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Title: Englefield Grange - or Mary Armstrong's Troubles
Author: Paull, H. B.
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 "Englefield Grange - or Mary Armstrong's Troubles" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                          ENGLEFIELD GRANGE


                         BY MRS. H. B. PAULL

     AUTHOR OF "EVELYN-HOWARD," "STRAIGHT PATHS AND CROOKED WAYS"


    Warne's Star Series

    "The love of money is the root of all evil."--1 Tim. vi. 10

    LONDON:
    FREDERICK WARNE AND CO.
    AND NEW YORK



CONTENTS.


I. BY THE SEA

II. WHO SAVED HER?

III. A SOCIAL DILEMMA

IV. DIFFICULTIES TO BE OVERCOME

V. AT THE REVIEW

VI. BUCEPHALUS

VII. FREDDY'S NEW SCHOOL

VIII. ENGLEFIELD GRANGE

IX. LOOKING BACK

X. HENRY HALFORD'S NEW STUDY

XI. OUR ANTIPODES

XII. FIRST IMPRESSIONS

XIII. A CHANGE OF OPINION

XIV. AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

XV. A VISIT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

XVI. THE COMMEMORATION WEEK

XVII. CHRISTCHURCH MEADOWS

XVIII. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER

XIX. HENRY HALFORD WRITES A LETTER

XX. HUSBAND AND WIFE

XXI. MOTHER AND SON

XXII. PARK LANE IN JUNE

XXIII. A DISCOVERY AND ITS RESULT

XXIV. NEW ARRIVALS

XXV. COUNTRY COUSINS

XXVI. AT THE STATION

XXVII. TEMPTED

XXVIII. COUSIN SARAH

XXIX. CONSCIENCE

XXX. UNCONSCIOUS RIVALS

XXXI. THE NEW CURATE

XXXII. AT GUY'S HOSPITAL

XXXIII. CHARLES HERBERT GIVES HIS OPINION

XXXIV. REPENTANCE

XXXV. A PANIC IN THE CITY

XXXVI. GIPSY DORA

XXXVII. AT MEADOW FARM

XXXVIII. THE NEW RECTOR OF BRIARSLEIGH



ENGLEFIELD GRANGE



CHAPTER I.

BY THE SEA.


The afternoon sun of early summer shone brightly on the arm of the sea
which joins the Solent at West Cowes, in the Isle of Wight. A few boats
were moored alongside the landing-place, but as the season had not yet
commenced, the boatmen were standing about idle, scarcely hoping for a
fare.

Presently three ladies and a little boy were observed descending the
steps, and one of the men, with whom the ladies seemed acquainted,
hastily advanced, and touching his cap, exclaimed--

"Want a boat, ma'am, to-day? splendid tide!"

The lady was about to reply, when her youngest daughter, a beautiful
girl of about eighteen, touched her on the arm, and exclaimed--

"Oh, mamma, look at the waves; is not the sea very rough to-day?"

"Lor', no, Miss," replied the man, "that's only a little ripple, caused
by the fresh breeze; the boat 'ill sail beautiful if you're going up the
Solent, for she'll have wind and tide in her favour."

Maria St. Clair looked above and around her as the man spoke, and truly
the sea presented a charming aspect of crested, tiny waves, rippling in
the breeze, and sparkling beneath the sun, shining in a sky of brilliant
blue.

Her fears almost gave way at the sight, yet her sister's remark,
although it shamed her into silence, did not complete the cure.

"Why, Maria, how can you be so foolish? If you had sailed to India and
back, as I have done, you would laugh at your fears of a sea like this."

"You shall not venture, my dear," said her mother, who wore a widow's
costume, "unless you feel quite willing to do so."

"Oh, thank you, mamma, but I would rather go with you. I want to conquer
this nervousness on the water; why, even on a steamer I always feel
afraid."

While they talked the men were launching a prettily-rigged pleasure
boat, the colours of green and gold with which it was painted gleaming
in pleasant contrast with the rippling water; and over the seats in the
stern an awning was stretched to protect the ladies from the sun's rays.

Mrs. St. Clair and her elder daughter, Mrs. Herbert, with her little boy
of four, were, however, safely seated in the boat before Maria could
make up her mind to follow them.

At a part of West Cowes near this landing-place stood a row of private
houses, the back windows overlooking the sea, and the gardens reaching
down to it protected by a sea wall. As in Devonshire, the foliage of
this beautiful island in some part stretches down to the water's edge,
and gardens near the sea are often well filled with roses and other
summer flowers in profusion.

In one of these gardens, and very near the boundary wall against which
the high tide dashed pleasantly, stood a gentleman earnestly watching
the embarkation of the party in the pleasure-boat.

His dress was more like that of the yeoman of those days than the
seaside costume of a gentleman. The thick shoes and drab gaiters, part
of the customary garb of a farmer, were, however, concealed by the
garden wall, and when for a moment he took off the white, low-crowned
beaver hat, and rubbed his fingers through his hair, the face and head
were those of a handsome man of the intellectual type. Regular features,
clear olive skin, dark sparkling eyes, hair, eyebrows, and whiskers of
almost raven blackness, and a certain air of refinement, were certainly
not quite in character with his homely attire.

"Where have I seen that face?" he said to himself, as Maria St. Clair
paused irresolutely with one foot on the prow of the boat. "It is very
beautiful."

And the gentleman's reflections were not far wrong. Plainly, but
tastefully dressed, the lithe figure slightly bent forward in a
shrinking, yet graceful attitude, and the outstretched tiny foot were
attractive enough to excite notice. But the face truly deserved the
epithet bestowed upon it by the lounger in the garden. Fair at this
moment, even to paleness, the delicately-chiselled features, the
half-opened lips, expressive of fear, and exposing the pearly teeth, and
the long fair ringlets that fell on her shoulders made up a picture
which when once seen was not easily forgotten. Such a face is often
supposed to belong to a woman devoid of character or insipid, but from
this appearance it was saved by marked eyebrows darker than the hair and
violet eyes shaded by long dark lashes.

While thus Edward Armstrong stood making a photograph of the young girl
on his memory, he recalled the fact that he had seen her at church on
the previous Sunday as one of the pupils of a ladies' school, and had
been attracted to notice her by her retiring timid manner, which to him
formed her greatest charm.

He remained to watch till he saw her safely seated in the boat with the
other ladies, and then, as the rowers turned in the direction of the
Solent, he found himself observed by the ladies. At once, but not
abruptly, he left his post of observation, saying to himself, "I'll find
out the name of that fair lassie from my landlady; she has lived here
many years and knows everybody." At the garden door he met the very
person of whom he thought, and she at once opened the subject without
requiring him to "beat about the bush" for that purpose.

"You've been watching the ladies embark, sir," she said; "it's a lovely
day for a row or even a sail, if they like. Mrs. St. Clair and her
daughter, Mrs. Herbert, often hires that boat for themselves, but it's
the first time I've ever seen Miss Maria on the sea, except in a
steamboat; she's very much afraid of the water."

"Is Mrs. St. Clair a visitor?" he asked.

"Well, sir, in one way she is, for she's visiting her daughter, Mrs.
Herbert, who resides here with her little boy. Her husband, Captain
Herbert, is in India, and she came over about twelve months ago, on
account of her health.

"Mrs. St. Clair has a house near London, and she's a real lady, sir,"
continued the old woman, glad to have for once an interested listener.
"She's one of the Elliots; they're a Warwickshire family, and she
married the Honourable Mr. St. Clair, a grandson of Lord Selmore's. He
wasn't very well off, sir--you know those younger sons seldom are--and
when he died, about five years ago, he left his widow a very small
income, and nothing for his three daughters."

"And is Mrs. Herbert the eldest?" he asked.

"No, sir; Miss St. Clair, when she was only twenty, married a rich
admiral fifty years of age, and now she's Lady Elston. But for my part I
can't understand how a woman can marry a man so much older than herself,
just for money and a title. Miss Helen, that's Mrs. Herbert, made the
best match. Captain Herbert's not much older than she is, and he's got
private property besides his pay. She was very high-spirited and
independent, and would go and be a governess, and I think Miss Maria,
that's the youngest, wants to do the same now she's left school, but her
mamma wont hear of it because she's so timid; all the young ladies are
very clever and accomplished. But I beg your pardon, sir, I'm keeping
you standing to listen to my gossip, and I daresay you want your tea."

"Yes, if you please, Mrs. Lake, as soon as you like," and Edward
Armstrong turned into his parlour, forming a resolution in his mind that
by some means or other he would prevent the possibility of Maria St.
Clair ever becoming a governess.

It had cost the timid girl a strong effort to enter the boat; she
tottered, and would have fallen more from fear than from the rocking of
the boat, had not the man held her firmly, and even when first seated,
she held on with both hands while the rowers brought the boat round, and
could not feel secure till they were rowing gently with the tide.

After awhile her sister remarked, "This is pleasant now, is it not,
Minnie?"

"Oh, yes, delightful," she replied, "and I'm so glad you and mamma
persuaded me to come, for I'm tired of being laughed at, and called a
coward; why, even little Charlie does not seem afraid!"

"Not he, are you, my pet?" continued his mother, addressing her boy.

"No, mamma, not a bit; I like it better than riding in a coach or a
train."

For some distance they continued their course towards Ryde, till Mrs.
St. Clair, looking at her watch, and finding they had been out more than
an hour, expressed a wish to return. She had noticed also that the
breeze stiffened as the sun approached the west, and although no thought
of danger entered her mind, she was unwilling to wait for a rough sea to
alarm her timid daughter. The tide had turned, and therefore the return
would, she knew, be as free from difficulty on that score as on the way
out, but the wind would be against them, and create, of course, an
uneasy motion of the boat.

It was as she expected. The removal of the awning became necessary, and
the rocking of the little craft during this performance so alarmed poor
Maria that she became completely unnerved, nor could all the efforts of
her friends and the boatmen reassure her. However, at times they were
sheltered, and although Maria felt a motion which thrilled through the
boat as it battled with the waves roughened by the wind, she was
becoming more at ease, and by the time they passed Osborne House, not
then a royal residence, and came in sight of the houses of West Cowes,
she was positively beginning to enjoy her trip, and could talk
pleasantly to her mother and sister.

Meanwhile Edward Armstrong sat at his solitary tea-table wrapped up in
his own thoughts. Mrs. Lake came in to fetch the tea-things, but he did
not speak. She roused him, however, by one remark--

"The ladies have got a beautiful evening for their trip, sir," she said;
"they generally stay out two hours, but they started later than usual
this evening--I suppose because the days are getting longer, and they're
not back yet."

"It is a beautiful evening," replied the young man, rising and going to
the open window; "I may as well have a stroll by the sea as sit here."

"So I thought, sir," was the reply, "and that's why I mentioned it."

Edward Armstrong smiled as he left the room, unprepared for the events
of an evening which for his whole life would never be obliterated from
his memory.

When he reached the village street, and turned down by the landing-place
to the beach, the change from the costume of the afternoon to a suit of
black, and a black hat with a crape band, made his appearance entirely
that of a gentleman; there was nothing of the farmer's slouch in the
tall, well-built, erect figure, and manly carriage.

He wandered on the beach for some time, enjoying the sweet freshness of
the sea-breeze and watching the rippling waves, over which the approach
of sunset threw a glow of crimson and gold; now and then, however,
casting glances in the direction of Ryde, with a hope of once more
beholding the face that had so completely enthralled him. The church
clock struck seven, and presently, as he stood at a point a little
beyond the battery from which royal salutes are now fired, he saw the
Southampton steamer coming round a point of land at a little distance.
He, with others, walked quietly on towards the landing-place, actuated
by the curiosity as to new arrivals which generally besets occasional
residents at the seaside.

But his attention was quickly withdrawn from the steamer. In the
direction of Ryde he could see the green and gold of the pleasure-boat
as it approached, struggling against the wind, which made her progress
difficult and uneasy.

The rowers were evidently making for the point from which the boat had
started, not very far from the spot where the steamer now lay, blowing
off her steam, yet easily reached without danger of being run down, even
if she moved before they could do so.

But the steamer had already created a difficulty, for when the boat
entered the point where the waters unite, she encountered also the swell
made by the paddle-wheels. Steadily the men plied their oars, while the
boat, dancing and rolling on the surge, caused by the united effects of
the wind, the steamer, and the double currents, attracted the attention
of others besides Edward Armstrong. He could distinguish the ladies
clearly as the men neared the shore. He saw the pale face and the violet
eyes of Maria St. Clair fixed upon the steamer with painful intenseness;
he saw the little gloved hands clasped on her lap, as if by that violent
pressure she could prevent the steamer from moving. The men were bending
all their strength to the oars, as with rapid strokes they made for the
landing-place. Nearer and nearer came the boat till within fifty yards
of the shore. The spectators scarcely breathed as it passed under the
stern of the steamer, no one on deck seeming to notice it. Would they
reach the shore before it moved?

"Is there any danger?" was eagerly asked.

"No; boats like that would ride the wave safely--besides, the men are
becoming used to steamers now, and sailors can always avoid danger."

Alas! not always. At this critical moment the steamer moved from the
pier, its paddle-wheels backing slowly to make the turn towards Ryde
more easily; from beneath them the foaming water rolled in eddying,
agitating circles, swelling the already disturbed waves. Upon one of
these the boat was lifted, and then to the terrified occupants appeared
to be sinking headlong into the trough of the sea.

Edward Armstrong stretched out his arms as if to avert the impending
danger. He had seen the young girl rise from her seat, and as she
tottered from the consequences of this almost always fatal act, she
caught at her little nephew's arm, and the next moment they were both
struggling together in the surging water.

There were screams on the shore--running to and fro--a cry for
ropes--the stoppage of the steamer, from which a boat was quickly
lowered; but unexpected help was nearer at hand.

A gentleman on the beach was seen to throw off his coat and hat, and
plunge into the boiling waves. In a few moments he returned with the
little boy in his arms, for whom many hands were eagerly held out. He
paused not a moment, but struck out again towards the spot at which he
had seen the young girl fall overboard.

The rowers had hastened on to the shore, in order to land the alarmed
mother and sister in safety, they then quickly proceeded to the spot
where the boat from the steamer had already arrived with ropes.

Amongst the anxious spectators on shore stood Mrs. Lake, who, the
instant she saw Mrs. St. Clair and her daughter, rushed towards them,
exclaiming, "Oh pray, ladies, do not stay here, the gentleman is sure to
save Miss Maria, he's my lodger, and----"

At this moment Mrs. Herbert started forward, she had seen her boy
carried from the water and ran to meet him.

"Take the little boy to my house, Mrs. Herbert, pray do," cried the
excited landlady; "it's close by, and he'll want attention directly."

Too bewildered to refuse, and anxious also to remove her mother from the
scene of excitement, for Mrs. St. Clair seemed ready to faint as she
stood, Mrs. Herbert took her arm, and together they followed the man who
carried little Charlie.

"You know where it is, Tom," said Mrs. Lake to the man; "take the
ladies, I'll be there directly; I must stay and see if Mr. Armstrong
saves that dear young lady," she added to herself, as she turned back to
the shore.

Meanwhile the men had cheered the stranger as he plunged a second time
into the waves, but he remained more than once so long under water when
diving, that fears were entertained for his own fate. There was a pause.
At last, amid the shouts of the spectators, he rose to the surface, but
so faint and exhausted that he had only sufficient strength to give up
the apparently lifeless body of Maria St. Clair to the men in one of the
boats. He would himself have sunk after doing so, had he not been
quickly seized by ready hands and dragged into the boat.

A few moments brought them to shore, amid the cheers of the spectators,
who were, however, hushed to silence when Maria St. Clair and her
deliverer, both to all appearance dead, were lifted out of the boat.

"Oh dear! oh, sir! Mr. Armstrong, and Miss Maria too!--oh, that I should
live to see this day!"

"Hush! that outcry will do no good," and the voice of the doctor stayed
the useless complaints of Mrs. Lake. "Is there any house near to which
this lady can be taken?"

"Oh yes, sir," she replied, "mine is close by; Mrs. Herbert's there now
with the little boy, and the gentleman's own apartments are at my
house."

But Edward Armstrong had by this time so far recovered, that with
assistance he was able to leave the boat and follow on foot the bearers
of that lifeless form to his own apartments, with trembling steps and a
sinking at his heart.

He was met at the door by Mrs. St. Clair and Mrs. Herbert. The former in
dismay at her daughter's appearance, could not utter a word, but Mrs.
Herbert, as he entered, held out her hand, and clasping that of her
child's deliverer, she exclaimed, "God bless you, sir, I can never repay
you for what you have done." He had no heart to reply, but he pressed
the hand he held, and turned towards his own bedroom with the painful
thought that all his efforts, even at the risk of his own life, had been
unsuccessful in the case of Maria St. Clair.



CHAPTER II.

WHO SAVED HER?


The question which heads this chapter was asked by many on that
memorable evening, long after it became known that the remedies and
prompt measures adopted by the doctors had been successful in restoring
Maria St. Clair to consciousness after hours of anxious suspense.

The same question will occur to the reader, to whom, perhaps, the answer
may prove a disappointment.

In a street near the most fashionable part of the West End of London,
stood a large and well-built house, the lower part of which bore the
appearance of a place of business, half-shop, half-office. Above it, in
large letters, appeared the words, "Edward Armstrong, Corn Factor."

The handsome, intellectual-looking man who had so courageously
distinguished himself on the beach at West Cowes, could boast of no
higher position than that of a London tradesman, nor of any ancestors
more honourable than England's yeomen. For nearly two hundred years the
Armstrongs had been known as farmers in the neighbourhood of
Basingstoke. Only one direct branch of the family now remained, an aged
farmer still occupying Meadow Farm, and Edward Armstrong, his only
child.

The boy early gave evidence that he possessed tastes very different to
those required in agricultural pursuits. On this account his mother,
who, like many mothers, wished her son to be more educated than his
parents, strongly encouraged the proposal that he should be sent to
boarding-school. That her boy should become what the country folks call
a "fine scholar," was her greatest ambition.

Whether he obtained that title or not, it is certain that at school he
quickly developed intellectual tastes, and acquired a certain degree of
refinement, which made him quite unfit for association, except in the
corn market, with farmers who talked of their "'ay and their whoats, and
whate." For a few years, however, he remained at home, and acquired
sufficient knowledge of these said "whoats and whate" to be very useful
to him in his present position. After awhile, his father consented to
his going to London and establishing a business.

Notwithstanding Edward Armstrong's taste for reading and other literary
pursuits, he was still a thorough man of business, and had succeeded so
well in his London undertaking, that at the age of thirty-three he found
himself master of a splendid business, a well-furnished house, known and
respected on the Corn Exchange, and still unmarried.

Yet with all his literary and scientific knowledge--which was not a
little--with all his industry, energy, and business habits, he had
strong prejudices consequent upon early education; peculiar notions on
various subjects, and a will, as well as opinions, that would brook no
contradiction.

Much of all this might have been softened down and removed by an early
and suitable marriage.

But one of Edward Armstrong's peculiarities was shown in his
determination, when he did marry, to have a real lady for his wife--in
those days not a very easy matter for a man in trade.

His appearance in the Isle of Wight was caused by having had to attend
the funeral of his mother, and he had been spending a fortnight at his
old home, and making arrangements for a cousin and his wife to manage
the farm, under his father's guidance, when business matters brought him
from Meadow Farm to the Isle of Wight. He had been detained at Cowes for
nearly a week when the alarming events described in the last chapter
made a hero of him, almost against his will.

On reaching his bedroom on that eventful evening, he found doctors and
nurses ready to prescribe and attend to him. He was quickly stripped of
his wet clothes, hurried to bed, and made to take proper remedies in
spite of a great deal of self-willed opposition. Mrs. Lake had secured
the attendance of her own doctor, who divided his time between her best
room, occupied by Maria St. Clair, and that of her deliverer. Mrs. St.
Clair's medical attendant was also present during that terrible time, in
which the gentle spirit of her daughter, Maria, fluttered on the
confines of eternity.

Edward Armstrong, however, could not compose himself to sleep; indeed he
openly refused to take a draught which the doctor had sent to enable him
to do so. Mrs. Lake, therefore, ventured to send for Dr. Freeman, hoping
that he might be better able to influence the refractory patient.

"Doctor," said Edward, as the former entered the room, fully intending
to exert his professional authority, "I cannot and will not sleep till I
hear more favourable accounts of Miss St. Clair. Tell me at once if
there is any hope."

"Hey-day, my friend, your energy gives me strong hopes for your own
complete recovery at all events, but you know well that we are not the
arbiters of life and death; we can only use all the means and trust to a
Higher Power for the result."

"But _is_ there any hope?" persisted Edward.

"Certainly, I cannot deny there is hope," he replied. "Dr. Anson also is
very sanguine respecting the result of our efforts; but, my friend, if
you will not take the sleeping draught, I must insist on your keeping
yourself warm and quiet, or the consequences of your sea-bath will be
more serious than you anticipate; and now I must return to Miss St.
Clair, who at the present moment requires all the attention we can give
her."

"Send me word directly a change for the better takes place," said the
patient anxiously, as Dr. Freeman turned to go.

"I will come myself," he replied, "on condition that you keep quiet and
try to sleep."

"Well," thought the doctor, as with cautious steps he proceeded to the
young lady's room, "the man has not been in this place much more than a
week, his landlady tells me, or I should suppose he was Miss St. Clair's
lover by the way he goes on."

Could he have been aware of Edward Armstrong's thoughts, as he lay with
closed eyes, but mentally awake, he would more readily have understood
the cause of his restless and wakeful anxiety.

He had tried to save the life of a girl to whom he had been strangely
attracted, and after all, though he might mourn over the untimely death
which could blight such a lovely flower, still he had not even a right
to sympathise with her relatives, to whom he was a stranger. They might
certainly appreciate his sympathy, and be grateful for his efforts to
save her, but they could not know anything of the hopes which he had
within the last few days encouraged and fostered.

And what were these hopes? he asked himself. Were they not founded on
impossibilities? Even if Miss Maria St. Clair recovered, and owed her
life to his energy, could he still hope to win her? Would the Honourable
Mrs. St. Clair consider a London tradesman, who owned a shop, a suitable
husband for the descendant of an Earl? for such her youngest daughter
truly was. Would saving her life create a debt of gratitude sufficiently
strong to break down the barriers of social prejudices and social
distinctions? Would the fact of his being able to support a wife in
comfort and luxury tempt the mother to give him her portionless
daughter? He found himself unable to answer these mental queries, and as
he turned from side to side in restless anxiety, poor Mrs. Lake longed
for good news from the best bedroom, as much for the sake of her lodger
as for the friends of the young lady themselves.

When Dr. Freeman entered the bedroom from which he had been called to
Edward Armstrong, he saw at a glance that his colleague, Dr. Anson, was
more hopeful than ever. Every remedy used in cases of drowning had been
tried, but Dr. Anson evidently considered that the continued state of
unconsciousness, in which Maria St. Clair lay, was attributable to
another cause. To conquer the effects of this cause was now his aim; yet
half an hour passed before his efforts were rewarded with even a shadow
of success. Maria St. Clair lay still and nerveless on the bed. From her
pale face the golden curls had been pushed back, and lay scattered in
disordered profusion on the pillow.

Although the summer twilight still lingered, the gas had been lighted to
assist the medical men in their efforts to restore life. Dr. Anson stood
with his fingers on the delicate wrist, and as his colleague entered he
made a sign for him to draw near the bed.

On the opposite side near the head sat Mrs. St. Clair, holding the hand
of her daughter, Helen, in a convulsive grasp. The crisis had come, and
the mother and daughter were awaiting with painful intentness the result
of the doctor's efforts. Minutes passed, but they did not relax these
efforts. Presently Dr. Anson looked up suddenly; his sensitive fingers
had detected a slight vibration at the wrist. For a few moments there
was a pause, a breathless stillness had seemed to foreshadow the
approach of death. It was but the intensity of suspense--every eye
rested on the fair, pale face. Was it fancy? Did the eyelids really
quiver, and the lips tremble? Yes; for as the eyes languidly opened, the
lips parted and a breath like a sigh gave evidence of returning life.
Mrs. St. Clair rose hastily and clung to her married daughter, while the
doctor quickly administered a stimulant which, to his great joy, the
patient was able to swallow. Gradually the feeble breath became more
regular, the eyes more intelligent, and a faint colour overspread the
cheek. Again the doctor offered the stimulant, and this time it was
taken more easily, and the patient made an effort to speak.

"Mamma, are you here?" were the faint, feeble words.

"Yes, darling," said Mrs. St. Clair, coming round to the other side of
the bed with Mrs. Herbert, "and Helen is here too."

"Where is little Charlie?"

"Safe in bed and asleep," was the reply.

"Mamma, who saved us?" she asked, after a pause.

"You and Charlie owe your lives, under God, to a stranger who is lodging
here with Mrs. Lake," replied her mother.

"Mamma, let me thank him. Where is he?"

"In bed, and I hope asleep," exclaimed Dr. Freeman; "and, my dear young
lady, we must get you to sleep quickly, too, or there is no answering
for the consequences. You shall see our friend to-morrow and thank him
yourself."

Maria St. Clair closed her eyes in token of obedience; readily she took
what the medical men prescribed, and after awhile, with many cautions to
the anxious mother, the gentlemen took their leave. On the way
downstairs Dr. Freeman remarked, "That poor girl was not long enough in
the water to so completely deprive her of consciousness. I believe she
fainted from terror when she found herself falling."

"I have no doubt of it," replied Dr. Anson. "I know that Maria has
always had a natural dread of the water, and it was injudicious to
persuade her to enter a boat under any but absolute necessity. Had she
not recovered, her death would have been mainly attributable to the
shock received by the nervous system. Are you going to remain here
longer?" he asked, as Dr. Freeman stopped and held out his hand.

"Only to see my other patient."

"Is he all right?" was the next question.

"I hope he will be after the draught I am going to give him," replied
Dr. Freeman; "he has had a narrow escape with life, but it is a mercy he
was there at all. No one could have acted more promptly and courageously
than he did."

"I shall look in again on my patient this evening," said Dr. Anson as
they shook hands. "If no feverish symptoms supervene we shall soon have
the young lady quite well."

"There is more danger of fever in this case," thought the doctor, as he
stood by Edward Armstrong's bed with his fingers on his pulse a few
minutes later, describing what had occurred, and telling him of Miss St.
Clair's hopeful condition.

The effect, however, of this information, and the remedy which he did
not now refuse, were so beneficial that in less than half an hour after
the doctor left him to the care of Mrs. Lake, he was sleeping calmly.

Yet potent as the medicine might be, it was not powerful enough to keep
Edward Armstrong asleep all night. More than once he awoke, and finding
Mrs. Lake watching in his room on the last occasion, he anxiously
inquired for Miss St. Clair.

"Sleeping sweetly, sir, thank God," was the reply. "I've just been into
the room, and glad enough I am that the ladies are able to take some
rest. I only came in here to see if you were all right; and now I'm
going to take my place in Miss St. Clair's room, while they go and lie
down. Oh, sir, they're both so thankful to you for what you did last
night. But I'm not going to have you waking up and losing your rest;
whatever am I about, chattering like this?" And she cautiously drew the
curtains closer to shut out the early summer daylight.

But Edward was too much under the effects of his draught to keep awake
long. He had understood sufficiently from Mrs. Lake's speech that Miss
St. Clair was in no danger, and even before she had ceased talking he
fell asleep.

The morning sun, however, roused him, as he supposed, at his usual hour,
and he rose quite refreshed, and feeling very little the worse for his
exploits of the preceding evening.

Dressing quickly, he descended to his sitting-room and found to his
surprise that the clock had struck nine.

On the mantelpiece lay his watch, which had stopped as he plunged into
the water, and the hands pointed to half-past seven. Taking it up to set
it to the right time, he walked to the window and looked out across the
garden to the spot which had so nearly proved fatal to himself as well
as to another, and shuddered as he thought of what might have been if
his efforts had proved unsuccessful.

While thus reflecting, Mrs. Lake entered with his breakfast.

"Good morning, sir," she said, as he turned to greet her; "I'm that glad
to see you downstairs again, and all right, I hardly know what to say.
But do you really feel quite well, sir?" she added hastily, "for you're
looking pale."

"I'm all right," he replied, smiling, "or at least I shall be after
breakfast, I hope, for that physic stuff has made my head ache."

"I daresay it has, sir; them sleeping draughts always do, but you'll be
quite well after a cup of coffee."

Edward Armstrong seated himself, nothing loth, while his landlady
continued to remain in the room by waiting upon him or dusting here and
there, or rearranging different articles on the table, in hopes of being
questioned. Her hopes were soon realised, for her lodger asked, "How is
the young lady this morning, Mrs. Lake?"

"Oh! doing nicely, sir, and so is Master Charlie; he slept in my room
last night, and he's been awake I can't tell how long, asking heaps of
questions about the kind gentleman that took him and dear aunty out of
the water--and the ladies, sir, they've been asking for you, and they do
say Miss Maria is quite herself again this morning, and that she's going
to get up presently."

Mrs. Lake was interrupted by a tap at the door, and without waiting for
a reply, it was opened, and Dr. Anson, the medical attendant of Mrs. St.
Clair, entered the room.

"Yes, it is my friend Edward Armstrong," he exclaimed, as the gentleman
he addressed rose with surprise to receive his visitor. "I only learnt
the name of our hero from Dr. Freeman this morning; I had no idea that
the gentleman whose intrepidity and courage is the talk of the place was
the son of my good friend, Farmer Armstrong."

Edward smiled as he shook hands with the friend whom he had known from a
boy, but there was a languor in his movements, and a pallor on the
cheeks, very unusual in the active man of business, which the doctor's
quick eye soon detected.

"Are you feeling any ill effects from your exertions last evening?" he
asked.

"No," was the reply; "unless a feeling of laziness and disinclination to
move may be ranked among ill effects."

"Well, not exactly," said Dr. Anson, "although what you complain of is
no doubt caused by exhaustion and excitement. At all events, you must
extend your holiday and rest here for a day or two longer; such a
sea-bath as yours produces effects which are not so easily got over."

At this moment the door was pushed open slightly, and through the
opening appeared a rosy face, brown curls, and a pair of dark eyes which
looked with curiosity at the two gentlemen.

"Ah, Charlie," said the doctor, "is that you? Come in and say how d'ye
do to the gentleman that fished you out of the water yesterday."

Little Charlie Herbert boldly advanced, and standing before Mr.
Armstrong held out his chubby hand and said, "Thank 'oo for saving me
from being drowned."

Edward lifted the boy on his knee and kissed him, while the doctor
asked--

"Who sent you here, Charlie?"

"Mrs. Lake," he replied, "and I've said what she told me to say to the
gentleman."

The doctor smiled as he rose, and shaking hands with his friend he
said--

"I must leave you now to pay my visit upstairs. Edward, keep the boy
here for awhile; you cannot have better company."



CHAPTER III.

A SOCIAL DILEMMA.


While Edward Armstrong was becoming better acquainted with the little
nephew of Maria St. Clair, Dr. Anson was attempting the cure of a
disease far more difficult to subdue than any in the whole catalogue of
the various "ills which flesh is heir to"--a mental disease called
pride.

He found his patient in a fair way for complete recovery. Her restless
anxiety to thank the strange gentleman who had saved her, had made her
mother give way to her wish to be dressed, and she now sat in an
easy-chair, looking pale certainly, but apparently suffering only from
exhaustion.

"Up and dressed? upon my word!" said Dr. Anson. "I was not prepared for
such a speedy recovery as this."

"I feel almost as well as ever, doctor," she said, "only a little weak
and tired; but I cannot rest till mamma and all of us have thanked the
gentleman who saved me and little Charlie. Mrs. Lake says he is quite
well this morning, and talks of going back to London to-morrow, so if we
are to see him and thank him personally, it must be to-day."

"All right, my dear," said the doctor; "there will be no difficulty in
asking my friend Mr. Edward Armstrong to visit you."

"Your friend, Dr. Anson?" exclaimed Mrs. St. Clair, in surprise; "have
you known him long?"

"Almost from his boyhood, and a more intelligent, well-informed man I
have seldom met with. I was not, however, aware till now that he
possessed courage and daring in addition to his other good qualities."

"But who is he?" was the next question.

"The son, indeed the only child, of Farmer Armstrong, who owns Meadow
Farm, about two miles from Basingstoke. The farm has belonged to
Armstrong's ancestors for nearly two hundred years. The old gentleman
has recently lost his wife, and the son came from London a few weeks ago
to be present at his mother's funeral."

"Young Mr. Armstrong resides in London, then, I suppose?" remarked Mrs.
Herbert.

"Yes; his tastes for intellectual pursuits and his education made him
dislike farming, and at last his father, with great reluctance, allowed
him to commence business in London as a corn-dealer."

Mrs. St. Clair had listened to this plain straightforward description of
her daughter's and grandson's deliverer and his antecedents with very
conflicting sensations. She had hoped to be able personally to show her
deep sense of gratitude to this gentleman, who had risked his own life
for her child; but now, how could she do so? She had been brought up to
consider persons in trade far inferior to herself, and the doctor's
account seemed to place this stranger at such an immeasurable distance,
and yet how could she relieve herself from such a debt of gratitude?

During the pause that ensued, Dr. Anson examined and questioned his
patient, and having received satisfactory answers, was about to take his
leave, when Mrs. St. Clair's voice arrested his movements.

"Dr. Anson, we can never really repay this person the debt of gratitude
we owe him, but as he is in trade, do you think he would accept a sum of
money; something handsome, I mean! I am sure my son-in-law, Sir James
Elston, would readily advance it in such a case."

"Mamma!"

"Madam!"

The words burst forth almost simultaneously from Mrs. Herbert and the
doctor. The former gave up her right to speak to the doctor, who
exclaimed--

"My friend Mr. Edward Armstrong is not only a man of large property, but
of refined and intellectual tastes, and can boast of an education far
beyond the generality of farmers' sons. I could not----"

"Oh, pray pardon me!" interrupted Mrs. St. Clair, greatly surprised at
the doctor's vehemence, "but when you spoke of your friend as a man of
business, I supposed him to be what a tradesman generally is."

"Mrs. St. Clair," said the doctor, "England is becoming proud of her
commerce, and the young people of the present age may live to see the
time when, like the ancients of old, 'her princes will be merchants,' as
well as men of intellect, refinement, and education. At all events, my
dear madam, give your daughters an opportunity to thank this gentleman
for risking his life on their behalf; personally, I am quite sure, he
will expect this, and consider it cancels all obligations. If you see
him you can judge for yourselves. Good morning, ladies. Don't excite
yourself, my dear," he continued, more gently, as he shook hands with
his patient; "your constitution has received a shock, and you must be
careful."

"I will, doctor, I promise you," she said, "but I may go into the
drawing-room with mamma and Helen to receive the visitor?"

"Of course--of course," he replied, "but remember, you are not to talk
too much."

For some minutes after Dr. Anson left the room silence reigned supreme:
Mrs. St. Clair could not at once recover from the surprise at being thus
set down by her own medical man; indeed, she looked so disconcerted that
Helen could not resist the merry laugh that broke the silence.

"Mamma, don't look so uncomfortable," she said; "of course you could not
be expected to know what would be the best means of showing our
gratitude to this stranger, for indeed we ought to be grateful----"

"I know it, my dear," said Mrs. St. Clair, whose pride had received a
severe blow; "and now what are we to do?"

"We have simply to adjourn to the drawing-room, ring the bell, and send
down our cards, with our compliments, and a request that Mr. Armstrong
will favour us with a visit."

This advice was at once acted upon, and in a few minutes Maria found
herself comfortably seated in an arm-chair in Mrs. Lake's pretty
drawing-room, while her mother and sister awaited the appearance of
their visitor in formal state on the sofa. Even to Maria, Edward
Armstrong was an entire stranger, for although she had modestly shrunk
from his earnest gaze at church on the previous Sunday, and had seen his
face twice on the day of the accident, it was still unknown to her.

They had not waited long when footsteps on the stairs announced his
approach; not alone, however, for as Mrs. Lake opened the door Edward
Armstrong entered, leading by the hand little Charlie Herbert.

"Your little son has paid me a visit this morning, Mrs. Herbert," he
said, as he bowed to the ladies who rose to welcome him, "and I have
brought him upstairs with me to place him safely in your care."

Mrs. Herbert gave him a grateful look as she placed a chair for their
guest. Then seating herself, she said--

"I hope Charlie has not been troublesome?"

"Not in the least," he replied; "indeed, his childish prattle has done
me good."

Mrs. St. Clair's surprise at the appearance of her visitor, who wore his
mourning suit, increased for a time the confusion of ideas produced by
the doctor's farewell speech. She was, however, a true English
gentlewoman, and before Edward could take the chair placed for him she
advanced, and holding out her hand, said with a warmth of manner not to
be mistaken for mere politeness--

"Mr. Armstrong, I have taken the liberty of asking you to visit us,
because I wish to join with my daughters in expressing my gratitude for
your kind and prompt energy yesterday, which saved the lives of my
daughter and little grandson. It is not possible to say all we feel on
the subject. I only hope you will believe in our sincere and grateful
appreciation."

"Madam," replied Edward, to whom all this was really painful, "I am only
too happy to remember that I was on the spot, and able to be of service
to you."

"A service we can never repay," said Mrs. Herbert; "but for your
exertions I should have lost my darling boy."

"And I," exclaimed a gentle voice, "should have lost my life, Mr.
Armstrong, but for you; my best thanks are but a poor return to offer
you."

"Ladies," said Edward Armstrong, "you do me too much honour. I am only
too thankful to have been made the instrument, in God's hands, to save
you from great sorrow, and the consciousness of this is all the reward I
ask. But allow me, Miss St. Clair," he said, hurriedly changing the
subject, "I hope you do not feel any serious effects from the great
danger to which you were exposed yesterday?"

"Oh, no," she replied; "except a slight feeling of exhaustion, I am
otherwise as well as usual."

The blush that tinted the pale cheek of Maria St. Clair, who, while she
spoke, was conscious of the earnest eyes so closely watching her, added
additional beauty to the fair face which Edward Armstrong so greatly
admired. With ready tact he turned to Mrs. St. Clair, and introduced
another subject of conversation.

So pleasantly did an hour pass as they talked, that when the visitor
rose to go, the elder ladies each expressed a wish that he should visit
them at their own residences. But he unhesitatingly stated his anxiety
to return to business, promising, however, to call upon Mrs. St. Clair
at Richmond; and naming his own address in Dover Street, Piccadilly.

Edward Armstrong's peculiar notions and obstinate prejudices, which we
shall hear more of by-and-by, were kept under violent restraint while in
the company of these ladies. Hitherto he had encouraged himself in a
kind of contempt for all social distinctions, but now that he had made
acquaintance with a family whose position, socially speaking, was above
his own, he crushed down the feeling, and when writing his address for
Mrs. St. Clair, he omitted the words "corn-dealer."

Perhaps his radical notions would not have been restrained by any motive
less powerful than a growing attachment for the daughter of a lady who
could rank with England's aristocracy. And with the lady herself there
is little doubt that Edward Armstrong's apparent refinement in manner
and dress would have failed to make such an impression had not his
handsome face, manly carriage, and reputation for wealth been thrown
into the scale of opinion.



CHAPTER IV.

DIFFICULTIES TO BE OVERCOME.


Edward Armstrong had parted from the family of Mrs. St. Clair without
even the slightest hint of those intentions which a more intimate
association had strengthened. But the three days during which he stayed
at West Cowes were not lost time. He had seen Maria St. Clair daily, and
made himself so truly agreeable a companion and escort, that the ladies
willingly accepted his invitation to accompany him for a drive more than
once in an open carriage which he hired for the occasion.

They bade him farewell at last with regret, and influenced by her
daughters, Mrs. St. Clair expressed a hope that they should see him at
Richmond after their return home, which she expected would be in about a
fortnight.

Edward Armstrong returned to London with his mind fully made up. He
possessed a determined will, and in spite of the misgivings which had
tormented him after the exciting evening at Cowes, he had too much
self-esteem to dread failure.

The girl he loved might be the daughter of the Honourable Mrs. St.
Clair, and the great-granddaughter of an earl, and he knew that, in his
eyes at least, she was beautiful, but she was penniless; and the
gratitude she felt towards him for having saved her life was fast
growing into love. Added to this he had the money she lacked, and the
power to surround her with all the pleasant comforts and luxuries which
money can procure. He determined, however, notwithstanding this
confidence in himself, to wait until he had visited Mrs. St. Clair at
her own home, and become more acquainted with the real position of the
family to whom he wished to ally himself.

Mr. Edward Armstrong's house in Dover Street, Piccadilly, had been
originally the London residence of a nobleman's family who during the
early part of the present century had made that part of London, then
called May Fair, their head-quarters.

He had let the upper part of his house at a good rental, keeping only
for himself a bachelor's parlour behind the office, and a bedroom.

On the first evening after his return from the Isle of Wight, these said
bachelor apartments wore a very meagre and desolate aspect.

Hitherto business and money-making had so absorbed his thoughts that the
rooms he occupied had scarcely any interest in his eyes. So long as his
housekeeper prepared his meals regularly, and kept his apartments clean
and comfortable, he was satisfied.

Now, however, he looked with a critical eye upon his domestic
arrangements, and on this evening of his arrival, while leaning back
after supper in his easy-chair, some such thoughts as these passed
through his mind--

"I could not expect any wife to be satisfied with such a dingy little
place as this for a sitting-room, and to think of bringing that fairy
girl, Maria St. Clair, to such a home is absurd. If I mean to win her I
must get rid of these people upstairs, and furnish my house in a fit
style to receive her. However, I must not give them notice to leave till
I am sure of success. Sure of success! what am I thinking about? 'Faint
heart ne'er won fair lady!' and Edward Armstrong is not the man to fail
when he once makes up his mind."

Three weeks passed away, and on a warm, sultry morning in July, Maria
St. Clair stood at the window of a pretty drawing-room at Richmond,
looking out over the beautiful park upon a scene that has not its rival
in any suburb at the same distance from London. The noble trees that are
scattered over the greensward from the brow of Richmond Hill to the
silvery stream of the Thames, which flows at its foot, were luxurious in
summer foliage. Chestnut and oak, elm and birch, reared their noble
forms at varied distances, casting their broad shadows on the undulating
velvet turf, while the gentle deer browsed in safety beneath the
sheltering branches.

Mrs. St. Clair sat at work near the open window, now and then glancing
at the fair face of her young daughter, which wore a thoughtful, pensive
look, in spite of its radiant loveliness.

Maria had quite recovered the effects of her dangerous sea-bath, and the
word radiant is not too exaggerated a term to apply to the appearance of
the young girl as she stands gracefully, yet carelessly, leaning against
the window-frame.

"Have you quite finished practising, Maria?" said her mother, at last.

"No, mamma; but I could not resist another look at the dear old park.
After all, I don't think there is a prettier place than Richmond Hill,
even in the Isle of Wight; and although I have lived here ever since my
childhood, I declare it seems more beautiful to me every year."

"That is because you are older, and more able to appreciate beautiful
scenery."

"I suppose that is the reason," replied Maria--and yet while she spoke
arose a consciousness that this new appreciation of Nature at Richmond
owed its origin to a romantic and vivid description of the feelings the
scene had excited in the heart of one who now monopolised all her
thoughts. "He promised to come and see us," she said to herself, "and we
have been home a week and yet he has not made his appearance. Perhaps he
wont come, after all;" and then, feeling that she must throw off the sad
thoughts which were attracting her mother's notice, she suddenly rushed
to the piano, and struck the first chords of a piece with variations on
the air of "The Lass of Richmond Hill."

But the composer's efforts were destined to come to a sudden end. The
young housemaid opened the drawing-room door, and as she ushered a
gentleman into the room, startled the ladies by exclaiming--

"Mr. Edward Armstrong, ma'am," at the same time placing that gentleman's
card in the hands of her mistress.

Maria rose from the piano in hasty confusion. Much as she had thought
upon the gentleman, whom she called her deliverer, his appearance at
this moment was so totally unexpected that she was relieved to see him
advance first to her mother, who sat at a distance from the piano. She
had scarcely time to recover her self possession, however, before her
mother's words in reply to Mr. Armstrong's inquiries for her daughter
caused him to turn and approach her.

As Maria St. Clair came forward to meet this man, to whom she owed, as
she thought, such a debt of gratitude, Edward Armstrong, in spite of his
own good opinion of himself, was conscious of a feeling of inferiority.

The young girl before him in the simple white morning dress, had a
manner and bearing which seemed to place him at an immeasurable
distance.

True, there was a modest timidity and a blushing confusion, which added
a charm to the beautiful face, as she held out her hand and answered his
inquiries for her health with lady-like ease. Yet Edward Armstrong was
some minutes before he could feel himself quite at home in the company
of these ladies.

We are all liable to be influenced by externals, and therefore when
Edward Armstrong met Mrs. St. Clair and her daughter at their own
residence, the impression produced on his mind differed greatly from
what he had felt in the Isle of Wight.

There he had been introduced to them in the sombre and old-fashioned
drawing-room of a lodging-house, but here everything spoke of refinement
and elegance. There was nothing pretensive or ostentatious about the
house or the noble entrance, even the drawing-room in which they sat had
a low ceiling, and the furniture was neither luxurious nor new. But it
bore the impress of refined taste, and like all articles bought for
their intrinsic value rather than for show, bid fair to last for many
years longer in good condition.

Yet not even the antique cabinets, the curiously-wrought worktables, and
other valuable ornaments would have been sufficient to produce in Edward
Armstrong the impression referred to. It was the _toute ensemble_,--the
old-fashioned red brick house, the broad oaken stairs, with the centre
covered with Brussels carpet; the long, low drawing-room, its windows
opening to the ground on a balcony; the delicate chintz covering to
chairs and couches; the flowers, the music, the lace curtains, and the
presence of two gentle, lady-like women, one in her widow's dress
contrasting to her daughter's simple white, all intermixed with the
perfume of flowers, and finished by the glorious prospect stretched out
before the windows, made up a picture which Edward Armstrong never
forgot.

"You must stay to luncheon, Mr. Armstrong," remarked Mrs. St. Clair,
after they had talked for more than half an hour over the still
absorbing topic of the boat accident at West Cowes.

"I fear I shall not be able to remain," he replied, "as I have business
in Richmond which will detain me for some time to-day; but if it would
be agreeable, Mrs. St. Clair, I will spend an afternoon with you next
week on any day you may find it convenient."

Mr. Armstrong's scruples about staying to lunch were, however, quickly
overcome by the promise that he should leave as soon as he pleased
afterwards; and the visitor departed that afternoon, more than ever
fascinated by Maria St. Clair, and fully determined to obtain her as his
wife. "Where there's a will there's a way," is an old adage which few
were more likely to carry out than Edward Armstrong.

From this visit an intimacy arose between Edward Armstrong and Maria St.
Clair, which her mother found herself unable to prevent. She saw in her
daughter a growing preference for the man who had saved her life. She
perceived on his part plain indications, that the greatest reward he
could ask as a return for his courage and bravery, would be the hand of
Maria St. Clair; and yet she could do nothing to avert such a result
without ingratitude to the wooer, and perhaps pain to her daughter.

"I suppose I ought to consult my sister Louisa," she said to herself,
"and Sir James, or wait till Herbert comes home from India. Helen is too
grateful about little Charlie to make any objection, I am quite sure,
but perhaps the colonel may disapprove;"--and then, as Mrs. St. Clair
recalled the character of her soldier son-in-law, and reflected on what
his gratitude would be towards the man who had saved his only son from
drowning, she felt how impossible it was for her to interfere.

She could not forbid him the house, and all she could do was to wait for
him to explain his intentions, and then if Maria's affections were
really won, she must place the matter before Sir James and take his
advice.

Mrs. St. Clair had not long to wait.

One afternoon, towards the end of October, Edward Armstrong had
accompanied the ladies in a walk through the park, then glorious in its
colouring of red and golden brown, with which autumn had tinted the
noble trees.

They were joined by a middle-aged gentleman of martial appearance, whom
Mrs. St. Clair greeted with pleased surprise.

"Why, Colonel Elliot, is it possible," she exclaimed, as she shook
hands, "when did you arrive?"

"The day before yesterday," he replied. "My wife sent me over to-day to
pay my respects, and as soon as I found you were here, I followed you."

"And we are very glad to see you," replied Mrs St. Clair. Then turning
to her daughter, she said, "You remember little Maria, colonel? I
suppose you find her grown?"

"Grown indeed! what a change six years have made," he replied, glancing
at her companion.

"Mr. Armstrong--Colonel Elliot"--and Mrs. St. Clair observing the
glance, introduced the gentleman, adding, "We owe the life of Maria and
her little nephew, Charles, to this gentleman's bravery when they were
in danger of drowning."

"I have heard the whole account from my wife," said the colonel,
quickly; and as Edward Armstrong raised his hat on the introduction, he
held out his hand, and added, "Mr. Armstrong, I am indeed happy to make
your acquaintance."

"You must accompany us home to dinner," said Mrs. St. Clair, after a few
minutes of explanations respecting his arrival in England, and then they
turned towards home, the colonel walking by Mrs. St. Clair, and the
young people falling behind. The evening passed pleasantly, for Edward
Armstrong was always seen to greater advantage in the company of men,
with whom he could converse on almost any subject.

He had the tact to conceal a certain want of that _something_ which
marks the man accustomed from childhood to refined society, and in this
he was assisted by a vast amount of self-sufficiency. Be this as it may,
when Colonel Elliot rose to go early, on account of his distance from
home, he cordially expressed his regret at leaving such a pleasant
companion.

Mrs. St. Clair had remarked during dinner the deepened colour on the
cheeks and the bright look in the eyes of her daughter, but she was
scarcely prepared for Edward Armstrong's words when after tea in the
drawing-room Maria rose and left her mother alone with him.

"Mrs. St. Clair," he said--and for once the voice of the self-possessed
Edward Armstrong trembled--"I could not venture to ask you such a favour
as I am about to crave, but for your kindness during the last few
months. You once requested me to tell you in what way you could show
your gratitude to me for what was after all a mere act of common
humanity." He paused, but Mrs. St. Clair did not speak, so he went
on--"There is no recompense on earth that could be to me a fraction of
the value of the gift which you can bestow in giving me your daughter.
Even in my efforts to save her life I was actuated by a growing love for
her, which has increased since you so kindly allowed us to become better
acquainted."

He paused again, for his words had been hurried, and were at last almost
breathless. Too well he knew the social barrier existing between a
farmer's son and the great-granddaughter of an earl, and while he spoke
that barrier had arisen grimly before the mental vision of Mrs. St.
Clair. How could it be overcome? At last she broke the silence, which
was becoming oppressive--

"Mr. Armstrong, I feel honoured by your preference for my daughter. I
can never be sufficiently grateful for the courage which saved her life.
I believe you have won her love, and on my own part I would readily give
her to you without a moment's hesitation, but I must consider my family,
my sons-in-law, and my husband's relatives. What will they say if I
allow her to marry a----"

"Do not hesitate, Mrs. St. Clair," exclaimed Edward, whose pride had
been roused by her words; "I know I am asking Miss Maria St. Clair to
marry a tradesman, but I can offer her a home with more of the comforts,
luxuries, and refinements than are often found among many persons who
are far above me in rank."

His vehemence troubled Mrs. St. Clair; but after a few minutes'
reflection she said, "Mr. Armstrong, I am quite aware that in a money
point of view your proposal for my daughter is worthy of consideration,
but I cannot give my consent till I have consulted my relatives. Give me
a few days to lay the matter before them, and to ascertain the
sentiments of Maria, that is all I ask."

"Madam," said Edward Armstrong, rising, "if your dear daughter's wishes
are duly considered in this matter, I have no fear as to the result. I
will wait a week for your decision."

Mrs. St. Clair could scarcely restrain a smile at the self-appreciation
displayed in this speech, but she shook hands pleasantly and promised
that in less than a week he should hear from her. The result, however,
of Mrs. St. Clair's application to her relatives was in every case but
one favourable to Edward Armstrong. Her daughter Helen was ready to
ignore everything about him, but that he was respectably connected, able
to give Maria a superior home, and in himself handsome, well educated,
well informed, and without doubt brave and courageous, for had he not
saved her sister and her little son from death?

Colonel Elliot stood out strongly in favour of the man who had made
himself so agreeable on that evening at Richmond; indeed all Mrs. St.
Clair's relatives who had heard the romantic story so well known in the
Isle of Wight were on the side of Edward Armstrong--more especially when
his increasing wealth was confirmed by men of business to whom he had
referred Mrs. St. Clair.

Only from an old maiden aunt was the information received that "she must
not be expected to associate with people who kept a shop." Mrs. St.
Clair had very little trouble in discovering her daughter's real
sentiments respecting Edward Armstrong, and Sir James Elston's opinions
settled the matter. After hearing all the particulars respecting the man
who had asked his wife's mother for her portionless daughter, the bluff
old Admiral had remarked, "Ah, well, if Mrs. St. Clair marries her
daughter to a respectable tradesman who can support her in comfort,
instead of looking out for a sprig of nobility without a shilling in his
pocket, she will be a very wise woman."

Some little of Edward Armstrong's character showed itself before the
wedding. Mrs. St. Clair wished her daughter to be married from Sir James
Elston's house in Portland Place, and at a fashionable London
church--but the bridegroom elect preferred the quiet of her own house,
and the seclusion of Richmond.

Finding she could not succeed in having her own way with a gentleman
possessing such a determined will, Mrs. St. Clair appealed to her
daughter. But Maria, naturally gentle and yielding, was too anxious to
agree with the wishes of her future husband to become an ally with her
mother against him. So the gentleman had his way, and in the prettily
situated old church, Maria St. Clair plighted her troth to the man who
had been the means of saving her life.

In the heart of this young girl there was no doubt too much of the
worship of the instrument and too little recognition of the Hand to
whose merciful Providence she owed her life. She had yet to learn that
in times of sadness, trial, and death, "vain is the help of man" without
the aid He alone can give. We shall find also as the story proceeds that
Edward Armstrong was not so willing to give up his prejudices for the
sake of his _own_ daughter, as he had been to oblige Mrs. St. Clair to
give up hers when he wished to obtain Maria St. Clair as his wife.



CHAPTER V.

AT THE REVIEW.


"Miss Mary, dear, wake up," said a pleasant middle-aged woman, as she
gently shook the sleeper to whom she spoke; "it wants twenty minutes to
eight, and Rowland will be here with the ponies presently."

A pair of large blue eyes opened languidly and stared at the speaker.
"What's the matter, nurse?"

"Aren't you going to ride this morning, Miss Mary? you'll have to be
quick if----"

But Mary's senses were roused now, and the young girl of thirteen sprung
out of bed, interrupting her nurse's speech.

"I'll be ready, nurse, don't fear," she cried, as she began to dress
with her usual quickness. "What did you say was the time?"

"Twenty minutes to eight," was the reply, "so you've twenty-five
minutes. Rowland is allowed to wait five minutes, I know."

"Ah, yes," cried Mary, "but I wont keep him waiting at all, nurse," she
added, "you need not stay. I laid out my habit and all I wanted in
readiness last night."

"To be sure, Miss Mary, you can be quick, I know, and no mistake; so
I'll get out of your way if you don't want me."

True to her word, the little lady appeared at the door in a few minutes
after the groom arrived, and she was very soon cantering round the
Regent's Park in the full enjoyment of this healthful exercise. Drawing
rein as usual before crossing the New Road on her return towards home,
she walked her pony through the Crescent, intending to enjoy a good
canter up the broad thoroughfare of Portland Place.

Scarcely had she reached the turning leading through private streets to
Piccadilly, when the sound of horse's hoofs coming rapidly behind her
caused her to turn her head, and the next moment pull up suddenly as a
large black horse trotted quickly to her side.

"Why, Mary," exclaimed the owner of the horse, "I had no idea you were
such a capital rider. I saw a little lady cantering in front of me, but
I should not have known who it was had not Rowland touched his hat as I
passed; and what a clever little pony," he added, as he stooped low to
pat the smooth black head and long flowing mane. "How long have you had
him?"

"Six months, uncle," she replied. "Papa bought him of Sir Henry Turner;
his boys all learnt to ride on Boosey, but they have grown too old and
too tall for such a small pony, so now he is mine."

"What is the pony's name, Mary? It sounds peculiar."

"Oh, Boosey, uncle," she replied, laughing. "Sir Henry's boys named him
after Alexander's horse Bucephalus; the groom shortened it to Boosey,
and we still keep up the name."

"So he is a classical pony, eh?" said Colonel Herbert; "I suppose the
name was too much of a jaw-breaker for the stablemen. Boosey, however,
is rather a degradation for the bearer of such a title."

"He's a military pony, too," laughed Mary, "for he can stand fire,
uncle. One morning the soldiers were at drill and firing in the Park as
I rode past, and Boosey walked by as quietly as possible. I did feel
half afraid till I remembered that Sir Henry was a field-officer and his
sons were often with him at reviews, one of them always riding the
pony."

"Well, then, my dear, if Boosey is so well trained, would you like to go
with me to-day? There is to be a review at Hyde Park, and you can be
with me near the flagstaff--opposite the firing, you know. Are you sure
you have no fear?"

"Not a bit, uncle, and indeed I should like it so much if papa will
allow me to go."

"Suppose we ride home and ask him."

The horses had been walking while they talked, and the colonel putting
his horse into a trot as he spoke, Boosey started off at full speed,
cantering as fast as his little legs would carry him to keep pace with
the colonel's tall black horse.

They reached Dover Street in a very short time, and Mr. Armstrong,
seeing them approach, came out to welcome the colonel. The request for
Mary was soon made, yet she almost feared that the answer would be
unfavourable when her father said,--"Mary had not breakfasted yet,
colonel; and you know I object to my daughter being seen on horseback in
the neighbourhood of my business after nine o'clock."

"Then let her ride home now to our house and breakfast with us," said
the colonel, quickly.

To this there appeared no objection, and Mr. Armstrong readily gave his
consent, but Mary had not forgotten her mother's fears.

"Oh, father," she exclaimed, "do you think mamma will mind my going? you
know how anxious she always is even when I ride quietly before
breakfast."

Mr. Armstrong was about to say that his wife was not likely to oppose
his wishes, when the colonel exclaimed,--"I will go up and quiet her
fears about Mary's safety."

He was not absent many minutes, but as he remounted his horse Mary knew
he had succeeded, for on looking up she saw her mother at the window
nodding and smiling at her as she rode off with her uncle.

Rowland, who remained behind, stood for a few moments watching his young
mistress as she and her uncle rode towards Piccadilly. Then as he turned
to take his horse to the stables he said to himself,--"Master wont get
his way with that young lady, I can see, with all his queer rules about
what she is to do."

Mary breakfasted with her aunt and uncle in Park Lane, and in less than
an hour after started to be present at the review. She certainly felt a
little nervous at first when she found herself among a group of officers
and ladies on horseback, or in carriages near the flagstaff, especially
when the soldiers were preparing for the first volley.

But Boosey stood firm, and that gave her courage to sit and calmly watch
the varied performances of the men so easily seen from such an
advantageous point of view.

Many questions were asked the colonel respecting the little equestrian,
who looked very attractive in her riding attire. The long curls falling
to the waist over the dark blue riding-habit would have been called
golden in these days; and a black beaver hat, with a drooping feather
and a broad brim, did not quite conceal the fair complexion and delicate
features of the really pretty child. When asked, "Who is your little
friend?" the colonel would merely reply, "My niece." No mention was made
of her name, or of the fact of her being a tradesman's daughter, for in
those days of exclusiveness it would have created a feeling of surprise.

More than fourteen years have passed since Edward Armstrong became the
husband of the young girl who owed her life to his energy and courage.

A marriage under such circumstances was not unlikely to be accompanied
with real affection on both sides, although a union of those who occupy
different positions socially is seldom truly happy.

Notwithstanding the love that made Edward Armstrong gentle and indulgent
to his wife, there yet existed certain phases in his character which
jarred upon her love of refinement, and caused her great annoyance. His
eccentricities, his prejudices, and, at times when angry, a certain
coarseness of manner, were actual pain to his sensitive wife. But she
possessed a natural sweetness of temper that could "turn away wrath" by
a "soft answer" or silence. She had quickly discovered that his will was
law, and brooked no contradiction; and her love of peace as well as her
wifely love very soon taught her to give way to her husband in every
point.

Besides, she had all the comforts and luxuries of a refined home, equal
in many respects to the homes of her sisters, although considered so
inferior in position; a loving and indulgent husband, and four children,
of whom Mary was the eldest and only girl.

Her relatives had not cast her off because of her marriage; the occasion
of their first meeting, when Edward Armstrong had been the means of
saving their sister's life, rendered such an idea impossible. Added to
this, Maria's husband was unmistakably a man of intellectual tastes as
well as education, notwithstanding his eccentricities and peculiar
notions. Association with his wife, and mixing in the society he
sometimes met with at the houses of her sisters, had already increased
his refinement of manner, although nothing could as yet entirely
overcome the effects of narrow minded prejudices.

The custom now so prevalent which enables a man of business to take a
house for his wife and children at a distance from London, was at the
time of which we write a novelty. Railways and omnibuses, by which
London is now filled in the morning and deserted in the evening, were in
a state of progression. Yet Mr. Armstrong could not be persuaded to take
a house out of town; it was a new-fangled notion, he would say, and
quite out of place in a man of business. Mrs. Armstrong's family,
therefore, could only get over the fact of her living above a shop with
her children by ascribing it to her husband's eccentricities.

"My brother-in-law keeps horses, and he could easily ride or drive into
town every day if he chose, but we cannot persuade him to do so," said
Mrs. Herbert to a visitor on one occasion; "but I hope he will give way
at last, especially when his daughter is old enough to be introduced
into society."

But if all these little matters troubled Mrs. Armstrong's family, her
husband felt himself also aggrieved on one point in which she was the
unfortunate cause.

He had quickly discovered after his marriage that his loving and
accomplished wife was totally ignorant of domestic duties or of the
management of a household.

She soon also became conscious of her deficiencies, and tried to acquire
the necessary knowledge by every effort in her power, but in vain; and
her husband, accustomed to the perfect order and regularity of his
mother's house, never appeared satisfied.

This circumstance produced after a time, as their family increased, new
plans on the part of Mr. Armstrong. He engaged a suitable housekeeper,
to regulate the domestic arrangements of his home, and placed the
education of Mary in the hands of her mother, knowing well that no one
could be found more fit for that office.

Gladly Mrs. Armstrong gave up the duties she felt so irksome, and
divided her time between the nursery and the schoolroom. In this way,
notwithstanding the fact that her drawing-room and dining-room were on
the floor above her husband's business, and in spite also of various
annoyances which his eccentric doings in the household often caused, the
years passed away in comfort and happiness, bringing the time in which
this chapter commences.

Mr. Armstrong's next proposition, however, was by no means so
satisfactory to his wife.

About six months before the meeting of Mary with her uncle Herbert
during her morning ride, Mr. Armstrong made his appearance in the
schoolroom, and finding his wife alone, he said apparently with an
effort,--"Maria, my dear, I want to make some little change in Mary's
educational duties; I suppose you have no objection?"

"In what way?" she asked, with a dread in her heart of what her
eccentric husband might be about to propose.

"Why, my dear," he replied, seating himself, "you know your own
deficiencies in domestic knowledge, but I am determined my daughter
shall never fail in that important part of a woman's education; you may
make her as accomplished as you please, I will take care that she is
made domestic."

Mrs. Armstrong had been trained in those days when to stoop to domestic
duties, or to understand how to make a pie or pudding, was considered a
degradation to an accomplished young lady; and to her ultra refinement
there was something repulsive in the idea of her daughter learning the
duties of a cook or a housemaid. But when her husband expressed himself
in such a firm decided manner, she knew it was useless to offer any
opposition, so she merely said faintly,--"What do you wish Mary to do?"

"Send for her, my dear," he replied, "there will be no objections on her
part, I am quite sure."

In a few minutes Mary made her appearance, and listened to her father's
proposition, the subject of which will appear in the next chapter.



CHAPTER VI.

BUCEPHALUS.


"Mamma, oh, do come to the window, there is such a dear little pony
standing at the door, and father is talking to the groom."

Mrs. Armstrong advanced to the drawing-room window at her daughter's
request, and joined with her in admiration of the shiny black coat, and
long mane and tail of Bucephalus, whose purchase had on that morning
been completed.

Some idea of the truth occurred to both mother and daughter when Rowland
appeared and led the pony away. In a very few minutes Mr. Armstrong
himself entered the room, startling Mary by the question,--"Well, my
daughter, how do like your new pony?"

"Mine, father?" (one of Mr. Armstrong's peculiar fancies made him object
to be called "papa," considering it another form of "aping the gentry").
How the blue eyes glittered and the face lighted up with pleasure and
astonishment as Mary spoke.

"Yes, my dear, it is yours on the conditions I spoke of yesterday,"
replied her father, seating himself and drawing his daughter to his
side; "will you be able to fulfil them?"

"I will try, father," she replied, glancing at her mother.

"Your mother will not object, I know," he said, noticing the glance;
"but now listen, and I will tell you more clearly what I expect you to
do, and your reward will be riding lessons for three months at the
Riding School, Albany Street, and the attendance of Rowland while you
canter round the Parks, any morning you like, before breakfast--hear me
out, Mary," he continued, interrupting her expressions of
delight--"Rowland will have orders from me to be here at seven in
summer, and eight in winter, and if you are not ready for your ride
within five minutes of the time, he is to take the ponies back to the
stable, and you will lose your ride."

"Oh, I don't think that will ever happen, dear father," she replied. "I
am so delighted I hardly know how to thank you enough."

"I don't want thanks, my child, if my gift make you an early riser,
which I am very anxious you should be; and you will not forget that I
wish you to spend two hours every morning in learning domestic duties."

"Mary has done this already, Edward," Mrs. Armstrong ventured to remark.

"I know it, my dear," he replied, "but not to the extent I wish.
Although she may never be in a position to require such knowledge,
excepting as the mistress of a house, yet those women make the best
mistresses who know the time, the labour, and the skill required in
every form of domestic work."

"I think you degrade your daughter by this strange request," said Mrs.
Armstrong, whose opinions of what a lady might do without compromising
her dignity and refinement were thoroughly shocked.

"Nothing done by a _lady_," replied Mr. Armstrong, with an emphasis on
the word, "will ever degrade her, if it can be done by a _woman_ without
_disgrace_."

In spite of what were called his singular notions, there was no doubt
perfect truth in this remark. We are reminded by it of George Herbert's
lines:--

    "Who sweeps a room, as in God's laws,
    Makes that and the action fine."

Mary seemed to have the same impression; for after a pause she
said,--"Father, I am quite willing to do as you wish, only----"

"Only what, my child?"

"I was going to say, it would take away the time from my studies, but I
must work all the harder, I suppose, and I don't mind if mamma does
not."

And so in this, at that period unusual association of domestic duties
with refined studies, and the fashionable accomplishment of riding, Mary
Armstrong passed the next two years of her life. Then occurred another
phase in her father's opinion of what his daughter's education should
be.

During the two years to which we have referred, partly as an additional
reward for her efforts to please him, he had provided her with masters
for French and music, and partly to relieve her mother, whose health had
lately been rather uncertain. Mary's young brothers were high-spirited
boys, and soon proved themselves too much for their mother's management.

The two elder were sent to school early, and the youngest, now five
years old, was to accompany them after Midsummer. This was the
opportunity for which Mr. Armstrong waited. He at once put a stop to the
domestic duties, and took his daughter into his counting-house for two
hours daily to act as his clerk; her love of arithmetic he knew would
make this a pleasure to her.

But now worldly opinion interfered. One or two business men connected
with the Corn Exchange, started with surprise at the appearance of a
young girl writing at the desk when introduced to Mr. Armstrong's
counting-house, and when alone with him spoke plainly on the subject.

Not all the domestic work, nor it must be confessed, the occasional
coarseness of her father when angry, could counteract the influence of
her mother on Mary's manner and appearance.

She was growing daily more like her, and the gentle graceful girl was in
every respect a lady, and far superior in manners and appearance to the
daughters of tradesmen in her father's position. Indeed, she knew
nothing of any society but that of her mother's relations. The words
which at last startled Mr. Armstrong were really needed to show him his
error.

"Who is that young lady writing at the desk in your counting-house,
Armstrong?"

"My daughter," he replied, proudly. "I wish her to acquire business
habits, and this is the only plan I can adopt for the purpose."

"Then the sooner you discontinue it the better; nothing can be more
unwise. Do your clerks have access to your counting-house?"

Mr. Armstrong was not without a certain degree of pride in his wife's
connexions, and he flushed high as he replied--"Mrs. Armstrong's
daughter is not likely to notice one of her father's clerks."

His friend shrugged his shoulders as he said,--"Well, Armstrong, you
know best; but if I had such a beautiful girl for my daughter, I would
not degrade her by placing her in a position on a level with those whom
I considered her inferiors."

Half offended as he was, Mr. Armstrong yet took the hint. He returned to
his counting-house and furtively examined the beautiful profile as Mary,
_con amore_, leaned over her task. Her auburn hair hung in massive curls
to her waist, and though braided on her forehead and thrown behind her
ears, the curls drooped over the lower part of her face even to the
paper on which she wrote.

"She's growing more like her mother than ever," was the father's
thought. "I believe it is that profusion of hair which makes her so
attractive; suppose it were cut off or rolled up in some way, I could
insist----" He paused. "No; I should have mother, and aunts, and uncles
all against me. I've had my way in most things, I suppose I must give up
now and put a stop to this."

And so ended Mary's days in the counting-house. The time came when also
for this short insight into business matters she could thank her
father's peculiarities.

Mrs. Armstrong's sisters were, of course, duly informed of all these
eccentric arrangements on the part of her husband, but they knew it was
useless to interfere. They knew also that his influence over his
daughter was too great for them to attempt to counteract it.

"Fancy, Helen," said Mrs. Armstrong one day to her sister, "Mary has not
only to make beds and dust rooms, but actually spends an hour in the
kitchen every morning learning to make pies and puddings, and even how
to roast and boil meat!"

Mrs. Herbert shrugged her shoulders as she replied,--"Well, if all this
nonsense about teaching her the duties of servants and such degrading
employment does not eventually destroy all refinement of feeling and
manners in Mary I shall be very much surprised."

But the two years passed, and the relatives of Mrs. Armstrong were
obliged to own that no such terrible result had happened to their niece.
She appeared at their social gatherings, she rode with her uncle and
cousin Charles on horseback, and drove round the Park with her aunts in
an open carriage, showing plainly both in person, dress, and manners,
that the study of domestic duties had not unfitted her for good society.

Charles Herbert, the colonel's only child, was not only fond of his
cousin Mary, but also a great admirer of his uncle Armstrong. Although
scarcely old enough to retain a correct remembrance of the time when
this uncle had snatched him from a watery grave, yet his mother had
spoken of it to him so often that the impression made on his mind at
four years of age had never been effaced. He once encountered Mary
coming from the kitchen department with her curls tucked up beneath a
white handkerchief, a large coarse apron before her, and her hands
covered with flour.

"Why, Mary," exclaimed the youth of nineteen, "what ever will you do?
there is mamma at the door in her carriage wailing to take you for a
drive!"

"Come to the drawing-room, Charles, and wait for me," she said; "I will
be ready to go with you and aunt in five minutes."

"Then you must be Cinderella," he replied, as he followed her upstairs
as far as the drawing-room, "and have a fairy to help you!"

"So I have, and more than one," she replied, laughing, as she continued
her flight upward.

Mary's fairies were Neatness, Quickness, Order, and Method. Therefore in
very few minutes more than the time she had named she presented herself
in the drawing-room ready for her drive.

All fear that domestic duties would make Mrs. Armstrong's daughter
coarse or unrefined must have vanished at her appearance. She was simply
attired in a pale violet silk dress and cape, with close-fitting gloves,
lace collar and cuffs, and a broad-brimmed hat partly concealing her
face, but not the profusion of auburn ringlets that fell around her
shoulders.

"How like you grow to your mother, my dear," said her aunt, as Mary,
with the softness and refinement of that mother's manner, advanced to
welcome her. And as she rose to accompany her niece to the carriage she
said to herself, "Well, perhaps after all Edward is right--a woman is
none the worse for understanding the management of household duties."

One evening Mary was present at a family dinner-party at her uncle Sir
James Elston's house in Portland Place. Very little had been said to the
old sailor about what Mrs. Armstrong's sisters called the peculiar
manner in which Edward Armstrong was educating his daughter, but that
little had been met by him with a remark that silenced them--

"Making his girl domestic, is he? Wise man, wise man; that's all I can
say."

On this family gathering, Mary, who was now in her sixteenth year, gave
sufficient proof that learning to be domestic had not prevented her from
becoming accomplished. A young French lady was present with whom Mary
conversed with ease in her own tongue.

"You speak with a pure accent, mademoiselle," said the young lady; "have
you resided in France?"

"No," was the reply; "but mamma was at school in Paris for years, and
she has spoken French to me from my infancy."

In the course of the evening Mary was called upon to accompany her aunt
Herbert in a duet for the harp and piano, and in this she succeeded so
well as to gain approbation from every one present.

Another unexpected success awaited her. She had attempted to copy on
ivory a miniature of her mother painted by Sir George Hayter. It was in
truth only the effort of a learner, and by no means so deserving of
praise as her studies of heads and landscapes; yet when Mr. Armstrong
produced it, framed and reposing in a velvet-lined morocco case, it
obtained for her great commendation.

"Oh, papa," said Mary, blushing deeply when she saw it in his hand, "my
painting is not worth all that expense."

"I have had it done to show my approval of your conduct, Mary," said her
father, in a low voice.

The flush on her face deepened at the words. Mary Armstrong sought for
no greater reward than her father's approving smile.

"Well, brother Armstrong," said Colonel Herbert an hour afterwards, when
the party were about to separate, "I must congratulate you on the
success of your plans. If you are as much satisfied with Mary's exploits
in the domestic line as we are with her in other respects, you have no
reason to complain of failure."

And thus armed at all points but _one_ for contact with the world, Mary
Armstrong passed from girlhood to womanhood without a care for the
future.



CHAPTER VII.

FREDDY'S NEW SCHOOL.


More than three years have passed since Mary's probation ended so
pleasantly, and they have very much changed her father.

Perhaps we ought to say that the gentle influence of his wife and close
association with her family, had to a certain extent softened down the
rugged points of his character, and made him more amenable to the usages
of the society in which he moved. The very fact of his choosing for a
wife a woman of education and refinement proved that his tastes were
above his position, for in the days of which we write, the idea of
refinement in the wife of a tradesman would have been treated with
incredulity, if not contempt.

During this period the death of Mrs. Armstrong's mother, Mrs. St. Clair,
was the only change that occurred in his wife's family. The house at
Richmond was given up, and Mary greatly missed the society of her dear
grandmamma, and the pleasant visits to her house; but she still
constantly associated with her aunts and uncles.

Among the changes of opinion which had by degrees crushed down Mr.
Armstrong's prejudices and crotchets, were two important ones, not
perhaps in themselves, but in their results. He took a house for his
family at Kilburn, which was then a really rural suburb of London.

Sometimes he would ride into town to his business, or take the newly
established omnibus which left that locality in time for business hours.

This arrangement led to the less important change from an early to a
late dinner, and also to the choice of a school for his youngest boy,
Freddy, now in his eighth year. The child's health had always suffered
in London, and as, since their residence in the country, he appeared so
much better, Mrs Armstrong wished him to remain at home and go daily to
a school in the neighbourhood.

It was not long before a circular found its way from Englefield Grange
School to Lime Grove, as Mr. Armstrong's residence was named, from two
magnificent lime-trees which stood as sentinels on each side the
entrance gate, in summer filling the air with their sweet fragrance.

Mrs. Armstrong decided to call upon the principal, Dr. Halford, herself,
and with all a mother's anxiety talk to him about her boy.

Her own health had wonderfully improved during the six months of her
residence at Kilburn. The open country--for houses then were few and far
between--the sweet fresh air, the pleasant walks, gave her, as it were,
new life, and last, but not least, the six o'clock dinner suited her
better than a late supper. Mr. Armstrong would sometimes tell her she
was growing young again, and it may be understood well how her relatives
rejoiced over the change in her husband's opinions which had brought
about such pleasant results. This improved state of health enabled Mrs.
Armstrong to array herself fearlessly in warm winter clothing, and
venture out in the cold frosty air a few weeks after Christmas, to call
upon Dr. Halford. The distance along the country road was very trifling,
and she had more than once noticed the large old-fashioned house which
stood back from the road, surrounded by playgrounds, orchards, and a
farmyard, all visible to the passer-by.

The vacation was nearly at an end, and the house, with its large
dormitories and schoolrooms, in perfect readiness for the return of Dr.
Halford's pupils. Its clean and well-furnished appearance satisfied the
rather fastidious lady, although she had no intention of sending her boy
as a boarder. She had been conducted to a pleasant drawing-room
overlooking a beautiful prospect at the back of the house, and instead
of taking the chair placed for her she advanced to the window to admire
the view. While thus standing, she almost started as the door opened and
the doctor entered.

A mildly speaking man, above the middle height, with silvery hair and
keen intellectual eyes, advanced to greet the visitor, who quickly
discerned that the schoolmaster, of whose erudition she had heard so
much, was truly a gentleman of the old school. The cavalier deference in
his manner to women, the old-fashioned courtesy with which he requested
Mrs. Armstrong to be seated, and addressed her as "Madam," were
essentially pleasing to that lady. They were soon quite at home on the
subject of education, and Dr. Halford added no little to the
prepossession he had created by listening to her anxieties respecting
Freddy's health with courteous interest.

"You have children of your own, Dr. Halford?" said Mrs. Armstrong, in a
tone of inquiry.

"I have two living, madam; a son and a daughter. My son is being
educated for the Church, but at present he assists me in my school."

"And your daughter in the domestic arrangements, I presume," said the
lady, with a kind of wish to know whether other men were as anxious over
that point as her husband.

"She was accustomed to do so before her marriage," he replied, "but she
has resided for several years with her husband in Australia. My son is
much younger than his sister. She is the eldest of seven, and he the
youngest."

Mrs. Armstrong mentally reflected on the sorrowful loss of five
children, which must have caused such a terrible gap between the only
surviving son and daughter, for there had been a sadness in his tone
when he last spoke. Her own sympathies were too strong, and the memory
of the loss of two children since Freddy, too painful still to allow her
to continue the subject, so she said--

"When do you commence school again, Dr. Halford?"

"On Monday, madam," was the reply. "Would you like to see the
schoolrooms and dining-rooms?" he added, "as your little boy is to dine
with us."

Mrs. Armstrong gladly assented, and on her way to these apartments met
Mrs. Halford, with whom she was equally pleased to make acquaintance.
After a stay of nearly an hour, she at last took her leave of the doctor
and his wife, saying--

"I shall send my little boy on Monday week, Dr. Halford, not before, and
I feel sure he will make progress under your care, and be quite happy."

The terms for so young a pupil were not of such great importance as to
justify Dr. Halford's pleasure at this addition to his numbers, but he
had been as quick to detect a gentlewoman in Mrs. Armstrong as she had
been respecting himself. Besides, he had heard rumours already of the
wealth and good connexions of the family at Lime Grove, and the latter
fact was more especially agreeable to him.

A clergyman who is a schoolmaster and his wife are both often well born
and well connected though poor, and naturally they prefer to teach boys
who learn refinement and good breeding at home, to those who are perhaps
better paid for by parents who think everything, even intellect and good
manners, can be obtained for money.

Mrs. Armstrong returned home at a quick pace; the pleasure she felt at
being able to place her delicate Freddy with such nice people, and the
fresh bracing air of the cold morning, invigorated her so greatly that
Mary, who met her in the hall, exclaimed--

"Why, mamma, you look quite young and blooming, and as happy as if you
had heard pleasant news!"

"Well, dear, I think I have, for Dr. Halford is one of the nicest
schoolmasters I ever met with, rather of the old school in manners, but
not in the least pedantic, and I like Mrs. Halford exceedingly, there is
such a kind, motherly way about her, and they are both really well
bred."

"So I suppose you intend Freddy to go there to school, mamma?" said
Mary.

"Yes, indeed I do, my dear; and I am so pleased with the house and the
arrangements, that if the Grange were not too near home, I should like
to send Arthur and Edward as boarders. But I begin to feel rather tired,
darling," she added, throwing herself into an easy-chair, "although the
fresh bracing air seems to have given me new life."

"Ah, yes, so it may," cried Mary, "but, mamma, I can see you are tired;
all the bright colour on your checks is beginning to fade already, so
you must sit quite still in that chair till luncheon time; it will soon
be ready, and I will take off your things and carry them upstairs while
you rest."

The fairies of old are still Mary's attendants; gently and quickly she
removed her mother's bonnet and wraps, and running upstairs with them,
returned in a very few minutes with her head-dress, which she arranged
tastefully on the pale brown hair, still worn in side curls as in the
days of her youth.

Mrs. Armstrong has not yet reached the age of forty, and the delicate
health of the last few years has only rendered her fair complexion more
delicate and her physical powers weaker, without adding age to her
appearance or a single grey hair to the shining curls which hang on each
side of her face.

As Mary Armstrong stands by her mother, smoothing the soft ringlets, it
is plainly to be seen that the pretty child of twelve has developed into
a very beautiful woman. At the age of eighteen she resembles her mother
only in complexion, eyes, and hair. Her features, though as regular, are
not so delicately chiselled, they are larger and more marked; and in
this, as in an expression of calm decision, the resemblance to her
father is very striking. It is when she smiles, and her blue eyes light
up with pleasure and interest, that strangers often exclaim, "How like
you are to your mother, Miss Armstrong!" Mary has grown very little
since the time when her cousin named her "Cinderella," but she looks
taller, partly on account of her figure having fully developed into
rounded proportions, but principally because the curls have disappeared.
They have been tortured into plaits and massive coils at the back of her
head, but true to Nature they often rebel, and escape here and there in
the form of ringlets--often unnoticed by their owner, but when pointed
out to her they are unceremoniously pushed back.

Mary is still influenced by the words of her father; he once said to
her, "Mary, can you not arrange your hair as other girls do? those long
curls are too childish at your age."

From this moment, to her mother's great regret, she, as it was then
called, "turned up her hair" in the way we have described.

Her aunts approved, because this arrangement was less singular and more
fashionable, which latter fact would have greatly surprised Mr.
Armstrong. At all events, they differed from him in one respect still.
When the rebellious hair would escape from the plaits in stray ringlets
while in the company of her aunts, Mary had at first attempted to reduce
them to submission, but she was quickly interrupted. "Leave your hair
alone, Mary," her aunt Herbert exclaimed; "why, those stray ringlets are
most effective, and quite an improvement to the appearance of your head.
Surely your father will not object to what is natural; if you curled it
in paper every night to produce an effect, then he might complain or
disapprove."

Mary laughed, but when visiting at her aunt's she allowed Nature to act
as she pleased. Yet at home there seemed no happier task to the young
girl than to give way to every wish of her father, whether openly
expressed or slightly hinted at, no matter to what it referred. It was a
kind of hero-worship in the girl's heart. Her father was her hero, and
the fact that she did not love him with the same clinging fondness as
she loved her mother was quite unknown to herself.

Mary Armstrong certainly obeyed the command, "Honour thy father and thy
mother;" yet in the family at Lime Grove there was still one thing
wanting, "the perfect love that casteth out fear."

The principles of honour, rectitude, truthfulness, generosity, and other
moral virtues were cultivated in Mary's home, but the "charity, or
love," without which, St. Paul tells us, all our doings are as "sounding
brass and tinkling cymbals," was wanting. Love to God and love to man,
on which "hang all the law and the commandments," were known only in
theory.

Mary Armstrong had yet to learn that to her Father in heaven she must
turn in trouble and sorrow, and in future days she might have said
almost in the words of Wolsey, "Had I but served my Father in heaven as
diligently as I studied to please my father on earth, He would not have
forsaken me now in my hour of sorrow." And yet for these days of trial
Mary at last could feel thankful. Christianity in her home had been an
acknowledged fact. Its outward duties, its moral principles, were all
inculcated; but when our daily life passes smoothly, untroubled, by
sorrow or poverty, which is, perhaps, the hardest trial of all to bear,
especially when accompanied by sickness and pain, we are apt to forget
the sweet principle of love to God and love to man which, St. Paul tells
us, "is the fulfilling of the law;" and Mary Armstrong's life hitherto
had known no trials more painful than those caused by her father's
eccentricities.



CHAPTER VIII.

ENGLEFIELD GRANGE.


More than thirty-five years before the period of which we write, James
Halford, who had been travelling tutor to the son of a nobleman,
commenced a school at Bayswater, then a pretty rural village. His
father, a country surgeon in good practice, had given his only son a
superior education, but the young man had no liking for his father's
profession. To send James to the university Mr. Halford felt would be
beyond his means, and the young man's wish to enter the Church was
therefore set aside, causing him great disappointment. Ultimately he was
engaged as tutor to the youth already spoken of, and while with him in
that capacity became acquainted with the governess of his sisters, Clara
Marston, whom he afterwards married. At the death of his father a small
but unexpected amount of money fell into his hands. He almost
immediately relinquished his engagement with the son of Lord Rivers, and
took a house at Bayswater. Trifling as the sum was, it still formed a
sufficient capital upon which to commence a school, and so well had he
performed his duty with his pupil that the high recommendation of the
young man's relatives soon gained him several pupils. Six months after
his father's death Clara Marston became his wife. For ten years they
continued to carry on their school most successfully, till bricks and
mortar had completely destroyed the countrified character of the place,
and obliged them at last to seek a home elsewhere.

Armies of builders were already invading the beautiful fields and
meadows in the neighbourhood; long rows of small semi-detached cottages,
at rentals varying from 20_l._ to 50_l._ a year, sprung up as if by
magic. Worse still, when the long leases of many old red brick mansions
expired they were quickly demolished, and not only on their sites, but
in the midst of the beautiful gardens and pleasure-grounds belonging to
them arose piles of inferior buildings, bringing to their owners a quick
return for the capital expended. The same spoliation of Nature is still
going on around us, and in these days of utilitarianism how can it be
avoided?

The loveliest of Nature's landscapes--the bright flowers of a well-kept
garden--the glorious old trees, from the tops of which is heard the
musical cawing of rooks--the red brick mansion with its many windows
glittering in the setting sun, and its colour contrasting picturesquely
with the green foliage--the stream of limpid water with the graceful
swans gliding on its shadowed surface,--all this is very lovely to see,
and belongs to the beautiful, but "will it pay?" is the question asked
now; and the practical man of business knows that _money_ not
"_knowledge_ is power," in these days of mammon-worship. So the
beautiful is sacrificed without regret if it can be replaced by
something that "pays better."

This brick-building mania, however, hastened Mr. Halford's removal from
a house already too small for his increased number of pupils and rising
family. His gentle firmness with the former, and his wife's clever
domestic management, had made them very successful, and when they
removed to their present commodious residence all their pupils followed
them, and others were quickly added to their number.

Many sorrows, however, had overtaken them during the twenty-five years
at Englefield Grange. Of their seven children two only survived, the
eldest and the youngest.

Fanny Halford at the age of twenty had married, and accompanied her
husband to Melbourne about fourteen years before the time of which we
write. The youngest, Henry, a studious reading boy, was therefore the
only hope of his parents. Dr. Halford, remembering his own
disappointment about entering the Church, watched his boy anxiously, and
as he grew from childhood to youth discovered with satisfaction that his
wish to become a clergyman was as strong as his own had been.

Indeed, the youth's tastes all tended to such a result. At eight years
old he commenced Greek; Cæsar, Horace, and Virgil were the companions of
his play-hours, history an amusement, and poetry a delight. When these
talents developed themselves Mr. Halford could not control his regret at
a lost opportunity. Henry had not reached his seventh year when a friend
obtained for him a presentation to Christ's Hospital; but the mother,
who had followed so many children to the grave, could not spare her
youngest boy. Mr. Halford hesitated to press it, and so the opportunity
was lost. Now, however, she was ready to make any possible sacrifice to
help in carrying out his own and his father's wishes.

When Henry Halford reached the age of sixteen it became necessary to
make some decision as to his future. He had his faults, as all young
people have, and they had been to a certain extent fostered by the
indulgence of his loving mother and sister. Fanny was twelve years older
than her brother, and knowing how he hated the restrictions of order and
neatness, she would, during his early boyhood, quietly set to rights
untidy rooms, carefully replace scattered books, and forgive his seeming
indifference to her kind attention. Even a certain irritation of temper
was passed over by mother and sister, for if he was hasty, was he not
quick to forgive? and who so penitent as Henry Halford after uttering an
angry or unjust word? Besides, they reasoned, studious and imaginative
people were often very irritable. After his sister's marriage, he had
another to spoil him in her place, of whom we shall hear more by-and-by.
And so the time passed on till his father felt it necessary to obtain
for his son suitable preparation for the university.

One evening he broached the subject to his wife. "My dear," he said,
"there is no one to whom I could send Henry with so much confidence as
to Dr. Mason; he is a man of high standing, and his pupils scarcely ever
fail in passing for the professions in which he prepares them. He took a
first class at Oxford, and has had many years' experience."

"Are not his terms a hundred a year?" asked Mrs. Halford.

"Yes," was the reply, "but I have thought the matter over seriously;
Henry must be with Dr. Mason two years at least, and we can spare the
200_l._, Clara dear, don't you think so?"

"Indeed, I do," she replied; "I would make any sacrifice rather than
interfere with the dear boy's prospects."

"There will be no sacrifice," said her husband, "even if it should cost
the whole of the thousand pounds I have saved for him, to send him to
the university. Fanny has had her share, and if Henry is willing for his
portion to be spent on preparation for the Church we cannot object to
his wishes."

"And is he willing?" asked the mother, who was ready to give up double
the sum named by her husband if by so doing she could gratify her son.

"More than willing, he is most anxious. I never saw the boy look so
eager and delighted as when he found I could spare the money I had set
aside for him without inconvenience to myself. I explained to him the
whole cost--200_l._ for two years with Dr. Mason,--and, at the lowest
estimate, 600_l._ while at Oxford. Altogether, with coaching, private
tutor, ordination fees, and other expenses, a thousand pounds will just
about cover it."

"You have set my mind at ease, James, about the boy," said Mrs. Halford.
"In six or seven years he will be ordained, and by that time, if our
school continues to be successful, we may still have something to leave
to our children after all."

"And you forget, my dear, that if I should be laid up or unable to work,
Henry as a clergyman will be much more suitable to carry on the school
than myself, although I have a foreign degree. And after my death there
will be an income for him to fall back upon if he does not speedily
obtain a living."

"Don't anticipate evil," said the hopefully proud mother. "God grant we
may both live to see our son a useful minister in the Church before we
die, whether as curate or rector."

And in this happy prospect Henry Halford, at the age of seventeen, had
been placed with Dr. Mason to prepare for matriculation at Oxford.

The breakfast parlour at the Grange was situated at the back of the
house, looking over the prospect so admired by Mrs. Armstrong. The sun
shining upon the front of the house during the summer afternoon made
this apartment cool and pleasant for tea, which was now prepared on a
table near the window.

Close to it sat a lady past middle age, yet most attractive in
appearance. On her white silky hair rested a lace cap tastefully
trimmed; beneath the white hair and strongly contrasted with it were
dark eyes, eyebrows, and lashes, still reminding those who knew her in
youth of the bright and lively Clara Marston. The soft, patient face has
now lost its vivacity, but it is not the less pleasing on that account.
Her hand held a stocking, but it rested on her lap, her thoughts were
evidently far away.

The door opened and Dr. Halford entered, followed by his niece, who
exclaimed--

"Aunt, I declare you have been mending stockings, but I mean to hide
that stocking-basket out of your sight; and now you are to make yourself
comfortable in your easy-chair while I pour out the tea."

Mrs. Halford smiled, but she submitted quietly to her niece's
injunctions, gave up the stocking which she took from her passive hand,
and then drew her aunt's chair nearer to the table.

Happy as they appeared, Mrs. Halford could scarcely, even after the
lapse of ten years, repress a sigh as she saw her niece take her absent
daughter's place.

Perhaps she felt thankful at not being able to trace a likeness in her
brother's daughter to her own Fanny, who in features, eyes, and hair so
much resembled herself. But in truth Kate Marston was a great comfort to
her aunt and uncle. Plain and homely, with a fair skin and rosy cheeks
that betokened her north-country origin, she was yet active, methodical,
and industrious--a daughter in loving attention to her aunt and uncle,
and at all times good-tempered and cheerful.

"Uncle," she said presently, "you need not hide your letter, I saw the
postman give you one this afternoon."

Mrs. Halford looked up quickly. "Is it from Dr. Mason?" she asked.

"Well, yes, it is," he replied. "I wanted to wait till we had finished
tea, but Katey is impatient, so I suppose I must read it at once."

"Yes, uncle, of course you must; I saw the postmark when you took it in,
so no wonder I am impatient."

We also need not wonder, for the orphan daughter of Mrs. Halford's only
brother had no hopes or interests beyond those of Englefield Grange; and
although she had long passed the ominous age of thirty she had no
thought of marriage.

Dr. Halford took the letter from his pocket, and not even the mother's
eyes could be brighter with interest as she listened while her husband
read than those of Kate Marston. And this is what Dr. Mason wrote
respecting the dearly loved son and cousin:--

     "MY DEAR SIR,--When you requested me to send you my opinion
     respecting the abilities and character of your son Henry at the
     end of one month, I feared it would be too soon to enable me to
     form a correct judgment.

     "I might, however, have done so safely, for as I found him
     during the first month he still continues; to even a
     superficial observer his character and tendencies are plainly
     distinguishable. I never met with a youth less reticent or more
     transparent,--too much so indeed for contact with the world; he
     is fearless of consequences, and careless of concealment.

     "I have been led to form this opinion from mere trifling
     matters which have come under my notice. A want of order and
     neatness, and a reckless disregard to rules, have made him
     break them openly, and as if unconscious that by so doing he
     was deserving of blame. I am inclined to think that Master
     Henry's mamma and cousin are answerable for all this, for the
     boy acts as if he had been accustomed to be waited upon hand
     and foot.

     "He has a high proud spirit which will brook no insult; yet,
     quick as he is to resent, he is equally quick to forgive, and
     when he has given offence by a hasty or unjust remark he is
     ready to acknowledge it and to apologise in a moment. He is
     warm-hearted and generous to a fault, and a great favourite
     with some of my best pupils, all older than himself.

     "Perhaps one great cause for this may arise from their
     admiration of his talents. My dear friend, you did not prepare
     me for such a genius as your boy. You have, no doubt,
     instructed him well, but there is in him a natural love for the
     acquirement of knowledge for its own sake, and indeed talents,
     which if cultivated will one day make of him a great man.

     "Do not hesitate to send him to the university; and if he still
     wishes to become a clergyman, encourage him by all means to
     work for that end.

     "The power over his own language which he displays in his
     translations of the Greek and Latin poets is wonderful in a
     youth of his age. He never seems at a loss for a word to
     express the true meaning of the original, and his English
     themes are superior in many respects to those of my oldest
     pupils.

     "The style wants training and pruning, like a plant of
     luxurious growth, till it reaches perfection and beauty. Time
     and experience will do this, and I have no fear for the result.

     "In mathematical studies, however, he is rather deficient, but
     for these he appears to have no predilection. I shall not allow
     him to give them up entirely, although I have no hopes of
     making him a mathematician. My epistle is extending itself
     beyond all reasonable limits, but I was most anxious to give
     you my candid opinion of your son's character and abilities,
     and I trust I have complied with your request in a satisfactory
     manner.

     "With kind regards to Mrs. Halford and your niece, believe me
     to be

     "Most faithfully yours,

     "M. MASON."



CHAPTER IX.

LOOKING BACK.


A few miles from Meadow Farm, the birthplace of Edward Armstrong, stood
a nobleman's mansion, which in spite of modern alterations and
adornments, gave numerous proofs of its antiquity. The building formed
three sides of a square, the fourth enclosed by iron railings and a
curiously carved gate, gilded escutcheons and coats of arms forming its
chief ornaments. The house stood on the brow of a hill, looking across
the town of Basingstoke, which lay beneath it at a distance of a few
miles.

A streamlet, issuing in little rills from springs on the summit of the
ascent, fell in tiny cascades through woody glens and artificial
grottoes till it approached the house. Here it formed a miniature lake
on which the majestic swans sailed in stately pride. Continuing its
course, it passed under a rustic bridge, a limpid stream, in which the
speckled trout sported, fearless of the angler's line, beneath the
shadow of lofty elms or gracefully bending willows.

Within, the house was equally attractive. A large hall occupied the
centre of the building, its lofty dimensions reaching to the roof, and
lighted by tall narrow windows which faced the entrance gates. From this
hall, doors and a noble staircase led to other apartments, the
dining-room and drawing-room occupying a similar space at the back. In
the former room, a few days after the marriage of Arthur Franklyn to
Fanny Halford, a family party were assembled at breakfast. From a deep
oriel window, with its lattice and diamond panes open to the sweet
perfumed air of spring, could be seen, not only gardens, shrubberies,
and a richly wooded park, but a distant prospect of hill and valley,
field and meadow, equalled, no doubt, but not often surpassed in our
fertile island.

The furniture of the room, though suited to its antique architecture,
wore an appearance of brightness which the light though simple morning
attire of some of its occupants greatly increased.

The party consisted of three ladies, a gentleman in the prime of life,
and a youth of sixteen. The eldest of the ladies, though pale and
delicate, appeared almost too youthful to be the mother of the two girls
of seventeen and nineteen who sat at the table by her side.

The younger of them had the _Times_ newspaper in her hand, and appeared
to be deeply engaged in examining its first column. The elder presided
at the breakfast-table.

"Well, Dora," said her father, "what have you found in the paper
interesting enough to make you oblivious to the fact that your breakfast
is getting cold?"

"Why, papa," she replied, laughing, "I am not particularly interested,
but puzzled with the advertisement of a wedding. The house of the
bride's father has the same name as ours,--at least, not exactly; but
listen, papa.

"'On the 6th instant, at the parish church, Kilburn, Arthur Leigh
Franklyn, Esq., solicitor, of Clement's Inn, London, and Brook House,
Clapton, to Frances Clara, only daughter of Dr. Halford, Englefield
Grange, Kilburn.'"

"Halford's daughter married!" exclaimed the earl, for such he was;
"truly indeed time flies: it seems but the other day that he and I were
travelling together on the Continent, and studying men and manners."

"Oh, papa, I remember now. Dr. Halford was your tutor. I thought I had
heard the name; but how came his house to be called Englefield Grange?"

"A liberty rather, I should say," remarked the young heir to the title
and estate, Lord Robert, Viscount Woodville.

"My _friend_ James Halford," said Earl Rivers, with a stress upon the
word, "intended it as a compliment, Robert, yet he waited for my
father's permission before he named his house Englefield Grange. My
conscience smites me for having neglected him so long. I must pay them a
visit this season while we are in London."

"I have heard your mother speak of Dr. Halford," said Lady Rivers; "did
he not marry your sister's governess?"

"Yes, Clara Marston. Why, it must be two or three and twenty years ago.
They lived at Bayswater for some time after their marriage, but I have
seen nothing of them since they removed to Kilburn."

"And this daughter, papa," said Lady Dora, "did you ever see her?"

"Well, my dear, I have some recollection of a little dark-eyed girl
named Fanny, to whom I was introduced in one of my visits at Bayswater.
She was then, I should say, about eight years old, and the Halfords have
resided nearly eleven years at Kilburn."

"If the little girl was named Fanny, papa, she must be the same who has
just married, for the name in the paper is Frances. Oh yes," added Lady
Dora, after another glance at the _Times_, "and it says only daughter,
so this must be the bride."

"You appear greatly interested in this young married lady, my dear,"
said her father.

Lady Dora blushed. Her interest was only that of girls of seventeen in
all ranks of society about brides in general, and one in particular if
her age, parentage, and antecedents are known. "I think I am interested
now," replied the young lady, "because you knew the bride when she was a
little girl, and her father was your tutor; but the name of Englefield
first attracted me in the newspaper. Papa," she continued after a slight
pause, during which no one spoke, "Englefield is a strange title for any
house, especially such a beautiful estate as this. Do you know how it
originated?"

"From nothing very mysterious or romantic," said her father,
laughing,--"at least, none that I ever heard of. According to the
etymology of the word, however, we ought to be descended from the
gipsies, for Engle is evidently derived from the old Saxon word Ingle,
which signifies a hearth or chimney corner. Ingle or Engle in a field,
as the name of this estate implies, must denote a cosy, homelike
fireplace, in a meadow or on a common, such as only gipsies can invent.
But you must decide upon this matter yourself, Dora," continued the
earl, as he rose and looked at his watch; "I have no time for farther
discussion upon the origin of a name which belonged to this estate more
than four hundred years ago."

"How very absurd you are, Dora!" said her elder sister, when the earl
had left the room, "just as if it mattered to us what originated the
name of an estate which has descended to papa through so many
generations. And why you should be interested about the marriage of a
schoolmaster's daughter I cannot imagine."

"A schoolmaster's daughter!" repeated Lady Dora, "I did not know Dr.
Halford kept a school."

"He does, my dear," said Lady Rivers, gently, "but Dr. Halford and his
wife are truly well-bred people, and their profession has never lessened
the respect and kind interest with which both your father and
grandfather have always treated them."

Lady Mary Woodville shrugged her shoulders; she had been a frequent
visitor at her grandmother's, the Dowager Lady Rivers, and this lady's
influence and opinions had fostered in the heart of Lady Mary her
natural pride of birth, and a foolish contempt for those who had to work
for their living.

"You have not much to boast of, Mary," said her brother, laughing, as he
rose from his seat and approached the window, "if, as papa suggests, we
are descended from the gipsies."

"What nonsense you talk, Robert!" replied his sister.

"Well, perhaps I ought to have addressed you, Dora, instead of Mary, for
with your brown face and your flashing black eyes you are an out-and-out
little gipsy;" but as the youth spoke, his glance of affection too
plainly proved that the "little gipsy" was a favourite sister.

"I am like papa, Robert," she replied, good-naturedly.

"Of course you are, my dear," said Lady Rivers, "and he has nothing of
the gipsy about him; but do not waste time in talking nonsense.--Robert,
I thought you asked Dora to ride with you this morning, and the sooner
you order the horses the better, for this bright April weather may not
continue all day."

Lord Robert hastened to follow his mother's advice, while Lady Dora
gladly escaped from the room to prepare for her ride.

This little peep into the domestic habits and manners of the family at
Englefield will give our readers some idea of the pleasant home in which
James Halford met his future wife, Clara Marston, in the years gone by.

The present Earl Rivers, who had been Dr. Halford's pupil for three
years from the age of twenty-one, had reached his forty-fifth year at
the time of which we write. Well might Lady Rivers assert that there was
nothing of the gipsy in his appearance, in spite of the dark eyes and
hair in which, as well as in features, his youngest daughter so strongly
resembled him. Lord Rivers' tall, commanding figure, noble bearing, and
marked features belonged to the class which an Englishman designates
aristocratic. Yet he had no proud assumption of superiority on this
account. Although polished and refined, and a true English gentleman of
the olden times, his manners were simple and unobtrusive; and now, as he
rides his horse slowly through the park and along the road to the
station, he recalls with pain the fact that he has neglected his friend
Dr. Halford long enough for his little daughter Fanny, whose marriage is
in the _Times_, to grow to womanhood and become a bride.

"I will pay them a visit next week," was his decision at length, as he
put his horse into a canter.

April had fulfilled its proverbial destiny. It had passed away in
"showers" and sunshine, leaving behind as its trophies the "May flowers"
which were to gladden the earth with their beauty and fragrance in this
the first summer month of the year.

One morning, while Kate Marston was busy in one of the rooms overlooking
the road, she saw a gentleman on horseback stop at the gate and alight.
She heard the peal of the gate bell, and then the question to the
man-servant who answered it--

"Is Dr. Halford at home?"

The next moment the tall figure of a stranger to Kate approached the
house, and she could hear the footsteps ascending the stairs to the
drawing-room.

"Some gentleman about pupils," said Kate to herself, as she returned to
her occupation. Yet she could not get rid of the idea that the visitor
was not exactly of the same stamp as those who generally presented
themselves at Englefield Grange.

Meanwhile Dr. Halford's man-servant had placed a card in his master's
hand which made him rise hastily from his desk, leave the schoolroom to
the care of the assistants, and hasten upstairs to welcome his visitor.

As the two gentlemen shook hands, so many recollections of the past
thronged to their memories that neither for a moment could utter a word.
Lord Rivers recovered himself first.

"Doctor," he said, the old familiar title coming naturally to his lips,
"I am positively ashamed to meet you again after so many years of
neglect, but here I am at last, to plead for myself, and ask you and
your wife to forgive me."

"Lord Rivers," replied Dr. Halford, "there is nothing to forgive. I know
too well what the demands upon the time of a man in your position must
be, and my old pupil will always be welcome at Englefield Grange;" and
as the gentleman spoke he placed a chair for his visitor and begged him
to be seated.

"And this is the house you have named after Englefield," said the earl.
"Well, it is a charming spot; and what a splendid prospect from that
window!" he added, rising and approaching to obtain a more extended
view. "I feel myself honoured by your choice of a name for such a
residence."

"It can scarcely be called an honour," said the doctor, "but this house
is a great improvement upon the one at Bayswater; do you remember it,
Lord Rivers?"

"Indeed I do, to my regret. My last visit there must be nearly ten years
ago, and that reminds me--I will make my confession at once--I saw in
the _Times_ of last week a notice of the marriage of your only daughter.
I suppose the little Fanny I met at my last visit. The name of
Englefield Grange attracted my youngest daughter's notice, and when she
pointed it out to me I felt inclined to say, like the chief butler in
Pharaoh's court, 'I do remember my faults this day.'"

"My dear Lord Rivers," began Dr. Halford, but the visitor stopped him.

"I will not say another word on the subject, doctor. And now tell me all
about your daughter; whom she has married, and how many sons you have.
And one question I should have asked first--how is Mrs. Halford? I must
not go away without seeing her."

Dr. Halford was at this time fourteen years younger than on the day when
Mrs. Armstrong called upon him to arrange about her little boy; a man
still in the prime of life, scarcely ten years older than his late
pupil, yet the parting with his only daughter had sprinkled the first
grey streaks in his dark hair, and already aged him in appearance. Lord
Rivers had brought to his memory the occasion to which his lordship had
referred. On that last visit at Bayswater, Fanny, the eldest, had not
been the _only_ girl: his family consisted then of five children; four
of these he had lost during a few succeeding years, and of the two boys
born since, his son Henry alone survived.

The bereaved father felt that while the loss of his daughter Fanny was
such a recent event he must nerve himself before he could call up old
memories to enlighten his kind visitor.

Lord Rivers, he knew, was actuated by the kindest interest in
questioning him on the past, and the earl's present ideas about Fanny's
marriage were formed on the supposition that it was a matter for
congratulation, and a time of joyful hopes. All this was evident to Dr.
Halford, and he gladly seized upon the opportunity offered by the
mention of Mrs. Halford's name to say--

"Lord Rivers, you will stay and lunch with us in our plain simple way;
you must not refuse, indeed you must not, for the sake of olden times,"
he added quickly, as he noticed a look of hesitation in his friend's
face.

"I do not mean to refuse," said his lordship, "but I was thinking about
the horses and my groom; if he could be told to take them to the inn for
an hour or so, and get provender for them and himself, I will gladly
remain with you to lunch."

Glad of an excuse to leave the room and tell Mrs. Halford of the
arrival, Dr. Halford, with a hasty apology and a promise to send the
order of Lord Rivers to the groom, left the gentleman to himself.

But Mrs. Halford, the Clara Marston of olden times, was more calm and
self-possessed in cases of emergency than her erudite husband. She had
heard from Kate of the arrival of a gentleman on horseback, and from
Thomas the name on the card.

Giving orders at once for lunch to be prepared in the private
dining-room, she made some trifling addition to her dress, and waited
for a summons from her husband.

As he left the drawing-room she met him on the stairs.

"Lord Rivers is here, Clara," was his flurried remark.

"I know it, my dear; everything is ready. Whither are you going?"

"To send Thomas out to the groom about the horses. You go up to the
visitor; he is going to lunch with us."

"Do not be long," she said, as she continued her way upstairs and
entered the room.

Lord Rivers started forward with pleasure to receive her, and in a very
few minutes they were talking eagerly of old times at Englefield, when
the earl, then Lord Woodville, a youth in his teens, had been sometimes
a troublesome intruder on the school hours or music and drawing lessons
of his two young sisters, Miss Marston's pupils.

Presently Dr. Halford joined them; he was more able to touch upon family
sorrows with his wife for an ally, and a great amount of the sad part of
the details was got over before the summons to lunch.

In one point, however, Lord Rivers did some real good.

Dr. Halford was expressing a kind of mournful regret that his daughter's
marriage should take her so far away from home, when Lord Rivers
interrupted him.

"My dear doctor, you are not keeping pace with the times. In the present
day a voyage to Australia is not more distant as regards time than
America or even the Mediterranean in years gone by. And the wonderful
facility of communication by post unites friends personally separated by
thousands of miles as closely in these days of rapid travelling as those
who a hundred years ago merely occupied different parts of our own
little island."

"Very true," replied Dr. Halford, "yet, still----" and he paused.

"Not satisfied yet?" exclaimed Lord Rivers, cheeringly, as they
descended to the dining-room. "Are you more hopeful about your daughter,
Mrs. Halford?"

"I am getting more reconciled to her loss," was the reply, "and perhaps
in time the interchange of letters and news of Fanny's happiness will
complete the cure."

During luncheon the conversation became more cheerful, and Lord Rivers
was about to express his regret that he must leave such pleasant
society, when the door opened and a little blue-eyed boy of about eight
years old entered the room.

"Ah," exclaimed the visitor, "this is your youngest child, doctor, I
suppose, of whom you were speaking just now.--Come here, my little man,
and shake hands with papa's friend."

The boy advanced fearlessly and placed his little hand in that of his
father's old pupil, while he looked in the face of Lord Rivers with
bright, intelligent eyes, and that peculiar smile which even in
childhood added such a charm to the face of Henry Halford.

"My only boy, Henry, and my only child now, I may say," was the remark
of the father, in a rather sad tone.

"I see nothing in that fact calculated to make you speak sadly, doctor,"
said the nobleman, pushing back the brown curls from the child's broad
white forehead. "There is room for any amount of knowledge here, I
should say. Are you fond of your books, my boy?"

"I like reading history," replied Henry, simply--"all about those
wonderful Greeks and Romans, and the great Northmen that conquered so
many countries," and then the child paused suddenly, as if ashamed of
his enthusiasm.

Lord Rivers, with a glance at the radiant face of the proud mother, drew
the boy nearer to him, and said--

"Go on, Henry, tell me what books you like best; have you begun to learn
Latin yet?"

"Oh yes, sir," said Henry, "I've been all through my Latin grammar and
the Delectus, and now I'm learning Greek."

"So you mean to be a learned man like your father, eh, Master Henry?"

"I don't know, sir; but I should like to be a learned man very much."

"And I daresay you will, if you study very hard."

Lord Rivers glanced at his old tutor as he spoke, and said, "What do you
mean to make of this boy, doctor?"

"Go into the schoolroom, Henry," said his father, "and ask Mr. Howard to
assemble the classes for afternoon school."

Henry turned to obey. Lord Rivers detained him a moment.

"May I?" he said, holding a sovereign in his hand, which could only be
seen by Dr. Halford. "Just a trifle to purchase any books he may choose,
and consider them my present."

There was a silent acquiescence to this appeal, which Lord Rivers
quickly understood.

Turning to the boy he placed the sovereign in his hand, saying,
"Good-by, Henry; there is something to buy you any books you wish for,
and you must call them my present."

The child for a moment looked bewildered, then he turned to his father
with inquiring eyes.

"Thank Lord Rivers for his kind present, Henry," said his father, "and
when you have delivered my message to Mr. Howard you can return here."

"Thank you, Lord Rivers," said the child; and then with an earnest look
in the nobleman's face he asked, "Was papa your tutor once?"

"Yes, my boy," said the earl; and as he stooped to kiss the bright,
intelligent face, he added, "And now go and deliver papa's message."

With a quick movement the boy, turning to his father, placed the
sovereign in his hand, and hastily left the room.

"What a splendid boy!" was the earl's remark as the door closed on the
child. "What do you intend to make of him? he has genius enough for any
position."

"I hope to send him to the university," replied Dr. Halford, "and if I
find he has any predilection that way, I shall encourage him to take
orders."

"Almost a pity, doctor, to bury such talents in the Church, and limit
the young man's income to 100_l._ a year as a curate."

"I shall be guided by the boy's own wishes; but if I find he desires to
become a clergyman as earnestly as I did, I will not raise a single
obstacle in his path."

"Well, no," said Lord Rivers, rising as Thomas entered with the
information that the horses were at the door. "I can quite understand
your wish that your son should not be thwarted in his hopes as you were;
and remember one thing--if in the years to come your son Henry should
become a clergyman, I have two livings in my gift, one of which shall be
his as soon as it becomes vacant after he is ordained."

Before the delighted parents could express their warmest thanks for this
promise, the little boy made his appearance, and accompanied his father
to the gate with the visitor.

The child's eager admiration of the beautiful high-bred animal which the
earl mounted, and indeed of the earl himself, was so enthusiastic that
it formed an epoch in his life never to be forgotten while memory should
last.

Not more lasting and real was the earl's promise in the memory of the
doctor and his wife; and this promise, added to the fact that Henry
Halford's talents and wishes tended the same way, led to the results
which have been described in the preceding chapters of this history.

Perhaps Dr. Halford, whose character was not hopeful, did not allow
himself to trust too much in the earl's promise. He remembered the
words, "Put not your trust in princes, for vain is the help of man." Yet
it influenced him to a certain extent, for he felt convinced that if his
old pupil lived, and the opportunity presented itself, Lord Rivers was
not likely to forget his promise.



CHAPTER X.

HENRY HALFORD'S NEW STUDY.


Mr. Armstrong's horse, a valuable and spirited chestnut, stood at the
gate of Lime Grove about ten days after Mrs. Armstrong's visit to
Englefield Grange.

The family had just finished breakfast in a large room overlooking a
beautiful garden from its broad bay-window. The sun shone brightly on
the frozen gravel walks, and glittered in the rime that hung on the
branches of the leafless trees. Bare and cold as the January prospect of
winter might be, yet the clear air and bright sunlight had an
invigorating effect on youthful and healthy constitutions.

"Pray wrap up well," said Mrs. Armstrong, as she saw Mary helping her
father with his great-coat, "you will have a cold ride this morning; and
take care Firefly does not slip."

"No fear of that, Maria, he's a most sure-footed horse; and besides, the
ground is too hard to be slippery. And as to wrapping up," he added,
patting with his hand a thick shawl doubled across his chest and throat,
"I think I am wrapped up sufficiently to defy any kind of weather."

"Not in Russia, papa" (the once objectionable title was tolerated now);
"your nose would be frozen, and icicles would hang on your eyelashes; I
learnt that in my geography at school."

"Yes, there is no doubt about that fact, Freddy; but in England such
terrible results are not likely to happen; and that reminds me I hear
you are going to a new school, and I hope you will be a good and
attentive boy, and not give your mamma and sister any trouble about your
lessons or by being late; and I must be off too," he added, glancing at
the clock; "and, Freddy, you have only a quarter of an hour to finish
your breakfast and get to school."

"I have finished now, papa," cried the boy, starting up as his father
left the room; and then coming over to where his mother sat in an
easy-chair by the fire, he put his little hand on hers and said--"Mamma,
will you go with me to school? I don't like going by myself the first
morning."

Mrs. Armstrong put her arm round her boy and drew him to her side.

"I am not well enough to venture out in the cold, Freddy," she replied,
"but Mary will go with you; and you need not be afraid of Dr. Halford,
he is most gentle and kind to little boys who are attentive and learn
their lessons, and I hope you will try to please him.--Mary, my dear,"
continued Mrs. Armstrong as her daughter entered the room, "Freddy does
not like to go to school the first time by himself, will you take him?"

"Oh yes, mamma, I should like the walk above all things on this bright
cold morning. I know the house, it is not far--come Freddy."

Freddy kissed his mother, and then ran upstairs after Mary, and in a
very few minutes they were walking along the country road together, Mary
with elastic graceful step, and Freddy half walking, half running by her
side.

The brother and sister were overflowing with health and spirits on this
clear wintry day, and stepped quickly on till they drew near their
destination; then Freddy subsided into a more sober pace. The first
visit to a new school has rather a depressing influence upon the boyish
feelings at eight years old. Freddy's manner excited Mary's sympathy, it
was therefore with a very demure look that she led her little brother to
the entrance and knocked.

As they stood waiting for admission several boys older than Freddy
entered the gate, and passed round the house by a side way to the
schoolroom entrance. Of course such a proceeding would have been at that
moment too trying for Freddy's nerves, but he cast furtive, inquiring
glances at his future schoolfellows, which they returned fearlessly and
with interest.

So intent was the child that the opening of the door startled him, and
he did not quite recover till he found himself alone with Mary in the
drawing-room of Englefield Grange. How often in after years Mary
recalled that visit! and how little she anticipated, as she stood
admiring the prospect which had so attracted her mother, that its
consequences would be interwoven with the whole thread of her future
life!

Mrs. Armstrong had been unwilling to send her boy too soon after the
close of the Christmas holidays. More than a week had passed, and yet
the boarders were returning rather slowly.

"School is all very well," they argued, "in summer, when we can have
cricket and games in the playground till bedtime." And we are quite
willing to own that winter evenings at school are a trial to a boy who
compares them with the warm carpeted parlour, the blazing fire, and the
freedom of home, with no lessons to learn.

The arrangements at Dr. Halford's in winter were, however, very
homelike. The boys sat on winter evenings in a comfortable class-room,
with two fireplaces, not stoves, in which genial fires, protected by
wire guards, blazed pleasantly, and large gas burners increased the
warmth and created light and cheerfulness.

Still, during the first week or two after the holidays the restless
boy-spirit often rebelled against the necessary restraint, without which
or the presence of a master the room would very soon have become a
modern Babel, or something worse, in noise and tumult.

On this Monday morning Mrs. Halford was busy in the dormitory,
arranging, with the assistance of the wardrobe-keeper, the clothes of
those boys who had arrived during the preceding week.

The door opened hastily, and Kate Marston entered. Mrs. Halford has
changed very little since we saw her at the tea-table some years before,
listening to Dr. Mason's letter. She looked up hastily and smiled as her
niece said, "Aunt, is the key of the wardrobe room in your key-basket? I
cannot find it anywhere." She advanced to the table on which the basket
lay, and began to turn over the contents.

"I have the key, my dear," said her aunt, putting her hand into her
pocket. "I found it in the door last evening, and took possession of
it."

"Oh! Harry, Harry," exclaimed Kate, laughing, "you are incorrigible; how
earnestly the dear old fellow did promise me to put the key back in its
place! I expect I shall find the drawers open and every sash of the
wardrobe pushed back."

Mrs. Halford smiled. "No, my dear," she said, "I went in and put
everything to rights before I locked the door."

The kind, loving mother had found doors and wardrobe open, and the usual
neatness of everything destroyed by her boy in his anxiety to discover a
missing vest, which after all was found in his own bedroom.

Henry Halford has changed very little in character during the years that
have elapsed since the receipt of Dr. Mason's letters. He has made great
progress in his studies, and when he left Dr. Mason's care, about three
years before the Christmas-time of which we write, his father, who had
just parted with a classical assistant, found Henry quite capable of
supplying his place.

Dr. Halford felt also the truth of Thomson's words--

    "Teaching we learn, and giving we retain,
    The birth of intellect, when dumb, forgot."

And Henry Halford so thoroughly understood the advantage to himself that
he entered into his task with interest and zeal. Young as he was, he
soon gained the honour and respect of his father's elder pupils, who
were not slow to discover the real value of their young teacher's
knowledge.

But Henry Halford at the age of twenty-two was far beyond that age in
appearance as well as knowledge. His figure, though tall and rather
slight, had a manliness of carriage seldom seen before twenty-five. The
clear olive complexion looked even fair by contrast to the thick dark
whiskers and eyebrows that adorned it. A beard and moustache were not
then, as now, considered necessary ornaments, or we might say useful
appendages for the mouth, neck, and throat. At all events, Harry Halford
was pronounced handsome by those who were sufficiently intimate with him
to observe the play of features, the mobile mouth, and the intelligent
sparkling of the deep blue eyes while conversing, although the former
was large and displayed want of firmness, and the nose scarcely escaped
being pronounced a snub.

Such was the young tutor who now sat in the class-room of the Grange,
reading some Greek author, and quite oblivious to the unchecked noise
made by the early arrival of day pupils and the boarders in the room.

He had a wonderful power of concentrating his mind on any one subject in
spite of surroundings which would have driven some students crazy. The
brass bands or a grinding organ might have paraded London streets in
peace so far as Henry Halford was concerned. And his sister and cousin
would often practise together for hours in winter, in a room close to
his little study, uncomplained of by him even when a boy.

As he grew older, and after Fanny left home on her marriage, he would
often say to Kate Marston, "Why don't you practise, Kate? I assure you
it will not disturb me."

But Kate, after his return from Dr. Mason's, seldom touched the piano
while he was in the house; her love of music was so true that she could
not understand the possibility of not being disturbed in any mental
employment by the _practice_, not the _perfect_ performance of a piece
of music.

Well and correctly played, a beautiful air falls on the ear as melodious
harmony without disturbing any mental effort then occupying the mind;
but to a true musician every false note, every break of tune or measure,
jars upon the senses, and attracts other mental powers beyond the mere
sense of hearing, and totally breaks up for a time the disturbed train
of thought.

But Henry Halford was no musician, and therefore not liable to
interruptions of this kind, nor indeed of any other, as his present
oblivion in the class-room plainly indicates.

Even the opening of the door failed to disturb him, and it was only when
a sudden silence fell on the rebels that the voice of his father made
itself heard.

Henry started from his seat, closed the book, and followed Dr. Halford,
who beckoned him out of the room.

"Mrs. Armstrong is in the drawing-room, Henry. I suppose she has brought
her little boy. Will you go and see her? I fear she will detain me. The
clock has struck nine, and I will get these boys into order while you
are gone."

Dr. Halford always took this "getting into order" upon himself; it was
one of the duties he could not delegate to his son.

Dr. Halford had understood from the maidservant who admitted Mary and
her brother that _Mrs._ Armstrong had brought the little boy, and Henry
passed on to the drawing-room, prepared to be detained by a long story
of the requirements of her child and the injunctions of a fond mother.

It must be owned he opened the door rather reluctantly, but it was to
start with surprise, and for a few moments to lose all self-possession.
A young, handsome, and elegant girl rose as he entered, and bowed also
with slight confusion. Her mother had described Dr. Halford as a tall,
pale, intellectual-looking man of sixty, with white hair and a slight
stoop. Who then could this be, with his erect bearing and youthful face?
Mary Armstrong could not control the deep blush that rose to her cheek,
but she quickly recovered her self-possession. Mary had been subject to
too many contrasts in life and was too really well-bred to allow of any
awkwardness. She took Freddy's hand and led him forward as she said, "I
have brought my little brother, Frederick Armstrong, to school; he did
not like to come alone on the first morning, and mamma was not well
enough to bring him herself."

Henry Halford by this time had also recovered himself to a certain
degree as he stammered out--

"I will tell my father, Miss Armstrong; he is in the schoolroom at
present. He asked me to see--I thought Mrs. Armstrong----" and then
remembering his father's fear of being detained by that lady, and of his
own dread of her in consequence, he paused in helpless confusion.
Woman-like, this hesitation gave Mary courage. She could scarcely
repress a smile as the young man's words explained unintentionally the
cause of his evident surprise. He had expected a middle-aged lady, her
mother, instead of a young girl. Perhaps this was the studious son
spoken of by Dr. Halford to her mother. Bookworms were always awkward in
the company of ladies, especially young ones; and as these thoughts
passed rapidly through her mind, she said with her accustomed ease and
dignity--for Mary Armstrong could be dignified at times--"I need not
detain you, Mr. Halford, if you will kindly take my little brother to
the schoolroom and explain to Dr. Halford why mamma could not bring him
herself."

"Certainly, Miss Armstrong," was all he could say, as he opened the door
and followed her with Freddy downstairs to the entrance.

When they reached the door he opened it for her to pass out.

"Be a good boy, Freddy," she said, as she stooped to kiss her brother,
then she bowed to Henry Halford and descended the steps. On the gravel
path she turned to give Freddy one more encouraging look. Henry Halford
still stood at the open door, holding Freddy's hand in a firm clasp. Of
course she could only bow to him again, but as she passed through the
gate into the high road she reflected that this young man who held the
child's hand so kindly would no doubt be kind to their little Freddy.

But of the thoughts which had been passing through Henry Halford's mind
during that short interview Mary Armstrong was quite unsuspecting;
neither had she the least idea that he stood at the open door watching
her for some minutes, to Freddy's surprise, and until a movement of the
child recalled him to the duties of the hour.

Hastily taking Freddy to the schoolroom and telling his father the
child's name, he brought his mind to bear upon the duties of his class
with his usual power of concentration. No sooner, however, had morning
school closed than he retired to his own little sanctum, but not to his
usual studies. A new object of study was occupying his mind, and he
threw himself into his chair, and folding his arms, thought over again
his adventure of the morning. How clearly every movement, every look,
even every article of dress worn by the visitor was photographed on his
memory! He could see again the tall graceful figure, the fair expressive
face, the large blue eyes, the bright auburn hair, one or two locks as
usual escaping under the hat.

He recalled the blush which added brilliance to the face, and knew that
in action, word, and movement the young girl before him was a true
gentlewoman. Even the dress, so suitable to the season and the hour,
showed this--warm and dark and soft, only brightened by an ermine muff
and furs, and red ribbons in the hat. And the boy too, young as he was,
had more of the _savoir faire_ about him than many of the sons of rich
merchants who attended the school, and yet the father of these young
people was a tradesman. Henry Halford was puzzled. He had been brought
up with the foolish prejudice against trade then so prevalent. Both his
parents had been well born and were well connected. His father's sister
had married into a good family, although, like many of these old
families, they had little to boast of in the way of money. And then the
young student grew bewildered. Hitherto his books had so occupied every
thought that any idea of falling in love had never entered his mind.
Perhaps he had too much poetry and imagination in his heart connected
with the subject of marriage to allow him to do so easily. In him there
existed a refined and spiritualised sense of what a woman should be in
the different phases of her existence, as daughter, sister, wife, and
mother. Marriage to him was too holy, and the pure love of a woman too
ethereal, for either to be trifled with, or made the means of merely
obtaining a home or a settlement.

As he thus reflected he began to wonder that the mere meeting with a
stranger could arouse in his mind such thoughts as these. Henry Halford
had certainly never given the subject such deep consideration before in
his life as now. He had met with many young ladies, sisters or relations
of the boys under his father's care, and also among his own relations;
but none had ever so struck him as Miss Armstrong. What and how did she
differ from others? Most certainly there was something about her he
could not define.

These conflicting thoughts no doubt arose from ignorance of the world.
Perhaps also the mind, fatigued by teaching and study, required more
frequent relaxation. Indeed, his mother felt this necessary, and often
urged him to accept invitations which he had refused, but without
success. Be this as it may, before Henry Halford had been sitting an
hour in his little study the old habits asserted themselves. He started
up. "Well, I wonder if I am suffering from premonitory symptoms of
softening of the brain?" he said to himself. "What have I to do with
falling in love or marriage for years to come? Such thoughts, too, just
as I am about to succeed in my aims, and have matriculated at Oxford!
No, no, this will never do, Henry Halford;" and shaking himself as a dog
fresh from the water, he took up Seneca and buried himself in its pages
till the dinner bell rang.



CHAPTER XI.

OUR ANTIPODES.


In direct contrast to the bright frosty day we have described in the
last chapter, the reader must be introduced to the clear atmosphere,
cloudless sky, and bright sunshine of a midsummer day at
Melbourne--almost England's antipodes. The inhabitants are enjoying a
long summer's day on this 29th of January, and the surrounding country
is presenting a verdant aspect and leafy foliage something akin to
England in July. Midsummer when we have Christmas. Cold and frosty
weather while we enjoy June sunshine; picnics and evening strolls in the
calm summer moonlight, while we are shivering by the fire, or preparing
for a Christmas party; midnight while we have noon, and short summer
nights when with us darkness sets in at four in the afternoon and
continues until eight the next morning.

Such are some of the contrasts which astronomers tell us are the
consequences of the earth's varied movements on her own axis and round
the sun. But in neither country are the inhabitants conscious of these
differences, much less can they realise that we in England are walking
feet to feet with our brethren and sisters in Australia. At Melbourne,
indeed, with its broad streets, elegant shops, and noble buildings,
there is too much that reminds one of England to allow of any
consciousness of contrast. Cathedrals, churches, colleges, botanical
gardens, and other proofs of refined civilisation mark the progress of
Saxon energy and enterprise, which have already supplanted in large
territories of our globe the original inhabitants.

The English are carrying with them not only civilisation and refinement,
but also the principles of that "knowledge of the Lord which shall cover
the whole earth as the waters cover the sea."

True, the seed so scattered is mixed with the tares which settlers in
distant lands carry with them from Christian England to her shame. But,
like the grain of mustard seed, Christianity will grow and flourish into
a large tree wherever the seeds of the "kingdom of heaven" are sown, in
spite of the tares.

In a large drawing-room, luxuriously furnished, and lighted by noble
windows overlooking a broad street more than a mile long, reclined a
pale, delicate-looking lady, about thirty-four years of age. Her sofa
had been drawn near the open window, and as she gazed upon the gaily
attired passengers passing to and fro on the broad pavements, or making
purchases in the shops, she sighed deeply.

"What makes you sigh, mamma?" said a pretty little girl of nine years,
who sat reading in a low chair by her mother's side.

"If I sighed, darling," she replied, "it was because this place reminds
me of England, and I could almost fancy myself in that broad street in
London that you have heard me speak of, Mabel."

"Regent Street, you mean, mamma. Yes, I know, for I've heard papa say
Bourke Street reminded him of it. He says there are just the same sort
of beautiful shops, and lots of carriages, and ladies and children so
handsomely dressed. Oh, mamma, I should so like to go to England, and
see grandpapa and grandmamma, and uncle Henry. Do you think we ever
shall?"

"Perhaps _you_ may, my dear, but go on with your book, Mabel. I cannot
bear talking."

The child gladly obeyed; she was a great lover of reading, and never
more happy than when allowed to bring her book and her low chair, and
sit near her mother, ready to attend to her every wish.

Mrs. Franklyn leaned back on the sofa and closed her eyes. Some
recollections of England had during the past few months been very
painful to her from their contrast to the present time.

She had left her home at Englefield Grange, and readily consented to
what appeared a sentence of banishment to every one but herself, for was
she not sure of happiness with the man of her choice, even at the other
side of the world to which they were going?

None of her friends could deny the apparent suitability of the marriage
between the young lawyer, Arthur Franklyn, and Fanny Halford, the
schoolmaster's only daughter. Arthur had been one of Dr. Halford's
earliest pupils, and being an orphan and under the care of his aged
grandmother, he often remained at school during the holidays. The boy
soon became very fond of playing with the little Fanny, then nine years
younger than himself, and this childish acquaintance was kept up long
after he had left school to be articled to a solicitor. The almost
friendless youth paid frequent visits to his old schoolmaster, and was
always received with a kind welcome.

To make Fanny Halford his wife had been the purpose of Arthur Franklyn's
heart for many years, but to mention the subject to her father until his
means were sufficient to maintain a wife he well knew would be useless.

He had reached his twenty-ninth year, when the death of his grandmother
made him the possessor of about fifteen hundred pounds. Now the way
seemed open to him. But he had another scheme in view, which very nearly
caused him the loss of Fanny. Australia had for many years been the El
Dorado of his hopes; he had also distant relatives doing well at
Melbourne, who had often expressed a wish that he should join them, but
Fanny Halford had been the tie that bound him to England.

The little girl had learnt to love her boy playfellow in childhood as
they grew older, and the young people, as if by mutual consent, seemed
to take it for granted that some day they should be husband and wife.
Although no word had passed on the subject either between them or to
Fanny's parents, Dr. Halford felt towards the young man almost as much
affection as for his own son, Henry Halford being at that time a mere
child. It was not till his grandmother's legacy had altered Arthur
Franklyn's position that his eyes were opened to the fact that the young
man and his daughter might be attached to each other.

The good old gentleman, however, when once brought to understand the
case, readily agreed to Arthur's proposals; and Mrs. Halford, much as
she dreaded the loss of her child from her home, raised no objections.
Her daughter would still of course be at a visiting distance now
railways and omnibuses were becoming so general, and she could therefore
often see her.

Arthur Franklyn's intimation, therefore, came upon them like a
thunder-clap. "Australia! Our antipodes! No, no, Arthur, the idea is
impossible, we cannot part with our child to such a distance," were the
doctor's words. But neither the father's objections nor the mother's
tears could influence Fanny, she would go with Arthur all over the
world; and so at last the parents were conquered by the pale face and
failing health of their only daughter, and they consented to the
marriage.

To Arthur's legacy was added the 1000_l._ saved by Dr. Halford for his
daughter's marriage portion, and the young people sailed for Australia
with their own hopes for the future bright and glowing, and followed by
the earnest prayers of their reluctant parents.

Fourteen years have rolled by since then, and what are Fanny Franklyn's
reflections as she now reclines on the sofa in her luxurious home? What
had she to complain of beyond the failing health and strength to which
we are all liable? She had a kind and loving husband, four healthy,
intelligent children, and every comfort and attention she required. But
all this was on the surface; only wife or husband can detect faults in
each other which are hidden from the world, unless those faults lead to
or produce consequences which eventually become matters of publicity.

And a fear of this latter result had been the one bitter drop in Fanny
Franklyn's happiness, the bane of her married life.

Arthur on arriving at Melbourne established himself as a solicitor, and
for a time with moderate success. Then he became restless and
dissatisfied. He wanted to make a fortune more rapidly, gave up his
profession, and commenced speculating. With this began Fanny's
anxieties. She had quickly discovered her husband's want of business
knowledge. She could see how differently he acted from her own parents,
to whose careful, saving habits she owed her marriage portion.
Fortunately for Arthur, his wife was thoroughly domestic, and more than
once she had warded off an impending blow by her economy and good
management.

But as their family increased her anxieties became greater. The very
good nature, and pleasant unsuspecting sociability which had won them
all at Englefield Grange, proved Arthur's greatest danger. Sanguine to
the highest degree respecting the results of a new speculation, he would
recklessly act upon the mere hope of success, and involve himself in
difficulties, and so it had been going on; at times living in a style of
elegance and luxury, in consequence of a successful speculation, and at
others in obscurity and almost penury.

No wonder poor Fanny Franklyn's health sunk in the midst of such
vicissitudes.

While reflecting over the past which has been so briefly described, the
sound of a hasty footstep roused her, and presently her husband stood by
her couch anxiously questioning her.

"How are you, darling?" he said gently as he stooped to kiss the pale
cheek. "I have been so much engaged all day, or I should have come in to
see you before this." And then, without waiting for her to reply, he
walked to the window and looked out on the gay and busy scene in the
street beneath.

"You will soon get well in this lively place, Fanny," he said; "I cannot
tell you how anxious I have been to get you out of that dull cottage on
the hills, with nothing to look at but gardens and fields and trees."

"Yes, but, papa," said little Mabel, rising from her seat and coming to
his side, "we were close to the Botanical Gardens and the park, and
mamma used to go out in a chair every day."

"Well, so she can here, Mabel, and I should think you and Clara like
these large noble rooms better than those low ceilings and cramped
apartments at the cottage."

"There are some rooms I should prefer far beyond those at the cottage,
or even these," said Mrs. Franklyn, gently.

Mr. Franklyn smiled, and was delighted to see a smile and a slight tinge
of colour on his wife's face as she spoke. "Where are they, darling?" he
exclaimed. "I have only taken these for a month certain; we would move
directly if I thought it would do you good."

"I'm sorry I expressed my thoughts aloud, Arthur," she said, "for you
must not incur any farther expense; but the rooms I mean are at
Englefield Grange."

Arthur Franklyn became silent. He was longing to return to England
almost as much as his wife; but at that moment he had more than one
speculation in view, which he felt sure would make him a rich man; and
then to return to his native land and star it amongst his schoolfellows,
who had often scorned the penniless orphan, would be indeed a triumph.

"I wish I could take you to England at once, dearest," said her husband;
"indeed, I should like to send you and the two girls now, and remain
here alone for a year or two; but I cannot allow you to attempt such a
voyage in your present weak state."

"No, no, Arthur," she replied, "I will not leave you, I could not go
alone. Let us continue in this house as long as you like, rather than go
to greater expense. I hope I shall be better as the weather becomes
cooler."

The appearance of the tea-tray put a stop to the conversation, and Fanny
consoled herself by the thought, "I cannot leave him of my own
free-will, and if God sees fit to remove me before he is able to return
to England, I can leave him and the dear children in His hands."



CHAPTER XII.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS.


Mary Armstrong returned home after leaving Freddy at school, quite
unaware of the disturbance her appearance had created in the mind of
Henry Halford; and indeed so perfectly indifferent, that after removing
her walking dress she entered the dining-room where her mother sat, and
said--

"I did not see Dr. Halford, mamma, he was engaged in the schoolroom, but
his son took charge of Freddy."

"His son! Ah, yes, I remember he spoke of a son who was studying for the
Church. From Dr. Halford's description I should say this son was a man
of very studious habits."

"Yes, mamma, and I am sure he must be, for he appears quite unused to
the society of ladies; he hesitated, and stammered, and seemed hardly
able to say a word: he did manage, however, to explain that he expected
to see Mrs. Armstrong. I set him down as a bookworm at once."

Mrs. Armstrong glanced at her daughter; she was not one of those foolish
mothers who overrate the charms of their daughters, but a thought she
could not repress made her fear that this son of Dr. Halford's might be
a dangerous acquaintance. A kind of presentiment of evil made her look
at Mary intently as she took her German books from a side-table and
commenced studying the language just then coming into vogue.

There was a look of perfect indifference on the face which Mrs.
Armstrong so carefully studied, and yet she could not help saying
suddenly, "What sort of young man is Dr. Halford's son in appearance,
Mary?"

The sound of her mother's voice made Mary look up with a start from a
difficult exercise. "_Haben sie!_" she exclaimed aloud; and then, "Oh,
mamma, I beg your pardon, did you not ask me a question? I have such a
puzzling sentence here, and I quite forgot what Herr Kling told me about
it."

"It was nothing of importance, my dear," said her mother, as carelessly
as she could speak; "I only asked you what sort of a young man Dr.
Halford's son is in appearance."

"Handsome or plain, you mean, mamma," was the reply: "certainly not
handsome, and his hair looked as if, while poring over a book, he had
been pushing it up with his hands till it stood on end like pussy's tail
when she is angry."

"My dear, what a comparison!" said her mother, with a laugh and a
feeling of satisfaction. But Mary felt ashamed of her description.

"I ought not to speak in this way, mamma, I know; the fact is, when I
found young Mr. Halford so confused, I avoided looking at him; but he is
a gentleman, I could see that, and his hair is black. He appeared to be
careless about his dress and appearance, and that, added to his confused
manner, made me think he was a bookworm. You know, mamma, two or three
of papa's friends who are so wrapped up in science and literature fidget
me dreadfully when they dine here. Mr. Barnett, the great engineer,
often has his collar on one side, or a button off his boots, and they
all look as if they dressed in the dark, and without a looking-glass. So
I suppose young Mr. Halford will be just the same. Oh, mamma, please
don't make me talk any more," she added, glancing at the clock. "Herr
Kling will be here in half an hour, and I am not yet ready for him."

Mrs. Armstrong was quite contented to remain silent. The easy and rather
satirical tone in which Mary spoke of Dr. Halford's son removed all
apprehension from her mind for the present.

Mr. Armstrong she knew too well would harshly oppose marriage for his
daughter with any man who did not possess the means of making a handsome
settlement on his wife, and raising her to the position of her mother's
relations. Neither of Mary's parents wished her to marry young: the idea
of losing her was agony to Mrs. Armstrong, and a constant dread had now
arisen in the mother's heart lest this new position in a country home,
which had already drawn them into society, might lead Mary to form a
girlish attachment not in accordance with the conditions laid down by
her father.

Mr. Armstrong, however, had no such fears; Mary's ready acquiescence in
all his wishes, and the evident respect she had always shown to his
opinions, caused him to overlook in his child a will as firm and
unbending as his own.

Hitherto none of his requirements had been opposed to the deeper or more
sensitive feelings of her nature. Mary could overcome her repugnance so
long as her father's wishes only required the sacrifice of certain
conventional rules, and minor matters of opinion. But he could make no
distinction, and he was prepared to expect implicit obedience in every
point, even where her wishes were opposed to his. The thought that she
would ever fail in this obedience never entered his mind.

Mrs. Armstrong understood her daughter's character more correctly than
her husband, with all his boasted superiority of intellect, and
therefore she dreaded a passage of arms between these two so near and
dear to her.

The trial was more closely at hand than even she for a moment
anticipated.

Little Freddy often brought home from school a full and particular
account of some incident that had occurred during the day, and in which
he had been greatly interested.

These incidents were listened to by Mary only out of love to her little
brother; and although very often Mr. Henry Halford's name stood
prominent in these narrations, Mary's interest on that account was very
little excited. It gratified her, however, to find that the child was
treated with great kindness by both father and son, and to hear his
earnest declaration--

"Oh, Mary, I like Mr. Henry Halford so much, he is so kind to us little
ones in the playground; he plays at peg-top, and all sorts of games,
with us; and sometimes we go into the cricket-field, without the big
boys, and he teaches us how to play; isn't it kind of him?"

All this was very pleasing to Mrs. Armstrong, more especially as she
could discern very clearly that Mary listened to it all as a matter of
course. No suspicion that this kindness to her brother could arise from
a wish to win the sister, or for her sake, entered her mind.

Not so her mother; suspicions of this kind would intrude themselves at
times, only to be set aside by her daughter's evident indifference.

Mrs. Armstrong, however, was wrong. Henry Halford's kindness to the
little boys arose from a natural love of children, and Freddy Armstrong
was not favoured more than others. All thoughts of the fair girl whose
appearance had so confused him on that cold January morning had been
banished with determination. After school duties ceased he became, as
usual every day, absorbed in his books, his only recreation a game at
cricket, or, as we have heard, the fun with the juniors, which gave him
the greatest pleasure. And so the weeks passed on, and brought with them
signs of the approach of spring.

One afternoon, about a fortnight before Easter, Mr. Armstrong returned
from the City rather earlier than usual, to have a ride with his
daughter. He had on this account travelled to town and back by the
omnibus.

"Give me half an hour's rest, Mary," he said, as she came in full of
pleasure to ask when he wished to start.

"Yes, papa," she replied, "and there will be also time for you to have a
cup of tea with mamma; she generally has it about four o'clock." Away
ran Mary to hasten the refreshing "cup which cheers but not inebriates,"
while Mr. Armstrong seated himself and began to talk to his wife.

"I shall not be sorry to have a cup of tea," he said, "for I rode
outside the 'bus, and the roads are too dusty to be pleasant, whatever
the old proverb may say, and perhaps with some truth, that 'a peck of
March dust is worth a king's ransom.'"

"If it is good for the gardens and the harvest to have a dry March,"
said Mrs. Armstrong, "it is certainly worth while to bear the
inconvenience, and my health is always much better in dry, clear
weather. Your proverb about March dust will form another incentive for
patience when it troubles me while taking my daily walks."

"How much improved your health appears lately, my dear Maria!" remarked
her husband, after a pause; "and you are looking almost as young as
ever. I am not a little pleased to find you in such good spirits,
because I want you to join me in accepting an invitation next week to
dinner at the Drummonds'; I suppose you have returned Mrs. Drummond's
visit?"

"Oh yes, a few weeks ago; she is a most pleasant, lady-like woman, and
we were friends almost immediately."

"Then you will raise no objection, my dear; indeed, I am sure the change
will be good for you. Mary is also invited, and I have my reasons for
wishing her to go. Drummond rode with me from town to-day, and I
accepted his invitation for Mary and myself at once, but for you
conditionally."

"I shall be happy to go with you," replied his wife. "The Drummonds are
people I should wish Mary to know, and I am much more able to bear an
evening visit at this time of the year than in the depth of winter. You
must remember, Edward, that even when living in London I always regained
health and strength in the spring and early summer."

"And here, of course, your health and strength are doubly sure to
improve in these seasons," he replied, laughing. "Ah, well, darling, I
am glad we made the change for your sake."

The appearance of the tea put a stop to the conversation, and in a very
short time Mrs. Armstrong stood at the door watching her daughter as she
sprang lightly to her saddle, on a beautiful grey mare, her father's
latest gift.

Bucephalus is not, however, quite discarded; sometimes in the morning
she will take him for a canter over the heath, or in the holidays join
her brothers, one of whom rides Rowland's pony, and the other
Bucephalus. Edward Armstrong is fifteen now, and has grown too tall for
Boosey; during the absence of the elder boys the pony belongs entirely
to Freddy, who is learning to ride under Mary's guidance.

During their ride, Mr. Armstrong told Mary of the invitation to dinner
at Mr. Drummond's. "You will like to pay such a visit, I suppose," he
said, "and I have accepted the invitation for you as well as myself."

"Will it be a large party?" asked Mary, timidly; she had no thought of
opposing her father's wishes, after hearing that he had accepted the
invitation for her, but she remembered her discomfort at her first
dinner-party, at which a large number of guests were present, some of
them not very refined, and certainly not well-bred.

In fact, she could not help making comparisons between the noisy, and to
her, almost vulgar visitors at the table; or at the evening parties of
the rich in the neighbourhood, and the quiet refinement and dignity of
such gatherings at the homes of her mother's relations.

Something akin to Mary's thoughts was passing through her father's mind
before he answered her question, and influenced his reply.

"Mr. Drummond told me to-day that he did not expect more than six or
eight guests in addition to his own family. And, Mary," he continued,
"you need not fear meeting coarseness or vulgarity at Mr. Drummond's
table. Your mother has readily consented to accompany us, and that is a
sufficient proof that she considers the friends of Mrs. Drummond fit
associates for her daughter."

"Oh, papa," said Mary, "I hope you do not think it was pride that made
me speak as if I did not wish to go, only I do dread a large number of
people; and papa----" But Mary paused; she hesitated, with the delicacy
of a refined mind, to speak of the coarse flattery to which she had been
subjected at one dinner-party by some of the gentlemen when they left
the dining-room.

"And what, my dear?" said her father, gently.

"I told mamma," she replied, "when I came home, but I only meant to ask
you whether some of the gentlemen at Mr. Ward's dinner party had not
taken too much wine."

A flush of indignation rose to Mr. Armstrong's brow as he thought of
what, under such circumstances, some of them might have said to his
gentle daughter. Determining to ask her mother, however, he merely
said,--"I fear such was the case, Mary, but you are not likely to meet
with anything of that kind at the Drummonds'. The practice of staying
for hours after dinner, drinking wine, till men make themselves unfit
for the company of ladies, is happily becoming less frequent in good
society. And now," he added, looking at his watch, "we must canter for
awhile, or we shall be late for dinner."



CHAPTER XIII.

A CHANGE OF OPINION.


Among the guests expected at Mr. Drummond's table on that memorable
occasion was a gentleman of great note in the scientific world, to whom
Mr. Armstrong had been very anxious to be introduced. Indeed, this wish
had influenced him greatly in his ready acceptance of the invitation.

"My friend Professor Logan will dine with us on that evening," had been
Mr. Drummond's remark to Mr. Armstrong. "I suppose you have read his
address at the Royal Society on the inventions of the last thirty years?
It was correctly reported in the _Times_."

"Yes, indeed, and there I saw it," was the eager reply. "Is Professor
Logan your friend, Drummond? It will be a great privilege to meet such a
man."

"And he will be equally pleased with you," was the reply; "indeed, I
expect it will be quite a learned gathering, for I have asked three or
four other men of education to join us, and I almost fear the evening
will be dull for Mrs. Armstrong and your bright, lively daughter; but
Mrs. Drummond will be terribly disappointed if they do not come, and she
will make the evening as pleasant as possible for them. My nieces are
very musical, and----"

"Oh, pray do not make the invitation more attractive than it is
already," interrupted Mr. Armstrong. "My daughter's tastes resemble my
own, and she has had advantages of education which I have not. I'm
afraid, Drummond, your friends will expect too much from a self-taught
man like myself if you have, as you say, placed me on the list of your
'learned' acquaintance."

"Nonsense, Armstrong!" was the reply, as the omnibus stopped for that
gentleman to alight. "Mind," he added, as he waved his hand in farewell,
"we shall expect you all on Tuesday."

Mr. Armstrong's close carriage arrived at Argyle Lodge only five minutes
before the hour appointed for dinner. In a very short time, therefore,
Mary found herself being conducted to the dinner-table by a gentleman
whose face seemed familiar to her, but whose name, when spoken by her
hostess, she had not caught.

"I think I have had the pleasure of meeting Miss Armstrong once before,
when she brought her little brother to school," was the remark which
made Mary turn and look at her companion.

There was a smile on the face she had called plain, but it did not now
deserve such an epithet. The rough, dark hair, which in its disorder she
had likened to a "pussy-cat's tail in a rage," was now arranged in
shining wavy curls across the broad forehead; the dark eyebrows almost
meeting over the nose gave character to the face, and a look in the deep
blue eyes, although Mary Armstrong had quickly recognised her companion
as Henry Halford, made her ask herself if she had really ever seen them
before. So changed was the face, so expressive the glance, so winning
the smile, that Mary could only stammer out with a blushing face--

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Halford; I did not at first recognise you, but I
do now."

They entered the dining-room as she said this, and during the slight
commotion occasioned by placing every one with due regard to the varied
requirements which make the position of a hostess so difficult, Mary
could only recall with shame and wonder her satirical description of
Henry Halford.

The silence that generally pervades the company at the commencement of
dinner enabled Mary to recover herself and look round for the home
faces.

Her mother, who had been taken into dinner by Mr. Drummond, was seated
nearly opposite to her at his right hand. At the moment of this
discovery she observed her bow to some one on Mary's side of the table.
Her surprise at this caused her to lean forward slightly. What friend of
her mother's could be dining with Mr. Drummond?

A gentleman with white hair, and a pale, handsome face, was returning
the recognition. Mary was fairly puzzled, but she had conquered the
confusion caused by Mr. Henry Halford's unexpected appearance, and when
the conversation became general she could talk to her companion with
ease and intelligence.

Mary could hear her father's voice, but she could not see him, as he sat
at the same side of the table as herself by Mrs. Drummond.

Presently Henry Halford spoke.

"Are you acquainted with that gentleman at the head of the table on Mrs.
Drummond's left hand?" he asked, under cover of many voices.

Mary shook her head. She had observed that he and her father were
already in earnest conversation across the table, but he was a total
stranger to her.

"No, I am not," she replied; "all here are strangers to me, excepting
Mr. and Mrs. Drummond and my own parents."

"Then you do not know my father, to whom your mamma bowed just now. I
saw you lean forward to discover who had been so honoured by Mrs.
Armstrong's notice."

"Is that gentleman your father, Mr. Halford?" said Mary, simply. "I
think he is a very handsome old man; that silvery white hair always
looks to me beautiful when accompanied with dark eyebrows and eyes."

"My father would feel extremely flattered if he heard your opinion of
him, Miss Armstrong," said Henry Halford.

"I am not flattering," replied Mary, "I am only giving my opinion, and
you have not told me the name of that gentleman opposite. He looks
clever."

"Why, really, Miss Armstrong, I shall begin to be afraid of your opinion
about myself if you are so quick at reading character. That gentleman is
Professor Logan, whose address at the Royal Society has made such a stir
in the scientific world."

"Oh, I am so glad to meet him!" she exclaimed. "I know he must be clever
because papa is talking to him so earnestly, and I read his address at
the Royal Society in the _Times_."

"Did you, indeed, Miss Armstrong?" said Henry, in a tone of surprise.

"Certainly I did, and with very great interest. Is there anything very
wonderful in that, Mr. Halford?"

Henry Halford hesitated to reply; he looked earnestly at the young lady
who could read an address on the most abstruse sciences with "great
interest." He had heard young ladies spoken of rather contemptibly as
"pedants" and "blue-stockings." Was this gentle, simple-speaking girl by
his side one of these? Or if not, did she belong to the frivolous,
half-educated young ladies, who think of nothing but dress, or lovers,
or husbands _in futuro_? Although Mary had spoken of him as unused to
ladies' society with some truth, yet he had seen and heard enough to
judge of them as belonging to a sex inferior in strength both mentally
and physically, and in those days of which we write his judgment was not
far wrong.

"I will put a few questions to this young lady who expresses her
interest in abstruse subjects," he said to himself. "Perhaps after all
it is merely a smattering of knowledge which she possesses, and a wish
to be thought a 'blue.' Are you fond of scientific subjects, Miss
Armstrong?" he asked, with something akin to satire in the tone of his
voice.

But Mary Armstrong did not detect it; she replied unaffectedly--

"I think I am, at least so far as I can understand them, and that is not
to a very great extent; but arithmetic is a science, is it not? and I am
very fond of that; and I like the study of thorough-bass quite as well
as the practical part of music."

"I am rather surprised to hear a young lady say she is fond of
arithmetic," replied Henry Halford, rather amused, and doubtful still.
"How far have you penetrated into the mysteries of calculation?--to
Practice, perhaps?"

Mary now detected a shadow of satire.

"A little beyond Practice," she replied, with a smile. "I begin to feel
afraid to tell you how far, you appear so surprised that a girl should
learn boys' studies, but my father wished me to do so."

Henry Halford flushed deeply. The straightforward simplicity of the
young lady whom he wished to prove a pedant or a "blue" baffled him, and
made him feel ashamed of his satire.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Armstrong," he said. "It is such an unusual
thing in the present day to meet with young ladies who really care for
any studies beyond music and singing, and what are called the fine arts,
that I was a little incredulous; pray show me I am forgiven by telling
me what advance you have made in these studies, which you consider
belong to boys."

There was an earnestness and sincerity in the young man's voice which
could not be mistaken.

Mary replied candidly, but without the slightest appearance of
ostentation--

"Mr. Halford, papa himself taught me algebra after I had studied every
rule in arithmetic, and the first book of Euclid. That is the extent of
my knowledge--nothing so very wonderful, after all."

"And the _pons asinorum_, Miss Armstrong?"

"Yes," she replied, "even the _pons asinorum_."

There was a look of respect, mingled with surprise, on Henry Halford's
face; for once he had met with a young lady who had evidently some
pretensions to mental strength without being proud of it.

By degrees he managed to discover that, owing to her father's wise
decision, she had not been allowed to learn music without studying
thorough-bass, or drawing unless accompanied with the study of
perspective. But as, without asking direct questions, he contrived to
draw her out by adopting a conversational tone, he found to his delight
that this scientific young lady was far more deeply interested in poetry
and literature.

Mrs. Armstrong watched the fair face of her daughter as it lighted up
with pleasure at the poetical remarks of her companion, who criticised
her favourite authors with so much clearness and justice.

She was not sorry when Mrs. Drummond gave the signal for leaving the
table. She could read in the gentleman a growing interest and admiration
of her daughter, which made her uneasy; not a little increased by a
remark of Mr. Drummond's--

"Mr. Henry Halford and your daughter are getting on famously together. I
know that her education has been solid as well as accomplished, and he
appears to have found out that fact."

"Is that Dr. Halford's son?" asked Mrs. Armstrong; she remembered her
daughter's description of him as plain, but the young man so earnestly
conversing with Mary on a favourite topic was as usual giving to that
face the flashings of intellect, the expressive smile, and, it must be
owned, a too evident admiration of the fair girl by his side, which made
him unmistakably handsome.

"Yes; did you not know it?" was Mr. Drummond's reply. "And a really
clever fellow he is too; he has lately matriculated at Oxford. His
father wishes him to be a clergyman, and I have no doubt he will come
off with 'flying colours.'"

No wonder Mrs. Armstrong was relieved when the signal came to remove her
daughter from such dangerous company.

But Mary very soon restored her mother's peace of mind by the absence of
all consciousness when she referred to Mr. Henry Halford.

On entering the drawing-room the mother noticed with anxiety the deep
flush that so generally made Mary's face too brilliant. She watched her
as she wandered alone to a distant table and took up a book, after
examining several, and seated herself to read. She walked over to her
and said, "You are interested in your book, Mary."

"Yes, mamma; Mr. Henry Halford has been talking about Milton's 'Paradise
Lost,' and he has explained to me a great deal of those learned terms
and classical references which make some pages of the book so difficult
to understand, and I mean to read it through again; you know how fond I
am of Milton."

"Yes, dear," said her mother, "but you cannot do so now in Mrs.
Drummond's drawing-room."

"No, mamma, of course not; I was only glancing over a few pages to try
how much I could remember of Mr. Henry Halford's explanations. Oh,
mamma, you cannot imagine how clever he is."

"No doubt, and I hear he is at Oxford studying for the Church. But,
Mary, do you remember your description of Dr. Halford's son? In my
opinion he is anything but plain, and his hair----"

"Oh, mamma, pray don't refer to what I once said;" and Mrs. Armstrong
knew that the flush on Mary's cheek as she spoke arose from shame at her
foolish words, nothing more. "I hardly looked at him that morning, but
now that I have heard him speak with so much animation and cleverness I
consider Mr. Henry Halford handsome; don't you, mamma?"

This simple admission satisfied the anxious mother; she agreed readily
with her daughter's remark, and a servant advancing with tea and coffee
put a stop to the conversation.

Presently the gentlemen made their appearance.

Mary noticed that her father and Mr. Henry Halford were eagerly
discussing scientific subjects with Professor Logan as they entered.

Even as they stood with a cup of coffee in the hand of each, the subject
was being carried on with great earnestness.

At last one of Mr. Drummond's nieces approached the piano, at her aunt's
request, and struck a few chords.

A sudden pause, and then the rich tones of the singer hushed the
scientific controversy. Even those who had no natural appreciation of
harmonious sounds were attracted to listen; among these ranked Henry
Halford.

To a singer with less confidence the silence would have been fatal, but
Edith Longford was not likely to fail from nervousness, and there is
nothing so calculated to steady the nerves of a performer in any subject
as a perfect knowledge of what he is about.

As the soft melodious tones ceased, Henry Halford contrived to whisper
to Miss Armstrong a question, intended to try whether the young girl,
whose conversation had so interested him at dinner, could bear the
praise of another without jealousy.

During the song he had not been able to resist the attraction of her
presence. Although really occupied with the subject of dispute as he
entered the room, Henry Halford's quick eye discovered at once the
whereabouts of Mr. Armstrong's daughter, and he had gradually moved
towards the table where she sat.

"Miss Longford plays and sings well, Miss Armstrong," were the words
that made Mary start from a reverie. "I am quite ignorant of music
theoretically, and I have no natural taste for the harmonies; but you
can tell me whether my opinion is a correct one."

"I, Mr. Halford!" said Mary, recovering herself; "Miss Longford is far
beyond me in music. I could not take the liberty of forming a judgment
upon her, excepting that I know she sings and plays far better than I
do."

"Generous and candid," said the young man to himself as a gentleman
advanced to lead Mary to the piano. He followed them, and stood
listening with surprise to the simple English ballad which Mary sang
with real taste and feeling.

Henry Halford when alone in his room that night made a decision in his
own mind on certain points; in some of these, had he remained firm and
unshaken, our story would have ended here.

"Mary Armstrong is a very beautiful girl," were his first mental words,
"full of intellectual knowledge, far beyond any young lady I have ever
met. She is candid, plain-speaking, impervious to flattery, and generous
to a rival--at least if Miss Longford is a rival. For my part, I
consider Miss Armstrong's music far more pleasing. And then what a
talented man her father is! no wonder, with such a teacher, his daughter
should be so different from other girls. I have met many girls, but none
like Miss Armstrong."

By a strange association of ideas, to which we are all subject, Easter
and Oxford presented themselves to his mind, and the involuntary sigh
that followed a recollection of the fact that in less than a week he
should be miles away from Mary Armstrong, changed the whole current of
his thoughts.

"How absurdly I am allowing my mind to dwell upon this young lady!" he
said to himself. "A man so rich as her father will of course wish her to
marry a man of wealth, and one equal in position to her mother's
relations. I might lay claim to the latter qualification, but what shall
I be at the end of my three years at Oxford? an usher in my father's
school, or a curate with an income of perhaps 100_l._ a year or less. I
will think of her no more!"



CHAPTER XIV.

AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY.


Whatever impression might have been made by Mr. Henry Halford's
cleverness on the mind of Mary Armstrong was destined to be obliterated
by the most unlooked-for occurrence.

One evening, about a fortnight after Easter, Mr. Armstrong returned at
an unusually early hour, and entered the library, where Mary and her
mother were seated, with a look of anxiety on his face which surprised
them both.

He held a letter in his hand, and his wife asked nervously--

"What is the matter, Edward? you have no bad news about the boys, I
hope."

"No, no," he said hastily, "but I have had a letter from John Armstrong;
my poor father, he says, is sinking fast, and wishes to see me once
more."

"Oh, papa, when are you going?" cried Mary, "can I pack your carpet bag,
or prepare anything for you? I suppose you will go this evening?"

"I should have gone direct from London, after sending you a telegram,"
he replied, "but my father wishes me to bring Mary; have you any
objection, my dear?" he added, turning to his wife.

"No, indeed," she replied, "take her with you by all means; I remember
how pleased the dear old gentleman was with his little granddaughter
when we paid him a visit fifteen years ago."

Mary, who had risen when she offered to assist in preparing for her
father's hasty departure, stood still during this conversation in silent
astonishment. Rapid thoughts passed through her mind. Was she really
going to see the dear old grandfather, of whom she had so often heard
her mother speak, and beautiful Meadow Farm, the home of her father's
childhood, and the house in which he was born?

So bewildered did she feel at the sudden news, that her mother had to
say--

"Do you not wish to accompany your father, Mary?"

"Oh yes, yes, mamma, but it seems too good to be true."

"You must be quick, Mary, if you wish to go," said her father, looking
at his watch; "I have ordered James to have the brougham at the door by
half-past three, and the train starts from Waterloo at 4.30."

In a moment all was bustle and excitement. Slight refreshment was
quickly prepared for the travellers. But Mary had still her useful
fairies at her elbow, and when her father summoned her from the
dining-room at the time appointed, she only detained him one moment to
cling to her mother's neck and kiss her fondly.

Mrs. Armstrong stood at the door to see them off and wish them _bon
voyage_. Then she returned to the library to rest after the hurried
excitement, which fatigued her even more than a long walk.

This hasty summons which her husband had received carried her memory
back to those early days of her married life when with her husband and
her little daughter Mary, she had visited Mr. Armstrong's paternal home.
She recalled the sweet country landscape, the apple-orchards in full
blossom, the fragrant hayfields, the leafy woods surrounding Meadow
Farm, then redolent with the delights of early summer.

She saw and heard again, in imagination, the crowing of cocks, the
clucking of hens, the chirping chicks and lowing cattle, and the
occasional "quack, quack" of ducks and geese, all of which sights and
sounds greeted eye and ear from her bedroom window when she rose in the
morning.

Even the journey by the old-fashioned stage-coach was not without
interest; and how well she remembered the pride of her mother's heart as
her little Mary, then scarcely three years old, excited the astonishment
of the passengers by spelling from the coach window the letters upside
down, which formed the name of the coach proprietor!

Again she recalled their amusement at one of Mary's childlike speeches,
when they stopped to change horses on the road. Across the inn yard came
a man with a wooden leg, carrying a pail of water. The child, who had
never before seen this substitute for a human limb, almost screamed with
excitement as she exclaimed--

"Oh, mamma, mamma, do look; there's a man with one leg, and a piece of
stick for another!"

Even now she could smile at the memory of the child's remark, but it was
soon lost as her thoughts turned to the time when she stood in the old
hall at Meadow Farm to receive the welcome of her husband's father, a
tall, noble-looking man, one of the olden times, whose dark eyes at the
age of sixty-seven had not lost their sparkling intelligence. These
eyes, with eyelashes and brows equally dark, contrasted pleasantly with
the silvery white hair; and the face with its winter-apple colour,
though bronzed by constant exposure to the weather, wore a refined
dignity of which his son Edward could scarcely boast. The welcome
awarded by this fine old yeoman to his son's wife had a mixture of
deference and affection which deeply gratified the well-born daughter of
the St. Clairs, and her father-in-law's love for his little fairy
grandchild completely won her heart.

All this Mrs. Armstrong had described to Mary so vividly, that the young
girl felt as if she already knew every nook and cranny of the old farm,
as well as the face of the dear old gentleman who was her father's
father. And yet she had not the slightest recollection of the visit so
clearly remembered by her mother.

Since that time Mr. Armstrong had more than once paid a visit to his
paternal home, but delicate health and an increasing family prevented
his wife from accompanying him, yet he never offered to take Mary. Once
her mother had proposed to him to do so, but he repudiated the idea.

"No, Maria dear," he had said, "there are no women at Meadow Farm, or in
the neighbourhood, who are fit associates for your daughter. By-and-by,
when her manners are more formed, I shall have no objection."

But Mrs. Armstrong was not deceived by these excuses; she knew that as
her husband's income increased, so did his pride. For eccentric persons
are always inconsistent, and his strange notions about his daughter's
education, and his refusal to allow her to ride on horseback after a
certain hour, with other objections to practices which he called "aping
the gentry," all arose from "the pride that apes humility."

Meanwhile, quite unaware of her mother's reflections or her father's
opinions, Mary seated herself in a first-class carriage, her happiness
in the prospect of the coming journey only clouded by the fact that her
aged grandfather was approaching the borders of the grave.

They were alone in the carriage as far as Slough, and as the express
train sped on the consciousness of this made her so uneasy that she
could not help breaking the silence by saying--

"Papa, do you think my grandfather will remember me?"

"I think not, my daughter," he replied; "you were scarcely three years
old when he saw you last, and now you are a woman."

"But I do hope he will be well enough to know who I am," she said. "I
have heard mamma talk of grandpapa so often that I feel sure I shall
recognise him when I see him, from her description."

"Your mother does talk to you, then, about her visit to Meadow Farm?"

"Yes, papa, often, and she says grandpapa was a fine, handsome old man
when she saw him fifteen years ago."

There was a little feeling of gratification in Mr. Armstrong's heart at
this proof that his lady-wife could so think of his father; she had
often so spoken of him in conversation, but he had passed it by as the
loving words of a wife who wished to prove that she did not look down
with contempt on her husband's relations.

But in her remarks to Mary there could be no such motives, and it was in
a tone of regret that he replied--

"Fifteen years will make a great difference in your grandfather's
appearance, Mary, and I expect you will find him decrepit, and infirm at
eighty-two years of age, and very much changed from the handsome old man
your mother describes."

"I shall love him just the same, papa," she said firmly.

The early spring evening was closing in as Mr. Armstrong and his
daughter drove to the gates of Meadow Farm. Mary could see, however,
that her father's face was pale with anxiety, as he hastily alighted
from the railway fly and turned to assist his daughter.

At the same moment she heard a pleasant voice exclaiming--

"You have brought your daughter, Edward; I am very glad, for uncle is
longing to see her.--You are the image of your mother, Miss Armstrong,"
continued the speaker, with a sudden deference, as the tall, graceful
girl held out her hand to the lady whom her father introduced as his
cousin Sarah. "The men will bring in your luggage, Edward," she added;
"come in at once and see uncle; he seems to have gained new life since
we sent for you and--Mary."

The name came at last after a slight hesitation, for the bearing and
manner of Mary Armstrong, though perfectly free from pride, threw a
restraint upon her homely kinswoman, who remembered her only as a little
child of three years.

Before they reached the house John Armstrong met them, and involuntarily
removed his garden hat, when his cousin Edward asked him if he
remembered his little playfellow Mary.

"I hope you do, cousin," said Mary, pleasantly, to put him at his ease,
for this deferential treatment by her country cousins pained her
greatly. "I have often heard mamma speak of cousin Sarah and cousin
John, and I am so happy to be able to pay you a visit at last."

As she spoke they entered the old farm kitchen. A space round the fire
was partially hidden by a screen.

Mr. Armstrong led his daughter forward to the enclosed spot.

"Who is come, Sarah?" said the quavering voice of an old man.

"It is your son Edward. Father, how are you? This is my daughter, the
little Mary of whom you were once so fond."

The old man looked up and grasped the hand of his son; then, as he saw
Mary, he made an effort to rise.

"No, no, grandfather," she exclaimed, kneeling by his side and kissing
his cheek; "you must try to forget I am taller and older than the little
Mary you once knew."

"Thank God that I have lived to see you, my child," said the old man,
laying his hand on her head, for Mary had thrown off her hat; "I thought
you wouldn't bring her, Edward," continued the old man, in the tearful
voice of excited old age. "But now you're come, my dear, we'll make you
happy. You're like your mother, child. Dear me, how the time flies! Ah,
well, I'm almost home now, and I feel like old Simeon, 'ready to depart
in peace,'" and the voice had a choking sound as he paused as if for
breath. Cousin Sarah approached.

"You must be quiet for a little while, uncle," she said, "and not excite
yourself. I'm going to take Miss Armstrong upstairs for a few minutes
till tea is ready, and Edward would like to go to his room, I daresay."

"Yes, yes, quite right, Sarah, I'll take care of myself," replied the
old man. "I'm only a little overcome at first." And as they left the
room he leaned back in his easy-chair and quietly watched the rosy
country servant as she covered the table with a profusion of good
things, such profusion as country people consider necessary to prove
their hospitality.

Meanwhile Mary had followed cousin Sarah to a bedroom which, while it
lacked many of the elegant luxuries of her own room at home, charmed her
by its simplicity, cleanliness, and tasteful arrangements. The ceiling,
across which appeared a large beam, was low, the floor uneven and only
partially covered with a carpet. But through the lattice window the
moonlight fell in diamond patterns on the floor, only broken by the
shadow of the flickering rose-leaves that surrounded it. The dimity
curtains, the quilt, the bed furniture, and the toilet covers were of
snowy whiteness, and that peculiar fragrance of the country which is
often found in country bedrooms pervaded the room.

Twilight still lingered, yet Mrs. John Armstrong carried a lighted
candle which flared and flickered in the draught from the open window.

"I am sorry the window has not been closed, Miss Armstrong," she said,
as she shaded the candle in her hand, and advanced to fasten the
casement.

"Please call me Mary, cousin Sarah," said the young lady, earnestly;
"and if you will put out the candle and leave the window curtains
undrawn, I shall prefer the moonlight. Oh, what a pleasant window!" she
added, as she looked out on the prospect so often described by her
mother. "Did mamma sleep here?"

"No, your papa has the room in which she slept, it is larger than this;
but you shall see it to-morrow, the window overlooks the orchard."

"Yes, I know," said Mary; "mamma has described it so often that I am
sure I shall recognise it."

"Then Mrs. Armstrong remembers her visit to Meadow Farm?"

"Indeed she does with great pleasure, and I have been so longing to come
here. I hope, however, that my coming has not excited dear grandfather
too much," she added, anxiously; "but I did not expect to find him up
from what cousin John said in the letter."

"Oh, did you not? Why, uncle has never kept his bed a whole day yet; he
always comes down to dinner; strong, healthy men like he has been seldom
live long after once they take to their beds."

Mary had been hastily making some slight alteration in her dress, and
emptying her carpet bag with a quickness which surprised cousin Sarah;
and seeing her ready they went downstairs together.

Mary Armstrong had never before seen a real farm-house kitchen, and she
was not likely to forget the scene that presented itself as she entered.

A large roomy apartment, containing two oriel windows, with leaden
casements and diamond window-panes. On one side a dresser and shelves,
covered with pewter plates, old china bowls, and various articles of
wedgwood and earthenware.

Through an opposite door she could see another large kitchen lighted by
the blaze of a wood fire, in which servants were apparently busy, and
the voices of men and women could be heard. She noticed as she followed
her cousin to the screen that the window nearest the entrance door was
uncovered, and that the floor of the old kitchen appeared to be formed
of rough stones which she afterwards found was a mixture of lime and
sand. But for the moonlight, which passed through the uncovered window
and glittered like silver on the pewter plates, this part of the farm
kitchen would have had a very desolate aspect. Once, however, inside the
screen, how changed everything appeared! The portion enclosed was as
large as many a London parlour, and entirely covered with a thick
carpet. On the wide, open hearth lay a pile of coals and wooden logs,
that sent a blaze and a sparkle up the chimney, while the glowing heat
rendered the stone on which the carpet in front of the fire lay a far
warmer resting-place for a cold foot than the thickest hearth-rug ever
invented.

On a large round table in the centre, covered with a snowy cloth, were
arranged china teacups of curious shape and rare value, the silver
teapot, cream-jug, and sugar-dish of most antique patterns, in which the
firelight gleamed and flickered, adding brightness to the good fare with
which the table was loaded. Above the high mantelpiece hung various
useful kitchen articles composed of tin, copper, and brass, all so
carefully and brightly polished that the light from a lamp and the
reflected blaze of the fire flashed from their surfaces with a glitter
that illuminated the enclosed portion of the kitchen, making the outer
part darker by contrast.

In the most protected corner of this pleasant enclosure, and near the
glowing fire, sat old Mr. Armstrong with his son by his side, cheering
the old man by his pleasant conversation. Mary, as she entered, thought
she had never seen her father to so much advantage. The tender,
deferential manner of the son to the aged father was a new phase in his
character which charmed his youthful daughter. Mrs. John Armstrong took
her seat at the tea-table, while her husband rose with a native
politeness to place a chair for Mary, which made her forget that his
dress was the homely garb of a farmer.

"Give up your seat to your daughter, Edward, and let Mary sit by me."

The change was quickly made, and then the old gentleman said--

"Ah, my dear, I can see you more plainly now in the light of the lamp;
there is a look of the little child I remember so well, although you are
grown so tall and womanly."

"Do you not think Mary is like her mother, uncle?" said cousin Sarah;
"and yet she has a look sometimes that reminds me of Edward."

"Never mind whom she resembles," said the old man; "if my granddaughter
is, as I hear from her father, a dutiful and affectionate daughter, that
is of far more value than her personal appearance."

How pleasantly that evening passed! Mary played a game of chess with the
old gentleman, whose mind was still clear, notwithstanding his
eighty-two years, and delighted him by her quick intelligence, and
perhaps not less by finding that he could beat her after a well-matched
contest.

When Mary laid her head on her pillow that night in the pretty white
bedroom, as she called it, she felt that there could be found much more
real happiness in a country life than in all the gaieties and
frivolities of a London season.

But Mary had yet to learn the real foundation of the peace and harmony
which seemed to surround the residents at Meadow Farm like a halo, and
even to make her sleep more sweetly in her white-curtained bed than she
had ever done even in the richly furnished rooms and luxurious couches
at her aunt Elston's, in Portland Place, after an evening spent in
gaiety and excitement.

For the first time in her life Mary had knelt at family prayer.

The old clock in the kitchen had scarcely finished striking nine when
cousin Sarah rose, and taking from a shelf a large old-fashioned Bible
and book of family prayers, placed them on the table before Edward
Armstrong.

"Do you not read yourself, father?" he asked.

"No, my son, I have not been able to do so for some years; John always
supplies my place; but now you are here you must officiate."

To Mary all this was new. Except at church she had never seen her father
with a Bible in his hand, and she wondered whether he had been
accustomed to this in his childhood.

Edward Armstrong possessed one accomplishment which is not always
sufficiently appreciated, he read well; and the beautiful chapter which
his father requested him to read sounded to Mary as something she had
never before heard--the 15th chapter of St. Luke, and the story of the
prodigal son.

The prayer also which followed was new to her. It seemed so suited to
the time and place and persons assembled, that she could follow every
petition as if it came from her own heart. No wonder Mary Armstrong
after this could sleep peacefully.

The sunbeams of an April morning aroused her at an early hour next
morning. She sprung out of bed and drew back the window-curtains. What a
charming prospect met her view! Close beneath her lay stretched a large
and well-kept garden, old-fashioned paths bordered with box, and
flower-beds of various geometrical shapes, in which crocus and snowdrop,
wallflower, and polyanthus spread themselves in picturesque confusion.

Nearer the house the lilac buds were just bursting into flower, and
around her windows the monthly roses mingled their delicate pink leaves
with the dark green ivy that covered the wall.

Beyond stretched field and meadow in early spring verdure. In the
furrows of an adjacent field men were already busily employed in sowing
seeds, and from a distance could be heard the lowing of cattle, the
clucking of hens as they led their chirping broods, the quacking of
ducks and geese, the peculiar note of the guinea-fowl, and above them
all Chanticleer's shrill but familiar crow. Mary turned from the window
with a hasty determination to obtain a closer inspection of these
pleasant rural sights and sounds. Dressing herself quickly she descended
the stairs, and found every one in the house up and busy except her
father and grandfather, although it was not yet half-past six o'clock.

Mrs. John Armstrong came forward with surprise to greet the London lady,
who could leave her room at such an early hour.

"What, up already, Mary?" she said, "I did not expect to see you till
nine o'clock."

"I rise early at home always," she replied; "papa often leaves for
London at half-past eight, and I breakfast with him."

"Ah, yes, I forgot that you live at some distance from London now, and
therefore our country manners and ways are not quite new to you."

"It is very pleasant country where we live, but not so rural as this,"
said Mary; and then, as she observed her cousin take some barley from a
bin in the outer kitchen, she exclaimed, "Oh, cousin Sarah, if you are
going to feed the chickens, do let me go with you, I am longing to see
the farmyard, and I can carry something for you."

"Of course you shall go, my dear; I shall be glad to have you. Ned and
Jack are away at school now in Southampton, and I miss their help very
much."

Mary was soon loaded with a basket containing provision for the farmyard
pensioners, and while they walked she asked many questions about her
cousins John and Edward, boys of eleven and fifteen, cousin Sarah's only
surviving children. But the strange farmyard scenes soon occupied all
Mary's attention. Never in her life had she seen so many geese, ducks,
chickens, and pigeons, and until they were all fed and satisfied nothing
else could be attempted.

At length Mary was at liberty to look round her. The farmyard was
surrounded by barns, stables for horses and cattle, waggon-sheds, hen
and pigeon-houses, rabbit-hutches, and a pond in the centre, by no means
small, for the ducks and geese, near which stood their comfortable
nests.

"The man is going to feed the pigs, Mary," said her cousin; "their sties
are at the back of the stables, opening into a field."

She led the way from the farmyard as she spoke, and as they drew near
the spot Mary heard a most unmelodious sound, half-grunting,
half-squeaking, with which the little hungry animals greeted their
keeper. There appeared about a hundred little pigs in a portion of the
field adjoining the sties, and railed in from the other part by wooden
palings and hurdles. At intervals, close to the fence, stood troughs,
and the moment their keeper appeared in sight there arose such a perfect
yell and growl of grunting and squealing that Mary could not attempt to
speak.

The little animals, who varied in age from six weeks to three months,
were beautifully clean and white, and when Mary saw them looking through
holes in the palings, and many of them standing on their hind-legs to
put their noses over, she could scarcely speak for laughing.

"I thought pigs were such heavy, stupid things," she said at last, "but
these are lively enough."

"They be lively enough when they be'es hungry," said the man, as he
entered the enclosure and drove them back into their houses while he and
his helper filled their troughs.

"You can come and see them fed another morning," said cousin Sarah, "but
I must go in and prepare breakfast now. Will you amuse yourself in the
garden till you hear the bell ring, and gather some flowers for the
table?"

"Yes, I should like it of all things;" and Mrs. John Armstrong led Mary
to the garden gate and left her.

Mary wandered down the dew moistened paths, now and then gathering
flowers as she passed. In her mind, while looking at the ungainly little
beasts in the field, had arisen a memory of words in the parable she had
heard read the evening before--"and he sent him into the fields to feed
swine." Her knowledge of Oriental customs enabled her to understand the
deep degradation of such employment, not only to the Jew, but to the
natives of other Eastern countries. And yet, after all, the prodigal's
father received him again with open arms.

She was walking still in deep thought when her father's step aroused
her.

"What is the subject of my daughter's thoughts?" he said as he placed
his arm round her.

Mary avoided a direct reply. Not even to her father could she open her
heart on the real subject of her thoughts. But she described with so
much vivacity the scenes she had lately visited, not forgetting the
greedy pigs, that her father was quite amused.

The eight o'clock bell summoned the whole household to prayers, and when
Mary entered the farm kitchen she found the screen drawn back and about
twenty farm-servants, male and female, waiting to join in the morning
devotions.

Her grandfather was absent, but her father conducted the service as on
the previous evening. And when she seated herself at the breakfast-table
the glow of health on her cheek was not brighter than the glow of
pleasure in her heart as she thought of a whole family kneeling and
asking God to guide and keep them through the day from danger and sin.

Mr. Edward Armstrong was obliged to return to London on the day after
his arrival, and finding his father so much better than he expected he
did so with less regret. "You can leave your daughter for a few days
longer, Edward," said his father; "I have hardly had time to renew my
acquaintance with her, and it is not possible that I shall ever see her
again in this world."

"Would you like to stay for a week, Mary?" asked her father.

"Yes, papa, very much, if dear mamma can spare me for so long."

"There is no doubt of that, my dear," he replied, "especially if she
thinks your stay will be agreeable to your grandfather."

And so Mary Armstrong remained at Meadow Farm for a week, a period which
in after-life was never forgotten. The loving affection of the kind old
man was returned by her in attention to his every wish. So much, indeed,
had this visit cheered and revived him, that on fine afternoons, when
persuaded by Mary, he would lean on her strong young arm, and walk about
the garden and fields of the farm.

On the Sunday he even ventured to the village church; and when
congratulated by friends who wondered at the elegant graceful girl on
whose arm he leaned, he would say with affectionate pride, "This is my
granddaughter, Edward's eldest child."

In these walks the young girl opened her heart to the aged Christian,
who had had a long life's experience in the "ways of wisdom," and had
found her paths "paths of peace."

From him Mary Armstrong learnt those truths which were to be her comfort
and guide in after days of sorrow and trial.

When her father came for her at the end of the week she felt the parting
from her grandfather and cousins only softened by the thought that she
was returning to her mother so dearly loved. At parting the good old
gentleman gave her a Bible with marginal references, and a concordance,
which she received with many tears, for she felt that never again on
earth should she hear the loving voice that had first said to her, "This
is the way, walk ye in it."



CHAPTER XV.

A VISIT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.


During the evening at Mr. Drummond's there had been very little
opportunity for Mr. Armstrong to discover that the gentleman with white
hair was the head of the school at which his little Freddy attended as a
pupil. He had been greatly pleased with the gentle and refined manners
of Dr. Halford and his son, and felt at once that they were both men of
superior education. He had greatly appreciated their remarks on both
literary and scientific subjects after the ladies had left the
dinner-table; but, unfortunately, one of Mr. Armstrong's narrow-minded
prejudices made him judge schoolmasters and clergymen with anything but
Christian charity. Added to this they were proverbially poor, and
poverty in his eyes was becoming almost a crime.

"What business," he would say, "has a man to educate his son to be a
clergyman if he has not independent means, or a living ready for him? or
even to be a schoolmaster, with fine notions about education, and not a
penny in his pocket? Better by far make him a carpenter or a shoemaker,
to work for his living without having to endure the torture of keeping
up a genteel appearance upon poverty."

Mr. Armstrong had been unfortunate in his experience respecting
schoolmasters and curates; and with the unbending obstinacy of his
nature adhered to the opinion he had formed. The bare idea that Dr.
Halford could be a schoolmaster, or that his son was studying at Oxford
to become a curate, never occurred to him. His wife, who knew his
prejudiced opinions too well, would not enlighten him on the subject,
while speaking next morning of the great pleasure he had found in their
society, although she wondered that the name had not reminded him of
Freddy's school.

Mrs. Armstrong congratulated herself, as she remembered that Mary's
father had been too much occupied at the dinner-table to notice the
gentleman who sat by her side. "If any unpleasantness should arise from
the attentions of that young man to my daughter," she said to herself,
"I shall have to remove my little Freddy from school, and he is so happy
there."

One afternoon, after the Easter holidays, Freddy brought home a little
note, fortunately addressed to herself, containing the quarter's
account. The sum was comparatively trifling, and she sent it herself the
next day by Freddy. It had been made out to Mr. Armstrong; but she
feared to show him the bill on which the name of Halford stood so
conspicuously written.

Mrs. Armstrong was giving herself unnecessary anxiety. Henry Halford was
already at Oxford absorbed in his books, and more than ever determined
to ignore even the existence of a certain young lady with large grey
eyes and bright brown hair, who had for a time dazzled his senses.

And Mary, did a thought of that pleasant dinner-party ever pass over her
mind? Yes; for true to her promise she had read Milton's works with
greater interest than ever; she had made notes of the explanations Mr.
Henry Halford had given her so far as she could remember them, and
perhaps a little feeling of disappointment arose in her heart that he
had not sent the copy of "Paradise Lost," which he had offered to lend
her, and which contained notes in the margin. Mary Armstrong owned to
herself that she liked Mr. Henry Halford, both in manners and
appearance; and, above all, for being so evidently clever and
well-informed; but she was not likely to be easily won. The thought of
marriage, as a possible event at some future time, would sometimes occur
to her; but _falling_ in love implied a weakness, and the citadel of
Mary Armstrong's heart was so well guarded by constant and active
employment, a love of acquiring knowledge, and a mind well informed on
the best subjects, that it would need a strong siege to make the citadel
surrender. At present, therefore, Mary was free; and the spring months
passed away; and June, with its roses, its blue skies and balmy air,
arrived to gladden the earth.

The health of Mrs. Armstrong had greatly improved since her residence at
Lime Grove. Freddy was also looking well and rosy; and letters from
Edward and Arthur were full of the anticipation of the happiness in
store for them during the Midsummer holidays.

One morning early in June a carriage drove up to the gate of Lime Grove,
and to Mrs. Armstrong's great satisfaction she saw her sister, Mrs.
Herbert, preparing to alight. The colonel and his wife had been abroad
during the winter; and the sisters met in the hall with affectionate
pleasure.

"Why, Mary," said her aunt, as her niece came forward to welcome her,
"you are grown quite a woman; and you and your mother look so well, I am
sure this place must agree with you."

"Yes, indeed it does, aunt," replied Mary, leading her to a chair; "but
has it not made a change in mamma?"

"Wonderful!" said the lady, as she seated herself.

"Wont you take off your bonnet, Helen, and stay to lunch?" asked her
sister.

"Yes, presently. I want a little talk first, and there is plenty of
time."

"Let me send a message to the coachman to put up the horses, aunt," said
Mary; "it's a long drive from town, and they must want rest."

Mrs. Herbert agreed to remain for an hour or two; the horses were safely
stabled, and the servants desired to give the two men their dinners;
all, indeed, was arranged according to Mary's wishes, for Mrs. Armstrong
gave up every household management to her active, energetic daughter.

"Well, upon my word, Mary," said her aunt, after having been, as she
said, carried upstairs by force of arms to remove her bonnet and shawl,
and was now seated in a luxurious chair near an open window, "upon my
word you manage to have your own way very decidedly."

"Perhaps I do," she replied, laughing; "but now, aunt, is it not more
comfortable to feel you have nothing to do but talk or listen, instead
of being obliged to interrupt a pleasant conversation to get ready for
lunch in a great hurry?"

"Ah, yes, I daresay you are right, Mary; but now, before I tell you one
cause of my visit I must hear all the news. Do you like your house as
well as ever?"

"Yes, quite; indeed I may say, better, for the garden is repaying the
money we laid out upon it last year, and we have obtained such a nice
school for Freddy."

"Your flowers are beautiful, I can see so far," said Mrs. Herbert--and
so of one thing and another the ladies continued to talk, till at last,
after Mary's drawings had been examined, her German lessons described,
as well as the beautiful grey mare her father had given her--Mrs.
Herbert said, "When will Edward be at home, Maria?"

"Not before five; we dine at six. If you wish to see him you must stay
to dinner."

"I would rather not do so; it will make my return home so late. Do you
think I may venture to take Mary away for a week or ten days without
asking her father's consent?"

"Oh, aunt, I'm afraid not," said Mary, "if you wish me to visit you in
Park Lane."

"Only for a day or two, my dear. Your uncle and I are going to Oxford
for a week on a special invitation from Charles, and in his letter he
says I am to be sure and bring Mary."

"It is no use to look so anxiously at me, my dear," said Mrs. Armstrong;
"I could not decide myself in such a matter; you must persuade your aunt
to stay to dinner, and then she can ask your father herself."

"Would you like to go, Mary?" said her aunt.

"Oh yes, above all things, aunt. I went to Cambridge once with papa, but
he says it is nothing to Oxford. We shall be able to visit the colleges,
and the museum, and libraries. I've read about them; and to visit such
ancient, antique places, will be a great treat."

"Charles seems to think," replied her aunt, "that there is nothing so
likely to attract visitors to Oxford as the grand commemoration which
takes place once in three years, and is to happen this year. I suppose,
from what he says, that it will be a very gay and exciting time at
Oxford."

"Can you manage without me, mamma?" asked Mary, suddenly.

"Certainly, darling; I would not deprive you of such a pleasure for a
great deal."

"Then if aunt cannot stay I'll ask papa myself, and perhaps he will take
me to Park Lane to-morrow, when he goes to town."

"I should like to have a decision to-day, my dear, that I may write to
Charles and tell him when to expect us, so I suppose I must stay, for I
intend to take you back with me this evening, Mary; and as it is
daylight till ten o'clock, we need not mind being late."

This decision gave pleasure to both mother and daughter; and after
luncheon Mary left the sisters to their pleasant afternoon chat, while
she went to pack a box with various articles which she knew she should
require for so long a visit.

"I don't think my father will refuse to grant me this great pleasure,"
she said to herself, "so I may as well have everything in readiness, and
not keep aunt Helen waiting when his consent is obtained. If he does
object to my going I can easily unpack my box again, and replace
everything."

But Mary sighed at the prospect of a disappointment.

She was, however, not doomed to such a result. Mr. Armstrong could not
resist the pleading eyes of his daughter when her aunt stated her wish,
and readily gave his consent. As quickly as possible after they had
dined, the carriage was brought to the door. Yet with all the delightful
anticipations of the visit in store for her, Mary could not part from
her mother without a feeling of regret which almost produced tears. She
had so lately left her to visit her grandfather for a week, and as she
kissed her she whispered--"Mamma, are you sure you can manage without
me, and shall you feel lonely?"

"No no, dearest, don't be afraid, Morris will do all I require, and I
shall amuse myself by thinking of your happiness, and of all you will
have to tell me on your return."

Mr. Armstrong seemed to participate fully in his daughter's pleasure,
and as he placed her in the carriage with her aunt, after kissing her
affectionately, a deep feeling of pride rose in his heart. Mary was all
he could wish her to be. He had superintended her education, and to
himself alone he attributed all the good qualities she possessed.

"My daughter will attract notice in the society she meets at Colonel
Herbert's," he said to himself. "I wish her to marry well, both as to
position and money. She is not likely to make a foolish attachment. At
all events, should such a thing arise I have influence enough with her
to put a stop to it. Mary will not disobey me."

Meanwhile Colonel Herbert's open carriage was bowling along on its
delicate springs towards London in the pleasant summer evening.

For some minutes the present and anticipated enjoyment kept Mary silent.
At last her aunt made some remark which caused her to say--"I thought
cousin Charles was at Windsor with his regiment."

"So he was a week ago, but he has taken advantage of leave of absence to
visit an old friend at Oxford, who has lately obtained a fellowship, and
he is so delighted with the place that he wishes us to participate in
his pleasure."

"He is very kind to think of me," replied Mary, "and you could not have
proposed for me a greater treat. When do you intend to start?"

"On Thursday, I hope, but I must write to Charles this evening that he
may secure apartments at the Mitre Hotel. I believe that during the week
of commemoration Oxford presents a very gay appearance, and every
available room in the town is quickly hired at a fabulous rent. I have
heard the scenes described, but while Charles was at the Woolwich
Academy the grand days there in which he figured were my greatest
attraction."

"Oh yes, aunt, I can quite understand a preference for the places where
our own relations are studying. Those days when you took me to Woolwich
while cousin Charles was a cadet were delightful."

And so the aunt and niece continued to talk till the carriage drove into
Park Lane, and Colonel Herbert appeared to welcome the arrival of his
niece.

"Well done, Helen," he said, as his wife led Mary in. "So you have
succeeded in your expedition, and enticed the home bird from her nest?"

"Not without waiting for permission from head-quarters," she replied. "I
was made to remain to dinner, for the young lady appeared resolute; she
would not stir without her father's sanction, which, however, was most
readily given."

"Quite right, Mary, there can be no hope of future happiness in any
matter which opposes a parent's will."

"Take Miss Armstrong to her room, Annette," said Mrs. Herbert to the
little French maid, who stood waiting to attend the young lady; and then
she added in English--"I am going to write to Charles at once, Mary. Go
with Annette, she will unpack your box, and do all you require."

Mary followed the tastefully yet neatly dressed French girl to a
pleasant room overlooking the park, and soon delighted the young
foreigner in a strange land by addressing her with ease in her own
language.

Mary, after arranging her dress, and allowing her beautiful hair to pass
through the agile fingers of the French girl, seated herself at the open
window to watch with eager amusement the varied groups who still
lingered or sauntered leisurely along in the cool evening air.

The summons for tea took her to the drawing-room, and the evening passed
in listening to descriptions of her aunt's journey to the south of
France, and of the beautiful _château_ overlooking the blue waters of
the Mediterranean in which they had lived.

"We often wished you and your mother were with us, Mary," said her
uncle, "all the reading in the world about these lovely spots can never
realise the scenes to the imagination of the reader in their full
beauty. They must be seen to be understood."

"I hope I shall have that opportunity some day," said Mary. "Papa often
talks about spending a few months on the Continent, although he dreads
the thought of leaving the management of his business to others. But,
aunt Helen, I should think some of the scenery in Wales or Scotland, and
in England too, especially in the lake country, must be as beautiful as
any place in foreign lands."

"England has a beauty of its own in its soft and picturesque scenery,"
said her uncle, "but in the glorious south the sunshine, the luxurious
vegetation, and the clear air, which makes distant objects so sharply
defined, render the scenery very unlike that of a northern landscape.
Still, it is a fact that many English people go abroad to admire foreign
countries who know nothing of the beauties in their own native land."

"I've heard papa make the same remark, uncle, and I shall always feel
thankful to him for taking me so many pleasant trips through England,
and if I ever have the good fortune to visit other countries I shall be
able to make comparisons, and I don't think dear old England will lose
much after all."

"Quite right, Mary, stand up for your own native land, and be thankful
that you are not being suffocated with the heat in India, nor subject in
England to earthquakes, tornados, or storms, such as destroy cities, and
terrify so often the inhabitants of the torrid zone."

"Indeed I am thankful already, uncle, for I have heard Aunt Helen
describe Indian storms, and the terrible heat, too often not to be glad
I have a dear English home. Is the scenery round Oxford beautiful?" she
asked after a pause.

"It is rather flat, but very picturesque on the banks of the Thames,
which runs behind Christchurch Meadows, especially in summer. Have you
never been in Oxfordshire, Mary?"

"No, uncle, but I have seen Windsor, that is the next county, so I
suppose there is a similarity in the scenery."

"A little, perhaps, but I will leave you to judge for yourself. And now,
suppose you give us a little music."

And thus the evening passed away, and we cannot wonder if in Mary's
dreams were mixed up various subjects which had made that day so
different to the quiet studious scenes of home.

Next day they drove to the Kensington Museum, and afterwards spent a few
hours at the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, the latter always a
delight to Mary. And at a rather early hour she laid her head on her
pillow full of joyous anticipations of the morrow's journey.

Could she have foreseen the result of this visit would she have shrunk
from it? We cannot tell.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE COMMEMORATION WEEK.


Brightly shone the sun over the towers and pinnacles of the glorious old
city as the train sped along between Didcot and Oxford. Down the High
Street towards the railway station two gentlemen were walking slowly,
one of them wearing the Master of Arts gown and the trencher cap; the
other, though in plain clothes, had the bearing and gait of a soldier.

Except the bright dark eyes and the clear olive skin there is very
little in the tall manly figure and whiskered face to recall the Charley
Herbert whom Edward Armstrong saved from an untimely death. His
companion, who scarcely reaches to his shoulder, has no such personal
attractions as his friend, but the keen eye, broad forehead, and
intellectual, studious face, command at once respect and attention.

"At what time is the train due?" asked Charles Herbert, taking out his
watch.

"12.30," was the reply.

"Oh, then we have plenty of time to drop in at Queen's and asked Maurice
about the boatrace. Hollo, old fellow, where are you going?" and the
young officer looked at the offered hand of his friend with surprise.

"I ought not to intrude upon your friends on the very moment of their
arrival, Herbert, so I'll say good-by now."

"Nonsense! I want you to know them; come, along, Wilton; you are not
going to escape me in this way; and here comes Maurice, the very man I
want. Who is that tall fellow with him?" he added hastily, in a low
tone, as the two undergraduates approached, one of them with a pleased
recognition of Charles and his friend.

"I'll introduce you if you like," had been Mr. Wilton's reply, and as
the four gentlemen met and exchanged a friendly greeting, Charles found
himself returning the bow of the stranger, who was being named to him as
"Mr. Henry Halford, of Queen's."

"I think we have met before, Mr. Herbert," said Henry, with a smile, "we
were fellow pupils at Dr. Mason's."

"To be sure, I thought the name was familiar," exclaimed Charles,
holding out his hand, "but how was I to recognise our famous Grecian as
a tall undergrad. with whiskers; but I remember the face now." And then
the two gentlemen stood talking over olden times until Horace Wilton
reminded Charles Herbert that he had but a few minutes to spare if he
wished to reach the station in time to meet his friends, and persisting
in wishing him "Good-by," started him off.

Hasty promises were made to meet on the morrow, hasty farewells uttered,
and then Charles Herbert found himself proceeding alone at a rapid rate
towards the station.

He had, however, several minutes to wait on the platform before the
train slowly drew up, and then from a window of a first-class carriage
he recognised the bright, intelligent face of his cousin Mary.

In a few moments the door of the carriage was opened, and a proud, fond
welcome from the son whom the mother had not seen for so many months
almost brought tears in Mary's eyes.

"Are you tired? Shall we walk to the hotel, and leave the boxes for a
porter to bring?" were the eager questions readily assented to at last,
and then Charles Herbert, taking possession of his cousin's arm, led the
way to his hotel.

Perhaps, to a stranger, no period of time at Oxford can be more fraught
with interest than the week in which the yearly commemoration is held.
The town no doubt appears more dull by contrast during the long
vacation, but in full term time the streets seem redolent of learning;
the grave don walking with stately step, as if conscious how far above
all other is the power conferred by knowledge and mental superiority;
the severe-looking proctor, with his black velvet-trimmed gown adding to
his appearance of stern, gloomy determination to be the punisher of
evildoers; the youthful freshman, who wears his new honours with shy
pride, contrasted with the careless indifference of his more experienced
companion, who, carrying a number of musty-looking volumes under his
arm, seems quite unconscious that his gown is in rags, or that the cane
is visible at one or more corners of his cap.

The yearly commemoration at Oxford certainly presents a scene of
excitement scarcely equalled, from the peculiar features of the place,
the period, and the principal actors.

It is preceded by that terrible time when the aspirants for honours,
shivering and pale, sit writing answers to questions of alarming
difficulty, or replying with painful nervousness to their seemingly
stern examiners, who sit or stand before them with covered heads.

This is followed by sickening suspense till the list of names decides
their fate. Then the scene changes; books are laid aside, learning seems
for a time ignored. The long vacation is about to commence; all is
pleasure and gaiety.

Happy fathers, proud mothers, brothers, sisters, and cousins, occupy
every habitable part of Oxford outside the college walls, submitting to
any inconvenience that they may be present during the exciting week.

On the day of Mary's arrival with her aunt and uncle, several of the men
who had been going through a terrible ordeal in the schools might be
seen with pale and anxious faces wending their way to different
colleges. But as Mary entered the High Street at Magdalen Bridge, the
colleges on either side of the road, and the steeples in the distance so
occupied her attention that she scarcely noticed any other object.

"What college is that?" she asked, as the beautiful but antique outline
of Magdalen first met her view.

"I am not quite up in the wonders of Oxford yet," he replied, "although
I have been here a week; but I can tell you the names of those before
you. This is Magdalen College. A little higher on the right is Queen's;
the one opposite is University. That church with the spire is St.
Mary's, the University Church; close to it All Soul's College, and----"

"Oh, stop," cried Mary, "if you have whole streets of colleges and
churches in Oxford to describe, you must let me learn their names a few
at a time, or I shall mix them all up together. Are those young men with
caps and gowns clergymen?" she asked, suddenly.

"No, but what made you think so, Mary?"

"Because they have white ties, and others in the same dress have not."

"I am glad to be able to explain so far," he replied, laughing; "they
have been passing their examination in the schools, and at such an
occasion, I am told, the white tie is a customary appendage. But, Mary,
if you are bent upon understanding all the unusual things you see at
Oxford, I must provide you with a more experienced guide than myself.
And here we are at the hotel," he added, as he stopped to wait for his
parents, who were examining the buildings they passed with almost as
much eagerness and interest as Mary.

They turned into the hotel together, and in a very short time, after
taking a hasty lunch, they sallied forth in the bright sunshine, bent
upon exploring the wonders of a city so famed in ancient lore.

"We may as well begin with Magdalen College," said Charles, as they
walked down the High Street, but on reaching Queen's, he suddenly
paused, and saying, "Wait for me a moment," darted into the quadrangle,
and disappeared among the cloisters.

In a few moments he returned in the company of a gentlemanly-looking
man, in cap and gown, whom he introduced to the colonel and Mrs.
Herbert. Then turning to his cousin, he said--

"Mr. Maurice, my cousin Miss Armstrong has been already asking me so
many questions about the manners, customs, and buildings of your famous
university, that I shall be glad to place her in the charge of a more
well-informed guide than myself."

The young man, who wore a bachelor's gown with its large sleeves, gladly
but modestly accepted the charge so pleasantly made over to him. And
Mary, though at first a little reserved, soon found it pleasant to have
a companion who could answer her questions and give her unasked many
interesting particulars. In the course of the afternoon they were joined
by Mr. Wilton, Charles Herbert's friend, who proved himself a very
valuable addition to the party.

And so Friday and Saturday passed away in sight-seeing, visits to the
colleges, or attending afternoon service at New College and Magdalen;
and yet Mary showed no signs of fatigue. Never in her life had she been
more deeply interested; and although as _Show Sunday_ approached, the
streets were filled with well-dressed people, her attention was not
easily diverted. Sunday arrived, a bright June day, and in the evening a
gathering took place in Christ Church meadows, singularly styled _Vanity
Fair_. Fair ladies are certainly present on these occasions, but who
would apply to them the term vanity, although they have literally come
out to see and to be seen?

Show Sunday, as the Sunday before commemoration is termed, certainly
presents a show very seldom seen in any other locality in England.

The most dignified of Oxford's learned magnates are there, accompanied
by the ladies of their families and distinguished visitors.

Strings of gownsmen, arm-in-arm, parade the Long Walk, observing with a
sort of good-natured envy their more favoured fellows, on whose arms
lean some of the fairest and noblest of England's daughters. And in
almost every instance the promenaders of the gentler sex are attired in
that simple elegance of style which marks the well-bred woman of
polished society. Into this novel and attractive scene Mary Armstrong
was led by her cousin and Frank Maurice, upon whose arm she leaned.

Her uncle and aunt had continued their walk to the water side, but
Charles and his friend detained her after the second turn in the Long
Walk for another stroll through the broad promenade beneath the lofty
elm trees.

Charles Herbert felt proud of the slight, graceful figure, so becomingly
attired, by whom he walked. The simple, white dress, lace mantle, and
blue silk bonnet were attractive from their simplicity, and more than
one gownsman, who raised his cap to Frank Maurice, cast admiring eyes on
the fair, intellectual face and noble features of the young lady by his
side. Presently two gownsmen turned into the walk, and as they
approached, one of them said to the other--

"Why, Halford, here comes Wilton's tall friend with Maurice, and a lady
on his arm."

The young man thus addressed started as his companion spoke; he had
quickly recognised the young lady whom he had twice met, and now as they
drew near, and Charles Herbert advanced to claim his acquaintance in a
friendly manner, his face became pale as death. It flushed, however, and
the consciousness of this restored his self-possession as Charles
introduced his cousin, Miss Armstrong.

"I have met Miss Armstrong before," he said, with an effort; "my father
resides at Kilburn, at a very short distance from the Limes."

For once Mary was at fault, so great was her surprise to see her
dinner-table friend, and her little brother's tutor, at Oxford, in the
costume of an undergraduate. But as the new-comers joined them in their
walk, and entered into conversation, with her companions, she recovered
herself, and took the first opportunity to address a few words to him.

The bells began to toll for evening service, and Frank Maurice, excusing
himself to Mary and her cousin, wished them good evening and joined the
gownsmen with whom Henry Halford had a few minutes before made his
appearance.

"Whither shall we go this evening, Mary?" asked her cousin.

"I have no choice," she replied; "aunt talked of going to St. Mary's,
but where are uncle and aunt gone?" she exclaimed, looking round in
surprise.

Charles Herbert hesitated for a moment, and then, as the sudden thought
occurred that Mary had met an old acquaintance, he said--

"Mr. Halford, if you will kindly take care of my cousin, I will go in
search of my runaway relatives."

Henry Halford bowed, and as Charles quickly disappeared he offered his
arm to Mary, and led her slowly on in the direction taken by her cousin.

For some minutes conflicting thoughts filled the minds of these two
young people so suddenly thrown into each other's society.

"How very pale Mr. Halford looked when he met us just now!" said Mary
Armstrong to herself. "What could be the cause? How strange that I
should meet him here! and yet I remember now that mamma said Dr.
Halford's son was going to Oxford. How nervous he seems! and so
different from his manner at the dinner-table at Mr. Drummond's. Ah, how
clever I thought him then! and after a university education I should
feel absolutely afraid to talk with him. I expect he will end by taking
a fellowship like Mr. Wilton. These clever men never marry;" and then a
quick flash of thought that crimsoned the young girl's face passed
through her mind: "yet I should like my husband to be even more clever
and well informed than papa." The silence was becoming painful, and Mary
was glad enough to be able to say--

"Oh, here they come at last; do you know my uncle and aunt, Mr.
Halford?"

Before he could reply, the colonel and his wife drew near, and Charles
quickly introduced the young gownsman, whom he had seen more than once,
and of whom he had heard favourable accounts.

After a while Charles Herbert offered his arm to Mary, leaving his young
friend to make his own way with his elders, which he did so successfully
that they invited him to their hotel to dine on the following day.

Charles made the most of his time during the walk home with his cousin.
He had a kind of brotherly affection for Mary, and her regard for him
had all the elements of sisterly love; there was therefore perfect ease
on both sides in their association with each other, which perhaps
induced him to say to her on this evening words which created in her
mind new ideas, and led to results he little anticipated.

Charles Herbert himself had no thought of marriage at present, and
therefore never suspected that the trifling questions he put to Mary in
a joking way would lead to serious thoughts on her part.

"So you and Mr. Halford are old friends. Mary?"

"No, Charles, I have only met him twice; the second time, three months
ago at a dinner party."

"Well, he appeared considerably discomposed when he met you. Do you
think uncle Armstrong would consider the future parson a suitable match
for his daughter?"

"Oh, Charles, don't say such foolish things; does every young man want
to marry a young lady when he talks pleasantly to her? if I thought so,
I would never speak to any of them again."

The young officer laughed heartily as he replied, "Well, Mary, I wont
tease you any more, but if Mr. Halford does take advantage of pleasant
talk with you, and should make you an offer, remember I warned you."

Mary did not reply, and the conversation drifted into another subject.

But her cousin's playful remarks had excited new ideas, and when alone
in her room that night she almost decided to avoid the society of the
young man in whom she felt herself already interested. In about two
years he would finish his terms, and with his acknowledged talents was
it likely he would fail to pass for his degree, and obtain ordination?
And then--he would be a clergyman, a curate perhaps with a hundred a
year,--would her father consent to such a match for her? Some such
thoughts as these for a time perplexed her, till at last she dismissed
them as absurd. Mr. Henry Halford had never by word or look given her a
right to imagine any such nonsense; and after all why should she allow
herself to be influenced by the jokes of her cousin Charles?

But to dismiss thoughts of persons with whom we are constantly
associated is not an easy matter, as Mary quickly discovered. In an
early walk next day with her cousin and his friends they again
encountered Henry Halford. He accompanied them to the afternoon service
at New College, and soon proved himself as efficient a guide as Frank
Maurice. At dinner he completely won the good opinion of Colonel
Herbert, by making sensible remarks on various subjects with a modest
unobtrusiveness so pleasing in a young man to his elders; and when they
separated on that evening it was quite understood that Henry Halford was
to consider himself one of their party during this visit to Oxford.
Charles Herbert looked however in vain for any signs that these two
young people, Henry Halford and Mary Armstrong, were, as he called it,
"falling in love" with each other.

They appeared on most friendly terms; Henry rather reserved, but kind,
attentive, and polite to the young lady, who treated him with easy
familiarity totally unmixed with self-consciousness. There was no
scheming to separate from the rest of the party, and Charles Herbert was
at length forced to admit that his joking remarks to Mary had been
ill-timed.

And yet in the heart of Henry Halford a struggle had commenced, which he
could with difficulty maintain when in Mary's society. He also had
secretly communed with himself after meeting her so suddenly on the
Sunday evening in Christchurch meadows. His first impulse was to leave
Oxford and return home at once, rather than again meet the girl whose
presence had aroused all the former emotions which he had supposed were
completely crushed. He tried to reason with himself on the folly of
supposing that he could form a just estimate of a young lady's character
in scarcely two interviews; and even if he had now the opportunity
placed in his way of seeing her more frequently, could he venture to
offer himself to Mr. Armstrong as a suitor for his only daughter? But
this very hopelessness nerved him to remain in her society; he was not
coxcomb enough to suppose such a sensible girl as Mary Armstrong in any
danger from this association with him; and so he remained, firmly
guarding his words and actions, that not one might be mistaken as a wish
to gain her affections.

Yet the days passed pleasantly: very frequently the three young people
sallied forth alone, Mrs. Herbert and the colonel not being able to
endure so much fatigue; at other times they were punted up the river to
Iffley, passing water-lilies and banks of forget-me-nots, while the
gaudy dragon-fly, with its green and gold feathers glittering in the
sun, flitted across from bank to bank.



CHAPTER XVII.

CHRISTCHURCH MEADOWS.


The morning of Commemoration-day dawned in full summer splendour. At an
early hour Mrs. Herbert and Mary were conducted by Henry Halford and the
captain to the ladies' gallery of the Sheldonian Theatre, which on these
occasions bears the closest resemblance to a flower-garden.

Ladies in bonnets and dresses of every shade and colour are seated
closely together, no break occurring by the appearance of a figure in
black broadcloth, and a white tie, as from this gallery gentlemen are
entirely excluded. And here for many hours sat Mary Armstrong and her
aunt, enjoying with amused surprise the performances in the gallery
above them, where persons and subjects were named only to be received
with cheers or groans, as it best suited the ten or twelve hundred wild
spirits there assembled.

Perhaps in the time of which we write these said wild spirits were more
under the control of their own good sense than others have been lately,
and therefore were not above submitting to the rules of the university.
Most certainly when the dons entered, and the business of the day
commenced, they did suppress the noisy shouting, and treat their
superiors, in learning at least, with some deference; and although now
and then there would occur a little outbreak of mirth and drollery, the
Sheldonian Theatre had not yet aspired, as it has lately, to the dignity
of a "bear-garden."

Mary Armstrong therefore could listen with but little interruption to
the Latin oration and the delivery of the prize poem--the latter most
attractive to a girl of intellectual tastes. Indeed, all that took place
possessed for her the attraction of novelty, and tired as she felt, she
could not help saying to her aunt as they rose to leave the place--

"Oh, aunty, I'm sorry it's all over."

"Why, my dear child, you must be tired to death; it is nearly three
o'clock, and we've been here ever since half-past ten."

"Oh, aunt, have I kept you here all this time on my account? I'm so
sorry. I did not feel tired, and I forgot to think of you; why did you
not tell me?"

"Nonsense, dear Mary! it is not likely I should wish to spoil your
pleasure. But see, here are the gentlemen, and they have got a carriage
for us to ride to the hotel. How very thoughtful!"

Mary also acknowledged herself tired now the excitement was over, and
gladly seated herself in the carriage by her aunt, with a sense of
relief at not having to walk.

Yet after a rest she was quite ready to accompany her cousin and Henry
Halford to the afternoon service at Magdalen. Mary felt she could never
be too tired to enjoy the sweet choral services at this and other
college chapels.

After dinner the young people proposed a stroll in Christchurch meadows.

"With all my heart," said the colonel, "if I am not expected to join
you. I don't think I ever felt more tired after a day's march than I do
now. Take care of Mary, Charles," he added, "she mustn't overdo it."

"Oh, I don't feel tired, uncle," she replied, "at least, not
very--besides, this is our last day at Oxford, and I must have a
farewell walk."

"A walk wont hurt her," said Mrs. Herbert, who was lying on the sofa;
"young people have a reserve force of strength which enables them to
recover quickly from fatigue."

A very few minutes brought Henry Halford and his companions to the Long
Walk, in which many persons were already assembled.

The sun, still in full brightness, was approaching the west, and his
slanting rays glittered like golden bands of light through the summer
foliage. But neither Mary nor her friends seemed inclined for
promenading in a crowd, so they sauntered slowly away from the company
towards the river side. Here they found a seat, and were presently
joined by Charles's friend Wilton. For more than an hour they sat
talking over the events of the day, and other matters connected with
university life, to which Mary had very little to do but listen with
great interest.

Suddenly Horace Wilton rose, and exclaimed, "Here are my aunt and
cousin, Captain Herbert; will you allow me to introduce them to you?"

Mary Armstrong and Henry Halford also rose as the ladies approached, for
they recognised Mrs. Drummond and her niece Edith Longford, whose
musical powers had been a matter of discussion between them at the
dinner party.

A mutual and surprised recognition took place amidst sundry inquiries.
"How long have you been at Oxford?" "When did you arrive?" "What have
you seen?" and so on.

At length Mrs. Drummond suggested that they should retrace their steps
to the chief entrance, as the evening was becoming cool. The whole party
therefore returned towards the Long Walk.

As usual in such cases, each gentleman fell into companionship with the
one lady to whom at the time of moving he happened to be speaking.
Horace Wilton therefore led the way with his aunt, Charles walked by the
side of Edith Longford, evidently much pleased with her companionship,
and Mary found herself alone with Henry Halford. In this lingering
summer evening walk there was no occasion for a gentleman to offer his
arm to the lady who accompanied him moving slowly by his side. Mary
therefore felt herself free. She was, however, for some minutes silently
occupied in contemplating the calm beauty of the sunset, which threw
over the park-like enclosure of Christchurch Meadows a glow of crimson
and gold. Behind them the rippling waters of the Thames dashed their
tiny waves against the mossy banks. At a distance in front, the turrets
and grey walls of the college glittered through the trees with the gleam
of sunset. A thrush in a thicket close by was sweetly warbling his
evening hymn of praise; and the scent of new-mown hay filled the air
with its fragrance.

Strollers like themselves were wending their way homewards to pass the
gate before Old Tom should sound out his one hundred and one sonorous
notes, and the meadows were almost deserted in the precincts of the
river. All this Mary noticed in silence on this never-to-be-forgotten
evening.

Suddenly she exclaimed--

"Oh, Mr. Halford, I have left my book on the seat; is there time to go
back for it? I meant to leave it at the library as we passed."

"I will fetch it for you, Miss Armstrong," he replied, "if you do not
mind waiting here alone for a few minutes."

"Oh, not in the least; thank you very much;" and she turned towards the
river as he started at a rapid pace to fetch the book. Another summer
evening beauty presented itself to her delighted eyes. Across the river
glittered a silver band of light, and looking up Mary saw through the
trees the full moon casting shadows of the quivering leaves on the turf
beneath.

Almost unconsciously she continued walking towards the river, and in a
few moments met Henry Halford returning hastily with the lost book in
his hand. After many earnest thanks from Mary they hastened to overtake
their companions, who were now out of sight; but some moments elapsed
before Henry could recover breath to speak easily after his rapid
movements.

Strange to say, amidst all his firm resolves a strong impulse was at
this moment agitating every nerve, and seeming to impel him to discover
whether this young girl, his very _beau idéal_ of what a woman should
be, could return the love which he now knew was rising for her in his
heart.

The twilight hour, the lonely walk, the expected separation on the
morrow, all tended to strengthen the impulse; yet he did not speak. Mary
walked on quickly, wondering at his silence, and anxious to overtake her
friends, yet evidently feeling fatigued.

"You are tired, Miss Armstrong," he said at last; "will you take my
arm?"

In silence Mary complied, and after walking rather quickly for a few
minutes they came to a turn in the road, and saw their companions at
some little distance before them.

"Oh, there they are," exclaimed Mary, slackening her speed; "we need not
walk so fast now if we keep them in sight: I am so sorry you had to
return for the book, Mr. Halford. I am afraid----"

"Don't, pray don't apologise, Miss Armstrong," was the reply that
interrupted her in agitated tones. "I should only be too happy to attend
to your every wish for my whole life, if I dared to encourage a hope
that such a result was possible."

Was it true? Had she heard aright? What could he mean? What could she
say in reply? Nothing. They walked on slowly in silence. How sweetly it
accorded with her feelings at the moment! Those few words had shown her,
as by a flash of lightning, the state of her own heart. Did it not
re-echo the sentiments just uttered by her companion? Was it not
happiness to be near him, hanging upon his arm, and conscious from his
words of his thoughts respecting her? so talented, so clever, and so
good, or he would not wish to be a clergyman.

During this visit to Oxford she had been conscious of a pleasure in his
society, and a satisfaction in observing how readily he won the
approbation of her friends; but now she could see more clearly the cause
of these feelings, and in the first moment of gladness she had no dread
of the future. Perfectly innocent of the world, she did not, as many
would have done, laugh off the agitated words as a mere compliment. She
had formed too high an estimate of the truthful character of Henry
Halford to doubt him for one moment.

But Henry Halford already trembled at what he had done in a moment of
impulse. Silently he led his companion to her friends, who had stopped
at the entrance of the cloisters to wait for them. Together they crossed
the quadrangle, Henry now and then joining in the conversation, and at
last, to Mary's great delight, passed out at the gate as Old Tom sounded
the first of his hundred and one strokes at nine o'clock.

No other words passed between these two till just before they reached
the hotel, where the rest of the party were waiting to wish them good
night.

"I will not intrude upon your family circle this evening, Miss
Armstrong," said Henry Halford, "but I will call in to-morrow to say
good-by;" and he added quickly, "If I have offended you by what I said
just now, please forgive me and forget it."

"I am not offended, Mr. Halford," was the almost whispered reply, which
caused the young man to press the little hand resting on his arm, and
then turn quickly away to bid farewell, with stifled feelings, to those
who stood waiting for him at the door of the hotel.

Mary escaped to her room, and closing the door, turned the key in the
lock. To be troubled with Annette's French chatter at such a moment was
more than she could bear even to contemplate.

Taking off her hat and gloves, she threw herself into the easy-chair and
began to reflect. Had she compromised her womanly dignity by allowing
Henry Halford to suppose she believed what might have been a compliment?
No--impossible; he was too honourable and truthful, and too agitated
while he spoke, to allow of such a fear. Besides, had he not, during the
last few days, given her evident proofs of his preference and notice,
made more apparent by the unmistakable efforts he made to conceal them?
More than this, was not her own admiration of his talents and character
leading to a feeling which made her listen for his footstep, and feel
happy in his society? And as the young girl thought thus her cheek
flushed even in her loneliness.

"Ah, well," she continued to herself, "there is nothing to be ashamed
of; I know I should only be too proud if I am to be married some day to
have such a clever, intellectual, well-informed man for my husband.
Besides, he must be a good son to help his father as he does, especially
as he is going to be a clergyman."

And so the young girl, who knew nothing of the world outside her own
home, and who, at the age of eighteen, had never read a novel, sat
raising an idol in her own heart to which she could offer that worship
which in characters like Mary Armstrong often leads to an infringement
of the first commandment.

A summons to tea aroused her. Hastily smoothing her hair, and with deft
fingers making those little alterations which, as if by magic, add
neatness to a lady's dress, she descended to the private room they
occupied at the hotel.

As she entered, the light of the gas dazzled her eyes, and she could
scarcely distinguish who were present.

Not so Mrs. Herbert, who exclaimed--

"Why, Mary dear, how flushed you are! I hope you have not taken cold."

"Am I flushed?" she replied, raising her hand to her cheek. "It is warm
this evening, aunt, and we walked home quickly."

Her cousin Charles, who had observed the blush deepen as his mother
spoke, quickly made a remark that turned the subject.

He had his own suspicions as to the cause of Mary's unusual colour, but
he had no wish for the cause of those suspicions to suggest itself to
others.

By degrees the conversation turned pleasantly on the events of the week,
and the prospect of returning to her dear home with so much to tell her
mother for a time diverted Mary's thoughts from a subject which was
beginning to make itself all-absorbing.

Charles accompanied them next day by train as far as Slough, from thence
he changed carriages for Windsor. Mary stayed with her uncle and aunt in
Park Lane that night, and next day was driven home to Kilburn to be
welcomed with the fondest expressions of love from her mother and
brother Freddy. Equally warm, yet less demonstrative, was her father's
greeting to his cherished daughter. How little he guessed that she was
nurturing in her heart any sentiment likely to turn her father's love to
a fierce anger, of which she had not supposed him capable!

Mary Armstrong's education, on which her father so prided himself, had
been lacking in more ways than one. Among other mistakes in training
their daughter, her parents had kept her from the society of girls of
her own age. Pride on Mrs. Armstrong's part caused her to object to
allow Mary to visit often at any houses except those of her own
relatives. The same foolish pride of those days prevented those whom she
met at her aunt's from inviting the daughter of a tradesman, especially
while he resided at his place of business.

She had only one cousin, Charles Herbert; and therefore at the age of
seventeen, when her father removed his family to Kilburn, she knew
literally nothing of female society, or indeed of any society but that
of her mother's relatives.

True, she could and did feel her mother to be her best confidential
friend, yet it was not a favourable position for a young girl of her age
to be thrown into society with nothing but the knowledge obtained from
books to direct her conduct.

Accustomed to be candid and truthful in every action, she knew nothing
of the conventional customs which would have condemned the readiness
with which she admitted and trusted Henry Halford's first attempts at a
more intimate acquaintance.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.


Henry Halford had intended to return home from Oxford by the 11.40
train, but while saying a few hasty words of farewell to Captain Herbert
at the door of the hotel, he discovered that his party were purposing to
leave by the same train. He instantly decided to remain an hour or two
longer in Oxford. After what had passed that evening he felt it
impossible to meet Miss Armstrong's friends as if nothing had happened.

No, he must wait till his return home, and then openly and honourably
place the matter before Mr. Armstrong.

This gentleman was, as yet, in happy ignorance of the news in store for
him. He welcomed his daughter home with undisguised pleasure, and
listened to her lively and vivid descriptions of what she had seen and
heard, and of the wonderful and delightful places she had visited with
great interest.

Not once, however, did the name of Henry Halford escape her lips. She
spoke in a general way of Charles Herbert's college friends who had met
them in their walks and shown them the lions of Oxford, but not one was
singled out for any particular description.

Mrs. Armstrong watched her daughter's countenance as she talked, and
noticed a something in her manner and appearance that marked the change
from girlhood to womanhood--a certain reticence on some points, unlike
Mary's usual frankness and candour.

"Something has occurred," said the gentle mother to herself, "and Mary's
wish to conceal it is painful to her natural frank truthfulness. But she
will tell me by-and-by when we are alone."

Happy is the daughter who makes a confidante of her mother in preference
to one of her own age and sex, and thrice happy is the mother who feels
that she knows all that daughter has to confide--of course supposing
that mother to be one who is anxious for her child's happiness, and able
to give her good advice.

Perhaps, after all, mothers whose only ambition is to see their
daughters married for the sake of riches and position, are not likely to
gain their confidence on any subject.

Mrs. Armstrong would have been the very last to take an undue advantage
of the girlish confidence of her daughter, although she trembled at the
thought that what Mary might have to tell would be displeasing to her
father.

With all Mr. Armstrong's habit of looking upon gentle, amiable women as
inferior in intellect and deficient in mental strength, he would have
been rather surprised to find that his wife understood his daughter's
character better than himself.

Days passed, however, after her return from Oxford, before Mrs.
Armstrong had any opportunity for discovering Mary's secret, and then it
was only by accident that the truth came out.

One fine afternoon in July Mrs. Armstrong, with Mary and her three
brothers, was returning home along the high road, in which stood their
own house and Englefield Grange. They had passed the latter, which was
less than a quarter of a mile from Lime Grove on the opposite side of
the road, when Freddy exclaimed--

"O mamma, here comes Mr. Henry Halford."

And, regardless of ceremony, he started off at a rapid pace to meet him.

Taking the hand of his little pupil, who literally danced along by his
side, Henry Halford advanced to greet Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter
with the easy self-possession of a gentleman.

Yet there was a flush on his face as he shook hands with Mrs. Armstrong,
which changed to paleness when he greeted Mary, and spoke to the boys,
Edward and Arthur.

The latter had heard so much of Freddy's school and the masters, that
they were earnest in their petitions to be allowed to stay at home and
attend with their brother at Dr. Halford's. They had heard from Mary of
Mr. Henry Halford's wonderful cleverness, and they now had eyes for no
one else as he stood talking to their mother.

"Have you recovered from your fatigue at Oxford, Miss Armstrong?" was
one of his first questions.

Mary saw her mother glance at her with surprise, but the commonplace
question had set her at her ease, and she replied--"Yes, quite, thank
you, Mr. Halford. It was a most delightful visit, yet I was glad to get
home again."

While the two young people continued to talk of what had been seen and
heard at Oxford, Mrs. Armstrong would now and then make some remark, and
the boys listened with interest.

Yet as she did so across the mother's mind passed the memory of the
dinner-party at Mr. Drummond's.

Were her fears about to be realised? Had these young people met at
Oxford and formed an acquaintance fraught with disappointment to Mary
and pain to herself in consequence of her husband's displeasure? Still
as they talked she could see the clear grey eyes of the young tutor
light up with a pleasure which made Mary droop her own and blush beneath
his gaze.

And then another recollection flashed upon her Mary had not mentioned
the fact of having met Henry Halford at Oxford. What did it all mean?

In her anxiety Mrs. Armstrong looked at her watch.

Henry Halford saw the action, and said, quickly--"I am keeping you
standing while we talk, Mrs. Armstrong."

And then, to her astonishment, instead of taking his leave, he turned to
walk with them towards their home.

Placing himself by Mrs. Armstrong's side, he continued to speak of
various subjects so agreeably that she forgot her fears and began to
account in her own mind for any attraction her daughter might feel to
his society.

They had nearly reached home, when Mrs. Armstrong, hearing the sound of
horse's feet, looked up quickly, and saw her husband alight from his
horse and advance to meet them.

He seemed to recognise the stranger in a moment, and as Henry lifted his
hat, Mr. Armstrong held out his hand.

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Halford," he said, as the gentlemen shook
hands cordially. "I have often thought of our pleasant discussions at
Mr. Drummond's that evening. I hope your father is well. Are you staying
in our neighbourhood?" he added, scarcely allowing Henry time to reply
respecting his father's health.

"I am a neighbour of yours, Mr. Armstrong," he replied, firmly. Henry
Halford had decided upon what course to pursue with this gentleman, and
was therefore prepared to act candidly and openly.

"A neighbour, Mr. Halford? then why have you not paid us a visit before
this? I never give dinner-parties, but if at any time you and your
father will join our family dinner-table at six o'clock, we shall be
most happy to see you. Will you come in now?" he added, as Mrs.
Armstrong moved to open the gate.

"Thank you, not to-day, Mr. Armstrong," he replied, "but I will not
forget your kind invitation." And merely raising his hat in farewell to
the ladies, and returning Freddy's warm adieu by lifting the boy and
kissing him, Henry Halford turned towards his own home, feeling greatly
elated. Was not this meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong full of
hopefulness as to the result of a project on which he had made up his
mind?

Mary escaped to her room to dress for dinner with every nerve quivering
with excitement.

What would be the result of this meeting? Why had Henry Halford forced
his company upon her mother? Was he going to ask her father about her,
as she had read in books was the custom of gentlemen? And the young girl
who had been kept so secluded from society, blushed at the recollection
that if Henry Halford meant what he said on that evening in Christchurch
Meadows, he must wish her to be his wife.

Mary Armstrong had never been joked about sweethearts and flirtation; to
her mother there had always appeared a want of womanly delicacy and
refinement in making such things a subject for ridicule, and Mary had
grown to womanhood with the same innate refinement. She had no girl
friends of her own age to tell her their tales of love and conquest, of
discarded lovers, and contemptible treatment of honourable proposals, as
conduct of which a woman might be proud. She had gained her ideas of
love from poetry, and Milton's Eve before the fail was her _beau idéal_
of what a woman should be--

    "For contemplation he and valour formed,
    For softness she, and sweet attractive grace;
    He for God only, she for God in him.
    ... Though his eye sublime declared
    Absolute rule ... implied
    Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
    And by her yielded."

No doubt poets describe ideal characters not to be found in these fast
days of practical utilitarianism. What is an ideal worth when compared
with the real earthly good which money can produce? Yet money cannot
produce happiness, with all its power; and the ruling god of the present
day has caused more unhappiness in domestic life by its presence than by
its absence. Mary Armstrong had formed her own _beau idéal_ of what a
husband ought to be, and certainly in the component parts of this ideal
money had no place. She had never known the want of money, and was
therefore ignorant of its value. She was to learn this lesson by bitter
experience.

Very little remark was made at dinner on the evening of which we write
respecting the meeting with Henry Halford.

Mrs. Armstrong avoided the subject as much as her daughter, but for very
different reasons; and her brothers, who had not been at home from
school long, were full of talk about their examinations and their
prizes. But with the dessert Freddy made his appearance, and as usual
took his place between his father's knees.

Presently Freddy looked up. "Papa," he said, "isn't Mr. Henry Halford a
nice man?"

"Ah, yes, I saw him kiss you, Freddy, as if you were old friends; when
have you seen him before to-day?"

"Oh, often, papa, and he kisses the other little boys too when we're in
the playground, and he's so kind to us in the schoolroom."

"Schoolroom! what schoolroom? Who are you talking about, Freddy?"

"About Mr. Henry Halford, papa; he used to teach the little boys' class
at our school--Dr. Halford's, you know, papa, where I go at Englefield
Grange. Dr. Halford is Mr. Henry's father. He hasn't taught us since
Easter, because he's been to Oxford learning to be a clergy man."

There was silence for a few moments. Mr. Armstrong glanced at his wife
and daughter.

"Did you know this when we met the father and son at Drummond's?" he
asked his wife.

"Of course I did," she replied.

"Why did you not mention it to me?"

Much as Mrs. Armstrong dreaded an angry word from her husband, she could
not utter an untruth.

"I had my reasons," she said, calmly; "they cannot be explained now, I
will tell you when we are alone."

"And did you know it, Mary?" asked her father, as he saw the flushed
face on which blushes had fixed a colour that made his daughter look as
if she were painted.

"Yes, papa," she replied, "if you remember I took Freddy to school in
the winter, because mamma was not well enough to go herself."

Mrs. Armstrong saw the gathering clouds on her husband's brow, and
turning to her boys, she said--

"Freddy, go up to the nursery, or into the garden, with your brothers
for half an hour. I will send Morris for you when it is time for bed."

The boys obeyed, and Mary also rose to go, but her father stopped her.

"Sit down, Mary. I want to know why I have been kept in ignorance about
these school people. Why did you and your mother hide the fact from me?"

"I did not hide it, papa. I thought you knew from Mr. Drummond who these
gentlemen were. Why should I wish to conceal their names from you? I
knew nothing of them except as schoolmasters until I went to Oxford."

"And how often have you met this young schoolmaster?" asked her father,
with suppressed anger.

"Once when I took Freddy to school, and a second time when I dined with
him at Mr. Drummond's. Until I met him at Oxford with his friend Charles
Herbert he was a comparative stranger to me."

"And you met him there often?" said her father, his tones slightly
softened by finding this schoolmaster a friend of his nephew Charles.

"Every day."

"Alone?"

"Once, by accident."

"And then he made love to you, I suppose."

"Papa!" There was a mixture of sorrow, distress, anger, and indignation
in the tone in which Mary Armstrong repeated this word.

And then her memory recalled the words Henry Halford had uttered, the
pressure of the hand, the inquiry whether he was forgiven. Was all this
making love? Perhaps it was--perhaps he wished by speaking and acting as
he did, to show her that he loved her. So tender was the young girl's
conscience that she was about to tell her father all that had passed
rather than feel conscious of having unwittingly deceived him. His angry
words checked her.

"Well for you that this poverty-stricken schoolmaster has not dared to
make love to my daughter. Going to be a parson, is he? and wants her
money to make up the deficiency of a curate's pittance. No, no, Mary, no
such half-starved husbands for you; and if you ever dare to marry
without my consent, not a penny of money shall you have, even to save
you from the workhouse!"

He rose as he spoke, his utterance inarticulate, and his features
distorted with rage; then he left the room, banging the door after him.

Mrs. Armstrong leaned back in her chair, pale even to the lips; Mary had
risen in terror when her father left the room; she now hastened to her
mother, and leading her to the drawing-room, placed her in an
easy-chair, and then fetched her a glass of wine. The calm and loving
attention of her daughter restored quietness to her nerves, and then
Mary knelt at her feet, and burying her face in the folds of her dress,
she said--

"Mamma, I am afraid I have not been quite truthful in what I said this
evening. Mamma, I have wanted to speak to you about something ever since
I came back from Oxford; but I did not know how to begin, and I must
now. If--if a gentleman tells you he should be too happy to attend to
your every wish for his whole life, if he could only dare to hope such a
thing were possible, is that making love?"

Mrs. Armstrong smiled, even in the midst of her fears; but as Mary did
not raise her head, she said--

"Well, my dear, it depends. Many men would make such a remark merely as
a compliment; but has any gentleman said this to you?"

"Yes, mamma."

"What gentleman, Mary?" How the mother dreaded the answer which she
already guessed! It came at last, clear and distinct, for Mary raised
her head to speak, but she did not look up.

"Mr. Henry Halford."

"Did you see much of him at Oxford, Mary?"

"Yes, mamma, he dined with uncle and aunt at the hotel several times,
and they liked him very much."

"Was he very attentive to you?"

"No, mamma, not more than to other ladies."

"Did you walk out often alone?"

"Never but once, and that occurred because he went back to fetch a book
for me, and the rest got a long way before us."

"Did nothing more pass between you?"

"Not much; when we were getting near the hotel he asked me to forgive
what he had said and forget it."

"And what was your reply to this?"

"Mamma, I told him there was nothing to forgive."

"Then of course he understands that you would like him to attend to your
every wish for your whole life--is that it, Mary?"

"Yes, mamma," in smothered tones.

"But you say this Mr. Henry Halford did not pay you more attentions than
to other ladies. What has made my daughter so easily won?"

"O mamma!" and Mary raised her head now and looked fearlessly at her
mother, "Mr. Henry Halford has not tried to win me. I should have told
papa at once if he had asked me to be his wife; and I hope he wont now,
for I am sure I should learn to love him if he did. I suppose it is not
right to marry people who have no money, but, mamma, I could not marry
any man, if he were the richest in the world, unless he were as clever
and intellectual as Henry Halford, and I'm sure that's not very likely."

Mrs. Armstrong sighed. There was no doubt now as the state of her
daughter's affections, or how it would end!

The appearance of the boys at the drawing-room window, and the sound of
Mr. Armstrong's footsteps, roused mother and daughter. Mary, however,
had scarcely reached the door, for she felt unable to meet him, when her
father entered, and, as she tried to pass, caught her in his arms and
kissed her fondly. Then he advanced to his wife and apologised for his
roughness.

"You know, Maria dearest," he said, "that I am only anxious to prevent
your clever and accomplished daughter from making an unsuitable
marriage."

"I know it, Edward," replied his wife; "but we must be careful not to
make her unhappy for life, as I should have been had _my_ friends
objected to _you_."

Mr. Armstrong made no reply. He knew too well the truth of his wife's
remark, and exerted himself through the evening to make Mary forget his
angry words. She appreciated and understood the effort, but he could see
by her swollen eyelids how much he had wounded and pained his hitherto
dutiful daughter.



CHAPTER XIX.

HENRY HALFORD WRITES A LETTER.


When Mr. Henry Halford parted from Mr. Armstrong and his family at the
gates of Lime Grove, he felt as if walking on air. After such a kind
reception and cordial invitation from the father of Mary Armstrong,
there could be nothing to fear of disappointment.

He reached home in a very short space of time, and looked so bright and
joyous as he met his mother in the hall, that she said to him, "Why,
Henry, you appear as if you had heard good news; where have you been?"

"Only for a walk, mother; but on my way home I met Mrs. Armstrong and
the young people, and they have given me a cordial invitation to come in
and see them as often as I like."

"I thought you disliked going out to dinner and paying visits, Henry?"

"So I do as a rule, but there is no rule without an exception; and Mr.
Armstrong's family forms that exception."

Mrs. Halford stood for a moment contemplating her son's bright and
lively mood with real surprise. Truly he presented an exception to the
rule which generally governed him. For once the sedate, studious youth
had assumed a gay and lightsome manner, which completely changed his
appearance. Suddenly she remembered hearing Dr. Halford speak of the
young lady he and her son had met at Mr. Drummond's dinner-party--the
only and elder sister of little Freddy Armstrong. Determining to
question her husband respecting this young lady, she readily allowed
Henry to go on to his study without another word.

But once seated in this sanctum, so exclusively his own, Henry Halford's
thoughts took a more serious turn. What he was about to do appeared more
formidable on reflection than during the first few minutes of his walk
home, when every difficulty seemed swept from his path.

On his return from Oxford, although, if possible, more earnest in his
wish to obtain Mary Armstrong as a wife when he had made for her a home,
the wish seemed hopeless. He had met her father and mother but once; he
was not a visitor at their house, and till his terms at Oxford were
ended he had no profession, excepting that of usher in his father's
school.

Report said the woman he loved would be rich; how could he ask for her
in his present penniless condition? So reasoned common sense. But then
arose a thousand arguments in favour of asking for her now. If Mary
Armstrong really loved him she would wait years for him. Might not he
ask her father's permission to discover if such were the case? After
all, it might be only for three years; and as soon as he was ordained
had not his father's old pupil promised him a living for his son? And
even if that failed, his father would make him a partner in the school,
which he knew would be his at his death.

Thus reflecting he made up his mind to the venture, and seated himself
at his desk to commence a letter to Mr. Armstrong.

But he found the task too full of difficulties to be hurried over. Two
sheets of paper had been filled and thrown aside as unsuitable, and the
summons to tea came before he had finished his third attempt. Carelessly
pushing the spoiled sheets into his desk and locking it, he arose to
join his friends at the tea-table, saying to himself, "I will write my
letter to-morrow; it must not be done in a hurry." With this resolve he
entered the little breakfast parlour, where we once heard a letter read
which so faithfully portrayed his own characteristics. Kate Marston, who
was pouring out the tea, looked at him earnestly.

"Why, aunt Clara," she said, "Henry looks as grave as a judge. I
expected to see him come into the room like a sunbeam from your
description."

"Well, Katey," said her cousin, "clouds must cover the sunbeams
sometimes; and have you forgotten the poet's words?--'O man, thou
pendulum betwixt a smile and tear.'"

"You can defend yourself, at all events, Henry," she replied; "and you
know how completely you can silence me when you quote poetry. I never
could learn to repeat a line of poetry in my life."

There was a pause, during which Henry, who sat opposite the window,
appeared to be absorbed in the prospect of garden, fields, and meadows,
thick summer foliage, and the distant blue hills of Highgate and Harrow
which met his view. But the eyes were not "with the heart, for that was
far away,"--in the meadows of Christ Church, Oxford, with a fair young
girl leaning on his arm.

Persons who have the power of concentrating the mind on one particular
subject at a time are spoken of as absent, and many curious incidents
are related of talented men and their strange doings during these fits
of abstraction. But it is to this very power of concentration that we
owe our greatest statesmen, lawyers, poets, and warriors. The discovery
of the power of steam, the inventions in science, art, mechanics, and
medicine, which have given to the world its luxuries, its comforts, its
advantages, and its power of alleviating suffering and pain, can all be
attributed to that concentration of thought on one subject, which alone
can give the mind a power to grasp it in all its completeness. The
subject, however, so absorbing to Henry Halford might in one respect be
called trivial; and yet that subject which involves the future happiness
or misery of two individuals for life, can scarcely deserve such a name.

The probable success of his letter to Mr. Armstrong was the least
important of his thoughts at this moment. Would it insure the happiness
of the girl he loved? and was he justified in proposing mere
possibilities as a basis for that happiness? were some of the questions
he asked himself.

A smart blow with the palm of her hand on his shoulder, and his cousin
Kate's words, "Uncle has spoken to you twice, Henry. What are you
thinking about so deeply?" aroused him from his reverie.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he exclaimed, with a flushed face, "did you
ask me a question?"

"Yes, Henry; I asked where you met Mr. Armstrong yesterday."

"Outside his own gate. He had just arrived from town on horseback. He
treated me most affably, and said he should be glad to see you and
myself to join their six o'clock dinner at any time without a special
invitation, as he never gives dinner-parties."

There was a pause for some minutes, and then Mrs. Halford remarked--

"You met Miss Armstrong and her mother at Mr. Drummond's in March,
James?"

"Yes, I remember the young lady's bright, intelligent face. Drummond
told me her father has interfered greatly in the education of his
daughter, teaching her the advanced rules of arithmetic, and even
algebra and Euclid, and other subjects most unusual in the education of
girls."

"I should imagine such knowledge would deprive a girl of all softness
and refinement," remarked Mrs. Halford.

"It has not done so in Miss Armstrong's case," said Henry, quickly; "I
saw enough of her at Mr. Drummond's to discover that."

"And you have seen her since at Oxford?" said his mother.

"Yes, almost every day for nearly a week; and I can assure you I never
met a more lady-like, accomplished girl in my life, in spite of what is
said of her father's eccentric plans in her education."

Kate Marston noticed the rising colour as it deepened in her cousin's
cheek. She glanced at her aunt, and in that glance knew that the
mother's suspicions confirmed her own.

"I think you told me, James, that Miss Armstrong's marriage portion will
be very considerable," remarked Mrs. Halford.

"Something fabulous, according to Drummond's account; that is, if she
marries a man of whom her father approves;" and the father as he spoke
looked at his son. "Drummond told me that the ambition of Mr. Armstrong
is to marry his daughter to a man of wealth and position, but if both
are not attainable he will give her money enough to purchase the latter.
He heard him say once that such a girl as his daughter would be an
ornament to society in the highest circles in the kingdom."

"Would Mr. Armstrong sacrifice his daughter's wishes to gratify sinful
pride and mistaken ambition?" asked Henry, indignantly; "it seems to me
an impossibility that any father could act thus." He drank off the
contents of his teacup and left the room without waiting for a reply.

Again in his little study, he closed the door and locked it, opened his
desk with impulsive eagerness, took out a sheet of writing-paper, and
drew his chair to the table.

"I cannot believe any man could be so cruelly unkind to his only
daughter," he said to himself. "Would he force her to marry a man she
did not love, even if by so doing he could make her a countess? Does the
acquisition of money so harden a parent's heart? I cannot, I will not
believe it. I will try Mr. Armstrong before I can credit anything so
base in human nature. He will no doubt answer my letter; and if he
refuses to allow me to address his daughter, he will of course give me
his reasons for doing so."

And so the young heart, ignorant of the world, as is the case with most
men of studious habits, and with the trust in human nature which seldom
outlives a few years of worldly experience, commenced a letter to a man
who would, while reading it, sneer at the noble expressions of
true-hearted affection it contained, and perhaps treat the writer with
contemptuous silence. Nevertheless the letter was written and posted
before Henry Halford slept that night.

We will follow it to its destination in London, and intrude upon Mr.
Armstrong's private room at his office in Dover Street, to which it was
addressed.

Several letters were lying on the table when he entered the room on this
morning of which we write, followed by his clerk. Still talking to him
while opening them rapidly, he came upon the unknown hand and glanced at
the signature, pausing in the midst of an important commission to the
clerk to do so. "What could Mr. Henry Halford write to him about?
excepting----" and at the thought that followed he flushed with anger.
But a question from the gentlemanly young man who stood so patiently
waiting his commands, recalled him to the business in hand. Laying the
letter at a distance on the table, he opened the rest, and after a few
brief directions, yet still so clear as to leave no room for a mistake,
the clerk was dismissed. Then Mr. Armstrong, after writing in pencil
various notes on the business letters before him, pushed them on one
side and took up Henry Halford's long and closely written epistle.

We will read it with him:--

     "Englefield Grange, July 4th, 18--.

     "DEAR SIR,--Your very kind and cordial invitation this
     afternoon makes it imperative on me to address you with
     reference to a certain subject before I accept it. It is
     probable that after I have candidly explained the cause of my
     hesitation you may forbid me to enter your house, yet I should
     prefer even that sentence to any clandestine or concealed
     proceedings.

     "Since Mrs. Armstrong placed her youngest son under my father's
     care I have had the pleasure of seeing your daughter several
     times; only twice, however, until the week of her visit to
     Oxford.

     "I will confess to my admiration of Miss Armstrong even on the
     two former occasions, more especially while in her society at
     Mrs. Drummond's; but many considerations made me resist the
     inclination to call at your house and become better acquainted
     with the young lady.

     "At Oxford, however, I met your daughter with my friend Captain
     Herbert, who was my fellow-student some years ago at Dr.
     Mason's, though older than myself. I was surprised to find that
     my friend Charles Herbert was your daughter's cousin and Mrs.
     Armstrong's nephew; Colonel Herbert kindly invited me to his
     hotel during their visit to Oxford, and I there met your
     daughter, and saw and conversed with her frequently during the
     week of her stay.

     "I need not enlarge upon the personal attractions, the unusual
     talents, and the sweet character which make Miss Armstrong so
     charming, for these must be well known to yourself. But I ask
     to be allowed to seek to win her affections with the sanction
     of her parents and under their own roof.

     "I ask this with great hesitation, because I am not yet in a
     position to offer your daughter such a home as I could wish,
     and shall eventually obtain for her. In two years I hope to be
     ordained, and my father's friend, Lord Rivers, has already
     promised him a living for his son.

     "If I can succeed in gaining the affections of your daughter,
     she will not mind waiting the time I have named. We are both
     young, and I would wait as Jacob did for Rachel, so great is
     the love I bear her.

     "I will only add that if you kindly grant me your consent, it
     will give me increased energy to prepare for my profession, and
     to make every effort to shorten the period of my probation, in
     the hope that the great happiness of making your charming
     daughter my cherished wife may eventually be mine.

     "I remain, dear Sir,

     "Very faithfully yours,

     "HENRY HALFORD."

When Mr. Armstrong had read this letter hastily through, words cannot
describe the angry passions that raged in his breast. What! the
schoolmaster's son, an usher, a curate _in futuro_, with perhaps 80_l._
or 100_l._ a year to live upon! "What!" he thought, "give up my precious
daughter to be a schoolmaster's wife, or rather drudge!--making rice
puddings, mending stockings and shirts, and slaving for other people's
children, and getting no thanks for it! Or perhaps in paltry comfortless
apartments waiting upon her husband the curate, for whom she is often
obliged to cook a dinner fit for him to eat, because the food obtained
with such difficulty is spoiled by the lodging-house cooking. I've heard
the misery of a curate's home described," continued the angry man, "less
wages than a mechanic, and yet husband, wife, and children have to
struggle to keep up appearances and to live in genteel poverty because
the husband is a clergyman!"

Mr. Armstrong drew his desk towards him, and dashed off a coarse
insulting letter to the daring aspirant for his daughter's hand, and
with the effort the fierceness of his anger evaporated, conscience made
itself heard. "Why should you insult this young man for acting as you
did yourself?" said the stern voice; "he is a well-born, well-bred,
intelligent gentleman, which you were not when you married Maria St.
Clair." "But I had money," replied self, "and he has by his own account
nothing to call his own." "He or his father must have had money to pay
for a university education," suggested conscience; "besides, half of the
boasted fortune you talk of giving your daughter would establish these
young people for life, and make them happy if they love each other."

"I don't believe they do," was the next suggestion, "or at least there
is no love on Mary's side. She is not one to give her affections so
easily; the young man's letter proves that he is not sure of her, for he
asks to be allowed to try and win her. Perhaps if the girl really loved
him, I might be inclined to give up some of the fortune in store for her
to make them happy. There's no harm done as yet on his own account, so
I'll say nothing at home about his letter, but I wont send this," and he
took up the sheet containing expressions of which in his cooler moments
Mr. Armstrong felt thoroughly ashamed, and tore it into minute shreds;
then lighting a taper, he reduced them to ashes in the fireplace. After
this he seated himself and wrote as follows:--

     "Dover Street, July 4th, 18--.

     "SIR,--I have received your letter, and beg to thank you for
     your kind and complimentary opinion of my daughter, but I
     cannot favour your proposals. You are young to think of
     marriage, especially as you have not yet completed the
     profession which you intend to follow.

     "I do not approve of long courtships, and therefore the idea of
     waiting an indefinite number of years for a living is out of
     the question. Added to these objections, I have other plans in
     view for my daughter, which I cannot set aside.

     "Thanking you for the honour you have done our family by your
     proposal,

     "I remain, Sir,

     "Yours faithfully,

     "EDWARD ARMSTRONG."

Mr. Armstrong sealed and addressed this letter with great inward
satisfaction. He had effectually put a stop to any farther trouble on
the part of Mr. Halford, who, he felt assured, was too honourable to act
in opposition to the wishes of Mary's father.

Only one fear would at times during that day disturb Mr. Armstrong's
equanimity: "Was he sure about the state of Mary's affections. They had
been a week together at Oxford, had any unintentional word or look
revealed the secret to each other?" He could not answer his own question
satisfactorily, but he quieted his conscience by saying, "Ah, well, if
there is a little passing fancy for this young man in Mary's heart, it
will soon wear off; she has too much pride to encourage it when she
finds he keeps away, as I know he will after my letter." Mr. Armstrong
returned home in great good-humour, and made himself so agreeable that
Mrs. Armstrong and Mary were quite ready to forget the roughness of the
preceding evening.

No reference of any kind was made to Mr. Henry Halford in Mary's
presence, but when Mr. Armstrong and his wife were alone, he said
quietly and gently, but with a firmness she well knew she could not
gainsay--

"Maria, my dear, I should like to send Freddy to school with his
brothers next quarter; he is getting quite well and strong enough to be
with older boys. I may as well tell you the truth," he added; "I don't
wish him to continue at Dr. Halford's, for many reasons which I need not
explain."



CHAPTER XX.

HUSBAND AND WIFE.


"Mamma, you will be better and more quiet here than in that noisy Bourke
Street. I am so glad papa has taken such a pleasant house for us, and I
know you will soon get well." And little Mabel as she spoke shook and
arranged her mother's pillow and drew up the blind, that she might look
out upon the pleasant view over the waters of the Yarra.

Mr. Franklyn had taken a house in a suburb of Melbourne noted for its
beautiful scenery and wild and picturesque landscapes.

In this suburb at a walking distance, or reached easily by train from
Melbourne, are situated the Botanical Gardens, laid out in park-like
luxuriance. A beautiful stone bridge crosses the dark, deep waters of
the Yarra, while painted skiffs and gaudy pleasure-boats skim over its
smooth surface and add brightness to the scene.

The country beyond resembles the south of France and the shores of the
Mediterranean; vines trained on poles, grapes hanging from verandahs,
the blue sky, the pure clear air, and the bright sunshine remind the
traveller of beautiful Italy.

Added to this, at the spot we describe, grow trees that retain their
verdure during the whole year, white and green parrots and other birds
of gaudy plumage flit from branch to branch. Sunrise also in Australia
presents a sky of splendour never seen in England; even the colours of
the sea-weed which the Yarra brings inland in its course are rich and
varied.

Not far from the window opening to the ground on a verandah, near to
which Mrs. Franklyn's couch had been drawn, spread what appeared to be a
large lake, nine miles in circumference, surrounded by pleasant walks
and shady trees.

To strangers it has the appearance of an artificial lake, and they are
much surprised to hear that it is merely the reservoir from which the
city of Melbourne and the surrounding neighbourhoods are supplied with
water.

Altogether this suburb of Melbourne on the banks of the Yarra is one of
the most beautiful spots in Australia.

To the pale invalid in her chair, however, all earthly spots had lost
their charm, excepting one little island in the Atlantic, in which stood
the home of her youth; and as she looked out on the beauty of an
approaching Australian summer, and thought of the home she might never
see again, she answered her little daughter's words with a sigh.

"Are you unhappy here, mamma?" asked the child.

"No, darling," she replied, "it was merely a longing for home that made
me sigh. I know that heaven is the home on which my heart should rest,
and yet I should like to see your uncle Henry and my dear parents once
more."

"Mamma," said the child, "I heard the doctor tell papa that if you got
stronger in this beautiful place, he could take you to England in March,
and then you would have no winter, for when we arrived in England it
would be midsummer."

Mrs. Franklyn smiled at the prospect described by her child. Her husband
had mentioned this opinion of the doctor to her, and in his usual
sanguine way he had promised to make early arrangements for them to
leave in March. But she knew also that more than one of his speculations
had failed, and therefore, unless "something would turn up," as he
termed a successful speculation, he would be too much involved in debt
to attempt to leave Melbourne.

A feeling of resignation had at length been granted to Dr. Halford's
daughter, only disturbed now and then by old memories which could not be
quite overcome, more especially as now, when the beauty of Australian
scenery was spoken of in her presence, her thoughts would revert to a
lovely English landscape--hill and dale, field and meadow, flowers and
foliage, which could be seen from the windows of her own dear home in
England.

But Fanny Franklyn, as she now lay helpless on the couch, knew well that
for her was prepared a home in the skies, and that the dear friends for
whose presence she longed could only expect to meet her there. She
looked very lovely even now that Death had set his seal on those
delicate features. The dark eyes, though sunken, were still large and
bright; the pale face looked fairer by contrast to the dark pencilled
eyebrows and eyelashes; and the hectic flush on the cheek would have
reminded her brother Henry of some words of the great preacher Henry
Melvill.

He had heard him once when quite a youth preach a sermon at a church in
London on behalf of the Brompton Hospital for diseases of the lungs, in
which the preacher, during one of his eloquent bursts of oratory,
exclaimed, "And consumption, that flings its brilliant mockery in the
mother's eyes."

Poor mother, she had indeed heard of her daughter's serious illness, and
yearned with all a mother's love to be near her to tend to her slightest
wish. But half the globe stretched between them, and Mrs. Halford
consoled herself with the thought that Fanny had a kind husband and
loving children, who must be able to supply the place of a mother. But
Mrs. Halford did not know all. Fanny, while able to write, had concealed
from her mother the real nature of the disease which left no hope of
recovery. Yes, her husband was kind, gentle, loving, and earnest in his
endeavours to provide for all her wants; yet, as we know, there was in
his character a weakness of principle, and want of attention to
steadiness of purpose, which made his position always precarious. At the
birth of her youngest boy, eighteen months before the time of which we
write, he had made a venture in the mercantile world which had failed,
and for a time ruin stared them in the face.

The anxiety Fanny suffered in her then delicate state of health, added
to a cold which attacked her at the time, was too much for a frame
already weakened by the relaxing climate of Melbourne. For with all its
bright skies and its clear atmosphere, Australian air is not suited to
those who require a bracing climate. It has its periods of scorching
heat, and the fair faces of Australian girls lack the roses which adorn
the cheeks of their sisters in England.

Perhaps if Fanny Franklyn could have visited her home during the first
appearance of failing health her life might have been spared, but this
was not to be; and at last her husband had been aroused to the fact
that, although he could not spare her to go alone to her home in
England, he must spare her to God.

Now that it was too late, Arthur Franklyn, acting as usual on impulse,
expressed to the doctor his eager anxiety to take his dying wife to
England.

"Cannot I take her home before the autumn, doctor?" he said; "we should
arrive in England about April or May, just as the summer is beginning. I
could start next week even, if you think she is strong enough for the
voyage."

"Too soon, my dear sir; Mrs. Franklyn must not be in England before May
at the earliest, and it is now the commencement of November. We must try
and help her through the Australian summer if we can, and then if all is
well you can start for England in February or March."

But as the doctor left Mr. Franklyn, he said to himself, almost
angrily--

"What is the use of talking about going to England now? she'll never
live to see March again, or even February, it's too late. What's the man
been about not to see his wife's danger? I'm afraid he's got too many
irons in the fire to do much good."

And yet when he now entered the drawing-room, and with gentle step
approached the couch, no voice could be more subdued, no words kinder.

"I have been talking to Dr. Moore about taking you to England in the
autumn, darling; he says we can leave here in February so as to arrive
there about May. Does not the prospect make you feel better already?"

Fanny raised her eyes to his and smiled, but she shook her head and said
faintly--

"I never expect to see England again."

"Nonsense, dear! why, you are looking more like yourself to-day than I
have seen you for weeks. You must not give up, and Dr. Moore seems to
have greater hopes than ever. This is certainly a very pleasant spot,"
he continued, turning to the window, quite unconscious that this sudden
announcement respecting a visit to England had agitated his wife. Her
thoughts went back to the old days at Kilburn, when, a bright and happy
girl, she had been wooed and won by one of her father's old pupils.

She glanced at him now as his tall figure stood out in full relief
against the window, the strongly-marked profile clearly defined against
the light. At three-and-forty Arthur Franklyn might still be spoken of
as a handsome man; and although the light brown wavy hair had receded
from the temples, there was not a line of grey visible. The blue eyes
still twinkled with the humorous expression which spoke of
light-heartedness and a keen sense of the ridiculous. In truth, he was
one of those who are said to take things easy. Sanguine of success in
everything he undertook, disappointment never troubled him for long. He
could throw off the pressure of anxiety, and be as merry and
light-hearted as if nothing had happened, while his poor wife was
mourning in secret, or trembling for the consequences. She had quickly
discovered the weak points in her husband's character, and felt that it
could be said of him, "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel."

The light-heartedness which made him a favourite in society caused him
also to drive away all anticipation of trouble from his mind. "Never
meet troubles half-way" was a proverb which he preached so unwisely,
that he not only had to meet troubles when they came, but actually
increased their magnitude by foolishly shutting his eyes to their
approach.

So had it been with his wife's illness; he saw her wasting away daily
before his eyes, yet he closed them to the possibility that she might
die. And now that he had finally decided to take her to England in
February, her recovery seemed to him a certainty. He presently seated
himself by her side, and spoke gently and kindly of the voyage, and
recalled so many pleasant incidents of the old house at home, that in
spite of herself Fanny felt cheered.

"I shall look in at Bevans' this evening, love," he said as he rose to
go out; "they know all about the English passenger ships, and I can get
every information I require."

After transacting a little business at his office, Arthur Franklyn
walked on into Melbourne to call at his friends the Bevans, who were
always pleased to see him, and showed their liking for his company in a
manner most flattering to a man of his character.

Hour after hour slipped away, and although a kind of uneasy feeling made
him prepare more than once to say farewell, he allowed himself to be
flattered into remaining to supper. His friends when inquiring for his
wife had been told with animation that she was better, and that Dr.
Moore had given his permission for her to go to England in February or
March, there was therefore every excuse for so kindly pressing him to
stay.

The family of Mr. Bevan, a ship agent, consisted of himself, his wife,
two sons in the business, and two daughters. They were in the midst of
supper, and laughing heartily at one of Arthur Franklyn's jokes, when
the door of the dining-room opened, and the servant entered, and
advancing to Mr. Franklyn, offered him a missive not so well known then
as now in either England or Australia--a telegraph message in its
ominous-looking envelope. A sudden pause fell on those assembled round
the table, as Arthur Franklyn opened and read aloud--

"Clara Franklyn to Mr. A. Franklyn.--Come directly, mamma is dying!"

He started up with impetuous haste, his face white even to the lips, and
was quickly surrounded by the family hastening his departure, and trying
to calm his agitation with words of hope. But like all those who are
wilfully blind to the approach of danger, Arthur Franklyn became
despairing and hopeless when it really arrived. Some one found a railway
time-table.

"You will catch the 10.5, Franklyn, if you are quick," said one of the
young men, as, half bewildered, he turned to shake hands with his
friends.

"No, no, we'll dispense with that for once," said the old gentleman.
"Good-by, keep up a good heart, it may not be so bad as you imagine;"
and so they hurried him away, Mr. Bevan saying hastily to his eldest
son, "Go with him to the station, Tom, he seems scarcely able to take
care of himself."

"I hope he'll reach home in time," said Mrs. Bevan; "these sudden
messages are dreadfully alarming."

While the train for which Arthur Franklyn was just in time is speeding
on over the short distance to his home, we will precede him thither.

Fanny Franklyn, when her husband kissed her on that evening before
leaving home, although she felt that for her no journey to England would
ever be realised, was still unwilling to damp his hopes by her own
misgivings. The conversation had certainly excited her, but she did not
seem weaker than usual when her eldest daughter appeared to attend her
to bed. Clara Franklyn, during the decline of her mother's health, had
become a clever little housekeeper, while Mabel installed herself as
nurse. Fanny could not but feel a certain degree of comfort in Clara's
cleverness, yet the child of thirteen was already too precocious in
manners and character, and the position of housekeeper was calculated to
increase these characteristics. The mother also mourned over her own
inability to continue the education of her two girls, who had hitherto
never had any governess but herself.

Many changes had taken place in their style of living during the
fourteen years of Fanny Franklyn's marriage. After a successful
speculation, instead of carefully laying up a reserve in case of losses
or disappointments, Arthur Franklyn not only lived to the full extent of
his income, but actually to the full amount of the money he possessed.

"I have plenty to last us for two or even three years," he would say,
"and by that time I shall no doubt have another successful venture; so
it's all right, Fanny, don't you worry yourself. I mean you to have a
house and servants, and every appliance suitable to my means. There is
no other sure way of getting into society nowadays, and the more money
you appear to have, the more likely people are to help you in the
furtherance of your plans."

And Fanny, during the early years of her married life, though not
convinced, submitted to be made a fine lady, to be waited upon by a
lady's-maid, to have a first-rate cook, housemaids, a nurse, and a
nursery-maid. They resided in a luxuriously furnished house, they gave
dinner parties, and soon drew around them a host of acquaintances who
were ready to become friends with the rising young colonist and his
family in the days of their prosperity. But this could not last long. By
an unfortunate venture they lost house, furniture, servants, and
sunshine friends, except some few who liked the genial company of the
thoughtless speculator, and respected his wife. One thing, however,
Fanny was firm in, she would engage no expensive governess for her
children, and from their earliest childhood she had taught them herself.

After many ups and downs caused by her husband's reckless speculations,
which are, after all, a species of gambling, we find them now in a small
pleasant house, plainly furnished, with but two servants. One of them,
whose attachment to Fanny and the children still kept her in the
nursery, had, on the evening of which we write, assisted her dear
mistress to undress.

Something in the appearance of Mrs. Franklyn made the faithful woman
call the two girls out of the room, and say--

"Don't leave your mamma, Miss Clara, I am going to put little Albert to
bed, and then I'll come and take your place."

"I may stay too, nurse," said Mabel, "may I not? I've got an interesting
book to read, and we wont talk."

"I do not intend to read," said Clara, in a tone of womanly importance.
"I have my work to do, and I can watch and attend to mamma at the same
time."

"Ah, well," said nurse to herself, as she left the room, "you're a
sensible young lady after all, only a bit too precocious for your age,
Miss Clara. Oh dear!" she sighed, "to think they're going to lose their
mother, who has taught them to be so clever, and trained them in the
right way! And then for the master to be so blind, and not to see that
his wife is dying. Ugh! I don't like such light-hearted people; they
shut their eyes to trouble till it's close upon them. He's gone out
pleasuring to-night, and I don't like the looks of the dear mistress."

And at this thought nurse hastened her steps to the nursery, for it was
past baby's bedtime, and she had left him in the care of the other
servant.

Mrs. Franklyn watched her eldest daughter with a feeling of sadness, as
she placed herself where she could see her mother's face, and near the
window to obtain light for her work. The November evening of the
Australian spring was as light as with us an evening in May; and
although the sun was approaching the west, yet the venetian blind was
lowered to keep out his rays.

Mabel, who had seated herself out of sight of her mother, soon became
absorbed in her book; and as the sisters did not speak, Mrs. Franklyn
was quite unaware of her presence.

The mind of the mother rested with anxiety on the future of her eldest
girl. She knew too well that she must soon leave these dear ones to the
mercy of the world, and a careless though loving father. Her husband was
still in the prime of life, a man of personal and social attractions,
likely to marry again, no doubt a rich woman, ostensibly to obtain a
second mother for his children. James, a boy of eleven, now at school,
and Mabel, could be easily managed; about her baby Albert she had
written to her brother, Henry Halford, a letter, which in a great
measure influenced him in his future conduct. But Clara--high-spirited,
determined, self-sufficient, impatient of rebuke, and womanly beyond her
age in both manners and appearance--what would she be without the
loving, cautious guidance of her own mother?

These painful reflections agitated the invalid. More than once a violent
fit of coughing had brought Clara to her side with a remedy. After
awhile she sunk into a kind of doze. Nurse came to summon Mabel to bed,
but the mother seemed to be sleeping so peacefully that the little girl
left the room without saying good night.

Nearly an hour passed, and then the hall clock struck nine. Mrs.
Franklyn started at the sound, although it seldom disturbed her at other
times.

"Clara," she said faintly.

The child rushed to her bedside quickly.

"What is it, mamma?" and the tones were loving and tender.

"Is your father come home?"

"No, mamma. Shall I send for him?"

But instead of a reply a sudden and violent cough attacked the invalid.
Clara, as she had often done, placed her arm under her mother's head and
raised her gently.

This time the movement hastened the catastrophe. In a moment the blood
burst from the invalid's mouth, covering quilt, sheets, and her
night-dress with its ghastly stains.

Although ready to faint with terror, Clara laid her mother down gently
on the pillow, and rushing to the bell pulled it so violently that both
servants were in the room even before its tones had ceased vibrating.

"Run for Dr. Moore, run for your life, Sarah," cried nurse, as she
approached the bed, and leaning over her mistress wiped the life-blood
from her pallid lips. The dark eyes opened and the lips parted with a
faint smile.

"Don't speak, dear mistress," she said softly; "Dr. Moore will soon be
here."

The reply was a gentle movement of the head, which nurse readily
understood to mean "too late."

Nurse looked round as the door softly opened, for Clara had disappeared,
and saw Mabel in her dressing-gown hesitating to enter. She had been
startled from sleep by the bell, and became wide awake when her sister
entered with a candle, and opening her desk commenced writing on a
half-sheet of paper.

"Clara, what is the matter?" and the startled child sat up in bed with a
terrified fear in her face.

Clara turned her white face towards her. "Mamma is dying," she said, in
a calm tone, that told of deep agitation under restraint; "I am sending
a telegram to papa."

Before Mabel could realise the words, her sister had left the room, and
meeting Sarah, she exclaimed--

"To Dr. Moore first, Sarah, and then to the railway station, and send
this telegram. Say it is immediate, a case of life and death; anything
to make them send it quickly."

While she stood talking, Mabel in her dressing-gown and slippers flew
past them in her way to her mother's room, and entered as we have seen.

Quickly as Clara followed, she found Mabel already on the bed by her
mother's side, holding her pale hand in hers, while nurse bathed the
invalid's forehead with eau de Cologne, and wiped the pale lips from
which the life-blood still oozed.

A slight smile welcomed Clara, for Mrs. Franklyn's eyes were opened with
the brightness of death, and wandered round the room as if in search of
some one. Clara understood her.

"Mamma darling, I have telegraphed for papa; he will soon be here." A
look of thankfulness passed over the pale face, and the eyelids closed
over the glistening eyes as if to wait in patience for her husband's
arrival. For a time all was still. To aid the sufferer's breath nurse
had left the door open, and the ticking of the hall clock could be heard
distinctly. Clara, to conceal her agitated feelings, knelt by the bed
and buried her face in the bedclothes. At length at the sound of the
doctor's knock she started up and took her stand by her mother's pillow.
Dr. Moore came prepared with stimulants. Sarah had told him what had
happened, but he no sooner cast his eyes upon his patient than he knew
her danger. No skill on earth could save her now. However, he
administered a few teaspoonfuls of his remedy, which seemed to revive
her as well as to stay the bleeding from the lungs. She seemed about to
speak, when the doctor said--

"Not a word, my dear lady, not a movement; there is nothing so important
now as quietness and rest." He placed his fingers on her pulse as he
spoke, and felt the feeble fluttering which so often betokens the
approach of death. For some time no one spoke. The invalid lay with
closed eyes almost motionless. Through the open window came the balmy
freshness of a summer evening air, and the sound of the rippling of the
waves, as the dark tide of the Yarra flowed onward towards the sea.

Presently a loud, tremulous knock sounded through the hall, and in a few
moments, pale and trembling with emotion, the husband and father entered
the room. The state of the bed, the death-like face of his wife, and the
silence overpowered him so completely, that but for the doctor's arm he
would have fallen to the ground. "Is she dead?" he asked, for while in
the train he had brought himself to believe that his daughter's telegram
was merely caused by a child's fear and exaggeration; his wife's
death-like appearance, therefore, was a shock for which he was quite
unprepared.

The invalid's eyes opened, and rested with loving pity on her husband.

"I have lived to say good-by, darling," she said in a faint voice.
"Thank God--I must speak, doctor," she continued--"I have been saving my
strength for a few last words."

"Fanny, my darling wife, I cannot lose you. Oh! I did not expect this,
doctor. Can nothing be done?" Clara had moved to allow him to approach
the pillow. He stooped and kissed the pale brow. Then seating himself on
a chair by her side, he took her hand in his and buried his face in the
pillow to conceal his agony.

"Don't grieve, Arthur," said his wife, in whispered tones; "it has been
hard to think of leaving you and the dear children, but I have learnt
submission to our heavenly Father's will, and you must seek consolation
from Him."

Mabel had slidden from the bed when her father appeared, and the two
girls now stood by him, as if by their presence they could console him
and share his sorrow. For a few moments there was silence, while their
mother lay with closed eyes. The sound of Mabel's hardly restrained sobs
aroused her.

"Do not weep, darling," she said; "you have both a father on earth to
protect you, and a Father in heaven, more powerful than an earthly
parent, to guide and comfort you. Never forget the lessons I have taught
you of His love and tenderness to motherless children.--Arthur," she
continued, "if you do not care to return to England again yourself, send
my children to my home, will you?"

"I promise you, darling, I will indeed," replied the stricken husband;
"Australia will be a spot of desolation after you are gone."

Again there was a silence. The doctor administered another stimulant,
but no one spoke.

Presently the nurse whispered, "Shall I take the young ladies away,
doctor?"

Dr. Moore glanced at them, but the white stern face of Clara Franklyn
showed a power of endurance and strength to support her sister as well
as herself through the last trying scene. He shook his head, but the
invalid had heard the whisper. She opened her eyes and looked fondly at
her girls.

"Let them stay, nurse. Dear James, I wish he could have been sent for.
Give him his mother's dying love, and----" But the voice failed.

"Kiss me once more," she said, feebly, and the girls came near to kiss
the pallid face which would soon be hidden from them for ever. Mabel,
unable to bear the painful excitement, clung to nurse, who placed her
arm round the child and drew her from the bed. Mrs. Franklyn glanced at
her as she did so.

"You will stay with my children, nurse, and take care of my little
Albert."

"Trust me, dear mistress," she replied; but she could not say what her
heart dictated, that she would never leave them till they were grown to
be men and women. Her opinion of Mr. Franklyn made that impossible.
Clara, after giving her mother what she well knew was a farewell kiss,
felt her firmness giving way, and she clung to her father's arm and
leaned her head upon his shoulder to hide the tears.

Dr. Moore was still unwilling to excite the invalid by sending the two
girls away, yet he felt that the scene was becoming too painful for
them. He stood at the foot of the bed, obedient to Mrs. Franklyn's
gentle words--

"Don't go, doctor."

A long pause followed her words to the nurse, and for some moments it
seemed as if the dying mother had ceased to breathe. Suddenly the dark
eyes opened.

"Raise me, Arthur," she said, faintly.

With gentle hand he lifted her head and laid it on his breast.

"Arthur, it has come. How dark it is! Dear husband, meet me in heaven,
it is all light there."

One sigh, then all was still.

Dr. Moore approached. Arthur turned upon him a startled look.

"Is she gone?" he exclaimed. "Oh, darling wife," he continued, kissing
the pale face frantically, "oh, forgive me that I never loved you or
valued you as I ought."

Dr. Moore removed his arm from the helpless head, and whispering, "Be
calm for the sake of your children," drew him gently from the bed.

Arthur Franklyn glanced round the room. Nurse had led the weeping girls
away, he was alone; and hastily leaving the bed of death, he rushed into
the drawing-room, and, throwing himself on his knees, gave way to those
bitter tears which shake manhood to its very centre. His unchastened
spirit rebelled against God for depriving him of the wife of his youth
in this unexpected manner, forgetting that his own blindness and
thoughtless indifference had failed to discover what was plain to every
one else. Alas! there is no feeling more painful than remorse for
neglect or unkindness to those who are gone, because there can be no
recompense made, or regret and sorrow expressed to them on this side the
grave.



CHAPTER XXI.

MOTHER AND SON.


There is something in the old Saxon word "mother" which seems to convey
more of love and dignity, and to command a greater amount of respect,
than any of its substitutes in other languages.

Perhaps its constant use in the old Saxon translation of the Bible has
thrown a halo of sanctity over the homely word, for no names in
Scripture have been more honoured than those of the mothers of holy men.
In our own biographies of great and good men, how often to the mother's
influence over her boy, from even the days of infancy, can be traced the
high principles, the noble character, and the great worth of the man!
Most truly has it been said that the future of a child depends upon the
training of the first five years of his life. It is therefore to mothers
that this period of a boy's history is by Nature entrusted, and upon
them chiefly rests the responsibility of laying the foundation of a
high-principled, noble, and truthful character.

Another saying, that mothers love their sons better than their
daughters, is not always true, especially in such a case as Mrs.
Halford's, when only one son and one daughter live to grow up.

And yet it is doubtful whether she would have parted so easily with her
son had he proposed to place half the globe between himself and his
family, for very dear was her clever and talented son to the almost
childless mother.

The old adage--

    "My son is my son till he gets him a wife,
    My daughter's my daughter all the days of her life,"

seemed reversed to Mrs. Halford, for Fanny had been completely lost to
her mother since her marriage.

She was also strongly impressed with the idea that Henry would continue
to assist in carrying on the school, even after his ordination, and then
marry some amiable girl who would live with them at Englefield Grange,
and to be to her as a daughter in the place of Fanny.

Such were some of Mrs. Halford's castles in the air, greatly augmented
by observing with a mother's penetration that her son was admiring Miss
Armstrong. Even while her own good sense told her that the daughter of
Mr. Armstrong would never obtain her father's consent to a marriage with
her son, still she had hope that in some way or other such a result was
not impossible.

August of the year which had already been so full of changes and events
had arrived.

The pupils were returning to Englefield Grange after the Midsummer
vacation, and Mrs. Halford quickly noticed that little Freddy Armstrong
was not amongst them.

She waited a fortnight, and then one afternoon at the tea-table spoke to
her husband on the subject.

"Mr. Armstrong's little boy has not come back yet," she said, "had you
not better send a note, James? They have perhaps forgotten the day on
which the school reopened."

"No, my dear, it is not necessary. I received a very polite note from
Mr. Armstrong in the holidays, telling me that he intended to send the
boy with his brothers this quarter, and enclosing a cheque for the
Midsummer amount."

"Why did you not mention it, James?" she asked.

"I did not think it necessary, for I supposed you and Kate would hear of
the new arrangement from Henry, as he is so friendly at Lime Grove."

The mother glanced at her son. In spite of his utmost efforts he could
not conceal his agitation, yet he did manage to say--

"I have seen nothing of Mr. Armstrong's family for weeks, father."

"No, Henry, I daresay not," said his mother, quickly, "you are studying
too closely to have time to spare for visiting. Besides, the loss of one
little pupil is not a matter of great importance to us."

After a glance at Henry's pale face, Kate Marston took the first
opportunity of turning the subject, and though by so doing she enabled
her cousin to recover himself and join in the conversation, he very soon
left the tea-table.

Mrs. Halford heard the door of his little study close on her son, but
that did not deter her from her purpose. As soon as the tea was removed
she rose and left the room.

Henry Halford, after leaving the tea-table and locking the door of his
study, was for a few moments unable to touch a book. Resting his head on
his hands, he gave himself up to reflection.

He had made a venture and failed; and deeply as he felt the
mortification caused by Mr. Armstrong's letter, yet in his cooler
moments he could clearly see that, in a worldly point of view, his
proposal would appear an act of presumption.

He was still sitting in listless idleness, indulging in these painful
thoughts, when a knock at the door startled him, and he impatiently
exclaimed--

"Who is there?"

"I, your mother, Henry. I want to speak to you."

Without a moment's delay the lock was drawn back, and mother and son
stood together in the room.

Mrs. Halford closed the door gently and locked it, and Henry, placing a
chair near the table for his mother, seated himself and looked
inquiringly at her.

"Mother," he exclaimed, suddenly, "you have guessed my secret."

"I know there must be something on your mind," she replied. "Close study
has never before made you listless and unhappy."

"I fly to books to drown thought, they are my only relief."

"Would it not relieve you to confide in your mother, Henry?"

There was a pause.

"You used to tell me all your troubles when you were a child, and why
not now?"

He raised his head, and the words burst forth impulsively--

"Mother, if I had told you weeks ago, instead of acting on impulse as I
always do, I might have spared myself bitter mortification."

"In what way, my son? Explain yourself."

"You know I met Miss Armstrong at Oxford, mother, and on the evening
before she left I said something to her under an impulse I could not
resist, and now I regret it."

"On what account?"

"Because I have written to ask her father's consent to make her my wife,
and he has refused me. Don't tell me I am a fool," he added, seeing her
about to speak, "I know it now. What have I to offer as an equivalent to
a young lady with such superior attractions and accomplishments as Mary
Armstrong, setting aside the large fortune which her father can give
her?"

"Does he write kindly?" asked the mother, whose heart ached for her son.


"Yes, and sensibly; here is the letter;" and he took Mr. Armstrong's
letter from the desk and handed it to her.

She read it and returned it to him in silence.

"You will not allow this disappointment to interfere with your future
intentions, Henry?"

"No, indeed," he replied, "I am throwing off the memory of my folly by
degrees, and I own I am relieved by telling you all about it. I am not
vain enough to suppose that Miss Armstrong will be influenced by the
impulsive, unmeaning words I said to her, so there is no harm done. I
have no doubt little Freddy was removed to prevent the possibility of
any further intercourse. So ends my first and last dream of love."

"Better so, my son, better so, both for your sake and Miss Armstrong's.
I quite agree with Mr. Armstrong about long courtship. You would not be
in a position to marry for three or four years at the earliest, and not
even then to such a girl as Miss Armstrong unless you had a living of
some real value."

For nearly an hour Mrs. Halford remained with her son, listening to his
account of the pleasant days at Oxford, and their result, and when at
last she rose to go, he said--

"Please do not allow the subject to be spoken of by Kate, if you tell
her, but I should like my father to know, and by-and-by I may be able to
laugh over my folly as a thing of the past."

"No reference shall be made, Henry, I promise you," said Mrs. Halford,
as her son rose to open the door for her with the family courtesy now so
seldom seen.

He closed it after her, but without locking it. This little interview
had done him good. A painful secret loses more than half its bitterness
when it has been listened to with sympathising love by a true friend.
And who such a true friend as a mother? She had purposely said very
little to her son of her own opinion on the matter, but as she slowly
ascended the stairs to be alone in her own room for a time, she said to
herself--

"I will pay Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter a visit some day. I should
like to become acquainted with this girl who has so fascinated my son."

And then, as she seated herself to reflect on what she had heard, her
thoughts reverted to her own only daughter, whom she had not seen for
nearly fifteen years. Mrs. Franklyn had written once only since the
birth of little Albert, and although she spoke of being weaker than
usual, and longing to visit England again and see them all, yet she was
careful not to alarm her mother.

This reticence on Fanny's part, and her husband's lively and sanguine
letters, removed all fear of anything serious about the health of the
dearly-loved daughter. And yet at this very moment a letter from Fanny
was on its way to England, in which she touched gently on the
possibility that she might not live to reach England in the following
spring, and enclosing one to her brother to be opened in case of her
death.

This letter, however, which did not arrive till the end of October, was
accompanied as usual by one from Arthur, written in good spirits, and
attributing Fanny's illness and gloomy letters to nervousness.

But we must not anticipate the sorrowful news contained in our last
chapter, which will reach Englefield Grange all too soon, and be the
more bitterly mourned because almost unexpected.

At this particular time of which we write, Mrs. Halford could think of
nothing but her son's disappointment, and the more she reflected on the
subject the more indignant she felt.

On what could Mr. Armstrong base his objections to her son beyond the
fact that his daughter was rich and her son poor? After all, a
schoolmaster in Dr. Halford's position was at least equal to a
tradesman, as Mr. Armstrong undoubtedly was. And if his wife could lay
claim to good birth, she had been told that Mr. Armstrong was only the
son of a Hampshire farmer. Whereas her son, Henry Halford, could boast
that the ancestors of both his parents were quite equal in position to
those of Mrs. Armstrong. She had seen that lady, and could trace in her
not one spark of upstart pride, but the thorough good-breeding of a
well-born gentlewoman. Besides all this, would not her son in a few
years be a clergyman, and as such, to the honour of England be it said,
admissible, on account of his education and the sacredness of his
office, to any society?

What else then could influence Mr. Armstrong's refusal but a love of
money and what it can buy? He had spoken in his letter of other plans in
view for his daughter, and these no doubt were attempts on the father's
part to purchase position for her, or to sacrifice her girlish
affections for riches and a title.

So reflected Mrs. Halford, and she was not far wrong.

Like many men of strong prejudices, Mr. Armstrong had only overcome
these prejudices to go into extremes.

The peculiar ideas which influenced him during his early married life
had all disappeared with the increase of wealth. No talk now of "aping
the gentry." Money and education had raised him to their level, and
therefore far above schoolmasters and curates, or any such
poverty-stricken members of society.

But Mrs. Halford's reflections were not made known to her son by even a
hint. Had she been only a fond and foolish mother, she would have openly
expressed her indignation at the treatment he had received, and aroused
in him wounded pride and angry resentment, which would have unsettled
his mind for his studies, and made him unfit to assist his father in the
schoolroom.

Instead of this, her calm and quiet acquiescence in Mr. Armstrong's
letter strengthened the young man in his purpose of overcoming the past
and looking forward to the future.

Yet Mrs. Halford had not set aside the idea of paying Mrs. Armstrong a
visit. For in her heart she did not despair of her son's ultimate
success with Miss Armstrong. If that young lady deserved the opinion
expressed of her by father and son, and was not quite indifferent
towards the latter--well, it would certainly be difficult to make that
discovery, however she would try.

For some weeks nothing occurred to give Mrs. Halford the opportunity she
wished for, but it presented itself at last in a most singular manner.
She had been seeking a new under-housemaid, and one morning a girl
called upon her, whose manner and appearance pleased her so much, that
after a little talk with her she decided to call upon her late mistress
respecting her character.

What was that lady's surprise when the girl gave her the address of Mrs.
Armstrong, Lime Grove!

At once she saw the way open before her, and sent the young woman with a
message to ask if between twelve and one the next day would be
convenient for a visit respecting the character of a servant.

Mrs. Armstrong had been very much interested in this young housemaid,
who was not, however, sufficiently acquainted with her business, and on
that account only she had parted with her.

It so happened that when the girl brought the message Mrs. Armstrong was
engaged, otherwise she would have questioned her kindly respecting her
new situation.

All, therefore, that could be done was to answer the message, which
merely asked if Mrs. Armstrong could see _a lady_ about Jane's character
at the time named.

The reply in the affirmative gave Mrs. Halford the opportunity of paying
an unexpected visit so far as her name went, but of this she was not
aware when she presented herself next morning at the appointed time and
sent in her card.

Mary and her mother were seated in the library, the former at the easel,
the latter at work, when the servant entered.

"The lady about Jane's character, ma'am," she said, as she offered the
card to her mistress.

Without reading it, Mrs. Armstrong laid it on the table by her side.

The next moment Mrs. Halford was ushered into the room.

Two of the three who then met so unexpectedly never forgot that meeting.

Although inwardly agitated, Mrs. Halford had self-possession enough to
glance round the room as she entered. A young girl with bright golden
hair, dressed in deep mourning, rose from her easel and bowed
gracefully. She was about to reseat herself and resume her painting,
when to her surprise she saw her mother advance towards the visitor,
hold out her hand, and exclaim--

"How are you, Mrs. Halford? I am most happy to see you. Pray take a
chair. I was not prepared for this unexpected pleasure; my housemaid
told me it was a lady for the character of a servant. My daughter Mary,"
she added, seeing that young lady still standing by her easel, and Mrs.
Halford looking earnestly at her.

With outward ease Mary Armstrong advanced to shake hands with the
visitor, while every nerve quivered with surprise and excitement.

A sudden paleness was followed by a deep flush, which did not fade from
her face while the interview lasted.

All this passed in a very few seconds, and then Mrs. Halford seated
herself and referred to the object of her visit.

"I have come to inquire into the character of your late housemaid, Mrs.
Armstrong, Jane Ford," she said. "I suppose she did not mention my name
yesterday, when I sent her to ascertain if to-day at this hour would be
convenient, but I sent in my card this morning."

"I must really plead guilty to not having read it," replied Mrs.
Armstrong, "but I shall be glad to tell you all I can in Jane's favour,
perhaps with double pleasure now I know the lady by whom she is likely
to be engaged."

The ladies then entered at once into the various and usual inquiries
made and replied to on such occasions. Well for Jane Ford that these two
ladies did not belong to the class of mistresses who forget that young
servants are human beings, endowed with the same feelings and tempers as
themselves, that they also have likes and dislikes, affections and
emotions, causes for joy or sorrow, all of which are apt to affect their
natures more strongly, because in childhood they are often ill-trained,
neglected, or exposed to bad example at home.

At all events, what passed so influenced Mrs. Halford, that she decided
at once to engage the young woman of whom Mrs. Armstrong spoke so
kindly.

During the conversation Mrs. Halford frequently allowed her eyes to
wander towards the spot where Mary sat painting near the window, her
beautiful profile defined in strong relief against the light.

Conscious of the glances cast upon her, the colour on Mary's cheeks
deepened, but when Mrs. Halford rose and approached her to crave
permission to examine the drawing, there was no want of well-bred ease
in her manner of replies.

The conversation became general, and touched on other subjects, in which
Mary joined readily; indeed, Mrs. Halford had introduced them to draw
out this young girl whom her son so admired.

Nearly an hour passed, and then Mrs. Halford was reminded that she would
soon be wanted at home for the dinner-hour, by the pendule on the
mantelpiece chiming one o'clock.

As she rose in haste to take her leave, the door opened and Freddy
entered. For a moment he did not recognise Mrs. Halford; but when she
exclaimed--

"Why is my little Freddy still at home?" he came forward at once, and
placing his little hand in hers, said, with childlike candour--

"Oh, Mrs. Halford, are you come to ask mamma to send me back to your
school! I should like it so much! Dear Mary teaches me now," he added,
with a look of affection at his sister, "but I've no boys to play with
now. Edward and Arthur are gone back to school, and I don't care about
playing alone."

"I persuaded Mr. Armstrong to keep Freddy at home till Easter," said
Mrs. Armstrong in explanation; "he is rather too young to be with boys
so much older than himself, at least at boarding-school, and his papa
has a great objection to day schools as a rule."

"Many parents have that objection," was the gentle reply.

Mrs. Halford quite understood the apology for the removal of her boy
from Dr. Halford which the mother's words were intended to convey. But
she also by other signs made a greater discovery. Neither mother nor
daughter knew anything of Henry's letter or of its reception.

"I hope Dr. Halford and your son are quite well. We have not seen Mr.
Halford lately; I suppose he is constantly engaged in study, and has no
time for visiting."

Just as Mrs. Armstrong commenced this inquiry, Mrs. Halford had turned
to wish Mary good-by. She felt the hand she held quiver as the mother
spoke, and the telltale blush could not all be ascribed to the
suddenness of rising from her chair. She pressed the young girl's hand,
and then turned to the mother.

"My husband and son are quite as well as usual, Mrs. Armstrong; and
Henry is more wrapped up in his studies than ever. Thank you very much
for so kindly inquiring for them, but Henry has given up all idea of
visiting for the present."

And so the ladies parted, Mrs. Halford charmed with the young girl who
had won her son's heart; and Mary, after accompanying her visitor to the
door and giving her a last bow and smile as she passed into the road,
went to her room to prepare for lunch.

Mechanically she made the necessary alterations, all her thoughts
occupied with the tall, gentle lady, who in manner and words and face so
strongly reminded her of her son, notwithstanding the silvery white hair
and difference of years.



CHAPTER XXII.

PARK LANE IN JUNE.


Nearly a year has passed since Mrs. Halford's visit, but no farther
intercourse has taken place between the families at Englefield Grange
and Lime Grove. Henry Halford had listened eagerly to his mother's
description of that visit spoken of in a passing way at the tea-table in
the evening, but only once did he venture a remark.

"Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter were in deep mourning," his mother said
in the course of conversation. "I was not aware they had lost a near
relative."

"They are in mourning for Mr. Armstrong's father," said Henry; "I saw
his death in the _Times_ a few weeks ago, in his eighty-third year."

This year of Mary's life had indeed been an eventful one. The first
meeting with Henry Halford, the second at Mr. Drummond's, the visit to
Meadow Farm, and the happy week with her dear old grandfather, that
never-to-be-forgotten time at Oxford, her father's angry suspicions and
threats, and a few weeks afterwards the hasty summons of his father's
death-bed--all these events, following each other so rapidly, were to be
also deeply impressed on Mary's memory by future results.

To Englefield Grange in February of the following year came the
overwhelming sorrow caused by the news of poor Fanny's death. So
completely had Arthur Franklyn's light-hearted letters removed all
anticipation of danger, that the shock was the more terrible, and poor
Mrs. Halford's health for a time completely gave way.

Mr. Armstrong's family also saw a notice of it in the

_Times_ obituary, and Mary and her mother were both surprised when her
father suggested that a message of condolence and kind inquiry should be
sent to Englefield Grange. The messenger brought back a formal
acknowledgment, and also the information that Mrs. Halford was
dangerously ill.

How Mary grieved over the conviction that she could not go and offer her
services to soothe and tend the mother of Henry Halford in her terrible
griefs! She had never heard of Kate Marston, Henry's cousin, who had for
so many years supplied to him and his parents the place of sister and
daughter. In spite of what appeared to Mary something like neglect and
indifference on the part of the schoolmaster's son, she would have been
glad to show him and his family that no proud or resentful feeling on
her part could raise a barrier between them as neighbours and
acquaintance.

Mary Armstrong possessed a good share of what is called common sense.
She had reflected deeply on the occurrences at Oxford, and she reasoned
thus with herself:--

"I daresay Mr. Henry Halford is sorry for what he said to me at Oxford,
or perhaps he meant nothing but a compliment. He is sensible enough not
to think of being married till he is ordained, and so perhaps he keeps
away for fear I should learn to love him;" and the young girl blushed as
this thought arose in her heart, even when alone. "And besides, after
what papa said that night in his passion, I am very, very glad he has
not paid us a visit. I could not marry any man without papa's consent,
but I hope he wont ask me to marry any one else. I shall be twenty next
July, but that doesn't matter; I should like to stay at home always, and
there is nothing very dreadful to me in the prospect of being an old
maid."

And so the young girl schooled her heart to try to forget that she had
met her _beau idéal_ of what a husband should be, and that her father
had forbidden her to associate with him or to notice the family until
their time of trouble called for neighbourly inquiries. How little poor
Mary guessed that her father had effectually put a stop to any farther
acquaintance, and that even this formal attention would have been
withheld had he not supposed her to be quite indifferent to this
schoolmaster's son who had presumed to ask him for the hand of his
daughter! Perhaps Mr. Armstrong would have been very much surprised had
he been told that another influence was at work in Mary's heart which
would prevent her from disobeying her father by marrying against his
wishes; an influence which had first made itself felt while listening to
the teachings of her grandfather, and which would prove her support in
the future through weary days of sorrow and trial.

During this twelve months other changes had also taken place; Charles
Herbert's regiment had been ordered to Canada, and his mother in her
loneliness petitioned Mr. Armstrong for his daughter's company. Sir
James and Lady Elston had given up their house in Portland Place, and
were now residing in the south of France on account of the old admiral's
health.

"You see, Edward, I am quite alone now," said Mrs. Herbert when asking
for Mary to be allowed to spend a month with them in Park Lane during
the season; "and Mary has seen nothing of society yet, you have made her
too much of a bookworm and a homebird."

"Not a bit of it," cried the colonel; "and for my part I do not see the
necessity for Mary to acquire a knowledge of London society; however, we
shall be glad to have her with us, Armstrong, for a time, and I don't
think there is any danger of Mary's head being turned; she's much too
sensible."

This conversation took place in Mr. Armstrong's office in Dover Street,
and he was ready at once to accept the invitation, even before
consulting the wishes of his wife and daughter. It was just what he
wanted; the niece of Mrs. Herbert was sure to attract suitors at the
house of Colonel Herbert, and soon put an end to this nonsense about the
young parson. For in spite of his confidence in these young people he
dreaded a chance meeting which might upset all his plans.

A few days after this interview Mary Armstrong stood at the window of
her uncle's house in Park Lane, looking out over the Park, now radiant
in the glorious beauty of a June morning. There had been a strange
contest in Mary's heart at the proposal to spend a month with her aunt
in London. She was very fond of her aunt Helen, and ready to accept the
invitation with great delight. The house, the arrangements, the varied
appliances of taste and refinement which belong to society when composed
of the well-bred as well as the rich, were all congenial to Mary. At
home the influence of her father was still too strong to allow Mrs.
Armstrong to carry out her own refined tastes even at the dinner-table.
The early habits at a farm-house were not so easily overcome, and the
exquisite and tasteful style of Mrs. Herbert's table was not yet
tolerated at Lime Grove. Good, solid, and in profusion, but plain and
homely, and without flowers or other ornaments, was considered more
suitable for a dinner-table than what Mr. Armstrong called useless
trumpery or expensive nicknacks.

And yet, with all that could satisfy her most refined tastes, Mary
Armstrong, as she stood at the open French window, sighed at the memory
of home. The country lanes which still remained near Lime Grove, the
broad high road which passed Englefield Grange as well as her father's
house, and along which she and her little brother Freddy had walked to
school on that cold morning that seemed now so long ago; the carriage
drive home after that fascinating evening at Mr. Drummond's, even the
meeting in the road when her father offered hospitality to Mr. Halford,
which he was never to accept--all this was connected with the rural
suburb surrounding her home. Still onward flew the rapid thoughts to a
pleasant hotel at Oxford, and all the happy hours of that
never-to-be-forgotten week, the strolls from college to college, from
chapel to chapel, the soul-stirring music of the choirs, the boat
excursions on the Thames beneath a June sky as bright as that now
casting a radiant but somewhat misty glow upon the Park, and that last
evening in Christ Church meadows beneath the moonlight, when those
trivial words were uttered which had stirred in her girlish heart
thoughts and feelings before unknown.

Very lovely she looked as she stood in the reflected sunlight from the
Park. The pretty lilac-sprigged muslin, finished at the throat and
wrists with lace collar and wristlets, bows from the throat down the
front of lilac ribbon, and one of the same colour in her hair, were
truly becoming to the fair face and bright brown tresses. The only
ornaments she wore consisted of a silver brooch and the chain belonging
to her watch.

So deeply were Mary's thoughts occupied, that her uncle and his friend
had reached the centre of the room before she was aware of their
presence. She started as her uncle said--

"Why, Mary, my dear, what a reverie!"

"I beg your pardon, uncle, I did not hear your approach. Good morning,
Captain Fraser," she continued, turning to the visitor with a laugh, and
holding out her hand. "I am not in general so easily alarmed; did you
and uncle enter purposely on tiptoe?"

The young officer cast upon the speaker a look of unmistakable
admiration, which deepened the flush on her cheek, but he did not
possess the tact with which to relieve the young lady and place her at
her ease with a retort as playful as her own.

Colonel Herbert was, however, more ready.

"Well, upon my word, Mary, you must have a very vivid imagination to
picture to yourself a stout old fellow like me tripping along the carpet
on tiptoe;" and her uncle's merry laugh restored Mary's self-possession
at once. "But now," he continued, "let me tell you the object which
brought us here. Would you like to join us in a canter this morning in
the Row? Captain Fraser and I have just been inspecting Daisy, she has
quite recovered from the effects of her journey by train, and I have
desired the groom to bring her round in half an hour; can you be ready?"

"Oh yes, uncle, thank you, I shall be delighted, if aunt Helen
approves."

"Aunt Helen is here to speak for herself;" and Mrs Herbert entered the
room as she thus announced her presence.

"Of course I approve; go, darling, and dress quickly; an hour's ride
will do you good after such a long practice."

"Mary was not practising when we entered the room," said her uncle, "but
lost in contemplation of our London landscape--quite a compliment to
Hyde Park I consider it."

"I am afraid I was making comparisons in my mind not very complimentary
to the Park, uncle, but I shall enjoy my ride nevertheless." And the
young girl ran gaily out of the room without waiting for a reply.

During the time the gentlemen had been in the room Captain Fraser had
not spoken; indeed, in reply to Mary he had only bowed a silent good
morning. Now, however, he entered into conversation with Mrs. Herbert,
showing that he could make himself in a certain sense agreeable as a
companion.

Mary had met him twice already during the few days she had been in Park
Lane, but while the memory of a gentleman who could fascinate her with
his conversation on intellectual and poetical subjects was still fresh,
the style in which Captain Fraser made himself agreeable was not likely
to attract Mary Armstrong.

"I'm afraid--aw--we alarmed--aw--Miss Armstrong this morning," said the
young man, pulling violently at his whiskers as he spoke.

"My niece is not easily frightened, Captain Fraser."

"No--aw--not exactly frightened, but startled I mean--aw--just for a
minute, and she turned it off--aw--and laughed as she spoke in such a
captivating manner that--aw--there was nothing left for a fellah to
say."

"But you should say something, and not allow young ladies to have it all
their own way, Captain Fraser."

"Oh dear me--aw--I couldn't possibly; besides--aw--Mrs. Herbert, I don't
think--aw--I ever saw a handsomer girl in my life--aw--than Miss
Armstrong; but now I don't mind telling you, she's so clever--aw--that
I'm half afraid to speak to her."

"Ah, well, you can get better acquainted with her this morning during
your ride; she is perfectly at home on horseback, and a fearless rider."

"I believe that Miss Armstrong is clever in everything that she does,"
replied the young officer, with another firm tug at his whiskers.

The appearance of the young lady in equestrian attire, and the
announcement that the horses were at the door, aroused the young man to
offer his assistance. He escorted Mary to the entrance, and was ready
and eager to be allowed to mount her; but he got so confused, and
appeared so awkward about the matter, that Mary felt afraid to place her
foot in his hand, and said quickly, "Thank you very much, Captain
Fraser, but I am so used to be mounted by my uncle, pray do not trouble
yourself to help me."

He drew back instantly to give place to Colonel Herbert, and looked so
intensely miserable that Mary's kind heart pitied him, and she
determined during her ride to endeavour by her attention to him to
restore his self-appreciation.

But Mary made very little progress towards the completion of her object.
She addressed her conversation almost entirely to him while walking
their horses; she tried various topics, but none proved of any interest
until a friend whom they met admired Mary's beautiful grey mare, who
pranced, and tossed her head, and curved her sleek neck as if she knew
that she carried her young mistress, and considered herself and her
rider the most attractive objects in the Park.

This notice of Daisy by the colonel's friend loosened Captain Fraser's
tongue, and for the remainder of the ride he entertained his companion
with descriptions of the turf, and advice about the treatment of horses,
which to Mary were as incomprehensible as if uttered in Sanscrit. But
this subject, so familiar to the young officer, set him at his ease, and
by the time he reached home the shy awkwardness of the morning had quite
disappeared.

When he joined them in the evening, Mary, whom he had taken down to
dinner, found his loquacity almost as painful to endure as his shyness.
The long drawn out words, the constant repetition of "aw, aw," and the
affected lackadaisical style of manner and speech, annoyed Mary even
while it amused her. Indeed, at last nothing but the recollection that
he was her uncle's guest could influence her to endure his society.

Gladly did she hail her aunt's signal to leave the dinner-table, and had
she been alone would have openly expressed to Mrs. Herbert her opinion
of their visitor. But quietly leaning back in her chair while the elder
ladies talked, Mary Armstrong began to reflect. Had she any right to
despise this young captain because he had peculiarities and foibles? She
had heard her aunt say that Reginald Fraser had been motherless from his
birth, and to his father's neglect might be attributed much that was
disagreeable or affected in his manners, which in other respects she was
obliged to acknowledge were those of a gentleman. "Would my dear
grandfather have approved of my treating this young man with contempt?"
she asked herself. "With all his plain country manners he was a true
Christian gentleman, one of those who would not for the world say or do
anything to pain or mortify another. Again, how would Henry Halford
treat Reginald Fraser?" she asked herself. The answer was plain; she
knew how he would have acted, for Mr. Henry Halford would not forget the
advantages of his own happy home, and the careful training he had
received from his own mother. Thus reasoning, Mary Armstrong decided
that during her visit to Park Lane she would bear with this weak-minded
young man, and treat him kindly in spite of his foibles.

But too much crooked policy exists in the world for straightforward
conduct and honest intentions to meet with a due reward.

Mary's innocent, unsuspecting proceedings were mistaken by Captain
Fraser for a growing attachment to himself.

During the month of her stay in Park Lane she had been associated with
many men and women belonging to the best society, and more than one of
the former had been attracted by the colonel's niece, and were ready to
offer her a position in society quite sufficient to satisfy her father's
pride.

But there was something in the manner of Mary Armstrong which repelled
foolish flirtation, and completely prevented any attentions of a more
honourable nature. These gentlemen were too greatly superior to Reginald
Fraser for her to venture the kind of patronising notice she bestowed
upon the tall, effeminate young soldier. And yet in her innocent
ignorance of the world she was preparing for herself a bitter and
unexpected trial.

On Mary's last evening at Park Lane no other visitor had been admitted
excepting Captain Fraser, and after playing and singing, _to him_ (as he
thought), all the evening, she felt tired of his exclusive attention,
and rose to retire, something in his manner of bidding her farewell made
her say to herself as she ascended the stairs, "Well, I am glad that's
over; I do not think I could endure Captain Fraser's society for another
day; and then to think that he should have the impertinence to squeeze
my hand! At all events, uncle and aunt can never accuse me of being rude
to their visitor."

Poor Mary! had she been able to hear the conversation that took place in
the drawing-room on that evening, great would have been her surprise and
regret. Captain Fraser only stayed a few moments after Mary had left the
room, and when he was gone Colonel Herbert returned to his wife with a
serious face, and said--

"Well, Helen, what do you think Armstrong will say to this?"

"Do you suppose the young man is in earnest, Charles?" was Mrs.
Herbert's reply in the form of a question.

"No doubt about it; why, after dinner he became quite eloquent, talked
without any 'aw-aw,' and gave me quite a biography of himself and his
family."

"I don't think Mary cares for him in the least," said Mrs. Herbert; "I'm
afraid that young man we met at Oxford is the favoured one; and
certainly, so far as intellectual and manly qualities are concerned,
Reginald Fraser is not to be compared with young Halford for a moment."

"But, my dear Helen," replied her husband, "Charles told me before he
left England that this Halford was a schoolmaster's son, and even after
he has taken his degree can only hope to be a curate. Armstrong will
never sanction such an intimacy."

"No, I'm sure of that: indeed, Mary has told me quite enough on the
subject of her father's opinion of schoolmasters and curates to prove
that she would have to relinquish all hope of being better acquainted
with the Halfords, whatever her own wishes might be. But my impression
is that she has no thought of marriage yet."

"Reginald seems to think she has encouraged his attentions, and is quite
elated about it. Certainly, so far as money and position go, Armstrong
could not hope for a better offer for his daughter. Why, the man has
twelve thousand a year, and is the grand-nephew of a duke."

"And what does he intend to do? has he said anything to Mary?"

"No, I advised him not to do so until he had seen her father, and, poor
fellow, he seemed glad enough of the respite. He's good and amiable, but
not very wise, and he confessed to me that he dreaded popping the
question more than undergoing a six hours' drill."

"Poor Mary," said Mrs. Herbert, "what a prospect for such a bright,
intelligent, sensible girl as she is! I'm afraid Armstrong will never be
able to resist the temptation of such an offer for his daughter."

"Not he, you may be sure; and Mary appears so completely under her
father's control, that she will submit to his wishes without a word of
complaint."

"And be miserable for life in spite of the money," said her aunt, with a
shrug of the shoulders expressive of pity. How little Mrs. Herbert
understood the character of Mary Armstrong will be seen in the sequel.
On the morning of the next day Mary rose with the feeling that an
incubus had been removed from her shoulders. At last she was set free
from the unpleasant necessity of listening to the frivolous conversation
of Captain Fraser. "How thankful I am that it is over!" she said to
herself, while busily engaged after breakfast in packing her boxes with
the assistance of Annette, who was _desolée_ at the approaching
departure of Mademoiselle Marie.

Her task was scarcely finished when a message from her aunt summoned her
to the drawing-room.

"Should you like to ride Daisy home to-day, my dear?" said Mrs. Herbert;
"your uncle has business at Harrow, and he can accompany you as far as
the Limes."

"Oh, indeed, aunt, it would be delightful; I shall enjoy it beyond
everything. When does uncle propose to start?"

"At about twelve o'clock."

"I shall be ready, aunt dear; and will you send my boxes? Annette has
been helping me to pack them. Oh, aunt Herbert," she continued, "you
have been so kind, I shall never forget this pleasant visit."

A few hours later Colonel Herbert parted from his niece at the Limes
after a hasty lunch, the latter quite unprepared for the consequences of
her kind and innocent attentions to Reginald Fraser.



CHAPTER XXIII.

A DISCOVERY AND ITS RESULT.


Reginald Fraser left Park Lane after the last evening of Mary
Armstrong's visit full of determination to call upon her father on the
following day.

In spite of the effeminate and _nil admirari_ style of the young
officer, he had many amiable qualities, and was not quite deserving of
the title of a "good-natured fool," which his brother officers applied
to him.

Motherless from his birth, an orphan before he had reached the age of
four years, the almost neglected child was placed by his grandfather at
a preparatory school for little boys. From this he passed to Eton, and
after studying at the Woolwich Academy entered the Guards, and at the
age of twenty-four obtained his company.

At Woolwich he had formed an acquaintance with Charles Herbert, and this
young officer before starting for Canada had said to his mother--

"Mother, I wish you would look after that easy-going young fellow
Fraser, he's got more money than he knows what to do with, and the
sooner he finds a wife the better, or he'll get fleeced and no mistake."

Mrs. Herbert remembered this request of her son's, and while in Park
Lane she encouraged the young officer to make their house his home.

This report of his wealth had already made him a welcome visitor at the
houses of scheming mothers, and many well-born but worldly girls were
ready to _fall in love_ with his money and his possessions, while
secretly despising the owner for the shyness and indifference with which
he treated their advances to a better acquaintance. He had, however,
been introduced to very few families when Mary Armstrong made her
appearance at the house of his oldest friends, the Herberts, and it soon
became evident to every one but the young lady herself, that Reginald
Fraser, when he had summoned courage enough to do so, would offer
himself and his possessions to Mary Armstrong.

Such indeed was his intention, or at least to make known his wishes to
her father, when he left Park Lane on that July evening; but on reaching
his quarters in St. James's Park, the official notice that his regiment
was ordered to Windsor on the morrow upset all his plans.

Strange to say, he felt relieved at the thought of a few days' delay; he
dreaded the ordeal, although he had for hours been screwing up his
courage to make the venture, so painful to his natural shyness and
reserve. A few days would not matter; perhaps it was best to leave Miss
Armstrong to prepare the way for his visit by mentioning his name, and
so on.

If Reginald Fraser could have foreseen what would happen during these
few days he might have recalled the proverb, "Delays are dangerous," in
time to escape a new and formidable difficulty.

Mary Armstrong had arranged to return home in time for the commencement
of her brother's holidays. Not all the pleasant attractions in Park Lane
could have induced her to allow the anxiety and care which their
presence would cause, to devolve upon her mother.

For three days, however--days which afterwards were never forgotten,
although their memory was rendered painful by contrast--Mary Armstrong
enjoyed the loving society of her parents alone. After an early
breakfast with her father, during the day till dinner she devoted
herself entirely to her mother, relieving her as usual of all domestic
supervision; sometimes walking with her, reading to her, or painting,
while she worked and talked.

And yet how dissimilar were the causes which made both parents receive
their daughter on her return home with a proud affection which almost
surprised her!

Not perhaps exactly at the moment of her return, but after the first
evening, when she described to them with sparkling eyes and eager
delight the scenes she had witnessed, the places she had visited, and
the company she had met.

There was no reticence of manner now; persons and conversations were
spoken of with ease; and among other names, that of Reginald Fraser,
Charles Herbert's friend.

"And what sort of a young man is Captain Fraser?" asked her mother.

"Well, mamma, he is tall and rather handsome, but I am afraid not very
wise: he was at uncle's house every day, but he had scarcely ever a word
to say for himself, except once, when I happened to speak about horses,
and then his talk was far beyond my comprehension. I used to avoid him
at first, till aunt told me he had been motherless from his birth, and
was an orphan with few acquaintances in London, so I tried to amuse him
and make him talk because he was aunt Helen's guest, but I must confess
it was not a very pleasant occupation."

"But why did this task fall upon you, Mary?" asked her father; "were no
other ladies present?"

"Oh yes, often; but they soon appeared to get tired of his society. I
believe Captain Fraser is very amiable and good-tempered, but he is the
shyest man I ever met."

"And who is this shy, reticent gentleman?" asked her father. "Is he
worth all the trouble he gives to young ladies in society?"

"I suppose he is, papa, for aunt told me his great-uncle is a duke, and
his grandfather, who died about six months ago, left him a beautiful
estate in Westmorland, and twelve thousand a year."

After saying this in a tone of voice that showed how utterly indifferent
she felt to the facts she had stated, Mary Armstrong without an effort
turned the subject to one more pleasing to herself--the new music and
songs she had brought home with her.

While she sat at the piano playing and singing those on which she wished
to have her mother's opinion, thoughts were passing through the minds of
her parents of a very opposite character.

"That young captain is no doubt the man I one day met riding with
Herbert," said her father to himself, "a fine aristocratic-looking
fellow. What a splendid match he would be for Mary! but I suppose it is
too much to expect such a man as that to marry a corn merchant's
daughter. How absurd all this nonsense is about high birth and good
connexions! This sprig of nobility, who is lucky enough to possess
riches in addition to his other attractions, will easily find a wife
among the 'upper ten' in spite of not being very wise."

How different from these were the thoughts of the gentle mother!

"My Mary is not spoilt by this little peep into the world of fashion;
and I doubt very much if even twenty thousand a year would tempt her to
unite herself to a man who requires to be amused and has nothing to say
for himself."

And so for two days Mary had her mother's gentle love and her father's
unusually kind attentions all to herself. He had reasoned himself into
the conviction that the young officer had been attracted by his
daughter, although she was evidently not aware of it.

"I'll get Herbert to introduce me some day," he said to himself, "and
then ask the captain down to dinner here. If such a position were
offered to Mary, I do not suppose she would be fool enough to refuse,
especially if supported by my authority. She seems to have forgotten
that sentimental affair with the schoolmaster. I am very glad I settled
him so completely in my reply to his letter. Maria tells me they have
seen very little of the family since, excepting when the mother came for
the character of a servant. And I can trust Mary; and--yes--well, the
man himself; they are both above anything dishonourable."

Some such thoughts as these occupied the mind of Mr. Armstrong as he
mounted his horse and rode slowly to town on the second morning after
Mary's return to Lime Grove. How little he guessed that before they met
at dinner his power over his daughter would be weakened by a painful
discovery!

Mrs. Armstrong during the warm weather generally put off her walk till
about four o'clock. The doctor had recommended walking exercise; and her
husband to encourage this had delayed the purchase of an open carriage
for his wife. The arrangement suited his purpose, and he was not far
wrong in adhering to the old-fashioned opinion that walking is more
truly conducive to health than driving.

Mrs. Armstrong enjoyed the country walk with Mary on the afternoon of
which we write. The July day had been hot and sultry; but as they turned
their steps homeward a pleasant breeze sprung up which was very
exhilarating, and seemed to give Mrs. Armstrong additional strength.

As they passed Englefield Grange the schoolroom clock struck five, and
almost at the same moment Mary saw coming towards them in an opposite
direction an invalid chair, which she knew belonged to Mrs. Halford.
More than once Mary and her mother had met the poor lady, now so
completely a wreck of her former self, accompanied by Kate Marston, who
in the midst of the tenderest care of her aunt could still manage to
glance at the fair girl who had so fascinated her cousin Henry with
genuine admiration.

Hitherto a kind inquiry respecting Mrs. Halford's health had been
replied to by Kate with distant politeness; but to-day both mother and
daughter saw with troubled surprise, that instead of her usual
lady-friend, Mrs. Halford was accompanied by her son. Mrs. Armstrong
intended to bow and pass on, for she had not forgotten her husband's
angry remarks respecting the young man, nor her daughter's acknowledged
admiration of his acquirements and talents.

To her astonishment, as they drew nearer, she saw the invalid lean
forward and speak, and in a few moments the chair stopped, and Mrs.
Halford held out her hand to Mrs. Armstrong, but her palsied head shook
and her voice trembled as she said, "I am so glad to be able to speak to
you again, Mrs. Armstrong; I am better, but I have been terribly shaken,
as you can see."

All other emotions were lost in regret and sympathy, as Mrs. Armstrong
for the first time saw the painful change which illness had made in the
mother of Henry Halford; she pressed the offered hand, and spoke her
commiserations in a tearful voice. The invalid, while she retained Mrs.
Armstrong's hand, described her sufferings and sorrows, and spoke of her
daughter's death; and her listener noticed with pain that not only the
physical but the mental powers of Mrs. Halford had received a shock from
which it was scarcely possible they could ever recover. Presently, as
Mrs. Armstrong withdrew her hand and moved to glance at her daughter,
the invalid said--

"I have my son with me now; he came home from Oxford last week. He looks
pale, Mrs. Armstrong. Don't you think so?"

Mrs. Armstrong turned and bowed to Henry Halford.

She almost started at his white face and trembling lips as he raised his
hat and said--

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Armstrong."

Then she turned and looked at her daughter. Never in her life had she
seen her so pale.

Quickly recovering herself for the sake of the young people, she said in
a cheering tone--

"Mr. Halford is perhaps studying too closely, so we must expect him to
look pale and----"

"Yes, yes," interrupted the invalid, "but that is not all; he has never
been well since your husband's reply to his letter about your daughter."

"Mother, mother, hush! you forget.--Forgive her, Mrs. Armstrong," he
added, in a lower tone. "Her heart is broken about poor Fanny, she
scarcely knows what she is talking about."

"But have any letters passed between you and Mr. Armstrong?" she asked
with painful eagerness.

Mary had heard the invalid's words, and her pale cheeks flushed as she
listened for Henry Halford's reply.

"One only from me," he said, "and Mr. Armstrong's answer, in which he
refuses----" he stopped abruptly, and then said hurriedly, "But it is
all past now. Pray excuse us, Mrs. Armstrong, it is time my mother was
at home."

"Henry, I am very sorry, I did not mean it," exclaimed the poor
broken-hearted mother, as she saw by her son's face and manner that he
was painfully annoyed.

Mrs. Armstrong saw it also. She took the trembling hand in hers and
said--

"Don't make yourself uneasy, my dear friend, it will all come right in
time. We must trust and hope."

"Thank you, Mrs. Armstrong," said Henry, "you have helped me to trust
and hope. I will never forget those words."

He took off his hat to the ladies as they turned to continue their walk,
while the pallor which had so startled them had given place to the flush
of hope which Mrs. Armstrong's words had excited.

For some moments neither mother nor daughter spoke, both were reflecting
anxiously on what they had just heard. Mrs. Armstrong, although at first
taken by surprise, could quite understand her husband's wish to conceal
even from her the correspondence between himself and Henry Halford.

Her indignation at the evident pain it had caused to both mother and son
made her utter those cheering words, which, however, she did not wish
unsaid. She knew too well how bitterly her husband could write on a
subject which irritated him, and she shrunk from the thought of what
insults that letter might have contained.

But the daughter's feelings on the matter were far more intense and
painful, not because Henry Halford had offered and been refused, not
from any fear of what her father's letter might have said to cause pain,
but from surprise and distress at the concealment.

Children whose parents are able to support parental authority have
generally the greatest faith in their knowledge, their opinions, and
their judgment.

"My father says so," "My mamma knows best," are often uttered or thought
by young people; and on this account children who live entirely at home
grow up narrow-minded, and under the influence of certain opinions which
they consider right in contradistinction from all others.

Mary Armstrong had very narrowly escaped from such an influence, still
her confidence in her father had been unbounded. He had taught her to be
open, candid, straightforward, and truthful; and now she had found that
while speaking of the schoolmaster as having forgotten the young lady to
whom he had been so polite at Oxford, and now and then indulging in a
joke about the impossibility of a student being able to love anything
but his books, he had known of this young man's love for his daughter,
and refused him without one word of reference to herself.

She had yet to learn the hardening effects produced by a growing love of
money and the acquirement of wealth.

They had nearly reached the gate entrance to Lime Grove, when her mother
said--

"Mary dear, what passed between you and Mr. Halford, while I was talking
to his mother?"

"Only a few polite inquiries after my health, and remarks on the
weather; indeed, I could scarcely make a commonplace reply, for his
white face frightened me; but I understand it all now. Oh, mamma, I
cannot tell you how distressed I feel at the discovery we have made,
because it lowers my father in my estimation. Oh, if he had only told
me!"

Mrs. Armstrong sighed as they entered the gate; she had tried for years
to believe that her husband was the soul of honour; and though she could
account for the concealment of Mr. Halford's letter from his daughter,
yet she knew too well that he was not the strictly honourable man in
many matters which he wished to appear.

Mother and daughter entered the dining-room on that memorable evening
totally unprepared for the scene which was about to take place.

Mr. Armstrong appeared in the most exuberant spirits; he joked with his
daughter, complimented his wife, and during dinner made himself
altogether so very agreeable, that Mary's anger against him was fast
fading from her heart, in which filial love had so long found a place.

The cloth had been removed, and the wine and dessert of summer fruit
placed on the table in the style of olden times, before Mr. Armstrong
ventured to refer to the subject which had so raised his spirits.

"I had a visitor in Dover Street to-day, Maria," he said, addressing his
wife, "and I have asked him to dine with us to-morrow."

"Uncle Herbert, papa?" said Mary.

"No, my dear, but a friend of his who inquired very kindly after you."

"After me, papa? Who can it be? a lady or a gentleman?"

"Is there any gentleman friend of your uncle's who you think would be
likely to inquire after you?"

"Well, papa, yes; several I met at Park Lane would ask for me, I
daresay." Then suddenly she added, "Oh, perhaps it was Captain Fraser;
he told me he should pay you a visit some day."

"Why did you not mention, this, Mary?"

"I forgot it, papa, till your remark reminded me of it. I never cared to
remember Captain Fraser's sayings."

"You are not kind then, Mary, for he speaks of you in the highest terms.
He has not forgotten you, most certainly."

"I am very sorry, papa," she replied, "but I cannot appreciate his
praise as it deserves; he is so very effeminate and weak-minded, that
had he not been the guest of uncle and aunt Herbert I should scarcely
have been even civil to him."

There was a bitterness in Mary's manner and speech, occasioned by the
discovery of the afternoon; for while her father spoke she could not
help comparing the two young men, with very great loss to the subject of
their present conversation.

All at once to Mary's memory arose the teachings of her dear
grandfather. "I have no right to despise this young captain," she said
to herself; "it is not his fault that he is so inferior to others in
intellect;" and she was just about to speak kindly of his temper and
disposition, when her father said, in a tone that startled her--

"You will have to be more than civil to Captain Fraser to-morrow, Mary,
for he has asked me for the hand of my daughter, and I expect you to
accept him."

"Father! What do you mean?"

The tone of voice, the calm yet determined utterance, startled Mr.
Armstrong, yet he said firmly--

"I mean what I say, Mary. Here is a man connected with some of the
highest of England's aristocracy, and in addition to personal advantages
he possesses a noble estate and a rent-roll of 12,000_l._ a year. He
comes forward honourably, and offers to marry my daughter, and make her
mistress of all these honours and possessions, and she asks me what I
mean!"

Mary did not reply, but with a will unbending as her father's she
resolved that nothing should induce her to marry Reginald Fraser.

"Why do you not speak, Mary?" said her father at last, in a tone of
voice that Mrs. Armstrong knew betokened an outburst of passion.

"Do not oblige Mary to decide to-night, Edward," said the gentle voice
of his wife; "give her a few hours to think over the advantages of such
a marriage, and----"

"No, mamma," interrupted Mary; and while she spoke her face was pale and
her lips white, but her voice was clear and firm, "I do not require even
a few minutes to decide. I have been associated with Captain Fraser
daily for a month, and I could not marry him if he were fifty times more
rich or more well connected than he is."

Mr. Armstrong rose from his chair, his face livid with passion.

"Do you dare to oppose my wishes? Am I to be defied by my own daughter?
If you do not accept this gentleman who honours you by his preference, I
swear----"

"Stop! stop, Edward!" and his wife's hand was placed on his arm, "why
should you wish to force your child in a matter so important as
marriage? Do not say anything now that you may afterwards regret."

The effort caused the gentle wife to sink back in her chair, faint with
excitement.

Mary flew to her mother, and standing by her, she turned to her father,
who said in a slightly subdued tone--

"I have a right to expect my own daughter to obey me when it is for her
future good."

"No, my father," said Mary, who though deathly white was still calm,
"you have lost that right. If you had told me of Henry Halford's letter
to you openly and candidly, instead of concealing it and sending a
refusal without one word of reference to me, I would then have given way
to your wishes without a murmur, but now you cannot expect me to do so."

She assisted her mother to rise as she ceased speaking, and they left
the room together in silence, Mr. Armstrong being too completely stunned
by Mary's speech to utter a word in reply.

Surprise, not only at Mary's manner, but also at the discovery that she
had by some means heard of Mr. Henry Halford's letter respecting
herself, subdued for a time his rising anger, and presently he threw
himself into an easy-chair and began to reflect.

Not for long, however, for Mary, after soothing her mother, and placing
her on the sofa near the window, that the sweet calm of the summer
evening might bring repose to her startled nerves, returned to the
dining-room.

Mr. Armstrong scarcely noticed her approach till she threw herself on
her knees by his chair, and exclaimed--

"Forgive me, my father, I forgot myself just now; I ought not to have
spoken to you as I did; but why, oh! why did you not tell me of Mr.
Henry Halford's letter?"

The words, the pleading tones for pardon, softened for a time the
violent passions of the father; he placed his arm round his daughter,
and said--

"My child, how could I consent to such a marriage for you, with nothing
but poverty to look forward to, whether as the wife of a schoolmaster or
a curate? The young man's letter proved that; and now you are mad enough
to refuse an offer that even a duke's daughter might envy; why is this?"

"Papa, I could not marry to be ashamed of my husband; how could I honour
and respect him if I found him inferior in knowledge to myself? Papa, if
you intended me to marry only for money and position, why did you give
me such a superior education? How do you suppose I could be satisfied
with a man less clever than my own father? I know," she continued,
changing her tone, "that Captain Fraser is good, and gentle; and
amiable, but if you have seen him, and talked with him, you must know
how far inferior he is in every way mentally to Mr. Henry Halford."

"And I suppose, then, you want me to consent to your marrying a man who
expects me to advance sufficient money as your marriage portion to
enable him to support his wife?"

"No, my father, I will never marry without your consent, and I do not
expect you to give that consent to a man whom you treat as you would a
beggar; but I want you to understand how impossible it is for me to
accept any one else, even if he were as rich as Croesus. Ah, papa,"
she continued, clinging to his arm, "suppose mamma's relations had
treated _you_ as you have treated Mr. Henry Halford!"

"But I had money, child."

"And can money make amends for the absence of everything else? are rich
people always happy? Oh, papa," continued the young girl, who knew not
with what a firm grasp the demon of gold had seized upon her father's
heart, "you were not always like this; only promise me that I shall not
be asked to marry a man just for money and position, and I shall not
care about being married at all. I would rather live at home with you
and dear mamma, for I am sure I shall never be happier anywhere else."

The pleading voice, the consciousness that he had not acted rightly
respecting Henry Halford's letter, and that in many points his
daughter's remarks were correct, softened the father. He drew her
closely to his heart, and said--

"Mary, my child, although I cannot consent to your marriage with Mr.
Henry Halford, yet I promise you that you shall not be troubled with any
other suitors till you choose one for yourself of whom I can approve.
And now," he continued, rising, "let us go to your mother."

But at this kindness on her father's part Mary felt her firmness giving
way. Hastily returning his proffered kiss, she rushed upstairs to her
room, and gave vent to her long-controlled feelings in a burst of tears.

Meanwhile Mr. Armstrong was cheering his wife's heart by relating what
he had promised to Mary; and when she appeared on the announcement that
tea was ready, there was a look of calm happiness on her face in spite
of the reddened eyelids, which alone remained to bear testimony to the
tears which had relieved her over-charged heart.



CHAPTER XXIV.

NEW ARRIVALS.


In a private room at an hotel near the London Bridge terminus of the
South-Eastern Railway sat a party of five at breakfast.

The lady is a stranger, but we have met Arthur Franklyn and his two
daughters before. Clara and Mabel have grown since we last saw them
watching by the dying bed of their dear mother; indeed, Clara at the age
of fifteen has the appearance and manners of a woman.

Between the sisters sits a boy of eleven, in whose dark eyes and
delicate features can be traced a much stronger resemblance to those of
his lost mother than in either of his sisters.

Arthur Franklyn looks more aged during the two years that have elapsed
since his wife's death than might have been expected, and his face has a
careworn expression, which greatly changes his appearance.

The door opens, and a respectable-looking woman enters the room, leading
by the hand a beautiful little boy of about three years and a half old.
The child runs towards his father, who lifting him on his knee,
exclaimed--"What, come to have breakfast with papa, Ally?"

"Yes, papa; may I?"

"No, let him go to nurse, Arthur," said a fretful voice; "he's too young
to breakfast with us after such a fatiguing journey. I wonder you wish
me to be troubled with all the children at once."

Arthur Franklyn looked annoyed.

"Anything for peace," he said, as he placed the boy on the floor; and
yet his heart misgave him as he saw the piteous look on the face of poor
Fanny's youngest born, as the little one struggled to keep back the
tears.

"Ally shall have breakfast with Clara," said the young girl, rising from
her chair and casting a look of defiance at her stepmother; then lifting
the little boy in her arms, she added, "papa, please send my teacup and
plate by nurse," and she turned from the room as she spoke, little
Albert clinging to her neck, his bright curls mixing with her dark hair
in pleasing contrast.

"I'll fetch a tray, sir," said nurse, as she followed her young mistress
to the stairs, and said--

"Oh! Miss Clara, I'm so sorry you've left the table; it will only make
matters worse, and cause unhappiness between your papa and Mrs.
Franklyn."

"I could not help it, nurse. Why should she interfere, and it vexes me
so to see papa give way to her; he has a right to have his own children
with him, I should think."

Nurse sighed; she had not forgotten her promise to the dying mother,
that she would take care of her little Albert, and Mr. Franklyn for once
was firm in opposing his wife's wishes to leave the nurse behind in
Australia.

The first Mrs. Franklyn, soon after Clara's birth, had engaged as nurse
Jane Simmons, an emigrant, who had been delighted to find in her young
mistress the daughter of a gentleman who resided at Kilburn near her own
native home. For nearly fifteen years, therefore, she had been the
much-loved nurse of Mr. Franklyn's children, and during his widowhood
they were almost entirely under her care.

Jane knew her master's character well; she was not surprised, therefore,
when he told her about twelve mouths after his first wife's death that
he intended to marry a lady of large property, and begged her to prepare
his girls for the change. It was not, however, a very easy matter;
indeed, Clara expressed herself in strongly rebellious terms, and Mabel
shed many bitter tears at the prospect of having a stepmother.

A less sensible woman might have encouraged this rebellion, but Jane
reminded them of what their mother would have said--not only that it was
a duty they owed to their father to treat his wife with respect, but
also for the memory of their mother to endeavour to increase his
happiness.

Under such influence the children of Fanny Franklyn were ready to
receive their stepmother with respect and even affection. But the lady
Arthur Franklyn had chosen to supply the place of his lost wife,
possessed none of her qualities to endear her to his children.

A native of Australia, a childless widow, who at the death of her
husband became mistress of a large fortune, handsome, stylish, and
accomplished, whatever could Arthur Franklyn wish for beyond this. So he
thought with his usual impulsiveness, but he soon found his mistake.
Mrs. Franklyn was very unfit to manage a high-spirited girl like Clara,
and far too selfish and harsh in her treatment of the little gentle
Mabel, whom her father often found in tears of real distress. Altogether
Arthur Franklyn felt that he would have to pay dearly for the money
brought him by his second wife.

He was at last obliged to humble himself to his eldest daughter to
obtain peace.

"Clara," he said one day when he found her alone in the drawing-room,
"you appear to resent my second marriage; do you know that anxiety for
my children is the sole reason for my marrying again."

"Oh! papa," said Clara, "how can that be? Mrs. Franklyn isn't in the
least like our own dear mamma, and I shall never be able to love her."

"Clara," he said, "when I married your stepmother I was on the brink of
ruin; you and your brother and sister would have been turned out of
doors homeless and penniless; by my second marriage I obtained property
which has saved you all. Clara, cannot you love your father well enough
to forgive him for placing another in the position of your dear mother
for the sake of her children?"

"Papa, O papa!" said Clara, "oh! I did not know all this;" and she threw
her arms round his neck as she said, "you must forgive me, papa, and I
will try to behave properly to my new mamma; I will indeed."

"Thank you, my daughter," he replied, as he pressed her to his heart,
and thought with pain of her dead mother; "but, Clara, you must not
mention to any one what I have told you of my affairs."

"Papa, I will not," she said, and Mr. Franklyn knew he could trust his
eldest daughter.

This appeal to Clara, although not quite truthful, for a time brought
peace, but new troubles were arising to show her father that a deviation
from a straightforward and honourable path is sure, sooner or later, to
bring its own punishment.

He had led the present Mrs. Franklyn to believe that his position was
that of a man of independent means, and the ready cash she had at her
bankers was given up to him with perfect confidence. But when he asked
her to touch her capital on the plea of wishing to obtain a partnership
in a lucrative business, difficulties arose which could only be overcome
by a visit to England. Mrs. Franklyn had never yet drawn any but the
interest of her money, and on examining her late husband's will it was
found that to touch the capital without the consent of her trustees was
out of her power.

One of these trustees resided in England. Mrs. Franklyn would not allow
her husband to go alone. Indeed it would have been useless for him to do
so, but he was only too glad of an opportunity to take his children to
England and leave them in the care of their grandfather and uncle.

While they were discussing the matter came the news that Mrs. Halford,
after several months of pain and suffering, had followed her daughter to
the grave; yet this did not deter Arthur Franklyn from his purpose.

"There is Kate Marston still at Englefield Grange," he said to himself;
"and she is quite as clever a manager as poor Fanny's mother was. If I
get Louisa's money into my own hands, as I hope to do, I can pay the old
gentleman handsomely for my children; and they are better away from
their stepmother. I don't quite like parting with my little Al, but I
suppose I must," and the father sighed at the memory of early days at
Englefield Grange.

And now they are in England and at breakfast at the hotel, where Mrs.
Franklyn's serenity has been disturbed by the appearance of little
Albert.

"Clara will entirely spoil that child if you allow her to indulge him in
this manner, Arthur."

"Never mind now, my dear," was the reply, "we have no time to discuss
the subject. What do you wish me to do about a house or apartments? that
is the first thing."

"I thought you talked of taking a house furnished," she said. "I hope
not in London, however, it appears so noisy and crowded, and almost
sunless, even on a May morning."

"There are some beautiful spots in the suburbs, Louisa, and I was going
to propose that we have an open carriage, and drive down to Kilburn if
you have no objection. We are sure to find furnished houses in that
direction, and I should like to be near the children's relations. We can
put off business till to-morrow."

Mrs. Franklyn readily agreed to this arrangement. Certainly it was a
drawback to have all those children with her in the carriage, but that
would not be for long, and perhaps they would remain at Englefield
Grange, at least until Arthur had chosen a house.

After this, breakfast was quickly finished, a carriage ordered, and the
young people, full of happiness, made hasty preparations for a
delightful ride through wonderful London, of which they had heard so
much.

On entering the room with her little brother before starting, Clara
advanced to Mrs. Franklyn and said,--"Mamma, I did not mean to be rude
when I left the breakfast-table this morning, but I am so fond of my
little brother Ally, please forgive me."

"It is of no consequence, Clara, if you prefer to breakfast in the
nursery you can always please yourself."

Clara turned away without a reply. She had not lost her power of
self-control, yet she had great difficulty in repressing the tears or an
angry reply. A feeling of mortification that she had so humbled herself
for nothing arose in her heart. The time came when she remembered having
done so with thankfulness.

What a delightful ride that was. Over London Bridge, with its crowds of
vehicles, and its continued stream of passengers. Omnibuses, waggons,
carts, carriages, every sort of conveyance delaying their progress
through King William Street, Cheapside, Holborn, and Oxford Street, till
they reached Hyde Park Corner, and turned up the Edgware Road.

Yet the frequent delays had been an advantage to them, especially at the
Mansion House, with the Royal Exchange and the Bank in sight. Again
before entering Newgate Street, the view of St. Paul's and the Post
Office, and afterwards the grim prison itself, from which the street is
named.

Arthur Franklyn could remember sufficient of London to enable him to
point out objects of interest as they drove on, although the Holborn
Viaduct and the Thames Embankment were not then in existence. But when
they at last approached Kilburn, so many recollections crowded upon him
that he became silent, scarcely replying to the eager inquiries of the
children till the carriage stopped at the gate of Englefield Grange.

"I will go in alone first, Louisa," he said hurriedly. "I must prepare
my aged father-in-law for such a large party."

He was gone before she could raise an objection, and in a few moments a
strange servant opened the door, and, startled by his pale face, showed
him into a small reception room, and went to call Mr. Henry.

He stood listening to the old familiar sounds; the clock had just struck
twelve, and the eager voices in the playground at the back brought to
his memory the time when he had been as happy and as eager as those he
now listened to, and a little dark-eyed girl would stand watching for
him at the garden gate with a flower, or a bon-bon, or a something which
she had brought for "dear Arty." So deep, so painful were these
memories, that when the door opened, and he turned his white face to
meet his brother-in-law, the family likeness was so strong that he could
only hold out his hand and say, "Henry, I know it is Henry!" and then
burst into a violent fit of sobbing.

At first Henry Halford felt quite bewildered. He had not reached his
eighth birthday when Arthur and Fanny sailed for Australia, yet a sudden
flash of recognition, added to the letter received from Arthur that
morning, recalled his brother-in-law to his memory.

"It is Arthur Franklyn," he exclaimed; "my dear sister's husband," and
for a few moments Henry Halford was himself too much overcome to speak,
or do more than press the hand of his brother-in-law as he held it.

"Everything here reminded me so strongly of _her_," said Arthur, at last
rousing himself, and already ashamed of the impulse, which, like all his
other impulses, was so evanescent. "My wife and the children are at the
door," he added. "How is the dear old father? I came in alone to prepare
him, and the old place and its memories knocked me over."

"You need not fear bringing them in," said Henry, as Arthur rubbed at
his face and tried to remove all traces of his emotion. "My father is in
feeble health, but his mind and memory are clear. He will be overjoyed
to see the children."

A few minutes longer, and then the greyheaded old man had fondly
welcomed his daughter's children, and kindly greeted her successor.

Mrs. Franklyn showed herself at her best, and won the good opinion of
both father and son.

It was arranged that they should all stay and partake of the schoolroom
dinner to give the horses a rest, and then Kate Marston made her
appearance.

She was not slow to recognise Arthur, who was a few years younger than
herself. The sixteen years had changed them both, but Arthur more than
Kate Marston.

Old Dr. Halford was the first to remark this with the plain-speaking of
age, which is almost childlike in its character.

"You are as comely as ever, Arthur," said the old-fashioned gentleman,
"but you have changed more in the sixteen years than Kate."

"No wonder, uncle," exclaimed Kate, "only think of all he has gone
through, besides having the care of these motherless children. I have
nobody to be anxious for but myself; no husband for me, thank you." And
while she spoke, with a deep blush on the still fresh complexion, and a
bright smile, Arthur could not help owning to himself that Time had
dealt very gently with Kate Marston.

"She has been anxious enough about me and my dear lost wife," said the
old gentleman, in a querulous voice, "so you must not listen to Kate
when she lays claim to a selfishness she does not possess. But really,
Arthur, you are not looking at all well. You must comfort him, my dear,"
he added, addressing Mrs. Franklyn. "So much can be done by a second
wife to soften down old memories in her husband's heart."

"I hope I shall be able to do so," said the lady, in a gentle tone,
which pleased the old man, and made Arthur say--

"I am not afraid, father; Louisa has already proved herself a kind and
affectionate wife."

He longed to add, "and a mother to my children," but at this moment a
summons to dinner made any further remark unnecessary.

When they returned to the little breakfast parlour, in which the old
gentleman had dined alone, Kate Marston said--

"Arthur, if you and Mrs. Franklyn are going househunting, suppose you
leave the children here for a few days, they would like it, I suppose."

"Oh yes, indeed we should," exclaimed Clara, answering for the rest,
whose bright faces confirmed what she said; "and I can take care of
Albert, and dress and wash him if I may."

"If you stay longer than another day I will send nurse with your
clothes," said Arthur.

"Oh, have you the same nurse here in England, of whom poor Fanny spoke
so highly in her letter to me?" said Henry.

"Did she speak of a nurse?" exclaimed Arthur, concealing his surprise
that his brother-in-law should have had a letter about the boy; "then it
must be the same, for she has been with us more than fourteen years."

"Then send her down here as soon as you like, for if you can spare the
children for a week we shall be glad to have them."

To this Arthur readily acceded, and then, as the carriage was announced,
he said to Dr. Halford: "This has been such a hurried visit, Doctor, and
I have so much to hear and so much to tell; but we must come again as
soon as we have fixed upon a house and spend a long day with you all.
You have taken your degree at Oxford, Henry," he continued, turning to
the window where the uncle was amusing the little nephew who had been
left to his care by his dying sister; "and I suppose you are soon going
up for ordination?"

"Not till Trinity," he replied. "You know I am obliged to be here as
much as possible now my father is disabled; I took up my Master's degree
in June last year."

There were quick farewells and fond embracing of the children as they
rose to leave. "Good-by, papa--good-by, mamma," was echoed from one to
the other as the carriage drove off; and then Louisa Franklyn turned to
her husband and said, "Well, this is a comfort, Arthur: at last I shall
have your society all to myself for a week without the constant trouble
and anxiety of those children."

But Arthur Franklyn's recollections of the past were too strong just
then to make him thankful to get rid of his children. "I'm afraid I
shall have to pay dearly for Louisa's fortune if I do get it," was his
very uncomplimentary reflection.



CHAPTER XXV.

COUNTRY COUSINS.


Mr. Armstrong was seated in his private room one afternoon two days
after the arrival of Mr. Franklyn and his family at Englefield Grange.

So deeply was he absorbed in calculating the profit and loss of some
recent speculations that a knock at the door startled him, and he
answered, in an impetuous tone, "Come in!"

The young clerk who obeyed the impatient command could only falter out,
"A lady wishes to see you, sir," and the very next moment a middle-aged
lady, with a youth of sixteen entered the room and stood before its
irritable occupant.

Edward Armstrong rose from his chair too bewildered at first to
recognise his visitor, whose attire, though good and expensive, could
scarcely give her the right, in appearance to him at least, to be
described as a lady.

"Cousin Edward, how glad I am to find you here," and Mrs. John
Armstrong, as she spoke, advanced and seized her relation's hand in the
demonstrative style he had learnt to consider a breach of good manners.
He flushed deeply, but in the midst of his false shame and proud
annoyance, he had presence of mind to return the warm hand-shake, and
lead his cousin to a chair.

"I am very glad to see you, cousin Sarah. Sit down, my boy; why, is it
really Jack? How you are grown, lad! When did you arrive in London?"

"About an hour ago," replied cousin Sarah, who detected beneath all
those courteous inquiries ill-concealed annoyance. "We have come to
London very unexpectedly on business, and at the Waterloo Station I felt
so lost and bewildered that I could only take a cab and ask the man to
bring us here; but if you will tell us where to find lodgings the cab is
still waiting and we can go directly."

Now while cousin Sarah spoke there had been passing through Edward
Armstrong's mind the memory of many happy days at his old home, in which
the homely relative before him and her husband had loaded him with
attentions and hospitalities. Could he hesitate to invite her and her
son to his house at Kilburn? Had he any fear of the reception they would
meet with from his wife and daughter?--No, not for a moment. Before the
visitor had ceased speaking the foolish pride which exists so often in
those who have risen from an inferior position was crushed down, and he
said quickly and earnestly: "Sarah, what are you talking about? Do you
think I should expect you to take lodgings? No, no, you must go down to
Kilburn with me this afternoon, and then you can tell us the cause of
this unexpected visit to London. I will have no refusal," he added,
seeing her shake her head and attempt to speak. "Is your luggage in the
cab? Stay, I'll send the man away, and manage all that for you." He
sounded a gong as he spoke, and when one of the clerks appeared, he
said, "Have this lady's boxes brought into the office, and pay the cab,
Williams; it has come from the Waterloo Terminus."

"There is one box and a carpet bag," exclaimed Mrs. John, rising in
haste.

"All right, Williams will manage. You'll remember, Williams, a box and a
carpet bag," said Mr. Armstrong, as the young man turned away.

"Yes, sir," was the reply; and then Mr. Armstrong, turning to his cousin
with a smile said--

"I'll find you apartments, Sarah, in my own house. What do you think
Maria and Mary would say if I shut you up in dingy London lodgings after
their pleasant visits at Meadow Farm? And now, tell me what has brought
you to London so suddenly."

"Well, we've heard of a situation for Jack," she replied; "but, Edward,
do listen to me for a moment, I never meant to intrude upon your
lady-wife and fine house. Jack and I are too countrified and homely, but
it's very kind of you to ask us," and the tears stood in the eyes of the
sensitive woman as she spoke.

"Not another word, Sarah, I am sure of the warm welcome you will receive
from my wife and Mary, and I should like to hear any one speak with
disrespect of my father's relatives."

There was pride in the remark still, but Cousin Sarah passed it over,
and entered at once into the matter that had brought her and Jack to
London.

Mr. Armstrong listened with interest, and promised to make all necessary
inquiries as to the standing and respectability of the firm in the house
of business in which Jack had been offered an appointment.

"So you do not wish to be a farmer, Jack," said Mr. Armstrong, noticing
with pleasure the refined face and erect bearing of the dark-eyed youth.

"No, sir," he replied, "I should prefer to be in a business."

"He is fond of figures, and his master at school speaks of him as a
first-rate arithmetician," said the proud mother, "besides, Tom is just
the boy for a farm, and one son will be enough to help his father for
years to come, if he lives. Tom is a strong sturdy boy, who cares very
little for books. But I'm taking up your time, Edward," she exclaimed,
suddenly, "do you go to Kilburn every day?"

"Certainly I do," he replied laughing, "I generally leave here about
five o'clock."

"And you must have business matters to finish, and I've been hindering
you all this time; but if you will tell me how to get to Kilburn
by-and-by, I'll take Jack out in the meantime and show him a little of
London and the parks."

"I have very little more to attend to to-day," he replied, "but if you
feel inclined to walk about for a while and return here by five o'clock,
we can start together and reach home in time for dinner. If you lose
yourselves call a cab and tell the man to bring you here."

Mr. Armstrong accompanied his visitors to the street entrance, treating
them before his clerks with the most deferential and yet familiar
politeness. As he returned to his counting-house he called one of his
porters and said--

"Go to the livery stable, Milson, and tell them I shall leave Firefly
till to-morrow, and order a carriage and pair to be here at five
punctually, as I have friends who will accompany me to Kilburn this
evening."

There was in Mr. Armstrong's manner a mixture of ostentatious pride with
a real anxiety to show his visitors every attention and set them at
their case. Plain and homely as they might appear in the eyes of his
clerks, his manner and actions were intended to show that he considered
these country cousins worthy of respect and attention.

Mary Armstrong stood at the window of her mother's dressing-room on the
afternoon in which the arrival of visitors at Dover Street had caused
such a commotion.

Nearly a year had passed since she made the discovery that her father
had refused one offer for her, and she had refused another. More than
once since then had the hand of the accomplished daughter of Mr.
Armstrong been sought by men of wealth and position, but while it pained
Mary to refuse them, she still held firm to her purpose.

Her father's displeasure was at times very hard to bear, but her patient
and gentle endurance blunted the edge of his wrath, and often silenced
him for very shame.

"You expect to induce me to give way at last, I suppose," he said one
day, angrily, "but I never will consent to your marrying that parson
fellow; you will be of age in a few months, I know, and then may do as
you like, but you will find your name erased from my will if you do."

"Father, I will never marry without your consent, I have told you so
often, and you cannot mistrust my word," was the gentle but firmly
uttered reply, which silenced the angry father.

With all these excitements and anxieties, we cannot wonder that the nine
or ten months which have passed away since she stood at the window in
Park Lane, have changed her appearance.

Mary Armstrong, however, has lost nothing by this change. The face,
though slightly thinner, still retains its delicate oval. The eyes are
as large and bright, and the hair as glossy and luxuriant as ever. The
rich colour on her check is softened down to the bloom of a peach, and
the figure, though more fully developed, is still slender and graceful
in every movement.

Mary Armstrong was happy in having a mother as her confidential friend;
she was not likely to

    "Let concealment like a worm i' the bud,
    Feed on her damask cheek;"

and she possessed too much good sense to allow herself to become the
victim of disappointed affection. She knew that the best remedy against
such a disease was active employment of mind and body--consequently her
books, her music, her studies were diligently followed, as well as more
active domestic duties.

No day passed without a quick walk alone or a quieter one with her
mother. The books she read were principally those requiring deep
thought, and the study of languages was varied by scientific subjects.
Poetry for a time she set aside, it too often touched upon a tender
string, which she felt must not be allowed to vibrate, even her
favourite Milton lay unnoticed on the shelf, its pages awoke memories
too painful to be encouraged. Sometimes she would bring out her
"Algebra" or "Euclid," and induce her father to work a few sums or
problems with her during the evening.

There was a sad gratification when after one of these occasions, her
father closed the book, and as she rose and wished him good night, he
drew her towards him, and said--

"Ah, if my daughter would only be guided by me in other matters, as she
has been in her studies, I should have nothing left to wish for."

Poor Mary, the kind and gently expressed words cost her sleepless hours
of anxious thought while trying to satisfy her conscience that she was
acting rightly towards her father. Only at last, when she answered the
question, "Ought I to marry a man alone for the sake of money or
position?" with an emphatic "No," could she close her eyes in sleep. She
was ready to give up Henry Halford--her unselfish affection made her
hope not only that he was learning to forget her, but also that he might
soon meet with some one to supply the place of his dear mother in his
heart, but to marry any one else herself, she felt to be an
impossibility.

More than once lately they had met and bowed to each other as mere
passing acquaintances. Often on leaving church on a Sunday Mr. Armstrong
had raised his hat to the amiable and stricken old man, who passed them
leaning on the arm of his son, but farther approach to intimacy was felt
to be impossible.

And so the months had passed, and now the early summer was decking
gardens, orchard, and meadow with its sweetest blossoms. Through the
open window at which Mary stood on this May afternoon of which we write
came the fragrant perfume of lilac and May blossom. The birds were
tuning their little throats for a chorus of song, and a stillness in the
soft air seemed to produce a feeling in the heart of Mary of calm
submission to the will of "Him who orders all things in heaven and
earth."

Suddenly she started; a carriage was approaching, and instead of passing
by as she expected, it drew up and stopped at the gate.

"Mamma," she said, entering her mother's room from the dressing-room,
"there is a carriage at the gate, whose can it be?"

Mrs. Armstrong joined her daughter at the window. They saw with surprise
Mr. Armstrong and a youth alight, and then turn to assist a lady.

"Who can it be, Mary?"

"Mamma! I can see her face, it is cousin Sarah; oh, how glad I am, shall
we go down and receive her, mamma, and I suppose that is one of her
sons."

The ladies were in the hall to receive the guest, who forgot her
surprise at the appearance and style of the house, in her pleasure at
meeting Mrs. Armstrong and Mary.

They both drew her into the drawing-room followed by Jack, who seemed
more surprised at the cordial and even affectionate welcome his mother
received from these elegant ladies than by the luxuriantly furnished
room into which they had been taken. In fact poor Sarah was quite
overcome by her reception, and when Mary offered to take her upstairs
and to show Jack into her brother Edward's room, she said, "My dear, I
never expected you would be so pleased to see such a homely old body as
I am."

"But we are pleased to see you, cousin Sarah, and I don't forget how
very nice it is to be homely as you call yourself at Meadow Farm--and is
it Jack you have brought with you?"

"Yes, my dear, he has been offered a situation in London, and that is my
reason for coming."

"I am very glad something has brought you here at last, cousin Sarah,
and I'm sure mamma is also, we so often talk about you; but you want
your box, I daresay--Oh, here it is," continued Mary, opening the door
in answer to a knock; "and now I'll leave you, and when dinner is nearly
ready I'll come for you, it wants twenty minutes to six."

Cousin Sarah, when left to herself, quietly opened her box, feeling glad
that she had brought a best dress, in which she might venture to show
herself amidst all this elegance. She glanced round the bedroom, so
luxuriously furnished, with large Arabian bedstead and silken hangings,
marble washstands, rich carpet, luxurious sofa, massive wardrobe and
numerous mirrors, and said to herself, "all these are bought with
Edward's money; but money does not bring happiness even to such a
charming girl as Mary Armstrong. She is as beautiful as ever, I can see
that, but there's a look in her sweet face that no young girl with all
these comforts and luxuries around her ought to have; I'll find out what
it means while I'm here, and see if I can't set matters straight."

Cousin Sarah dressed quickly, and then found her way to her son's room.

"I've put on my best suit, mother," he said; "why how rich cousin
Armstrong must be; I never was in such a fine house in my life. I hope I
shall behave properly at dinner."

Cousin Sarah laughed, but finding her son ready she turned towards the
stairs and met Mary coming to fetch them. Mary Armstrong saw at a glance
that with all Mrs. John Armstrong's homeliness she had natural good
taste in dress. Her grey silk dress, though not very fashionable, was
well made, and of rich material; while the real lace of which cap,
collar and sleeves were made, might have excited the envy of a duchess.

Jack, too, in his new black suit, was a son of whom a mother might well
feel proud, and Mary, passing by his mother, held out her hand, saying,
pleasantly, "I must shake hands with you, cousin Jack; I have often
heard cousin Sarah talk about you, but we never have met till to-day,
and now I hope we shall be friends."

"There is no doubt of that," said his mother, coming to the rescue, for
Jack seemed unable to speak, such a fairy vision as cousin Mary, in her
pale blue silk and lace, was something new to the youth of sixteen, and
so different to the buxom damsels on his father's farm, that he was for
a time struck dumb.

Mr. Edward Armstrong led his father's niece into the dining-room with no
little satisfaction at her appearance.

Mary took the shy youth under her care so effectually, that in a very
short time his shyness had vanished, and he could reply to the remarks
addressed to him with intelligence and ease.

She was amused to observe the strong likeness in the youth to her own
father, and greatly interested in finding that he possessed the same
mathematical and scientific tastes. This was discovered after dinner
when Mr. Armstrong examined the boy, and delighted cousin Sarah by his
commendations, not only of the correctness of his answers to various
questions, but also for the intelligence and modesty with which they
were given.

Jack never forgot that happy evening, everything around him was new,
strange, and delightful.

The nicely furnished dining-room, the table glittering with plate and
glass, the dinner itself, Mr. Armstrong's kind notice, the soft voice
and manners of Mrs. Armstrong, of whom he felt a kind of awe, his
fairy-like cousin, and last, but not least, the beautiful music and
singing with which she entertained them, all combined to make this
evening the happiest of the happy week he spent at Lime Grove.

On Sunday cousin Sarah and her son accompanied the family to church, and
circumstances occurred which gave her the opportunity she sought in her
anxiety about Mary.

Dr. Halford's boys occupied the two front seats in the gallery in front
of the organ, and on each side the clock, for the church was very
old-fashioned, Mr. Armstrong's family sat in a front seat of the side
gallery, and under that gallery was the private pew of Dr. Halford's
family.

Henry generally sat with his father, the boys being always under the
supervision of two of the masters, but now the pew was occupied by poor
Fanny's children.

On this Sunday, therefore, Mary saw with surprise and uneasiness, Mr.
Henry Halford seated at the end of a pew occupied by the boys, and only
one of the masters present.

She could not avoid seeing him, and she knew that her parents must have
noticed him also.

The presence of two strangers in Mr. Armstrong's pew attracted for a few
moments Henry Halford's looks towards them, to Mary's great
discomposure; but when the service began these two young people seemed
to remember that they were present to join in the sacred services of
God's house, and not to look about them.

There was something in the manner, not only of Mr. Armstrong, but also
of Mary and her mother, which directed cousin Sarah's eyes more than
once to the gentleman seated with those superior-looking schoolboys,
many of whom appeared older than her son. Jack also seemed so fascinated
to watch them, that more than one glance from his mother was necessary
to remind him of the place and the hour.

Altogether it was a most perplexing position, and Mary was glad to see
her father rise quickly when the service ended, as if anxious to avoid a
meeting with the schoolmaster and his son, but he failed in the attempt.

Henry Halford, remembering that his nieces now required attention as
well as his aged father, left the boys to be marshalled home by the
assistant, and hastened to the lower door to meet them.

Another surprise therefore awaited Mary. On reaching the church entrance
they met face to face Old Doctor Halford, supported on one side by the
arm of his son, and on the other by a tall handsome girl, apparently
about eighteen years of age. Mary did not at first notice another
younger girl, dressed in exactly the same manner, who walked behind Dr.
Halford and his supporters, with a boy nearly as tall as herself.

The usual formal courtesies passed between them as they met; but the
sudden shock at seeing, as she thought, a strange young lady on such
friendly terms with the doctor and his son, deprived Mary for a moment
of self-possession. Recovering herself with an effort she returned the
notice of the gentlemen, and hurried on to join her mother with an
aching at her heart.

Cousin Sarah had seen the fair face turn white even to the lips, and she
drew Mr. Armstrong forward, leaving Mary with her mother and Jack.

"Who is that very pleasing looking young man, Edward?" was her first
question.

"What young man?" was the half-irritated reply.

"I am speaking of the gentleman we met just now, who was supporting, I
suppose, his aged father; Edward, he reminded me of dear uncle."

Edward Armstrong winced. The good and intelligent old yeoman, his own
father, was in position and education far inferior to Dr. Halford, and
yet he despised the latter because he was a schoolmaster and poor. He at
last replied with an effort,--"Father and son are schoolmasters, and the
son is going to be a parson."

"But they are as much gentlemen as your wife is a lady, Edward; I can
tell by your manner that you dislike them, but why?"

"Why?" he asked impetuously, "because they are poor, and the son had the
audacity to ask me for Mary."

"And you refused him."

"Of course I did; do you suppose I was fool enough to give up to him the
money I have worked so hard for, as my daughter's marriage portion? and
no doubt that was all he wanted."

"Does Mary know of this?"

"Unfortunately she does, although I kept it from her as long as I could;
but it slipped out in some way."

"Ah! then now I can understand what has changed her so much," said
cousin Sarah, quietly.

With a startled expression Mr. Armstrong turned and looked at the
speaker.

"What!" he exclaimed, but, before she could reply, Mrs. Armstrong, Mary,
and Jack joined them. Cousin Sarah noticed at a glance that Mary had
recovered her colour, but there was a quivering of the lip very painful
to see.

On reaching home Mary hastily escaped to her room. She stood for a
moment, with her hands clasped and her eyes uplifted, asking for help
and strength; realising Montgomery's description of prayer:--

    "The upward glancing of the eye,
    When none but God is near."

"I must expect it," she said to herself; "I ought to have been prepared.
How can I be so selfish--so dog in the manger like; I cannot be his wife
myself, and ought I to object to his choosing any one else? But ah! it
is very painful to think of," and then as she sunk into a chair the
restrained tears burst forth unchecked.

In a few minutes she remembered the visitors; the tears had relieved
her, and hastily preparing for an early dinner she bathed her eyes,
controlled her feelings, and joined the rest in the drawing-room. So
like herself did she seem that no stranger would have discovered the
traces of tears, but the keen anxious eyes of the mother and cousin
Sarah were not to be deceived. Mrs. Armstrong, however, knew too well
what had happened to distress her patient and much loved daughter, and
for her sake made no remark on her looks.



CHAPTER XXVI.

AT THE STATION.


The three years of Mr. Armstrong's residence at Kilburn had produced
great changes in this suburb which bid fair after a time to destroy its
rural aspect. The London and North-Western Company had opened a station,
and around it a town of bricks and mortar had risen with almost as much
rapidity as at Bayswater. Lime Grove and Englefield Grange, however,
were at least a mile from the station, and for the present, therefore,
safe from the invasion of the pickaxe and the hod.

A few days after the arrival of cousin Sarah and her son at Kilburn, Mr.
Armstrong proposed that they should accompany him to town to make the
necessary arrangements for leaving Jack in London. Inquiries had been
made, and interviews had taken place with the head of the firm, who had
offered a situation to the youth, and his friends were as anxious to
place him in such a respectable house as the firm were to receive him.

"Mary, my dear," said her father while at breakfast one morning, "you
can drive us to the station in the pony carriage if you like."

"I should like to do so, papa;" she replied, and glancing at her mother
she added, "the ponies will not be too tired for mamma's drive when they
return, I suppose."

Mr. Armstrong laughed. "Certainly not," he said, "after a mile to the
station and back, unless you intend to take them a twenty miles'
journey."

"Twenty miles, papa! no, indeed, not more than four," she replied.

"Six miles altogether; well, the sturdy little animals will manage that
I daresay without very great fatigue or inconvenience; so ring at once,
and order the pony carriage to be ready in half an hour."

"I have not yet seen this pony carriage, Mary," said cousin Sarah.

"No," she replied, "you have been such business people since you arrived
in London, going off in the morning by the omnibus, and returning with
papa in the evening, so I have had no opportunity to offer to drive you;
and even this morning you are going on matters of business."

"I shall enjoy the drive all the same," said cousin Sarah, "and so, I am
sure, will Jack."

"You can come and meet us at the station by the 5.20 train this
afternoon, Mary," said her father, with a smile; "another two miles wont
hurt the ponies. I have not yet ventured upon the expense of an open
carriage," he continued, addressing cousin Sarah, "principally because
the doctor advises walking exercise for Maria. Besides, till my elder
boys are out in the world I am unwilling to increase my expenses. I must
have a groom for the saddle horses, and Mary can drive a pony carriage
without the expense of coachman and footman."

"A very wise arrangement," replied cousin Sarah, "but," she added,
rising, "I think it is time to get ready, if you will excuse us, Mrs.
Armstrong." She had not yet been able to address her cousin Edward's
lady-wife by her Christian name.

Mrs. John Armstrong, while dressing for a drive on that pleasant May
morning, recalled a statement made by Mary that her father had bought
this pony carriage as a present to herself.

"He is trying to bribe that dear girl into forgetting the superior young
man we met on Sunday, but she never will," was cousin Sarah's
reflection.

The spirited white ponies and pretty low carriage attracted all eyes as
they trotted along the Kilburn Road lashing their tails and shaking
their fat sides as if eager to perform their work to the best of their
ability. After setting down her companions at the door of the station
Mr. Armstrong dismissed his daughter; and, although foolishly proud of
the admiring gaze cast upon her by passengers, he more than once
regretted not having listened to his wife's suggestion:--"Had you not
better let the groom drive you, Edward? I do not like the idea of my
daughter acting the part of coachman to a railway station; it is all
very well in country roads."

Mr. Armstrong laughed at his wife's scruples, but he afterwards saw the
justice of her remark--at least in those days before young ladies had
acquired the habits of independence which so distinguish them in the
present day.

One, however, of the party had greatly enjoyed his drive; Jack would
have felt no surprise at any admiration his cousin Mary excited. He
watched her as she skilfully turned her ponies out of the station-yard,
and then, while following his mother and Mr. Armstrong into the station,
he said to himself, "I don't believe there's another girl in London so
clever and so pretty as cousin Mary."

Mrs. Armstrong was ready to join her daughter in her morning excursion
as she drove up to the gate, and when they were fairly off Mary said--

"Why, mamma, I believe these little animals are enjoying their work as
much as we shall our ride. I have to keep a tight rein to prevent them
from going too fast. No fear of fatigue on their part, I can see."

"I suppose you have perfect command over them, my dear," said Mrs.
Armstrong, rather nervously.

"Oh yes, mamma, I hope what I said in joke has not alarmed you; they are
the most docile little creatures in the world." And to prove her words
and calm her mother's fears she checked the rapid trot, and for some
distance allowed them to go at an easy pace.

When Mrs. Armstrong regained confidence in her daughter, Mary loosened
her hold on the reins, to the great satisfaction of the spirited ponies,
and when the groom took charge of them on their return to the Limes,
they showed no signs of fatigue.

It wanted a very few minutes to five when cousin Sarah and her son met
Mr. Armstrong at the Euston terminus. They were walking up and down the
platform waiting for the train, which was being shunted from a siding,
when they saw a lady and gentleman come hastily from the booking office.

"You have hurried me for nothing, Arthur," said the lady, almost gasping
for breath, and yet angrily; "you see we are in plenty of time."

"My watch must be fast," he replied, "and I knew how important it was
for us to catch this train in order to meet Mr. Norton at the appointed
time."

"You might have waited till to-morrow," she said; "I cannot understand
the motive for all this haste. But see, the passengers are taking their
places; let us get into a carriage at once, for running so quickly has
exhausted me."

Arthur Franklyn--for it was he--hastily assisted his wife into a
first-class carriage, already occupied by Mr. Armstrong, cousin Sarah,
and her son. Arthur placed his wife in the centre seat, and seated
himself next her, near the window, and opposite Jack. The other corner,
facing Mr. Armstrong, was the only vacant seat, the two centre divisions
being now occupied by Mrs. Franklyn and cousin Sarah.

Kilburn was the first station at which this train usually stopped, and
for some minutes after it started, no one spoke. Arthur almost turned
his back on his wife, and looked out of the window with a very gloomy
face. He was, in fact, brooding over her remark. "She thinks I have some
motive for all this haste," he said to himself; "of course I have; does
she suppose I should have chosen a woman so utterly selfish and proud,
so unfit to be a mother to the children of my dear lost Fanny, if it had
not been for her money? Of course I have a motive. I cannot tell her of
my difficulties. And if I don't get a thousand pounds very quickly I
shall be a ruined man."

Mrs. Franklyn on entering the carriage had thrown herself into the seat
and leaned back with closed eyes. Cousin Sarah was attracted to watch
her. The evident want of cordiality in the manner of husband and wife
towards each other, the pain the latter appeared to suffer from the
effects of hurrying to the station, and her husband's apparent
indifference, aroused the pity of the warm-hearted countrywoman. She was
about to ask her if she felt ill, when a sudden pallor spread over her
face, she stretched out her arms and exclaimed convulsively, "Arthur,
Arthur, save me!"

There was a sudden rush forward of both gentlemen, but cousin Sarah, had
already caught the drooping figure in her arms as she exclaimed, "Open
the windows, stop the train, she is dying!"

In the confined space of a first-class carriage little could be done;
Arthur, pale as death, offered to relieve Mrs. John Armstrong of the
insensible form which she supported on her bosom, but she refused to do
so.

"Unfasten her dress," she exclaimed, "untie her bonnet." And while Arthur
obeyed with trembling, almost useless fingers, he called upon his wife
by name, lavishing upon her the most endearing terms in tones of the
bitterest woe--how bitter none but himself knew. Was she dying? would
she really die? Ah yes, Arthur Franklyn, less than five minutes have
elapsed since you were disturbed from your gloomy reverie, and the woman
whom you flattered into marriage for the sake of her money lies a
lifeless corpse in the arms of a stranger!

Mr. Armstrong, who has been in vain endeavouring to attract the notice
of the guard, looks once more from the window, and exclaims, "Thank God
we are slackening speed, we are nearing the station;" but even as he
utters the comforting words to the apparently heart-stricken husband he
knows it is too late.

Presently the train enters the station. Again he looks out. A porter
approaches running with the train. "A doctor! a medical man, quick!" he
exclaimed; "a lady is ill, dying."

The train has come almost to a standstill. Mr. Armstrong jumps out even
at the risk of his life. There is a running to and fro of porters. A
crowding of passengers to the carriage door, and a general commotion as
the eager inquiries for a doctor are passed from lip to lip.

"Go for Dr. White." "No, Dr. Harris is the nearest." But Mr. Armstrong
had been already successful. Within a few steps of the carriage he left
so hastily he came upon a gentleman alighting from the train, and
looking with eager inquiry at the confusion on the platform.

"Dr. West! thank God you are here; come quickly, a lady is dying or dead
in our carriage."

With hasty steps and a serious face the doctor followed Mr. Armstrong.
Scarcely two minutes had elapsed, yet the porters were preparing to
remove the lifeless burden from the arms of cousin Sarah, who still held
her tenderly, for the train could no longer be delayed.

Roused from the shock which had at first stunned him, Arthur Franklyn
hastened to relieve Mrs. John Armstrong of his wife, and gently setting
aside the porters, he and Mr. Armstrong lifted her from the carriage to
the ladies' waiting-room, and laid her on one of the couches.

The door was closed to all but the doctor and those who had been in the
carriage with Arthur Franklyn and his wife, and then Dr. West prepared
to examine the patient before uttering the so often dreaded words, "It
is all over."

He saw the agonised look in the husband's countenance as he covered the
face and straightened the limbs of his dead wife, and placing his hand
on his arm he said--

"You are the husband of this lady, I presume?"

Arthur could only silently assent.

"My friend," he said gently, "nothing that I or any one else can do
would avail now, your wife's sufferings are over in this world."

"Sufferings!" exclaimed Arthur, "in what way, doctor?"

"Has not this lady been afflicted for some time with disease of the
heart?" asked Dr. West.

"I don't know; she has never complained to me. I have only been married
six months."

"I fear there must be an inquest, then," replied the doctor; "where does
your own medical man reside?"

"In Melbourne," replied Arthur, in agitated tones; "we only arrived in
England last week. Doctor, will you do all that is necessary for me in
this terrible matter? here is my card; we were on our way to visit a
relative in Kilburn; you will find me at Englefield Grange tomorrow."

"Englefield Grange!" exclaimed Dr. West, "are you related to our good
old friend Dr. Halford?"

"He is the father of my first wife, and my children are with him now."

"My dear sir," cried the doctor, "I will do my best for you in this sad
affair, but we must secure the help of my friend Armstrong and this lady
also," he added, turning to cousin Sarah, on whose cheeks tears of pity
and sympathy were quietly stealing.

At this moment Mr. Armstrong, who had been called from the room by the
station-master, entered quickly, and advancing to Arthur he said
gently--"I am sorry to pain you, but it will be necessary to remove the
poor lady to the hotel before the arrival of the next train."

"I must submit to whatever is necessary," he replied as the porters
entered the room; "I feel too bewildered to act for myself."

Meanwhile Mary Armstrong, in obedience to her father's request, had
driven to the station, and drew up to the entrance three or four minutes
before the train was due. She heard it arrive, and looked for her father
and his companions among the numbers who passed out of the station much
too anxiously to notice the glances of admiration cast upon herself; and
yet the passengers seemed to linger, and some were conversing with great
seriousness, to judge by their faces.

At length two gentlemen paused at a little distance from the pony
carriage, and Mary heard her mother's name mentioned, and then the
ominous words, "Death in a railway carriage."

Too startled at first to decide what to do, Mary allowed the speakers to
move forward, so that the opportunity for questioning them was lost.
Then she checked her fears; she had only heard detached sentences which
might mean nothing; yet as the train moved out of the station, and a few
straggling passengers made their appearance, a dread of she knew not
what fell upon her.

What could she do? To leave the ponies was impossible, and yet she must
ascertain what had happened. So painful had the suspense become that she
was about to send a boy for a railway porter, when she saw a gentleman
enter the station yard and advance towards her.

He started and flushed as he recognised Miss Armstrong, and was about to
pass with the usual formal recognition, when, to his utter amazement,
she exclaimed--

"Oh, Mr. Halford, I am so glad to see you! there has been an accident or
something; I heard the passengers speak of a death in one of the
carriages. Papa and my cousins were to arrive by this train, and I have
been waiting here for them more than twenty minutes."

"What do you wish me to do, Miss Armstrong?" asked Henry Halford, who
with the most intense pleasure at the prospect of doing anything for the
girl still so truly loved, yet shrunk from encountering Mr. Armstrong.

Mary understood his hesitation. "If you would kindly make inquiries for
me, and if papa has arrived by this train, please tell him I am waiting.
I should feel so much obliged if you will do this, Mr. Halford."

The earnest, anxious tones and the pleading voice were too much for
Henry Halford. Without another word he entered the station.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile after starting the train the porters had obtained a covered
litter on which the lifeless form of Louisa Franklyn was carried from
the waiting-room, followed by Mr. Armstrong, cousin Sarah, Jack, and
Arthur Franklyn.

To avoid the stairs leading from the platform the men turned towards a
side gate which opened nearer to the hotel. They had scarcely reached it
when a gentleman, evidently in a state of excitement, approached the
group and exclaimed--

"Pardon me, Mr. Armstrong, your daughter who is waiting for you in the
pony carriage has been alarmed by the remarks of passengers, and she is
becoming anxious on account of the delay in your appearance."

For a moment Mr. Armstrong had looked at the speaker with almost
indignant surprise; but a flush of anxiety and shame spread over his
face at the thought that he had literally forgotten his daughter, and
allowed her to sit in her little carriage alone at a railway entrance.

His hasty reply was cordial and polite.

"Thank you very much, Mr. Halford; I am ashamed to say I had forgotten
that my daughter was waiting for us."

"Come, Sarah," he added, "I must hasten to relieve poor Mary's fears;
this gentleman will excuse us, I know."

"Oh, pray do not let me detain you," said Arthur, "but may I be allowed
to call and thank you and this lady for your great help and sympathy?"

"Most certainly; here is my card," said Mr. Armstrong, hastily placing
in the hands of Henry Halford's brother-in-law the cardboard invitation
to visit his house, for which Henry would have given half he possessed.

He had drawn back in mute surprise during the conversation between Mr.
Armstrong and Arthur, but no sooner had the movements of the former
gentleman and his companions discovered Henry Halford to the stricken
man than he started forward, and seizing his hand, told him what had
happened, in a voice so choked with sobs and tears as to be scarcely
audible.

Henry led him away to the hotel, to which the body of his dead wife had
been carried, and calming down his excitement encouraged him to relate
all that had occurred.

"And were Mr. Armstrong and his friends in the carriage with you?" asked
Henry, in astonishment.

"Yes, we occupied all the seats but one, and the lady held my poor wife
in her arms with the greatest tenderness. Is she Mrs. Armstrong?"

"No," exclaimed Henry, in a tone that savoured of indignation. "Mrs.
Armstrong is a very different person. This lady to whom you refer is no
doubt a relative from the country." He little thought that the relative
of whom he spoke was his best friend.

After a while Arthur Franklyn became calm enough to walk with his
brother-in-law to Englefield Grange, dreading the ordeal in which a
detail of what had happened would involve him. Of other and more painful
consequences to him which would result from his wife's death he could
speak to no one, although he knew they would cause him a sleepless
night.

Mr. Armstrong's first words as he and his two companions made their
appearance relieved Mary of a certain dread. She could not control her
fears that her father would be a little angry with her for sending a
message by Mr. Henry Halford.

"My darling," he said, "I am so sorry! I forgot I had asked you to come
for us; have you been waiting long?"

"Nearly half an hour; but, papa, what has happened?"

"I will tell you presently, Mary; drive home quickly, your mother will
be getting anxious."

The sad story was soon told in a few words during the drive, and Mary
became silent from awe and sympathy.

Presently her father asked,--"What brought Mr. Halford to the station,
Mary?"

"I had not time to ask him," said Mary, gently, "neither had I any right
to do so. The instant I saw him I begged him to go and find out what
detained you."

"No doubt he came to meet his brother-in-law," said cousin Sarah. "I
heard the gentleman whose wife has died so sadly speak of his
father-in-law as Dr. Halford of Englefield Grange."

Mr. Armstrong did not notice this remark, and the silence at last became
so painful to Mary, that she was about to break it by attracting notice
to her ponies, who seemed by their rapid movements to look upon a
journey of eight miles a day as merely an amusing pastime.

Cousin Sarah diverted her from her purpose by a sudden remark.

"Jack, my boy, you look pale; in the midst of the confusion and sorrow I
almost forgot you were present."

"Oh, I'm all right, mother," he replied, "but I own I did feel queer at
the time."

"Don't talk about the affair too strongly at home, Jack," said Mr.
Armstrong, "at least not in the presence of Mrs. Armstrong."

At this moment Mary drew up her ponies at the gate. Mr. Armstrong and
his companions entered the house, the painful event of the last hour
occupying every thought, more especially from its connexion with the
residents at Englefield Grange.



CHAPTER XXVII.

TEMPTED.


"Man is the creature of circumstances," is a remark that few will deny.
Those, however, who remember that "not a sparrow falls to the ground
without our heavenly Father's knowledge" name these said circumstances
"providences." If even a sparrow cannot fall unnoticed, will not the
great Creator trouble Himself about the movements and actions of His
creatures in a higher state of being, and for whom Christ died?

It was a mysterious providence which in so sudden and painful a manner
removed the second wife of Arthur Franklyn from the evil to come, but it
led to important results, and influenced the future of more than one of
the persons mentioned in our story.

The _pendule_ on the mantelpiece of the drawing-room pointed to ten
minutes to six on the day of this sad occurrence, and Mrs. Armstrong,
who had still some misgivings about Mary and her pony carriage, began to
feel very anxious. She rose and entered the dining-room, where the
parlourmaid was laying the cloth. "Margaret," she said, "I fear
something has happened to detain your master and Miss Mary. Where is
Rowland? send him at once to the station; they ought to have been home
half an hour ago."

The girl turned to obey, but she had scarcely left the room, when Mrs.
Armstrong saw the pony carriage drive to the gate, and hastened out to
meet its occupants. "What has detained you? Oh, how glad I am to see you
here safe and well!"

"Of course we are all safe and well," said her husband, in a cheerful
voice, as he led her to the drawing-room, "but the fact is, a lady was
taken ill in our railway carriage, and this caused some delay; so make
yourself comfortable, dearest, while we get ready for dinner; you shall
hear all about it by-and-by."

Jack had recovered himself during the drive home, but he hastened at
once to his room, and remained there till he heard his mother go
downstairs, for he feared being questioned by Mrs. Armstrong after her
husband's caution to him.

Although unaccustomed to give way to fine lady nervousness, Mr.
Armstrong knew that his wife had not quite lost the natural timidity
which once nearly cost Maria St. Clair her life.

But Mary knew her mother best: after the rest had left the drawing-room
she placed her arm tenderly round her neck, and said, "Mamma darling,
you need not wait for 'by-and-by,' I will tell you the worst at once. A
poor lady who sat opposite cousin Sarah in the railway carriage was
taken ill on the journey and died before they arrived at the station."

"Oh, how very shocking!" said Mrs. Armstrong. "Was she alone?"

"No, her husband was with her, but he appeared too stunned to do
anything, so cousin Sarah held the poor dying lady in her arms till the
train stopped, and then papa went to find a doctor."

"I am glad you have told me, my dear," said Mrs. Armstrong, "anything is
better than suspense, and I should have pictured to myself all sorts of
horrors."

"Yes, mamma, I knew that, or I should not have told you, but I must go
and prepare for dinner; I have only three minutes, so it is well I
changed my dress before I started for the station."

No one at the table noticed the effects on cousin Sarah of the shock she
had received; yet she was a woman of warm deep feelings, railway
travelling was a comparative novelty to her, and the terrible delay from
the impossibility of stopping the train, added to the awe she felt when
the poor woman died in her arms, had greatly shaken her nerves.

Very little, however, was said on the subject during dinner, but in the
evening, when Mrs. Armstrong listened with painful interest to her
description of what had occurred, she could perceive how acutely cousin
Sarah felt the effects of the scene she had witnessed.

By degrees the conversation turned upon the persons mixed up with these
sad circumstances, and then Mrs. Armstrong heard with surprise the name
of the messenger Mary had sent to look for her father, and his close
relationship to the husband of the lady so suddenly deprived of life.

"Mr. Henry Halford had but one sister living when we first became
acquainted with his family," remarked Mrs. Armstrong, "and she died in
Australia two years ago."

"This must be a second wife, then," said cousin Sarah, who had her own
reasons for wishing to know all that could be learnt respecting Mr.
Halford's family; "do you remember the name of Miss Halford's husband,
Mary?"

"Here is his card," said Mr. Armstrong, looking up from his newspaper
and throwing the harmless missive on the table as he spoke; "you will
receive a visit from him to-morrow, no doubt; he asked to be allowed to
call and thank me for my kindness, and so forth; so you can accept these
thanks, cousin Sarah, they belong to you by right."

"Franklyn," said Mrs. Armstrong, taking up the card and reading it, "is
that the name, Mary?"

"Yes, mamma," she replied, in a quiet voice, for her father held his
paper on one side to look at her while she spoke. "I read a notice of
Mrs. Franklyn's death in the _Times_, and it also stated that she was
the daughter of Dr. Halford of Englefield Grange."

Mr. Armstrong then continued his reading. Cousin Sarah had noticed the
look of fierce inquiry on his face as his daughter spoke, and recalling
Mary's troubled countenance and her father's remarks about the Halfords,
she felt more than ever determined to interfere.

She made one remark, however, which brought a sudden flush to Mary's
face--

"This Mr. Franklyn told Dr. West in my presence that he and his wife had
recently arrived in England from Melbourne, and that they were on their
way to visit the father of his first wife, Dr. Halford, at Englefield
Grange, with whom his children were now staying, so no doubt this
gentleman was the husband of Dr. Halford's daughter, and the father of
the young people we saw on Sunday."

In spite of a look of disgust which passed over the countenance of Mr.
Armstrong, his wife could not resist a few approving remarks about the
young people referred to, till at length Mr. Armstrong exclaimed, "Come,
Mary, give us a little music, we have heard quite enough of our
unfortunate fellow-passenger and his antecedents; if he comes to-morrow
you can treat him with politeness, and there the matter will end."

Mary rose hastily to obey, she was glad to turn her back on those
present, for the explanation respecting the young visitors at Englefield
Grange had lifted a weight from her heart and made her eyes brighter,
and the colour on her cheeks deeper than they had been for months. Yes,
she could sing now; and as Jack listened, and remembered that this was
his last evening at the Limes, he inwardly resolved that when he was old
enough, and had made a fortune like Cousin Armstrong, he would marry a
wife exactly like Cousin Mary.

Altogether it had been a day of excitement; and when Mary entered her
bedroom a feeling of hope--the foundation of which she could scarcely
account for--seemed to fill her heart. She lay awake for some time,
trying to realise certain causes from which this hope seemed to spring.
Her meeting with Henry Halford at the station--the absence of
displeasure in her father's manner, which she dreaded would follow her
sudden impulse to send him as a messenger--above all, the discovery that
she had mistaken one of Mr. Henry Halford's nieces for perhaps his
intended wife--and last, but not least, an impression that Cousin Sarah
was favourable to the Halfords, and in some way able to influence her
father--these reflections, added to the certainty in her own mind that
Henry Halford had taken his degree and would soon go up for ordination,
seemed so full of hope that they acted with a soothing influence on the
young girl's heart, till at length she slept.

Very different from the innocent hopes of Mary Armstrong were the
reflections that haunted the chamber of Arthur Franklyn that night at
Englefield Grange. The painful event of his second wife's sudden death,
and the necessity for an inquest, had spread consternation over the
household, and excited great sympathy.

To his surprise, no one sympathised with him more deeply than his eldest
daughter, for he remembered how openly she had resented his second
marriage. But to the memory of this resentment he now owed Clara's
sympathy; remorse for having been at times rude and unkind to the woman
who must have suffered so much to cause such a sudden death, filled the
young girl's heart.

But even her gentle cares and attentions could not soothe the father's
sorrow till he observed that this apparently great grief for his second
wife created some little surprise among the relatives of Fanny Halford,
who was the mother of his children.

On discovering this he roused himself, and as some excuse for his
sorrow, acknowledged the fact of his having hurried her to the train.

"I feel almost as if I were Louisa's murderer," he said "for I remember
now how she gasped for breath when we reached the platform."

"No, no, Arthur, do not think anything so painful," said Dr. Halford;
"she had never spoken to you of her heart being diseased, or I am sure
you would have been more careful, yet I can quite understand how the
circumstance troubles you."

Troubled him! Yes, we must do Arthur Franklyn the justice to own that
the recollection pained him greatly, but what was that memory compared
to the fact that his wife's death before signing certain documents would
inevitably cause his utter ruin?

He had that day obtained from his lawyer a document signed by the two
trustees of his wife's property, authorizing her to draw out 2000_l._
for her husband's use.

On the strength of this he had taken furnished apartments for three
months, and he and his wife were on their way to fetch the children from
Englefield Grange on the day which had ended so fatally.

The lawyer, Mr. Norton, to whom Henry had introduced his brother-in-law,
resided at Kilburn, and an arrangement had been made for him to meet his
clients at the Grange and for Henry to witness Mrs. Franklyn's
signature.

All this Arthur Franklyn remembered as he paced his bedroom long after
midnight, and knew that the fortune, to obtain which he had married a
second time, was lost to him for ever.

Had he only secured for himself the 2000_l._ he might have been saved
from ruin, but now even that was denied him--that which had already cost
him so much. To obtain the consent of the trustees he had made false
statements of his position in Melbourne, and of the merchants whom he
affirmed were ready to receive him as a partner.

Mrs. Franklyn had herself proved at first his greatest difficulty. She
was a woman who thought only of self; she had been a widow for six
years, and during that time had saved from her income several hundred
pounds, which in the first happy days of her marriage she had made over
to Arthur, and afterwards regretted the generous impulse. She had
concealed from him the fact that her property was vested in the power of
trustees, and when the hundreds in the Melbourne bank were being
transferred to her husband's name she had said laughingly, "There is
nothing to thank me for, Arthur, what is mine is yours now."

Arthur Franklyn would never have made a good lawyer, even had he
continued to follow his profession; but he knew well enough that his
power over the property of his intended wife should have been secured
before their marriage, and this he dared not attempt to do in an open
and straightforward manner, because his own affairs were in a state of
hopeless insolvency.

Not only so, but he quickly discovered that he had a rival in the
affections of the lady he wished to marry, and that rival was money. To
ask her the question whether her property was at her own disposal was
one he dared not venture upon. With his usual want of prudence,
therefore, he determined to chance it, and trust to his own power of
persuasion to obtain money when he wanted it, even should there be
trustees looming in the distance.

And now, just as all difficulties had been overcome, and his most
sanguine hopes realised, comes this terrible destruction to all his
schemes.

"Had Louisa only lived another day," he said to himself, "all might have
been well; but now--ruin, poverty, and disgrace are all that are left
for me and my children." Yet even at this critical moment, had he been
truthful and candid instead of trusting with his usual self-sufficiency
that he should overcome this difficulty as he had done others
before--had he made a confidant of his brother-in-law, and told him the
whole truth, what a terrible amount of sorrow and remorse he might have
been spared.

But no, he could not so humiliate himself to his first wife's relations.
What! own his real position, and ask for help and sympathy after
boasting of the style in which he and Fanny had lived, and of the
superior education he had given his children?

No, never! Something he must do to prevent this, but what?

Is there an evil spirit at hand ready to answer such a question from the
man or woman who hesitates to follow the right path?

Alas! too often yes. At least, it was so in the case of Arthur Franklyn;
at this moment an evil suggestion arose in his mind from which he
recoiled with a shudder. Ah! had he then fallen on his knees and prayed
for power to resist the fearful temptation that now presented itself,
that power would have been given him, and by peaceful sleep the nerves
which were overwrought after the exciting events of the day would have
been calmed and soothed.

But Arthur Franklyn had yet to learn the weakness and treachery of his
own heart, through a fiery ordeal which he was now about to prepare for
himself.

A gas burner projected from the wall on either side of the
dressing-table; one of these only he had lighted on entering, and
shrinking from the glare, he had lowered it nearly out while pacing the
room in an agony of thought.

Now he approached the dressing-table, turned the one gas burner on full,
and lighted the other. Then he started back at the reflection of his own
face in the glass; pale and haggard, eyes aflame with excitement, and
lips reddened and parched with fever. For a moment fear made him
pause--only for a moment. Flinging sober thought to the winds, he drew a
chair to the table, pushed aside pincushion, toilet-cover, and
ornaments, and took from his pocket a pencil and two letters.

For at least an hour he continued to write on scraps of paper torn from
his pocket-book.

The dawn of a May morning was stealing through the staircase windows as
Arthur Franklyn descended cautiously to the hall. On a table, near the
entrance, as he well remembered, stood an inkstand and pens; these he
carried upstairs and re-entered his room, in which the gas still burnt
brightly, and closed the door carefully, to exclude the fast-increasing
light of day. He was white now even to the lips as he again seated
himself at the table, and drew from his breast coat pocket a document on
which he signed, two names with different pens.

Even in the midst of his evident excitement his hand was firm. Then he
dashed down the pen, to the great detriment of the toilet-cover, turned
off the gas, and threw himself on the bed dressed as he was, to try and
lose in the sleep of forgetfulness for a time a memory of what he had
done.

The old school-bell for breakfast woke him next morning from a heavy
sleep, and also awoke in him painful memories of olden times, when a
happy innocent lad, he had so often answered its summons.

He rose hastily, bathed his face, and battled for a time with the
emotions that overpowered him. Strange to say, the memories of his
youthful days strengthened, his determination to carry out what he had
last night begun.

"Could he allow the children of his lost Fanny to starve in poverty, or
to feel that their father could support them no longer?"

No! impossible! he must carry it through--she, his second wife, would
have done it had she lived; no one would be injured, the money was his
morally, and if not quite legally, that was of no consequence.

This decision produced a kind of calm, like the effects of an opiate, so
that when he appeared at breakfast the haggard look of excitement was
gone; the pale, calm face created a feeling of sympathy, more especially
in the warm heart of Kate Marston, whom Fanny's children had already
learnt to love.

During the day when he attended the inquest he listened with almost
stoical indifference to a detail of the circumstances attending his
wife's death. He answered the questions put to him by the coroner calmly
and truthfully; not even the examination of the medical man, from whose
evidence he learnt that a _post-mortem_ examination had taken place,
could rouse in him the slightest interest.

Yet the pale and sorrowful expression of his face excited the sympathy
of those present, especially while being questioned by the coroner.

"You were then not aware that your wife was suffering from disease of
the heart, Mr. Franklyn?"

"No," he replied, "not in the least; she never gave me reason to suppose
that such was the case, even by a hint."

"And I believe you hurried to the station on the day of the occurrence?"

A kind of spasm passed over the face of Arthur Franklyn, and his lips
quivered as he replied--

"I have reason to remember that we did so, owing to my watch being five
minutes too fast."

"We will not pain you with any further questions, Mr. Franklyn," said
the coroner; and Arthur bowed as he moved to give place to Mrs. John
Armstrong, feeling conscious that he did not deserve the sympathy too
evident in the looks of those around him.

What did they know of the terrible results to him of that hurried run to
the train? What could any one know of the one absorbing thought which
seemed to banish all others from his mind, and make him speak and move
like a man in a dream?

Nothing, not a shadow of the truth; and yet, while conscious that, like
the somnambulist, he was steadily making his way to certain destruction,
all power to stop his downward progress seemed to have deserted him; he
had taken the first false step, and the result appeared inevitable.

During that sad week, in the darkened rooms, with the coffin containing
the lifeless form of his second wife occupying the room which once
belonged to Fanny Halford, he still wore that look of forced submission
which is so much like despair.

On the day of the funeral, when the playground voices at Englefield
Grange were silent and subdued, when the children of his first wife shed
tears of childish sorrow by the coffin of the second, when his
father-in-law and Henry looked with pitying eyes for the last time at
the shrouded form of Louisa Franklyn, still beautiful even in death,
Arthur showed no sympathy, no change in face or manner; not even when he
saw Kate Marston weeping over the little Albert, the motherless boy of
her lost Fanny.

Indeed, Mrs. Halford's death had been too recent for any in that house
to look with indifference so soon after on the insignia and trappings of
woe. Arthur alone seemed callous and indifferent, while all around were
in tears. Yet although they pitied him, not one in that family circle
could have guessed his secret.

In the midst of all these exciting events and mournful surroundings
Henry Halford did not forget that the appointed day for his ordination
was drawing near. He avoided all reference to it, however, although
Arthur Franklyn had more than once missed him, and knew that an
efficient substitute had been provided to take his place in the
schoolroom during his absence at the bishop's examination.

A week's respite from school duties occurring at Whitsuntide, Henry had
previously promised to spend that time with his friend Horace Wilton. He
had hesitated, in consequence of recent events, to speak of leaving home
till after the funeral, and still felt reluctant to desert Arthur while
he remained at the Grange. From one of the children, however, the matter
became known to Arthur on the Friday evening before Whit-Sunday. Henry
had tempted his brother-in-law to a walk round the garden, and was
speaking to him of his approaching ordination, and other matters
connected with it, when they were joined by Mabel.

The little girl had become very fond of her uncle, and as she clung to
his arm while they slowly paced the garden walk she listened to the
conversation between the gentlemen with great interest.

Presently, in a pause, Mabel said--

"Uncle Henry, are you not going to Oxford tomorrow?"

"Well, my dear," he replied, "I have not quite made up my mind; the
truth is, Arthur," he added, turning to his brother-in-law, "my friend
Horace Wilton has invited me to spend a few days with him during
Whitsuntide."

"Then why not go?" said Arthur; "the change will be of benefit to you,
and brace up your nerves for the ordeal on Sunday week."

"It seems so ungracious to leave you in your trouble for the
gratification of myself; perhaps, however, I may run down to Oxford
to-morrow and return on Monday."

"No, Henry, pray do not shorten your visit on my account; I shall very
likely be in London nearly all next week--go in, Mabel," he added,
observing his little daughter's earnest face; and as she obeyed, Henry
replied earnestly to his remark: "Indeed, Arthur, you ought not to think
of leaving us yet--you require a week or two longer of perfect rest
before returning to business. I suppose there is nothing that requires
immediate attention?" he asked, without a shadow of suspicion that the
question would inflict a pang on the heart of his brother-in-law.

Controlling himself, he replied, "Nothing more important than examining
poor Louisa's papers. I have put off the ordeal for a week, I had not
sufficient fortitude even to think of it. But it must be done very
shortly, and her desk and other matters are at our apartments in London.
I shall perhaps only stay a few days this time, but I must rouse myself
soon and return to business for the sake of my children."

"Then shall I find you at the Grange on my return?" said Henry.

"I shall no doubt remain in town at least a week," replied Arthur,
"therefore you need not put off your visit on my account; and there is
the summons to tea," he exclaimed as Mabel reappeared. "Your uncle and I
are coming presently, my dear; go in and tell Miss Marston," and then,
in a low hurried voice as soon as they were alone, he said: "Henry, pray
don't speak of my visit to London before your father or Kate; I could
not endure to discuss the subject with them."

Henry promised to be silent, yet wondering at the request. To him no
relief could be greater than to unburden his heart to a true friend in
any pressing anxiety. But Arthur's anxiety was not of a nature to be
confided to another, and as they walked to the house he inwardly
resolved that he would escape as quickly as possible from the scrutiny
of the anxious eyes at the Grange, and from the memories which were
revived by its associations, and rendered more painful by recent sad
events.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

COUSIN SARAH.


Arthur Franklyn had not been in a mood to call upon Mr. Armstrong during
that sad week, nor, indeed, to pay visits anywhere. But he wrote an
appropriate letter, saying all that was necessary of grateful thanks for
the kindness and sympathy he had experienced, especially from Mrs. John
Armstrong.

Perhaps, on the whole, this was a more satisfactory proceeding in Mr.
Armstrong's estimation, but Cousin Sarah was disappointed. She had been
introduced to Mr. Henry Halford at the inquest, by his brother-in-law,
and the half-hour during which she had conversed with him confirmed her
good opinion of his manners and character.

Cousin Sarah was a few years older than Edward Armstrong; they had known
each other from children, and in spite of the pride which had grown out
of his increased wealth and aristocratic connexions, he had still a
great deference for cousin Sarah's opinions. She possessed that very
rare quality, plain common sense, and notwithstanding her homeliness she
had intellectual tastes sufficient to enable her to appreciate knowledge
and learning in its higher developments, as seen in her cousin Edward
and Henry Halford. That a man of such intellectual power as Edward
Armstrong could prefer for his daughter's husband the weak-minded
captain whose history had been told to her to the intellectual young
schoolmaster, because the former was rich and the latter poor, was to
her a mystery.

Cousin Sarah, with all her good sense, had yet to learn the hardening,
withering effects on the human heart which a love of gold produces.

She was brave, however, and she determined before she left Kilburn to
bring the matter face to face with Edward Armstrong, and plead the cause
of the young girl whom she was convinced by various signs was really
attached to the intellectual young schoolmaster.

She had quickly discovered Mrs. Armstrong's opinion on the subject, and
when she mentioned her wish to be alone with cousin Edward, she found in
Mary's mother a strong ally. Soon after dinner, on this the last evening
of her visit, cousin Sarah found herself alone in the drawing-room at
Lime Grove, with a man who prided himself upon his indomitable will and
unbending opinions.

But she was not daunted. There were two strong points in her favour, and
upon these she rested her hopes of success. One was Edward Armstrong's
love for his daughter, and the other his often acknowledged confidence
in cousin Sarah's judgment. She sat at work near the open window. May
was passing into June, and the open country which still held sway near
Lime Grove seemed redolent of summer. The sun, still high above the
horizon, was tinting the fleecy clouds that softened his brightness with
crimson and gold, and from myriads of little throats came the warbling
songs of joyous birds waking the echoes with their sweet melody.

"So you leave us to-morrow, cousin Sarah," said Mr. Armstrong, laying
down his newspaper, and placing himself at the window near which she
sat.

"Yes," she said, "and I do so with great reluctance; it has been a most
happy fortnight excepting that sad affair in the train, but I shall
never forget your kindness and your wife's."

"I don't forget your care and attention to my poor father," he replied,
in a tone of deep emotion; "no kindness on our part can ever repay that,
Sarah."

There was silence for a few moments, and then Mr. Armstrong spoke
again:--

"I suppose you will leave Jack with perfect confidence?"

"Yes, quite; he seems very happy, and I think he will try to do well and
get on in his business. He is delighted at the prospect of spending his
monthly holiday here as you have proposed."

"Yes, poor fellow, it will be a change for him; I am glad Maria thought
of it."

With all cousin Sarah's bravery, she found some little difficulty in
commencing the subject uppermost in her thoughts, but there occurred
another pause, and then Edward Armstrong led the way to it himself.

"Do you think Mary is looking well, Sarah?" he said, "you told me last
Sunday week that she appeared changed, but I have not yet had an
opportunity to ask you in what way."

"I must tell you the truth, Edward; Mary is as pretty and graceful as
ever, but there is a delicacy of complexion, and at times a sad look,
which makes me fancy she is not quite happy."

"They have been telling you a fine tale, I suppose, about my cruelty in
not allowing my daughter to marry a man who has not a sixpence to call
his own;" and as he spoke cousin Sarah could detect the old boyish
temper, and the will that would brook no opposition. "I thought the girl
had more sense," he went on; "why, she has refused offers that were
unexceptionable, all because of that boy,--you have seen him, Sarah."

"I do not consider Mr. Henry Halford a boy, Edward," she replied, for
now the ice was broken the impetuous tone did not daunt her. "He told me
on Wednesday that he was going up for ordination on Trinity Sunday, the
rector of Kilburn having given him what he called a title to orders."

"Yes, yes, I daresay; however, that is of little importance to me, but
what has been told you, Sarah, about this matter?"

"Mary has told me nothing, Edward; Mrs. Armstrong certainly described
the splendid offers her daughter had refused, and acknowledged that her
refusals were no doubt caused by her attachment to Henry Halford;" and
cousin Sarah spoke in that calm, quiet manner which so often carries
weight with it.

"Absurd nonsense!" exclaimed Mr. Armstrong; "I thought my daughter was
above such lovesick foolery, to refuse a man with 12,000_l._ a year, and
the nephew of a duke, for a penniless schoolmaster, descended from
nobody knows who."

"Have you no anxiety for your daughter's future happiness, Edward?"

"Happiness! There's no happiness in the world without money."

"Oh, Edward, how you are changed! money was not the source of your dear
father's happiness, you never learnt that opinion from him; besides,
your own wife was without fortune."

"Ah yes, I had the money, and I chose Maria St. Clair for that sweet
character which has never changed; besides, she was well born and well
connected, which the Halfords are not."

"Who gave you that information, Edward?"

"Why, I formed the opinion from my own judgment. Who would be a
schoolmaster if he could help it?"

"At all events a schoolmaster is equal to a tradesman in position, and
often far above one in education, but for once, cousin Edward, you have
failed in your judgment. Henry Halford, you must own, is a gentleman,
and a man of education, and I _know_ that both his parents are as well
born and as well connected as your own wife."

"I may ask _you_ now where you obtained that information?" said Mr.
Armstrong, in a sneering tone.

"You remember my father's farm, Edward?"

"Of course I do," he replied wonderingly; "I am not likely to forget the
pleasant old homestead where you and John and I spent so many happy days
in our childhood."

"And you remember Englefield, the beautiful estate of Lord Rivers, about
two miles distant from Holmwood Farm, which my father tenanted from his
lordship?"

"You are bringing back childish memories, Sarah, that are painful yet
pleasant, but what has all this to do with the Halfords?"

"Dr. Halford was tutor to the present Lord Rivers in his young days, and
from that circumstance he named his house at Kilburn, Englefield Grange.
I had a long talk with young Mr. Halford on Wednesday, when we were
waiting in the inquest-room at the hotel for you and the coroner. Mr.
Franklyn introduced us. I was speaking of the beautiful scenery between
Farnham and Basingstoke, and he asked me if I knew Englefield, and so
one thing led to another----"

"But this has nothing to do with Mr. Halford's birth or connexions."

"Indirectly it has, for during our conversation I discovered that Dr.
Halford's father was for many years and till his death a surgeon in
Basingstoke, with a first-rate practice; his two sisters are well
married, and his brother is an army surgeon in India."

"You seem to have obtained from this young man the history of himself
and his connexions, Sarah,"--was the scornful remark of Mr.
Armstrong,--"rather an unusual topic for a gentleman to enter upon on a
first introduction."

"It arose entirely from my remark about the country round Basingstoke,
but I will own that when he mentioned Englefield and Lord Rivers I drew
from him other facts for the sake of our dear Mary. I tell you candidly,
Edward Armstrong, that I admire your daughter's good sense in preferring
such a man as young Mr. Halford to one of those who think they can
purchase a wife with gold, feeling sure that she will be given up by her
parents to the highest bidder, like the articles in an auction-room."

Edward Armstrong felt rather startled by cousin Sarah's plain speaking,
in which there was too much truth to be pleasant, yet he said in a kind
of deprecatory tone--

"I have promised Mary not to force her into the acceptance of any offer
again, and if she is determined to marry no one but the schoolmaster,
she must remain single all her life, for she has expressed her
determination not to marry him without my consent, and that she will
never have."

"Mary possesses the real source of happiness," said cousin Sarah, "even
if you continue to withhold that consent. My uncle's teachings during
the week of her visit at Meadow Farm have not been thrown away."

Again Edward Armstrong was startled. He had been surprised at the gentle
submission of his high-spirited daughter, and the unaltered love and
respect she had shown to the father, whose love of gold had blighted her
youthful hopes; but now he understood the cause, and across his memory
passed the words he had read at his father's knee long before the demon
of gold had hardened his heart--

    "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

After a few moments' pause he said in a softened tone, "I should be
glad, and so I know would Maria, to keep our only daughter at home with
us always, but it seems an unusual fate for a beautiful and accomplished
girl such as she is, and with 20,000_l._ which I could give her on her
wedding-day--I am sure I have no wish but for her happiness."

"Then consent to her marriage with Henry Halford; I could tell by
certain signs when I mentioned her name that he still loves your
daughter. Wait till after his ordination, and than give the young people
10,000_l._ to enable them to live independently of the school till Mr.
Halford obtains a living."

"Not much chance of that, I expect."

Cousin Sarah smiled.

"I have one more little piece of information to give yon, Edward," she
said; "when speaking of his ordination Mr. Halford told me that his
father's old pupil, Lord Rivers, had promised that the first vacant
living in his gift should be given to his tutor's son, if he took
orders, after his ordination. The young man, however did not appear to
put much faith in the promise, in consequence of the number of years
that had elapsed since it was made, he the only surviving son, being his
father's youngest child."

The entrance of the tea-tray put a stop to the conversation, but Cousin
Sarah could observe in the manner of Mr. Armstrong towards his daughter
an unusual tenderness, and now and then a wistful look, as if conscience
were upbraiding him as the cause of the sad expression which at times
passed over her face.

Mary Armstrong drove Cousin Sarah and her father to the station next
morning, for the first time since the sad death of Louisa Franklyn.
Warmhearted and loving farewells had taken place before leaving the
house, for Cousin Sarah had endeared herself to every one of the family,
servants included, by her gentle ways, and quiet yet unreserved manners.

To Mrs. Armstrong she had become a true friend and comforter about Mary,
although no opportunity occurred for her to hear what had passed between
Cousin Sarah and her husband.

A few words only on the morning she left, while dressing for her
journey, gave the loving mother hope.

"I repeated to Cousin Edward all I had heard of Mr. Halford, of his
parents and connexions, and of his hopes about the Church, but I could
obtain no promise that he would alter his mind on the subject. I think
it would be unwise to say anything to Mary, and perhaps excite hopes
only to be disappointed."

To this advice Mrs. Armstrong readily agreed, and when the elegant and
refined lady and her homely sensible cousin kissed each other with real
undisguised affection the latter said--

"We have done all we can, Cousin Maria, and we must leave the result to
God, He will order all things for the best."

No word passed respecting the conversation which had taken place between
Cousin Sarah and Edward Armstrong. Not even to his wife could the
money-loving husband confess how much that conversation had roused his
conscience.

And so the merry month of May gave place to leafy June, with its roses
and lilies, its long days and short nights, and the perfume of new-mown
hay.

With the first Sunday in June came the Whit-Sunday which reminds us of
the day when the converts of early Christian times wore white garments,
after the first baptismal rite, as a token of purity--fit emblem of that
pure and holy Spirit which descended upon the apostles on the day of
Pentecost.

The rector of Kilburn, whose long and faithful ministration had endeared
him to his parishioners, was on that day assisted by a stranger. Henry
Halford's place in the gallery with the boys being occupied by another
of the masters.

Both these circumstances Mary noticed, but no idea arose in her mind
that they were connected with Mr. Henry Halford's movements. When they
left the church, however, Mary saw the gentleman, whom she now knew to
be Mr. Franklyn, supporting his aged father-in-law on one side, with
Clara on the other, and followed by Kate Marston and three other
children, the youngest a beautiful little boy nearly four years old.

The dejected looks of the father, and the deep mourning worn by the
children, brought tears to her eyes. For Mary, in her innocence, could
only think of the second Mrs. Franklyn as a second mother to Fanny's
children, and to her mind, therefore, they were doubly motherless.

Mrs. Armstrong had remained at home on the Sunday morning, and as Mary
walked towards the gate leaning on her father's arm, she was surprised
to see him leave her, and advancing towards the group accept the offered
hand of Mr. Franklyn.

Not being aware of the slight acquaintance, Arthur turned to the old
gentleman and introduced his father-in-law, Dr. Halford. Mary could not
help noticing a certain dignity and reserve in his manner as he returned
Mr. Armstrong's recognition. But Arthur was slow to observe these shades
of manner, and quite ignorant of any motive for reserve, he introduced
his children by name, as well as Kate Marston, without discovering in
the least that he was making three of the party very uncomfortable.

"We are walking too slowly for you and Miss Armstrong," said the old
gentleman gently, "I trust Mrs. Armstrong is well."

"Not quite well enough to attend church this morning on account of the
heat, thank you," said Mr. Armstrong, glad of the opportunity to escape,
"but not otherwise indisposed."

And then after the usual polite salutations, Mr. Armstrong and his
daughter left the mournfully attired group, and hastened towards home.

"I must be polite to the people with whom I have been so unfortunately
mixed up, Mary," said her father, "and I feel for the poor man, left
with all those motherless children. I hear he is well off, besides
inheriting his second wife's fortune; otherwise it would be a sad burden
upon the poor old grandfather to have to support them upon school
keeping."

"The youngest is a beautiful little boy," said Mary, quite unable to
reply to her father's speech.

"Yes, I noticed a fat, rosy child, led by a lady in mourning; is she the
wardrobe-keeper?"

"No papa," said Mary, and with all her efforts she could not restrain a
slight tone of indignation, "that lady is Mrs. Halford's niece."

Mr. Armstrong would have questioned his daughter a week previously as to
the source of her information, but a recollection of Cousin Sarah kept
him silent.

On the way home they overtook Mr. Drummond, and while he and her father
talked, Mary walked by his side meditating with surprise on the events
of the morning--the earnest looks of Mr. Franklyn's eldest girl, the
evident restraint in the manner of Kate Marston and Dr. Halford, and,
above all, the absence of Henry Halford.

Suddenly a thought struck her--she knew he had taken his M. A. degree,
she had seen his name in the _Times_--was he gone up for ordination, and
where? All this was at present unknown to her, and she could only
console herself with the recollection that the _Times_ would have every
particular about the ordinations whenever they took place, and Henry
Halford's name was sure to be mentioned if he were among the candidates.

Mary told her mother of the encounter in the churchyard, and the absence
of Henry Halford, without any comment.

Mrs. Armstrong listened with interest to her description of the
children, and especially about the little boy. She thought well of this
meeting to a certain extent, but she said not a hopeful word to her
daughter.



CHAPTER XXIX.

CONSCIENCE.


"I must rouse myself to attend to business, doctor," said Arthur
Franklyn, while at breakfast the morning after meeting Mr. Armstrong in
the churchyard. "I may be absent a week or more, can I leave the
children with you for that time? I shall feel such perfect comfort in
the reflection that they are under your roof, and managed so kindly by
Kate."

"Of course they can stay, my dear Arthur," said the old gentleman
tremulously, "it is a great comfort to me to have dear Fanny's children
here. I have only one regret, that is, that her dear mother did not live
to see her grandchildren. Clara reminds me greatly of her grandmother;"
and he looked fondly at the young girl whose womanly appearance and
manners had so startled Mary Armstrong.

"Would you like to stay with us a little longer, my child?" continued
the old man, laying his hand on Clara's shoulder as she sat in her usual
place by his side.

"Oh yes, grandpapa, I should indeed, we all should be glad to stay;" and
she looked at her sisters and brothers as she spoke. Mabel assented
timidly; the gentle little girl was becoming daily more dear to Kate
Marston, who at the same time lavished upon her cousin Fanny's youngest
child, Albert, the tenderest fondness.

Albert seemed to consider himself required in some way to answer Clara's
questioning look, so he said--

"Me too, grandpa, me stay with you and Kate."

"Papa, am I to go to school in England?" asked James.

"Yes, my boy, certainly, and if grandpapa consents you shall stay and be
a pupil at Englefield Grange."

"Oh, jolly!" said the boy, "it's ever so much better being here than at
my school in Melbourne. Oh! I shall be happy, especially when uncle
Henry comes home."

And so it was settled that during their father's absence his children
should remain at Kilburn under their grandfather's roof.

"I must make a home for them as soon as I can turn myself round," he
said a few hours after, when talking the matter over with Kate Marston.
"I have to settle the business which brought me to England, and to
ascertain what claim I have on my wife's property."

"What! did you not do so before you married her?" asked Kate, in
astonishment.

"No," he replied, "she was very reticent on the subject, and I did not
like to question her, or indeed her friends--she appeared to have
perfect control over her property. However, she may have left a will. At
all events, I must go to the apartments I have taken for three months,
and look over her papers. Unfortunately, her lawyer is in Australia, and
he may have a will in his possession. But, dear Kate," he continued,
with a shudder, "her death is so recent, and the money subject too
painful to be talked about yet. I know you will take care of my
children, and that is a great relief to my mind."

"Indeed, indeed I will," she replied in a tone of sympathy; the paleness
and the shudder had not escaped her. Had she known the pangs of
conscience which caused that shudder, horror instead of sympathy would
have filled her heart.

And yet the conscience of Arthur Franklyn could only at times arouse him
to doubt the rectitude of his own conduct. By fallacious arguments, and
false reasoning with himself, he had acquired confused ideas of right
and wrong. He had still at times the appearance of being under the
effects of some powerful sedative; and at others the flashing eye and
the flushed face would have denoted the presence of some strong
stimulant to less unsuspecting people than the residents at the Grange.

Arthur Franklyn with all his faults had never given way to intemperance,
therefore the brandy flask which he now carried in his pocket or kept
locked up in his bedroom was more potent in its effects, leaving behind
it, after the first moments of excitement, an opiate-like stupor and
stolidity of manner, very unlike that of the bright and fascinating
Arthur Franklyn of former times.

When he left the little breakfast-parlour, in which we first met three
of the residents of Englefield Grange, Dr. Halford and Kate Marston were
alone.

"Uncle," said the latter, "Arthur is very much changed since the death
of his second wife."

"Well, my dear, perhaps he is, but it's very natural under the painful
circumstances in which she died. I cannot be surprised at his marrying
again; of course he wanted a companion, and a mother for his children.
The lady he chose appeared to me very pleasing and agreeable, and
perhaps her money was a great temptation, although I do not think a
marriage for money alone can ever insure happiness."

Kate said nothing; she had seen enough of the second Mrs. Franklyn to
create a doubt respecting her suitableness to be a second mother to any
children, especially to one so high-spirited as Clara, and she could not
tell her uncle of the difficulties already in the way respecting Louisa
Franklyn's fortune.

Arthur came in presently with his carpet bag in his hand, to wish them
farewell.

"I have said good-by to the children, Kate; I am glad I sent nurse to
you; they are with her now, and seem quite happy; you will find her very
useful."

"I have found her so already, Arthur," she replied, "and Clara manages
her little brother famously, so make yourself quite comfortable about
the children."

"Arthur is going, uncle," she said gently, for the old gentleman sat
dozing in his arm-chair.

"Eh? what?" he said, "Arthur going? Good-by my son; God bless you and
keep you in the right path."

A few more hasty farewells, and then Arthur Franklyn started at a quick
pace to catch the four o'clock train to London, with the last words of
his poor Fanny's father--"Keep you in the right path"--ringing in his
tars.

The sad and sudden death and the inquest on Mrs. Franklyn had appeared
in most of the daily and weekly papers, therefore when Arthur knocked at
the door of the house in which he had taken apartments, the landlady met
him with a doleful face.

"Oh, sir, is it true? have you lost your dear lady as we read in the
papers?"

"I am sorry to say it is true," he replied as he entered, "and it will
make a great change in my arrangements; however, you shall not be a
loser, Mrs. Mills; and now if you will bring me some tea I shall be glad
of a cup to refresh myself, I can't get over such a shock all at once."

"No, sir, I should think not; and indeed you're not looking at all well,
and no wonder. Yes, sir," she added quickly, seeing a look of impatience
pass over his face, "I'll go at once and see about your tea, it will be
ready in no time."

Very glad indeed was Arthur Franklyn when, the tea being removed and his
landlady's restless tongue banished from the room, he could feel himself
alone. He first drew the table near the window, which he closed
notwithstanding the heat; then he emptied his pockets of various
letters, and at length drew forth an ominous-looking document tied with
red tape, which he opened and spread on the table. Yes, there the name
stood, clear and distinct, in his wife's handwriting, "LOUISA ELLEN
FRANKLYN. Witness--HENRY HALFORD."

For some minutes Arthur Franklyn seemed fascinated to the writing before
him. He turned the leaf and read the legally worded document through.
There was no hesitation necessary there, Louisa had intended him to have
this two thousand pounds, her trustees had consented and signed. Morally
it belonged to him if not quite legally; what moral law would be
transgressed by claiming it? None. Then for the sake of his own credit,
for the sake of his children, he was justified in this act. It would
injure no one; the bulk of his wife's fortune might go to another, and
virtually this two thousand pounds had been already taken from it and
placed in the bank till the document before him should be properly
signed. Yes, it was all right, and as he thus thought he folded it
carefully, re-tied it and placed it in his pocket-book.

On a table near stood Louisa's desk--her keys had been given into his
hands, with her rings and jewels and a few other articles found in the
pocket of the deceased lady. He took the small bunch of keys from his
own pocket, but as he rose to fetch the desk, there flashed across his
memory the words of the old doctor, "God bless you, my son, and keep you
in the right path."

Conscience awoke and made itself heard. "You are out of the right path
already, Arthur Franklyn," said the small still voice. "All your false
reasoning, all your absurd sophistry is vain; you have no right to that
money, and if you claim it on the document in your possession, you know
by what name the laws of your country will call you it you are found
out; and even if you obtain the money undiscovered, you will never know
another happy hour. Burn the paper, Arthur Franklyn, and throw off the
power of the evil spirit that entices you."

The conscience-stricken man staggered to his seat; he drew the paper
from his pocket, and forgetting for a moment that it was summer-time, he
turned towards the empty fireplace. Then an impulse came upon him to
tear the document to atoms, and throw from his mind the fearful incubus;
but his hand was arrested by a sudden memory of his debts in Australia,
which if not paid must, he knew, end in the disgrace of bankruptcy.
Again the tempter reminded him of his children, his eldest daughter
growing into womanhood; poverty, disgrace for her portion. No, no, it
could not be, he must risk all. There was nothing to fear. He would
arrange all matters of business in England, a few days or a week would
suffice for that, and then he would return to Melbourne. Where he was so
well known he could easily get the papers cashed by paying a good amount
of interest. His children were safe for the present. He should be able
to send over payment for their board. Yes, this plan must be adopted, it
was the best and the only one; and with this resolution strong in his
mind conscience was crushed, its voice silenced for a time, and Arthur
Franklyn left to follow the downward road on which he had made the first
false step.

He again rose to fetch Louisa's desk, and placing it on the table before
him, eagerly examined its contents. Letters from friends, a banker's
book, a cheque for seventy-four pounds which he had given her at the
time of the transfer of her ready cash to his name, about fifty pounds
in ready money, and at last a little packet of his own letters written
before their marriage, carefully and neatly tied together, several
little articles of jewellery, and others of no importance, but no will.

Arthur Franklyn as he made this discovery knew that all hope of his late
wife's fortune was lost to him, unless she had left a will with her
lawyers in Melbourne, and this appeared another urgent reason why he
should return thither.

The money he had found, with the balance of a few hundreds still lying
at the Australian bank in London, would pay his passage, and help him to
carry out his plans. He replaced the various articles in the desk
excepting the jewels and the money; her watch and chain he had left at
his father-in-law's for Clara. But as he placed his hand on the packet
of his own letters a pang of remorse shot through his heart, which
almost threatened him with another attack of conscience. He hastily drew
the flask from his pocket, and seizing a wineglass which stood on the
sideboard filled it nearly to the brim with the so often fatal
stimulant, and drank it off.

For a time it produced a false courage which enabled him to finish his
search of the desk; and after closing and locking it he remained at the
table and proceeded to sketch out his future movements, made a list of
the boxes to be sent next day to Kilburn, and also of the articles he
wished to take with him on his voyage. By this time the twilight of a
June evening was fading into night; Arthur looked at his watch and rang
the bell, it was nearly half-past nine. The landlady herself appeared
with what she termed a nice little supper, to tempt Mr. Franklyn's
appetite. She lighted the gas and uncovered the tray for his inspection,
but the supper failed to produce the result she expected. Mr. Franklyn
could eat nothing but a biscuit, and she left the room in great distress
of mind to expatiate in the kitchen on the dreadful event which had "so
altered the gentleman upstairs and quite took away his appetite."

Arthur Franklyn, totally unmindful of her sympathy, escaped to his
bedroom soon after the clock struck ten. But there was no thought of Him
on whom we are told to cast our burden. There arose in his heart no
prayer for guidance in the right path. It might be said of him at this
period of his life that "God was not in all his thoughts." To him in
this hour of fierce temptation there was no solace but the fiery spirit,
so valuable as a medicine, so dangerous as a stimulant. He took another
supply before seeking his pillow, and sunk at once into an unhealthy
sleep, from which he awoke in the morning unrefreshed and with a
throbbing headache. During the next three days Arthur Franklyn, with a
kind of unnatural energy, went through the tasks he had allotted to
himself. From the lawyer to the banker's; from the West End to the City,
in cabs and in omnibuses; to the shipping offices to secure a berth; to
the railway station to send boxes to Kate Marston and his daughter, and
to write letters in the evening--so passed the next three days.

One discovery he made while at the lawyer's office. From a remark made
by Mr. Norton, to whom Henry Halford had introduced him, he found that
gentleman had made a mistake, and here he took the second step in the
downward path.

After expressing his regret and sympathy, Mr. Norton said--

"You are fortunate in one thing, Mr. Franklyn; I hear that Mrs. Franklyn
signed her name to the document on the morning before she died at her
own lawyer's, so the two thousand pounds are yours to all intents and
purposes."

"It may be so," replied Arthur, languidly; "but I have been so upset and
so full of business I have not had time to examine it."

"Well, do so, my dear sir, when you get home; no doubt you will find it
all right."

This mistake of Mr. Norton's, which will be hereafter explained, sent
Arthur from the lawyer's office in a tremble of excitement. He had
nothing to fear now; all would end well, and he should overcome every
difficulty.

The fact that he had spoken falsely to Mr. Norton, and helped to mislead
that gentleman, he entirely overlooked.

And so the time passed on, and the morning of the Friday on which he was
to sail for Melbourne rose in its summer brightness.

But the excitement, the at times clamorous voice of conscience, and the
unusual amount of stimulant he took, were together combining to produce
fever of the blood and irritation of the brain in Arthur Franklyn.

When he started in a cab from his lodgings his landlady remarked, "Well,
if this rushing about every day don't soon kill that poor gentleman, he
must be made of iron."

No idea of the truth entered her mind. To conceal his intention of
leaving England it had been necessary for him to invent and prevaricate
and deceive in a way that twelve months before he would have shrunk from
with shame and disgust. But principles of truth, honour, and rectitude,
without the foundation of religion and the fear of God, are never to be
relied on. In the hour of fierce temptation they had proved to Arthur
Franklyn no stronger than a broken reed.

He reached the landing-place just below London Bridge at about noon,
wishing to get on board early, as the vessel was timed to sail at seven
in the evening.

He had been unable to resist another supply of the fiery fluid, early as
it was, consoling himself with the reflection, "When I am on board I
shall get over this unnatural craving for stimulants, and give up taking
it."

But he had taken it once too often. His boxes were all on board, and he
carried in his hand a carpet bag, containing among other things the
fatal document which had already worked him so much evil.

He alighted from the cab, paid the driver, and proceeded towards the
Australian packet, which lay alongside the wharf at a little distance
from the shore. A plank stretched across from the gangway of the vessel
rested on land, and men with boxes and other packages were passing to
and fro upon it. Arthur Franklyn waited till the way was clear, then he
placed his foot on the plank and approached the vessel. A very small
portion of this frail bridge passed over water, the shore end resting on
rising ground, and to a man with clear head and steady step there could
be no possible danger.

But Arthur Franklyn's head was not clear, neither was his step steady,
and as he approached the middle of the plank many persons on the bridge
and about the wharf saw him totter and turn pale.

Speechless from alarm, and fearful of hastening a catastrophe by a
warning word, no one moved or spoke as he raised his foot to go forward.
The next moment, amidst the screams and shouts of the lookers-on, Arthur
Franklyn lost his balance and fell with his carpet bag into the water,
which closed over him pitilessly, as if in his helpless condition every
effort to save him would be useless.

There were running to and fro, cries for ropes, and many eager hands
stretched out when he rose to the surface; but the drowning man had
neither sense nor power to help himself or seize the offered aid.

By this time more than one swimmer was in the water diving for the
drowning man. Minutes which seemed hours passed, and then amidst the
crowds of excited spectators Arthur Franklyn's apparently lifeless body
was drawn from the water, hastily placed in a cab, and carried off
across London Bridge to Guy's Hospital.

But the carpet bag had sunk to the bottom, to be drawn up weeks after by
the Thames' searchers; while in one corner, soaked into a pulp by the
action of the water, lay the fatal document which had brought upon
Arthur Franklyn such terrible results.



CHAPTER XXX.

UNCONSCIOUS RIVALS.


June again at Oxford, and the year for grand Commemoration is again
attracting numbers to the famous old city.

Three years have passed since Charles Herbert walked down the High
Street with his friend Horace Wilton on his way to the station to meet
Mary Armstrong.

The Fellow of Balliol is now wandering in Christ Church meadows with
another very old friend, whom he is vainly trying to persuade to remain
at Oxford till after Commemoration.

"You have seen so little of the place, Reginald," said Horace; "and if
you have decided to exchange into a regiment going to India, you should
not miss being present for once on such an occasion."

"It's no use, Horace," was the reply, free from the "aw-aw" so
detrimental to Reginald Fraser's speech when addressing ladies, or
suffering from nervousness. "It's no use; I couldn't remain now after
all you told me last evening about Miss Armstrong's visit; perhaps she
may be at Oxford again this year, and I wouldn't meet her for the world.
How strange it seems that you should be acquainted with her."

"It was scarcely a week's acquaintance," he replied; "and in all my
visits since to the home of my friend Charles Herbert, in Park Lane, I
have never met Miss Armstrong there, which is still more singular. But
do you really consider your case hopeless?"

"Indeed I do, although, as I told you, Mr. Armstrong gave me every
encouragement."

The young man paused, and then exclaimed, with a sudden effort--

"Wilton, I'll tell you all about it. I wanted to do so last night, but I
thought an old bachelor like you would not care to listen to a love
story."

Horace Wilton stifled a sigh. The man of thirty-five was generally
supposed to be wedded to his books, and to avoid the society of women
from choice.

The youthful undergraduates of the University would have wondered
greatly had they been told some little of the romantic history attached
to the erudite student's early days. Only a very few of his most
intimate friends, Charles Herbert amongst the number, knew any of the
circumstances. Yet, while reticent respecting his own experiences, his
manner with his friends excited confidence, and in none more readily
than Reginald Fraser, whom Horace had known from a child.

"I am quite ready to hear the whole story," he said, with a slight
smile; "probably it will be a relief to you to confide in one upon whose
silence you know you can safely rely."

"Indeed it will," said the weak-minded but amiable young officer. "You
know our fellows would chaff me awfully if I talked to them as I did to
you last night. But you know I felt sure of winning any girl if I could
only muster up courage enough to pop the question, because of my money
and all that. And when I'd got over what I thought was the worst bother,
it was hard to be refused."

"And what was the worst bother?" asked his friend, with a smile.

"Well, I hardly know, but I spoke to Mr. Armstrong first; he invited me
to dinner, and made me believe it was all right, and the next morning
came a letter from him, advising me to wait a few months, and then write
to Miss Armstrong. Oh, I say, old fellow, writing that letter was the
worst bother, and no mistake. I declare I'd rather face the enemy on the
field of battle than write another."

"Of course the young lady answered you?"

"Oh, yes; but I almost wish she hadn't, for her letter made me more
wretched than ever; I knew it was all over then. It is a kind letter,
though, and she tells me how sorry she is, and all that. You may read it
if you like, if only to show you how clever she is."

And as he spoke he took the letter from his pocket-book.

Horace Wilton would have refused to avail himself of similar confidence
from most of his young men acquaintances, but Reginald Fraser was
associated with many of his youthful memories, and he could not grieve
him by refusing. He therefore held out his hand for the letter which had
caused Mary Armstrong so much pain to write, as well as tears of regret.

The character of the young girl with whom he had associated during that
week at Oxford three years before presented itself clearly to his mind
as he read--kind and regretful was the tone; yet the refusal, though
couched in gentle and courteous words, was too plainly expressed and too
decisive to admit of future change.

"Well," said Horace, as he folded the letter and returned it to its
owner, "nothing can more completely destroy all hope of winning Miss
Armstrong than this letter, kindly as it is written. But, Reginald, take
my advice--do not grieve over what is inevitable. You are still young,
and the change you contemplate to a foreign land may eradicate a little
of that _mauvaise honte_ which places you at such a disadvantage in
society, in spite of your wealth and position. But come," he added,
rising from the seat they had occupied in Christ Church meadows, and
looking at his watch, "we had better wend our way homewards, it is
nearly five o'clock."

For some little distance the gentlemen were silent. Reginald spoke
first.

"Wilton, I'm so glad I've told you all; I feel more easy on the subject
already, and I hope, as you say, that going abroad will drive the
nervousness out of me. But please don't ask me to stay; I'm awfully
afraid of meeting any one acquainted with Miss Armstrong, for if her
name should be mentioned I am certain to betray myself."

"You shall go to-morrow or the next day, if you wish, but on condition
that you neither think nor speak of the subject again while you stay
with me. When you were a little frightened boy at Eton, Reggie, you
always did as I bid you!"

"Ah! yes, no wonder," he replied. "I have not forgotten the great boy
who pretended to make me his fag because the other fellows shouldn't
ill-use me. You were my best friend then, Wilton, and so you are now,
and I mean to take your advice."

As the young man spoke Horace Wilton's memory flew back to the time when
a small delicate boy of ten was committed to his care by one of the
masters:--

"Wilton, I wish you would look after this little chap; he is evidently a
nervous, timid child, and much to be pitied. He has never known a
mother's care, and his father died about three years ago. I fear he has
been harshly treated and neglected at the house of his maternal
grandfather, who has never forgiven his daughter for marrying against
his wishes."

The youth of seventeen had glanced at the fair, delicate child, who
looked up at him with awe, not unmixed with alarm, and in his heart he
formed a resolve that the boy thus placed in his care should be
protected from the overbearing oppression to which a fag at a public
school was in those days so frequently subjected.

Perhaps the rougher discipline might have tended to harden and
strengthen the character of Reginald Fraser, and yet the cold neglect
and harsh treatment he received in the house where his mother had once
been the only and cherished daughter had increased the natural timidity
of the boy. The highly nervous temperament which he inherited from his
mother had developed into mental weakness and painful reserve, which
even the experiences of a public school could not eradicate.

Some such reflections as these passed through the memory of Horace
Wilton, and caused him to pause ere he replied--

"I do not forget old days, Reginald, and I am glad we have had this
opportunity of talking over matters, but you must learn to rely upon a
higher strength than your own if you wish to gain the power of bearing
earthly disappointments with patience and submission."

Reginald Fraser, in his dread of meeting Mary Armstrong, or any one who
knew her, evinced a nervous anxiety to leave Oxford by an early train
the next day, but this very anxiety defeated his purpose.

It was increased by a letter from Henry Halford, which Horace on that
morning had received, stating that he hoped to reach Oxford by the train
which arrived there at 2.15.

Reginald had put off so many little matters to this last morning that he
failed to be in time for the 12.30 express, and there was no other
alternative than for him to remain with the new arrival till the
evening, or leave by the 2.25. He chose the latter.

A desire, for which he could not at first account, that the young men
should remain strangers to each other haunted Horace Wilton on that
Saturday morning.

Suddenly, as the memory of a week so eventful to Mary Armstrong arose
before him, a thought flashed across his mind that Henry Halford might
be the successful rival who had unwittingly caused so much unhappiness
to Reginald Fraser.

On reflection, however, he dismissed from his mind any apprehension of
awkwardness should the two gentlemen meet at the station, as each would
be quite unconscious of the position in which they stood to each other,
even if his own suspicions had any foundation.

As they walked to the station Horace said--

"I should like to introduce you to Mr. Halford if there is time,
Reginald, but not against your wish."

"I shall be glad to know any of your friends," replied the young man,
who was quite unacquainted with the fact that this friend of Wilton's
had been associated with Mary Armstrong during her visit to Oxford. "Is
this Mr. Halford an Oxford man?"

"Yes, he took his degree about a year ago, and is going up for
ordination on Trinity Sunday. The rector of Kilburn had given him his
title to orders."

"Kilburn!" exclaimed Reginald; "why, that is where Mr. Armstrong
resides. Is he acquainted with the family?"

"I believe he has met some of them, but I do not imagine there is any
great intimacy," replied Horace, inwardly blaming himself for having
mentioned the name of Kilburn--"but here we are at the station."

Only just in time, however, for as the two gentlemen reached the
platform, the train by which Henry Halford travelled came slowly into
the station.

Amidst the numbers who alighted, Horace Wilton could not at first
distinguish his friend; but Henry's quick eye singled him out almost
immediately, and making his way through the crowd, he advanced towards
him.

"How kind of you to come and meet me!" he exclaimed, as they shook
hands. "How could you relinquish your beloved books for such a purpose?"

"I must not take more credit to myself than I deserve," he replied, with
a laugh. "The truth is, I had to welcome the coming as well as speed the
parting guest;" and as Wilton spoke he turned towards Reginald, who
stood at a little distance, and said, "My friend, Captain Fraser,--Mr.
Henry Halford."

The former advanced and bowed, but Henry, while returning the
salutation, held out his hand, saying--

"I am sorry to hear you are a parting guest, Captain Fraser. I have
heard of you so often from my friend Mr. Wilton, that I should have been
glad of the opportunity to improve our acquaintance;" and while he spoke
the unconscious rivals shook hands warmly with each other.

As usual when introduced to a stranger Reginald Fraser, though attracted
by the genial manner and pleasant smile of his new acquaintance,
suffered from an attack of nervousness which was greatly increased by
the sound of the five minutes bell announcing the approach of the train
for London.

"I--aw--am sorry--aw--I must--aw--leave you so soon," he stammered out,
"but my train goes--aw--from the other side, and I--I have--aw--to cross
the bridge."

"Oh, pray excuse me for detaining you," said Henry; "Wilton, do not
leave your friend on my account," he added; "I will wait here, or walk
on slowly while you see him off."

"No, no--aw--I could not--aw--allow you to do so," cried the young
officer, with such painful nervousness that Henry Halford drew back in
surprise, and Horace Wilton came to the rescue.

"We will not detain you any longer, Reginald," he said; "you have only
just time to cross the bridge. Good-by, good-by," he added, as they
hurriedly shook hands, while Henry, who had been taken aback by the
young officer's manner, merely raised his hat in token of farewell. The
two gentlemen stood for a few moments watching his progress till he was
lost to sight among the passengers on the opposite platform. Then Horace
Wilton took the arm of his friend, and as they left the station together
Henry remarked--

"Your friend's manner is peculiar; does it arise from pride or
nervousness?"

"Pride!" exclaimed his companion, "what in poor nervous Reginald Fraser?
no, indeed, yet to-day he appeared worse than usual; I cannot account
for it."

"This young officer, then, is identical with the timid child at Eton, of
whom I have heard you speak," said Henry. "He has evidently not outgrown
his nervous timidity. I hope I did not offend him by what I said."

"No, indeed, he is as amiable as ever, and not easily offended. This
nervousness is constitutional, and is always less under control in the
presence of a stranger."

"Will not this interfere with his duties as a soldier!"

"I think not, for Reginald is far from deficient in physical courage. I
have told you of the harsh treatment he received in early childhood: I
wonder the boy was not made an idiot."

"His grandfather intended to atone for this, I suppose, by leaving him
all his wealth; I have been told he has done so; is this a fact?" asked
Henry.

"It is a fact which, after the early training of the boy, might have
proved a curse to his manhood instead of a blessing," and then to the
young officer's unconscious rival Horace Wilton detailed his history,
his position, his wealth, and all the circumstances with which the
reader is already acquainted, save and except his hopes and aspirations
respecting Mary Armstrong.

But while Horace Wilton carefully preserved from Henry Halford the
secret which had been confided in him, he little imagined how much pain
one incautious word of his had occasioned to his nervous friend Reginald
Fraser.

It is said with truth that one distinguishing mark between men and women
is that the latter possess quicker perception, and the former clearer
judgment. In the almost feminine character of Reginald Fraser existed a
keenness of perception which resembled what is termed instinct; and this
instinctive power often caused him great mental pain from his extreme
sensitiveness, more especially so because he concealed his opinions from
those with whom he associated, even while these opinions increased an
outward display of nervousness.

Something of all this occasioned the strange manner which had so
surprised Henry Halford. The incautious mention of Kilburn by his friend
had been like a stone cast into the water; it caused a tumult in the
young man's mind which did not cease during the whole journey to London.

The fact that Wilton's friend resided at Kilburn had aroused in his
heart new ideas, which had scarcely time to form themselves into a
tangible shape before he was introduced to Henry Halford. As he
encountered that genial, easy manner and smiling intellectual face, at
once like a lightning flash came the firm conviction that the man before
him was the cause of Mary Armstrong's refusal to himself.

He had therefore, as we know, met him with painful nervousness. Like one
who walks in his sleep, he had crossed the bridge and waited for the
train. Still absorbed with the same conviction he chose an empty
first-class carriage, threw himself back on its cushions, and gave
himself up to an hour of mental torture.

Mortification, regret, and a depreciation of his own qualities when
compared to Henry Halford agitated him much more strongly than a feeling
of jealousy, although this for a time so powerfully affected him that
even the tears rushed to his eyes.

At length he regained control over himself. Other passengers entered the
carriage, gentler thoughts arose in his heart--yes, he would give up all
hope; if Mary Armstrong really loved another, could he not deny himself
to secure her happiness?

Perhaps this young clergyman would have only his stipend as a curate to
live upon, and should he with all his wealth wish to deprive him, not
only of such a wife as Mary Armstrong would make him, but also of the
fortune which her father proposed to give her?

No! The conflict was over, it had been a sharp discipline for the
amiable but weak-minded young officer, but it was necessary; it had not
only deepened the effect of Horace Wilton's advice, but when Reginald
Fraser left the train at Paddington, he felt like one who has passed
through a fierce conflict and gained strength by victory.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE NEW CURATE.


There is something in the calm of a Sunday evening in summer which seems
to cast a halo over the worshippers in a country church. The gradual
decline of daylight, the perfume of flowers which pervades the building
through open doors and casements, the slanting beams of the setting sun
shining through the western windows, radiant in crimson and gold, and
the joyous song of the birds chanting their evening hymn of praise, all
combine to impress the spirit with a sense of the presence of God, not
only among those who do not neglect the assembling of themselves
together to worship and to praise Him, but also in His "glorious works."

On such an evening two days after the Friday which had been so fatal to
Arthur Franklyn's schemes, Mr. Armstrong proposed to accompany his
daughter to the old parish church at Kilburn, which was at that period
merely a country village.

It was not often that Mr. Armstrong attended the evening service,
therefore excepting during her brother's holidays Mary was obliged to
remain at home also, for she could not go to church alone. Most readily
therefore she hailed the opportunity offered by her father, and hastily
arrayed herself in walking costume, a process by no means so troublesome
to a lady in summer as in winter.

They had scarcely taken their usual places in their pew when the chimes
ceased and the single five minutes bell began to toll.

Mr. Armstrong's pew was in the north gallery; therefore when the organ
pealed forth its introductory music, and the clergymen issued from the
vestry, Mary could see that one of them entered the reading desk and the
other within the communion rails, seating himself on the north side and
therefore hidden from their pew by the pulpit.

She paid but little attention to this circumstance, except to feel glad
that the old rector would have help for this evening at least, the whole
of the preceding Sunday services having been performed by him alone.

The fact of it being the first Sunday after Trinity suggested to Mary
Armstrong no cause for Henry Halford's absence from the boys' pew at
church. With all her cleverness in other subjects, she had very little
knowledge of clerical matters. The prayers used in what is called Ember
Week she had noticed and understood, but of their connexion with certain
Sundays in the year, among others Trinity Sunday, she knew nothing.

Following the service as it proceeded with true devotional feeling,
neither Mary Armstrong nor her father was prepared for the surprise that
awaited them.

During the singing of the hymn, and while standing in the pew, she could
see that as the rector left the reading desk to proceed to the vestry,
he was joined by a stranger; but only his white surplice was visible,
the vestry being on the same side as the gallery on which she stood, and
the entrance under it.

Those were the days when clergymen changed the surplice for the black
academical gown for preaching. Mary, quite engrossed with the music and
the words of the last verse of the hymn, did not glance towards the
pulpit till the preacher raised his head from his hands, and faced the
congregation.

He was very pale, this strange young clergyman, and as he laid his Bible
on the desk his hand trembled perceptibly.

He had seen at a glance as he entered the pulpit the figure in white
standing by Mr. Armstrong in the gallery near him. The unexpected
appearance at the evening service of any of the family took him by
surprise, and it required all the self-control he possessed to bring
himself to a proper frame of mind by the time the congregation were
ready to listen to him.

But the effort was successful, and as the full-toned young voice gave
out the text his natural power of concentration resumed its sway, the
glorious subject before him absorbed all his thoughts, and the natural
fluency with which Henry Halford expressed his ideas did not forsake him
now.

He had determined, long before his ordination, that he would adopt
extemporaneous preaching, and as the subject he had chosen fired the
intellectual powers and Christian principles of the young clergyman, his
hearers sat mute with surprise and admiration.

The sermon might have been styled an exposition of the thirteenth
chapter of the First of Corinthians, for not one of the attributes of
charity did he omit to notice; but his text contained only these
words--"The greatest of these is charity."

For more than half an hour did the congregation sit in breathless
attention to the sound reasoning, the clear explanations, and the bursts
of eloquence which almost electrified them; and when they rose as he
finished his sermon, there was not one who did not feel sorry it was
over.

But we are forgetting our friends in the front pew of the gallery. When
Mary Armstrong bowed her head in the short prayer before the sermon, she
had not particularly noticed the face of the new curate, as she supposed
him to be. The voice, at first low and indistinct, presently sounded
familiar. Yes, she had heard it before, but where? It ceased, and as she
rose from her knees and directed her attention to the preacher, she
recognised in the pale young clergyman before her, Henry Halford! One
glance at her father, and she saw by his returned glance, that he also
knew the name of the stranger who now as the servant of God stood forth
fearlessly as the instructor of the man who loved his money better than
his child's happiness.

Mary in her startled surprise felt the colour forsaking cheek and lips,
and a tendency to faint; but with a strong effort she roused herself. To
be carried out of church fainting was an ordeal she dreaded, and
therefore struggled against with all her strength.

More than once Mr. Armstrong looked at her anxiously, but she did not
flinch. No; she would stay and brave it all.

The conduct of Henry Halford also tended to restore her self-possession,
and before long she as well as her father became too deeply interested
in the sermon and the subject to think much of their surprise at finding
who was the preacher.

The attentive congregation, the summer evening associations to which
reference has been made, all had an influence upon the young girl's
mind, and for years after she never attended a summer evening service in
a country church without recalling this evening at Kilburn.

But when they rose to leave the church, there was a dread at Mary's
heart of what her father might say or suspect.

Mr. Armstrong, as we know, had a foolish prejudice about clergymen, and
although he attended church for the sake of appearances, and respected
the old rector because he could not help it, still he did not cultivate
his acquaintance, nor indeed the acquaintance of any families in
Kilburn, except the Drummonds and one or two others.

But for this exclusiveness he would have heard not only that the rector
had parted with his late curate, but also that he had engaged another,
and that other the son of his old friend Dr. Halford. More than this,
had not the heat formed an excuse for Mr. Armstrong, and a reason for
his wife to remain at home on that Sunday morning, they would have heard
Henry Halford read the forms which are necessary at the introduction of
a newly ordained curate, and also the prayers as his first clerical act.

"Did you know young Halford was going to preach this evening, Mary?" was
her father's first question as they proceeded homewards.

"No, papa; I did not even know that Mr. Halford was ordained."

Mr. Armstrong said no more, although while he asked the question he
suddenly remembered Cousin Sarah's information, and knew that Mary was
too truthful for him to doubt her assertion for an instant. The
remainder of the walk was continued in silence, both father and daughter
busied with their own reflections.

"Cousin Sarah is right," said the money-loving father to himself; "there
is great intellect, and a wonderful power of language and argument in
that young schoolmaster, and he knows how to take up a text too, and
interest his hearers. Once or twice in his definition of charity I
fancied he was preaching _at_ me, and in truth his arguments were very
strong, although rather Utopian in theory. What would become of trade,
and commerce, and money-getting in England or elsewhere, if we were to
possess the 'charity that seeketh not her own, that thinketh no evil, or
that suffereth long and is kind?' Where are the men of business who seek
not their own? What would be thought of the tradesman who trusted those
with whom he dealt without suspicion of evil? How would such conduct
agree with the maxim, that 'every man is a rogue till you have proved
him honest?' Where is the man, even with thousands at his banker's, who
'suffers long and is kind' to a debtor, before he punishes him with
legal proceedings? And yet these are the words of the Bible, which we as
Christians profess to believe. There must be something wrong at the root
of _our_ Christianity, if it cannot carry out the precepts of its
Founder." And then the memory of Edward Armstrong presented to him a
real proof that the precepts he had that evening heard were not so
directly opposed to the spirit and tenor of good business habits and
conduct as he imagined. No example of the charity spoken of by St. Paul
more truly existed with active business habits than in the character of
his own father; and then by a common association of ideas he remembered
that in a few weeks Mary would be of age, and entitled to receive the
legacy of 1000_l._ left her by her grandfather. "Why, even that sum
would help her and the young parson to marry in comfort," he reflected.
"It would at least insure a partnership for him in his father's school,
and I have made Mary domestic enough, even for a schoolmaster's wife;
and after she is of age I shall have no right to interfere with her."
Mr. Armstrong sighed as the approach to his own gates put a stop to
these reflections, yet he could not help saying to himself, "It would be
a terrible downfall to all my ambitious projects for my daughter; I do
not think I can give my consent after all."

The reader will understand what must have been the influence of Henry
Halford's first sermon, to produce such reflections in the mind of
Edward Armstrong.

The secret thoughts of his daughter may be summed up in a few words.

"Will my father change his mind now he sees how very clever Henry
Halford is?" said the young girl to herself, in the pride and joy of her
heart at his evident success in securing the attention of his hearers.
"Can he ever expect I could give him up, even for a duke with 50,000_l._
a year?"

And then as she followed her father in, and listened with surprise as he
described what had occurred to her mother, and even praised the subject
and style of the sermon, a new feeling of hope arose in her heart which
flushed her cheek and brightened her eye for the rest of the evening.
Mrs. Armstrong noticed the look of happiness on her daughter's face, and
when she wished her good night she whispered--

"You must tell me all about the sermon to morrow, darling."

But there were others in a quiet pew under the gallery at church who
were really more personally interested in the first efforts of the young
clergyman than even our friends at Lime Grove.

Kate Marston, Clara, Mabel, and James Franklyn were delighted listeners
to the sermon which had so roused Mr. Armstrong. But to the aged father
of Henry Halford came the memory of his dear wife's words, when they had
consulted on the means and advisability of educating him for the Church.
"We may hope to live to see our son a useful minister in the church,"
had been the mother's words, and that privilege had been denied her.
Mrs. Halford had gone to her rest, and the old man's first words when he
reached home and shook his son's hand warmly were, "In the midst of my
gratification, Henry, I have only one cause for regret, and that is that
your mother did not live to see this day."

"Better perhaps as it is, father," he replied. "You would not wish my
dear mother back, especially when such trouble has fallen upon Arthur."

"No, no; ah, I forgot, you are right, it is all for the best, 'He doeth
all things well.'"

Kate Marston stood by with tears of joy in her eyes; a true daughter and
sister was she in heart to the bereaved husband and only child of her
dear aunt Clara.

They had scarcely seated themselves at the supper-table, when a ring at
the front gate startled every one, and presently the housemaid appeared
with a pale face, and beckoned Henry Halford from the room.

"Oh, please sir, it's a telegraph boy, and he's brought this and he's to
wait for an answer."

Henry closed the dining-room door as she spoke, and took the missive in
his hand, feeling almost as alarmed as herself.

It was still twilight out of doors, and the hall gas not being lit,
Henry walked to the glass door entrance to read the telegram, dreading
he scarcely knew what.

He gave one hasty glance at the words, and read--

     "Dr. Gordon, Guy's Hospital, to Mr. Henry Halford, Englefield
     Grange.

     "A gentleman, with the initials A. F. on his clothes, is here
     dangerously ill; has asked for you. Come at once."

In a kind of bewilderment he looked round the hall, and saw the boy who
waited for the answer.

"There is no answer necessary, my boy," he said, "you need not wait."

Then as the telegraph messenger sallied out at the still open door,
Henry Halford turned hastily to the housemaid:--

"Go in quietly and tell Miss Marston she is wanted, Rebecca."

The girl obeyed, and presently that lady appeared with a startled look
on her face.

"What is it, Henry?" she asked anxiously.

"Something that must not be mentioned suddenly before my father or
Arthur's children," he replied; "read that, Kate."

He placed the telegram in her hands, and lighted the gas that she might
read it.

"Rebecca," he said, as the girl passed from the dining-room, "I can
trust to you, not to say one word to alarm any of the young people until
Miss Marston has given a reason for my absence. I am going to London
to-night; Mr. Franklyn is ill."

"I wont say a word to any one, Mr. Henry, I promise you," she replied.

"What can have happened?" said Kate Marston when they were again alone.

"It is impossible to say," he replied, "but I must not delay a moment;
break the news gently to my father and the children, while I put a few
things together in a carpet bag."

"But, Henry, you have had no supper, and after such a day of excitement
too; oh! I am very sorry, let me bring you a glass of wine."

"No, no," he said, going upstairs two steps at a time, "I can get
something in London, but you may find Bradshaw if you will, Kate."

Henry Halford was back again to the hall ready for his departure almost
as quickly as Kate with the time-table.

"You have plenty of time," she said, "there, is a train at 9.40, and if
you miss that, another at 10.5."

"Oh, thank you; all right, I can easily catch the 9.40. Good-by, Kate,
make the best of it till you hear from me."

And so ended at Kilburn the Sunday on which Henry Halford entered upon
his duties as a clergyman.



CHAPTER XXXII.

AT GUY'S HOSPITAL.


While the train is speeding on with Henry Halford to the Euston Station,
we will go back to the Friday afternoon when Arthur Franklyn was carried
in an apparently lifeless state to Guy's.

When dragged from the water many voices were raised in eager haste.
"Send for a doctor!" "Carry him to the hotel!" "No use, the man is
dead!" "Nonsense, he hasn't been five minutes in the water." This and
other confusing advice was, however, set aside by the appearance of two
policemen with a cab. Putting back the crowd, they lifted in the
apparently drowned man, and bidding the driver make haste, jumped in
with him.

The rapid movement produced an unexpected effect. Before they were half
over London Bridge the policeman who sat opposite to Arthur was startled
at seeing the eyes of the supposed dead man open suddenly, and after a
heavily drawn breath came the words, "My carpet bag! where is my carpet
bag?" The wild eyes, the unexpected recovery, and the firmly uttered
words took these officers of the law by surprise.

"All right, sir, don't you go worritting yourself about carpet bags;
yours is all safe, I daresay," was all one of them could reply in a
soothing tone before the cab stopped at the hospital entrance, to the
great satisfaction of Arthur Franklyn's companions.

The medical officers were quickly in attendance, but the shock of the
accident had so increased the feverish excitement of Arthur Franklyn,
that on being taken out of the cab he struggled with those who held him,
and exclaimed frantically, "I must go back! You shall not detain me!
Where is my carpet bag?"

Regardless of his almost frenzied manner, which they judged to arise
from incipient disease, the attendants quickly relieved Arthur of his
wet clothes; he was placed in bed, and the remedies against the
consequences of a cold bath while in such a heated state vigorously
applied.

But there were other causes at work in that excited brain at present
unknown to the hospital doctors, and before night the patient was
tossing from side to side of the bed in the alternate delirium and
stupor which attends brain fever. His clothes were eagerly searched to
find a letter or address which might give some clue to his friends, for
he was evidently a gentleman, but with no success.

Arthur's great anxiety to conceal his name and his movements, now bid
fair to elude all attempts to discover his relations. He had booked
himself for the voyage under a false name, and the initials A. F. on his
linen were of very little use.

In the midst of his delirium his words were so incoherent that none
could be distinguished but the constant cry for the "carpet bag." At
last, during the afternoon of Sunday, although still insensible to
surrounding objects, his muttered words became more distinct.

Dr. Gordon was standing by his side listening anxiously to the wandering
expressions of the patient, when Arthur Franklyn half-rose in the bed
and exclaimed, "I must go to Kilburn! Ah! Henry Halford, what have I
done! And you will tell Fanny." He sunk back exhausted as he uttered
these words in a low piteous tone.

But this was enough for Dr. Gordon. He went to the county directory and
quickly finding the name of Halford and Englefeld Grange, sent the
telegram at once.

"I have telegraphed to the gentleman named by the patient," he said to
the nurse; "he cannot be here before ten at the earliest, I will return
by that time."

It was within an hour after receiving the message that the cab taken by
Henry Halford at Euston Square reached London Bridge and drove to Guy's
Hospital.

He was admitted at once to the presence of Dr. Gordon, who received the
gentleman, whose clerical dress denoted his office, with great
cordiality.

"I presume this gentleman is my brother-in-law," was the young
clergyman's first remark, "by the initials A. F.; if so, his name is
Arthur Franklyn: is he too ill to recognise me?"

"I fear so; he has been delirious ever since he was brought here, and
until to-day he has not uttered a name with sufficient distinctness to
be understood."

"What is the nature of his complaint?" asked Henry.

"Brain fever," replied the doctor; "and we have been obliged to have his
head shaved, so that perhaps you may find a great difficulty in
recognising him."

"We have almost feared he would have some attack of this kind," said
Henry; "he has had a great amount of excitement during the last
fortnight, since the sudden death of his wife in a railway carriage."

"What!" exclaimed Dr. Gordon, "are you referring to the case of Mrs.
Franklyn? Of course, yes, that was the name. I read an account of it in
the papers, and indeed such a painful occurrence was almost sufficient
of itself to produce irritation of the brain, if this gentleman is Mr.
Franklyn."

"I have no doubt of it, doctor; but my brother-in-law had apartments in
London at the West End--how came he here?"

"I cannot ascertain the correct facts, but it appears that our patient
was crossing a plank to go on board a steamer lying in the Thames at
London Bridge, and fell into the river. He was recovered from the water
quickly and brought to the hospital; a few minutes longer would have
proved fatal to him. I have no doubt he lost his balance from giddiness,
for this brain fever had been coming on for days."

"I suppose we cannot remove Mr. Franklyn yet?" said Henry.

"Remove him! my dear sir, no; impossible, till we can ascertain what
turn the disorder takes; but you shall see him and judge for yourself."

Henry Halford followed the surgeon up the stairs in silence. He had
never before entered an hospital, and through the open doors of the
different wards as he passed, he caught glimpses of sufferers in the
various stages and forms of disease, which reminded him of Milton's
lines--

    Dire was the tossing, deep the groans; despair
    Tended the sick, busied from couch to couch;
    And over them triumphant death his dart
    Shook, but delayed to strike.

Yet the cleanliness and calm of the place made him thank God in his
heart for these noble institutions, where the suffering poor can obtain
every comfort and care in times of sickness, as well as the most skilful
medical advice. On a bed separated by a screen from the other patients
lay Arthur Franklyn, but so changed in appearance that for a moment
Henry Halford could scarcely recognise him.

The stricken man who lay tossing to and fro on the bed had nothing to
remind us of Arthur Franklyn but his features, and even these were drawn
and distorted. The shaven head, on which lay cloths steeped in vinegar;
the flushed and heated face; the wild, dilated eyes, from which mind and
soul had departed, leaving a blank look which seemed to mock their
brilliance--all presented to the pitying eyes of the young clergyman a
sight never to be forgotten.

"It _is_ my brother-in-law, Dr. Gordon," he said at last; "but what a
wreck of himself! He does not appear to know me in the least."

"Try what your voice can do," replied the doctor; "speak to him, Mr.
Halford."

"Arthur! Arthur Franklyn!" he exclaimed, bending over the patient, "do
you know me?"

The eyes turned towards him with a vacant look, but no recognition; and
presently the muttering of delirium again commenced, in which Henry
could now and then distinguish his own name and his sister's, as well as
those of his children and his second wife.

"Is there any hope of his recovery, Dr. Gordon?" said Henry, almost in
tears. "He has four motherless children."

"Well, I cannot deny that there is hope," he said; "for Mr. Franklyn has
a good constitution, and may perhaps battle with the disease, but his
recovery will be followed by a period of painful exhaustion. There is
evidently something on his mind in addition to the excitement caused by
the death of Mrs. Franklyn. He seems also to be in great trouble about
the loss of his carpet bag, which fell with him into the water, but has
not yet been recovered."

Dr. Gordon had spoken in a low tone, yet the ear of the sufferer caught
the word. He started up in bed.

"Where is Henry? Tell him to find the carpet bag. I'll tell him what is
in it. They cannot touch me; there's nothing they can prove. Ah, let me
go for it. I must save my children!" and he attempted to get out of bed,
but fell back, too much exhausted to resist the doctor in his firm
efforts to prevent him.

"I can do no good by staying here, doctor," said Henry, after a pause;
"but if you will kindly describe the spot where the accident took place,
I can make inquiries about the carpet bag to-morrow. In the meantime, as
Mr. Franklyn cannot be moved, I am sure we may leave him safely here,
and pay whatever expenses are incurred for him while in the hospital."

"If his friends wish to do so, it can be easily arranged," said Dr.
Gordon, as he and Henry descended the stairs; "and you may depend upon
having a telegram from me should a change for the worse take place."

The two gentlemen parted at the door of the hospital, the one to wend
his way homeward after his arduous duties, and the other to find himself
in the streets of London on a Sunday night within half an hour of
midnight.

He had left his own carpet bag at an hotel near Guy's, and here, after a
day of excitement and fatigue, he was at last able to take some slight
refreshment. Although almost without appetite he felt it as a duty he
owed himself to try to eat a little.

"I must telegraph home and to the rectory in the morning," he said to
himself as he sought this pillow; "if I stay in London till to-morrow I
may perhaps hear something of this carpet bag which appears to disturb
poor Arthur's mind so terribly."

Early next morning Henry was down at the wharf described by Dr. Gordon,
and, without acknowledging his relationship, questioned those on the
spot about the gentleman who had fallen into the water on the previous
Friday.

Full particulars were soon obtained of the accident, and then his
informant remarked--

"I suppose you see'd an account of the haccident in the papers, master?"

"No," he replied, almost with a start; "what paper is it in?"

"Oh, pretty nigh all on 'em, for you see we thought for sure the
gentleman were dead; but he frightened the two bobbies that went with
him in the cab above a bit by jumping up and crying out about his carpet
bag. I suppose there was some valuables in that 'ere bag, but the Thames
searchers have been a-looking for it ever since, and they ain't seen
nothing on it yet."

Henry gave the man a gratuity, which made him touch the brim of his hat
in token of approval.

Henry turned again as he moved to go--"Do you know the men who are
searchers of the Thames?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, I knows 'em well."

"Tell them, then, that if they find this bag, and will send it to the
Terminus Hotel, London Bridge, I will take care they are paid well for
their trouble."

"I'll tell 'em, sir, all right," said the man.

Henry Halford returned to the hotel, and made an arrangement with the
waiter respecting the missing bag.

"You can telegraph to me when it arrives," said Henry; "and if the men
refuse to leave it, tell them to bring it again in a few hours and wait
for me. Here is my card and address. You will be sure to attend to this,
for it is very important."

"You may depend upon me, sir," said the man.

And then Henry turned his steps once more to Guy's Hospital.

Dr. Gordon was absent, but the house surgeon sent for Mr. Halford to his
private room.

"I do not consider Mr. Franklyn worse or better," he said, in answer to
Henry's inquiries. "He is quieter to-day, but with no lucid intervals. I
think, however, that the disease is working itself out, and there is
nothing for us but patience. Will you see him?"

"No, thank you, I think not to-day; but you will let me know when a
change takes place?"

"Without fail, Mr. Halford, you may depend upon that."

The gentlemen parted cordially, and Henry, calling a cab, was driven to
the Euston Station, almost dreading the return home, where he should
appear as the bearer of such painful tidings.

While in the train Henry Halford reflected anxiously on what could be
deposited in this carpet bag to cause his brother-in-law such painful
anxiety. He had also not been able to discover to what steamer he was
proceeding when attempting to cross the plank. All he could ascertain
from the men about the wharf was that two or three steamers were moored
alongside each other, one of them being a large Melbourne packet.

"Arthur could not have intended to leave England, or his children," said
Henry to himself, "without informing us of his intentions, or taking
leave of them."

This idea seemed so utterly improbable that Henry dismissed it from his
mind as absurd.

"I will say nothing to excite suspicion at home," he thought. "There is
real trouble enough in his illness without adding to it by conjecture of
evil. We must wait patiently, and hope and pray for the poor fellow's
recovery."

Henry Halford did not know that Arthur's boxes had been carried on shore
from the Melbourne packet at Gravesend because the passenger whose name
they bore was not on board when the ship arrived there. But the name on
these boxes was not Franklyn.

Henry's appearance at Englefield Grange was hailed with trembling
anxiety.

"Oh, uncle Henry," exclaimed Clara, with pale lips, "how is dear papa?
We know all about the accident--it's in the _Times_."

"Stay, Clara dear," said Kate Marston; "your uncle looks tired and
anxious. Only tell us one thing, Henry: have you seen Arthur, and is he
still living?"

"Yes, Kate; he is in Guy's Hospital, and receiving every attention and
kindness, but he is indeed most seriously ill. Don't grieve, my dear
Clara," he continued, putting his arm round his niece as she burst into
tears at his words, and leading her into the little breakfast parlour;
"for grandpapa's sake, and your sister and brothers, keep up a brave
spirit. Your dear father is in God's hands, and we must pray and hope."

Clara dried her tears and listened with painful interest to her uncle
Henry's description of her poor father's accident, and the illness from
which he now suffered.

But her uncle's words had aroused her usual calm self-possession, and
she determined to subdue her own sorrow for the sake of those whom she
loved so well.

Henry Halford, during the first few days of this sad week, was making
himself acquainted with his duties as a curate, and while thus engaged,
or busy in the schoolroom, he could banish from his mind the vague
suspicions about Arthur which still troubled him when unemployed.

He was mourning over the impossibility of obtaining time to visit the
hospital more frequently, when he was one morning surprised soon after
breakfast by the appearance of Mr. Drummond and a gentleman whom he
introduced as his nephew, George Longford.

On entering the drawing-room, Mr. Drummond came forward with eager
sympathy, and taking Henry's offered hand, he exclaimed--

"My dear Henry, I am indeed grieved to hear of these overwhelming
troubles which have fallen upon your family in such quick succession,
and I and my nephew are come to offer our services if agreeable."

"Pray be seated," said Henry, placing chairs for his visitors.

"Thank you, no; we have only a few moments to stay, and our business is
soon told. My nephew George, who is staying with us for a short time, is
walking the hospitals. He will be at Guy's every day, and will gladly
bring you news--good news, I hope--respecting Mr. Franklyn on his return
each evening to my house."

"It is indeed a very kind proposal," said Henry, "I shall be most
grateful, for we have my brother-in-law's four children here, and the
elder ones are of course very anxious about their father. Unfortunately,
it is my first initiation into parish work this week, and as we are
within a fortnight of the midsummer vacation my presence is required in
the schoolroom almost constantly, and I cannot visit the hospital as
often as I could wish."

"I had some idea of all these difficulties," said Mr. Drummond, "but my
nephew's reports will relieve you of this anxiety, so make yourself easy
on the matter."

"You may depend upon me," said George Longford, as the gentlemen hurried
away after shaking hands warmly; "you shall have the latest information
every evening. I will call here on my way home."

Henry Halford parted from the gentlemen with cordial and earnest thanks.
It would be a great mental relief to him as well as to Kate Marston to
receive daily information respecting Arthur. They already began to feel
the responsibility which the care of Arthur's children involved, not so
much on account of the additional expense, but from their motherless
condition.

"I do hope poor Arthur wont die and leave these poor children fatherless
as well as motherless," said Kate Marston on the day Mr. Drummond had
called, "but I suppose there will be plenty of money to support them in
case of such a sad event."

"No matter if there is not, Kate; my father would never forsake dear
Fanny's children. Neither would I, even if they were left penniless."

"I know that well," she replied, her eyes filling with tears. "Uncle has
been a second father to me for half my life--since I was left an
orphan."

"We must not anticipate evil, Kate," said her cousin. "I hope all will
end well with poor Arthur, although it would grieve you painfully to see
how he is changed. But where is the _Times_? I have not read the
paragraph Clara spoke of yesterday."

Kate fetched the paper, and pointing to the paragraph, placed it in his
hands.

Henry took it nervously. The mystery of the carpet bag still haunted
him, and seemed ominous of evil. He glanced hurriedly over the account,
which ran as follows:--

"DANGEROUS ACCIDENT.--On Friday afternoon a gentleman, in attempting to
cross a plank from the shore near London Bridge to reach a distant
steamer, lost his footing and fell into the water. With great difficulty
he was brought to land by the activity and energy of those around him.
He was immediately taken in a cab to Guy's Hospital, but recovering
animation before he reached there, he showed by evident signs that he
must have been under the influence of incipient brain fever, for he
called frantically for his carpet bag, which had fallen with him into
the river. He is now lying in a very precarious state at the hospital.
We understand from good authority that the gentleman who has had such a
narrow escape from drowning is Mr. Arthur Franklyn, whose wife died
suddenly in a railway carriage a few weeks since. His present state, and
the accident that preceded it, may therefore be easily accounted for
under such painful circumstances."

"It is no more than I expected," said Kate, as her cousin threw down the
paper. "Arthur has looked dreadfully ill since poor Louisa's death. Do
you know, Henry, I fear he has no claim on her property after all."

"What makes you think so?" asked Henry, in surprise.

"Oh, the remark he made to me on the day he started for London after you
left. I understood him to say that he had taken no steps to ascertain
his position with regard to his wife's property before his marriage."

"I had some suspicions that such was the case," replied Henry, "when he
asked me to recommend him a lawyer; and I believe he had been with Mrs.
Franklyn to call on Mr. Norton for the purpose of arranging for him to
witness certain signatures on the day of her sudden death. It certainly
will be a disappointment to Arthur if his second wife's property is all
lost to him; but from his own account of his position and means I do not
suppose he will feel it much--at all events we must hope so."

Kate made no reply. She had seen more of Arthur Franklyn during his
visit than her cousin, and she could not get rid of the idea that a
great deal of the uneasy and perturbed state of mind so evident in his
manner and appearance was caused by anxiety about money.

George Longford, according to his promise, brought to Englefield Grange
daily accounts of Arthur Franklyn's state--at times alarming, at others
hopeful.

More than once Henry visited the hospital to obtain personally the
opinion of the surgeons, yet nearly a week passed before his
brother-in-law was able in a lucid interval to recognise him.

But this recognition was attended with painful results. For a few
minutes the sick man spoke calmly to Henry, and listened to his kind and
hopeful words. Suddenly, as if stung by some painful recollection, he
exclaimed--

"Go, go; you are come to reproach me! O Fanny, Fanny, what have I done!
My children, my children! Don't revenge yourself on them, Henry, by
letting them starve!"

Poor Henry was hurried away, and returned home agonised by the thought,
not only that his presence at the hospital might have hastened his
brother-in-law's death, but also by the terrible fear which his words
had suggested. What, oh! what had poor Arthur done?

Nothing now remained but patience and hope, yet as week after week
passed by all hope seemed to die in the hearts of his children and the
loving friends in whose care they were placed.

Not till the second week in July could Arthur Franklyn be pronounced out
of danger; and in this hopeful condition we will leave him, to return to
our friends at Kilburn.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

CHARLES HERBERT GIVES HIS OPINION.


Mrs. Armstrong had seen very little of her eldest sister for years, nor
of Mrs. Herbert since Mary's visit to Park Lane. Sir James Elstone, the
old admiral, still resided with his wife in the south of France. He was,
as we know from Mrs. Lake's information to Edward Armstrong before his
marriage, more than thirty years older than Louisa St. Clair, and was
now eighty years of age. Louisa, although she bore the title of Lady
Elstone, performed the office of a kind and faithful nurse to her aged
husband, who was fast sinking into the grave.

Her sister Helen, Mrs. Herbert, possessed the good health and sunny
temper which made her society always welcome at the homes of her two
sisters. Maria had a family to care for, and she was naturally a home
bird; and besides, she had a sweet companion and comforter in her
daughter Mary.

Mrs. Herbert, while her son was away, had no home ties, and the colonel,
who had spent more than half his life in India, preferred the beautiful
climate of the Mediterranean to the fogs and uncertain weather of
England. All these facts were turned into arguments in favour of her
request by Lady Elstone when she wrote and asked her sister Helen and
the colonel to join them at their _château_ on the shores of the
Mediterranean. This invitation arrived soon after Mary's visit to Park
Lane, and a year had elapsed since Mrs. Armstrong had seen her sister
Helen, who, however, kept up a constant correspondence with Mary.

On the Tuesday morning, at the time when Kate Franklyn placed Monday's
_Times_ in the hands of her cousin, Henry Halford, Mary sat reading to
her mother a letter of many pages from her favourite aunt. She had
already on the previous day read and commented upon the paragraph
referred to with earnest sympathy. Not even her mother could guess the
longing in her daughter's heart to be able to show that sympathy to the
children of the suffering father, and the nieces and nephews of Henry
Halford. But another subject occupied her now. Charles Herbert's
regiment was on its way to England from Canada, and Mrs. Herbert in her
letter stated that they hoped to be in Park Lane to receive their son
before the end of July, and that Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter were to
expect a very speedy visit to Lime Grove after their arrival.

"We were sorry to leave poor Aunt Louisa just at this time," wrote Mrs.
Herbert, "for the old admiral cannot last long. However, your uncle has
promised to go to her at a moment's notice, for at her husband's death
there will be too much for a woman to manage, especially with lawyers."

All Mary's pity for her aunt Louisa could not serve to control her
pleasure at the prospect of seeing her aunt and uncle and cousin
Charles.

"O mamma!" she said, as she refolded the crinkly sheets of foreign
paper, "is not this delightful news--at least all excepting that about
poor Aunt and Uncle Elstone? but Aunt Louisa is a much greater stranger
to me than Aunt Helen, she has lived abroad so long with uncle. But I
shall count the days till Aunt Helen comes; are you not pleased, mamma?"

"Indeed I am," said Mrs. Armstrong; "but, Mary, if you are invited again
to Park Lane, are you prepared to accept the invitation?"

"Not for longer than a day or two, mamma, and I don't think Aunt Helen
will ask me; she was too much annoyed about the consequences of my visit
last year; you remember what she said about it."

"Yes, Mary; but, my child, you will be one-and-twenty next month; have
you made up your mind to remain single all your life?"

"Yes, mamma," said Mary, with a merry laugh; "_I_ mean to be a useful
old maid, attending to my dear mother, and that 'blessing to mothers,' a
kind maiden aunt to the children of my brothers when they are
married----"

"Unless----" said Mrs. Armstrong, with a smile.

"Unless what, mamma? An impossibility?"

"What is impossible, Mary?"

"Why, for papa to change his mind. After he has once made a resolve he
adheres to it, even when he has been convinced that he is in error."

"He considers that adherence to his resolve is a manly firmness of
purpose," said her mother.

"Well, mamma, this firmness of purpose puzzles me sometimes, for a great
writer has said that the man who changes an erroneous opinion after
being convinced that it is wrong proves that he is wiser when he changes
it than he was when he formed it."

"A little bit of philosophy, Mary," said her mother, smiling; "and so I
suppose you consider the _unless_ an impossibility?"

"Indeed I do, mamma, so we will not talk about it;" and rising hastily
as if to strengthen her determination, she seated herself at the piano,
and commenced practising a somewhat difficult sonato of Beethoven's.

The weeks passed away, and the morning of the 15th of July dawned in
summer glory, giving a promise that for once St. Swithin would be
propitious. There was a strange sense of happiness in Mary's heart as
she entered the dining-room, and looked out upon the distant hills of
Highgate and Harrow, which appeared almost transparent beneath the
purple haze that rested upon them.

The source of Mary's happiness was a slight one, it is true, but it
augured better things, and was therefore tinted with the rainbow hues of
hope. She had driven her puny carriage to the station the evening before
to meet her father, who, having encountered Mr. Drummond on the
platform, invited him to take a seat in the carriage as far as the
Limes.

The offer was accepted, and Mr. Drummond, quite unaware that he was
touching on dangerous ground, remarked, as soon as the carriage
started--

"What a narrow escape from death that young man, Arthur Franklyn, has
had! but he is so much better to-day, that they are going to remove him
to the Isle of Wight on Tuesday or Wednesday. I am heartily glad of it,
for the sake of those poor motherless children."

"Yes, indeed, it would be a great burden and expense to their
grandfather to have to provide for four children, which I suppose he can
ill afford."

"I don't know that, Armstrong, even if their father was not in a
position to make provision for their maintenance. Of course it would add
to his expenses, but not beyond his means. What made you think
otherwise?"

"Oh!" replied Mr. Armstrong, who already began to regret having offered
his friend a lift, "well, schoolmasters are always poor as a rule, and
in some cases half-educated; but," he continued hastily, "Dr. Halford is
certainly an exception to the latter assumption."

"Schoolmasters in provincial towns and villages are not as a rule men of
education; it was especially so when we were boys," said Mr. Drummond,
firing a shot at a venture, which made Mr. Armstrong wince; "but my
friend Dr. Halford is also an exception to your first assertion. Why, he
gave his daughter 1000_l._ on her wedding-day, and I know it has cost
him nearly another thousand to educate his son for the Church."

"Was not that a waste of money, if he intended him to be a schoolmaster
as he now is?"

"No, certainly not; with a university education, a man who has been
accustomed from his boyhood to teaching and school routine is beyond all
others most suitable to conduct a school. And besides," continued Mr.
Drummond, "what are the head masters of Eton and Harrow, or Rugby, but
schoolmasters and gentlemen? and how often have the masters of these
schools been chosen for the office of bishop! and some eventually have
attained to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury."

"Well, I confess," said Mr. Armstrong, "I have been too much engrossed
in business matters to acquire a knowledge of these particulars, and
perhaps I have gained my ideas from my experience in youth, and from the
general opinion of business men. The idea that a schoolmaster could give
his daughter 1000_l._ on her wedding-day would have appeared to me years
ago an impossibility."

"There are hundreds of educated clever men who are as successful as Dr.
Halford," replied Mr. Drummond, "and he only began with a small capital,
left him at his father's death, and with the recommendation of the late
Lord Rivers, father of his pupil, the present earl. He has good but not
exorbitant terms, his boys are all of the better class, the family live
in a comfortable but not extravagant style, and I know that the doctor's
income, not net of course, has averaged from two to three thousand a
year for many years."

They were drawing near Lime Grove as Mr. Drummond spoke, and for a few
moments silence ensued, then he remarked suddenly--

"Setting aside the subject of schoolmasters, Armstrong, what do you
think of our new curate?"

In spite of the firmness with which Mary had restrained the inclination
to glance at her father, who sat by her side during this conversation,
she could not resist doing so now.

The movement of the head was, however, unnoticed by her father, who,
with all his foolish prejudices and stubborn will, had a keen sense of
justice.

His answer came, spontaneous and candid--

"I consider Mr. Henry Halford a clever, intellectual, and gentlemanly
young man, and one of the finest preachers and readers I ever heard in
my life."

"Well done, Armstrong, that is a testimony worth having, for you are a
good judge, and so are the people of Kilburn, for the old church is
filling tremendously; and now we are at your house. Thank you very much
for this lift on the road."

"Let Mary drive you home, Drummond," said her father as the gentleman
alighted, "or Rowland can do so if you like," for Mary's old protector
in childish rides is still Mr. Armstrong's groom.

But Mr. Drummond refused. "No, no," he said, "I shall like the walk
home, thank you, Miss Armstrong, all the same," for Mary sat still
holding the reins, waiting for his decision.

He assisted her to alight as he spoke, and then after a pleasant
farewell Mr. Drummond turned towards home, and father and daughter
entered the house.

Mary went upstairs to her room to prepare for dinner, with sunshine at
her heart. It had been pleasant to hear Mr. Drummond combat her father's
opinions with so much energy, but what was that compared to his
evidently truthful testimony respecting Henry Halford?

How every word of that praise was echoed in her own heart! more
especially because she knew that her father would not have uttered such
an opinion in her presence had he not truly felt what he said.

She had described the conversation and its delightful termination to her
mother, who smiled, but said nothing either to damp her joy or encourage
her hopes.

But the word _unless_, and the remarks it occasioned, arose from what
had passed between Mr. Drummond and her father on the preceding evening.

On the morning of the day on which her uncle, aunt, and Cousin Herbert
were expected, we left Mary standing at the window of the dining-room
and looking out on the summer landscape, while waiting for the urn to
make the tea and prepare breakfast as usual.

During this meal the conversation naturally turned on their expected
visitors, who had promised to remain till Monday or Tuesday.

"They called at Dover Street yesterday," said Mr. Armstrong, "to give
notice of their arrival, and to tell me not to expect them to-day till
about four o'clock. They will drive down in the open carriage, for Helen
says she means to explore the country with you, Maria; and the horses
can travel farther than Mary's ponies."

"Aunt Helen does not know the capabilities of my ponies," said Mary,
laughing, "and three days will not give us time enough to do much. Poor
old Boosey, he is quite discarded now; but he does not appear in the
least jealous because the other horses work and he is allowed to be
idle."

"Very likely not," said Mr. Armstrong, laughing; "but he must expect to
work all the harder when the boys come home."

Mr. Armstrong rose at the sound of his horse's feet at the gate. He
still at times rode Firefly to town; he could not part with the horse on
which he had accompanied his daughter so often in her evening rides,
although the railway, when Mary drove him to the station, was a great
convenience.

Mary's lively remarks about her ponies had produced a twinge of
conscience in her father; her manner reminded him of olden times, before
he had crushed her girlish hopes by refusing a young man of whom he knew
nothing, and without any inquiries as to his family and position, also
while under the influence of prejudices which Mr. Drummond had flung to
the winds.

These foolish prejudices had induced Mr. Armstrong to place his two
elder boys at a public school, and Freddy with a lady who took little
boys under ten. But Mr. Drummond's remarks had proved that there existed
private schools, with masters equally clever and gentlemanly. He knew
also that the bright looks and cheerful tones of his daughter arose from
his clearly expressed opinion of Henry Halford the evening before.

"I am afraid I shall have to give way at last," he said to himself as he
rode slowly along the Kilburn Road; "but it will defeat all my schemes
for my daughter's future. What a splendid match such a girl as she is
might have made but for this unfortunate acquaintance with the son of a
schoolmaster! However, the Herberts are coming by-and-by. I must get
Helen to talk to Mary. Mrs. Herbert's mother was proud and ambitious
enough about her daughters, and had I not had money"--and he paused as a
memory arose, and then added, "and the love and gratitude of Maria St.
Clair, I should have had but a poor chance."

Such reflections as these always aroused conscience in Mr. Armstrong's
heart. He loosened Firefly's bridle, and the spirited though
well-trained animal started off at a trot towards town, scattering his
rider's painful thoughts with every movement.

But Mr. Armstrong's hopes of gaining allies in his wife's relations were
very quickly crushed.

When he returned home he found the colonel and his wife seated in the
drawing-room with Mrs. Armstrong, and Mary walking round the garden with
her cousin.

"Come and show me the garden, Mary," had been the request of the captain
after she had laughingly joked him on his large black whiskers and
generally fierce appearance, and she had readily complied with his wish.

"So you are not married yet, Mary," were his first words, as they stood
for a moment on the steps leading into the garden to admire the
prospect; "why, I heard such accounts from my mother of your conquests
and splendid offers, that I almost expected to find my pretty cousin a
duchess or at least a countess."

"Oh, don't joke about these things, cousin Charles," she replied, with a
flush on her face and a quivering lip, "you cannot think what pain it
gave me to refuse these gentlemen who so kindly preferred me to others,
but I could not have married any of them."

Charles Herbert observed the flush and the trembling lip, and for a
short distance they walked on in silence. "There is something hidden
under all this," he said to himself; "my mother wont tell me anything,
but I mean to find out."

They continued their walk, now and then pausing to notice the beautiful
flowers that bordered their path. Mary, who had quickly recovered
herself, soon convinced her cousin that she knew more of botany than he
did.

They turned into a pleasant walk bordered with shrubs and overshadowed
with trees, and reached the shrubbery.

"Mary," said her cousin suddenly, "tell me the truth; I have a reason
for asking; is Henry Halford at the bottom of all this indifference to
wealth and position and that sort of thing?"

Mary's eyes filled with tears; the presence of her cousin Charles had
recalled to her memory the happy week at Oxford, and the reminiscences
thus aroused were more than she could bear unmoved. She turned very
pale, but she had no wish to disguise the truth from her cousin, the
playmate of her childhood; and she said--

"I will tell you the truth, Charles. Henry Halford wrote to papa, but I
never saw the letter. Papa wrote a refusal without asking me, and I knew
nothing of these letters till nearly a year afterwards."

"Who told you then?"

"Poor Mrs. Halford. She became paralysed and weak-minded after the death
of her daughter, and used to be drawn about in an invalid-chair. One day
when I was walking with mamma we met her, and then in some way she
slipped it out. It was the very day that Captain Fraser called upon papa
and asked him for me."

"And was this the real cause of your refusing Captain Fraser?"

"I could never have married him, Charlie," she said. "You know what he
is; nor could I if he had been worth 50,000_l._ a year instead of
twelve; so I should have refused him at all events; but hearing about
Henry Halford's letter made me more decided. Oh, Charles, don't remind
me of that time; I never saw papa so angry in my life, but I kept firm."

"And this Mr. Halford--do you think he is still attached to you?"

"I don't know; don't ask any more questions, Charlie. I'm sure I've told
you quite enough." And Mary spoke with her usual vivacity: she had dried
her tears and decked her face with smiles, but her cousin had touched
upon too tender a string to be made the subject of cousinly
conversation.

The sound of the dinner-bell happened opportunely at this moment, and
Charles entered the dining-room with his cousin on his arm, to receive a
warm welcome from the uncle who had once saved him from a watery grave.

The conversation at dinner turned upon Mrs. Herbert's recollections of
her pleasant stay at Lady Elstone's on the shores of the Mediterranean,
but she very quickly gave place to her son. Her recent visit to the
Château de Lisle was not her first, but Charlie's description of Canada
and its inhabitants had all the freshness of novelty, and was listened
to with great interest.

During dessert, however, as they sat trifling with the summer fruit, and
enjoying the sweet evening breeze that fluttered the muslin window
curtains, Charles made his first plunge.

After what Mary had told him he had braced his nerves to expect an
outburst of anger from his irascible uncle, but he knew Mary too well to
fear a scene on her part.

"So my friend Henry Halford is ordained, I hear," were the words that
covered Mary's face with blushes, and threw a silence on every one
present except Mr. Armstrong, who said with a flushed face and a look of
contempt--

"_Your_ friend, Charles? Ah, yes, I remember, I have been told you had
that honour."

"It has not been a constant or intimate friendship," he replied; "but I
was a fellow-pupil with him at Dr. Mason's for two years while he was
preparing for the university. I did not at first recognise him when we
met at Oxford, but as the intimate associate of Horace Wilton I consider
the friendship of such a man as Henry Halford a very high honour."

There was a pause, during which Mrs. Armstrong would have given the
signal for leaving the table, but she wished to hear what Charles had to
say, and she did not fear an outbreak on the part of her husband in such
company.

"I have heard Charles speak of this young man while with Dr. Mason,"
said the colonel; "he was then a youth of remarkable powers and
intellectual tastes; his relations are neighbours of yours, Armstrong?"

"Yes; father and son are schoolmasters," was the curt reply.

Edward Armstrong, finding all his preconceived notions and objections
slipping from under his feet, began to feel slightly irritable.

Mrs. Armstrong saw it, and gave the signal, of which her sister and Mary
very gladly availed themselves, leaving the three gentlemen alone.

"There is nothing detrimental in a man of education filling the place of
a schoolmaster," remarked the colonel, taking up the subject again after
the ladies had left; "besides, this young man is now a clergyman, and
admissible to the highest circles in the kingdom."

"I've heard all that over and over again lately," replied Mr. Armstrong,
quietly; the presence of his daughter had been the chief cause of his
rising irritation. It appeared to him as if every one was endeavouring
to counteract in her mind the mean opinion which he wished her to form
of the man whom she placed in the way of her most brilliant offers.

"The truth is, colonel," he continued, "I cannot deny the talents and
other estimable qualities of this young parson; he is good-looking,
gentlemanly, and a preacher of remarkable powers, but I cannot forgive
him for aspiring to the hand of my daughter, and preventing her from
marrying into a position which her talents, her education, and her
personal attractions would obtain for her, independently of the
15,000_l._ or 20,000_l._ I could give her as a marriage portion."

"Well, if the young people like each other I'm very sorry for them,
that's all I can say; however, you know your own affairs best,
Armstrong, so we've nothing to object to on the matter."

This acquiescence on the part of the straightforward old soldier did
more to shake Mr. Armstrong's stubborn will than a large amount of
opposition. The responsibility of securing his daughter's happiness or
misery for life rested now on his own shoulders, and he shrunk from its
weight; therefore when Charles ventured to say--

"I suppose, uncle, you wont object to my going to church to-morrow to
hear my friend preach?"

"Of course not, my boy," was the reply, in a kind tone; "we attend the
parish church regularly, where Mr. Halford is curate."

"Not a very wise plan, I should imagine," said the colonel, "to allow a
young girl to sit and listen to the eloquence of the man you wish her to
despise and forsake, and to know also that crowds of hearers are brought
to church to listen with breathless attention to the words of one who,
because he is not rich, is to be set aside for those that are, however
inferior in intellect or appearance."

"I am inclined to think Mary has got over all her lovesick nonsense
about this young man. I'm her father, and she has from a child been
accustomed to give up her own wishes to mine; she has done so now, and
therefore I have no hesitation in allowing her to attend the church,
more especially as I know her religious feelings will enable her to
forget the reader and preacher in his subject."

The colonel changed the topic of conversation; these fallacious
arguments of the self-willed, prejudiced man irritated him, and after a
short time a summons to coffee took them into the drawing-room.

Next day at church, after the morning service, Charles Herbert renewed
his friendship with Henry Halford, the colonel and Mrs. Herbert also
warmly recalling the pleasant visit at Oxford, and expressing their
pleasure at meeting him again.

Mr. Armstrong and Mary drew back after the distant bow which now formed
their only recognition of Dr. Halford and his family, but Henry was only
too glad to introduce his venerable father and his sister's children to
his friend Charles Herbert and his parents.

Mr. Armstrong led his daughter forward till they were joined by the
colonel and his wife.

"Charles is walking home with his friend," said Mrs. Herbert; "what a
clever young man Mr. Halford is! I observed that he preaches
extemporaneously."

"There is no doubt of his cleverness," said Mr. Armstrong; and then they
discussed the subject and manner of the discourse, as members of a
congregation often do, without thinking of its application to
themselves.

Charles Herbert accompanied the family of Dr. Halford to Englefield
Grange, and while talking to Henry about old days could not avoid a
glance now and then at the tall, handsome, self-possessed girl who
walked by her uncle's side.

Henry pressed him to remain to an early dinner, but he excused himself
on account of being a visitor at Lime Grove: however, he promised to
call the next day, and after a friendly leave-taking turned away with
rapid steps to join his relations, whom he overtook at a short distance
from the garden entrance.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

REPENTANCE.


August at the seaside, its sultry sunbeams softened by a breeze from the
ocean, bringing health and vigour to worn-out frames, calmness and
relief to overworked brains, and rest to the toilers in the battlefield
of life. There is peace in the movement of the rippling waves, peace
even in the sound as they dash lazily on the shore, and a feeling of
rest in the aspect of the calm, smooth water, when its flowing tide is
scarcely perceptible, and boats with their white sails are mirrored in
its depths.

In the afternoon of a sultry day in August two gentlemen might be seen
near the open window of a drawing-room in the Isle of Wight.

One of them is lying on a couch drawn close to the window, his pale face
and delicate features plainly denoting a state of convalescence after a
severe attack of illness. The eyes are large and bright, and the hair
after a growth of six weeks just covers the head. The hands are thin and
delicate, and the whole appearance and attitude betoken great weakness.

"Have you quite got over the fatigue of the journey, Arthur?" asks the
other gentleman, in whom we recognise Henry Halford.

"Yes, quite," was the reply; "I am not so weak as I appear, Henry; I
walked on the beach for a long distance this morning, and that accounts
for my languid condition now. How are the little ones?"

"Quite well and happy, Arthur, and all send their love to papa and
Clara. Where is she?"

"I sent her out with the nurse, she is assiduous in her attentions to
me, and I am obliged to enforce the necessity of a walk sometimes. Dear
child, I used to fear she would grow up forward and pert as well as
precocious. These troubles seem to have sobered her, yet it very much
interferes with the formation of a girl's character when she looks so
womanly at sixteen as Clara does."

While Arthur Franklyn spoke, Henry could not avoid comparing the style
of his present conversation to the light-hearted, jocular talk of olden
times, proving that trouble had sobered the father as well as the
daughter.

"Shall I leave you to have a little nap before dinner, Arthur?" he said.

"No, Henry, there are so many things on my mind that I wish to talk
about, and you would answer no questions nor hear anything I had to say
when we first arrived; but I have been here a week, and I feel so much
stronger and better, there can be no possible objection now."

"I am half-afraid to allow you to excite yourself, Arthur; would it not
be wiser to wait another week?"

"No, no, Henry, you cannot tell what a relief it will be to my mind to
unburden my heart to you. We shall not be interrupted, for I desired
nurse to keep Clara out till four o'clock; this anxiety retards my
recovery."

"Well, my dear fellow, if it will really help you to get well I am ready
to listen and answer questions, but remember you are not to excite
yourself;" and Henry Halford drew a chair near his brother-in-law's
couch and seated himself to listen.

"First then," said Arthur, "tell me one thing--did I rave about a carpet
bag in my delirium?"

"Well, yes," said Henry, wonderingly; "I suppose it must have fallen
with you into the river."

"Has it been found?"

"It was not brought to Englefield Grange for weeks after your accident;
the bag and its contents are in a terrible condition from the action of
the water."

"Were any papers amongst the _débris_?"

"One, completely reduced to a pulp, the writing upon it scarcely
legible; it appeared quite useless, so I burnt it!"

"Thank God!" and Arthur as he spoke closed his eyes, and clasped his
hands, showing that the words were not a mere commonplace expression,
but came direct from the heart.

Henry Halford looked at him in surprised silence. Presently Arthur
startled him by rising suddenly and laying his hand on his brother's
arm.

"Henry," he said, "don't shrink from me with horror; on that paper which
you have destroyed I had forged my dead wife's name after her death."

"Arthur, my dear fellow," said Henry, "pray lie down and compose
yourself; I feared you would get excited. If you will lie quiet for
awhile we can talk about this paper by-and-by."

"You think my brain is becoming disturbed again," said Arthur, lying
back quietly at Henry's bidding, "but indeed I am telling you the truth.
I have not yet dared to utter a word to anyone on the subject, and if
you will not listen to me I must carry the burden with me to my grave."

Quite convinced by the calm tones and the earnest words, Henry Halford
placed his hand on the arm of his brother, and said, "Have you taken
your burden to God, Arthur?"

"Ah, that is what dear Fanny would have said; but how could I venture to
take my trouble there, when it is caused by sin, and is therefore my
just punishment?"

"Arthur," said Henry, "while you were a boy at my father's school, did
you not study your Bible sufficiently to know how ready God is to pardon
and forgive?"

"I have forgotten Him for years, Henry, and He left me to myself to
fall. But let me tell you all the circumstances. That document in the
carpet bag, if I had taken it to Australia and negotiated it there, as I
quite intended to do, would have no doubt led to my conviction as a
forger; I can see it now clearly, and I must have been mad at the time
to suppose I could so act and escape. The truth is, I married my second
wife under false pretences; she supposed I was well off, and yet I had
no income, and my debts in Melbourne amounted to more than 1000_l._ I
could not, therefore, make any inquiries about Louisa's power over her
fortune, from a dread of questions from her friends about myself. After
our marriage she gave into my hands a few hundred pounds which she had
in the bank; but when I stated to her that I required more to obtain a
partnership in a firm, I discovered that her property was invested in
the power of trustees, one of whom resided in England. I gladly availed
myself of the opportunity for bringing over my children to visit their
mother's relations, and proposed that if Louisa would agree to advance
me 2000_l._ we could obtain the signature of her trustee in Australia,
and forward the document by mail to England, so as to be ready for
completion when we arrived.

"On the morning of poor Louisa's death all necessary arrangements had
been made. Her trustee in England had signed the document, and her
signature only in the presence of a witness was needed to complete it.
Mr. Norton engaged to meet us at Englefield Grange on that evening to
witness the signature, and you will remember he called, but I was unable
even to speak to him."

Henry silently assented, and Arthur went on. "I cannot describe to you
the agonies of that night. The 2000_l._, part of which was to pay my
debts, had slipped from my grasp; ruin to myself and my children stared
me in the face. I had a little flask of brandy in my pocket, which we
had brought with us on the journey. I am not accustomed to spirits, and
the brandy I drank that night first exhilarated and then almost maddened
me. In a kind of frenzy I sat for an hour imitating on scraps of paper
Louisa's writing, and that of another, whose name I need not mention.
And then, oh, Henry! I signed the two names on the document, and one of
them was, to all appearance, the handwriting of the dead! During that
dreadful week I kept up my courage with that fatal spirit. You all
attributed my stupefied and callous manner to the shock of Louisa's
death, and pitied and sympathised with me. I left you and came to
London, with the determination to sail as quickly as possible to
Australia, that I might obtain money on the deed, and turn it to account
in some speculation which would enable me to refund the money and
recover the document before it was sent to England. It was a wild
scheme, such a one as Satan often uses to lead on his victims to their
destruction. I can see that now; I was saved from farther sin by the
accident, and painful as my punishment has been, I trust I am thankful
for it."

"But," said Henry, "why did you not carry the paper in your pocket
book?"

"Henry, I dared not risk it; I seemed to have the presentiment of an
accident, and dreaded the discovery of the paper upon my person. When I
found myself falling on that day of sorrows, and felt the carpet bag
slip from my hand, I cannot describe my feelings; no wonder I raved
about it in my delirium."

"It is a most painful history," said Henry, after a pause, "and you may
well be thankful for the accident which saved you from further sin, and
perhaps disgrace. I need not ask whether you have repented, Arthur, for
indeed your act was a breach of the laws both of God and man. It
was----"

"Don't hesitate, Henry, call it by its right name, 'forgery.' Truly,
truly, have I repented in dust and ashes, and I can say like David, 'I
abhor myself.'"

"Dear Arthur," said the young clergyman, as he saw the tears of real
contrition stealing down the cheeks of his brother-in-law, "if such is
your repentance, you can continue to use David's words in the Psalm,
'Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which Thou hast broken
may rejoice.'"

Henry Halford rose as he spoke, and gave the invalid a portion of the
mixture which stood on the table, and after awhile Arthur revived, and
could listen calmly to another subject.

"If you wish to relieve your mind still farther of all anxiety, Arthur,"
said his brother-in-law presently, "I have some letters in my pocket
addressed to you. Would you like to open them? they may contain good
news."

"Yes, oh yes; where are they?" he exclaimed eagerly.

Henry drew from his pocket three letters, and placing one in Arthur's
hand, said--

"Suppose you begin with that, Arthur."

The invalid took the letter and opened it, Henry watching his
countenance half in fear as he saw the flush and look of astonishment,
and the rapid glance over its contents; but then laying it down he
closed his eyes, as if unable to understand what he had read.

"Henry," he said presently, "read it to me; it is incomprehensible."

"No, Arthur, not quite," he replied, as he took up the letter; "and
perhaps I can enlighten you. Mr. Norton called upon me a few days ago,
and stated that the trustees had come to a decision respecting the
payment of some money which you would have received had your wife lived,
and have only been waiting for the consent of all parties. Mr. Norton
wished me to inform you of their intention, but I advised him to write
to you on the subject. He has done so, and this is the letter.

"Read it, Henry, read it; God has been too good to me in the midst of
all my sinful conduct if the contents of that letter are true."

"He is wont to give us more than even we desire or deserve," said Henry,
as he opened the letter.

     "Lincoln's Inn, Aug. 12th, 18--.

     "MY DEAR SIR,--I am desired by the trustees of the late Mrs.
     Louisa Franklyn's property to express their deep sympathy with
     you in the great loss you have sustained by her death, and also
     their hopes that you are recovering from the serious illness
     which has followed your accident.

     "With respect to a deed which was not completed by Mrs.
     Franklyn at the time of her lamented death, I am directed to
     state that, in consequence of a certain clause in the will of
     the late Mr. Howard, your late wife's first husband, you are
     not entitled to claim any of her property, the heir-at-law
     being Mr. William Lynn Howard, the testator's nephew.

     "In consideration of these circumstances the trustees of the
     late Mrs. Franklyn are willing, with the consent of Mr. William
     Lynn Howard, to make over to you the 2000_l._ which you could
     have legally claimed had Mrs. Franklyn lived a few hours longer
     to complete the legal document which only required her
     witnessed signature.

     "On receipt of your reply accepting this proposal, the
     necessary papers will be forwarded for your signature.

     "I remain, dear sir, faithfully yours,

     "E. NORTON."

For a time there was silence between the two men, each being too much
overcome to speak. At length Arthur Franklyn exclaimed--

"Oh, Henry, if I had only confided my circumstances to you, and waited
and trusted, I might have been spared the recollection of this dreadful
fall from rectitude and honour, which will leave a blot on my conscience
to the end of my days."

"Then it will serve as a beacon and a warning to you in your future
career, Arthur; when tempted and tried you will remember what this
downfall has cost you, and with less confidence in yourself you will
have to look to the 'Strong for strength.'"

"And yet, Henry, I would give worlds to recall the past two months. Oh,
if I had only waited!"

"There is nothing more trying to the Christian in his path through life
than being required to wait. 'Stand still' was the command of God to the
Israelites when the Red Sea stretched before them, the mountains on
either side, and Pharaoh's host was behind them. And in one place the
prophet exclaims, 'Our strength is to sit still.' We often forget the
truth of the poet's words, 'They also serve who only stand and wait.'"

"Henry," exclaimed Arthur presently, "mine has been a frivolous, useless
life. I seem to have forgotten all the teachings of your dear mother in
my boyhood, but they are coming back to me now. Is there not a verse in
the Psalms about waiting? My dear lost Fanny would often remind me of
it, when instead of waiting patiently for steady success in any
undertaking, I put it aside and commenced something else. She would call
it 'making haste to be rich.' O Henry, since my illness the memory of my
carelessness about dear Fanny's health has caused me hours of bitter
remorse."

"You must not indulge any longer in self-reproach, Arthur; it can do no
good to recall the past excepting as a warning for the future, and
mental anxiety will retard your recovery. The last two months have been
very dark, but we must remember the Indian proverb, 'The darkest part of
the night is just before the dawn.'"

"What is the text in the Psalms about waiting, Henry?"

"It occurs in the thirty-seventh--'Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently
for Him; He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.' And now you
must try and sleep for a while till dinner is ready, and in the evening
I will write a letter for you to Mr. Norton, and you can sign it."

Arthur obeyed; the conversation and the letter had produced excitement,
and great exhaustion was the result. Henry sat and watched him till he
fell into a calm and peaceful sleep, to which he had for months been a
stranger.

A quiet step, a gentle movement, and as the door slowly opened Clara
Franklyn appeared. Her uncle placed his finger on his lips and pointed
to the couch. The womanly girl understood, and withdrew as noiselessly
as she had entered.



CHAPTER XXXV.

A PANIC IN THE CITY.


Autumn of the year which had proved so full of changes to Arthur
Franklyn passed into winter, and frost and snow ushered in the time when
the angels sang their holy song of "Peace and goodwill to all men."

The red breast of the robin and the holly berries gleamed brighten the
glistening snow, and the joyous notes of the sociable bird sounded clear
and melodious through the keen frosty air, heralding the birth of
another year. Winter gave place to the gentle and balmy air of spring,
and April found Mary Armstrong revelling in the country delights at
Meadow Farm, when the "sound of the singing of birds has come, and the
voice of the turtle is heard in the land."

With all the firm will and patient endurance of Mary's character she had
not a constitution of iron. The alternation of hopes and fears, caused
by the various opinions expressed by others in opposition to her father
respecting Mr. Halford's family, were at last more than she could bear.

Had the young people been entirely separated, Mary had strength of
character sufficient to school her heart to forget Henry Halford. But
Sunday after Sunday to have to recognise each other as mere distant
acquaintance, and to be required to sit and listen to him with
indifference, while others were never tired of showing or expressing
their admiration of the talented young clergyman, was indeed an act of
positive cruelty on the part of her father to which he seemed quite
oblivious.

Mary appeared as submissive now as to his wishes in the past. She was
loving and attentive as usual to his requests and his comforts, at times
even gay and cheerful, and always contented. She might be a little
changed, as cousin Sarah said; but what of that? She was a woman now,
and not a child. Why should he notice such whims and fancies? So
reasoned Mr. Armstrong. But this strain on the nerves could not last.
One evening during dessert she suddenly fell back in her chair and
fainted away. Then Mr. Armstrong was aroused to a sense of danger. Dr.
West's opinion carried the day.

"Send your daughter into the country for a month, she wants change of
air and scene; there is nothing the matter with her yet to cause alarm.
Has she anything on her mind, friend Armstrong?" added the doctor,
significantly.

"Some silly love affair, I suppose you mean," was the reply; "my
daughter, Dr. West, is above giving way to such nonsense."

"Possibly so," said Dr. West; "I know Miss Armstrong well enough to
understand that she possesses a strong amount of self-control; but, my
dear sir, a young girl's nerves are not iron, so the sooner you send her
into the country the better."

The proposal that she should pay a visit to cousin Sarah was hailed with
such delight by Mary, that her father could not help saying to himself--

"I hope Sarah will not encourage any nonsensical talk about this young
parson who seems to be turning the heads of all the young people in the
parish, and the old ones too."

But other circumstances were occurring at the time our chapter commences
which drew Mr. Armstrong's thoughts from his daughter's health to
matters, in his opinion, of equal importance.

He had an office in the city now, as well as in Dover Street, and went
more frequently to the former. One morning, when Mary had been absent a
week, he was met on his arrival at the office by his head clerk with a
very rueful face.

"Have you heard, sir, what has happened?" he asked.

"No," was the hasty reply; "I've not seen the _Times_ yet. Is there
anything serious, Wilson?"

"I'm afraid it is, sir; Overton and Boyd have stopped payment."

Mr. Armstrong sank back into his chair as if a thunderbolt had fallen at
his feet, while every vestige of colour forsook his cheeks.

"I am sorry I told you so suddenly, sir," said Mr. Wilson; "will it
affect you very greatly?"

Mr. Armstrong, though for a moment surprised out of his usual
self-possession, quickly recovered himself and said, "Not to cause me
any serious injury; Wilson, but I have several thousands in the hands of
these bankers, and that is too much to lose."

"Indeed it is, sir; but perhaps the reports have been exaggerated, and
there may be an official letter amongst your correspondence explaining
matters more correctly."

Mr. Armstrong turned to his letters.

"All right, Wilson, I daresay there is; don't wait, I'll call you if I
find that any letters require attention."

Left to himself, Mr. Armstrong quickly opened letter after letter. Yes,
there it was, from Overton and Boyd. Obliged from a sharp run on the
bank to suspend payment; hoped to be able to recover themselves in a few
days, and so on.

Edward Armstrong laid the notice on one side, looked over his other
letters, wrote a few particulars on each, then sounded the gong for Mr.
Wilson, who quickly made his appearance.

"Answer these letters, Wilson," he said; "two or three have evidently
heard of this stoppage, and are alarmed for the safety of their money. I
have written cheques to the amount of the debts of these parties, which
you can enclose to them."

The clerk took the letters and left the room, and then Mr. Armstrong put
on his hat and went out to ascertain the effect of this stoppage of
Overton and Boyd on the corn exchange and elsewhere.

During the day many persons looked in at the office to ask the opinion
of Mr. Armstrong, and to give him details of the present and probable
consequences likely to result from this disastrous bank failure. Before
the hour came for closing the office it was evident that a panic had
arisen in the City, threatening destruction and ruin to more than one
long-established house of business.

Mr. Armstrong, as he entered his splendidly furnished house at Kilburn,
felt thankful for the absence of his daughter. At the same time he
hastened to his dressing-room, anxious to remove, if possible, the pale
and haggard look of his face before meeting his wife at dinner.

But the quick eye of affection was not to be deceived. Mrs. Armstrong
waited till the dinner was removed, and the wine and dessert placed on
the table.

The April evenings were cold enough for a fire, and the wife, whose
mental powers her husband considered so inferior, soon proved herself a
true comforter.

"Come and sit by the fire, Edward," she said, placing a tempting
arm-chair near it; "you look anxious, dearest, has anything happened in
the City to trouble you?"

"I do not wish to annoy you with business matters, darling," was the
reply; "go and make yourself comfortable in the drawing-room, I will
come to you presently;" and her husband as he spoke placed his elbows on
the table and rested his forehead on his hands.

Mrs. Armstrong rose and advanced to where her husband sat; placing her
arm across his shoulders she said--

"Edward, I am sure there is something wrong. I know I am not clever
enough to advise you in business matters, but if you will only tell me
what grieves you it will lose half its bitterness and relieve your
mind."

"Maria my dearest wife," said Edward Armstrong, rising and throwing
himself into the easy-chair she had placed for him, "my troubles are
about money; do you care to hear about them?"

"I care to hear anything," she said, "if telling me will relieve your
mind."

"Then I will tell you the worst at once. Overton and Boyd have stopped
payment, and the 20,000_l._ which I placed with them was to have been
Mary's marriage portion."

"And will she lose it all?"

"I fear so. The bank talk of recovering themselves, but I doubt if they
will."

"Do you think this will trouble Mary?"

"I cannot say; at all events it will interfere with her future
prospects. She will have nothing but the 1000_l._ left by her
grandfather. What man worth anything would marry her with that paltry
sum for a marriage portion?"

"You married me with less, Edward, and Mary is quite as attractive as I
was, and I know one to whom Mary's little dowry of a thousand pounds
would be a fortune."

Mr. Armstrong did not reply, and his wife, thinking she had said enough,
rose and left him to himself.

No greater trial could have happened to this man than the loss of money.
Year after year his wealth had increased; loss, at least to any great
amount, had been unknown to him. Arrogance, ambition, self-sufficiency,
and pride had grown with his growing wealth. His ambitious schemes for
his daughter had more of the ostentatious display of wealth than
paternal love. And now--now when he had treated with scorn the offer of
the young schoolmaster--now she had nothing for her dowry beyond a
paltry 1000_l._;--he had no hope that Overton and Boyd would recover
themselves. He could not, without some injury to his business, draw out
another 20,000_l._ for his daughter's marriage portion; and was it
likely, even if he gave his consent, that the young parson would be
anxious to marry his daughter with not more for her dowry than the young
man's sister had taken to her husband? No, it was out of the question.
So admired, so flattered and sought after, as the young curate of
Kilburn undoubtedly was, Mary with her paltry thousand pounds would
stand a poor chance.

So reasoned the money-getting man of the world, while the deepest
mortification added poignancy to the loss he had sustained.

"I can never give my consent now," he said to himself; "indeed, it will
never be asked when the loss I have met with is known. So hard as I have
worked all my life to enable me to purchase a position for my only
daughter, and this is the end!"

And yet this 20,000_l._ was to Edward Armstrong but as a mere bauble
compared to the wealth which he really possessed. A love of money, a
thirst for wealth, grows upon the man of riches, till like the
horse-leech he cries "Give, give," and is never satisfied.

The days of that anxious week passed away, but still the panic in the
City gained ground. One firm after another sunk under the crash. Only
men of ample means such as Mr. Armstrong could battle with the waves and
weather the storm, but even he had great difficulty in doing so.

Reports spread respecting his losses, which, however, in the City did
not injure his credit. Westward their influence was felt with greater
results.

He usually rode Firefly when proceeding to his office in Dover Street,
and on more than one occasion he had encountered those who had either
asked him for the hand of his daughter or courted his acquaintance. Now
they passed him by with scarcely a recognition. And so the time passed
on, till one morning about a fortnight after the reports that Overton
and Boyd had stopped payment.

The affair had exceeded the time of the proverbial "nine days' wonder,"
and it was only in the City or to those deeply interested that the good
news became really known. Overton and Boyd had recovered from the shock,
and were ready to meet all demands.

Mary's fortune was safe, but the alarm and the changed manners of his
sunshine friends had taught her father a deep lesson. When the notice
arrived he was alone in the private room of his office in Dover Street.
He had been schooling himself to endure the loss of money and friends
patiently. More than once during that terrible fortnight the words he
had heard read by his father sounded in his ears, "Riches make
themselves wings; they fly away;" "The love of money is the root of all
evil." And now the certainty that he had, after all, lost nothing,
caused a revulsion of feeling scarcely endurable.

He sat for some time resting his head on his hands, and his elbows on
the table, absorbed in thought.

"Those sunshine friends," he said to himself, "who turned their backs
upon the corn merchant when they thought he was poor, shall never know
that my position is unaltered. And these are the men to either of whom I
would have given my cherished daughter! My losses are known at Kilburn,
no doubt, and the schoolmaster and his son are of course congratulating
themselves on the escape of the latter." And as Edward Armstrong thus
thought there passed over his mind recollections of the holy truths, tho
Christian principles, and the first sermon from 1st Cor. xiii. 13: "The
greatest of these is charity," which he had heard from the lips of the
schoolmaster's son.

Was he different from these sunshine friends? could he possibly love his
daughter still, when, as was supposed, not only her fortune, but great
part of her father's wealth had disappeared with the commercial crash?

It was impossible, he could not believe it. True, he had done so
himself, but then it was under most peculiar circumstances. There was
nothing of romance in the commencement of the acquaintance which had
arisen between young Halford and his daughter. Should he try him? should
he endeavour to find out whether it was money or Mary herself that he
sought for? Yes, he would do it, and if he proved that the latter alone
had actuated him to write that letter after Mary's visit to Oxford, then
he should have the 20,000_l._ after all.

"Poor darling," he said to himself, as he thought of her patient
endurance and filial obedience, "she had nearly lost all I could give
her. It is not too late to make amends, at least if the young parson is
really worthy of such a superior and accomplished girl as my daughter.
Better secure the 20,000_l._ to her at once than risk its loss
by-and-by."

Edward Armstrong had been roused from a false security in riches by a
prospect of their loss. He felt that he had been like the man in the
parable, who had said, "I will pull down my barns, and build
greater;--soul take thine ease."

But from this he had been painfully aroused; he would endeavour to
discover whether the young people cared for each other still. The
glamour which the acquisition of wealth had thrown around the man of
business was removed. His ambition now appeared as mockery, his pride a
disgrace, and his conduct to his daughter refined cruelty. Well may the
awakening of the human heart from the influence of the god of this
world, who blinds the eyes of his votaries, be called in the Bible,
"arising from the dead."

Time passed on, and Mrs. Armstrong received a letter from Mary
expressing a wish to return home the following week. "Something must be
done quickly if done at all," said Mr. Armstrong to himself as Rowland
drove him to the station in Mary's pony carriage on that morning. Not
even to Mrs. Armstrong had he given a hint of his intentions.

During the day he received from the bank additional assurances that the
money in their possession was safe. Owing to the delay in the settlement
in some matter of business he left his office in the City rather later
than usual, and arrived on the platform of the station at Euston Square
just as the train was about to start. A porter rushed forward, opened a
first-class carriage, and assisted him to enter, even as the guard's
whistle sounded and the train moved.

Mr. Armstrong, without noticing whether any other passengers were in the
carriage, seated himself next the door, feeling rather disturbed and out
of breath from his hasty movements. After wiping his face with his
pocket-handkerchief, for the April day was rather warm, he raised his
head and faced the only passenger in the carriage beside himself, who
sat directly opposite to him.

A sudden flush rose to his brow almost as vivid as that which had
covered the face of his fellow-passenger at Mr. Armstrong's entrance.

A bow of recognition was followed by a start of surprise, as Mr.
Armstrong held out his hand and said, "Allow me to shake hands with you,
Mr. Halford, once more, for the sake of old acquaintance." Henry became
pale with surprise; what could it mean? It was a moral impossibility for
him to resent the pride and neglect of the past three years in the
father of Mary Armstrong, yet he was too completely puzzled to feel at
his ease.

Mr. Armstrong, however, asked so many questions respecting Arthur
Franklyn and the young people his children, with such real interest and
kindness, that he very soon found himself quite at home with a gentleman
who could, if he liked, make himself so agreeable. This train started
from Euston at the same hour as the one in which poor Mrs. Franklyn had
travelled on that fatal afternoon, and did not stop till it reached
Kilburn; Mr. Armstrong knew therefore that he and his companion would be
alone the whole way. Still there was no time to lose, and yet Mr.
Armstrong scarcely knew how to commence the subject for which there now
seemed such an excellent opportunity. At last he said, "You have missed
my daughter from church, Mr. Halford, I daresay?"

"I have done so," he replied: "I hope Miss Armstrong is well;" and his
companion detected a want of steadiness in the voice when he spoke, for
in very truth Mary's non-appearance had made him anxious.

"She was quite well when we heard from her last. She has been away for
change of air, which Dr. West thought she required, at my old home in
Hampshire with Mrs. John Armstrong, whom I think you met last summer."

"I had great pleasure in making the acquaintance of that lady," said
Henry; "she spoke of persons and places connected with my father's early
days which greatly interested me."

"Yes, so she told me;" and Mr. Armstrong glancing from the window saw
that they were nearing the station.

"Mr. Halford," he exclaimed suddenly, "forgive me for being so abrupt,
but you once asked me for the hand of my daughter; are you still of the
same mind on the subject?"

Astonishment, perplexity, added to a thrill of hope, for a few moments
deprived Henry Halford of the power of speech; at last he said in a tone
of deep feeling--

"Mr. Armstrong, nothing could ever change the love I bear for your
daughter."

"My dear young friend," said the father, who noticed the painful
excitement under which he spoke, "believe me I do not ask from idle
curiosity; if my daughter is willing to listen to your proposals now I
will not say you nay, and you are at liberty to write and ask her. The
address is Meadow Farm, near Basingstoke."

"I know not how to reply to you, Mr. Armstrong," said Henry, "but will
you allow me to say that in my regard for Miss Armstrong I am not
influenced by hopes of obtaining her fortune, which I hear is
considerable?"

Mr. Armstrong placed his hand on the arm of the young clergyman, and
said--

"Have you heard the rumour of my great losses, Mr. Halford?"

"I have heard something to that effect," he replied, "and I could almost
wish to find it true, that I might prove my love for your daughter."

"Well, well, these reports are not _all_ true; just write to Mary, and
then we can talk about the other matter by-and-by. And here we are at
the station; shall I offer you a seat in the pony carriage? it is no
doubt waiting for me."

But after this exciting interview Henry wanted to be alone; he
accompanied Mr. Armstrong to the station entrance, and then after a warm
hand-clasp the two whom money had hitherto separated, parted as close
friends.

That evening, when Mr. Armstrong joined his wife in the drawing-room, he
seated himself in his easy-chair, took up the _Times_, and appeared for
a few minutes deep in its columns.

Presently he looked over the top of the paper and said, "I met young
Halford in the railway carriage this afternoon, Maria, and I told him he
might write to Mary if he liked."

"Edward! is it possible?" was the astonished reply.

"Is what possible?" he asked; "I suppose you thought it was impossible
for me to change my opinion, but for once, dear wife, you are wrong; I
have learnt the lesson lately that riches can take to themselves wings
and fly away. In fact, I wanted an excuse to change my mind about that
young parson long ago, but pride kept me back from doing him justice
till now. I suppose there is no likelihood that Mary will refuse him
after all, Maria? I should be sorry to expose the young man to such a
result."

"I do not think Mary is so likely to change her opinion as her father,"
said Mrs. Armstrong, with a smile; "besides, she has right on her side."



CHAPTER XXXVI.

GIPSY DORA.


At some little distance from Englefield, in a contrary direction to
Meadow Farm, and closely bordering on Berkshire, can be seen from the
railway a picturesque town situated on a hill, overlooking a river.

This part of Hampshire, lying to the north-east, is more varied by hill
and dale, wood and glen, than the low-lying ground near the Channel, and
not far distant from the rich and picturesque country which surrounds
Farnham, in Surrey. Odiham Castle stands on a hill in the neighbourhood,
and at a little distance the ruins of an old keep, called King John's
house. Odiham Castle was used as a prison in the time of Edward III.;
and David of Scotland, who was taken prisoner by Queen Philippa at
Neville's Cross, while Edward laid siege to Calais, was for eleven years
imprisoned in this castle.

The town of Briarsleigh overlooks from its high situation woods and
meadows, and the extensively cultivated estates and parks of more than
one nobleman's seat. It is built on a kind of high table-land, along
which the old coach road runs for miles in both directions with only an
occasional dip. At one end of the town, however, a steep winding lane
leads down to the river.

The town itself has nothing to boast of beyond the old-fashioned church,
which once formed part of a priory, built in the time of Henry I. Its
square tower surmounted by a small steeple and a vane, can be
distinguished for miles. The town hall, the modern literary institution,
one or two Dissenting chapels, and the High Street, with its principal
shops, differ very little from those of other similar market towns.

Its principal wealth arises from its agriculture, and the farms in the
vicinity are remarkable for their rich pastures and produce. A stranger
arriving at the entrance to Briarsleigh on a spring evening, with the
sunset bathing the landscape in a golden misty sheen, would pause to
gaze on a scene so fair; but on the evening of which we write, the
bright landscape and the glowing sunset were unnoticed by the
inhabitants of Briarsleigh Rectory. The lowered blinds, the stillness,
and the absence of any living object near the picturesque building, told
too plainly that it was the abode of death. Presently might be seen
ascending the hilly lane towards the spot on which the church stood two
men, evidently respectable farmers, who had stayed later than usual in
the town on this the market day at Briarsleigh.

As they approached the house, a glance at its quiet aspect and lowered
blinds diverted the thoughts of one from money and the market, and he
exclaimed--

"So the old rector is gone at last, Martin."

"Eh! is he? How do you know?"

"Why, look, the blinds are down; besides I heard of his death two hours
ago in the town."

"Ah, well, it's what we must all come to one day, and rector has lived
out his time; why he must have been fourscore at least."

"Eighty-six, so they say," replied Martin, "and I believe it, too; for I
can remember him all my life nearly, and that's forty year."

"Has he been rector of Briarsleigh so long as that?" asked the other.

"Ay, that he have, and a kind good parson he's been too. Lord Rivers
gave him this living a'most the first thing he did when he come to the
estate at the old lord's death, and that was afore I was born."

"I'm afeard we shan't get such another as Parson Wentworth, whoever it
may be."

"Well, he wasn't much of a preacher in his best days," was the reply,
"and the curate ain't much better, though he's a good young man, but his
sermons send me to sleep. You know there's lots of us go to the Wesleyan
chapel; you can hear sermons there that wake a man up, and no mistake,
though I like the Church prayers best, I'll own that."

"I've been to them Wesleyans once or twice, and what their parson said
was very fine, but he made too much noise about it; and I don't like
their ways and their singing nohow."

"Well, I like Church ways best too, and I assure you, Martin, it's made
me quite miserable lately when I've been at church to see such a lot of
empty pews. Why, if it hadn't been for my lord's family, and the
servants and labourers from Englefield, there wouldn't have been
twenty-five people in the church."

"Yes, I know, and that's why I sticks to it. I'm only one, but if I go,
my wife and the children goes too, and so we make up half a dozen
amongst us. Poor old parson, the poor'll miss him, sure enough."

"Well, Martin," replied his companion, whose education as well as the
number of his farm acres surpassed greatly those of his neighbour, "we
must hope that if the new parson gets the people back to the church, he
will be kind to his poor parishioners also."

And then as farmer Martin turned into his own gate, his companion left
him with a friendly farewell, and stepped on quickly towards his own
home, which, though the neighbouring farm, was at least a quarter of a
mile farther by the road.

From the rectory of Briarsleigh with its shrouded windows, and the
homely conversation of two of the parishioners, we must lead the reader
to a far different scene.

On the evening of the second day after the death of the rector of
Briarsleigh, a family party were seated at dinner in the dining-room at
Englefield, to which we have introduced the reader in a former chapter.

Of the five persons then seated at breakfast, two only are present now,
Lord Rivers and his youngest daughter, Lady Dora, now Lady Dora Lennard.
Lady Mary Woodville, who has married a Scotch nobleman, inherits her
mother's delicate constitution, and seldom visits Englefield. And that
mother, Lady Rivers, whose gentle loving character had endeared her not
only to her husband and children, but also to the lowliest worker on the
estate, has passed away from earth. Even now, after ten years, the
memory of the gentle lady lives in the hearts of those who could claim
no nearer tie to her than that of friend or servant.

Lord Woodville, the heir, is in London with his brother-in-law, Sir
William Lennard, and thither his father and sister purpose following him
on the morrow. A few intimate friends and relatives by marriage are
present on this occasion, making a pleasant gathering of eight.

Lady Dora is seated at the head of the table, opposite to the earl. She
has the same bright dark eyes and brunette complexion which made her
brother Robert once call her a gipsy. The face and form have a matronly
dignity and appearance very different from the lively girl of seventeen
who was so interested in the marriage of Fanny Franklyn; but the change
is a decided improvement, and at thirty-three Lady Dora Lennard is a
very handsome woman.

And the earl has changed since he paid a congratulatory visit to his old
tutor on the marriage of his daughter; his hair is white as snow, but
his eyes have lost none of their dark lustre, and the finely cut
features still preserve their delicate outline, and even at the age of
sixty his form has lost none of its stately bearing.

The dinner has been removed, and the dessert in its rich and delicate
china of green and gold has been placed on the table. The wine-glasses,
finger-glasses, and decanters; the silver knives and forks, the polished
damask of the tablecloth, and the prisms of the chandelier drops above
it, glitter and sparkle in the light of many wax tapers. In that sombre
yet noble room, with its carved oak panellings, its many and richly
draped windows, chairs of mahogany and ebony, and a thick handsome
carpet, beyond the bordering of which appears the oaken floor; the
dinner-table, the dresses of the ladies, and the men-servants in their
gay livery, form a dazzling spot of brightness by contrast.

It would seem as if nothing could enhance that brightness, yet a few
moments proved the contrary. The door opened, and three children entered
the room--a girl of twelve, a boy of ten, and a little one of six, who
escaping from the hand of her nurse, and disregarding her elder sister's
remonstrance, bounded across the room to the side of grandpapa.

"Well, Gipsy," said the earl, as he lifted the little girl on his knee,
"who sent for you?"

"Mamma did," she replied; and then added quickly, "Grandpapa, I'm not a
gipsy; I saw real gipsies to-day, and they are ugly; they wear red
cloaks and old frocks, and the little girl gipsies have no shoes or
stockings. I don't be dressed like that."

A general laugh followed this speech; most certainly the little fairy in
white lace, blue morocco shoes, and silk socks was very unlike the
children she described, at least in dress. But well might she claim the
pet title of "Gipsy Dora." The dark flashing eye, softened by its long
eyelashes; the clear brunette complexion, through which the damask rose
colour showed itself on the glowing cheek, and the long dark brown curls
that fell round her dimpled shoulders, made her far more deserving of
the name than her mother had ever been.

The sisters were dressed alike, but May, the elder, differed greatly
from Dora in appearance; tall and slight, with blue eyes and fair hair,
her gentle manner and delicate face showed a striking resemblance to the
late Lady Rivers. The boy, who stood by his mother, his blue velvet
tunic contrasting with her light silk dress, appeared a manly, spirited
little fellow, yet neither so gipsy-like as one sister nor so fair as
the other. So far as the change of conversation is concerned, we need
only have introduced Gipsy Dora, excepting to add brightness to the
picture in the earl's noble dining-room, which children on such
occasions so often do.

"Papa," said Lady Dora, presently, "talking about gipsies reminds me of
that morning so many years ago, when I read the notice of Miss Halford's
marriage in the paper at Englefield Grange, and you gave me an imaginary
cause for the origin of the word Englefield."

Lord Rivers smiled, but he did not reply.

"What was it, Rivers?" exclaimed an old squire, who with his wife and
daughter were guests at the table. "I have often wondered myself at the
singular title."

"Most likely from Engle, or angle, a corner," said the earl, demurely,
"the corner of a field being no doubt the earliest possession of my
ancestors."

"Papa, that is worse than your other definition," cried his daughter;
and then with her usual vivacity she related the conversation in which
Lord Rivers had suggested that his family were descended from the
gipsies.

"At all events, Mary and Willie are not gipsies," said the earl,
quietly.

He was thinking of the other subject referred to by his daughter--the
marriage of Fanny Halford; and while those round the table were
discussing the gipsy question with Lady Dora, his memory recalled the
sad events that had occurred since that time in his own family, as well
as in that of his old tutor. Many years had passed after the visit of
congratulation which he had paid to the residents at Englefield Grange
on the occasion of Fanny's marriage, before the earl visited Dr. Halford
a second time. The health of Lady Rivers had rendered it necessary for
her to reside in the south of France for years before her death, and on
the return of Lord Rivers to England after that sad event he could not
for a long period visit the friends of his youth who so well remembered
the fair, gentle lady who became the earl's bride. He answered Dr.
Halford's sympathising letter, but it was not till he read in the
_Times_ the notice of Fanny Franklyn's death that he visited his old
tutor again, and witnessed with sincere regret the effects of sorrow in
the change and wreck of the friend of his boyhood, Clara Marston.

Henry Halford was on this occasion absent at Oxford, and the earl
renewed his promise that the first living in his gift that fell vacant
should be his. Of Mrs. Halford's death he had been informed in a letter
from the bereaved husband; since then, in the very midst of the
excitement occasioned by the tragic end of the second Mrs. Franklyn, an
account of which appeared in the papers, he had also read Henry
Halford's name in the list of ordinations by the Bishop of London.
Rapidly all these memories passed through his mind, and he started
almost perceptibly when Squire Hartley exclaimed--

"You've heard of Parson Wentworth's death, I suppose, Rivers?"

Opposite to the squire sat another guest, a bluff old colonel, also a
neighbour of the earl's, who exclaimed--

"Heard of a living in his gift having become vacant, squire! What an
unnecessary question! Why, man, the parson died on Sunday, and this is
Wednesday! I for one shouldn't like to have to read all the letters on
the subject, which Rivers has no doubt by this time received."

The earl glanced at his daughter. Lady Dora rose, and, accompanied by
the ladies and her children, left the three gentlemen to themselves.

Then the squire made another attempt to introduce the subject so
abruptly interrupted, by saying--

"I suppose the living of Briarsleigh is not already given away?"

"No indeed," was the reply, "although you are correct in your surmises,
colonel, respecting the letters I have received; but I never decide
hastily on such matters. Come, squire, help yourself, and pass the
decanter," added the earl, in a tone far less serious; "and tell me how
you have arranged about Henley's farm."

This reference stirred up the squire to descant on a personal matter
with great gusto, and changed the subject.

The gentlemen did not delay to join the ladies in the drawing-room;
indeed, very little time elapsed before the visitors had taken their
departure. A drive of four or five miles is not very pleasant after ten
o'clock on a cold spring night even in a close carriage. And yet how
often is a visit of this kind followed by a drive home of even more than
ten miles during a night in winter!

Lady Dora had taken leave of her guests, and finding herself alone in
the drawing-room with her father, she approached him as he stood with
his back to the fire in true English fashion, and said--

"Papa, I believe I understand why you dismissed me so suddenly from the
table this evening."

The earl smiled as he replied--

"Well, my daughter, and what is it you understand?"

"Your intentions, papa. You mean to give the living of Briarsleigh to
the son of your old tutor."

"I have some thoughts of doing so, Dora--at least of making him the
offer, although I have had more than one letter on the subject."

"Has Dr. Halford written to you?"

"No, my dear, he is not a man likely to do so; yet I know the doctor's
son is ordained. I saw his name in the list of ordinations. The old
rector of Kilburn has given him a title."

"Is this son the clever little boy you became acquainted with when you
visited Dr. Halford after his daughter's marriage?"

"Yes, his youngest and only surviving son, and I have no doubt clever
and talented as a man."

"Is the living of Briarsleigh a valuable one, papa?"

Again the earl smiled.

"Why, Dora, you are taking as much interest in this young clergyman as
you did in the marriage of his sister so many years ago."

Lady Dora did not blush as she had done when, at seventeen, her father
had remarked her girlish interest in Fanny Halford's marriage, but she
replied--

"Papa, this is a very different matter. I have heard enough of late
years to make me feel the greatest sympathy for curates. It seems quite
shocking to think of a gentleman with refined manners and a university
education being obliged to support himself and perhaps a wife and
children on a less income than a mechanic, who has no appearance to keep
up."

"Too true, Dora; and if you were to read the letters I have received
from friends on behalf of curates situated as you have described, you
would understand the difficulties in which owners of Church livings are
placed. These gentlemen are equally talented, and as truly well born and
bred as Dr. Halford's son, but I cannot give the living to all of them,
and my promise to my old tutor is binding. I must not go from my word. I
hope to pay the family a visit next week, and make the young man an
offer of the living personally. I do not suppose he will belie the
promise of his boyhood. And perhaps I may contrive to hear him preach at
Kilburn on Sunday."

"I am very glad to hear your decision, papa," replied Lady Dora; "and at
all events one curate will be saved from poverty and starvation."

"Well," replied the earl, laughing, "that is scarcely true in Henry
Halford's case: he could still follow the profession of a schoolmaster,
and secure a good income; but I do not think a clergyman can
conscientiously perform both duties well or with comfort to himself."

"And what income will he have as rector of Briarsleigh?" she asked
again.

"Seven hundred a year, Dora. And now, my dear, as we have to travel
to-morrow, perhaps we had better say 'Good night.'"

And so, while Mr. Armstrong was mourning the loss of his daughter's
marriage portion, the young "parson" he despised was about to obtain an
income of his own. But of this good fortune neither he nor his young
companion knew anything when they met in the train on its way to
Kilburn.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

AT MEADOW FARM.


Clear and bright rose the sun on the morning of the earl's dinner-party,
and Mary Armstrong, who stood at the window looking out over field and
meadow, orchard and garden, belonging to Meadow Farm, was conscious of a
sense of happiness to which for months she had been a stranger. There
are few in this cold, dark world of ours who have not experienced at
times such a feeling, although unable to account for it, and yet at no
period is it more likely to occur than in the season of spring.

As Mary Armstrong now gazed upon the scene before her, the dewdrops on
field and meadow sparkling like diamonds in the sunshine, the delicate
green foliage trembling in the morning breeze, orchard and garden
fragrant and lovely with flowers, buds, and blossoms, the fleecy clouds
streaking the pale blue of an April sky, and amid and around all, the
song of joyous birds, the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep, and
other familiar sounds that betoken a farmyard; in the young girl's heart
arose a calm feeling of happiness and trust, for she could say with the
poet--

    "My Father made them all."

Presently she saw cousin Sarah making her way as usual to the farmyard,
and although this locality had ceased to be a novelty, she hastily
descended the stairs to join her.

"Why, Mary dearest, you are looking quite blooming this morning. I shall
be afraid to spare you next week for fear of a relapse."

"Oh no, cousin Sarah, you need not fear; besides, I mean to come again
very soon if you will have me."

"That I will, dearest, whenever you like; but come, there is the bell
for prayers, and you must want your breakfast."

The morning of this day--to be so long remembered--passed away in
watching, and sometimes helping cousin Sarah or the dairymaids in making
butter or bread, pies or cakes, or in the garden till dinner.

"You promised me one more walk to Englefield," said Mary, as they rose
from the early dinner; "we could go this afternoon, the weather is so
delightful, almost like summer--unless you are busy."

"No, dear Mary, not too busy for a walk," she replied; "we can start at
three o'clock if you like, and that will give us plenty of time to
return before tea."

The sun was still high in the heavens when cousin Sarah and her young
companion left the farm, and took the pathway across the fields, with
the intention of returning home by the road.

Under the shadow of lofty trees in delicate spring verdure, which now
and then separated other fields from the pastures of Meadow Farm,
through narrow lanes bordered with hedges of budding May blossom to the
boundary of Englefield Park, which joined more than one of the farm
meadows, Mary and her cousin walked, talking pleasantly of past days.
Not a word, however, nor a reference to cousin Sarah's interference with
Mr. Armstrong on Mr. Henry Halford's behalf passed that lady's lips.

Mary, also, was equally reticent; the subject was connected with too
much pain to be spoken of lightly. In fact, she was endeavouring, with
the calm determination of a strong will, to overcome the faintest signs
of hope, and to banish for ever the memory which that hope kept alive in
her heart.

Just before crossing the stile which led to the old coach road, they
came upon a break between the trees, through which could be seen the
rising ground of the park, and on the hill at a distance the imposing
façade of Englefield House. Mary Armstrong had seen it on many former
occasions, but she did not the less feel inclined to stand still and
gaze on its noble aspect and picturesque surroundings.

"It is a lovely spot, cousin Sarah," she said, after a few moments'
silence. "And is Lord Rivers still living? I remember meeting him on
horseback once when I was walking with dear grandfather. He stopped to
speak with him, and they talked so pleasantly for several minutes; and
when he heard who I was he asked so kindly after mamma and papa! Oh,
look, cousin Sarah! there are some ladies and children on the terrace."

This terrace to which Mary directed her cousin's attention formed one of
the modern additions to the right wing of the house. It was approached
from the side windows of the drawing-room, and sheltered by a verandah,
from the roof and supports of which hung a magnificent westeria, with
its drooping flowers like bunches of grapes.

It was too far distant to distinguish the faces of the children, but as
the little ones flitted about on the terrace it could be seen that they
were following the movements of a white shaggy dog, whose sharp, shrill
bark of pleasure sounded faintly across the park.

"They are the children of Lady Dora Lennard," said cousin Sarah, as they
turned to continue their walk; "I heard that she was staying with the
earl for a few days till they go to London for the season."

"Then Lord Rivers, whom I met two years ago, is still living, and these
are his grandchildren, I suppose?"

"Yes, the children of his youngest daughter, who married Sir William
Lennard, and retains her own title of Lady Dora. Lord Rivers is still a
fine old man at the age of sixty."

"Is he so old as that, cousin Sarah? Why, he did not appear older than
papa when I met him two years ago."

"And yet, Mary, he has aged considerably since the death of Lady Rivers
about ten years ago. I have heard uncle say that in his young days he
was one of the finest men in the county."

"He has a son to inherit the title and estates, I suppose?" said Mary.

"Yes, Lord Woodville; and another daughter, who has been married several
years to a Scotch nobleman. She inherits her mother's delicate health,
and seldom visits Englefield."

Thus talking the ladies walked on till they reached the stile, over
which Mary stepped with the lightness and activity of youth, and then
turned to assist her cousin; neither of them, however, was prepared for
the surprise that awaited them.

To explain this surprise we must carry our readers to the station at
Basingstoke. The coach road, which has been continued on to that station
for the convenience of passengers, passes round a hill rising just above
the line. On this hill stands the ruins of an old abbey, forming a
picturesque and attractive object to travellers by rail.

One of these, a gentleman who had just left the station, paused for some
moments to examine the singular appearance of the old ruins, and while
thus engaged a voice at his elbow startled him.

"Curious old place, sir."

"Yes," was the reply; "what does it belong to?"

"It be the remains of an old abbey, sir, as was built in the time of
Henry VIII. It were partly destroyed by Cromwell's armies," continued
the old man, who had a cottage near, and often picked up a gratuity for
his information from passengers. "There's nought but the ruins of the
chapel left, and they seem strong enough to stand again wind and weather
for hundreds of years to come. Why, sir, I remembers that there arch
with all the moss and ivy a-covering it when I was a boy, and I'm nearly
fourscore now."

"What was the name of the old abbey?" asked the gentleman.

"I don't know, sir; but them ruins are part of the chapel called the
Chapel of the Holy Ghost. It's a wonderful name."

For nearly ten minutes the gentleman listened with great interest to the
old countryman's account, then suddenly remembering the object of his
visit in this part of the world, he looked at his watch, and exclaimed--

"I fear I must be satisfied with what I have heard for the present, for
I have still some distance to walk. Pray excuse my leaving you so
suddenly," he added, as he placed a silver coin in the old man's hand,
"and thank you very much for your information."

The gentleman raised his hat to the homely countryman with such true
politeness, that the old man stood with uncovered head for some moments
while the wind scattered his white locks, watching the stranger's
departure.

"He be a true genelman, he be; us doan't get much o' they foine manners
hereabouts, 'cepting wi' the reel gentry."

At a turn of the ascent leading from the station to the coach road
appeared a board fastened to a tree, and upon it the representation of a
hand with the finger pointing, and the words "To Meadow Farm." This
information was at the time of which we write very little needed to tell
the residents in the locality the whereabouts of the old homestead, yet
it still remained in its half-decayed state, fastened to the trunk of a
tree.

Decayed as it might be, it was very useful to the railway traveller,
who, following its friendly finger, turned into the high road a few
minutes after Mary and her cousin Sarah had entered it from the fields
by climbing the stile.

At a bend in the road the gentleman came suddenly in sight of the two
ladies as they advanced towards him--not near enough, however, for him
to discover whether they were strangers or acquaintances.

Perhaps the change from winter to spring attire in Mary Armstrong's
dress, and her unexpected appearance at such a distance from Meadow
Farm, caused an impression that the younger lady was a stranger, and of
the elder he had no recollection.

Yet a something familiar in their appearance made him look at them
earnestly, and as they drew nearer neither the plain cotton gown nor the
coarse straw hat could disguise the graceful movements and dignified
carriage of Mary Armstrong. It seemed as if the recognition was
simultaneous, for at the moment the stranger made the discovery, Mary
exclaimed, with a deep flush, "Cousin Sarah, there is a young clergyman
coming towards us exactly like Mr. Henry Halford!" And the nas the flush
faded to paleness, she added, in a suppressed voice, "Cousin Sarah, it
_is_ Mr. Halford."

Even as she spoke Henry advanced hastily to meet them--not, however,
with his usual self-possession.

"Mrs. John Armstrong," he exclaimed, as he held out his hand to that
lady, and bowed nervously to Mary, "I am glad to have met you. I am on
my way to pay a visit to Meadow Farm."

"I am very happy to hear such good news, Mr. Halford; we will turn and
walk back with you."

"Oh, pray do not let me deprive you of your walk," he replied, glancing
at Mary, who was too greatly surprised and mystified to speak.

"We have had our walk," said cousin Sarah, "and were thinking of
returning home by another road, which is longer than the way we came. It
will be pleasanter for you than the dusty road, Mr. Halford, to return
through the fields, and Mary is looking tired already."

"Miss Armstrong appears to me much improved in health," he said, placing
himself by cousin Sarah as they turned with him to retrace their steps,
and looking inquiringly at Mary, as if asking her to confirm the truth
of his remark.

With an effort at self-control to steady her voice, she said with a
smile, "Appearances are not fallacious in my case, Mr. Halford; my
health is much better than when I left home."

Yet the efforts of the young people to regain their accustomed ease
signally failed. Mary was confused and agitated by Henry Halford's
presence in that locality, and he from his eager anxiety to account for
it.

He turned to cousin Sarah, and plunged at once into the object of his
visit.

"When I had the pleasure of meeting you, Mrs. Armstrong, last summer,"
he said, "you kindly expressed a hope that I would visit you at Meadow
Farm. I travelled yesterday in the train with Mr. Armstrong, and as he
entrusted me with a message for his daughter, I thought that instead of
writing I would take advantage of your kind invitation, and bring the
message myself."

"We are most happy to see you, Mr. Halford," replied cousin Sarah, "and
I hope you will be able to spend a few days or a week with us now you
have found your way here."

"I fear not," he replied, "but if the result of my message is
favourable, I shall gladly remain with you till to-morrow."

"Are they all well at home, Mr. Halford?" said Mary, in a constrained
voice, and addressing him to conceal the emotion which his mysterious
words excited.

"I believe so, Miss Armstrong; from your papa's replies to my inquiries
for his family, my impression is that Mrs. Armstrong and your brothers
are quite well."

Just at this moment the gable roofs of Meadow Farm appeared in sight in
the distance, and cousin Sarah endeavoured to break through the
restraint under which the young people were evidently trying to disguise
their feelings, by calling their attention to surrounding objects.

The attempt was successful, Mary's unnatural reserve vanished when in
sight of the old farm. She could point out the varied features of the
landscape, direct Henry Halford's attention to the fields and meadows
surrounding the farm, now in their delicate spring verdure, and excite
his interest by explaining that Meadow Farm obtained its name from these
rich cornfields and pasture-lands through which they passed.

Before they reached the pleasant homestead Mary had to a certain degree
recovered her self-possession; while Henry, when shown to his room to
refresh himself after his journey, felt his hopes of a favourable
reception of his message raised to almost a certainty. Mary at once
escaped to her room. Much as she loved her cousin Sarah, she could not
open her heart to her as she did to her mother, and she longed to be
alone.

What could this visit mean? What message could her father possibly have
to send to her by such a messenger?

He and Mr. Halford must have been on very friendly terms in the railway
carriage to talk about _her_, or even to talk on any subject. Could it
be possible that her father had changed his mind respecting Mr. Halford?
And at the thought, the blush that covered the young girl's face would
have relieved that gentleman from any further anxiety, had he seen it,
and known the emotions from which it arose.

Cousin Sarah, although at first surprised at the appearance of the young
clergyman on his way to the farm, had no such perplexing doubts. She
recalled her conversation with Mr. Armstrong, and therefore readily
accounted for this visit. "Mr. Halford can only have been sent for one
purpose," she said to herself, "and I must contrive an opportunity for
him to deliver his message to Mary before we meet at the tea-table;
until that is done the young people will not be at ease in each other's
society." Full of this determination, she hastily removed her walking
dress and descended the stairs; yet with all her quickness Henry Halford
had found his way down before her, and now stood looking out over garden
and orchard to the distant prospect from the garden entrance.

He turned quickly at the sound of footsteps, and as Mrs. John Armstrong
advanced he said--

"This is truly a country landscape, Mrs. Armstrong, and your gardens and
orchards promise great things from their present appearance."

"Are you too tired to walk through the garden?" she asked. "Our spring
flowers are in great profusion this year."

"No, indeed," he replied, "it will be a pleasure to do so."

But as they passed down the steps cousin Sarah saw him cast a hasty
glance behind him, as if hoping for and expecting another companion.

She opened the gate for him to pass through, and then said--

"Will you excuse me one moment, Mr. Halford? I can soon overtake you if
you walk on slowly." The next moment he was alone. Hastily returning to
the house, she ascended the stairs to Mary's bedroom. Her knock brought
Mary to the door.

"My dear," she said, "Mr. Halford is in the garden alone, pray do not
allow him to feel himself neglected; will you join him while I tell
cousin John and the boys that he is here, and get the tea ready."

"Certainly I will, cousin Sarah," she replied, with a slight blush as
she followed her cousin downstairs, feeling ill-concealed agitation at
the prospect of being informed of her father's message. On entering the
garden she saw the tall, manly figure, slowly pacing the centre path in
front of her, as if in deep thought; yet the usually self-possessed Mary
Armstrong had not the courage to hasten her steps.

Presently, however, her dress was caught by a currant bush, and the
rustling sound caused the gentleman to turn, expecting to see cousin
Sarah. A few steps brought him to her side, and then Mary's natural ease
came to her aid.

"My cousin is detained by household duties, Mr. Halford; she has sent me
to supply her place, and to show you the wonders of Meadow Farm."

He greeted her with one of those smiles which so greatly improved his
features as he replied--

"I am glad of any circumstances which have obliged Mrs. Armstrong to
send me such a substitute."

For a few moments they moved on side by side in silence, each too
agitated to speak. At length Henry Halford determined to plunge at once
into the matter. Why should he hesitate? Was there a possibility that
after all he might be mistaken? The thought gave him courage. If such a
possibility existed, it must be discovered quickly, for to remain at
Meadow Farm under the ban of a refusal was out of the question.

"Miss Armstrong," he said, "do you remember the subjects we discussed
when we met three years ago at Mr. Drummond's dinner-party?"

He! Henry Halford remembered that day. How the heart of the patient,
enduring, and obedient daughter bounded with joy at the thought! but she
did not reply, for her companion gave her no opportunity, as he
continued--

"We have a very different and far more pleasant subject to discuss now,
and we need not refer to the past. I am well aware that your father with
his great wealth could reasonably expect a splendid settlement for his
only daughter, and therefore I was not surprised when he refused the
offer of a man in my position, and without even----"

"Oh, pray do not go on, Mr. Halford," said Mary, interrupting him. "I
cannot endure to think that----" She paused suddenly, and added,
"Forgive me, I must not presume to pass judgment on the conduct of my
own father."

"I entreat you to excuse me for referring to it," he said; "not for
worlds would I utter a word to pain you; and, indeed, Mr. Armstrong has
made ample amends for any pain his refusal may have cost me; he
yesterday gave me not only permission unasked to write to his daughter,
but also promised to agree to whatever her decision might be. I could
not wait for an answer to a letter, so I have come myself to plead my
own cause."

There was a pause, and the two walked on in silence for some moments.
Although in a measure prepared for the object of Mr. Halford's visit,
Mary Armstrong was taken by surprise at hearing of this wonderful change
in her father. Henry Halford, in referring to his letter, and the
refusal which followed, had touched upon a tender string. Shame, regret,
and a loss of confidence in her father, had resulted from her discovery
of the circumstances, and to hear it spoken of by Henry Halford caused
her double pain. She was about to say, when she so abruptly paused, "I
cannot bear to think that he has acted so cruelly to you," but the
reflection that by so saying she should not only too openly show her
interest in himself, but blame her father, made her conclude her reply
as we have described.

The contrast presented to her by Henry Halford's description of her
father's behaviour to him now, also added to the confusion of her ideas,
and she literally had not power to speak.

"You are silent, Miss Armstrong," he said at last. "Do you remember what
I once said to you in Christchurch Meadows at Oxford? Nearly three years
have passed since then, and I am quite as ready now to devote my life to
your future happiness as then. Only answer me one question: shall I go
back to Kilburn at once, and tell Mr. Armstrong that I have asked his
daughter to be my wife, and that her decision is 'No'?"

"I am not prepared to decide yet, Mr. Halford," said Mary, with an
effort controlling herself, "for after all my father's objections, this
sudden change has taken me by surprise." Yet as she spoke, with the
consciousness of those earnest eyes looking into her face, her voice
faltered, and the changing colour and tightened breath too plainly
evinced deep emotion. It gave the young man courage as he gazed, he
raised her hand and placed it on his arm, saying with a smile and a
gentle pressure of the captive hand--

"And now Mr. Armstrong's objections are all removed, do any remain on
the part of his daughter?"

Another pause, and then the straightforward candid character of the
young girl asserted itself. She glanced modestly in the face of her
companion, and said with a smile--

"I did not suppose you would think such a question necessary, Mr.
Halford."

A summons to tea interrupted the conversation, and as they turned to
retrace their steps, he could only say as he pressed the hand that
rested on his arm--"My darling, you have made me so happy."

Cousin Sarah met them at the garden gate, and said--

"We have made no stranger of you, Mr. Halford. Mary is always so happy
in the portioned-off corner of our farm kitchen, that I think you also
will prefer it to the best parlour."

"Indeed I shall," was the reply.

"Perhaps you will be as well pleased with this apartment as with the
beauties of the gardens and orchards," she added, with a smile.

"I fear I have monopolised Miss Armstrong's attention too much on
another subject," he replied, smiling also, "but as I am about to accept
your kind invitation to remain till to-morrow, I shall hope to become
better acquainted with this pleasant spot before I leave."

When Mary seated herself at the tea-table, cousin Sarah required no
words to tell her what her father's message had been. It was not so much
the brilliant colour in the young girl's cheeks, or the brightness of
her eyes which attracted notice, as the expression of calm happiness
which had replaced a sad, and at times a constrained look in her face,
showing to those interested in her how firm a control she had exerted
over herself.

All this had disappeared, and yet the memory of the past increased
Mary's happiness. She had submitted to her father's wishes, and subdued
her own will to his. Neither by word or thought had she disobeyed him,
except in refusing to marry those whom she could neither respect nor
love. And now unasked he had given his consent from, as she fully
believed, his own unbiassed opinion of Henry Halford's real character
and real worth.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE NEW RECTOR OF BRIARSLEIGH.


The summer of the year which had brought such happiness to Mary
Armstrong was fading into autumn. At the door of the parish church at
Kilburn appeared a goodly array of carriages, the coachmen wearing white
favours indicating a wedding, and attracting a crowd of lookers-on.

A stranger passed, and observing the police endeavouring to force a
passage though the crowd for the bride and bridegroom, whose carriage
stood at the gates, also remained as a spectator, and inquired of those
around him the name of the bridegroom.

"It's our curate, sir," said a respectable woman who stood near;
"leastways he was our curate, but he's got a church of his own now down
in Hampshire; it's been given him by a great lord. And the lady, sir,
she's the daughter of a rich gentleman as lives here at Kilburn, and
he's given her I can't tell how many thousand pounds for her fortune,
and here they come, sir," she added, as the bells rang out a merry peal,
and the congregation, hastening from the church, increased the crowd
outside.

In a few minutes the bride appeared leaning on her husband's arm, the
folds of her white satin dress swaying gracefully as she moved, and the
bright hair glinting beneath the lace veil and orange blossoms, while
the brilliant colour on her cheeks made more than one exclaim, "Doesn't
she look beautiful!"

Henry Halford's tall, manly figure, dignified carriage, dark hair, and
full whiskers formed a pleasing contrast to his fair bride, heightened
not a little by his pale face. In fact the young clergyman could not yet
realise his happiness and good fortune, but felt as if in a dream from
which he must shortly awaken to the realities of life.

And yet the scene at the church was too real and too attractive in its
surroundings to be mistaken for a vision by commonplace individuals who
are not afflicted with vivid imaginations. Edward Armstrong could not
conceal a feeling of exultation as he contemplated the brilliant company
who had assembled to do honour to his daughter on her marriage.

As carriage after carriage drives up to receive them we will point out
those whose names appear in our story.

Colonel Herbert and his son, their uniform contrasting with the
bridesmaids' dresses of white and blue, while assisting them into the
carriages form one great point of attraction to the crowd. Among the
bridesmaids we can distinguish the womanly figure and handsome features
of Clara Franklyn, to whom Charles Herbert is very attentive. She is
accompanied by her sister Mabel, whose gentle and delicate features bear
the same childlike expression, although she has reached her fifteenth
year. Kate Marston and Arthur Franklyn are assisting the venerable Dr.
Halford into another carriage. His health has, to a certain extent,
improved since the happy results described in the last chapters have
completed the happiness of his son, and placed him in a position even
beyond his father's brightest hopes. He is now on his way to Lime Grove,
to be present at the wedding breakfast, and with dear grandpapa and Kate
Marston in the carriage are James and little Albert Franklyn, the
latter, in his blue velvet dress and golden curls falling over the
lace-collar, has attracted general admiration. James, a steady, quiet
youth of thirteen, is looking forward to the time when he shall leave
school, and become a clerk in his father's office. Quite as worthy of
notice as any present are the two brothers of the bride, Edward and
Arthur Armstrong--the former a manly youth of nineteen, whose dark eyes
and hair and strongly marked features made his resemblance to his father
very striking. In the latter, whose fair delicate face and tall slight
figure prove that he is growing beyond his strength, can be too surely
seen that a powerful intellect is chafing the slight frame which
encloses it. The boy's studious habits had been encouraged by his father
till he one day expressed a wish to enter the Church. Mr. Armstrong, at
that time irritated with the discovery of his only daughter's
predilection for a "parson," harshly forbade the boy to speak to him
again on the subject.

That objection had been during the last few months removed, but with the
father's consent came the doctor's cautious prohibition--

"Mr. Armstrong, your son's mind must lie fallow for a few years, till he
has ceased growing and regained his strength. He is scarcely seventeen
yet, time enough when he reaches twenty-one to send him to the
university." And with a promise from his father that his wishes should
then be gratified, Arthur was learning to wait patiently.

These two were making themselves popular among the ladies by their
active and polite attentions, yet not more so than the gentleman who now
lifts his little Albert into the carriage and kisses him fondly.

Arthur Franklyn, while escorting the various lady visitors through the
crowd, has lost none of the pleasing, attractive manner which made him
so courted and flattered in Melbourne. And yet those who knew him in his
gay and thoughtless days, can detect a calm steadiness of purpose in the
still handsome face indicating a change, not, however, to his
disadvantage. Arthur Franklyn had risen from his bed of sickness humbled
and subdued. By the advice of his first wife's friends he devoted a
portion of the 2000_l._, which so unexpectedly became his legally after
his wife's death, to the liquidation of his debts in Melbourne.

Released from debt, and, above all, from the tortures of conscience and
the consequences of his sin, he quickly recovered his health and
spirits.

The remainder of the 2000_l._ he invested in a partnership with a rising
firm in the city, and so steadily and cleverly have his business habits
and tact been carried out, that the prospects of the firm are brighter
than ever.

With relief from debt, that foe to peace of mind, a quiet conscience,
and hopes of prosperity in business, his constitution, though greatly
shaken, has recovered its elasticity, and the glow of health adds no
little to the changed appearance of Arthur Franklyn.

He and his children still reside at Kilburn, indeed, now that they are
about to lose Henry, neither Kate Marston nor her uncle can endure the
thought of parting with them, and the children cling to her as to a
second mother. Kate is still supreme manager of the domestic
arrangements, in which she is willingly assisted by Clara, when not
occupied with her sisters at their usual studies. A graduate of the
university has been engaged to supply the place of Henry Halford, and
the old Grange will subside into its usual routine when the bustle
caused by this wedding shall be over.

Three carriages are still waiting for their occupants--Mr. Armstrong's
and two others.

One of them bears on its panels the coronet of an earl, and on another
may be seen the mitre of a bishop.

Mr. Armstrong's carriage is the first to draw up, and he himself appears
in a vainly suppressed state of elation and excitement. His morning
costume is faultless, and although a large sprinkling of white is
observable in his dark hair, yet he bears his fifty-four years well. He
had failed in his attempts to form an alliance with the aristocracy
through his increasing wealth by the marriage of his daughter. Yet had
he carried his point, such a marriage could scarcely have been attended
with greater _eclât_ than on the present occasion. This Mr. Armstrong
now understood and acknowledged to himself without reservation. The
bishop who had just married his daughter to Henry Halford, had been
vice-principal of the young man's college at Oxford; the nobleman who
had presented the living to his son-in-law--were both to be his guests
at the wedding breakfast.

Lord Rivers had known the name of Armstrong from his boyhood. And the
purse-proud merchant, who had been almost ashamed to acknowledge cousin
Sarah before his clerks in Dover Street, stood back in surprise while
the earl assisted that lady into his own carriage, where he had already
placed Mrs. Armstrong. He then entered himself, and the carriage drove
off on its way to Lime Grove.

Mr. Armstrong's own carriage was quickly filled with a party of young
people; two juvenile bridesmaids, with their aunt Edith Longford, soon
to be Mrs. Maurice, and Arthur and Freddy Armstrong, now a merry
laughter-loving boy of eleven. There remained now only three gentlemen
to accompany the bishop in his drive to Lime Grove, the rector of
Kilburn, Horace Wilton, Henry's best man, and Mr. Armstrong. Perhaps the
latter's foolish prejudices about clergymen were never more completely
shaken than when he found himself seated in the bishop's carriage with
that high church dignitary and the two gentlemen we have named. In fact,
he wondered at himself that he could feel proud of the position. And now
what can be said of the wedding breakfast, laid out in Mr. Armstrong's
splendidly furnished dining-room? For this occasion Mrs. Herbert had
obtained _carte blanche_ from her sister to make any alterations she
pleased, and the introduction of flowers and other ornaments, according
to that lady's taste, had greatly improved the elegant appearance of the
table and satisfied the hired waiters, who succumbed to that lady's
superior knowledge at once and without a demur.

And what shall we say of the numerous yet select party who assembled
around that elegant table? It was like all other wedding breakfasts, a
medley of smiles and tears, of joyful hopes and sad regrets, painful
memories and bright prospects. And yet there was something in the
gathering round Mr. Armstrong's table which made it differ from similar
associations. The preponderance of the clerical element did not cast a
damper on the young and buoyant spirits then present. The bishop's
genial, yet dignified manner, resembled that of the lamented Dr.
Wilberforce. The rector, an old man approaching his eightieth year,
belonged to the class of polished and refined gentlemen of olden times,
who would take off their hats to the meanest of their female
parishioners, or enter bareheaded the humblest cottage in the parish.

Horace Wilton, as we know, had not learned to regard with a cynical eye
the happiness which he had himself so nearly grasped, and Frank Maurice
found himself taking lessons in the present ordering of an event which
was so soon to be realised in his own experience. As to the bridegroom,
who, strange to say, is very often looked upon as the least important
person present on such an occasion, an overflow of happiness kept him
silent. It was not till called upon to return thanks in the name of his
bride and himself, that the natural powers of eloquence and oratory
possessed by Henry Halford astonished and delighted the wedding guests.

The speech scarcely occupied five minutes. His words were well chosen,
and to the point; his allusions pleasant and in good taste; his
quotations, in one or two instances classical, were suitable and
attractive; while through all could be detected the oratorical powers of
the speaker, although subdued and restrained to suit the room and the
occasion. When the clear young voice ceased there was a burst of
applause, hushed, however, in a moment, as Lord Rivers rose and
exclaimed--

"Thank you, Mr. Henry Halford, for showing me that I have not made any
mistake in my choice of a rector for Briarsleigh."

But the wedding chapter is extending itself beyond the prescribed
limits. We must pass over the speeches and the toasts which followed.
We, who know the love of mother and daughter in that hour, now so joyous
with the voices and symbols of happiness, can understand how both are
dreading the hour of parting.

It came at last; and when Mary, accompanied by her bridesmaids, hastened
to the room to prepare for her journey, Mrs. Armstrong followed her
upstairs, and seating herself in her own room waited nervously till her
daughter was ready.

She heard the door open, and the young voices in gay conversation as
they approached. Then she rose and stood near the door, to be quickly
observed by her daughter.

"Mamma! oh, I'm so glad. Wait a few minutes, Kate and Clara." Then she
turned, and throwing herself on her mother's bosom, she exclaimed,
"Mother, dearest mother, how can I leave you? Who will take care of you
when I am gone?"

The mother's arms closed around her child, and for some moments neither
spoke, but the tears were silently flowing from Mrs. Armstrong's eyes,
as she listened to the scarcely restrained sobs of her daughter.

A tear dropped on Mary's forehead; she raised her face quickly--

"Mamma, I am causing you unnecessary pain; pray forgive me. I cannot
help it; I shall miss you so much."

"No, darling," said the mother, with a smile, as she wiped the tears
which she tried to restrain; "you belong to your husband now; he will
more than supply my place to you; besides, we shall not be so very far
away from each other after all, and Martha will take care of me."

"That I will Miss--Ma'am, I beg your pardon," and the faithful old
servant entered hastily as she spoke; "They are calling out for you,
Mrs. Halford; the carriage is waiting."

"Once more, darling mother, good-by," said the young bride, who had
started with a smile at the matronly title; and after one more kiss and
fond embrace, the mother and daughter descended the stairs together.
Mrs. Armstrong had nerved herself to witness her child's departure.

One more ordeal awaited Mary.

After kisses and farewells from the bridesmaids, and more formal adieus
to the visitors, Mary turned to her father. Mr. Armstrong clasped his
daughter to his heart, and as he fondly kissed her, whispered, "Forgive
me, darling, for all the sorrow I have caused you." Controlling her
emotion, she playfully placed her gloved hand on his lips, and
exclaimed, "Hush, papa, it has made my happiness all the greater."

In a few moments the lawn beneath the lime trees was glittering with
tarlatan, lace, and ribbons, as the juvenile portion of the company
followed Mary and her husband to the gate. At length, after one last
kiss had been given to the bride, to be succeeded by another, the rector
of Briarsleigh's carriage drove off amid a shower of old slippers, only
one of which reached its destination.

That evening, when alone, and reflecting on the events of the day,
Edward Armstrong discovered that with all his self-confidence in his own
superior judgment, he had during his life made more than one mistake.

In all his successes he had forgotten God, and worshipped riches and
position. He had despised those possessing high, noble, and intellectual
qualities, because they lacked those advantages which he so highly
valued.

His prejudices and his pride had made him unkind to his only daughter,
and only when at last alarmed by discovering that "riches can take to
themselves wings," did he allow these foolish prejudices to be set
aside. To his surprise he was now obliged to admit that the honours this
day conferred upon him arose from his daughter's alliance with the
family he had once despised for their profession and supposed poverty.
To them he owed the presence of the bishop and the earl as his guests.
While the family he had despised had been honouring God, he had been
honouring gold; and as these facts became clear to his mind, the words
of a text he had read when a child at his mother's knee came back on his
memory with full force--"Them that honour Me I will honour, and they
that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."

THE END





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