an excessive
pleasure.

The picture just hung is a copy of the "Meditation," and is a special
favorite of Lilian's, who, being the most unsentimental person in the
world, takes a tender delight in people of the visionary order.

"Do you know, Cecilia," she says, "I think the eyes something like
yours?"

"Do you?" smiling. "You flatter me."

"I flatter 'Mademoiselle la Meditation,' you mean. No; you have a
thoughtful, almost a wistful look about you, at times, that might
strongly remind any one of this picture. Now, I"--reflectively--"could
_never_ look like that. When I think (which, to do me justice, is
seldom), I always dwell upon unpleasant topics, and in consequence I
maintain on these rare occasions an exceedingly sour, not to say
ferocious, expression. I hate thinking!"

"So much the better," replies her companion, with a faint sigh. "The
more persistently you put thought behind you, the longer you will retain
happiness."

"Why, how sad you look! Have I, as usual, said the wrong thing? You
_mustn't_ think,"--affectionately,--"if it makes you sad. Come, Cis, let
me cheer you up."

Cecilia starts as though struck, and moves backward as the pretty
abbreviation of her name sounds upon her ear. An expression of hatred
and horror rises and mars her face.

"Never call me by that name again," she says with some passion, laying
her hand upon the sideboard to steady herself. "Never! do you hear? My
father called me so----" she pauses, and the look of horror passes from
her, only to be replaced by one of shame. "What must you think of me,"
she asks, slowly, "you who honored your father? I, too, had a father,
but I did not--no, I did not love him. Am I hateful, am I unnatural, in
your eyes?"

"Cecilia," says Lilian, with grave simplicity, "you could not be
unnatural, you could not be hateful, in the sight of any one."

"That name you called me by"--struggling with her emotion--"recalled old
scenes, old memories, most horrible to me. I am unhinged to-day: you
must not mind me."

"You are not well, dearest."

"That man, my husband,"--with a strong shudder,--"he, too, called me by
that name. After long years," she says, throwing out her hands with a
significant gesture, as though she would fain so fling from her all
haunting thoughts, "I cannot rid myself of the fear, the loathing, of
those past days. _Are_ they past? Is my terror an omen that they are not
yet ended?"

"Cecilia, you shall not speak so," says Lilian, putting her arms gently
round her. "You are nervous and--and upset about something. Why should
you encourage such superstitious thoughts, when happiness lies within
your grasp? How can harm come near you in this pretty wood, where you
reign queen? Come, smile at me directly, or I shall tell Cyril of your
evil behavior, and send him here armed with a stout whip to punish you
for your naughtiness. What a whip that would be!" says Lilian, laughing
so gleefully that Cecilia perforce laughs too.

"How sweet you are to me!" she says, fondly, with tears in her eyes. "At
times I am more than foolish, and last night I had a terrible dream; but
your coming has done me good. Now I can almost laugh at my own fears,
that were so vivid a few hours ago. But my youth was not a happy one."

"Now you have reached old age, I hope you will enjoy it," says Miss
Chesney, demurely.

Almost at this moment, Sir Guy Chetwoode is announced, and is shown by
the inestimable Kate into the parlor instead of the drawing-room,
thereby causing unutterable mischief. It is only the second time since
Mrs. Arlington's arrival at The Cottage he has put in an appearance
there, and each time business has been his sole cause for calling.

He is unmistakably surprised at Lilian's presence, but quickly
suppresses all show of emotion. At first he looks faintly astonished,
but so faintly that a second later one wonders whether the astonishment
was there at all.

He shakes hands formally with Mrs. Arlington, and smiles in a somewhat
restrained fashion upon Lilian. In truth he is much troubled at the
latter's evident familiarity with the place and its inmate.

Lilian, jumping down from her high elevation, says to Cecilia:

"If you two are going to talk business, I shall go into the next room.
The very thought of anything connected with the bugbear 'Law' depresses
me to death. You can call me, Cecilia, when you have quite done."

"Don't be frightened," says Guy, pleasantly, though inwardly he frowns
as he notes Lilian's unceremonious usage of his tenant's Christian name.
"I shan't detain Mrs. Arlington two minutes."

Then he addresses himself exclusively to Cecilia, and says what he has
to say in a perfectly courteous, perfectly respectful, perfectly
freezing tone,--to all of which Cecilia responds with a similar though
rather exaggerated amount of coldness that deadens the natural sweetness
of her behavior, and makes Lilian tell herself she has never yet seen
Cecilia to such disadvantage, which is provoking, as she has set her
heart above all things on making Guy like her lovely friend.

Then Sir Guy, with a distant salutation, withdraws; and both women feel,
silently, as though an icicle had melted from their midst.

"I wonder why your guardian so dislikes me," says Mrs. Arlington, in a
somewhat hurt tone. "He is ever most ungenerous in his treatment of me."

"Ungenerous!" hastily, "oh, no! he is not that. He is the most
generous-minded man alive. But--but----"

"Quite so, dear,"--with a faint smile that yet has in it a tinge of
bitterness. "You see there is a 'but.' I have never wronged him, yet he
hates me."

"Never mind who hates you," says Lilian, impulsively. "Cyril loves you,
and so do I."

"I can readily excuse the rest," says Mrs. Arlington, with a bright
smile, kissing her pretty consoler with grateful warmth.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour after Lilian's return to Chetwoode on this momentous day, Guy,
having screwed his courage to the sticking-point, enters his mother's
boudoir, where he knows she and Lilian are sitting alone.

Lady Chetwoode is writing at a distant table; Miss Chesney, on a sofa
close to the fire, is surreptitiously ruining--or, as she fondly but
erroneously believes, is knitting away bravely at--the gray sock her
ladyship has just laid down. Lilian's pretty lips are pursed up, her
brow is puckered, her soft color has risen as she bends in strong hope
over her work. The certain charm that belongs to this scene fails to
impress Sir Guy, who is too full of agitated determination to leave room
for minor interests.

"Lilian," he says, bluntly, with all the execrable want of tact that
characterizes the very gentlest of men, "I wish you would not cultivate
an acquaintance with Mrs. Arlington."

"Eh?" says Lilian, looking up in somewhat dazed amazement from her
knitting, which is gradually getting into a more and more hopeless mess,
"what is it, then, Sir Guy?"

"I wish you would not seek an intimacy with Mrs. Arlington," repeats
Chetwoode, speaking all the more sternly in that he feels his courage
ebbing.

The sternness, however, proves a mistake; Miss Chesney resents it, and,
scenting battle afar off, encases herself in steel, and calmly, nay,
eagerly, awaits the onslaught.

"What has put you out?" she says, speaking in a tone eminently
calculated to incense the listener. "You seem disturbed. Has Heskett
been poaching again? or has that new pointer turned out a
_disappointer_? What has poor Mrs. Arlington done to you, that you must
send her to Coventry?"

"Nothing, only----"

"Nothing! Oh, Sir Guy, surely you must have some substantial reason for
tabooing her so entirely."

"Perhaps I have. At all events, I ask you most particularly to give up
visiting at The Cottage."

"I am very sorry, indeed, to seem disobliging, but I shall not give up a
friend without sufficient reason for so doing."

"A friend! Oh, this is madness," says Sir Guy, with a perceptible start;
then, turning toward his mother, he says, in a rather louder tone, that
adds to the imperiousness of his manner, "Mother, will _you_ speak to
Lilian, and desire her not to go?"

"But, my dear, why?" asks Lady Chetwoode, raising her eyes in a vague
fashion from her pen.

"Because I will not have her associating with people of whom we know
nothing," replies he, at his wit's end for an excuse. This one is
barefaced, as at any other time he is far too liberal a man to condemn
any one for being a mere stranger.

"I know a good deal of her," says Lilian, imperturbably, "and I think
her charming. Perhaps,--who knows?--as she is unknown, she may prove a
duchess in disguise."

"She may, but I doubt it," replies he, a disagreeable note of irony
running through his speech.

"Have you discovered her parentage?" asks Lady Chetwoode, hastily. "Is
she of low birth? Lilian, my dear, don't have low tastes: there is
nothing on earth," says Lady Chetwoode, mildly, "so--so--so _melancholy_
as a person afflicted with low tastes."

"If thinking Mrs. Arlington a lady in the very best sense of the word is
a low taste, I confess myself afflicted," says Miss Chesney, rather
saucily; whereupon Lady Chetwoode, who knows mischief is brewing and is
imbued with a wholesome horror of all disputes between her son and his
ward, rises hurriedly and prepares to quit the room.

"I hope Archie will not miss his train," she says, irrelevantly. "He is
always so careless, and I know it is important he should see his
solicitor this evening about the transfer of York's farm. Where is
Archibald?"

"In the library, I think," responds Lilian. "Dear Archie, how we shall
miss him! shan't we, auntie?"

This tenderly regretful speech has reference to Mr. Chesney's intended
departure, he having at last, through business, been compelled to leave
Chetwoode and the object of his adoration.

"We shall, indeed. But remember,"--kindly,--"he has promised to return
to us at Christmas with Taffy."

"I do remember," gayly; "but for that, I feel I should give way to
tears."

Here Lady Chetwoode lays her hand upon the girl's shoulder, and presses
it gently, entreatingly.

"Do not reject Guy's counsel, child," she says, softly; "you know he
always speaks for your good."

Lilian makes no reply, but, gracefully turning her head, lays her red
lips upon the gentle hand that still rests upon her shoulder.

Then Lady Chetwoode leaves the room, and Lilian and her guardian are
alone. An ominous silence follows her departure. Lilian, who has
abandoned the unhappy sock, has now taken in hand a very valuable
Dresden china cup, and is apparently examining it with the most profound
interest.

"I have your promise not to go again to The Cottage?" asks Sir Guy at
length, the exigency of the case causing his persistency.

"I think not."

"Why will you persist in this obstinate refusal?" angrily.

"For many reasons," with a light laugh. "Shall I tell you one? Did you
ever hear of the 'relish of being forbidden?'"

"It is not a trifling matter. If it was possible, I would tell you what
would prevent your ever wishing to know this Mrs. Arlington again. But,
as it is, I am your guardian,"--determinately,--"I am responsible for
you: I do not wish you to be intimate at The Cottage, and in this one
matter at least I must be obeyed."

"Must you? we shall see," replies Miss Chesney, with a tantalizing laugh
that, but for the sweet beauty of her _riante_ face, her dewy, mutinous
mouth, her great blue eyes, now ablaze with childish wrath, would have
made him almost hate her. As it is, he is exceeding full of an
indignation he scarcely seeks to control.

"I, as your guardian, forbid you to go to see that woman," he says, in a
condensed tone.

"And why, pray?"

"I cannot explain: I simply forbid you. She is not fit to be an
associate of yours."

"Then I will _not_ be forbidden: so there!" says Miss Chesney,
defiantly.

"Lilian, once for all, do not go to The Cottage again," says Guy, very
pale. "If you do you will regret it."

"Is that a threat?"

"No; it is a warning. Take it as such if you are wise. If you go against
my wishes in this matter, I shall refuse to take charge of you any
longer."

"I don't want you to take charge of me," cries Lilian, tears of passion
and wounded feeling in her eyes. In her excitement she has risen to her
feet and stands confronting him, the Dresden cup still within her hand.
"I am not a beggar, that I should crave your hospitality. I can no doubt
find a home with some one who will not hate me as you do." With this,
the foolish child, losing her temper _in toto_, raises her hand and,
because it is the nearest thing to her, flings the cherished cup upon
the floor, where it lies shattered into a thousand pieces.

In silence Guy contemplates the ruins, in silence Lilian watches him; no
faintest trace of remorse shows itself in her angry fair little face. I
think the keenest regret Guy knows at this moment is that she isn't a
boy, for the simple reason that he would dearly like to box her ears.
Being a woman, and an extremely lovely one, he is necessarily disarmed.

"So now!" says Miss Lilian, still defiant.

"I have a great mind," replies Guy, raising his eyes slowly to hers, "to
desire you to pick up every one of those fragments."

This remark is unworthy of him, proving that in his madness there is not
even method. His speech falls as a red spark into the hot fire of Miss
Chesney's wrath.

"_You_ desire!" she says, blazing instantly. "What is it you would say?
'Desire!' On the contrary, _I_ desire _you_ to pick them up, and I shall
stay here to see my commands obeyed."

She has come a little closer to him, and is now standing opposite him
with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes. With one firm little finger she
points to the _débris_. She looks such a fragile creature possessed with
such an angry spirit that Chetwoode, in spite of himself acknowledging
the comicality of the situation, cannot altogether conceal a smile.

"Pick them up," says Lilian imperatively, for the second time.

"What a little Fury you are!" says Guy; and then, with a faint shrug, he
succumbs, and, stooping, does pick up the pieces of discord.

"I do it," he says, raising himself when his task is completed, and
letting severity once more harden his features, "to prevent my mother's
being grieved by such an exhibition of----"

"No, you do not," interrupts she; "you do it because I wished it. For
the future understand that, though you are my guardian, I will not be
treated as though I were a wayward child."

"Well, you _have_ a wicked temper!" says Guy, who is very pale, drawing
his breath quickly. He smiles as he says it, but it is a smile more
likely to incense than to soothe.

"I have not," retorts Lilian, passionately. "But that you goaded me I
should never have given way to anger. It is you who have the wicked
temper. I dislike you! I hate you! I wish I had never entered your
house! And"--superbly, drawing herself up to her full height, which does
not take her far--"I shall now leave it! And I shall never come back to
it again!"

This fearful threat she hurls at his head with much unction. Not that
she means it, but it is as well to be forcible on such occasions. The
less you mean a thing, the more eloquent and vehement you should grow;
the more you mean it, the less vehemence the better, because then it is
energy thrown away: the fact accomplished later on will be crushing
enough in itself. This is a rule that should be strictly observed.

Guy, whose head is held considerably higher than its wont, looks calmly
out of the window, and disdains to take notice of this outburst.

His silence irritates Miss Chesney, who has still sufficient rage
concealed within her to carry her victoriously through two quarrels. She
is therefore about to let the vials of her wrath once more loose upon
her unhappy guardian, when the door opens, and Florence, calm and
stately, sweeps slowly in.

"Aunt Anne not here?" she says; and then she glances at Guy, who is
still holding in his hands some of the fragments of the broken cup, and
who is looking distinctly guilty, and then suspiciously at Lilian, whose
soft face is crimson, and whose blue eyes are very much darker than
usual.

There is a second's pause, and then Lilian, walking across the room,
goes out, and bangs the door, with much unnecessary violence, behind
her.

"Dear me!" exclaims Florence, affectedly, when she has recovered from
the shock her delicate nerves have sustained through the abrupt closing
of the door. "How vehement dear Lilian is! There is nothing so ruinous
to one's manners as being brought up without the companionship of
well-bred women. The loss of it makes a girl so--so--hoydenish, and----"

"I don't think Lilian hoydenish," interrupts Guy, who is in the humor to
quarrel with his shadow,--especially, strange as it seems, with any one
who may chance to speak ill of the small shrew who has just flown like a
whirlwind from the room.

"No?" says Miss Beauchamp, sweetly. "Perhaps you are right. As a
rule,"--with an admiring glance, so deftly thrown as to make one regret
it should be so utterly flung away,--"you always are. It may be only
natural spirits, but if so,"--blandly,--"don't you think she has a great
deal of natural spirits?"

"I don't know, I'm sure," says Sir Guy. As he answers he looks at her,
and tells himself he hates all her pink and white fairness, her dull
brown locks, her duller eyes, and more, _much_ more than all, her large
and fleshy nose. "Has she?" he says, in a tone that augurs ill for any
one who may have the hardihood to carry on the conversation.

"I think she has," says Florence, innocently, a little touch of
doggedness running beneath the innocency. "But, oh, Guy, is that Aunt
Anne's favorite cup? the Dresden she so much prizes? I know it cost any
amount of money. Who broke it?"

"I did," returns Guy, shortly, unblushingly, and moving away from her,
quits the room.

Going up the staircase he pauses idly at a window that overlooks the
avenue to watch Archibald disappearing up the drive in the dog-cart.
Even as he watches him, vaguely, and without the least interest in his
movements,--his entire thoughts being preoccupied with another
object,--lo! that object emerges from under the lime-trees, and makes a
light gesture that brings Chesney to a full stop.

Throwing the reins to the groom, he springs to the ground, and for some
time the two cousins converse earnestly. Then Guy, who is now regarding
them with eager attention, sees Chesney help Lilian into the trap, take
his seat beside her and drive away up the avenue, past the huge
laurustinus, under the elms, on out of sight.

A slight pang shoots across Guy's heart. Where are they going, these
two? "I shall never return:"--her foolish words, that he so honestly
considers foolish, come back to him now clearly, and with a strange
persistency that troubles him, repeat themselves over again.

Chesney is going to London, but where is Lilian going? The child's
lovely, angry face rises up before him, full of a keen reproach. What
was she saying to Archibald just now, in that quick vehement fashion of
hers? was she upbraiding her guardian, or was she----? If Chesney had
asked her then to take any immediate steps toward the fulfilling of her
threat, would she, would she----?

Bah! he draws himself up with a shiver, and smiles contemptuously at the
absurdity of his own fears, assuring himself she will certainly be home
to dinner.

But dinner comes, and yet no Lilian! Lady Chetwoode has been obliged to
give in an hour ago to one of her severest headaches, and now lies prone
upon her bed, so that Miss Beauchamp and Guy perforce prepare to
partake of that meal alone.

Florence is resplendent in cream-color and blue, which doesn't suit her
in the least, though it is a pretty gown, one of the prettiest in her
wardrobe, and has been donned by her to-night for Guy's special
delectation, finding a _tête-à-tête_ upon the cards.

Chetwoode regards her with feverish anxiety as she enters the
drawing-room, hoping to hear some mention made of the absent Lilian; but
in this hope he is disappointed. She might never have been a guest at
Chetwoode, so little notice does Miss Beauchamp take of her
non-appearance.

She says something amiable about "Aunt Anne's" headache, suggests a new
pill as an unfailing cure for "that sort of thing," and then eats her
dinner placidly, quietly, and, with a careful kindness that not one of
the dishes shall feel slighted by her preference for another, patronizes
all alike, without missing any. It is indeed a matter for wonder and
secret admiration how Miss Beauchamp can so slowly, and with such a
total absence of any appearance of gluttony, get through so much in so
short a space of time. She has evidently a perfect talent for concealing
any amount of viands without seeming to do so, which, it must be
admitted, is a great charm.

To-night I fear Guy scarcely sees the beauty of it! He is conscious of
feeling disgust and a very passion of impatience. Does she not notice
Lilian's absence? Will she never speak of it? A strange fear lest she
should express ignorance of his ward's whereabouts ties his own tongue.
But she, she does, she _must_ know, and presently no doubt will tell
him.

How much more of that cream is she going to eat? Surely when the
servants go she will say something. Now she has nearly done: thank the
stars the last bit has disappeared! She is going to lay down her spoon
and acknowledge herself satisfied.

"I think, Guy, I will take a little more, _very_ little, please. This
new cook seems quite satisfactory," says Florence, in her slow, even,
self-congratulatory way.

A naughty exclamation trembles on Sir Guy's lips; by a supreme effort he
suppresses it, and gives her the smallest help of the desired cream that
decency will permit. After which he motions silently though peremptorily
to one of the men to remove _all_ the dishes, lest by any chance his
cousin should be tempted to try the cream a third time.

His own dinner has gone away literally untasted. A terrible misgiving is
consuming him. Lilian's words are still ringing and surging in his
brain,--"I shall never return." He recalls all her hastiness, her
impulsive ways, her hot temper. What if, in a moment of pride and rage,
she should have really gone with her cousin! If--it is impossible!
ridiculously, utterly impossible! Yet his blood grows cold in spite of
his would-be disbelief; a sickening shiver runs through his veins even
while he tells himself he is a fool even to imagine such a thing. And
yet, where is she?

"I suppose Lilian is at Mabel Steyne's," says Miss Beauchamp, calmly,
having demolished the last bit on her plate with a deep sigh.

"Is she?" asks Guy, in a tone half stifled. As he speaks, he stoops as
though to pick up an imaginary napkin.

"Your napkin is here," says Florence, in an uncompromising voice: "don't
you see it?" pointing to where it rests upon the edge of the table.
"Lilian, then,"--with a scrutinizing glance,--"did not tell you where
she was going?"

"No. There is no reason why she should."

"Well, I think there is," with a low, perfectly lady-like, but extremely
irritating laugh: "for one thing, her silence has cost you your dinner.
I am sorry I did not relieve your mind by telling you before. But I
could not possibly guess her absence could afflict you so severely. She
said something this morning about going to see Mabel."

"I dare say," quietly.

The minutes drag. Miss Beauchamp gets through an unlimited quantity of
dried fruit and two particularly fine pears in no time. She is looking
longingly at a third, when Guy rises impatiently.

"If she is at Mabel's I suppose I had better go and bring her home," he
says, glancing at the clock. "It is a quarter to nine."

"I really do not think you need trouble yourself," speaking somewhat
warmly for her: "Mabel is sure to send her home in good time, if she is
there!" She says this slowly, meaningly, and marks how he winces and
changes color at her words. "Then think how cold the night is!" with a
comfortable shiver and a glance at the leaping fire.

"Of course she is at Steynemore," says Guy, hastily.

"I would not be too sure: Lilian's movements are always uncertain: one
never quite knows what she is going to do next. Really,"--with a
repetition of her unpleasant laugh,--"when I saw her stepping into the
dog-cart with her cousin to-day, I said to myself that I should not at
all wonder if----"

"What?" sternly, turning full upon her a pale face and flashing eyes.
Miss Beauchamp's pluck always melts under Guy's anger.

"Nothing," sullenly; "nothing at least that can concern you. I was
merely hurrying on in my own mind a marriage that must eventually come
off. The idea was absurd, of course, as any woman would prefer a
fashionable wedding to all the inconvenience attendant on a runaway
match."

"You mean----"

"I mean"--complacently--"Lilian's marriage with her cousin."

"You speak"--biting his lips to maintain his composure--"as though it
was all arranged."

"And is it not?" with well-affected surprise. "I should have thought
you, as her guardian, would have known all about it. Perhaps I speak
prematurely; but one must be blind indeed not to see how matters are
between them. Do sit down, Guy: it fidgets one to see you so undecided.
Of course, if Lilian is at Steynemore she is quite safe."

"Still, she may be expecting some one to go for her."

"I think, if so, she would have told you she was going," dryly.

"Tom hates sending his horses out at night," says Guy,--which is a weak
remark, Tom Steyne being far too indolent a man to make a point of
hating anything.

"Does he?" with calm surprise, and a prolonged scrutiny of her cousin's
face. "I fancied him the most careless of men on that particular
subject. Before he was married he used to drive over here night after
night, and not care in the least how long he kept the wretched animals
standing in the cold."

"But that was when he was making love to Mabel. A man in love will
commit any crime."

"Oh, no, long before that."

"Perhaps, then, it was when he was making love to you," with a slight
smile.

This is a sore point.

"I don't remember that time," says Miss Beauchamp with perfect calmness
but a suspicious indrawing of her rather meagre lips. "If some one must
go out to-night, Guy, why not send Thomas?"

"Because I prefer going myself," replies he, quietly.

Passing through the hall on his way to the door, he catches up a heavy
plaid that happens to be lying there, on a side-couch, and, springing
into the open trap outside, drives away quickly under the pale cold rays
of the moon.

He has refused to take any of the servants with him, and so, alone with
his thoughts, follows the road that leads to Steynemore.

They are not pleasant thoughts. Being only a man, he has accepted Miss
Beauchamp's pretended doubts about Lilian's safety as real, and almost
persuades himself his present journey will bear him only bitter
disappointment. As to what he is going to do if Lilian has not been seen
at Steynemore, that is a matter on which he refuses to speculate.
Drawing near the house, his suspense and fear grow almost beyond bounds.
Dismounting at the hall-door, which stands partly open, he flings the
reins to Jericho, and going into the hall, turns in the direction of the
drawing-room.

While he stands without, trying to summon courage to enter boldly, and
literally trembling with suppressed anxiety, a low soft laugh breaks
upon his ear. As he hears it, the blood rushes to his face;
involuntarily he raises his hand to his throat, and then (and only then)
quite realizes how awful has been the terror that for four long hours
has been consuming him.

The next instant, cold and collected, he turns the handle of the door,
and goes in.

Upon a low seat opposite Mabel Steyne sits Lilian, evidently in the
gayest spirits. No shadow of depression, no thought of all the mental
agony he has been enduring, mars the brightness of her _mignonne_ face.
She is laughing. Her lustrous azure eyes are turned upward to her
friend, who is laughing also in apparent appreciation of her guest's
jest; her parted lips make merry dimples in her cheeks; her whole face
is full of soft lines of amusement.

As Guy comes in, Mabel rises with a little exclamation, and goes toward
him with outstretched hands.

"Why, Guy!" she says, "good boy! Have you come for Lilian? I was just
going to order the carriage to send her home. Did you walk or drive?"

"I drove." He has studiously since his entrance kept his eyes from
Lilian. The smile has faded from her lips, the happy light from her
eyes; she has turned a pale, proud little face to the fire, away from
her guardian.

"I made Lilian stay to dinner," says Mabel, who is too clever not to
have remarked the painful constraint existing between her guest and Sir
Guy. "Tom has been out all day shooting and dining at the Bellairs, so I
entreated her to stay and bear me company. Won't you sit down for a
while? It is early yet; there cannot be any hurry."

"No, thank you. My mother has a bad headache, and, as she does not know
where Lilian is, I think it better to get home."

"Oh, if auntie has a headache, of course----"

"I shall go and put on my hat," says Lilian, speaking for the first
time, and rising with slow reluctance from her seat. "Don't stir, Mab: I
shan't be a minute: my things are all in the next room."

"Lilian is not very well, I fear," Mrs. Steyne says, when the door has
closed upon her, "or else something has annoyed her. I am not sure
which," with a quick glance at him. "She would eat no dinner, and her
spirits are very fitful. But she did not tell me what was the matter,
and I did not like to ask her. She is certainly vexed about something,
and it is a shame she should be made unhappy, poor pretty child!" with
another quick glance.

"I thought she seemed in radiant spirits just now," remarks Guy, coldly.

"Yes; but half an hour ago she was so depressed I was quite uneasy about
her: that is why I used the word 'fitful.' Get her to eat something
before she goes to bed," says kindly Mabel, in an undertone, as Lilian
returns equipped for her journey. "Good-night, dear," kissing her. "Have
you wraps, Guy?"

"Yes, plenty. Good-night." And Mabel, standing on the door-steps,
watches them until they have vanished beneath the starlight.

It is a dark but very lovely night. Far above them in the dim serene
blue a fair young crescent moon rides bravely. As yet but a few stars
are visible, and they gleam and shiver and twinkle in the eternal dome,
restless as the hearts of the two beings now gazing silently upon their
beauty.


     "Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
     Blossomed the lonely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels."


A creeping shadow lies among the trees; a certain sense of loneliness
dwells in the long avenue of Steynemore as they pass beneath the
branches of the overhanging foliage. A quick wind rustles by them, sad
as a sigh from Nature's suffering breast, chill as the sense of injury
that hangs upon their own bosoms.

Coming out upon the unshaded road, a greater light falls upon them. The
darkness seems less drear, the feeling of separation more remote, though
still Pride sits with triumphant mien between them, with his great wings
outspread to conceal effectually any penitent glance or thought. The
tender pensive beauty of the growing night is almost lost upon them.


     "All round was still and calm; the noon of night
     Was fast approaching; up th' unclouded sky
     The glorious moon pursued her path of light,
     And shed a silv'ry splendor far and nigh;
     No sound, save of the night-wind's gentlest sigh,
     Could reach the ear."


A dead silence reigns between them: they both gaze with admirable
perseverance at the horse's ears. Never before has that good animal been
troubled by two such steady stares. Then Lilian stirs slightly, and a
little chattering sound escapes her, that rouses Guy to speech.

"You are tired?" he says, in freezing tones.

"Very."

"Cold?"

"_Very._"

"Then put this round you," disagreeably, but with evident anxiety,
producing the cozy plaid.

"No, thank you."

"Why?" surprised.

"Because it is yours," replies she, with such open and childish spite as
at any other time would have brought a smile to his lips. Now it brings
only a dull pain to his heart.

"I am sorry I only brought what you will not wear," he answers: "it did
not occur to me you might carry your dislike to me even to my clothes.
In future I shall be wiser."

Silence.

"Do put it on!" anxiously: "you were coughing all last week."

"I wouldn't be hypocritical, if I were you," with withering scorn. "I
feel sure it would be a matter for rejoicing, where you are concerned,
if I coughed all next week, and the week after. No: keep your plaid."

"You are the most willful girl I ever met," wrathfully.

"No doubt. I dare say you have met only angels. I am not one, I rejoice
to say. Florence is, you know; and one piece of perfection should be
enough in any household."

Silence again. Not a sound upon the night-air but the clatter of the
horse's feet as he covers bravely the crisp dry road, and the rushing of
the wind. It is a cold wind, sharp and wintry. It whistles past them,
now they have gained the side of the bare moor, with cruel keenness,
cutting uncivilly the tops of their ears, and making them sink their
necks lower in their coverings.

Miss Chesney's small hands lie naked upon the rug. Even in the
indistinct light he knows that they are shivering and almost blue.

"Where are your gloves?" he asks, when he can bear the enforced
stillness no longer.

"I forgot them at Mabel's."

Impulsively he lays his own bare hand upon hers, and finds it chilled,
nearly freezing.

"Keep your hands inside the rug," he says, angrily, though there is a
strong current of pain underlying the anger, "and put this shawl on you
directly."

"I will not," says Lilian, though in truth she is dying for it.

"You shall," returns Chetwoode, quietly, in a tone he seldom uses, but
which, when used, is seldom disobeyed. Lilian submits to the muffling in
silence, and, though outwardly ungrateful, is inwardly honestly rejoiced
at it. As he fastens it beneath her chin, he stoops his head, until his
eyes are on a level with hers.

"Was it kind of you, or proper, do you think, to make me so--so uneasy
as I have been all this afternoon and evening?" he asks, compelling her
to return his gaze.

"Were you uneasy?" says Miss Chesney, viciously and utterly
unrepenting: "I am glad of it."

"Was it part of your plan to make my mother wretched also?" This is a
slight exaggeration, as Lady Chetwoode has not even been bordering on
the "wretched," and is, in fact, up to the present moment totally
ignorant of Lilian's absence.

"I certainly did not mean to make dear auntie unhappy," in a
faintly-troubled tone. "But I shall tell her all the truth, and ask her
pardon, when I get home,--_back_, I mean," with studied correction of
the sweet word.

"What is the truth?"

"First, that I broke her lovely cup. And then I shall tell her why I
stayed so long at Steynemore."

"And what will that be?"

"You know very well. I shall just say to her, 'Auntie, your son, Sir
Guy, behaved so rudely to me this afternoon, I was obliged to leave
Chetwoode for a while.' Then she will forgive me."

Sir Guy laughs in spite of himself; and Lilian, could he only have
peeped into the deep recesses of the plaid, might also be plainly seen
with her pretty lips apart and all her naughty bewitching face dimpling
with laughter.

These frivolous symptoms are, however, rapidly and sternly suppressed on
both sides.

"I really cannot see what awful crime I have committed to make you so
taciturn," she says, presently, with a view to discussing the subject.
"I merely went for a drive with my cousin, as he should pass Steynemore
on his way to the station."

"Perhaps that was just what made my misery," softly.

"What! my going for a short drive with Archie? Really, Sir Guy, you will
soon be taken as a model of propriety. Poor old Archie! I am afraid I
shan't be able to make you miserable in that way again for a very long
time. How I wish those tiresome lawyers would let him alone!"

"Ask them to surrender him," says Guy, irritably.

"I would,"--cheerfully,--"if I thought it would do the least good. But I
know they are all made of adamant."

"Lilian,"--suddenly, unexpectedly,--"is there anything between you and
your cousin?"

"Who?"--with wide, innocent, suspiciously innocent eyes,--"Taffy?"

"No," impatiently: "of course I mean Chesney," looking at her with
devouring interest.

"Yes,"--disconsolately, with a desire for revenge,--"more miles than I
care to count."

"I feel"--steadily--"it is a gross rudeness my asking, and I know you
need not answer me unless you like; but"--with a quick breath--"try to
answer my question. Has anything passed between you and Chesney?"

"Not much," mildly: "one thrilling love-letter, and that ring."

"He never asked you to marry him?" with renewed hope.

"Oh, by the bye, I quite forgot that," indifferently. "Yes, he did ask
me so much."

"And you refused him?" asks Guy, eagerly, intensely, growing white and
cold beneath the moon's pitiless rays, that seem to take a heartless
pleasure in lighting up his agitated face at this moment. But Lilian's
eyes are turned away from his: so this degradation is spared him.

"No--n--o, not exactly," replies she.

"You accepted him?" with dry lips and growing despair.

"N--o, not exactly," again returns Miss Chesney, with affected
hesitation.

"Then what _did_ you do?" passionately, his impatient fear getting the
better of his temper.

"I don't feel myself at liberty to tell you," retorts Lilian, with a
provoking assumption of dignity.

Sir Guy looks as though he would like to give her a good shake, though
indeed it is quite a question whether he has even the spirits for so
much. He relapses into sulky silence, and makes no further attempt at
conversation.

"However," says Lilian, to whom silence is always irksome, "I don't mind
telling you what I shall do if he asks me again."

"What?" almost indifferently.

"I shall accept him."

"You will do very wisely," in a clear though constrained voice that
doesn't altogether impose upon Lilian, but nevertheless disagrees with
her. "He is very rich, very handsome, and a very good fellow all round."

"I don't much care about good fellows," perversely: "they are generally
deadly slow; I am almost sure I prefer the other sort. I am afraid mine
is not a well-regulated mind, as I confess I always feel more kindly
disposed toward a man when I hear something bad of him."

"Perhaps if I told you something bad about myself it might make you feel
more kindly disposed toward me," with a slight smile.

"Perhaps it might. But I believe you are incapable of a bad action.
Besides, if I felt myself going to like you, I should stop myself
instantly."

A pained hurt expression falls into his eyes.

"I think," he says, very gently, "you must make a point of reserving all
your cruel speeches for me alone. Do you guess how they hurt, child? No,
I am sure you do not: your face is far too sweet to belong to one who
would willingly inflict pain. Am I to be always despised and hated? Why
will you never be friends with me?"

"Because"--in a very low whisper--"you are so seldom good to me."

"Am I? You will never know how hard I try to be. But"--taking her hand
in his--"my efforts are always vain." He glances sorrowfully at the
little hand he holds, and then at the pretty face beneath the velvet hat
so near him. Lilian does not return his glance: her eyes are lowered,
her other hand is straying nervously over the tiger-skin that covers her
knees; they have forgotten all about the cold, the dreary night,
everything; for a full half mile they drive on thus silently, her hand
resting unresistingly in his; after which he again breaks the quiet that
exists between them.

"Did you mean what you said a little time ago about Chetwoode not being
your home?"

"I suppose so," in a rather changed and far softer tone. "Yes. What
claim have I on Chetwoode?"

"But your tone implied that if even you had a claim it would be
distasteful to you."

"Did it?"

"Don't you know it did?"

"Well, perhaps I didn't mean quite that. Did _you_ mean all you said
this morning?"

"Not all, I suppose."

"How much of it, then?"

"Unless I were to go through the whole of our conversation again, I
could not tell you that, and I have no wish to do so: to be pained"--in
a low voice--"as I have been, once in a day is surely sufficient."

"Don't imagine I feel the least sorrow for you," says Lilian, making a
wild attempt at recovering her ill humor, which has melted and vanished
away.

"I don't imagine it. How could I? One can scarcely feel sorrow or pity
for a person whom one openly professes to 'hate' and 'despise,'"
markedly, while searching her face anxiously with his eyes.

Miss Chesney pauses. A short but sharp battle takes place within her
breast. Then she raises her face and meets his eyes, while a faint sweet
smile grows within her own: impelled half by a feeling of coquetry, half
by a desire to atone, she lets the fingers he has still imprisoned close
with the daintiest pressure upon his.

"Perhaps," she whispers, leaning a little toward him, and raising her
lips very close to his cheek as though afraid of being heard by the
intrusive wind, "perhaps I did not quite mean that either."

Then, seeing how his whole expression changes and brightens, she half
regrets her tender speech, and says instantly, in her most unsentimental
fashion:

"Pray, Sir Guy, are you going to make your horse walk all the way home?
Can you not pity the sorrows of a poor little ward? I am absolutely
frozen: do stir him up, lazy fellow, or I shall get out and run. Surely
it is too late in the year for nocturnal rambles."

"If my life depended upon it, I don't believe I could make him go a bit
faster," returns he, telling his lie unblushingly.

"I forgot you were disabled," says Miss Chesney, demurely, letting her
long lashes droop until they partially (but only partially) conceal her
eyes from her guardian. "How remiss I am! When one has only got the use
of one hand, one can do so little; perhaps"--preparing to withdraw her
fingers slowly, lingeringly from his--"if I were to restore you both
yours, you might be able to persuade that horse to take us home before
morning."

"I beg you will give yourself no trouble on my account," says Guy,
hastily: "I don't want anything restored. And if you are really anxious
to get 'home'"--with a pleased and grateful smile, "I feel sure I shall
be able to manage this slow brute single-handed."

So saying, he touches up the good animal in question rather smartly,
which so astonishes the willing creature that he takes to his heels, and
never draws breath until he pulls up before the hall door at Chetwoode.

"Parkins, get us some supper in the library," says Sir Guy, addressing
the ancient butler as he enters: "the drive has given Miss Chesney and
me an appetite."

"Yes, Sir Guy, directly," says Parkins, and, going down-stairs to the
other servants, gives it as his opinion that "Sir Guy and Miss Chesney
are going to make a match of it. For when two couples," says Mr.
Parkins, who is at all times rather dim about the exact meaning of his
sentences, "when two couples takes to eating _teet-a-teet_, it is all up
with 'em."

Whereupon cook says, "Lor!" which is her usual expletive, and means
anything and everything; and Jane, the upper housemaid, who has a
weakness for old Parkins's sayings, tells him with a flattering smile
that he is "dreadful knowin'."

Meantime, Sir Guy having ascertained that Miss Beauchamp has gone to her
room, and that his mother is better, and asleep, he and Lilian repair to
the library, where a cozy supper is awaiting them, and a cheerful fire
burning.

Now that they are again in-doors, out of the friendly darkness, with the
full light of several lamps upon them, a second edition of their early
restraint--milder, perhaps, but still oppressive--most unaccountably
falls between them.

Silently, and very gently, but somewhat distantly, he unfolds the plaid
from round her slight figure, and, drawing a chair for her to the table,
seats himself at a decided distance. Then he asks her with exemplary
politeness what she will have, and she answers him; then he helps her,
and then he helps himself; and then they both wonder secretly what the
other is going to say next.

But Lilian, who is fighting with a wild desire for laughter, and who is
in her airiest mood, through having been compelled, by pride, to
suppress all day her usual good spirits, decides on making a final
effort at breaking down the barrier between them.

Raising the glass of wine beside her, she touches it lightly with her
lips, and says, gayly:

"Come, fill, and pledge me, Sir Guy. But stay; first let me give you a
little quotation that I hope will fall as a drop of nectar into your cup
and chase that nasty little frown from your brow. Have I your leave to
speak?" with a suspicion of coquetry in her manner.

Chetwoode's handsome lips part in a pleased smile: he turns his face
gladly, willingly, to hers.

"Why do you ask permission of your slave, O Queen of Hearts?" he
answers, softly, catching the infection of her gayety. He gazes at her
with unchecked and growing admiration, his whole heart in his eyes;
telling himself, as he has told himself a thousand times before, that
to-night she is looking her fairest.

Her cheeks are flushed from her late drive; one or two glittering golden
lovelocks have been driven by the rough wind from their natural
resting-place, and now lie in gracious disorder on her white forehead;
her lustrous sapphire eyes are gleaming upon him, full of unsubdued
laughter; her lips are parted, showing all the small even teeth within.

She stoops toward him, and clinking her glass against his with the
prettiest show of _bonne camaraderie_, whispers, softly:


     "Come, let us be happy together."


"Together!" repeats Guy, unsteadily, losing his head, and rising
abruptly from his seat as though to go to her. She half rises also,
seriously frightened at the unexpected effect of her mad words. What is
he going to say to her? What folly urged her on to repeat that
ridiculous line? The idea of flight has just time to cross her mind, but
not time to be acted upon, when the door is thrown open suddenly, and
Cyril--who has at this moment returned from his dinner party--entering
noisily, comes to her rescue.



CHAPTER XXIV.

     "I have some naked thoughts that roam about
     And loudly knock to have their passage out."--MILTON.


It goes without telling that Lilian gains the day, Guy's one solitary
attempt at mastery having failed ignominiously. She persists in her
allegiance to her friend, and visits The Cottage regularly as ever;
being even more tender than usual in her manner toward Cecilia, as she
recollects the narrowness of him who could (as she believes) without
cause condemn her. And Sir Guy, though resenting her defiance of his
wishes, and smarting under the knowledge of it, accepts defeat humbly,
and never again refers to the subject of the widow, which henceforth is
a tabooed one between them.

Soon after this, indeed, an event occurs that puts an end to all reason
why Lilian should not be as friendly with Mrs. Arlington as she may
choose. One afternoon, most unexpectedly, Colonel Trant, coming to
Chetwoode, demands a private interview with Sir Guy. Some faint breaths
of the scandal that so closely and dishonorably connects his name with
Cecilia's have reached his ears, and, knowing of her engagement with
Cyril, he has hastened to Chetwoode to clear her in the eyes of its
world.

Without apology, he treats Guy to a succinct and studied account of
Cecilia's history,--tells of all her sorrows, and gentle forbearance,
and innocence so falsely betrayed, nor even conceals from him his own
deep love for her, and his two rejections, but makes no mention of Cyril
throughout the interview.

Guy, as he listens, grows remorseful, and full of self-reproach,--more,
perhaps, for the injustice done to his friend in his thoughts, than for
all the harsh words used toward Mrs. Arlington, though he is too
clean-bred not to regret that also.

He still shrinks from all idea of Cecilia as a wife for Cyril. The
daughter of a man who, though of good birth, was too sharp in his
dealings for decent society, and the wife of a man, who, though rich in
worldly goods, had no pretensions to be a gentleman at all, could
certainly be no mate for a Chetwoode. A woman of no social standing
whatsoever, with presumably only a pretty face for a dowry,--Cyril must
be mad to dream of her! For him, Guy, want of fortune need not signify;
but for Cyril, with his expensive habits, to think of settling down with
a wife on nine hundred a year is simply folly.

And then Cyril's brother thinks with regret of a certain Lady Fanny
Stapleton, who, it is a notorious fact, might be had by Cyril for the
asking. Guy himself, it may be remarked, would not have Lady Fanny at
any price, she being rather wanting in the matter of nose and neck; but
younger brothers have no right to cultivate fastidious tastes, and her
snubby ladyship has a great admiration for Cyril, and a fabulous
fortune.

All the time Trant is singing Cecilia's praises, Guy is secretly sighing
over Lady Fanny and her comfortable thousands, and is wishing The
Cottage had been knocked into fine dust before Mrs. Arlington had
expressed a desire to reside there.

Nevertheless he is very gentle in his manner toward his former colonel
all the day, spending with him every minute he stays, and going with him
to the railway station when at night he decides on returning to town.
Inwardly he knows he would like to ask his forgiveness for the wrong he
has done him in his thoughts, but hardly thinks it wisdom to let him
know how guilty toward him he has been. Cyril, he is fully persuaded,
will never betray him; and he shrinks from confessing what would
probably only cause pain and create an eternal breach between them.

However, his conscience so far smites him that he does still further
penance toward the close of the evening.

Meeting Cyril on his way to dress just before dinner, he stops him.

"If you will accept an apology from me so late in the day," he says, "I
now offer you one for what I said of Mrs. Arlington some time since.
Trant has told me all the truth. I wronged her grossly, although"--with
a faint touch of bitterness--"when I _lied_ about her I did so
unconsciously."

"Don't say another word, old man," says Cyril, heartily, and much
gratified, laying his hand lightly upon his shoulder. "I knew you would
discover your mistake in time. I confess at the moment it vexed me you
should lend yourself to the spreading of such an absurd report."

"Yes, I was wrong." Then, with some hesitation, "Still, there was an
excuse for me. We knew nothing of her. We know nothing still that we can
care to know."

"How you worry yourself!" says Cyril, with a careless shrug, letting his
hand, however, drop from his brother's shoulder, as he fully understands
the drift of his conversation. "Why can't you let things slide as I do?
It is no end a better plan."

"I am only thinking of a remark you made a long time ago," replies Guy,
with a laugh, partially deceived by Cyril's indifferent manner: "shall I
remind you of it? 'Samivel, Samivel, my son, never marry a widder.'"



CHAPTER XXV.

     "_Hel._--How happy some, o'er other some can be!"
     --_Midsummer Night's Dream._


It is very close on Christmas; another week will bring in the
twenty-fifth of December, with all its absurd affectation of merriment
and light-heartedness.

Is any one, except a child, ever really happy at Christmas, I wonder? Is
it then one chooses to forget the loved and lost? to thrust out of sight
the regrets that goad and burn? Nay, rather, is it not then our hearts
bleed most freely, while our eyes grow dim with useless tears, and a
great sorrow that touches on despair falls upon us, as we look upon the
vacant seat and grow sick with longing for the "days that are no more?"

Surely it is then we learn how vain is our determination to forget those
unobtrusive ones who cannot by voice or touch demand attention. The
haunting face, that once full of youth and beauty was all the world to
us, rises from its chill shroud and dares us to be happy. The poor eyes,
once so sweet, so full of gayest laughter, now closed and mute forever,
gleam upon us, perchance across the flowers and fruit, and, checking the
living smile upon our lips, ask us reproachfully how is it with us, that
we can so quickly shut from them the doors of our hearts, after all our
passionate protests, our vows ever to remember.

Oh, how soon, how _soon_, do we cease our lamentations for our silent
dead!

When all is told, old Father Christmas is a mighty humbug: so I say and
think, but I would not have you agree with me. Forgive me this
unorthodox sentiment, and let us return to our--lamb!

Archibald has returned to Chetwoode; so has Taffy. The latter is looking
bigger, fuller, and, as Mrs. Tipping says, examining him through her
spectacles with a criticising air, "more the man," to his intense
disgust. He embraces Lilian and Lady Chetwoode, and very nearly Miss
Beauchamp, on his arrival, in the exuberance of his joy at finding
himself once more within their doors, and is welcomed with effusion by
every individual member of the household.

Archibald, on the contrary, appears rather done up, and faded, and,
though evidently happy at being again in his old quarters, still seems
sad at heart, and discontented.

He follows Lilian's movements in a very melancholy fashion, and herself
also, until it becomes apparent to every one that his depression arises
from his increasing infatuation for her; while she, to do her justice,
hardly pretends to encourage him at all. He lives in contemplation of
her beauty and her saucy ways, and is unmistakably _distrait_ when
circumstances call her from his sight.

In his case "absence" has indeed made the heart grow fonder, as he is,
if possible, more imbecile about her now than when he left, and, after
struggling with his feelings for a few days, finally makes up his mind
to tempt fortune again, and lay himself and his possessions at his
idol's feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is the wettest of wet days; against the window-panes the angry
rain-drops are flinging themselves madly, as though desirous of entering
and rendering more dismal the room within, which happens to be the
library.

Sir Guy is standing at the bow-window, gazing disconsolately upon the
blurred scene outside. Cyril is lounging in an easy chair with a
magazine before him, making a very creditable attempt at reading.
Archibald and Taffy are indulging in a mild bet as to which occupant of
the room will make the first remark.

Lady Chetwoode is knitting her one hundred and twenty-fourth sock for
the year. Lilian is dreaming, with her large eyes fixed upon the fire.
The inestimable Florence (need I say it?) is smothered in crewel wools,
and is putting a rose-colored eye into her already quite too fearful
parrot.

"I wonder what we shall do all day," says Guy, suddenly, in tones of the
deepest melancholy. Whereupon Taffy, who has been betting on Cyril, and
Chesney, who has been laying on Lilian, are naturally, though secretly
indignant.

"Just what we have been doing all the rest of the day,--nothing,"
replies Lilian, lazily: "could anything be more desirable?"

"I hope it will be fine to-morrow," says Mr. Musgrave, in an aggrieved
voice. "But it won't, I shouldn't wonder, just because the meet is to
be at Bellairs, and one always puts in such a good day there."

"I haven't got enough pluck to think of to-morrow," says Guy, still
melancholy: "to-day engrosses all my thoughts. What _is_ to become of
us?"

"Let us get up a spelling-bee," says Miss Beauchamp, with cheerful
alacrity; "they are so amusing."

"Oh, don't! please, Miss Beauchamp, don't," entreats Taffy,
tearfully,--"unless you want to disgrace me eternally. I can't spell
anything; and, even if I could, the very fact of having a word hurled at
my head would make me forget all about it, even were it an old
acquaintance."

"But, my dear fellow," says Cyril, laying down his "Temple Bar," with
all the air of a man prepared to argue until he and his adversary are
black in the face, "that is the fun of the whole matter. If you spelled
well you would be looked upon as a swindler. The greater mistakes you
make, the more delighted we shall be; and if you could only succeed like
that man in 'Caste' in spelling character with a K, we should give you
two or three rounds of applause. People never get up spelling-bees to
hear good spelling: the discomfiture of their neighbors is what amuses
them most. Have I relieved your mind?"

"Tremendously. Nevertheless, I fling myself upon your tender mercies,
Miss Beauchamp, and don't let us go in for spelling."

"Then let us have an historical-bee," substitutes Florence, amiably; she
is always tender where Taffy is concerned.

"The very thing," declares Cyril, getting up an expression of the
strongest hope. "Perhaps, if you do, I shall get answers to two or three
important questions that have been tormenting me for years. For
instance, I want to know whether the 'gossip's bowl' we read of was made
of Wedgwood or Worcester, and why our ancestors were so uncomfortable as
to take their tea out of 'dishes.' It must have got very cold, don't you
think? to say nothing at all of the inconvenience of being obliged to
lift it to one's lips with both hands."

"It didn't mean an actual 'dish,'" replies Florence, forgetting the
parrot's rosy optic for a moment, in her desire to correct his
ignorance: "it was merely a term for what we now call cup."

"No, was it?" says Cyril, with an affectation of intense astonishment;
whereupon they all laugh.

"Talking of tea," says Lady Chetwoode, "I wonder where it is. Taffy, my
dear, will you ring the bell?"

Tea is brought, tea is consumed; but still the rain rains on, and their
spirits are at zero.

"I shall go out, 'hail, rain, or shine,'" says Cyril, springing to his
feet with sudden desperation.

"So shall I," declares Guy, "to the stables. Taffy, will you come with
me?"

"As nobody wants me," says Lilian, "I shall make a point of wanting
somebody. Archie, come and have a game of billiards with me before
dinner."

"My dear Guy, does it not still rain very hard?" protests Florence,
anxiously.

"Very," laughing.

"You will get wet," with increasing anxiety, and a tender glance
cleverly directed.

"Wet! he will get drenched," exclaims Cyril; "he will probably get his
death of cold, and die of inflammation of the lungs. It is horrible to
think of it! Guy, be warned; accept Florence's invitation to stay here
with her, and be happy and dry. As sure as you are out to-day, you may
prepare to shed this mortal coil."

"Forgive me, Florence, I must go or suffocate," says Guy, refusing to be
warned, or to accept Miss Beauchamp's delicate hint: and together he and
Musgrave sally forth to inspect the stables, while Lilian and Archibald
retire to the billiard-room.

When they have played for some time, and Archibald has meanly allowed
Lilian to win all the games under the mistaken impression that he is
thereby cajoling her into staying with him longer than she otherwise
might have done, she suddenly destroys the illusion by throwing down her
cue impatiently, and saying, with a delicious little pout:

"I hate playing with people who know nothing about the game! there is no
excitement in it. I remark when I play with you I always win. You're a
regular muff at billiards, Archie; that's what _you_ are."

This is a severe blow to Archie's pride, who is a first-class hand at
billiards; but he grins and bears it.

"If you will give me a few more lessons," he says, humbly, "I dare say I
shall improve."

"No, I can't afford to waste my time, and you are too tiresome. Let us
go into the drawing-room."

"Rather let us stay here for a while," he says, earnestly. "They are all
out, and I--I have something to say to you."

During the last half-hour one of the men has come in and given the fire
a poke and lit the lamps, so that the room looks quite seductive. Miss
Chesney, glancing doubtfully round, acknowledges so much, and prepares
to give in.

"I hope it is something pleasant," she says, _àpropos_ of Archie's last
remark. "You have been looking downright miserable for days. I hope
sincerely, you are not going melancholy mad, but I have my doubts of it.
What is the matter with you, Archie? You used to be quite a charming
companion, but now you are very much the reverse. Sometimes, when with
you, your appearance is so dejected that if I smile I feel absolutely
heartless. Do try to cheer up, there's a good boy."

"A fellow can't be always simpering, especially when he is wretched,"
retorts he, moodily.

"Then don't be wretched. That is the very thing to which I object. You
are the very last man in the world who ought to suffer from the blues.
Anything wrong with you?"

"Everything. I love a woman who doesn't care in the very least for me."

"Oh, so that is what you have been doing in London, is it?" says Lilian,
after a short pause that makes her words still more impressive. "I
certainly did think you weren't in a very great hurry to return, and
that you looked rather blighted when you did come. I doubt you have been
dancing the 'Geliebt und verloren' waltzes once too often. Did she
refuse you?"

"I love you, Lilian, and only you," returns he, reproachfully. "No, do
not turn from me; let me plead my cause once more. Darling, I have
indeed tried to live without you, and have failed; if you reject me
again you will drive me to destruction. Lilian, be merciful; say
something kind to me."

"You promised me," says Lilian, nervously, moving away from him, "never
to speak on this subject again. Oh, why is it that some people will
insist on falling in love with other people? There is something so
stupid about it. Now, _I_ never fall in love; why cannot you follow my
good example?"

"I am not bloodless, or----"

"Neither am I," holding up her pretty hand between her and the fire, so
that the rich blood shows through the closed fingers of it. "But I have
common sense, the one thing you lack."

"_You_ are the one thing I lack," possessing himself of her hand and
kissing it fatuously. "Without you I lack everything. Beloved, must I
learn to look upon you as my curse? Give me, I entreat you, one little
word of encouragement, if only one; I starve for want of it. If you only
knew how I have clung for months, and am still clinging, to the barest
shadow of a hope, you would think twice before you destroyed that one
faint gleam of happiness."

"This is dreadful," says Lilian, piteously, the ready tears gathering in
her eyes. "Would you marry a woman who does not love you?"

"I would,"--eagerly,--"when that woman assures me she does not love
another, and I have your word for that."

Lilian winces. Then, trying to recover her spirits:

"'What one suffers for one's country--_men_!'" she misquotes, with an
affectation of lightness. "Archie, billiards have a demoralizing effect
upon you. I shan't play with you again."

"I don't want to bribe you," says Chesney, turning a little pale, and
declining to notice her interruption; "I should be sorry to think I
could do so; but I have ten thousand a year, and if you will marry me
you shall have a thousand a year pin-money, and five thousand if you
survive me."

"It would spoil my entire life fearing I shouldn't survive you," says
Miss Chesney, who, in spite of her nervousness, or because of it, is
longing to laugh.

"You will, you need not be afraid of that."

"It sounds dazzling," murmurs Lilian, "more especially when you give me
your word you will die first; but still I think it downright shabby you
don't offer me the whole ten."

"So I will!"--eagerly--"if----"

"Nonsense, Archie," hastily: "don't be absurd. Cannot you see I am only
in jest? I am not going to marry any one, as I told you before. Come
now,"--anxiously,--"don't look so dismal. You know I am very, _very_
fond of you, but after all one cannot marry every one one is fond of."

"I suppose not," gloomily.

"Then do try to look a little pleasanter. They will all notice your
depression when we return to them."

"I don't care," with increasing gloom.

"But I do. Archie, look here, dear,"--taking the high and moral
tone,--"do you think it is right of you to go on like this, just as
if----"

"I don't care a hang what is right, or what is wrong," says Mr. Chesney,
with considerable vehemence. "I only know you are the only woman I ever
really cared for, and you won't have me. Nothing else is of the
slightest consequence."

"I am not the only woman in the world. Time will show you there are
others ten times nicer and lovelier."

"I don't believe it."

"Because you don't wish to," angrily. "In the first place, I am far too
small to be lovely."

"You are tall enough for my fancy."

"And my mouth is too large," with growing irritation.

"It is small enough for my taste."

"And sometimes, when the summer is very hot, my skin gets quite
_freckled_," with increasing warmth.

"I adore freckles. I think no woman perfect without them."

"I don't believe you," indignantly; "and at all events I have a horrible
temper, and I defy you to say you like _that_!" triumphantly.

"I do," mournfully. "The hardest part of my unfortunate case is this,
that the unkinder you are to me the more I love you."

"Then I won't have you love me," says Miss Chesney, almost in tears: "do
you hear me? I forbid you to do it any more. It is extremely rude of you
to keep on caring for me when you know I don't like it."

"Look here, Lilian," says Archie, taking both her hands, "give me a
little hope, a bare crumb to live on, and I will say no more."

"I cannot, indeed," deeply depressed.

"Why? Do you love any other fellow?"

"Certainly not," with suspicious haste.

"Then I shall wait yet another while, and then ask you again."

"Oh, don't!" exclaims Lilian, desperately: "I _beg_ you won't. If I
thought I was going to have these scenes all over again at intervals, it
would kill me, and I should learn to hate you. I should, indeed; and
then what would you do? Think of it."

"I won't," doggedly; "I often heard 'Faint heart never won fair lady,'
and I shall take my chance. I shall never give you up, so long as you
are not engaged to any other man."

There is a pause. Lilian's blue eyes are full of tears that threaten
every moment to overflow and run down her pale cheeks. She is
desperately sorry for Archibald, the more so that her heart tells her
she will never be able to give him the consolation that alone can do him
any good. Seeing the expression of tender regret that softens her face,
Archibald falls suddenly upon his knees before her, and, pressing his
lips to her hands, murmurs, in deep agitation:

"My own, my dearest, is there no pity in your kind heart for me?"

At this most unlucky moment Sir Guy lays his hand upon the door, and
pushing it lightly open, enters. Five minutes later all the world might
have entered freely, but just now the entrance of this one man causes
unutterable pain.

Archibald has barely time to scramble to his feet; the tears are still
wet on Lilian's cheeks; altogether it is an unmistakable situation, and
Guy turns cold and pale as he recognizes it as such. Chesney on his
knees, with Lilian's hands imprisoned in his own; Lilian in tears,--what
can it mean but a violent love scene? Probably they have been
quarreling, and have just made it up again. "The falling out of faithful
friends, but the renewal is of love."

As he meets Lilian's shamed eyes, and marks the rich warm crimson that
has mantled in her cheeks, Chetwoode would have beaten a precipitous
retreat, but is prevented by Taffy's following on his heels somewhat
noisily.

"It is a charming night, Lil," says that young man, with his usual
_bonhommie_. "The rain is a thing of the past. We shall have our run
after all to-morrow."

"Indeed! I am glad of that," replies Lilian, half indifferently; though
being the woman of the party, she is of course the quickest to recover
self-possession. "I should have died of despair had the morning proved
unkind."

"Well, you needn't die for a while. I say, Lil," says Mr. Musgrave,
regarding her curiously, "what's the matter with you, eh? You look
awfully down in the mouth. Anything wrong?"

"Nothing," sharply: "what should be?"

"Can't say, I'm sure. But your cheeks," persists this miserable boy,
"are as red as fire."

"I--that is--it _was_ the fire," confusedly, directing a wrathful glance
at him, which is completely thrown away, as Mr. Musgrave is impervious
to hints: "I was sitting close to it."

"That goes without telling. Any one would imagine by your color, you had
been put upon the hob to simmer. By the bye,"--a most fortunate access
of ignorance carrying his thoughts into another channel,--"what is a
hob? I don't believe I ever saw one."

"Hob, substantive, short for goblin: as hobgoblin," says Cyril at this
moment, having entered, how, or from where, nobody knows. "Still bent
upon historical research?"

"It has something to do with kettles, I think," says Taffy. "I don't
quite believe your meaning for it."

"Don't you? I am sorry for you. I do. But some people never will learn."

"That is true," says Lilian, somewhat abruptly. Involuntarily her eyes
fall on Chesney. He has been staring in moody silence at the fire since
Chetwoode's entrance, but now, at her words, straightens himself, and
gives way to a low, rather forced, laugh.

"_Experientia docet_," says Guy, in a queer tone impossible to
translate. "Time is a stern school-master, who compels us against our
will,"--letting his eyes meet Lilian's--"to learn many things."

"It has taught me one thing," puts in Cyril, who looks half
amused,--"that the dressing-bell has rung some time since."

"Has it?" says Lilian, rising with alacrity, and directing a very
grateful glance at him: "I never heard it. I shall scarcely have time
now to get ready for dinner. Why did you not tell me before?"

As she speaks, she sweeps by him, and he, catching her hand, detains her
momentarily.

"Because, when one is not in the habit of it, one takes time to form a
good tarradiddle," replies he, in a soft whisper.

She returns his kindly pressure, and, going into the hall, finds that
full five minutes must elapse before the bell really rings.

"Dear Cyril!" she murmurs to herself, almost aloud, and, running up to
her room, cries a good deal upon nurse's breast before that kind
creature can induce her to change her gown. After which she gets into
her clothes, more because it would be indecent to go without them than
from any great desire to look her best.



CHAPTER XXVI.

     "For now she knows it is no gentle chase.

            *       *       *       *       *

     She looks upon his lips, and they are pale;
       She takes him by the hand, and that is cold;
     She whispers in his ears a heavy tale,
       As if they heard the woful words she told:
     She lifts the coffer-lids that close his eyes,
     Where lo! two lamps, burnt out, in darkness lies.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Two glasses, where herself, herself beheld
       A thousand times, and now no more reflect;
     Their virtue lost, wherein they late excell'd,
       And every beauty robb'd of his effect."--SHAKESPEARE.


"'A southern wind and a cloudy sky proclaim it a hunting morning,'"
quotes Miss Chesney, gayly, entering the breakfast-room at nine o'clock
next morning, looking, if anything, a degree more bewitching than usual
in her hat and habit: in her hand is a little gold-mounted riding-whip,
upon her lovable lips a warm, eager smile. "No one down but me!" she
says, "at least of the gentler sex. And Sir Guy presiding! what fun!
Archie, may I trouble you to get me some breakfast? Sir Guy, some tea,
please: I am as hungry as a hawk."

Sir Guy pours her out a cup of tea, carefully, but silently. Archie,
gloomy, but attentive, places before her what she most fancies: Cyril
gets her a chair; Taffy brings her some toast: all are fondly dancing
attendance on the little spoiled fairy.

"What are you looking at, Taffy?" asks she, presently, meeting her
cousin's blue eyes, that so oddly resemble her own, fixed upon her
immovably.

"At you. There is something wrong with your hair," replies he,
unabashed: "some of the pins are coming out. Stay steady, and I'll wheel
you into line in no time." So saying, he adjusts the disorderly
hair-pin; while Chetwoode and Chesney, looking on, are consumed with
envy.

"Thank you, dear," says Lilian, demurely, giving his hand a little
loving pat: "you are worth your weight in gold. Be sure you push it in
again during the day, if you see it growing unruly. What a delicious
morning it is!" glancing out of the window; "too desirable perhaps. I
hope none of us will break our necks."

"Funky already, Lil?" says Taffy, with unpardonable impertinence. "Never
mind, darling, keep up your heart; I'm fit as a fiddle myself, and will
so far sacrifice my life as to promise you a lead whenever a copper
brings me in your vicinity. I shall keep you in mind, never fear."

"I consider your remarks beneath notice, presumptuous boy," says Miss
Chesney, with such a scornful uplifting of her delicate face as
satisfies Taffy, who, being full of mischief, passes on to bestow his
pleasing attentions on the others of the party. Chesney first attracts
his notice. He is standing with his back to a screen, and has his eyes
fixed in moody contemplation on the floor. Melancholy on this occasion
has evidently marked him for her own.

"What's up with you, old man? you look suicidal," says Mr. Musgrave,
stopping close to him, and giving him a rattling slap on the shoulder
that rather takes the curl out of him, leaving him limp, but full of
indignation.

"Look here," he says, in an aggrieved tone, "I wish you wouldn't do
that, you know. Your hands, small and delicate as they are,"--Taffy's
hands, though shapely, are decidedly large,--"can hurt. If you go about
the world with such habits you will infallibly commit murder sooner or
later: I should bet on the sooner. One can never be sure, my dear
fellow, who has heart-disease and who has not."

"Heart-disease means love with most fellows," says the irrepressible
Taffy, "and I have noticed you aren't half a one since your return from
London." At this _mal à propos_ speech both Lilian and Chesney change
color, and Guy, seeing their confusion, becomes miserable in turn, so
that breakfast is a distinct failure, Cyril and Musgrave alone being
capable of animated conversation.

Half an hour later they are all in the saddle and are riding leisurely
toward Bellairs, which is some miles distant, through as keen a scenting
wind as any one could desire.

At Grantley Farm they find every one before them, the hounds sniffing
and whimpering, the ancient M. F. H. cheery as is his wont, and a very
fair field.

Mabel Steyne is here, mounted on a handsome bay mare that rather chafes
and rages under her mistress's detaining hand, while at some few yards'
distance from her is Tom, carefully got up, but sleepy as is his wont.
One can hardly credit that his indolent blue eyes a little later will
grow dark and eager as he scents the fray, and, steadying himself in his
saddle, makes up his mind to "do or die."

Old General Newsance is plodding in and out among the latest arrivals,
prognosticating evil, and relating the "wondrous adventures" of half a
century ago, when (if he is to be believed) hounds had wings, and
hunters never knew fatigue. With him is old Lord Farnham, who has one
leg in his grave, literally speaking, having lost it in battle more
years ago than one cares to count, but who rides wonderfully
nevertheless, and is as young to speak to, or rather younger, than any
nineteenth-century man.

Mabel Steyne is dividing her attentions between him and Taffy, when a
prolonged note from the hounds, and a quick cry of "gone away," startles
her into silence. Talkers are scattered, conversation forgotten, and
every one settles down into his or her saddle, ready and eager for the
day's work.

Down the hill like a flash goes a good dog fox, past the small wood to
the right, through the spinnies, straight into the open beyond. The
scent is good, the pack lively: Lilian and Sir Guy are well to the
front; Archibald close beside them. Cyril to the left is even farther
ahead; while Taffy and Mabel Steyne can be seen a little lower down,
holding well together, Mabel, with her eyes bright and glowing with
excitement, sailing gallantly along on her handsome bay.

After a time--the fox showing no signs of giving in--hedges and doubles
throw spaces in between the riders. Sir Guy is far away in the distance,
Taffy somewhat in the background; Cyril is out of sight; while Miss
Chesney finds herself now side by side with Archibald, who is riding
recklessly, and rather badly. They have just cleared a very
uncomfortable wall, that in cold blood would have damped their ardor,
only to find a more treacherous one awaiting them farther on, and
Lilian, turning her mare's head a little to the left, makes for a
quieter spot, and presently lands in the next field safe and sound.

Archibald, however, holds on his original course, and Lilian, turning in
her saddle, watches with real terror his next movement. His horse, a
good one, rises gallantly, springs, and cleverly, though barely, brings
himself clear to the other side. Both he and his master are uninjured,
but it was a near thing, and makes Miss Chesney's heart beat with
unpleasant rapidity.

"Archibald," she says, bringing herself close up to his side as they
gallop across the field, and turning a very white face to his, "I wish
you would not ride so recklessly: you will end by killing yourself if
you go on in this foolish fashion."

Her late fear has added a little sharpness to her tone.

"The sooner the better," replies he, bitterly. "What have I got to live
for? My life is of no use, either to myself or to any one else, as far
as I can see."

"It is very wicked of you to talk so!" angrily.

"Is it? You should have thought of that before you made me think so. As
it is, I am not in the humor for lecturing to do me much good. If I am
killed, blame yourself. Meantime, I like hunting: it is the only joy
left me. When I am riding madly like this, I feel again almost
happy--almost," with a quickly suppressed sigh.

"Still, I ask you, for my sake, to be more careful," says Lilian,
anxiously, partly frightened, partly filled with remorse at his words,
though in her heart she is vexed with him for having used them. "Her
fault if he gets killed." It is really too much!

"Do you pretend to care?" asks he, with a sneer. "Your manner is indeed
perfect, but how much of it do you mean? Give me the hope I asked for
last night,--say only two kind words to me,--and I will be more careful
of my life than any man in the field to-day."

"I think I am always saying kind things to you," returns she, rather
indignant; "I am only too kind. And one so foolishly bent on being
miserable as you are, all for nothing, deserves only harsh treatment.
You are not even civil to me. I regret I addressed you just now, and beg
you will not speak to me any more."

"Be assured I shan't disobey this your last command," says Archibald,
in a low, and what afterward appears to her a prophetic tone, turning
away.

The field is growing thin. Already many are lying scattered broadcast in
the ditches, or else are wandering hopelessly about on foot, in search
of their lost chargers. The hounds are going at a tremendous pace; a
good many horses show signs of flagging; while the brave old fox still
holds well his own.

Taffy came to signal grief half an hour ago, but now reappears
triumphant and unplucked, splashed from head to heel, but game for any
amount still. Mrs. Steyne in front a-fighting hard for the brush, while
Lilian every moment is creeping closer to her on the bonny brown mare
that carries her like a bird over hedges and rails. Sir Guy is out of
sight, having just vanished down the slope of the hill, only to reappear
again a second later. Archibald is apparently nowhere, and Miss Chesney
is almost beginning to picture him to herself bathed in his own gore,
when raising her head she sees him coming toward her at a rattling pace,
his horse, which is scarcely up to his weight, well in hand.

Before him rises an enormous fence, beneath which gleams like a silver
streak a good bit of running water. It is an awkward jump, the more so
that from the other side it is almost impossible for the rider to gauge
its dangers properly.

Lilian makes a faint sign to him to hold back, which he either does not
or will not see. Bringing his horse up to the fence at a rather wild
pace, he lifts him. The good brute rises obediently, springs forward,
but jumps too short, and in another second horse and rider are rolling
together in a confused mass upon the sward beyond.

The horse, half in and half out of the water, recovers himself quickly,
and, scrambling to his feet, stands quietly ashamed, trembling in every
limb, at a little distance from his master.

But Archibald never stirs; he lies motionless, with his arms flung
carelessly above his head, and his face turned upward to the clouded
sky,--a brilliant speck of crimson upon the green grass.

Lilian, with a sickening feeling of fear, and a suppressed scream,
gallops to his side, and, springing to the ground, kneels down close to
him, and lifts his head upon her knee.

His face is deadly pale, a small spot of blood upon his right cheek
rendering even more ghastly its excessive pallor. A frantic horror lest
he be dead fills her mind and heart. Like funeral bells his words return
and smite cruelly upon her brain: "If I am killed blame yourself." _Is_
she to blame? Oh, how harshly she spoke to him! With what bitterness did
she rebuke--when he--when he was only telling her of his great love for
her!

Was ever woman so devoid of tender feeling? to goad and rail at a man
only because she had made conquest of his heart! And to choose this day
of all others to slight and wound him, when, had she not been hatefully,
unpardonably blind, she might have seen he was bent upon his own
destruction.

How awfully white he is! Has death indeed sealed his lips forever? Oh,
that he might say one word, if only to forgive her! With one hand she
smooths back his dark crisp hair from his forehead, and tries to wipe
away with her handkerchief the terrible blood-stain from his poor cheek.

"Archie, Archie," she whispers to him, piteously, bending her face so
close to his that any one might deem the action a caress, "speak to me:
will you not hear me, when I tell you how passionately I regret my
words?"

But no faintest flicker of intelligence crosses the face lying so mute
and cold upon her knees. For the first time he is stone deaf to the
voice of her entreaty.

Perhaps some foolish hope that her call might rouse him had taken
possession of her; for now, seeing how nothing but deepest silence
answers her, she lets a groan escape her. Will nobody ever come? Lifting
in fierce impatience a face white as the senseless man's beneath her,
she encounters Guy's eyes fixed upon her, who has by chance seen the
catastrophe, and has hastened to her aid.

"Do something for him,--something," she cries, trembling; "give him
brandy! it will, it _must_ do him good."

Guy, kneeling down beside Chesney, places his hand beneath his coat, and
feels for his heart intently.

"He is not dead!" murmurs Lilian, in an almost inaudible tone: "say he
is alive. I told him never to speak to me again: but I did not dream I
should be so terribly obeyed. Archie, Archie!"

Her manner is impassioned. Remorse and terror, working together, produce
in her all the appearance, of despairing anguish. She bears herself as
a woman might who gazes at the dead body of him she holds dearest on
earth; and Guy, looking silently upon her, lets a fear greater than her
own, a more intolerable anguish, enter his heart even then.

"He is not dead," he says, quietly, forcing himself to be calm.
Whereupon Lilian bursts into a storm of tears.

"Are you sure?" cries she; "is there no mistake? He looks so--so--_like_
death," with a shuddering sigh. "Oh, what should I have done had he been
killed?"

"Be happy, he is alive," says Guy, between his dry lips, misery making
his tones cold. All his worst fears are realized. In spite of pretended
indifference, it is plain to him that all her wayward heart has been
given to her cousin. Her intense agitation, her pale agonized face, seem
to him easy to read, impossible to misunderstand. As he rises from his
knees, he leaves all hope behind him in possession of his wounded rival.

"Stay with him until I bring help: I shan't be a minute," he says, not
looking at her, and presently returning with some rough contrivance that
does duty for a stretcher, and a couple of laborers. They convey him
home to Chetwoode, where they lay him, still insensible, upon his bed,
quiet and cold as one utterly bereft of life.

Then the little doctor arrives, and the door of Chesney's chamber is
closed upon him and Guy, and for the next half-hour those
outside--listening, watching, hoping, fearing--have a very bad time of
it.

At last, as the sick-room door opens, and Guy comes into the corridor, a
little figure, that for all those miserable thirty minutes has sat
crouching in a dark corner, rises and runs swiftly toward him.

It is Lilian: she is trembling visibly, and the face she upraises to his
is pale--nay, gray--with dread suspense. Her white lips try to form a
syllable, but fail. She lays one hand upon his arm beseechingly, and
gazes at him in eloquent silence.

"Do not look like that," says Guy, shocked at her expression. He speaks
more warmly than he feels, but he quietly removes his arm so that her
hand perforce drops from it. "He is better; much better than at first we
dared hope. He will get well. There is no immediate danger. Do you
understand, Lilian?"

A little dry sob breaks from her. The relief is almost too intense; all
through her dreary waiting she had expected to hear nothing but that he
was in truth--as he appeared in her eyes--dead. She staggers slightly,
and would have fallen but that Chetwoode most unwillingly places his arm
round her.

"There is no occasion for all this--nervousness," he says, half
savagely, as she lays her head against his shoulder and cries as though
her heart would break. At this supreme moment she scarcely remembers
Guy's presence, and would have cried just as comfortably with her head
upon old Parkins's shoulder. Perhaps he understands this, and therefore
fails to realize the rapture he should know at having her so
unresistingly within his arms. As it is, his expression is bored to the
last degree: his eyebrows are drawn upward until all his forehead lies
in little wrinkles. With a determination worthy of a better cause he has
fixed his eyes upon the wall opposite, and refuses to notice the lovely
golden head of her who is weeping so confidingly upon his breast.

It is a touching scene, but fails to impress Guy, who cannot blind
himself to (what he believes to be) the fact that all these pearly tears
are flowing for another,--and that a rival. With his tall figure drawn
to its fullest height, so as to preclude all idea of tenderness, he
says, sharply:

"One would imagine I had brought you bad news. You could not possibly
appear more inconsolable if you had heard of his death. Do try to rouse
yourself, and be reasonable: he is all right, and as likely to live as
you are."

At this he gives her a mild but undeniable shake, that has the desired
effect of reducing her to calmness. She checks her sobs, and, moving
away from him, prepares to wipe away all remaining signs of her
agitation.

"You certainly are not very sympathetic," she says, with a last faint
sob, casting a reproachful glance at him out of two drowned but still
beautiful eyes.

"I certainly am not," stiffly: "I can't 'weep my spirit from my eyes'
because I hear a fellow is better, if you mean that."

"You seem to be absolutely grieved at his chance of recovery,"
viciously.

"I have no doubt I seem to you all that is vilest and worst. I learned
your opinion of me long ago."

"Well,"--scornfully--"I think you need scarcely choose either this
time, or place, for one of your stand-up fights. When you remember what
you have just said,--that you are actually _sorry_ poor dear Archie is
alive,--I think you ought to go away and feel very much ashamed of
yourself."

"Did I say that?" indignantly.

"Oh, I don't know," indifferently,--as though his denial now cannot
possibly alter the original fact; "something very like it, at all
events."

"How can you so malign me, Lilian?" angrily. "No one can be more
heartily sorry for poor Chesney than I am, or more pleased at his escape
from death. You willfully misunderstand every word I utter. For the
future,--as all I say seems to annoy,--I beg you will not trouble
yourself to address me at all."

"I shall speak to you just whenever I choose," replies Miss Chesney,
with superb defiance.

At this thrilling instant Chesney's door is again opened wide, and Dr.
Bland comes out, treading softly, and looking all importance.

"You, my dear Miss Chesney!" he says, approaching her lightly; "the very
young lady of all others I most wished to see. Not that there is
anything very curious about that fact," with his cozy chuckle; "but your
cousin is asking for you, and really, you know, upon my word, he is so
very excitable, I think perhaps--eh?--under the circumstances, you know,
it would be well to gratify his pardonable desire to see you--eh?"

"The circumstances" refer to the rooted conviction, that for weeks has
been planted in the doctor's breast, of Miss Chesney's engagement to her
cousin.

"To see me?" says Lilian, shrinking away involuntarily, and turning very
red. Both the tone and the blush are "confirmation strong" of the
doctor's opinion. And Guy, watching her silently, feels, if possible,
even more certain than before of her affection for Chesney.

"To be sure, my dear; and why not?" says the kindly little doctor,
patting her encouragingly on the shoulder. He deals in pats and smiles.
They are both part of his medicine. So,--under the circumstances,--
through force of habit, would he have patted the Queen of England or a
lowly milkmaid alike,--with perhaps an additional pat to the milkmaid,
should she chance to be pretty. Lilian, being rich in nature's charms,
is a special favorite of his.

"But--" says Lilian, still hesitating. To tell the truth, she is hardly
ambitious of entering Archibald's room, considering their last stormy
parting; and, besides, she is feeling sadly nervous and out of sorts.
The ready tears spring again to her eyes; once more the tell-tale blood
springs hotly to her cheeks. Guy's fixed gaze--he is watching her with a
half sneer upon his face--disconcerts her still further. Good Dr. Bland
entirely mistakes the meaning of her confusion.

"Now, my dear child, if I give you leave to see this reckless cousin, we
must be cautious, _very_ cautious, and quiet, _extremely_ quiet, eh?
That is essential, you know. And mind, no tears. There is nothing so
injurious on these occasions as tears! Reminds one invariably of last
farewells and funeral services, and coffins, and all such uncomfortable
matters. I don't half like granting these interviews myself, but he
appears bent on seeing you, and, as I have said before, he is
impetuous,--_very_ impetuous."

"You think, then," stammers Lilian, making one last faint effort at
escape from the dreaded ordeal,--"you think----"

"I don't think," smiling good-naturedly, "I _know_ you must not stay
with him longer than five minutes."

"Good doctor, make it three," is on the point of Lilian's tongue, but,
ashamed to refuse this small request of poor wounded Archibald, she
follows Dr. Bland into his room.

On the bed, lying pale and exhausted, is Archibald, his lips white, his
eyes supernaturally large and dark. They grow even larger and much
brighter as they rest on Lilian, who slowly, but--now that she again
sees him so weak and prostrate--full of pity, approaches his side.

"You have come, Lilian," he says, faintly: "it is very good of
you,--more than I deserve. I vexed you terribly this morning, did I not?
But you will forgive me now I have come to grief," with a wan smile.

"I have nothing to forgive," says Lilian, tremulously, gazing down upon
him pityingly through two big violet eyes so overcharged with tears as
makes one wonder how they can keep the kindly drops from running down
her cheeks. "But you have. Oh, Archie, let me tell you how deeply I
deplore having spoken so harshly to you to-day. If"--with a
shudder--"you had indeed been killed, I should never have been happy
again."

"I was unmanly," says Chesney, holding out his hand feebly for hers,
which is instantly given. "I am afraid I almost threatened you. I am
thoroughly ashamed of myself."

"Oh, hush! I am sure you are speaking too much; and Dr. Bland says you
must not excite yourself. Are you suffering much pain?" very tenderly.

"Not much;" but the drawn expression of his face belies his assertion.
"To look at you"--softly--"gives me ease."

"I wonder you don't hate me," says Lilian, in a distressed tone,
fighting hard to suppress the nervous sob that is rising so rebelliously
in her throat. Almost at this moment--so sorry is she for his hopeless
infatuation for her--she wishes he did hate her. "Yet I am not
altogether to blame, and I have suffered more than I can tell you since
you got that terrible fall!" This assurance is very sweet to him. "When
I saw you lying motionless,--when I laid your head upon my knees and
tried to call you back to life, and you never answered me, I thought--"

"You!" interrupts he, hastily; "did your hands succor me?"

"Yes," coloring warmly; "though it was very little good I could do you,
I was so frightened. You looked so cold,--so still. I thought then,
'suppose it was my cross words had induced him to take that fence?'
But"--nervously--"it wasn't: that was a foolish, a conceited thought,
with no truth in it."

"Some little truth, I think," sadly. "When you told me 'never to speak
to you again,'--you recollect?--there came a strange hard look into your
usually kind eyes--" pressing her hand gently to take somewhat from the
sting of his words--"that cut me to the heart. Your indifference seemed
in that one moment to have turned to hatred, and I think I lost my head
a little. Forgive me, sweetheart, if I could not then help thinking that
death could not be much worse than life."

"Archie,"--gravely,--"promise me you will never think that again."

"I promise."

There is a short pause. It is growing almost dark. The wintry day, sad
and weakly from its birth, is dying fast. All the house is silent,
hushed, full of expectancy; only a little irrepressible clock in the
next room ticks its loudest, as though defying pain or sorrow to affect
it in any way.

"Is it your arm?" asks Lilian, gently, his other hand being hidden
beneath the sheet, "or----"

"No; two of my ribs, I believe, and my head aches a good deal."

"I am tormenting you with my foolish chatter," rising remorsefully, as
though to quit the room.

"No, no," eagerly; "I tell you it makes me easier to see you; it dulls
the pain." Slowly, painfully he draws her hand upward to his lips, and
kisses it softly. "We are friends again?" he whispers.

"Yes,--always friends," tightening her fingers sympathetically over his.
"If"--very earnestly--"you would only try to make up your mind never to
speak to me again as you did--last night, I believe another unpleasant
word would never pass between us."

"Do not fear," he says, slowly: "I have quite made up my mind. Rather
than risk bringing again into your eyes the look I saw there to-day, I
would keep silence forever."

Here Dr. Bland puts his head inside the door, and beckons Lilian to
withdraw.

"The five minutes are up," he says, warningly, consulting the golden
turnip he usually keeps concealed somewhere about his person, though
where, so large is it, has been for years a matter of speculation with
his numerous patients.

"I must go," says Lilian, rising: the door is open, and all that goes on
within the chamber can be distinctly heard in the corridor outside. "Now
try to sleep, will you not? and don't worry, and don't even think if you
can help it."

"Must you go?" wistfully.

"I fear I must."

"You will come again to-morrow, very early?"

"I will come to-morrow, certainly, as early as I can. Good-night."

"Good-night."

Closing the door softly behind her, she advances into the corridor,
where she still finds Guy and Dr. Bland conversing earnestly. Perhaps
they have been waiting for her coming.

"So you have persuaded him to go to sleep?" asks the doctor, beaming
kindly upon "pretty Miss Chesney," that being the title given to her
long ago by the country generally.

"Yes. I think he will sleep now," Lilian answers. "He looks very white,
poor, poor fellow, but not so badly as I expected."

"I suppose your presence did him good. Well, I will take a last look at
him before leaving," moving toward the closed door.

"Can I do anything for you?" asks Guy, following him, glad of any excuse
that makes him quit Lilian's side.

"Yes,"--smiling,--"you can, indeed. Take your ward down-stairs and give
her a glass of wine. She is too pale for my fancy. I shall be having her
on my hands next if you don't take care." So saying, he disappears.

Guy turns coldly to Lilian.

"Will you come down, or shall I send something up to you?" he asks,
icily.

Lilian's fears have subsided; consequently her spirits have risen to
such a degree that they threaten to overflow every instant. A desire for
mischief makes her heart glow.

"I shall go with you," she says, with a charming grimace. "I might blame
myself in after years if I ever willingly failed to cultivate every
second spent in your agreeable society."

So saying, she trips down-stairs gayly beside him, a lovely, though
rather naughty, smile upon her lips.



CHAPTER XXVII.

     "_Claud._--In mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked
     on."--_Much Ado About Nothing._


Because of Archibald's accident, and because of much harassing secret
thought, Christmas is a failure this year at Chetwoode. Tom Steyne and
his wife and their adorable baby come to them for a week, it is true,
and try by every means in their power to lighten the gloom that hangs
over the house, but in vain.

Guy is obstinately _distrait_, not to say ill-tempered; Lilian is
fitful,--now full of the wildest spirits, and anon capricious and
overflowing with little imperious whims; Archibald, though rapidly
mending, is of course invisible, and a complete dead letter; while
Cyril, usually the most genial fellow in the world and devoid of moods,
is at this particular time consumed with anxiety, having at last made up
his mind to reveal to his mother his engagement to Cecilia and ask her
consent to their speedy marriage. Yet another full month elapses, and
already the first glad thought of spring is filling every breast, before
he really brings himself to speak upon the dreaded subject.

His disclosure he knows by instinct will be received ungraciously and
with disapprobation, not only by Lady Chetwoode, but by Sir Guy, who has
all through proved himself an enemy to the cause. His determined
opposition will undoubtedly increase the difficulties of the situation,
as Lady Chetwoode is in all matters entirely ruled by her eldest son.

Taking Lilian into his confidence, Cyril happens to mention to her this
latter sure drawback to the success of his suit, whereupon she
generously declares herself both able and willing to take Sir Guy in
hand and compel him to be not only non-combative on the occasion, but an
actual partisan.

At these valiant words Cyril is so transported with hope and gratitude
that, without allowing himself time for reflection, he suddenly and very
warmly embraces his pretty colleague, calling her, as "Traddles" might
have done, "the dearest girl in the world," and vowing to her that but
for one other she is indeed "the only woman he ever loved."

Having recovered from the astonishment caused by this outbreak on the
part of the generally nonchalant Cyril, Miss Chesney draws her breath
slowly, and wends her way toward Sir Guy's private den, where she knows
he is at present sure to be found.

"Are you busy?" she asks, showing her face in the doorway, but not
advancing.

"Not to you," courteously. They are now on friendly though somewhat
constrained speaking terms.

"Will you give me, then, a little of your time? It is something very
important."

"Certainly," replies he, surprised both at the solemnity of her manner
and at the request generally. "Come in and shut the door."

"It is just a question I would ask of you," says Lilian, uncomfortably,
now she has come to the point, finding an extraordinary difficulty about
proceeding. At length, with a desperate effort she raises her head, and,
looking full at him, says, distinctly:

"Sir Guy, when two people love each other very dearly, don't you think
they ought to marry?"

This startling interrogation has the effect of filling Chetwoode with
dismay. He turns white in spite of his vigorous attempt at self-control,
and involuntarily lays his hand upon the nearest chair to steady
himself. Has she come here to tell him of her affection for her cousin?

"There must be something more," he says, presently, regarding her
fixedly.

"Yes, but answer me first. Don't you think they ought?"

"I suppose so,"--unwillingly,--"unless there should be some insuperable
difficulty in the way."

"He suspects me; he knows my errand," thinks Lilian, letting her eyes
seek the carpet, which gives her all the appearance of feeling a very
natural confusion. "He hopes to entangle me. His 'difficulty' is poor
dear Cecilia's very disreputable papa."

"No difficulty should stand in the way of love," she argues, severely.
"Besides, what is an 'insuperable difficulty'? Supposing one of them
should be unhappily less--less respectable than the other: would that be
it?"

Sir Guy opens his eyes. Is it not, then, the cousin? and if not, who?
"Less respectable." He runs through the long list of all the young men
of questionable morals with whom he is acquainted, but can come to no
satisfactory conclusion. Has she possibly heard of certain lawless
doings of Archibald in earlier days, and does she fear perhaps that he,
her guardian, will refuse consent to her marriage because of them? At
this thought he freezes.

"I think all unsuitable marriages a crime," he says, coldly. "Sooner or
later they lead to the bitterest of all repentance. To marry one one
cannot respect! Surely such an act carries with it its own punishment.
It is a hateful thought. But then----"

"You do not understand," pleads Lilian, rising in her eagerness, and
going nearer to him, while her large eyes read his face nervously as she
trembles for the success of her undertaking. "There is no question of
'respect.' It is not that I mean. These two of whom I speak will never
repent, because they love each other so entirely."

"What a stress you lay on the word love!" he says, in a half-mocking,
wholly bitter tone. "Do you believe in it?"

"I do, indeed. I cannot think there is anything in this world half so
good as it," replies she, with conviction, while reddening painfully
beneath his gaze. "Is it not our greatest happiness?"

"I think it is our greatest curse."

"How can you say that?" with soft reproach. "Can you not see for
yourself how it redeems all the misery of life for some people?"

"Those two fortunate beings of whom you are speaking, for instance,"
with a sneer. "All people are not happy in their attachment. What is to
become of those miserable wretches who love, but love in vain? Did you
never hear of a homely proverb that tells you 'one man's meat is another
man's poison'?"

"You are cynical to-day. But to return; the two to whom I allude have no
poison to contend with. They love so well that it is misery to them to
be apart,--so devotedly that they know no great joy except when they are
together. Could such love cool? I am sure not. And is it not cruel to
keep them asunder?"

Her voice has grown positively plaintive; she is evidently terribly in
earnest.

"Are you speaking of yourself?" asks Guy, huskily, turning with sudden
vehemence to lay his hand upon her arm and scan her features with
intense, nay, feverish anxiety.

"Of myself?" recoiling. "No! What can you mean? What is it that I should
say of myself?" Her cheeks are burning, her eyes are shamed and
perplexed, but they have not fallen before his: she is evidently full of
secret wonder. "It is for Cyril I plead, and for Cecilia," she says,
after a strange pause.

"Cyril!" exclaims he, the most excessive relief in tone and gesture.
"Does he want to marry Mrs. Arlington?"

"Yes. I know you have a prejudice against her,"--earnestly,--"but that
is because you do not know her. She is the sweetest woman I ever met."

"This has been going on for a long time?"

"I think so. Cyril wished to marry her long ago, but she would not
listen to him without auntie's consent. Was not that good of her? If I
was in her place, I do not believe I should wait for any one's consent."

"I am sure"--dryly--"you would not."

"No, not even for my guardian's," replies she, provokingly; then, with a
lapse into her former earnestness, "I want you to be good to her. She is
proud, prouder than auntie even, and would not forgive a slight. And if
her engagement to Cyril came to an end, he would never be happy again.
Think of it."

"I do," thoughtfully. "I think it is most unfortunate. And she a widow,
too!"

"But such a widow!" enthusiastically. "A perfect darling of a widow! I
am not sure, after all,"--with rank hypocrisy,--"that widows are not to
be preferred before mere silly foolish girls, who don't know their own
minds half the time."

"Is that a description of yourself?" with an irrepressible smile.

"Don't be rude! No 'mere silly girl' would dare to beard a stern
guardian in his den as I am doing! But am I to plead in vain? Dear Sir
Guy, do not be hard. What could be dearer than her refusing to marry
Cyril if it should grieve auntie? 'She would not separate him from his
mother,' she said. Surely you must admire her in that one instance at
least. Think of it all again. They love each other, and they are
unhappy; and you can turn their sorrow into joy."

"Now they love, of course; but will it last? Cyril's habits are very
expensive, and he has not much money. Do you ever think you may be
promoting a marriage that by and by will prove a failure? The day may
come when they will hate you for having helped to bring them together."

"No," says Lilian, stoutly, shaking her _blonde_ head emphatically; "I
have no such unhealthy thoughts or fancies. They suit each other; they
are happy in each other's society; they will never repent their
marriage."

"Is that your experience?" he asks, half amused.

"I have no experience," returns she, coloring and smiling: "I am like
the Miller of the Dee; I care for nobody, no, not I,--for nobody cares
for me."

"You forget your cousin." The words escape him almost without his
consent.

Miss Chesney starts perceptibly, but a second later answers his taunt
with admirable composure.

"What? Archie? Oh! he don't count; cousins are privileged beings. Or did
you perhaps mean Taffy? But answer me, Sir Guy: you have not yet said
you will help me. And I am bent on making Cecilia happy. I am honestly
fond of her; I cannot bear to see you think contemptuously of her; while
I would gladly welcome her as a sister."

"I do not see how her marrying Cyril can make her your sister," replies
he, idly; and then he remembers what he has said, and the same thought
striking them both at the same moment, they let their eyes meet
uneasily, and both blush scarlet.

Guy, sauntering to the window, takes an elaborate survey of the dismal
landscape outside; Lilian coughs gently, and begins to count
industriously all the embroidered lilies in the initial that graces the
corner of her handkerchief. One--two--three----

"They might as well have put in four," she says out loud, abstractedly.

"What?" turning from the window to watch the lovely _mignonne_ face
still bent in contemplation of the lilies.

"Nothing," mildly: "did I say anything?"

"Something about 'four,' I thought."

"Perhaps"--demurely--"I was thinking I had asked you four times to be
good-natured, and you had not deigned to grant my request. When Lady
Chetwoode speaks to you of Cyril and Cecilia, say you will be on their
side. Do not vote against them. Promise."

He hesitates.

"Not when _I_ ask you?" murmurs she, in her softest tones, going a
little nearer to him, and uplifting her luminous blue eyes to his.

Still he hesitates.

Miss Chesney takes one step more in his direction, which is necessarily
the last, unless she wishes to walk through him. Her eyes, now full of
wistful entreaty, and suspiciously bright, are still fixed reproachfully
upon his. With a light persuasive gesture she lays five white, slender
fingers upon his arm, and whispers, in plaintive tones:

"I feel sure I am going to cry."

"I promise," says Sir Guy, instantly, laughing in spite of himself, and
letting his own hand close with unconscious force over hers for a
moment. Whereupon Miss Chesney's lachrymose expression vanishes as if by
magic, while a smile bright and triumphant illuminates her face in its
stead.

"Thank you," she says, delightedly, and trips toward the door eager to
impart her good news. Upon the threshold, however, she pauses, and
glances back at him coquettishly, perhaps a trifle maliciously, from
under her long heavily-fringed lids.

"I knew I should win the day," she says, teasingly, "although you don't
believe in love. Nevertheless, I thank you again, and"--raising her
head, and holding out one hand to him with a sweet _bizarre_ grace all
her own--"I would have you know I don't think you half such a bad old
guardy after all!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Almost at this moment Cyril enters his mother's boudoir, where, to his
astonishment, he finds her without companions.

"All alone, Madre?" he says, airily, putting on his gayest manner and
his most fetching smile to hide the perturbation that in reality he is
feeling. His heart is in his boots, but he wears a very gallant
exterior.

"Yes," replies Lady Chetwoode, looking up from her work, "and very dull
company I find myself. Have you come to enliven me a little? I hope so:
I have been _gêne_ to the last degree for quite an hour."

"Where is the inevitable Florence?"

"In the drawing-room, with Mr. Boer. I can't think what she sees in him,
but she appears to value his society highly. To-day he has brought her
some more church music to try over, and I really wish he wouldn't.
Anything more afflicting than chants tried over and over again upon the
piano I can't conceive. They are very bad upon the organ, but on the
piano! And sometimes he _will_ insist on singing them with her!"

Here two or three wailing notes from down-stairs are wafted, weeping
into the room, setting the hearers' teeth on edge. To even an incorrect
ear it might occur that Mr. Boer's stentorian notes are not always in
tune!

"My dear, my dear," exclaims Lady Chetwoode, in a voice of agony, "shut
the door close; _closer_, my dear Cyril, they are at it again!"

"It's a disease," says Cyril, solemnly. "A great many curates have it.
We should count ourselves lucky that laymen don't usually catch it."

"I really think it is. I can't bear that sort of young man myself," says
Lady Chetwoode, regretfully, who feels some gentle grief that she cannot
bring herself to admire Mr. Boer; "but I am sure we should all make
allowances; none of us are perfect; and Mrs. Boileau assures me he is
very earnest and extremely zealous. Still, I wish he could try to speak
differently: I think his mother very much to blame for bringing him up
with such a voice."

"She was much to blame for bringing him up at all. He should have been
strangled at his birth!" Cyril says this slowly, moodily, with every
appearance of really meaning what he says. He is, however, unaware of
the blood-thirsty expression he has assumed, as though in support of his
words, being in fact miles away in thought from Mr. Boer and his
Gregorian music. He is secretly rehearsing a coming conversation with
his mother, in which Cecilia's name is to be delicately introduced.

"That is going rather far, is it not?" Lady Chetwoode says, laughing.

"A man is not an automaton. He cannot always successfully stifle his
feelings," says Cyril, still more moodily, _àpropos_ of his own
thoughts; which second most uncalled-for remark induces his mother to
examine him closely.

"There is something on your mind," she says, gently. "You are not now
thinking of either me or Mr. Boer. Sit down, dear boy, and tell me all
about it."

"I will tell you standing," says Cyril, who feels it would be taking
advantage of her ignorance to accept a chair until his disclosure is
made. Then the private rehearsal becomes public, and presently Lady
Chetwoode knows all about his "infatuation," as she terms it, for the
widow, and is quite as much distressed about it as even he had expected.

"It is terrible!" she says, presently, when she has somewhat recovered
from the first shock caused by his intelligence; "and only last spring
you promised me to think seriously of Lady Fanny Stapleton."

"My dear mother, who could think seriously of Lady Fanny? Why, with her
short nose, and her shorter neck, and her anything but sylph-like form,
she has long ago degenerated into one vast joke."

"She has money," in a rather stifled tone.

"And would you have me sacrifice my whole life for mere money?"
reproachfully. "Would money console you afterward, when you saw me
wretched?"

"But why should you be wretched?" Then, quickly, "Are you so very sure
this Mrs. Arlington will make you happy?"

"Utterly positive!" in a radiant tone.

"And are you ready to sacrifice every comfort for mere beauty?" retorts
she. "Ah, Cyril, beware: you do not understand yet what it is to be
hampered for want of money. And there are other things: when one marries
out of one's own sphere, one always repents it."

"One cannot marry higher than a lady," flushing. "She is not a countess,
or an honorable, or even Lady Fanny; but she is of good family, and she
is very sweet, and very gentle, and very womanly. I shall never again
see any one so good in my eyes. I entreat you, dear mother, not to
refuse your consent."

"I shall certainly say nothing until I see Guy," says Lady Chetwoode,
tearfully, making a last faint stand.

"Then let us send for him, and get it over," Cyril says, with gentle
impatience, who is very pale, but determined to finish the subject one
way or the other, now and forever.

Almost as he says it, Guy enters; and Lady Chetwoode, rising, explains
the situation to him in a few agitated words. True to his promise to
Lilian, and more perhaps because a glance at his brother's quiet face
tells him opposition will be vain, Guy says a few things in favor of the
engagement. But though the words are kind, they are cold; and, having
said them, he beats an instantaneous retreat, leaving Cyril, by his
well-timed support, master of the field.

"Marry her, then, as you are all against me," says Lady Chetwoode, the
tears running down her cheeks. It is very bitter to her to remember how
Lady Fanny's precious thousands have been literally flung away. All
women, even the best and the sweetest, are mercenary where their sons
are concerned.

"And you will call upon her?" says Cyril, after a few minutes spent in
an effort to console her have gone by.

"Call!" repeats poor Lady Chetwoode, with some indignation, "upon that
woman who absolutely declined to receive me when first she came! I have
a little pride still remaining, Cyril, though indeed you have humbled a
good deal of it to-day," with keen reproach.

"When first she came,"--apologetically,--"she was in great grief and
distress of mind."

"Grief for her husband?" demands she; which is perhaps the bitterest
thing Lady Chetwoode ever said in her life to either of her "boys."

"No," coldly; "I think I told you she had never any affection for him."
Then his voice changes, and going over to her he takes her hand
entreatingly, and passes one arm over her shoulder. "Can you not be kind
to her for my sake?" he implores. "Dearest mother, I cannot bear to hear
you speak of her as 'that woman,' when I love her so devotedly."

"I suppose when one is married one may without insult be called a
woman," turning rather aside from his caress.

"But then she was so little married, and she looks quite a girl. You
will go to see her, and judge for yourself?"

"I suppose there is nothing else left for me to do. I would not have all
the county see how utterly you have disappointed me. I have been a good
mother to you, Cyril,"--tremulously,--"and this is how you requite me."

"It cuts me to the heart to grieve you so much,"--tenderly,--"you, my
own mother. But I--I have been a good son to you, too, have I not, dear
Madre?"

"You have indeed," says Lady Chetwoode; and then she cries a little
behind her handkerchief.

"How old is she?" with quivering lips.

"Twenty-two or twenty-three, I am not sure which," in a subdued tone.

"In manner is she quiet?"

"Very. Tranquil is the word that best expresses her. When you see her
you will acknowledge I have not erred in taste."

Lady Chetwoode with a sigh lays down her arms, and when Cyril stoops his
face to hers she does not refuse the kiss he silently demands, so that
with a lightened conscience he leaves the room to hurry on the wings of
love to Cecilia's bower.

All the way there he seems to tread on air. His heart is beating, he is
full of happiest exultation. The day is bright and joyous; already one
begins to think of winter kindly as a thing of the past. All nature
seems in unison with his exalted mood.

Reaching the garden he knows so well and loves so fondly, he walks with
eager, longing steps toward a side path where usually she he seeks is to
be found. Now standing still, he looks round anxiously for Cecilia.

But Cecilia is not there!



CHAPTER XXVIII.

     "_Lys._--How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale?
     How chance the roses there do fade so fast?

     _Her._--Belike, for want of rain, which I could well
     Between them from the tempest of mine eyes."
     --_Midsummer Night's Dream._


Up in her chamber sits Cecilia, speechless, spell-bound, fighting with a
misery too great for tears. Upon her knee lies an open letter from which
an enclosure has slipped and fallen to the ground. And on this last her
eyes, scorched and distended, are fixed hopelessly.

The letter itself is from Colonel Trant: it was posted yesterday, and
received by her late last night, though were you now to tell her a whole
year has elapsed since first she read its fatal contents, I do not think
she would evince much doubt or surprise. It was evidently hastily
penned, the characters being rough and uneven, and runs as follows:


     "Austen Holm. Friday.

     "MY DEAR GIRL,--The attempt to break bad news to any one has always
     seemed to me so vain, and so unsatisfactory a proceeding, and one
     so likely to render even heavier the blow it means to soften, that
     here I refrain from it altogether. Yet I would entreat you when
     reading what I now enclose not to quite believe in its truth until
     further proofs be procured. I shall remain at my present address
     for three days longer: if I do not by then hear from you, I shall
     come to The Cottage. Whatever happens, I know you will remember it
     is my only happiness to serve you, and that I am ever your faithful
     friend,

     "GEORGE TRANT."


When Cecilia had read so far, she raised the enclosure, though without
any very great misgivings, and, seeing it was from some unknown friend
of Trant's, at present in Russia, skimmed lightly through the earlier
portion of it, until at length a paragraph chained her attention and
killed at a stroke all life and joy and happy love within her.

"By the bye," ran this fatal page, "did you not know a man named
Arlington?--tall, rather stout, and dark; you used to think him dead. He
is not, however, as I fell against him yesterday by chance and learned
his name and all about him. He didn't seem half such a dissipated card
as you described him, so I hope traveling has improved his morals. I
asked him if he knew any one called Trant, and he said, 'Yes, several.'
I had only a minute or two to speak to him, and, as he never drew breath
himself during that time, I had not much scope for questioning. He
appears possessed of many advantages,--pretty wife at home, no end of
money, nice place, unlimited swagger. Bad form all through, but genial.
You will see him shortly in the old land, as he is starting for England
almost immediately."

And so on, and on, and on. But Cecilia, then or afterward, never read
another line.

Her first thought was certainly not of Cyril. It was abject, cowering
fear,--a horror of any return to the old loathed life,--a crushing dread
lest any chance should fling her again into her husband's power. Then
she drew her breath a little hard, and thought of Trant, and then of
Cyril; and _then_ she told herself, with a strange sense of relief, that
at least one can die.

But this last thought passed away as did the others, and she knew that
death seldom comes to those who seek it; and to command it,--who should
dare do that? Hope dies hard in some breasts! In Cecilia's the little
fond flame barely flickered, so quickly did it fade away and vanish
altogether before the fierce blast that had assailed it. Not for one
moment did she doubt the truth of the statement lying before her. She
was too happy, too certain; she should have remembered that some are
born to misfortune as the sparks fly upward. "She had lived, she had
loved," and here was the end of it all!

All night long she had not slept. She had indeed lain upon her bed, her
pillow had known the impress of her head, but through every minute of
the lonely, silent awesome hours of gloom, her great eyes had been wide
open, watching for the dawn.

At last it came. A glorious dawn; a very flush of happy youth; the
sweeter that it bespoke a warm and early spring. At first it showed pale
pink with expectation, then rosy with glad hope. From out the east faint
rays of gold rushed tremulously, and, entering the casement, cast around
Cecilia's head a tender halo.

When happiness lies within our grasp, when all that earth can give us
(alas! how little!) is within our keeping, how good is the coming of
another day,--a long, perfect day, in which to revel, and laugh, and
sing, as though care were a thing unknown! But when trouble falls upon
us, and this same terrible care is our only portion, with what horror,
what heart-sinking, do we turn our faces from the light and wish with
all the fervor of a vain wish that it were night!

The holy dawn brought but anguish to Cecilia. She did not turn with
impatience from its smiling beauty, but heavy tears gathered slowly, and
grew within her sorrowful gray eyes, until at length (large as was their
home) they burst their bounds and ran quickly down her cheeks, as though
glad to escape from what should never have been their resting-place.
Swiftly, silently, ran the little pearly drops, ashamed of having dimmed
the lustre of those lovely eyes that only yester morning were so glad
with smiles.

Sitting now in her bedroom, forlorn and desolate, with the cruel words
that have traveled all the way across a continent to slay her peace
throbbing through her brain, she hears Cyril's well-known step upon the
gravel outside, and, springing to her feet as though stabbed, shrinks
backward until the wall yields her a support. A second later, ashamed of
her own weakness, she straightens herself, smooths back her ruffled hair
from her forehead, and, with a heavy sigh and colorless face, walks
down-stairs to him who from henceforth must be no more counted as a
lover. Slowly, with lingering steps that betray a broken heart, she
draws nigh to him.

Seeing her, he comes quickly forward to greet her, still glad with the
joy that has been his during all his walk through the budding woods, a
smile upon his lips. But the smile soon dies. The new blankness, the
terrible change, he sees in the beloved face sobers him immediately. It
is vivid enough even at a first glance to fill him with apprehension:
hastening to her as though eager to succor her from any harm that may be
threatening, he would have taken her in his arms, but she, with a
little quick shudder, putting up her hands, prevents him.

"No," she says, in a low changed tone; "not again!"

"Something terrible has happened," Cyril says, with conviction, "or you
would not so repulse me. Darling, what is it?"

"I don't know how to tell you," replies she, her tone cold with the
curious calmness of despair.

"It cannot be so very bad," nervously; "nothing can signify greatly,
unless it separates you from me."

A mournful bitter laugh breaks from Cecilia, a laugh that ends swiftly,
tunelessly, as it began.

"How nearly you have touched upon the truth!" she says, miserably; and
then, in a clear, hard voice, "My husband is alive."

A dead silence. No sound to disturb the utter stillness, save the
sighing of the early spring wind, the faint twitter of the birds among
the budding branches as already they seek to tune their slender throats
to the warblings of love, and the lowing of the brown-eyed oxen in the
fields far, far below them.

Then Cyril says, with slow emphasis:

"I don't believe it. It's a lie! It is impossible!"

"It is true. I feel it so. Something told me my happiness was too great
to last, and now it has come to an end. Alas! alas! how short a time it
has continued with me! Oh, Cyril!"--smiting her hands together
passionately,--"what shall I do? what shall I do? If he finds me he will
kill me, as he often threatened. How shall I escape?"

"It is untrue," repeats Cyril, doggedly, hardly noting her terror and
despair. His determined disbelief restores her to calmness.

"Do you think I would believe except on certain grounds?" she says.
"Colonel Trant wrote me the evil tidings."

"Trant is interested; he might be glad to delay our marriage," he says,
with a want of generosity unworthy of him.

"No, no, _no_. You wrong him. And how should he seek to delay a marriage
that was yet far distant?"

"Not so very distant. I have yet to tell you"--with a strange smile--"my
chief reason for being here to-day: to ask you to receive my mother
to-morrow, who is coming to welcome you as a daughter. How well Fate
planned this tragedy! to have our crowning misfortune fall straight into
the lap of our newly-born content! Cecilia,"--vehemently,--"there must
still be a grain of hope somewhere. Do not let us quite despair. I
cannot so tamely accept the death to all life's joys that must follow on
belief."

"You shall see for yourself," replies she, handing to him the letter
that all this time has lain crumbled beneath her nerveless fingers.

When he has read it, he drops it with a groan, and covers his face with
his hands. To him, too, the evidence seems clear and convincing.

"I told you to avoid me. I warned you," she says, presently, with a wan
smile. "I am born to ill-luck; I bring it even to all those who come
near me--especially, it seems, to the few who are unhappy enough to love
me. Go, Cyril, while there is yet time."

"There is not time," desperately: "it is already too late." He moves
away from her, and in deep agitation paces up and down the secluded
garden-path; while she, standing alone with drooping head and dry
miserable eyes, scarcely cares to watch his movements, so dead within
her have all youth and energy grown.

"Cecilia," he says, suddenly, stopping before her, and speaking in a low
tone, that, though perfectly clear, still betrays inward hesitation,
while his eyes carefully avoid hers, "listen to me. What is he to you,
this man that they say is still alive, that you should give up your
whole life for him? He deserted you, scorned you, left you for another
woman. For two long years you have believed him dead. Why should you now
think him living? Let him be dead still and buried in your memory; there
are other lands,"--slowly, and still with averted eyes,--"other homes:
why should we not make one for ourselves? Cecilia,"--coming up to her,
white but earnest, and holding out his arms to her,--"come with me, and
let us find our happiness in each other!"

Cecilia, after one swift glance at him, moves back hastily.

"How dare you use such words to me?" she says, in a horror-stricken
voice; "how dare you tempt me? you, _you_ who said you loved me!" Then
the little burst of passion dies; her head droops still lower upon her
breast; her hands coming together fall loosely before her in an
attitude descriptive of the deepest despondency. "I believed in you,"
she says, "I trusted you. I did not think _you_ would have been the one
to inflict the bitterest pang of all." She breathes these last words in
accents of the saddest reproach.

"Nor will I!" cries he, with keen contrition, kneeling down before her,
and hiding his face in a fold of her gown. "Never again, my darling, my
life! I forgot,--I forgot you are as high above all other women as the
sun is above the earth. Cecilia, forgive me."

"Nay, there is nothing to forgive," she says. "But,
Cyril,"--unsteadily,--"you will go abroad at once, for a little while,
until I have time to decide where in the future I shall hide my head."

"Must I?"

"You must."

"And you,--where will you go?"

"It matters very little. You will have had time to forget me before ever
I trust myself to see you again."

"Then I shall never see you again," replies he, mournfully, "if you wait
for that. 'My true love hath my heart, and I have hers.' How can I
forget you while it beats warm within my breast?"

"Be it so," she answers, with a sigh: "it is a foolish fancy, yet it
gladdens me. I would not be altogether displaced from your mind."

So she lays her hand upon his head as he still kneels before her, and
gently smooths and caresses it with her light loving fingers. He
trembles a little, and a heavy dry sob breaks from him. This parting is
as the bitterness of death. To them it _is_ death, because it is
forever.

He brings the dear hand down to his lips, and kisses it softly,
tenderly.

"Dearest," she murmurs, brokenly, "be comforted."

"What comfort can I find, when I am losing you?"

"You can think of me."

"That would only increase my sorrow."

"Is it so with you? For me I am thankful, very thankful, for the great
joy that has been mine for months, the knowledge that you loved me. Even
now, when desolation has come upon us, the one bright spot in all my
misery is the thought that at least I may remember you, and call to mind
your words, your face, your voice, without sin."

"If ever you need me," he says, when a few minutes have elapsed, "you
have only to write, 'Cyril, I want you,' and though the whole world
should lie between us, I shall surely come. O my best beloved! how shall
I live without you?"

"Don't,--do not speak like that," entreats she, faintly. "It is too hard
already: do not make it worse." Then, recovering herself by a supreme
effort, she says, "Let us part now, here, while we have courage. I think
the few arrangements we can make have been made, and George Trant will
write, if--if there is anything to write about."

They are standing with their hands locked together reading each other's
faces for the last time.

"To-morrow you will leave Chetwoode?" she says, regarding him fixedly.

"To-morrow! I could almost wish there was no to-morrow for either you or
me," replies he.

"Cyril," she says, with sudden fear, "you will take care of yourself,
you will not go into any danger? Darling,"--with a sob,--"you will
always remember that some day, when this is quite forgotten, I shall
want to see again the face of my dearest friend."

"I shall come back to you," he says quietly. He is so quiet that she
tells herself now is a fitting time to break away from him; she forces
herself to take the first step that shall part them remorselessly.

"Good-bye," she says, in faltering tones.

"Good-bye," returns he, mechanically. With the slow reluctant tears that
spring from a broken heart running down her pale cheeks, she presses her
lips fervently to his hands, and moves slowly away. When she has gone a
few steps, frightened at the terrible silence that seems to have
enwrapped him, benumbing his very senses, she turns to regard him once
more.

He has never stirred; he scarcely seems to breathe, so motionless is his
attitude; as though some spell were on him, he stands silently gazing
after her, his eyes full of dumb agony. There is something so utterly
lonely in the whole scene that Cecilia bursts into tears. Her sobs rouse
him.

"Cecilia!" he cries, in a voice of mingled passion and despair that
thrills through her. Once more he holds out to her his arms. She runs to
him, and flings herself for the time into his embrace. He strains her
passionately to his heart. Her sobs break upon the silent air. Once
again their white lips form the word "farewell." There is a last
embrace, a last lingering kiss.

All is over.



CHAPTER XXIX.

     "The flower that smiles to-day
         To-morrow dies;
     All that we wish to stay
         Tempts and then flies.
     What is this world's delight?
     Lightning that mocks the night,
     Brief even as bright."--SHELLEY.


At Chetwoode they are all assembled in the drawing-room,--except
Archibald, who is still confined to his room,--waiting for dinner: Cyril
alone is absent.

"What can be keeping him?" says his mother, at last, losing patience as
she pictures him dallying with his betrothed at The Cottage while the
soup is spoiling and the cook is gradually verging toward hysterics. She
suffers an aggrieved expression to grow within her eyes as she speaks
from the depths of the softest arm-chair the room contains, in which it
is her custom to ensconce herself.

"Nothing very dreadful, I dare say," replies Florence, in tones a degree
less even than usual, her appetite having got the better of her
self-control.

Almost as she says the words the door is thrown open, and Cyril enters.
He is in morning costume, his hair is a little rough, his face pale, his
lips bloodless. Walking straight up to his mother, without looking
either to the right or to the left, he says, in a low constrained voice
that betrays a desperate effort to be calm:

"Be satisfied, mother: you have won the day. Your wish is fulfilled: I
shall never marry Mrs. Arlington: you need not have made such a
difficulty about giving your consent this morning, as now it is
useless."

"Cyril, what has happened?" says Lady Chetwoode, rising to her feet
alarmed, a distinct pallor overspreading her features. She puts out one
jeweled hand as though to draw him nearer to her, but for the first time
in all his life he shrinks from her gentle touch, and moving backward,
stands in the middle of the room. Lilian, going up to him, compels him
with loving violence to turn toward her.

"Why don't you speak?" she asks, sharply. "Have you and Cecilia
quarreled?"

"No: it is no lovers' quarrel," with an odd change of expression: "we
have had little time for quarreling, she and I: our days for love-making
were so short, so sweet!"

There is a pause: then in a clear harsh voice, in which no faintest
particle of feeling can be traced, he goes on: "Her husband is alive; he
is coming home. After all,"--with a short unlovely laugh, sad through
its very bitterness,--"we worried ourselves unnecessarily, as she was
not, what we so feared, a widow."

"Cyril!" exclaims Lilian; she is trembling visibly, and gazes at him as
though fearing he may have lost his senses.

"I would not have troubled you about this matter," continues Cyril, not
heeding the interruption, and addressing the room generally, without
permitting himself to look at any one, "but that it is a fact that must
be known sooner or later; I thought the sooner the better, as it will
end your anxiety and convince you that this _mesalliance_ you so
dreaded,"--with a sneer,--"can never take place."

Guy, who has come close to him, here lays his hand upon his arm.

"Do not speak to us as though we could not feel for you," he says,
gently, pain and remorse struggling in his tone, "believe me----"

But Cyril thrusts him back.

"I want neither sympathy nor kind words now," he says, fiercely: "you
failed me when I most required them, when they might have made _her_
happy. I have spoken on this subject now once for all. From this moment
let no one dare broach it to me again."

Guy is silent, repentant. No one speaks; the tears are running down
Lilian's cheeks.

"May not I?" she asks, in a distressed whisper. "Oh, my dear! do not
shut yourself up alone with your grief. Have I not been your friend?
Have not I, too, loved her? poor darling! Cyril, let me speak to you of
her sometimes."

"Not yet; not now," replies he, in the softest tone he has yet used, a
gleam of anguish flashing across his face. "Yes, you were always true to
her, my good little Lilian!" Then, sinking his voice, "I am leaving
home, perhaps for years; do not forsake her. Try to console, to
comfort----" He breaks down hopelessly; raising her hand to his lips, he
kisses it fervently, and a second later has left the room.

For quite two minutes after the door had closed upon him, no one stirs,
no one utters a word. Guy is still standing with downcast eyes upon the
spot that witnessed his repulse. Lilian is crying. Lady Chetwoode is
also dissolved in tears. It is this particular moment Florence chooses
to make the first remark that has passed her lips since Cyril's abrupt
entrance.

"Could anything be more fortunate?" she says, in a measured,
congratulatory way. "Could anything have happened more opportunely? Here
is this objectionable marriage irretrievably prevented without any
trouble on our parts. I really think we owe a debt of gratitude to this
very unpleasant husband."

"Florence," cries Lady Chetwoode, with vehement reproach, stung to the
quick, "how can you see cause for rejoicing in the poor boy's misery! Do
you not think of him?" After which she subsides again, with an audible
sob, into her cambric. But Lilian is not so easily satisfied.

"How dare you speak so?" she says, turning upon Florence with wet eyes
that flash fire through their tears. "You are a cold and heartless
woman. How should _you_ understand what he is feeling,--poor, poor
Cyril!" This ebullition of wrath seems to do her good. Kneeling down by
her auntie, she places her arms round her, and has another honest
comfortable cry upon her bosom.

Florence draws herself up to her full height, which is not
inconsiderable, and follows her movements with slow, supercilious
wonder. She half closes her white lids, and lets her mouth take a
slightly disdainful curve,--not too great a curve, but just enough to be
becoming and show the proper disgust she feels at the terrible
exhibition of ill-breeding that has just taken place.

But as neither Lilian nor Lady Chetwoode can see her, and as Guy has
turned to the fire and is staring into its depths with an expression of
stern disapproval upon his handsome face, she presently finds she is
posing to no effect, and gives it up.

Letting a rather vindictive look cover her features, she sweeps out of
the drawing-room up to her own chamber, and gets rid of her bad temper
so satisfactorily that after ten minutes her maid gives warning, and is
ready to curse the day she was born.

The next morning, long before any one is up, Cyril takes his departure
by the early train, and for many days his home knows him no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

A mighty compassion for Cecilia fills the hearts of all at
Chetwoode--all, that is, except Miss Beauchamp, who privately considers
it extremely low and wretched form, to possess a heart at all.

Lady Chetwoode, eager and anxious to atone for past unkind thought, goes
down to The Cottage in person and insists on seeing its sad
tenant,--when so tender and sympathetic is she, that, the ice being
broken and pride vanquished, the younger woman gives way, and, laying
her head upon the gentle bosom near her, has a hearty cry there, that
eases even while it pains her. I have frequently noticed that when one
person falls to weeping in the arms of another, that other person
maintains a _tendresse_ for her for a considerable time afterward.
Cecilia's lucky rain of tears on this occasion softens her companion
wonderfully, so that Lady Chetwoode, who only came to pity, goes away
admiring.

There is an indescribable charm about Cecilia, impossible to resist.
Perhaps it is her beauty, perhaps her exquisite womanliness, combined
with the dignity that sits so sweetly on her. Lady Chetwoode succumbs to
it, and by degrees grows not only sympathetic toward her, but really
attached to her society,--"now, when it is too late," as poor Cecilia
tells herself, with a bitter pang. Yet the friendship of Cyril's mother
is dear to her, and helps to lighten the dreary days that must elapse
before the news of her husband's return to life is circumstantially
confirmed. They have all entreated her to make The Cottage still her
home, until such unwelcome news arrives.

Colonel Trant's friend has again written from Russia, but without being
able to add another link to the chain of evidence. "He had not seen
Arlington since. He had changed his quarters, so they had missed, and he
had had no opportunity of cross-examining him as to his antecedents; but
he himself had small doubt he was the man they had so often discussed
together. He heard he had gone south, through Turkey, meaning to make
his voyage home by sea; he had mentioned something about preferring
that mode of traveling to any other. He could, of course, easily
ascertain the exact time he meant to return to England, and would let
Trant know without delay," etc.

All this is eminently unsatisfactory, and suspense preying upon Cecilia
commits terrible ravages upon both face and form. Her large eyes look at
one full of a settled melancholy; her cheeks grow more hollow daily; her
once elastic step has grown slow and fearful, as though she dreads to
overtake misfortune. Every morning and evening, as the post hour draws
nigh, she suffers mental agony, through her excessive fear of what a
letter may reveal to her, sharper than any mere physical pain.

Cyril has gone abroad; twice Lilian has received a line from him, but of
his movements or his feelings they know nothing. Cecilia has managed to
get both these curt letters into her possession, and no doubt treasures
them, and weeps over them, poor soul, as a saint might over a relic.

Archibald, now almost recovered, has left them reluctantly for change of
air, in happy ignorance of the sad events that have been starting up
among them since his accident, as all those aware of the circumstances
naturally shrink from speaking of them, and show a united desire to
prevent the unhappy story from spreading further.

So day succeeds day, until at length matters come to a crisis, and hopes
and fears are at an end.



CHAPTER XXX.

     "Love laid his sleepless head
     On a thorny rose bed;
     And his eyes with tears were red
     And pale his lips as the dead.

     "And fear, and sorrow, and scorn,
     Kept watch by his head forlorn,
     Till the night was overworn,
     And the world was merry with morn.

     "And joy came up with the day,
     And kissed love's lips as he lay,
     And the watchers, ghostly and gray,
     Sped from his pillow away.

     "And his eyes at the dawn grew bright
     And his lips waxed ruddy as light:
     Sorrow may reign for a night,
     But day shall bring back delight."
     --SWINBURNE.


The strong old winter is dead. He has died slowly, painfully, with many
a desperate struggle, many a hard fight to reassert his power; but now
at last he's safely buried, pushed out of sight by all the soft little
armies of green leaves that have risen up in battle against him. Above
his grave the sweet, brave young grasses are springing, the myriad
flowers are bursting into fuller beauty, the birds, not now in twos or
threes, but in countless thousands, are singing melodiously among the as
yet half-opened leaves, making all the woods merry with their tender
madrigals. The whole land is awake and astir, crying, "Welcome" to the
flower-crowned spring, as she flies with winged feet over field, and
brook, and upland.

It is the first week in March, a wonderfully soft and lamb-like March
even at this early stage of its existence. Archibald has again returned
to Chetwoode, strong and well, having been pressed to do so by Lady
Chetwoode, who has by this time brought herself, most reluctantly, to
believe his presence necessary to Lilian's happiness.

Taffy has also turned up quite unexpectedly, which makes his welcome
perhaps a degree more cordial. Indeed, the amount of leave Mr. Musgrave
contrives to get, and the scornful manner in which he regards it, raise
within the bosoms of his numerous friends feelings of admiration the
most intense.

"Now, will you tell me what is the good of giving one a miserable
fortnight here, and a contemptible fortnight there?" he asks,
pathetically, in tones replete with unlimited disgust. "Why can't they
give a fellow a decent three months at once, and let him enjoy himself?
it's beastly mean, that's what it is! keeping a man grinding at hard
duty morning, noon, and night."

"It is more than that in your case: it is absolutely foolish," retorts
Miss Chesney, promptly. "It shows an utter disregard for their own
personal comfort. Your colonel can't be half a one; were I he, I should
give you six months' leave twice every year, if only to get rid of you."

"With what rapture would I hail your presence in the British army!"
replies Mr. Musgrave, totally unabashed.

       *       *       *       *       *

To-day is Tuesday. To-morrow, after long waiting that has worn her to a
shadow, Cecilia is to learn her fate. To-morrow the steamer that is
bringing to England the man named Arlington is expected to arrive; and
Colonel Trant, as nervous and passionately anxious for Cecilia's sake as
she can be for her own, has promised to meet it, to go on board, see the
man face to face, so as to end all doubt, and telegraph instant word of
what he will learn.

Lilian, alone of them all, clings wildly and obstinately to the hope
that this Arlington may not be _the_ Arlington; but she is the only one
who dares place faith in this barren suggestion.

At The Cottage, like one distracted, Cecilia has locked herself into her
own room, and is pacing restlessly up and down the apartment, as though
unable to sit, or know quiet, until the dreaded morrow comes.

At Chetwoode they are scarcely less uneasy. An air of impatient
expectation pervades the house. The very servants (who, it is needless
to say, know all about it, down to the very lightest detail) seem to
walk on tiptoe, and wear solemnly the dejected expression they usually
reserve for their pew in church.

Lady Chetwoode has fretted herself into one of her bad headaches, and is
quite prostrate; lying on her bed, she torments herself, piling the
agony ever higher, as she pictures Cyril's increased despair and misery
should their worst fears be confirmed,--forgetting that Cyril, being
without hope, can no longer fear.

Lilian, unable to work or read, wanders aimlessly through the house,
hardly knowing how to hide her growing depression from her cousins, who
alone remain quite ignorant of the impending trouble. Mr. Musgrave,
indeed, is so utterly unaware of the tragedy going on around him, that
he chooses this particular day to be especially lively, not to say
larky, and overpowers Lilian with his attentions; which so distracts her
that, watching her opportunity, she finally effects her escape through
the drawing-room window, and, running swiftly through the plantations,
turns in the direction of the wood.

She eludes one cousin, however, only to throw herself into the arms of
another. Half-way to The Cottage she meets Archibald coming leisurely
toward her.

"Take me for a walk," he says, with humble entreaty; and Lilian, who, as
a rule, is kind to every one except her guardian, tells him, after an
unflattering pause, he may accompany her to such and such a distance,
but no farther.

"I am going to The Cottage," she says.

"To see this Lady of Shalott, this mysterious Mariana in her moated
grange?" asks Chesney, lightly.

Odd as it may sound, he has never yet been face to face with Cecilia.
Her determined seclusion and her habit of frequenting the parish church
in the next village, which is but a short distance from her, has left
her a stranger to almost every one in the neighborhood. Archibald is
indeed aware that The Cottage owns a tenant, and that her name is
Arlington, but nothing more. The fact of her never being named at
Chetwoode has prevented his asking any idle questions and thereby making
any discoveries.

When they have come to the rising mound that half overlooks The Cottage
garden, Lilian comes to a standstill.

"Now you must leave me," she says, imperatively.

"Why? We are quite a day's journey from The Cottage yet. Let me see you
to the gate."

"How tiresome you are!" says Miss Chesney; "just like a big baby, only
not half so nice: you always want more than you are promised."

As Chesney makes no reply to this sally, she glances at him, and,
following the direction of his eyes, sees Cecilia, who has come out for
a moment or two to breathe the sweet spring air, walking to and fro
among the garden paths. It is a very pale and changed Cecilia upon whom
they look.

"Why," exclaims Chesney, in a tone of rapt surprise, "surely that is
Miss Duncan!"

"No,"--amazed,--"it is Mrs. Arlington, Sir Guy's tenant."

"True,"--slowly,--"I believe she did marry that fellow afterward. But I
never knew her except as Miss Duncan."

"You knew her?"

"Very slightly,"--still with his eyes fixed upon Cecilia, as she paces
mournfully up and down in the garden below them, with bent head and
slow, languid movements. "Once I spoke to her, but I knew her well by
sight; she was, she _is_, one of the loveliest women I ever saw. But how
changed she is! how altered, how white her face appears! or can it be
the distance makes me think so? I remember her such a merry girl--almost
a child--when she married Arlington."

"Yes? She does not look merry now," says Lilian, the warm tears rising
in her eyes: "poor darling, no wonder she looks depressed!"

"Why?"

"Oh," says Lilian, hesitating, "something about her husband, you know."

"You don't mean to say she is wearing sackcloth and the willow, and all
that sort of thing, for Arlington all this time?" in a tone of
astonishment largely flavored with contempt. "I knew him uncommonly well
before he married, and I should think his death would have been a cause
for rejoicing to his wife, above all others."

"Ah! that is just it," says Lilian, consumed with a desire to tell: she
sinks her voice mysteriously, and sighs a heavy sigh tinctured with
melancholy.

"Just so," unsympathetically. "Some women, I believe, are hopeless
idiots."

"They are not," indignantly; "Cecilia is not an idiot; she is miserable
because he is--alive! _Now_ what do you think?"

"Alive!" incredulously.

"Exactly so," with all the air of a triumphant _raconteur_. "And when
she had believed him dead, too, for so long! is it not hard upon her,
poor thing! to have him come to life again so disagreeably without a
word of warning? I really think it is quite enough to kill her."

"Well, I never!" says Mr. Chesney, staring at her. It isn't an elegant
remark, but it is full of animated surprise, and satisfies Lilian.

"Is it not a tragedy?" she says, growing more and more pitiful every
moment. "All was going on well (it doesn't matter what), when suddenly
some one wrote to Colonel Trant to say he had seen this odious Mr.
Arlington alive and well in Russia, and that he was on his way home. I
shall always"--viciously--"hate the man who wrote it: one would think he
had nothing else to write about, stupid creature! but is it not shocking
for her, poor thing?"

At this, seemingly without rhyme or reason (except a depraved delight in
other people's sufferings), Mr. Chesney bursts into a loud enjoyable
laugh, and continues it for some seconds. He might perhaps have
continued it until now, did not Lilian see fit to wither his mirth in
the bud.

"Is it a cause for laughter?" she asks, wrathfully; "but it is _just
like you_! I don't believe you have an atom of feeling. Positively I
think you would laugh if _auntie_, who is almost a mother to you, was
_dead_!"

"No, I should not," declares Archibald, subsiding from amusement to the
very lowest depths of sulk: "pardon me for contradicting you, but I
should not even _smile_ were Lady Chetwoode dead. She is perhaps the one
woman in the world whose death would cause me unutterable sorrow."

"Then why did you laugh just now?"

"Because if you had seen a man lie dead and had attended his funeral,
even _you_ might consider it a joke to hear he was 'alive and well.'"

"You saw him dead!"

"Yes, as dead as Julius Cæsar," morosely. "It so happened I knew him
uncommonly well years ago: 'birds of a feather,' you know,"--bitterly,--
"'flock together.' We flocked for a considerable time. Then I lost sight
of him, and rather forgot all about him than otherwise, until I met him
again in Vienna, more than two years ago. I saw him stabbed,--I had been
dining with him that night,--and helped to carry him home; it seemed a
slight affair, and I left him in the hands of a very skillful
physician, believing him out of danger. Next morning, when I called, he
was dead."

"Archie,"--in a low awe-struck whisper,--"is it all true?"

"Perfectly true."

"You could not by any possibility be mistaken?"

"Not by any."

"Then, Archie," says Lilian, solemnly, "you are a _darling_!"

"Am I?" grimly. "I thought I was a demon who could laugh at the demise
of his best friend."

"Nonsense!" tucking her hand genially beneath his arm; "I only said that
out of vexation. Think as little about it as I do. I know for a fact you
are not half a bad boy. Come now with me to The Cottage, that I may tell
this extraordinary, this delightful story to Cecilia."

"Is Cecilia Miss Duncan?"

"No, Mrs. Arlington. Archie,"--seriously,--"you are quite, utterly sure
you know all about it?"

"Do you imagine I dreamed it? Of course I am sure. But if you think I am
going down there to endure hysterics, and be made damp with tears, you
are much mistaken. I won't go, Lilian; you needn't think it; I--I should
be afraid."

"Console yourself; I shan't require your assistance," calmly. "I only
want you to stay outside while I break the good news to her, lest she
should wish to ask you a question. I only hope, Archie, you are telling
me the exact truth,"--severely,--"that you are not drawing on your
imagination, and that it was no other man of the same name you saw lying
dead?"

"Perhaps it was," replies he, huffily, turning away as they reach the
wicket gate.

"Do not stir from where you are now," says she, imperiously: "I may want
you at any moment."

So Archibald, who does not dare disobey her commands, strays idly up and
down outside the hedge, awaiting his summons. It is rather long in
coming, so that his small stock of patience is nearly exhausted when he
receives a message begging him to come in-doors.

As he enters the drawing-room, however, he is so struck with compassion
at the sight of Cecilia's large, half-frightened eyes turned upon him
that he loses all his ill humor and grows full of sympathy. She is very
unlike the happy Cecilia of a month ago, still more unlike the calm,
dignified Cecilia who first came to Chetwoode. She is pale as the early
blossoms that lie here and there in soft wanton luxuriance upon her
tables; her whole face is eager and expectant. She is trembling
perceptibly from head to foot.

"What is it you would tell me, sir?" she asks, with deep entreaty. It is
as though she longs yet fears to believe.

"I would tell you, madam," replies Chesney, respect and pity in his
tone, taking and holding the hand she extends to him, while Lilian
retains the other and watches her anxiously, "that fears are groundless.
A most gross mistake has, I understand, caused you extreme uneasiness. I
would have you dismiss this trouble from your mind. I happened to know
Jasper Arlington well: I was at Vienna the year he was there; we met
often. I witnessed the impromptu duel that caused his death; I saw him
stabbed; I myself helped to carry him to his rooms; next morning he was
dead. Forgive me, madam, that I speak so brusquely. It is best, I think,
to be plain, to mention bare facts."

Here he pauses, and Cecilia's breath comes quickly; involuntarily her
fingers close round his; a question she hardly dares to ask trembles on
her lips. Archibald reads it in the silent agony of her eyes.

"I saw him dead," he says, softly, and is rewarded by a grateful glance
from Lilian.

Cecilia's eyes close; a dry, painful sob comes from between her pallid
lips.

"She will faint," cries Lilian, placing her arms round her.

"No, I shall not." By a great effort Cecilia overcomes the insensibility
fast creeping over her. "I thank you, sir," she says to Archibald: "your
words sound like truth. I would I dared believe them! but I have been so
often----" she stops, half choked with emotion. "What must you think me
but inhuman?" she says, sobbingly. "All women except me mourn their
husband's death; I mourn, in that I fear him living."

"Madam," replies Archibald, scarcely knowing what to say, "I too knew
Jasper Arlington; for me, therefore, it would be impossible to judge you
harshly in this matter. Were you, or any other living soul, to pretend
regret for him, pardon me if I say I should deem you a hypocrite."

"You must believe what he has told you," says Lilian, emphatically: "it
admits of no denial. But, to-morrow, at all events, will bring you news
from Colonel Trant that will compel you to acknowledge its truth."

"Yes, yes. Oh, that to-morrow was here!" murmurs Cecilia, faintly. And
Lilian understands that not until Trant's letter is within her hands
will she allow herself to entertain hope.

Silently Lilian embraces her, and she and Archibald return home.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Chetwoode very intense relief and pleasure are felt as Lilian relates
her wonderful story. Every one is only too willing to place credence in
it. Chesney confesses to some sensations of shame.

"Somehow," he says, "it never occurred to me your tenant might be Jasper
Arlington's wife and the pretty Miss Duncan who tore my heart into
fritters some years ago. And I knew nothing of all this terrible story
about her husband's supposed resuscitation until to-day. It is a 'comedy
of errors.' I feel inclined to sink into the ground when I remember how
I have walked about here among you all, with full proof of what would
have set you all at rest in no time, carefully locked up in my breast.
Although innocent, Lady Chetwoode, I feel I ought to apologize."

"I shall go down and make her come up to Chetwoode," says her ladyship,
warmly. "Poor girl! it is far too lonely for her to be down there by
herself, especially just now when she must be so unstrung. As soon as I
hear she has had that letter from George Trant, I shall persuade her to
come to us."

The next evening brings a letter from Trant that falls like a little
warm seal of certainty upon the good news of yesterday.

"Going down to the landing-place," writes he, "I found the steamer had
really arrived, and went on board instantly. With my heart beating to
suffocation I walked up to the captain, and asked him if any gentleman
named Arlington had come with him. He said, 'Yes, he was here just now,'
and looking round, pointed to a tall man bending over some luggage.
'There he is,' he said. I went up to the tall man. I could see he was a
good height, and that his hair was black. As I noted this last fact my
blood froze in my veins. When I was quite close to him he raised
himself, turned, and looked full at me! And once more my blood ran
warmly, comfortably. It was _not_ the man I had feared to see. I drew my
breath quickly, and to make assurance doubly sure, determined to ask his
name.

"'Sir,' I said, bluntly, forgetful of etiquette, 'is your name
Arlington?'

"'Sir,' replied he, regarding me with calm surprise, 'it is.' At this
moment I confess I lost my head. I became once more eighteen, and
impulsive. I grasped his hands; I wrung them affectionately, not to say
violently.

"'Then, my dear sir,' I exclaimed, rapturously, 'I owe you a debt of
gratitude. I thank you with all my heart. Had you not been born an
Arlington, I might now be one of the most miserable men alive; as it is,
I am one of the happiest.'

"My new friend stared. Then he gave way to an irrepressible laugh, and
shrugged his shoulders expressively.

"'My good fellow,' said he, 'be reasonable. Take yourself back again to
the excellent asylum from which you have escaped, and don't make further
fuss about it. With your genial disposition you are sure to be caught.'

"At this I thought it better to offer him some slight explanation, which
so amused him that he insisted on carrying me off with him to his hotel,
where we dined, and where I found him a very excellent fellow indeed."

In this wise runs his letter. Cecilia reads it until each comforting
assertion is shrined within her heart and doubt is no longer possible.
Then an intense gratitude fills her whole being; her eyes grow dim with
tears; clasping her hands earnestly, she falls upon her knees.



CHAPTER XXXI.

     "How like a winter hath my absence been
     From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
     What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen,
     What old December's bareness everywhere!"
     --SHAKESPEARE.


So Lady Chetwoode goes down to The Cottage in her carriage, and insists
upon carrying Cecilia back with her,--to which, after a slight demur,
Cecilia gladly assents.

"But how to get Cyril," says practical Lilian, who is with them.

"He is in Amsterdam," answers Cecilia, with some hesitation. "Colonel
Trant told me so in his letter."

"Colonel Trant is the most wonderful man I know," says Lilian; "but
Amsterdam of all places! What on earth can any one want in Amsterdam?"

At this they all laugh, partly because they are still somewhat nervously
inclined, and partly because (though why, I cannot explain) they seem to
find something amusing in the mere thought of Amsterdam.

"I hope he won't bring back with him a fat _vrouw_," says Miss Chesney.
And then she runs up-stairs to tell Kate to get ready to accompany her
mistress.

Turning rather timidly toward Lady Chetwoode, Cecilia says:

"When Cyril returns, then,--you will not--you do not----"

"When he returns, my dear, you must marry him at once, if only to make
amends for all the misery the poor boy has been enduring.
But,"--kindly--"you must study economy, child; remember you are not
marrying a rich man."

"He is rich enough for me," smiling; "though indeed it need not signify,
as I have money enough for both. I never spoke of it until now, because
I wished to keep it as a little surprise for him on--on our wedding-day,
but at Mr. Arlington's death I inherited all his fortune. He never
altered the will made before our marriage, and it is nearly four
thousand a year, I think," simply: "Colonel Trant knows the exact
amount, because he is a trustee."

Lady Chetwoode colors deeply. This woman, whom she had termed
"adventuress," is in reality possessed of a far larger fortune than the
son she would have guarded from her at all hazards; proves to be an
heiress, still further enriched by the priceless gifts of grace and
beauty!

To say the very least of it, Lady Chetwoode feels small. But, pride
coming to her rescue, she says, somewhat stiffly, while the pleasant
smile of a moment since dies from her face:

"I had no idea you were so--so--in fact, I believed you almost
portionless. I was led--how I know not--but I certainly was led to think
so. What you say is a surprise. With so much money you should hesitate
before taking any final step. The world is before you,--you are young,
and very charming. I will ask you to forgive an old woman's bluntness;
but remember, there is always something desirable in a title. I would
have you therefore consider. My son is no match for you where _money_ is
concerned." This last emphatically and very proudly.

Cecilia flushes, and grows distressed.

"Dear Lady Chetwoode," she says, taking her hand forcibly. "I entreat
you not to speak to me so. Do not make me again unhappy. This money,
which up to the present I have scarcely touched, so hateful has it been
to me, has of late become almost precious to my sight. I please myself
with the thought that the giving of it to--to Cyril--may be some small
return to him for all the tenderness he has lavished upon me. Do not be
angry with me that I cherish, and find such intense gratification in
this idea. It is so sweet to give to those we love!"

"You have a generous heart," Lady Chetwoode answers, moved by her
generous manner, and pleased too, for money, like music, "hath charms."
"If I have seemed ungracious, forget it. Extreme wonder makes us at
times careless of courtesy, and we did not suspect one who could choose
to live in such a quiet spot as this of being an heiress."

"You will keep my secret?" anxiously.

"I promise. You shall be the first to tell it to your husband upon your
wedding-day. I think," says the elder lady, gracefully, "he is too
blessed. Surely you possessed treasure enough in your own person!"

       *       *       *       *       *

So Cecilia goes to Chetwoode, and shortly afterward Lady Chetwoode
conceives a little plot that pleases her intensely, and which she
relates with such evident gusto that Lilian tells her she is an
_intrigante_ of the deepest dye, and that positively for the future she
shall feel quite afraid of her.

"I never heard anything so artful," says Taffy, who has with much
perseverance wormed himself into their confidence. In fact, after
administering various rebuffs they all lose heart, and confess to him
the whole truth out of utter desperation. "Downright artful!" repeats
Mr. Musgrave, severely. "I shouldn't have believed you capable of it."

But Cecilia says it is a charming scheme, and sighs for its
accomplishment. Whereupon a telegram is written and sent to Cyril. It is
carefully worded, and, though strictly truthful in letter, rather
suggests the idea that his instant return to Chetwoode will be the only
means of saving his entire family from asphyxiation. It is a thrilling
telegram, almost bound to bring him back without delay, had he but one
grain of humanity left in his composition.

It evokes an answer that tells them he has started on receipt of their
message, and names the day and hour they may expect him, wind and
weather permitting.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is night,--a rather damp, decidedly unlovely night. The little
station at Truston is almost deserted: only the station-master and two
melancholy porters represent life in its most dejected aspect. Outside
the railings stands the Chetwoode carriage, the horses foaming and
champing their bits in eager impatience to return again to their
comfortable stables.

Guy, with a cigar between his lips, is pacing up and down, indifferent
alike to the weather or the delay. One of the melancholy porters, who is
evidently in the final stage of depression, tells him the train was due
five minutes ago, and hopes dismally there has been no accident higher
up on the line. Guy, who is lost in thought, hopes so too, and instantly
offers the man a cigar, through force of habit, which the moody one
takes sadly, and deposits in a half-hearted fashion in one of his
numerous rambling pockets to show to his children when he gets home.

"If ever I _do_ get home," he says to himself, hopelessly, taking out
and lighting an honest clay that has seen considerable service.

Then a shrill whistle rings through the air, the train steams lazily
into the station, and Guy, casting a hasty glance at the closed blinds
of the carriage outside, hastens forward to meet Cyril, who is the only
passenger for Truston to-night.

"Has anything happened?" he asks, anxiously, advancing to greet Sir Guy.

"Yes, but nothing to make you uneasy. Do not ask me any questions now:
you will hear all when you get home."

"Our mother is well?"

"Quite well. Are you ready? What a beastly objectionable night it is!
Have you seen to everything, Buckley? Get in, Cyril. I am going outside
to finish my cigar."

When Guy chooses, he is energetic. Cyril is not, and allows himself to
be pushed unresistingly in the direction of the carriage.

"Hurry, man: the night is freezing," says Guy, giving him a final touch.
"Home, Buckley."

Guy springs up in front. Cyril finds himself in the brougham, and in
another instant they are beyond the station railings, rolling along the
road leading to Chetwoode.

As Cyril closes the door and turns round, the light of the lamps outside
reveals to him the outline of a dark figure seated beside him.

"Is it you, Lilian?" he asks, surprised; and then the dark figure leans
forward, throws back a furred hood, and Cecilia's face, pale, but full
of a glad triumph, smiles upon him.

"You!" exclaims he, unsteadily, unable through utter amazement to say
anything more, while with his eyes he gathers in hungrily each delicate
beauty in that "sweetest face to him in all this world."

Whereupon Cecilia nods almost saucily, though the tears are thick within
her lovely eyes, and answers him:

"Yes, it is even I. Are you glad or sorry, that you stare so rudely at
me? and never a word of greeting! Shame, then! Have you left all your
manners behind you in Amsterdam? I have come all this way, this cold
night, to bid you welcome and bring you home to Chetwoode, and
yet---- Oh, Cyril!" suddenly flinging herself into his longing arms, "it
is all right at last, my dear--dear--_dear_, and you may love me again
as much as ever you like!"

When explanations have come to an end, and they are somewhat calmer,
Cyril says:

"But how is it that you are here with Guy, and going to Chetwoode?"

"I am staying at Chetwoode. Your mother came herself, and brought me
back with her. How kind she is, how sweet! Even had I never known you, I
should have loved her dearly."

This last assurance from the lips of his beloved makes up the sum of
Cyril's content.

"Tell me more, sweetheart," he says, contented only to listen. With his
arms round her, with her face so close to his, with both their hearts
beating in happy unison, he hardly cares to question, but is well
pleased to keep silence, and listen to the soft, loving babble that
issues from her lips. Her very words seem to him, who has so long
wearied for them, set to tenderest music. "Like flakes of feathered
snow, they melted as they fell."

"I have so much to tell, I scarcely know where to begin. Do you know you
are to escort me to a ball at Mrs. Steyne's next week? No? why, you know
nothing; so much for sojourning in Amsterdam. Then I suppose you are
ignorant of the fact that I have ordered the most delicious dress you
ever beheld to grace the occasion and save myself from disgracing you.
And you are to be very proud of me, and to admire me immensely, or I
shall never forgive you."

"I am pretty certain not to deserve condign punishment on that score,"
fondly. "Darling, can it be really true that we are together again, that
all the late horrible hopelessness is at an end? Cecilia, if this should
prove a dream, and I awoke now, it would kill me."

"Nay, it is no dream," softly. Turning up her perfect face, until the
lips are close to his, she whispers, "Kiss me, and be convinced."



CHAPTER XXXII.

     "How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature!"
     --_Cymbeline._

     "No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful
     I know, her spirits are as coy and wild
     As haggards of the rock.

            *       *       *       *       *

     Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
     Misprising what they look on."
     --_Much Ado About Nothing._


"Sir Guy," says Miss Chesney, two days later, bursting into his private
sanctum as "the eve is declining," in a rather stormy fashion, "I must
ask you to speak to your groom Buckley: he has been exceedingly rude to
me."

"Rude? Buckley?" exclaims Sir Guy, with a frown, throwing down the paper
he has been trying to read in the fast growing gloom. It is dusk, but
the red light of the fire flickers full upon his face, betraying the
anger that is gathering there. A looker-on would have readily understood
by it that Buckley's hours for grooming at Chetwoode are few.

"Yes. I told him to have Saracen saddled for me to-morrow morning, as
the meet is at Ryston, and I expect a good run; and he said he should
not do it without your permission, or orders, or something equally
impertinent."

"Saracen!" returns Chetwoode, aghast, losing sight of Buckley's
miserable behavior, or rather condoning it on the spot; "you don't mean
to tell me that for one moment you dreamed of riding Saracen?"

"Certainly I did. And why not?" preparing for battle.

"Because the idea is simply absurd. You could not possibly ride him. He
is not half trained."

"Archibald rode him last week, and says he is perfect, and quite safe. I
have decided on trying him to-morrow."

"I wish Chesney would not put such thoughts into your head. He is _not_
safe, and he has never been ridden by a woman."

"That is just why I fancy him: I have often before now ridden horses
that had never had a lady on their backs until I rode them. And
to-morrow I feel sure will be a good day, besides being probably my
last meet for the season."

"My dear child, I think it would indeed be your last meet were you to
ride that brute: his temper is thoroughly uncertain."

"You told me a few days ago my hand could make any horse's mouth, and
now----"

"I told you then what I tell you again now, that you are one of the best
woman riders I ever saw. But for all that, you would find it impossible
to manage Saracen."

"You refuse him to me, then?" with an ominous gleam in her eyes.

"I wish you would not look at it in that light: I merely cannot consent
to let you break your neck. If your own mare does not please you, you
can take my mount, or any other in the entire stables."

"No, thank you, I only want that one."

"But, my dear Lilian, pray be reasonable!" entreats Chetwoode, warmly,
and just a trifle impatiently: "do you think I would be doing my duty by
you if I sanctioned such a rash proceeding?"

"Your duty?" unpleasantly, and with a certain scornful uplifting of her
small Grecian nose.

"Just so," coldly; "I am your guardian, remember."

"Oh, pray do not perpetually seek to remind me of that detestable fact,"
says Miss Chesney, vindictively; whereupon Sir Guy freezes, and subsides
into dead and angry silence. Lilian, sweeping over to the darkening
window, commences upon the pane a most disheartening tattoo, that makes
the listener long for death. When Chetwoode can stand it no longer, he
breaks the oppressive stillness.

"Perhaps you are not aware," he says, angrily, "that a noise of that
description is intensely irritating."

"No. _I_ like it," retorts Miss Chesney, tattooing louder than ever.

"If you go on much longer, you will drive me out of my mind," remarks
Guy, distractedly.

"Oh, don't let it come to that," calmly; "let me drive you out of the
room first."

"As to my guardianship," says Chetwoode, in a chilling tone, "console
yourself with the reflection that it cannot last forever. Time is never
at a standstill, and your twenty-first birthday will restore you to
freedom. You can then ride as many wild animals and kill yourself as
quickly as you please, without asking any one's consent."

"I can do that now too, and probably shall. I have quite made up my mind
to ride Saracen to-morrow!"

"Then the sooner you unmake that mind the better."

"Well,"--turning upon him as though fully prepared to crush him with her
coming speech,--"if I don't ride him I shall stay at home altogether:
there!"

"I think that will be by far the wiser plan of the two," returns he,
coolly.

"What! and lose all my day!" cries Lilian, overwhelmed by the atrocity
of this remark, "while you and all the others go and enjoy yourselves!
How hatefully selfish you can be! But I won't be tyrannized over in this
fashion. I shall go, and on Saracen too."

"You shall not," firmly.

Miss Chesney has come close up to where he is standing on the
hearth-rug. The fire-light dances and crackles merrily, casting its
rays, now yellow, now deep crimson, over their angry faces, as though
drawing keen enjoyment from the deadly duel going on so near to it. One
pale gleam lingers lovingly upon Lilian's sunny head, throwing over it
yet another shade, if possible richer and more golden than its fellows;
another lights up her white hands, rather defiantly clinched, one small
foot in its high-heeled shoe that has advanced beyond her gown, and two
blue eyes large with indignant astonishment.

Guy is returning her gaze with almost equal indignation, being angrily
remindful of certain looks and scenes that of late have passed between
them.

"You defy me?" says Lilian, slowly.

"I do."

"You _refuse_ me?" as though not quite believing the evidence of her
senses.

"I do. I forbid you to ride that one horse."

"Forbid me!" exclaims she passionately, tears starting to her eyes. "You
are fond of forbidding, as it seems to me. Recollect, sir, that, though
unhappily your ward, I am neither your child nor your wife."

"I assure you I had never the presumption to imagine you in the latter
character," he answers, haughtily, turning very pale, but speaking
steadily and in a tone eminently uncomplimentary.

"Your voice says more than your words," exclaims Lilian, too angry to
weigh consequences. "Am I to understand"--with an unlovely laugh--"you
think me unworthy to fill so exalted a position?"

"As you press me for the truth," says Chetwoode, who has lost his temper
completely, "I confess I should hardly care to live out my life with
such a----"

"Yes, go on; 'with such a--' shrew, is it? or perhaps virago?"

"As you wish it," with a contemptuous shrug; "either will suit, but I
was going to say 'flirt.'"

"Were you?" cries she, tears of mortification and rage dimming her eyes,
all the spoiled child within her rising in arms. "Flirt, am I? and
shrew? Well, I will not have the name of it without the gain of it. I
hate you, hate you, _hate_ you!"

With the last word she raises her hand suddenly and administers to him a
sound and wholesome box upon the ear.

The effect is electric. Sir Guy starts back as though stunned. Never in
all his life has he been so utterly taken aback, routed with such deadly
slaughter. The dark, hot color flames into his cheeks. Shame for her--a
sort of horror that she should have been guilty of such an
act--overpowers him. Involuntarily he puts one hand up to the cheek her
slender fingers, now hanging so listlessly at her side, have wounded,
while regarding her with silent amazement largely mixed with reproach.

As for Lilian, the deed once done, she would have given worlds to recall
it,--that is, secretly,--but in this life, unfortunately, facts
accomplished cannot be undone. Outwardly she is as defiant as ever, and,
though extremely white, steadily and unflinchingly returns his gaze.

Yet after a little, a very little while, her eyes fall before his, her
pretty, proud head droops somewhat, a small remnant of grace springs up
in the very middle of all her passion and disdain. She is frightened,
nervous, contrite.

When the silence has become absolutely unbearable, Guy says, in a low
tone that betrays not the faintest feeling:

"I am afraid I must have said something to annoy you terribly. I confess
I lost my temper, and otherwise behaved as a gentleman should not. I beg
your pardon."

His voice is that of a stranger; it is so altered she scarcely knows it.
Never in their worst disputes has he so spoken to her. With a little
sickening feeling of despair and terror at her heart, she turns away
and moves toward the door.

"Are you going? Pray take care. The room is very dark where the
fire-light does not penetrate," says Guy, still in the same curiously
changed voice, so full of quiet indifference, so replete with the cold
courtesy we accord to those who are outside and beyond our affections.

He opens the door for her, and bows very slightly as she passes through,
and then closes it again calmly, while she, with weary, listless
footsteps, drags herself up-stairs and throws herself upon her bed.

Lying there with dry and open eyes, not daring to think, she hardly
cares to analyze her own feelings. She knows she is miserable, and
obstinately tries to persuade herself it is because she has been
thwarted in her desire to ride Saracen, but in vain. After a struggle
with her better thoughts, she gives in, and acknowledges her soreness of
heart arises from the conviction that she has forever disgraced herself
in her guardian's eyes. She will never be able to look at him again,
though in truth that need scarcely signify, as surely in the future he
will not care to see where she may be looking. It is all over. He is
done with her. Instinctively she understands from his altered manner how
he has made up his mind never again to exercise his right over her as
guardian, never again to concern himself about either her weal or her
woe. She is too wretched to cry, and lies prostrate, her pulses
throbbing, her brain on fire.

"What is it, my bird?" asks nurse, entering, and bending solicitously
over her. "Are you not well? Does your head ache?"

"It is not my head," plaintively.

"Your side, my lamb?"

"Yes, it is my side," says Lilian, laying her hand pathetically upon her
heart; and then, overcome by the weight of her own sorrows, she buries
her head in her pillows and bursts into tears.

"Eh, hinny, don't cry," says nurse, fondly. "We must all have pains
there at times, an' we must just learn to bear them as best we may.
Come, look up, my bairn; I will put on a good mustard blister to-night,
and to-morrow I tell you it won't magnify at all," winds up nurse,
fluently, who rather prides herself upon her management of the Queen's
English, and would scorn to acknowledge the misplacement of a word here
and there; and indeed, after all, when one comes to think of it, it does
_not_ "magnify" very much.

But Lilian sobs on disconsolately. And next morning she has fresh cause
to bewail her evil conduct. For the day breaks and continues through all
its short life so wet, so wild, so stormy, that neither Saracen nor any
other horse can leave the stables. Hunting is out of the question, and
with a fresh pang, that through its severity is punishment enough for
her fault, she knows all her temper of the night before was displayed
for naught.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

     "Meanwhile the day sinks fast, the sun is set,
     And in the lighted hall the guests are met;
     The beautiful looked lovelier in the light
     Of love, and admiration, and delight
     Reflected from a thousand hearts and eyes,
     Kindling a momentary paradise."
     --SHELLEY: _Ginevra_.


It is the night of Mabel Steyne's ball. In the library at Chetwoode they
are almost every one assembled, except Lilian, and Florence Beauchamp,
and Mr. Musgrave, whose dressing occupies a considerable part of his
life, and who is still sufficiently young to find pleasure in it.

Lady Chetwoode in gray satin is looking charming; Cecilia, lovely, in
the palest shade of blue. She is standing at a table somewhat apart,
conversing with Cyril, who is fastening a bracelet upon one of her arms.
Guy and Archibald are carrying on a desultory conversation.

And now the door opens, and Lilian comes in. For the first time for a
whole year she has quite discarded mourning to-night, and is dressed in
pure white. Some snowdrops are thrown carelessly among the folds of the
tulle that covers and softens her silk gown; a tiny spray of the same
flower lies nestling in her hair.

She appears more fairy-like, more child-like and sweeter than ever, as
she advances into the room, with a pretty consciousness of her own
beauty, that sits charmingly upon her. She is a perfect little vision of
loveliness, and is tenderly aware of the fact. Her neck is fair, her
shoulders rounded and kissable as an infant's; her eyes are gleaming,
her lips apart and smiling; her sunny hair, that is never quite as
smooth as other people's, lies in rippling coils upon her head, while
across her forehead a few short rebellious love-locks wander.

Seeing her, Sir Guy and Chesney are filled with a simultaneous longing
to take her in their arms and embrace her then and there.

Sweeping past Sir Guy, as though he is invisible, she goes on, happy,
radiant toward Lady Chetwoode. She is in her airiest mood, and has
evidently cast behind her all petty _désagréments_, being bent on
enjoying life to its fullest for this one night at least.

"Is not my dress charming, auntie? does it not become me?" she asks,
with the utmost _naïveté_, casting a backward glance over her shoulder
at her snowy train.

"It does, indeed. Let me congratulate you, darling," says Lady Chetwoode
to her favorite: "it is really exquisite."

"Lovely as its wearer," says Archibald, with a suppressed sigh.

"Pouf!" says Lilian, gayly: "what a simile! It is a rudeness; who dares
compare me with a paltry gown? A tenth part as lovely, you mean. How
refractory this button is!" holding out to him a rounded arm to have the
twelfth button of her glove fastened; "try can you do it for me?"

Here Taffy enters, and is apparently struck with exaggerated admiration
as he beholds her.

"Ma conscience!" he says, in the words of the famous Dominie, "what a
little swell we are! Titania, my dear, permit me to compliment you on
the success you are sure to have. Monsieur Worth has excelled himself!
Really, you are very nearly pretty. You'll have a good time of it
to-night, I shouldn't wonder."

"I hope so," gladly; "I can hardly keep my feet quiet, I do so long to
dance. And so you admire me?"

"Intensely. As a tribute to your beauty, I think I shall give you a
kiss."

"Not for worlds," exclaims she, retreating hastily. "I know your
embraces of old. Do let me take my flowers and tulle uncrushed to
Mabel's, or I shall complain of you to her, and so spoil your evening."

"I am glad to see you have recovered your usual spirits," maliciously:
"this morning you were nowhere. I could not get a word out of you. Ever
since yesterday, when you were disappointed about your run, you have
been in 'doleful dumps.' All day you looked as though you thought there
was 'nothing so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy.' You seemed to revel
in it."

"Perhaps I was afraid to encourage you. Once set going, you know you
cannot stop," says Lilian, laughing, while two red spots, caused by his
random remark, rise and burn in her cheeks.

"We are late, are we not?" says Florence, entering at this moment; and
as Florence never errs, Archibald instantly gives his arm to Lady
Chetwoode and takes her down to the carriage. Taffy, who has already
opened an animated conversation with Miss Beauchamp on the horrors of
square dances, accompanies her; Cyril disappears with Cecilia, and
Lilian is left alone in the library with Sir Guy.

Curving her body gracefully, Lilian gathers up with slow nonchalance her
long train, and, without bestowing a glance upon Guy, who is silently
waiting to escort her to the smaller brougham, goes up to a mirror to
take a last lingering survey of her own bewitching image. Then she
calmly smooths down her glove, then refastens a bracelet that has come
undone, while he, with a bored expression on his face, waits
impatiently.

By this, Archibald, who has had ample time to put Lady Chetwoode in her
carriage and come all the way back to find a fan forgotten by Miss
Beauchamp, re-enters the room.

Lilian beams upon him directly.

"Good Archie," she says, sweetly, "you have returned just in time. There
was positively nobody to take poor little me to the brougham." She slips
her hand beneath his arm, and walks past Sir Guy composedly, with
laughing friendly eyes uplifted to her cousin's.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ball is at its height. The first small hour of morning has sounded.
The band is playing dreamily, sweetly; flowers are nodding everywhere,
some emitting a dying fragrance, others still fresh and sweet as when
first plucked. Afar off the faint splashing of the fountains in the
conservatories echoes tremulously, full of cool imaginings, through the
warm air. Music and laughter and mirth--real and unreal--are mixed
together in one harmonious whole.

Mrs. Steyne has now an unaffected smile upon her face, being assured her
ball is an undeniable success, and is allowing herself to be amused by
Taffy, who is standing close beside her.

Tom Steyne, who, like Sir Charles Coldstream, is "thirty-three and used
up," is in a corner, silently miserable, suffering himself to be flirted
at by a gay young thing of forty. He has been making despairing signs to
Taffy to come to his assistance, for the past five minutes, which
signals of distress that young gentleman basely declines to see.

Every one is busy asking who Mrs. Arlington can be, and, as nobody
knows, everybody undertakes to tell his or her neighbor "all about her."
And by this time every one is aware she is enormously rich, the widow of
an Indian nabob, from whom she was divorced on account of some "fi-fi
story, my dear, that is never mentioned now," and that she is ever so
many years older than she really looks; "painting is brought to such
perfection nowadays!"

All night long Sir Guy has not asked Lilian to dance; he has held
himself aloof from her, never even allowing his glance to stray in her
direction, although no smallest grace, no faintest coquetry, of hers has
escaped his notice. To him the whole evening has been a miserable
failure. He has danced, laughed, flirted a good deal, "as is his nature
to,"--more particularly with Florence,--but he has been systematically
wretched all through.

Lilian and Archibald have been inseparable. She has danced with him, in
defiance of all decent rules, dance after dance, even throwing over some
engagements to continue her mad encouragement of him. She has noted Sir
Guy's attention to his cousin, and, noting (although in her heart she
scarcely believes in it), has grown a little reckless as to what
judgment people may form of her evident appreciation of Chesney's
society.

There is indeed a memorable five minutes when she absolutely deliberates
as to whether she will or will not accept her cousin's hand, and so give
herself a way to escape from Sir Guy's dreaded displeasure. But, while
deliberating, she quite forgets the terrible disappointment she is
laying up in store for him, who has neither thought, nor eyes, nor
words, for any one but her. Being the undisputed belle of the evening,
she naturally comes in for a heavy share of attention, and, be sure,
does not altogether escape unkind comment.

"Oh, poor Tom! Do look at Tom and that fearful Miss Dumaresque," says
Mrs. Steyne, who just at this moment discovers the corner where Tom is
doing his utmost to "suffer and be strong." It is, however, a miserable
attempt, as he is visibly depressed and plainly on the point of giving
way altogether. "Somebody must go to his succor," says Mabel, with
decision: "the question is, who? You, my dear Taffy, I think."

"Not I," says Taffy; "please, dear Mrs. Steyne, do not afflict me so
far. I couldn't, indeed. I am very dreadfully afraid of Miss Dumaresque;
besides, I never pity Tom even when in his worst scrapes. We all
know"--sentimentally--"he is the happiest man alive; when he does fall
in for his bad quarter of an hour, why not let him endure it like
another? And he is rather in a hat, now, isn't he?" taking an evident
keen delight in Mr. Steyne's misfortunes. "I wouldn't be in his shoes
for a good deal. He looks as if he was going to cry. The fact is, the
gods have pampered him so much, that it is a shame not to let him know
for a few minutes what real distress means."

"But what if he _should_ die!" reproachfully: "one so unaccustomed to
adversity as Tom would be very likely to sink under it. He looks half
dead already! Mark the hunted expression in his poor dear eyes."

"I wish you would mark the forlorn and dejected expression in other
people's eyes," in an injured tone; "but all that, of course, goes for
nothing."

"In yours, do you mean?" with exaggerated sympathy. "My dear boy, have
you a secret sorrow? Does concealment, like that nasty worm, prey upon
you? I should be unhappy forever if I could bring myself to think so."

"Then don't think so; come, let us finish this waltz, and forget that
lucky fellow in the corner."

"What! you would have me trip it on the light fantastic toe while Tom is
enduring torment? Never! Whatever I may do in prosperity, in adversity I
'never will desert Mr. Micawber.'"

"I vow I think you are jealous of that antiquated though still frisky
damsel," says Taffy, ready to explode with laughter at the bare idea,
as he watches the frisky one's attempt at subjugating the hapless Tom.

"You have discovered my hidden fear," replies Mabel, laughing, too:
"forgive my weakness. There are moments when even the strongest break
down! Wait here patiently for me, and I have no doubt with a little
skill I shall be able to deliver him."

At one side of the ball-room, close to an upper window, is a recess,
dimly lit, and partially curtained, in which it is possible for two or
three to stand without letting outsiders be aware of their vicinity:
into this nook Lilian and Archibald have just withdrawn, she having
confessed to a faint sense of fatigue. The sweet lingering notes of the
waltz "Geliebt und Verloren" are saddening the air; now they swell, now
faint, now almost die out altogether, only to rise again full of
pathetic meaning.

"How charming it is to be here!" says Lilian, sinking into a cushioned
seat with a sigh of relief, "apart from every one, and yet so near; to
watch their different expressions, and speculate upon their secret
feelings, without appearing rude: do you not think so? Do you like being
here?"

"Yes, I like being here with you,"--or anywhere else, he might have
added, without deviating from the truth.

At this moment Guy, who is not dancing, happens to saunter up, and lean
against the curtains of the window close to their hiding-place, totally
unconscious of their presence. From where she is sitting Lilian can
distinctly see him, herself unseen. He looks moody, and is evidently
enchanted with the flavor of his blonde moustache. He is scarcely
noticeable from where he stands, so that when two men come leisurely up
to the very mouth of the retreat, and dispose of themselves luxuriously
by leaning all their weight upon the frail pillars against which the
curtains hang, they do not perceive him.

One is Harry Bellair, who has apparently been having a good many
suppers; the other is his friend.

Mr. Bellair's friend is not as handsome as he might be. There is a want
of jaw, and a general lightness about him (not of demeanor: far be it
from me to hint at that!) that at a first glance is positively
startling. One hardly knows where his flesh ends or his hair begins,
while his eyes are a marvel in themselves, making the beholder wonder
how much paler they _can_ get without becoming pure white. His
moustache is of the vaguest tints, so vague that until acquaintance
ripens one is unaware of its existence. Altogether, he is excellently
bleached.

To-night, to add to his manifold attractions, he appears all shirt-front
and white tie, with very little waistcoat to speak of. In his left and
palest optic is the inevitable eyeglass, in which he is supposed by his
intimates to sleep, as never yet has human being (except perhaps his
mamma in the earlier scenes of his existence) seen him without it. In
spite of all this, however, he looks mild, and very harmless.

"She is awfully lovely," says Mr. Bellair, evidently continuing a
conversation, and saying it with an audible sigh; "quite too lovely for
me."

"You seem fetched," says his friend, directing a pale but feeling ray
upon him through the beloved glass.

"I am, I confess it," says Mr. Bellair, effusively; "I adore her, and
that's a fact: but she would not look at me. She's in love with her
cousin,--Chesney, you know,--and they're to be married straight off the
reel, next month, I think--or that."

"Hah!" says the friend. "She's good to look at, do you know, and rather
uncommon style, in spite of her yellow hair. She's a ward of
Chetwoode's, isn't she? Always heard he was awfully _épris_ there."

By this time Lilian is crimson, and Archibald hardly less so, though he
is distinctly conscious of a desire to laugh; Lilian's eyes are riveted
on Sir Guy, who has grown very pale and has turned a frowning brow upon
these luckless young men.

"Not a bit of it," says Mr. Bellair, "at least now. He was, I believe,
but she bowled him over in a couple of months and laughed at him
afterward. No, Chesney is the white-headed boy with her. Not that I see
much in him myself," discontentedly.

"Sour-looking beggar," rejoins the friend, with kind sympathy.

It is growing tremendously jolly for the listeners. Lilian turns a
pained, beseeching glance upon Archibald, who returns the glance, but
declares by gesture his inability to do anything. He is still secretly
amused, and not being able from his point of vantage to see Chetwoode,
is scarcely as confused as Lilian. Should he now stir, and walk out of
his place of concealment with Miss Chesney, he would only cover with
shame the unsuspecting gossips and make two enemies for life, without
doing any good.

Chetwoode is in the same condition, but though angry and bitterly stung
by their words, hardly cares to resent them, being utterly unaware of
Lilian's eyes, which are bent upon him. He waits impatiently for the
moment when Mr. Bellair and his "fat friend" may choose to move on. Did
he know who was so close to him, watching every expression of his face,
impatience might have passed all bounds. As it is, a few chance remarks
matter little to him.

But Mr. Bellair's friend has yet something else to say.

"Fine girl, Miss Beauchamp," says this youth, languidly; "immensely good
form, and that. Looks like a goddess."

"There's a lot of her, if you mean that. But she's too nosy," says Mr.
Bellair, grumpily, a sense of injury full upon him. His own nose is of
the charming curt and simple order: his "friends in council" (who might
be more select) are wont to call it playfully a "spud." "Far too nosy! I
hate a woman all nose! makes her look so like a mope."

"You've been getting a snubbing there," says his friend, this time
unfeelingly and with an inhuman chuckle.

"I have," valiantly: "she has too much of the goddess about her for my
fancy: choke-full of dignity and airs, you know, and all that sort of
rubbish. It don't go down, I take it, in the long run. It's as much as
she can do to say 'how d'ye do' to you, and she looks a fellow up and
down half a dozen times before she gives him a waltz. You don't catch me
inviting her to the 'mazy dance' again in a hurry. I hate affectation. I
wouldn't marry that girl for untold gold."

"She wouldn't have you," says his friend, with a repetition of the
unpleasant chuckle.

"Maybe she wouldn't," replies Mr. Bellair, rather hurt. "Anyhow, she is
not to be named in the same day with Miss Chesney. I suppose you know
she is engaged to Chetwoode, so you needn't get spoony on her,"
viciously; "it is quite an old affair, begun in the cradle, I believe,
and kept up ever since: never can understand that sort of thing myself;
would quite as soon marry my sister. But all men aren't alike."

"No, they aren't," says the friend, with conviction. "Why don't he
marry her, though? He must be tired of looking at her."

"He funks it, that's what it is," says Mr. Bellair, "and no wonder;
after seeing Miss Chesney he must feel rather discontented with his
choice. Ah!"--with a sigh warranted to blow out the largest wax
candle,--"there's a girl for you if you like!"

"Don't weep over it, old boy, at least here; you'll be seen," says his
friend, jovially, with odious want of sympathy; after which they are
pleased to remove themselves and their opinions to another part of the
room.

When they have gone, Lilian, who has been turning white and red at
intervals all through the discussion, remains motionless, her eyes still
fixed on Chetwoode. She does not heed Archibald's remark, so earnestly
is she regarding her guardian. Can it be true what they have just said,
that he, Sir Guy, has been for years engaged to Florence? At certain
moments such a thought has crossed her own mind, but never until
to-night has she heard it spoken of.

Chetwoode, who has moved, comes a little nearer to where she is
standing, and pauses there, compelled to it by a pressure in the crowd.

"With what taste do they accredit me!" he says, half aloud, with a
rather pale smile and a slight curl of his short upper lip, discernible
even beneath his drooping moustache. His eyes are directed toward
Florence, who is standing, carrying on a lifeless flirtation at a little
distance from him; there is distaste in every line of his face, and
Lilian, marking it, draws a long breath, and lets the smile return to
her mobile lips.

"Was Chetwoode there all the time?" asks Archibald, aghast.

"Yes: was it not horrible?" replies she, half laughing. "Poor Mr.
Bellair! I had no idea I had done so much mischief."

The hours are growing older, Lady Chetwoode is growing tired. Already
with the utmost craftiness has she concealed five distinct yawns, and
begins to think with lingering fondness of eider-down and bedroom fires.

Florence, too, who is sitting near her, and who is ever careful not to
overdo the thing, is longing for home, being always anxious to husband
as far as possible her waning youth and beauty.

"Lilian, dearest, I think you must come home now," Lady Chetwoode says,
tapping the girl's white arms, as she stops close to her in the interval
of a dance.

"So soon, auntie!" says Lilian, with dismay.

She is dancing with a very good-looking guardsman, who early in the
evening did homage to her charms, and who ever since has been growing
worse and worse; by this time he is very bad indeed, and scorns to look
at any one in the room except Miss Chesney, who, to confess the truth,
has been coquetting with him unremittingly for the past half-hour,
without noticing, or at least appearing to notice, Archibald's black
looks or Sir Guy's averted ones.

At Lady Chetwoode's words, the devoted guardsman turns an imploring
glance upon his lovely partner, that fills her (she is kind-hearted)
with the liveliest compassion. Yes, she will make one last effort, if
only to save him from mental suicide.

"Dear auntie, if you love me, 'fly not yet,'" she says, pathetically.
"It is so long since I have danced, and"--with the faintest, fleetest
glance at the guardsman--"I am enjoying myself so much."

"Lady Chetwoode, it can't be done," interposes Tom Steyne, who is
standing by: "Miss Chesney has promised me the next dance, and I am
living in the expectation of it. At my time of life I have noticed a
tendency on the part of beauty to rather shun my attentions; Miss
Chesney's condescension, therefore, has filled me with joy. She must
wait a little longer: I refuse to resign my dance with the _belle_ of
the evening."

"Go and finish your dance, child: I will arrange with auntie," says
Mabel, kindly; whereupon Lilian floats away gladly in the arms of her
warrior, leaving Mrs. Steyne to settle matters.

"You shall go home, dear, with Florence, because you are tired, and
Cyril and his exceedingly beautiful _fiancée_ shall go with you; leave
the small night brougham for Lilian, and Guy can take her home. I shan't
keep her beyond another hour, and I shall see that she is well wrapped
up."

So it arranges itself; and by and by, when an hour has passed away,
Lilian and Guy discover to their horror they are in for a _tête-à-tête_
drive to Chetwoode.

They bid good-bye to the unconscious Mabel, and, silently entering the
brougham, are presently driving swiftly through the fresh cool air.

"Are you quite comfortable?" Guy asks, as in duty bound, very stiffly.

"Quite, thank you," replies she, even more stiffly; after which outbreak
of politeness "silence reigns supreme."

When a good half-mile has been traversed, Guy, who is secretly filled
with wonder at the extreme taciturnity of his usually lively companion,
so far descends from his pedestal of pride as to turn his head
cautiously in her direction: to his utter amazement, he finds she has
fallen fast asleep!

The excitement and fatigue of dancing, to which she has been so long
unaccustomed, have overpowered her, and, like a tired child as she is,
she has given way to restful slumber. Her pale blue cashmere has fallen
a little to one side so that a white arm, soft and round as a baby's,
can be seen in all the abandon of sleep, naked beside her, the hand half
closed like a little curled shell.

Not yet quite convinced that her slumber is real, Guy lays his hand
gently upon hers, but at the touch she makes no movement: no smallest
ripple of consciousness crosses her face. In the faint light of the lamp
he regards her curiously, and wonders, with a pang, how the little fury
of a few hours ago can look so angelic now. At this moment, as he
watches her, all the anger that has lain in his heart for her melts,
vanishes, never to return.

Then he sees her attitude is uncomfortable: her face is very pale, her
head is thrown too much back, a little troubled sigh escapes her. He
thinks, or at least tries to think,--let not me be the one to judge
him,--she will have unhappy dreams if she continues much longer in her
present position. Poor child! she is quite worn out. Perhaps he could
manage to raise her in a degree, without disturbing her reviving repose.

Slipping his arm gently round her, he lifts her a little, and draws her
somewhat nearer to him. So gently does he move her, that Lilian, who is
indeed fatigued, and absolutely tired out with her exertions of the
evening, never awakes, but lets her heavy, sleepy little head drop over
to the other side, down upon Chetwoode's shoulder.

Guy does not stir. After all, what does it matter? she is easier so, and
it can hurt neither of them; she never has been, she never will be,
anything to him; in all probability she will marry her cousin. At this
point he stops and thinks about her treatment of that handsome
guardsman, and meditates deeply thereon. To him she is a mystery, a
lovely riddle yet unsolved; but with his arm round her, and her face so
near his own, he is conscious of feeling an irrepressible gladness. A
thrill of happiness, the only touch of it he has known for many days,
fills his heart, while with it is a bitter regret that chills it at its
birth.

The carriage rattles over some unusually large stone, and Lilian awakes.
At first an excessive sense of drowsiness dulls her perception, and
then, all at once, it flashes across her mind that she has been asleep,
and that now she is encircled, supported by Guy's arm. Even in the
friendly darkness a warm flush suffuses her face, born half of quick
indignation, half of shame. Raising herself hastily, she draws back from
his embrace, and glances up at him with open surprise.

"You are awake?" says Guy, quietly; he has relaxed his hold, but still
has not altogether withdrawn his support. As their eyes meet in the
uncertain flickering light that comes to them from outside, she sees so
much sadness, so much tenderness in his, that her anger is instantly
disarmed. Still, she moves yet a little farther from him, while
forgetting to make any reply.

"Are you uncomfortable?" asks he, slowly, as though there is nothing out
of the common in his sitting thus with his arm round her, and as though
a mere sense of discomfort can be the only reason for her objection to
it. He does not make the slightest effort to detain her, but still lets
her feel his nearness.

"No," replies Miss Chesney, somewhat troubled; "it is not that,
only----"

"Then I think you had better stay as you are. You are very tired, I can
see, and this carriage is not the easiest in the world."

With gentle boldness he replaces the offending arm in its old position,
and wisely refrains from further speech.

Lilian is confounded. She makes no effort to release herself, being
filled with amazement at the extraordinary change in his manner, and,
perhaps, wholly glad of it. Has he forgiven her? Has he repented him of
his stern looks and cold avoidance? All night long he has shunned her
persistently, has apparently been unaware of her presence; and now there
is something in his tone, in his touch, that betrays to her what sets
her heart beating treacherously.

Presently Guy becomes aware of this fact, and finding encouragement in
the thought that she has not again repulsed him, says, softly:

"Were you frightened when you awoke?"

"Yes, a little."

"You are not frightened now?"

"No, not now. At first, on waking, I started to find myself here."

"Here," may mean the carriage, or her resting-place, or anything.

After a short pause:

"Sir Guy,"--tremulously.

"Yes."

"You remember all that happened the night before last?"

"I do," slowly.

"I have wanted ever since to tell you how sorry I am for it all, to beg
your pardon, to ask you to----" she stops, afraid to trust her voice
further, because of some little troublesome thing that rises in her
throat and threatens to make itself heard.

"I don't want you to beg my pardon," says Guy, hastily, in a pained
tone. "If I had not provoked you, it would never have happened. Lilian,
promise me you will think no more about it."

"Think about it! I shall never cease thinking about it. It was horrible,
it was shameful of me. I must have gone mad, I think. Even now, to
remember it makes me blush afresh. I am glad it is dark,"--with a little
nervous laugh,--"because you cannot see my face. It is burning."

"Is it?" tenderly. With gentle fingers he touches her soft cheek, and
finds it is indeed, as she has said, "burning." He discovers something
else also,--tears quite wet upon it.

"You are crying, child," he says, startled, distressed.

"Am I? No wonder. I _ought_ to suffer for my hateful conduct toward you.
I shall never forgive myself."

"Nonsense!" angrily. "Why should you cry about such a trifle? I won't
have it. It makes me miserable to know any thought of me can cause you a
tear."

"I cry"--with a heavy sob--"because I fear you will never think well of
me again. I have lost your good opinion, if indeed"--sadly--"I ever had
it. You _must_ think badly of me."

"I do not," returns he, with an accent that is almost regret. "I wish I
could. It matters little what you do, I shall never think of you but as
the dearest and sweetest girl I ever met. In that"--with a sigh--"lies
my misfortune."

"Not think badly of me! and yet you called me a flirt! Am I a flirt?"

Chetwoode hesitates, but only for a minute; then he says, decidedly,
though gently:

"Perhaps not a flirt, but certainly a coquette. Do not be angry with me
for saying so. Think how you passed this one evening. First remember the
earlier part of it, and then your cruel encouragement of the luckless
guardsman."

"But the people I wanted to dance with wouldn't ask me to dance," says
Lilian, reproachfully, "and what was I to do? I did not care for that
stupid Captain Monk: he was handsome, but insufferably slow, and--and--I
don't believe I cared for _any one_."

"What! not even for----" He pauses. Not now, not at this moment, when
for a sweet though perhaps mad time she seems so near to him in thought
and feeling, can he introduce his rival's name. Unconsciously he
tightens his arm round her, and, emboldened by the softness of her
manner, smooths back from her forehead the few golden hairs that have
wandered there without their mistress's will.

Lilian is silent, and strangely, unutterably happy.

"I wish we could be always friends," she says, wistfully, after a little
eloquent pause.

"So do I,"--mournfully,--"but I know we never shall be."

"That is a very unkind speech, is it not? At least"--slipping five warm
little fingers into his disengaged hand--"_I_ shall always be a friend
of _yours_, and glad of every smallest thing that may give you
happiness."

"You say all this now, and yet to-morrow,"--bending to look at her in
the ungenerous light,--"to-morrow you may tell me again that you 'hate
me.'"

"If I do,"--quickly,--"you must not believe me. I have a wretched
temper, and I lost it completely when I said that the other night. I
did not mean it. I do not hate you, Guy: you know that, do you not?" Her
voice falls a little, trembles, and softens. It is the first time she
has ever called him by his Christian name without its prefix, and Guy's
pulses begin to throb a little wildly.

"If you do not hate me, what then?" he asks.

"I like you."

"Only that?" rather unsteadily.

"To like honestly is perhaps best of all."

"It may be, but it does not satisfy me. One _likes_ many people."

Lilian is silent. She is almost positive now that he loves her, and
while longing to hear him say so, shrinks from saying what will surely
bring forth the avowal. And yet if she now answers him coldly,
carelessly----

"If I say I am fond of you," she says, in a tone so low, so nervous, as
to be almost unheard, "will that do?"

The carriage some time since has turned in the avenue gate.

They are approaching the house swiftly; already the lights from the
windows begin to twinkle through the leafy branches of the trees: their
time is short. Guy forgets all about Chesney, all about everything
except the girlish face so close to his own.

"_Are_ you fond of me, Lilian?" he asks, entreatingly. There is no
reply: he stoops, eager to read his fate in her expression. His head
touches hers; still lower, and his moustache brushes her cheek; Lilian
trembles a little, but her pale lips refuse to answer; another instant,
and his lips meet hers. He kisses her warmly, passionately, and
fancies--is it fancy?--that she returns his caress faintly.

Then the carriage stops. The men alight. Sir Guy steps out, and Miss
Chesney lays her hand in his as he helps her to descend. He presses it
warmly, but fails in his anxious attempt to make her eyes meet his:
moving quickly past him into the house, she crosses the hall, and has
her foot upon the first step of the stairs, when his voice arrests her.

"Good-night, Lilian," he says, rather nervously, addressing her from a
few yards' distance. He is thinking of a certain night long ago when he
incurred her anger, and trembles for the consequences of his last act.

Lilian hesitates. Then she turns partly toward him, though still keeping
half her face averted. Her cheeks are crimson; her eyes, shamed and
full of tears, are bent upon the ground. For one swift instant she
raises them and lets a soft, shy glance meet his.

"Good-night," she whispers, timidly holding out to him her hand.

Guy takes it gladly, reverently. "Good-night, my own darling," answers
he, in a voice choked with emotion.

Then she goes up-stairs, and is lost in her own chamber. But for Guy
there is neither rest nor sleep.

Flinging off his coat and waistcoat, he paces incessantly up and down
his room, half mad with doubt and fear.

Does she love him? That is the whole burden and refrain of his thoughts;
does she? Surely her manner has implied it, and yet---- A terrible
misgiving oppresses him, as he remembers the open dislike that of late
she has shown to his society, the unconcealed animosity she has so
liberally displayed toward him.

Can it be that he has only afforded her amusement for the passing hour?
Surely this child, with her soft innocent face and truthful eyes, cannot
be old in the wiles and witcheries of the practiced flirt. She has let
her head rest upon his shoulder, has let his fingers wander caressingly
over her hair, has let tears lie wet upon her cheeks for him; and then
he thinks of the closing scene, of how he has kissed her, as a lover
might, unrebuked.

But then her manner toward Chesney; true, she had discarded his
attentions toward the close of the night, and accepted willingly those
of the guardsman, but this piece of seeming fickleness might have arisen
out of a lover's quarrel. What if during all their memorable drive home
she has been merely trifling with him,--if now, this instant, while he
is miserable because of his love for her and the uncertainty belonging
to it, she should be laughing at his folly, and thinking composedly of
her coming marriage with her cousin! Why then, he tells himself
savagely, he is well rid of her, and that he envies no man her
possession!

But at the thought he draws his breath hard; his handsome face grows set
and stern, a haggard look comes into his blue eyes and lingers round his
mouth. Flinging open the window, he leans out to feel the cold air beat
upon him, and watches the coming of the morn.


     "Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
     Comes dancing from the east."


Guy watches its coming, yet scarcely notes its beauty, so full of dark
forebodings are his thoughts. Yet it brings him determination and
courage to face his fate. To-day he will end this intolerable doubt, and
learn what fortune has in store for him, be it good or bad; of this he
is finally resolved. She shall declare herself in one of two characters,
either as his affianced wife, or as the very vilest coquette the world
contains.

And yet her tears!--Again he holds her in his arms. Again his lips meet
hers. Again he feels the light pressure of her little tired head upon
his shoulder, hears her soft regular breathing. With a groan he rouses
himself from these recollections that torture him by their very
sweetness.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

     "Thou art my life, my love, my heart,
       The very eyes of me,
     And hast command of every part,
       To live and die for thee."--R. HERRICK.


The next morning comes, but no Lilian appears at breakfast. Florence
alone of the gentler members of the family puts in an appearance; she is
as properly composed, as carefully attired, as delicately tinted, as
though the ball of the night before was unknown to her. Lilian, on the
contrary,--lazy little thing!--is still lying in her bed, with her arms
flung above her graceful head, dreaming happy idle dreams.

Miss Beauchamp, behind the urn, is presiding with unimpeachable elegance
of deportment over the cups and saucers; while pouring out the tea, she
makes a running commentary on the events of the night before, dropping
into each cup, with the sugar,--perhaps with a view to modulating its
sweetness,--a sarcastic remark or two about her friends' and
acquaintances' manners and dress. Into Guy's cup she lets fall a few
words about Lilian, likely, as she vainly hopes, to damage her in his
estimation; not that she much fears her as a rival after witnessing
Chetwoode's careful avoidance of her on the previous evening;
nevertheless, under such circumstances, it is always well to put in a
bad word when you can.

She has most of the conversation to herself (Guy and Archibald being
gloomy to a painful degree, and Cyril consumed with a desire to know
when Cecilia may be reasonably expected to leave her room), until Mr.
Musgrave enters, who appears as fresh as a daisy, and "uncommon fit," as
he informs them gratuitously, with an air of the utmost _bonhommie_.

He instantly catches and keeps up the conversational ball, sustaining it
proudly, and never letting it touch the ground, until his friends,
rising simultaneously, check him cruelly in the very midst of a charming
anecdote. Even then he is not daunted, but, following Cyril to the
stables (finding him the most genial of the party), takes up there a
fresh line, and expresses his opinions as cheerfully and fluently on the
subject of "The Horse," as though he had been debarred from speaking for
a month and has only just now recovered the use of the organ of speech.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is half-past one. A soft spring sun is smiling on the earth, and
Lilian, who rather shrinks from the thought of meeting Sir Guy again,
and has made a rapid descent from her own room into the garden, is
walking there leisurely to and fro, gathering such "pallid blossoms" as
she likes best: a few late snowdrops, "winter's timid children," some
early lilies, "a host of daffodils," a little handful of the "happy and
beautiful crocuses," now "gayly arrayed in their yellow and green," all
these go to fill the basket that hangs upon her arm.

As she wanders through the garden, inhaling its earliest perfumes, and
with her own heart throbbing rather tumultuously as she dreams again of
each tender word and look that passed between her and Guy last night, a
great longing and gladness is hers; at this moment the beauty and
sweetness of life, all the joy to be found everywhere for those who,
with a thankful spirit, seek for it, makes itself felt within her.

George Herbert's lovely lines rise to her mind, and half unconsciously,
as she walks from bed to bed, she repeats them to herself aloud.


     "How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
       Are thy returns! ev'n as the flow'rs in spring;
     To which, besides their own demean,
       The late past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
     Grief melts away like snow in May,
       As if there were no such cold thing."


Surely _her_ grief has melted away, and, with it, distrust and angry
feeling.

Having arranged her bouquet of all such tender plants as do now "upraise
their loaded stems," she walks toward the library window, and, finding
it open, steps in. It is a bow-window, and the sun has been making love
to her eyes, so that not until she has advanced a yard or two, does she
discover she is not alone; she then stops short, and blushes painfully.

At the other end of the room stand Guy and Chesney, evidently in earnest
conversation. Archibald is talking; Guy, with his eyes upon the ground,
is pale as death, and silent. As they see Lilian, both men start
guiltily, and fall somewhat farther apart: a heavy sense of impending
trouble makes itself felt by all three.

Then Guy, regaining self-possession, raises his head and looks full at
Lilian.

"Lilian is here, let her speak for herself," he says, in a forced tone
of composure, addressing Chesney, but with his eyes riveted upon her.

"What is it?" asks Lilian, white as the snowdrops in her trembling hand.

"Your cousin asked me--He wishes to marry you," returns Guy, unsteadily,
a look of such mute agony and entreaty in his eyes as touches Lilian to
the quick. "He has spoken to me as your guardian. He says he has some
hope; he would have me plead for him, but that is impossible." He has
spoken so far with difficulty; now in a clear tone he goes on, "Speak,
Lilian: let your answer come from your own lips."

His voice is wonderfully steady, but there is always the same searching
look of entreaty on his face.

"Dear Archie," says Lilian, trembling perceptibly, while all the poor
spring blossoms fall unheeded to her feet, and lie there still and dead,
as some offering laid on the shrine of Venus, "how can I speak to you? I
_cannot_ marry you. I love you,--you are my dear cousin, and my friend,
but,--but----"

"It is enough," says Chesney, quietly. "Hope is at an end. Forgive me my
persistency. You shall not have to complain of it again."

Sadly, with a certain dignity, he reaches the door, opens it, and,
going out, closes it gently behind him. Hope with him, indeed, is dead!
Never again will it spring within his breast.

When he has gone, an awful silence ensues. There is a minute that is
longer than an hour; there is an hour that may be shorter than any
minute. Happy are they that have enjoyed this latter. The particular
minute that follows on Archibald's retreat seems to contain a whole
day-ful of hours, so terrible is its length to the two he leaves behind.

Lilian's eyes are fastened upon, literally bound to, a little sprig of
myrtle that lies among the ill-fated flowers at her feet. Not until many
days have passed can she again look upon a myrtle spray without feeling
a nervous beating at her heart; she is oppressed with fear; she has at
this moment but one longing, and that is to escape. A conviction that
her longing is a vain one only adds to her discomfiture; she lacks the
courage to lift her head and encounter the eyes she knows are fixed upon
her.

At length, unable longer to endure the dreadful stillness, she moves,
and compels herself to meet Chetwoode's gaze. The spell is broken.

"Lilian, will you marry--_me_?" asks he, desperately, making a movement
toward her.

A quick, painful blush covers Lilian's face, lingers a moment, then dies
away, leaving her pale, motionless as a little marble statue,--perfect,
but lifeless. Almost as it fades it reappears again, so sudden is the
transition, changing her once more into very lovable flesh and blood.

"Will you marry me?" repeats Guy, coming still closer to her. His face
is white with anxiety. He does not attempt to touch her, but with folded
arms stands gazing down in an agony of suspense upon the lips that in
another instant will seal his fate for good or evil.

"I have half a mind to say no," whispers Miss Chesney, in a low,
compressed voice. Her head is drooping; her fingers are nervously
intertwined. A flicker, the very faintest tremble of the old merry
smile, hovers round her mouth as she speaks, then vanishes away.

"Lilian,"--in a tone full of vehement reproach,--"do not trifle with
me--now. Answer me: why do you so speak to me?"

"Because--I think--you ought to have asked me long ago!" returns she,
casting a half-shy, half-tender glance at him upward from the azure
eyes that are absolutely drowned in tears.

Then, without a word of warning, she bursts out crying, and, Guy
catching her passionately in his arms, she sobs away all her nervous
gladness upon his heart.

"My darling,--my sweet,--do you really love me?" asks Guy, after a few
moments given up to such ecstasy as may be known once in a
lifetime,--not oftener.

"What a question!" says Lilian, smiling through eyes that are still wet.
"I have not once asked it of you. I look into your eyes and I see love
written there in great big letters, and I am satisfied. Can you not see
the same in mine? Look closely,--very closely, and try if you cannot."

"Dear eyes!" says Guy, kissing them separately. "Lilian, if indeed you
love me, why have you made life so odious to me for the last three
months?"

"Because I wasn't going to be civil to people who were over-attentive to
other people," says Lilian, in her most lucid manner. "And--sometimes--I
thought you liked Florence."

"Florence? Pshaw! Who could like Florence, having once seen you?"

"Mr. Boer could, I'm sure. He has seen me,--as seldom as I could manage,
certainly,--but still enough to mark the wide difference between us."

"Boer is a lunatic," says Guy, with conviction,--"quite unaccountable.
But I think I could forgive him all his peccadilloes if he would promise
to marry Florence and remove her. I can stand almost anything--except
single chants as performed by her."

"Then all my jealousy was for nothing?" with a slight smile.

"All. But what of mine? What of Chesney?" He regards her earnestly as he
asks the question.

"Poor Archie," she says, with a pang of real sorrow and regret, as she
remembers everything. And then follows a conversation confined
exclusively to Archibald,--being filled with all the heart-burnings and
despair caused by that unhappy young man's mistaken attentions. When the
subject has exhausted itself, and they are once more silent, they find
themselves thoughtful, perhaps a little sad. A sigh escapes Lilian.
Raising her head, she looks at her lover anxiously.

"Guy," she says, rather tremulously, "you have never said one
reproachful word to me about what happened the other night--in the
library. I am thinking of it now. When I call to mind my wretched temper
I feel frightened. Perhaps--perhaps--I shall not make you happy."

"I defy you to make me unhappy so long as you can tell me honestly you
love me. Do not take advantage of it"--with a light laugh--"if I confess
to you I would rather have a box on the ear from you than a kiss from
any other woman. But such is the degrading truth. Nevertheless"
--teasingly--"next time I would ask you, as a favor, not to do it
_quite_ so hard!"

"Ah, Guy," tearfully, and with a hot blush, "do not jest about it."

"How can I do anything else to-day?" Then, tenderly, "Still sad, my own?
Take that little pucker off your brow. Do you imagine any act of yours
could look badly in my eyes? 'You are my life--my love--my heart.' When
I recollect how miserable I was yesterday, I can hardly believe in my
happiness of to-day."

"Dearest," says Lilian, her voice faltering, "you are too good to me."
Then, turning to him, of her own sweet will, she throws her arms around
his neck, and lays her soft flushed cheek to his. "I shall never be bad
to you again, Guy," she whispers; "believe that; never, never, never!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Coming into the hall a little later, they encounter her ladyship's maid,
and stop to speak to her.

"Is Lady Chetwoode's head better?" asks Lilian. "Can I see her, Hardy?"

"Yes, Miss Chesney. She is much better; she has had a little sleep, and
has asked for you several times since she awoke. I could not find you
anywhere."

"I will go to her now," says Lilian, and she and Guy, going up-stairs,
make their way to Lady Chetwoode's room.

"Better, auntie?" asks Lilian, bending over her, as she sits in her
comfortable arm-chair.

"Rather better, darling," returns auntie, who is now feeling as well as
possible (though it is yet too soon to admit it even to herself), and
who has just finished a cutlet, and a glass of the rare old port so
strongly recommended by Dr. Bland. "Guy, bring over that chair for
Lilian. Sitting up late at night always upsets me."

"It was a horrible ball," says Miss Lilian, ungratefully. "I didn't
enjoy it one bit."

"No?" in amazement. "My dear, you surprise me. I thought I had never
seen you look so joyous in my life."

"It was all forced gayety," with a little laugh. "My heart was slowly
breaking all the time. I wanted to dance with one person, who
obstinately refused to ask me, and so spoiled my entire evening. Was it
not cruel of that 'one person'?"

"The fact is," says Guy, addressing his mother, "she behaved so
infamously, and flirted so disgracefully, all night, that the 'one
person' was quite afraid to approach her."

"I fear you did flirt a little," says Lady Chetwoode, gentle reproof in
her tone; "that handsome young man you were dancing with just before I
left--and who seemed so devoted--hardly went home heart-whole. That was
naughty, darling, wasn't it? You should think of--of--other people's
feelings." It is palpable to both her hearers she is alluding to
Chesney.

"Auntie," says Miss Chesney, promptly, and with the utmost _naïveté_,
"if you scold me, I feel sure you will bring on that nasty headache
again."

She is bending over the back of Lady Chetwoode's chair, where she cannot
be seen, and is tenderly smoothing as much of her pretty gray hair as
can be seen beneath the lace cap that adorns her auntie's head.

Sir Guy laughs.

"Ah! I shall never make you a good child, so long as your guardian
encourages you in your wickedness," says Lady Chetwoode, smiling too.

"Do I encourage her? Surely that is a libel," says Guy: "she herself
will bear me witness how frequently--though vainly--I have reasoned with
her on her conduct. I hardly know what is to be done with her,
unless----" here he pauses, and looks at Lilian, who declines to meet
his glance, but lets her hand slip from Lady Chetwoode's head down to
her shoulder, where it rests nervously--"unless I take her myself, and
marry her out of hand, before she has time to say 'no.'"

"Perhaps--even did you allow me time--I should not say 'no,'" says
Lilian, with astonishing meekness, her face like the heart of a "red,
red rose."

Something in her son's eyes, something in Lilian's tone, rouses Lady
Chetwoode to comprehension.

"What is it?" she asks, quickly, and with agitation. "Lilian, why do you
stand there? Come here, that I may look at you? Can It be possible? Have
you two----"

"We have," replies Lilian, interrupting her gently, and suddenly going
down on her knees, she places her arms round her. "Are you sorry,
auntie? Am I very unworthy? Won't you have me for your daughter after
all?"

"Sorry!" says Lady Chetwoode, and, had she spoken volumes, she could not
have expressed more unfeigned joy. "And has all your quarreling ended
so?" she asks, presently, with an amused laugh.

"Yes, just so," replies Guy, taking Lilian's hand, and raising it to his
lips. "We have got it all over before our marriage, so as to have none
afterward. Is it not so, Lilian?"

She smiles assent, and there is something in the smile so sweet, so
adorable, that, in spite of his mother "and a'," Guy kisses her on the
spot.

"I am so relieved," says Lady Chetwoode, regarding her new daughter with
much fondness, "and just as I had given up all hope. Many times I wished
for a girl, when I found myself with only two troublesome boys, and now
at last I have one,--a real daughter."

"And I a mother. Though I think my name for you will always be the one
by which I learned to love you,--Auntie," returns Lilian, tenderly.

At this moment Cecilia opens the door cautiously, and, stepping very
lightly, enters the room, followed by Cyril, also on tiptoe. Seeing Lady
Chetwoode, however, standing close to Lilian and looking quite animated
and not in the least invalided, they brighten up, and advance more
briskly.

"Dear Madre," says Cecilia, who has adopted Cyril's name for his mother,
"I am glad to see you so much better. Is your headache quite gone?"

"Quite, my dear. Lilian has cured it. She is the most wonderful
physician."

And then the new-comers are told the delightful story, and Lilian
receives two more caresses, and gets through three or four blushes very
beautifully. They are still asking many questions, and uttering pretty
speeches, when a step upon the corridor outside attracts their
attention.

It is a jaunty step, and undoubtedly belongs to Mr. Musgrave, who is
informing the household generally, at the top of his fresh young voice,
that he is "ragged and torn," and that he rather enjoys it than
otherwise. Coming close to the door, however, he moderates his
transports, and, losing sight of the vagabond, degenerates once more
into that very inferior creature, a decently-clothed and well-combed
young gentleman.

Opening the door with praiseworthy carefulness, he says, in the meekest
and most sympathetic voice possible:

"I hope your headache is better, Lady Chetwoode?"

By this time he has his head quite inside the door, and becomes
pleasantly conscious that there is something festive in the air within.
The properly lachrymose expression he has assumed vanishes as if by
magic, while his usual debonair smile returns to his lips.

"Oh, I say--then it was all a swindle on the part of Hardy, was it?" he
asks. "Dear Lady Chetwoode, it makes me feel positively young again to
see you looking so well. Your woman hinted to me you were at the point
of death."

"Come in, Taffy. You too shall hear what has revived me," says her
ladyship, smiling, and thereupon unfolds her tale to him, over which he
beams, and looks blessings on all around.

"I knew it," he says; "could have told everybody all about it months
ago! couldn't I, Lil? Remember the day I bet you a fiver he would
propose to you in six months?"

"I remember nothing of the kind," says Miss Chesney, horribly shocked.
"Taffy, how can you say such a thing?"

"Tell us all about it, Taffy," entreats Cyril, languidly, from the
depths of an arm-chair. "I feel so done up with all I have gone through
this morning, that I long for a wholesome exciting little tale to rouse
me a bit. Go on."

"Oh, it was only that day at Mrs. Boileau's last autumn," begins Taffy.

"Taffy, I desire you to be silent," says Lilian, going up to him and
looking very determined. "Do not attempt to speak when I tell you not to
do so."

"Was the betting even, Taffy?" asks Cyril.

"No. She said----"

"_Taffy!_"

"She said he had as much idea of proposing to her as she had of----"

"Taffy!"

"Marrying him, even should he ask her," winds up Mr. Musgrave, exploding
with joy over his discomfiting disclosure.

"No one believes you," says Lilian, in despair, while they all laugh
heartily, and Cyril tells her not to make bad bets in future.

"Not one," says Sir Guy, supporting her as in duty bound; "but I really
think you ought to give him that five pounds."

"Certainly I shall not," says Miss Chesney, hotly. "It is all a
fabrication from beginning to end. I never made a bet in my life. And,
besides, the time he named was the end of the year, and _not_ in six
months."

At this avowal they all roar, and Guy declares he must take her out for
a walk, lest she should commit herself any further.

       *       *       *       *       *

The happy day at length is drawing to a close. Already it is evening,
though still the dying light lingers, as if loath to go. Archibald
Chesney, after a hurried private interview with Lady Chetwoode, has
taken his departure, not to return again to Chetwoode until time has
grown into years. In her own room Lilian, even in the midst of her
new-born gladness, has wept bitterly for him, and sorrowed honestly over
the remembrance of his grief and disappointment.

Of all the household Florence alone is still in ignorance of the
wonderful event that has taken place since morning. Her aunt has
declared her intention of being the one to impart the good news to her,
for which all the others are devoutly thankful. She--Miss Beauchamp--has
been out driving all the afternoon for the benefit of her dear
complexion; has visited the schools, and there succeeded in irritating
almost to the verge of murder the unhappy teacher and all the wretched
little children; has had an interview with Mr. Boer, who showed himself
on the occasion even more _empressé_ than usual; has returned, and is
now once more seated at her work in the drawing-room, covered with wools
and glory.

Near her sits Lilian, absently winding a tiny ball of wool. Having
finished her task, she hands it to Florence with a heavy sigh indicative
of relief.

"Thanks. Will you do another?" asks Florence.

"No,--oh, no," hastily. Then, laughing, "You mustn't think me uncivil,"
she says, "but I am really not equal to winding up another, of these
interminable balls. My head goes round as fast as the wool, if not
faster."

"And are you going to sit there doing nothing?" asks Florence, glancing
at her with ill-concealed disapproval, as the young lady proceeds to
ensconce herself in the coziest depths of the coziest chair the room
contains, as close to the fire as prudence will permit.

"I am almost sure of it," she answers, complacently, horrifying the
proper Florence being one of her chief joys. "I am never really happy
until I feel myself thoroughly idle. I detest being useful. I love doing
'nothing,' as you call it. I have always looked upon Dr. Watts's bee as
a tiresome lunatic."

"Do you never think it necessary to try to--improve your mind?"

"Does crewel-work improve the mind?" opening her eyes for an instant
lazily.

"Certainly; in so far that it leaves time for reflection. There is
something soothing about it that assists the mind. While one works one
can reflect."

"Can one?" naughtily: "I couldn't. I can do any number of things, but I
am almost positive I couldn't reflect. It means--doesn't it?--going over
and over and over again disagreeable scenes, and remembering how much
prettier one might have behaved under such and such circumstances. I
call that not only wearying but unpleasant. No, I feel sure I am right.
I shall never, if I can help it, reflect."

"Then you are content to be a mere butterfly--an idler on the face of
the earth all your days?" asks Florence, severely, taking the high and
moral tone she has been successfully cultivating ever since her
acquaintance with Mr. Boer.

"As long as I can. Surely when I marry it will be time enough to grow
'useful,' and go in for work generally. You see one can't avoid it then.
Keeping one's husband in order, I have been always told, is an onerous
job."

"You intend marrying, then?" Something in the other's tone has roused
Florence to curiosity. She sits up and looks faintly interested.

"Yes."

"Soon?"

"Perhaps."

"You are serious?"

"Quite serious."

"Ah!"

A pause. Miss Beauchamp takes up two shades of wool and examines them
critically. They are so exactly alike that it can make little difference
which she chooses. But she is methodical, and would die rather than make
one false stitch in a whole acre of canvas. Having made her choice of
the two shades, she returns to the attack.

"I had no idea you liked your cousin so much," she says.

"So much! How much?" says Lilian, quickly turning very red. Her cousin
is a sore subject with her just now. "I do not think we are speaking of
Archibald."

"No; but I thought you said----"

"Nothing of him, I am sure," still hastily.

"Oh! I beg your pardon. I quite fancied----" Here she pauses, somewhat
mystified. Then, "You and he are very good friends, are you not?"

"Very," coldly.

"And yet," with an elephantine attempt at playfulness, "I certainly did
think last night some quarrel had arisen between you. He looked so
savage when you were dancing with Captain Monk. His eyes are handsome,
but at times I have noticed a gleam in them that might safely be termed
dangerous."

"Have you? I have not."

"No? How strange! But no doubt when with you---- For my own part, I
confess I should be quite afraid of him,--of annoying him, I mean."

"I have never yet felt afraid of any one," returns Lilian, absently.

"How I do admire your courage,--your pluck, if I may so call it," says
Florence, hesitating properly over the unlady-like word. "Now, _I_ am so
different. I am painfully nervous with some people. Guy, for instance,
quite tyrannizes over me," with the little conscious laugh that makes
the old disgust rise warmly in Lilian's breast. "I should be so afraid
to contradict Guy."

"And why?"

"I don't know. He looks so--so---- I really can hardly explain; but some
sympathetic understanding between us makes me know he would not like it.
He has a great desire for his own way."

"Most people have,"--dryly. "I never feel those sympathetic sensations
you speak of myself, but I could guess so much."

"Another reason why I should refrain from thwarting his wishes is this,"
says Florence, sorting her colors carefully, "I fancy, indeed I _know_,
he could actually dislike any one who systematically contradicted him."

"Do you think so? I contradict him when I choose."

"Yes," blandly: "that exactly illustrates my idea."

"You think, then, he dislikes me?" says Lilian, raising herself the
better to examine her companion's features, while a sense of thorough
amusement makes itself felt within her.

"Dislike"--apologetically--"is a hard word. And yet at times I think so.
Surely you must have noticed how he avoids you, how he declines to carry
out any argument commenced by you."

"I blush for my want of sensibility," says Lilian, meekly. "No, I have
not noticed it."

"Have you not?" with exaggerated surprise. "I have."

At this most inopportune moment Guy enters the room.

"Ah, Guy," says Lilian, quietly, "come here. I want to tell you
something."

He comes over obediently, gladly, and stands by her chair. It is a low
one, and he leans his arm upon the back of it.

"Florence has just said you hate being contradicted," she murmurs, in
her softest tones.

"If she did, there was a great deal of truth in the remark," he answers,
with an amused laugh, while Florence glances up triumphantly. "Most
fellows do, eh?"

"And that I am the one that generally contradicts you."

"That is only half a truth. If she had said who _always_ contradicts me,
it would have been a whole one."

Lilian rises. She places her hand lightly on his arm.

"She also said that for that reason you dislike me." The words are
uttered quietly, but somehow tears have gathered in the violet eyes.

"Dislike!" exclaims her lover, the very faint symptoms of distress upon
his darling's face causing him instant pain. "Lilian! how absurd you
are! How could such a word come to be used between us? Surely Florence
must know--has not my mother told you?" he asks, turning to Miss
Beauchamp a look full of surprise.

"I know nothing," replies she, growing a shade paler. At this moment she
does know, and determines finally to accept, when next offered, the
devotion Mr. Boer has been showering upon her for the past two months.
Yes, she will take him for better, for worse, voice, low-church
tendencies, and all. The latter may be altered, the former silenced. "I
know nothing," she says; "what is it?"

"Merely this, that Lilian and I are going to be married this summer.
Lilian, of your goodness do not contradict me, in this one matter at
least," bending a tender smile upon his betrothed, who returns it shyly.

"I confess you surprise me," says Florence, with the utmost
self-possession, though her lips are still a trifle white. "I have never
been so astonished in my life. You seem to me so unsuited--so--but that
only shows how impossible it is to judge rightly in such a case. Had I
been asked to name the feeling I believed you two entertained for each
other, I should unhesitatingly have called it hatred!"

"How we have deceived the British Public!" says Guy, laughing, although
at her words a warm color has crept into his face. "For the future we
must not 'dissemble.' Now that we have shown ourselves up in our true
colors, Florence, you will, I hope, wish us joy."

"Certainly, with all my heart," in a tone impossible to translate: "my
only regret is, that mere wishing will not insure it to you."

Here a servant opening the door informs Miss Beauchamp that Lady
Chetwoode wishes to see her for a few minutes.

"Say I shall be with her directly," returns Florence, and, rising
leisurely, she sweeps, without the smallest appearance of haste, from
the room.

Then Lilian turns to Sir Guy:

"How curiously she uttered that last speech!--almost as though she hoped
we should not be happy, I am sure I am right; she does not want you to
marry me."

"She was not enthusiastic in her congratulations, I admit. But that need
not affect us. I am not proud. So long as _you_ want to marry me, I
shall be quite content."

Lilian's reply, being wordless, need not be recorded here.

"Spiteful thing," remarks she, presently, _à propos_ of the spotless
Florence.

"Poor, Boer!" replies he.

"You think she will marry _him_?" heavily, and most unflatteringly,
emphasized.

"I do."

"Poor Florence!" returns she. "When I think that, I can forgive her all
her sins. Dreadful man! I do hope she will make his life a burden to
him."

"I am sure you will live to see one hope fulfilled. Though I dare say he
has a better chance of peace in the years to come than I have: Florence,
at all events, does not go about boxing people's----"

"Guy," says Miss Chesney, imperatively, laying her hand upon his lips,
"if you dare to finish that sentence, or if you ever refer to that
horrible scene again, I shall most positively refuse to marry---- Oh!
here is Mr. Boer. Talk of somebody! Look, it is he, is it not?" Standing
on tiptoe, she cranes her neck eagerly, and rather flattens her pretty
nose against the window-pane in a wild endeavor to catch a glimpse of
Mr. Boer's long-tailed coat, which "hangs" very much "down behind,"
before it quite disappears in a curve of the avenue. Presently it comes
to view again from behind the huge laurustinus bush, and they are now
quite convinced it is indeed the amorous parson.

"Yes, it is he," says Guy, staring over his betrothed's head, as he
catches the first glimpse. "And evidently full of purpose. Mark the fell
determination in his clerical stride."

"She saw him this morning at the schools,--she told me so,--and here he
is again!" says Lilian, in an awe-struck tone. "There must be something
in it. As you say, he really seems bent on business of some sort;
perhaps he is come----"

"With a new chant, as I'm a sinner," says Chetwoode, with a groan. "Let
us go into the library: the baize and that large screen stifles sound."

"No, to propose! I mean: there is a curious look about him as if,
if----"

"He was going to execution?"

"No, to Florence."

"That is quite the same thing."

"I hear his step," says Lilian, hurriedly, flinging open the window,
"and hers too! She must have seen him coming, and run to meet him with
open arms. Not for worlds would I spoil sport, or put them in a 'tender
taking.' Let us fly." Stepping out on the balcony, she turns to glance
back at him. "Will you follow me?" she asks, a certain arch sweetness in
her eyes.

"To the end of the world!" returns he, eagerly, and together, hand in
hand, they pass out of sight.


THE END.





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