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Title: Mabel, Vol. I (of 3) - A Novel
Author: Warburton, Emma
Language: English
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                                 MABEL.

                                A NOVEL,
                           BY EMMA WARBURTON.

                          _IN THREE VOLUMES._

                                VOL. I.


                                LONDON:

                    THOMAS CAUTLEY NEWBY, PUBLISHER,
                 30, WELBECK STREET, CAVENDISH SQUARE.
                                 1854.



                                   TO
                         MISS EMMA TYLNEY LONG,
                           THIS WORK
                              IS INSCRIBED
                   AS A SLIGHT BUT SINCERE EXPRESSION
                               OF GRATEFUL ESTEEM.



                                 MABEL.



                               CHAPTER I.

     Oh, timely, happy, timely wise,
     Hearts that with rising morn arise,
     Eyes that the beam celestial view,
     Which evermore makes all things new.

     New every morning is the love,
     Our waking and uprising prove,
     Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
     Restored to life, and power, and thought.

                                                        KEEBLE.


One morning, early in the month of August, a few years since, the sun
rose lazily and luxuriously over the hills that bounded the little
village of Aston, which lay in one of the prettiest valleys of
Gloucestershire. The golden beams of that glorious luminary falling
first upon the ivy-covered tower of the little church, seemed, to the
eye of fancy, to linger with pleasure round the sacred edifice, as if
glad to recognize the altar of Him, who, from the beginning, had fixed
his daily course through the bright circle of the heavens, then pouring
a flood of brilliancy on the simple rectory, danced over the hills, and
played with the many windows of the old Manor House, which, situated at
a short distance from the church, formed one of the most striking
objects of the village.

Only here and there a thick volume of smoke rose from the cottages
scattered over the valley, while the only living object visible was a
young man, who thus early walked down the steep and winding path, which
led from the rectory, and strolled leisurely forward, as if attracted by
the beauties of the early morning. The slow pace with which he moved
seemed to betoken either indolence or fatigue, while his dress, which
was of the latest fashion, slightly contrasted with the ancient-looking
simplicity of the place.

Captain Clair, for such was his name, had quitted his regiment, then in
India, and returned to England, with the hope of recruiting his health,
which had been considerably impaired by his residence abroad.

On the preceding evening, he had arrived at the rectory, upon a visit to
his uncle, who wished him to try the bracing air of Gloucestershire as a
change from town, where he had been lingering for some little time since
his return to England.

In person, the young officer was slight and well made, with a becoming
military air; his countenance light and fresh colored, spite of Indian
suns, and, on the whole, prepossessing, though not untinged by certain
worldly characters, as if he had entered perhaps too thoughtlessly on a
world of sin and temptation.

There is, however, something still and holy in the early morning, when
the sin and folly of nature has slept, or seemed to sleep, and life
again awakes with fresh energy to labor. The dew from heaven has not
fallen upon the herb alone, it seems to rest upon the spirit of man
which rises full of renewed strength to that toil before which it sank
heavily at eve; and as Captain Clair felt the breeze rising with its
dewy incense to heaven, his mind seemed to receive fresh impetus, and
his thoughts a higher tone. Languidly as he pursued his way, his eye
drank in the beauties of a new country, with all the fervour of a
poetical imagination.

On the right and left of the village, as he entered it, were high hills,
covered with brushwood, a few cottages, with their simple gardens, lay
in the hollow, and the church, standing nearly alone, was built a
little above these, having the hill on the left immediately behind it.
There was great beauty in that simple church, with that thickly covered
hill above, and nothing near to disturb its solemnity.

Further on, the hills opened, and gave a view of the whole country
beyond, presenting a scene of loveliness very common in our fertile
island. A small but beautiful river wound through the valley, carrying
life and fertility along its banks. Wide spreading oaks and tall
beeches, with the graceful birch and chestnut trees bending their lower
branches nearly to the green turf beneath, enclosed the grounds of the
Manor House, which, built on a gentle ascent, looked down on the
peaceful valley below.

The house, itself, was a fine old building, well suited to the habits of
a country gentleman, though not so large as the gardens and plantation
surrounding it, might have admitted. These had been gradually acquired
by each successive owner of the mansion, who took pleasure in adding to
the family estate by purchasing all property immediately adjoining, but
had wisely refrained from patching and spoiling the house itself.

Captain Clair was determined to admire every thing; he had got up
unusually early, and that in itself was a meritorious action, which put
him in perfect good humour with himself. It was a very pleasant morning,
too, numbers of insects, he had scarcely ever seen or thought of since
he was a boy, attracted his attention, and flew out from the dewy
hedges, over which the white lily, or bindweed, hung in careless grace.
The butterfly awoke, and sported in the sunshine--and the bee went forth
to the busy labors of the day, humming the song of cheerful industry.
All combined to bring back long forgotten days of innocent childhood and
boyish mirth; the pulse which an Indian clime had weakened, beat
quicker, and his spirits revived before the influence of happy memories
and the healthy breezes of the Cotswold. Then, as the morning advanced,
he lingered to watch the movements of the villagers, and to muse upon
the characters of the inmates of the different cottages as he passed
them, and to observe that those who dwelt in the neatest were those who
stirred the first. The labourers had gone to their work, and now the
windows and doors were opened, and children came forth to play.

As he returned again to reach the rectory in time for its early
breakfast, he perceived one dwelling much superior in character to those
around it, with its antique gable front ornamented with carefully
arranged trelliswork, over which creepers twined in flowery luxuriance,
and the simple lawn sloping down towards the road, from which a low,
sunk fence divided it. Here, careless of observation, a young child had
seated herself--her straw hat upon the turf beside her, while she was
busily engaged in twining for it a wreath of the wild lily, forgetful
that in a few minutes its beauty would perish; she was a lovely child,
the outline of her infantine features was almost faultless, and her
little face dimpled with smiles as she looked up from her occupation to
nod some brief salutation to the poor men as they passed her on their
way home.

Arthur Clair could scarcely tell, why, of all the objects he had
observed that morning, none should make so deep an impression as the
sight of that young child, or why he felt almost sad, as he thought of
her twining those fading flowers, and as he strolled on, why, he looked
at nothing further, but still found himself musing on the delicate
features of that young face.

When he reached the garden gate, he found his uncle strolling about,
waiting for him.

Mr. Ware was a fine looking old gentleman, with silver hair curling over
a wide and expansive forehead. Though a little under the middle height,
there was a gentle dignity in his manner that could scarcely fail to be
noticed, or if not noticed, it was sure to be felt. He was neither very
witty, nor very learned--yet none knew him very long without liking him.
His face, not originally striking, had become more handsome as he had
grown older--for the struggle between good and evil, which must be in
every well principled mind, a perpetual struggle, had been carried on by
him for many years, and so successfully, that each year brought heaven
nearer to the good man's thoughts; and now, as the race was so nearly
finished, his zeal became more earnest, and his conscience more tender;
fearing, lest, after a life spent in his Master's service, he might be
found lingering at the last, and lose the prize for which he had been so
long striving. In his eye was that look of serenity and peace which
seemed to say, "he feared no evil tidings;" for he walked continually
under the protection, which only can give that feeling of security which
those who have it not would bestow great riches to possess. We have
lingered longer than we at first intended in description, but, perhaps
not too long.

When we look back to the innocence of childhood, we sigh to think that
we can never be children again; we recall that happy time when the world
had not written its own characters of sin and falsehood in our hearts;
we sigh to think that childhood is gone--but no sigh will recall it. But
when we see an old man who has passed the waves of this troublesome
world, true to the faith with which he entered life, we feel that here
is an example which we may follow. Childhood we have left behind, but
old age is before us, and if we live on, must come; and, as the body
decays, do we not feel that the spirit should increase in holiness and
strength, preparing itself for that beautiful world of light which it
must enter or die.

Mr. Ware had resided for many years at Aston; when a younger man, he had
been tutor, for a few months, to Colonel Hargrave, the present
possessor of the Aston property--and though with his pupil, only during
a tour through Italy, the attachment between them was such, that the
young man solicited his father to prefer his tutor to Aston, when that
living became vacant, partly, he told him, from his wish to secure
himself a friend and companion, whenever he visited home. Mr. Ware
gratefully accepted an offer which at once placed him in independence;
and, as soon as he had settled himself in his new house, he carried one
of his favourite projects into execution, by sending for his only
sister, who had been obliged to procure her livelihood as a governess;
his own small means being, since their father's death, insufficient for
both.

It was not then for his own sake entirely that he rejoiced in his
improved circumstances. When he drove his neat little carriage to meet
his sister, and when he brought her home, and shewed her his
house--their house as he called it--with its pretty comfortable
sitting-room, looking out upon the garden, and the neat little chamber,
where all her old favourite books--recovered from the friend who had
taken charge of them during her wanderings--rested upon the neatly
arranged shelves, he felt as happy as man can wish to be. And when, with
eyes glistening with pleasure, he assured her that it was her home as
long as she lived--he said what he never found reason to repent, for the
cheerful face of his companion bore perpetual remembrance of his
brotherly kindness.

He had once thought of marriage; but the idea had now passed away
entirely. In early years, he had been sincerely attached to a school
friend of his sister's, whom he had met during one of his Oxford
vacations; but she died early, leaving her memory too deeply impressed,
to make him wish to replace it by giving his affection to another. His
sister, now almost his only near relative, had sympathised, most
sincerely, in his loss, and had endeavoured to aid his own manly
judgment in regaining that cheerfulness of tone so necessary for the
right discharge of the every-day duties of life. She had been rewarded
by the more than usual continuation of a brother's early love and
esteem, and she had, therefore, no scruple of accepting his offer of
protection, and a home.

From that time, she had continued to keep his house with the most
cheerful attention to his wishes and whims, and with an evenness of
temper which had always been peculiar to her.

There was an air of gaiety about the whole house; the two maid-servants
and the old gardener seemed to possess peculiarly good tempers--they
were, indeed, scarcely ever disturbed, and we may venture to add, that
they were not very much overworked.

There were hives of bees in the garden, chickens in the court-yard, and
the gaily-feathered cock strutting about, giving a lazy crow now and
then--all seeming to take their ease, and enjoy themselves. In fact,
there was a blessing on the good man's home, that was always smiling
round it.

It was to this pleasant abode that the young soldier had come down
wearied with London amusements, like some strange being who had yet to
find a place in its social order.

"You are fortunate, sir," he said, as he strolled down the garden by his
uncle's side, "in your neighbourhood. I have seldom seen anything before
more comfortably beautiful, if I may use the expression."

"I am glad you like it," replied Mr. Ware, "and I assure you I shall be
quite contented if it has the power to make you spend a month or two
here agreeably. If you are fond of scenery, there are many places worth
seeing, even within a walking distance."

"I suppose the Manor House is amongst the number?" observed his nephew,
"I have been admiring it extremely. I cannot think why Hargrave does
not come down here. Has he been since he came into the property?"

"Yes--but only once, and then only for a short while; but you speak as
if you knew him?"

"A little," replied Clair, "he came home with us from Malta; but
friendship, sometimes, ripen fast. He found out my relationship to you,
which commenced our acquaintance; I was charmed with him--indeed, I
scarcely ever met more variety in any character. Sometimes I could
scarcely keep pace with his flow of spirits, and then he would fall into
a fit of musing, piquing my curiosity to discover why so great a change
should take place, as it were, in an instant--in short, I'd defy any one
to get into his confidence. But you know him, sir?"

"Yes," said Mr. Ware, "I knew him very well at one time; his father sent
me with him to Italy, and in return, the generous boy obtained me this
preferment. But I have not seen him now, I think, for six or seven
years--though we write to each other occasionally. You must tell me more
about him at your leisure, however, for he is a great favourite with
Mary as well as myself; but now, I think, you must be ready for
breakfast--Mary is waiting for us, I see. Afterwards, if you are not
tired, we will pay a visit to the church--there are two or three
monuments of the Hargrave family worth looking at."

"You are very kind," replied Clair, "I am sure I feel better already
with the fresh country air--and health after sickness is happiness
itself, sometimes."

At this moment, Miss Ware opened the glass door which led into the
garden. She was dressed, with studied simplicity, in a black silk gown,
with white muslin apron, and her cap, looking as white as snow, fastened
round the head by a broad lilac ribbon; but the smile upon her face was
the best of all, and was never wanting at the breakfast-table, for she
always maintained that no one had a right to be dull after a good
night's rest, or to anticipate the troubles of the day before they came.

"Good morning, Edmund," said she to her brother, "and good morning,
Arthur," giving her hand to her nephew. "I was just preparing to send
your breakfast up-stairs, when I heard you had been out for more than
two hours."

"I am not sorry to save you the trouble of nursing me, aunt--I have had
enough of that in London," said Clair, gaily, as he followed her to the
morning-room, where breakfast waited them. The meal was dispatched with
cheerfulness, and he amused his aunt by an account of his walk, and the
guesses which it had allowed him to make of the character of their
poorer neighbours, with whom she was herself well acquainted.

After breakfast, Mr. Ware invited him to join his morning ramble.

"I shall have an opportunity," he said, as they descended the hill
leading to the lower part of the village, "of pointing out to you some
of the evils of absenteeism--of which you have, doubtless, heard much. I
have always noticed, that what we gain from our own observation is worth
much more than the information of others. In this little spot,
unhappily, you will see very much to condemn. I have already told you
that our landlord, Colonel Hargrave, has not been here for more than six
years, and before that visit, which was chiefly occupied in field
sports, his sojourn here had been very rare, for his talented mind led
him to seek the more extensive knowledge to be gained from foreign
travel, even before he entered the army. His father, who has now been
dead some years, constantly resided here, till the death of his wife,
which made Aston a very different place from what it is at present. Poor
Mrs. Hargrave was universally beneficent, and was so much loved and
respected by the people in this neighbourhood, rich as well as poor,
that her name is scarcely ever mentioned without the title of 'good'
being added to it. The time when good Mrs. Hargrave lived is always
looked back upon with affectionate regret. When she died, however, her
husband, who was passionately fond of her, took a distaste to a place
which constantly reminded him of his loss, and he only paid very casual
visits to it during the remainder of his life, which did not last long
after the domestic blow he had sustained. At present, the estate is in
the hands of a rapacious bailiff, who amply fulfils that proverb, which
says, 'A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which
leaveth no food.' Unfortunately, I have no influence with him, and as he
has to pay me tithe, he regards me in the light of others who are
dependent upon him. It is an unhappy state of things, certainly, for the
wages of the poor laborers employed on the estate, are, in some cases,
kept back for months together. You may easily fancy how difficult it is
for men to live under these circumstances, having no other resource
beyond the fruit of their labors."

They had, by this time, reached the hollow between the two hills, where
a great many cottages were situated. About them was an appearance of
neglect, that is, at all times, disagreeable to contemplate. In most
parts, the thatch had become blackened by the weather, and here and
there pieces of it had been blown off by the high winds, or were kept in
place only by heavy stones laid upon the roof. In some places the walls,
which bounded the little gardens, had been suffered to crumble
down--loose stones lying in the gaps, but no effort seemed to have been
made to replace them. A ditch ran along the road, partially covered with
long grass and weeds; but the glimpses here and there afforded of it,
told that it was used as a receptacle for the drains of that part of the
parish--and a noxious stench arose from it exercising a baneful
influence, as might be seen by the pale faces of the children who played
about it.

Added to this, there was a desponding tone over the general features of
the place, which might have accounted for the wastes of ground which
might be seen, here and there, covered with weeds, rather than converted
to any useful purpose.

"Surely," said Clair, attracting his uncle's attention, "this
self-neglect cannot be attributed to Hargrave?"

"Not altogether," replied Mr. Ware, "this is an evil which I hope time
will remedy; there is, indeed, no excuse for it; yet the reason I
believe simply to be, that the people, losing their accustomed
stimulant, arising from a resident family, and depressed by the low and
uncertain wages they receive from an oppressive bailiff, have not yet
learned to take care of themselves; but yet I hope, from day to day,"
said the good man, looking round, "it would not do for me to despond as
well as the rest."

Stepping over a small plank that crossed the ditch, they entered one of
the cottages. The interior presented a kind of untidy comfort; a large
heap of fuel lay in one corner, and a bed was at one side, and seemed
used as a substitute for a seat during the day. The windows, where panes
had been broken, were filled up with dirty rags; two or three children
were playing about with naked feet, and their mother, a remarkably
pretty young woman, was working at the darkened window. By the fire was
seated a strong hale young man, with his hands upon his knees,
contemplating it with gloomy fixedness. A red cap ornamented his head,
and partly shaded a pair of dark eyes, and a scowling countenance.

Mr. Ware could not but enter the cottage with the consciousness that he
was not particularly welcome; yet this did not render his visits less
frequent.

"Well, Martin," said he, "I am sorry to see you at home, for I fear you
are out of work."

The man answered, without rising from his seat--

"I am out of work, and so I am likely to remain, I suppose. It is
up-hill work to have nothing better to look to than this comes to--and
it is very hard to be owed ever so much money, which I have earned by as
honest labor as was ever given in exchange for money. I have heard you
read--'_cursed is he that keepeth a man's wages all night by him until
the morning_,'--but I don't know what would be said to him that can keep
them for months, letting a poor man starve, without thinking of him for
a moment. When rent day comes round, then it must be rent, or turn out;
we hav'nt got no power in our hands; but I say 'tis a very hard case."

"It is very hard, I allow, Martin," said Mr. Ware, "but the wrong done
you does not excuse your sitting here idle; have you been trying for
work?"

"Yes, I've been to all the farmers round; but there's none to be got."

"How do you manage to get on then?"

"We live as we can," answered the man, sullenly.

"Well, my good fellow," said Mr. Ware, kindly, "make another effort, and
do not sit down here idle all day. I hear that Colonel Hargrave is
coming to England shortly, if, indeed, he is not already here."

"We have heard that so often," growled Martin, "that we cannot put any
faith in it. He'll never come to do us any good, I reckon."

Mr. Ware offered him a little more advice as to exerting himself, and
then, with a small gratuity to his wife, left the cottage with his
nephew.

"He is a notorious poacher," said he, as they walked on, "and his excuse
is, if they do not give us our own money, we must take an equivalent.
It is difficult to preach while poverty and starvation are opposed to
the maxims we would wish to inculcate. I wish something could make the
Colonel believe the actual state of things; but I do sometimes fear he
entirely forgets us. In that neat-looking dwelling," he continued, after
a pause, "lives a woman, who has hitherto obtained her livelihood by
supplying the poor inhabitants with bread and other necessaries; for
some months past, however, Rogers, the bailiff, has found excuses to
withhold the wages from most of the workmen engaged in repairing the
premises at Aston, and they have been obliged to live upon credit, which
this poor woman has been persuaded to give them--in consequence, she
tells me, she is nearly ruined; and from the confusion in which her
money matters stand, she has fallen quite into a state of melancholy. I
went to her yesterday, so that I will not ask you to see her to-day; but
we will come in here," he said, at the same time lifting the latch of a
door, which opened into a small room, more like some hovel, attached to
a tenement which contained several families.

It was a wretched-looking place, and Clair could scarcely suppress a
shudder as he entered it. It was but badly lighted from a broken window;
an old piece of furniture served, at once, for a table and a sort of
cupboard; two chairs, and a stool, completed the furniture, with the
exception of a shelf, on which the poverty of the house was displayed,
in half a loaf of bread which rested on it. Here an old man sat by the
smouldering embers of a wood fire, holding his hands as close to it as
possible, as if he hoped to find comfort in the miserable heat it
afforded, for his thin hands looked cold, though it was still early in
autumn. He welcomed them with pleasure, and offered his two chairs to
the gentlemen with ready alacrity, taking possession of the stool for
himself.

While Mr. Ware continued talking to the old man, Clair gave a searching
glance round the poor dwelling, and trembled to think how the cold
December wind would whistle through the old window; but when he thought
of asking some questions concerning it, he was checked, by hearing the
two old men discourse with such apparent ease and cordiality, as if they
had entirely forgotten where they were.

"Is it really possible, sir," said he, when they had left, "that nothing
can be done for that poor old man?"

"I fear nothing can be done," returned Mr. Ware, "unless we can persuade
Hargrave to return to us."

"But how," enquired Clair, "would his coming remedy the evil."

"It would do so in a great measure," replied Mr. Ware, as they turned
homewards. "A man with his wealth could afford to keep all that are now
out of labour, well employed. A farmer cannot well afford to pay an old
man for the little labour he can give, but a rich landlord can easily
find him employment; at a lower rate of wages, of course. Formerly,
those who were too old for hard work, were allowed to sweep away the
leaves, or clean the weeds from the walks on the estate, which were a
few years since beautifully kept. The absence of a rich family in a
place where the people have learnt to depend upon them, is a serious
loss. You will wonder, perhaps, that I do not instantly, and fully
relieve the situation of the old man we visited just now, but the
poverty which has prevailed in almost every house during the past year,
has been very great; and I have been obliged to divide my charity so as
to make it more extensive. Besides, I do not much approve of giving
where it can be avoided; and, therefore, husband my means for the
scarcity of the coming winter."

"I should have guessed," said his nephew, "that some such motive
influenced you, or I know such cases would meet with instant
relief--but of one thing, I am certain, Hargrave cannot be aware of
this."

"We will hope not," said Mr. Ware, somewhat sadly; "but I have written
to him frequently, and if Rogers gave me the proper directions, it is
hardly likely my letters have not reached him. It is too probable, that,
like many more, he relies too much upon his bailiff."

They had, by this time, reached the rectory, and Clair, exhausted from
unusual exercise, threw himself into an arm-chair, and took up a book.



                              CHAPTER II.

     From dream to dream, with her to rove,
     Like faery nurse, with hermit child,
     Teach her to think, to pray, to love,
     Make grief less bitter, joy less wild.
     These were thy tasks,--.

                                                 CHURCH POETRY.


About a quarter of a mile from the rectory, and close to the Church, was
the pretty little residence which had attracted Clair's attention in his
morning walk. It was an old fashioned little house, with gable front,
and latticed windows, with ivy climbing over the walls, and jasmine and
honeysuckle creeping in rich luxuriance over the old porch. In front,
the grass-plot sloped down, with a wide gravel walk running round it,
to the gate, which shut it in from the high road. At the back lay a
spacious vegetable garden, irregularly laid out, and interrupted here
and there by a rose-bush, or bed of beautiful carnations, as it suited
the old gardener's taste--for he had lived in the family so many years,
that no one dared dispute his will in the garden--it was conducted on
his most approved style of good gardening; and old John would have
defended that style against all the world. To have discharged him from
her service would have been one of the last things his mistress would
have thought of; therefore, the only alternative was to let him have his
own way in every thing. One part of his system was to put every thing in
the place best suited to its growth, without much regard to order, and
the garden often presented a strange medley in consequence; the hottest
corners were shared by early lettuces, and rich double stocks, and
radish beds, and so on, throughout the garden; but there was something
not unpleasing in the mixture, though it looked a little singular, and
the general neatness was not to be found fault with--and the turf walks
cutting the garden in many directions, were always smoothly cut and
rolled.

The spot where old John was most certain to be found, was just in the
middle of the garden, where he had enclosed a small piece of ground by a
high and closely clipped yew hedge, to keep out the wind. In this small
enclosure, were two or three hot-beds, with cucumbers, melons, or some
very early radishes, or cress under glass frames. He had always
something to do round these beds, the matting covers were to be put on
or taken off, and the glasses opened a little more, and more, as the day
advanced, and then, of course, to be closed again, by degrees, towards
evening. If any one touched them but himself, he looked as if his whole
crop must inevitably be spoilt; but the secret might have been, that, he
had always some little surprise to bring out of them, such as a
cucumber ten days earlier than could have been expected; or some mustard
and cress, before any one else thought of planting any, which, of
course, was not to be seen till quite ready for the table.

There was an appearance about the inside of the house, as well as of the
garden, as if a great deal of money had been spent upon it formerly, for
there were many solid and ornamental comforts in both, which might have
been dispensed with if required.

The drawing-room, though small, was substantially and elegantly
furnished, though old fashioned; every thing in the room too bore the
evidence of refined habits, but nothing told of any present expenditure.
Such as it had been ten years before, it very much remained now. The
dining-room and usual sitting-room, had much of the same appearance
though it did not give quite the same reflective, feeling--ladies' work,
and a child's playthings, gave life and animation to it.

Colonel Lesly had lived here for many years since his retirement from
the army, having lost a leg during the Peninsular war, where he had
served as a brave officer, and only retired from the service when unable
to be of further use to it. On his return to England, he, with his wife
and child, settled in his native county--and fixed on this cottage for
his residence. His wife was most sincerely attached to him, and her
society with that of their daughter Mabel, made him scarcely regret,
being obliged so soon to retire from a profession so well adapted to his
tastes. He had been fond of reading, when a boy, and had not neglected
the opportunities presented by his wandering abroad, to cultivate his
taste for general information. One of his chief pleasures soon became
that of teaching his little Mabel all he knew, and her intelligent
questions often led him to take an interest in subjects he might
otherwise have neglected.

Since their settling at Aston, Colonel and Mrs. Lesly had had several
children, who had all died in infancy, still leaving Mabel as the only
object of parental love; fondly did her father guard the young girl's
mind, growing in intelligence, and beauty, whilst her speaking features
lighted up with smiles whenever he came near. Proudly did he watch her
as each year gave her something more soft, more touching, more womanly;
and earnestly did he hope that life would be spared him to guide aright
a mind of such firmness and power, joined to feelings so warm and eager,
that it seemed to him a question which would have the ascendancy, heart
or mind. But that wish was not to be granted, and Mabel's first real
sorrow, was her father's death. He had gone on a short visit to London,
upon some urgent business, and had there taken the typhus fever, which
made its appearance soon after his return home, and, acting on an
enfeebled constitution, carried him to his grave, after a short illness.
A few days after his death, Mabel's youngest sister was born. It was,
indeed, to a house of sorrow and mourning, that the little child came,
for her mother's constitution never recovered the shock she had
sustained in the loss of one, not only most dear, but on whom she had
become almost wholly dependent.

It was then that Mabel felt the benefit of her father's lessons so
firmly impressed on her mind, and resolved to act as she believed he
would have led her to do, could he have been allowed the power of
guiding her still. So severely did her mother feel the loss she had
sustained, both in health and spirits, that she rather required support
herself than felt able to afford it to those dependent on her; Mabel,
therefore, soon felt the necessity of exerting herself, as all the
family responsibilities seemed left entirely to her care.

As soon then as she could at all recover from the blow occasioned by her
father's death, she applied herself to the management of their now
reduced income, and busied herself in cutting off all the expenses
which the Colonel's liberal habits had rendered almost necessary to his
happiness, but which were now quite beyond their means.

In the course of her enquiries, she had no greater opponent than old
John; he first insisted that he himself was quite indispensable to the
arrangements of the family; and when he had gained that point, he was
equally obstinate about the carriage and ponies. But Mabel had the
advantage in that particular, at least; the old gardener was left in
quiet possession--but the coach-house and stable were shut up--and after
many a battle with their old friend, everything else that could be
dispensed with, was cut off, till the expenditure was reduced to
something within their income. John pined and fretted, but his young
mistress had such a winning way, he could not keep his ill-humour long.
He had declared, during one of his contests, that she never could be
happy without the pretty pony which had carried her up and down the
hills so often; but he was obliged to give up the point, when he saw the
delight with which she carried her infant sister in her arms and danced
her in the sunshine, with half a mother's hope and pride, as if she
wanted nothing more to make her perfectly happy.

Sometimes, when the child grew older, she would take her to gather the
yellow cress, or the cowslip, and watch her trembling steps with the
most careful attention, or lead her to the church-yard, and there,
seated on their father's tomb, give her her first lesson in eternal
things. And then they would return together to cheer their mother's
solitude, and try to divert her from her never ceasing regrets; and thus
years passed by, and if sorrow laid again its heavy hand on Mabel's
brow, resignation had followed to smooth away its lines, and leave it
soft and gentle as before.

On that bright August morning, which we have before described, she was
sitting with her little sister, now a beautiful but weak and unhealthy
child, of seven or eight, at her lessons in the cheerful little
sitting-room. Mabel--with her bright, quick eye, changing color, and
speaking countenance over which a thought, perhaps a single shade of
mournfulness had been cast, and the little girl by her side looked well
together, and they were almost always in company. Amy was at her French
lesson, which that morning seemed peculiarly hard to learn, and much as
she always tried to please her sister, she could not help turning her
wandering eyes rather often to the open window to watch the butterflies
flit past in the merry sunshine.

"It is so difficult, Mabel dear," said she, at length, "I learnt it
perfectly this morning, but I cannot remember the words now."

"Well, try once more," replied Mabel; "but you must not look out of the
window."

"But my head aches so," said Amy, coaxingly, knowing that Mabel could
hardly ever resist her plea of illness.

"Well, there is mamma's bell, and while I go to dress her, you can take
a run round the garden--but do not be long, or I shall have to call
you."

Mabel went up-stairs, and Amy ran off to the garden--her first object
was the fruit trees, to see if any were on the ground--she found
none--but many beautiful ripe peaches were on one tree, which was
carefully trained against the wall, and one finer than the rest,
perfectly ready, and peeping out from the leaves, looked peculiarly
tempting. She stopped to look, then felt it gently, then tried to see if
it were loose, till one unfortunate push, and the peach tumbled to the
ground. Amy looked frightened, and gazed round to see if any one was in
sight, but seeing no one, she picked it up, and began to eat it.

Suddenly the awful step of old John was heard coming from the
cucumber-bed.

"How did you get that peach, miss?" he said, roughly.

The child turned red, but answered quickly,

"I picked it up."

"Well, I would not have lost that peach," said he, "for half-a-dozen
others. Miss Mabel told me to save half-a-dozen for Mr. Ware, and this
was the best of the lot--I shan't have such another beauty this year.
Oh, miss."

"But you said I might have all I picked up," answered Amy, clinging to
her subterfuge.

"Yes; but I thought this was too firm to fall, watching it as I did
too," said he, as he looked in consternation from the tree to the half
eaten peach in Amy's hand.

The child was not long in taking advantage of his silence, and ran into
the house just in time to take up the French lesson before Mabel
returned.

There was a look of indignation not easily mistaken by Amy on her
sister's face, when she entered the room.

"Oh, Amy," she said, in tones of anger and surprise.

Amy looked up, but said nothing--she was frightened, for she knew that
she had been doing wrong.

"I did not think," said Mabel, while an expression of contempt curled
her beautiful lip, "I did not think you could be so mean as to screen
yourself from blame by a falsehood."

Amy was going to speak, but her sister interrupted her.

"I know every word you would say; but it is all, all wrong. I heard
every word, and I dare say, guessed every thought. You did not really
mean to pick the peach, but you could not resist the temptation to
loosen its hold. When it fell, you were surprised and sorry; but you
could not resist the temptation to eat, because you were alone, and
thought that no one saw you; then, when John came, you turned coward,
because you were wrong, and told him you had picked it up--and this was
true, though it was also true that you were the means of knocking it
down first--so you had neither the courage to speak the truth, nor tell
a falsehood."

Mabel spoke quickly and impetuously, and as the whole truth glared on
the child's mind, the hot tears fell quickly on her burning cheek.

"You do not love me, Mabel," she said.

"Because I will not let you be mean, deceitful, and wicked. What would
papa have said had he seen his child act so?"

"Oh, forgive me, dear Mabel, and do not talk like that," said Amy.

There was a tear in Mabel's eye that softened the severity of her tone,
and sitting down by her, she said, more quietly--

"Amy, love, in that little action, I saw enough to make me indignant,
and more to make me sorry; for if you do not get rid of that deceit,
which has led you wrong now, it will go on, leading you into worse
errors, and how can I take care of you if I am not certain you are
speaking the truth. Falsehood is the beginning of all sin; and you will
learn to deceive me; and when I think my darling is all I wish her, I
shall discover something hidden and sinful, that will tell me I am
wrong. Oh, I am so vexed."

"Forgive me--oh, do say you forgive me?" cried the punished child.

"Have I the power to forgive what is sinful?" said Mabel, kissing her
affectionately.

Amy understood, and running to the chamber where they both slept, she
fell upon her knees, and clasped her little hands in prayer.

A child's repentance is not very long, and Amy soon returned, her
countenance meek and subdued, and looked timidly at her sister.

"Now then, Amy," said Mabel, "prepare yourself for a difficult
duty--come and tell John all you have done."

Amy hesitated and trembled.

"He will be so cross," said she, entreatingly.

"Very likely; but you are not a coward now--you are not afraid to do
right. It is difficult, I know, for John will not understand what you
feel, and may remember it for a long time; but still you will come."

Amy gave her trembling hand to her sister, and, with a very blank
countenance, accompanied her in search of John.

They had to go all over the garden; but found him, at length, standing
disconsolate by the peach-tree.

"John," said Amy.

"Yes, miss," replied the old man, gloomily, and half angrily.

"John," she continued, "I touched the peach, and that was why it fell
down."

He looked too amazed to answer.

"I am very, very sorry--will you forgive me for telling a falsehood?"
murmured Amy, beseechingly.

John looked still very surprised and angry.

"Miss Amy," he began, "I could not have thought you--"

"But forgive her this time," interposed Mabel, "she is very sorry, and
it has been a hard struggle to come and tell you how very wrong she has
been."

"Bless you, miss," answered the old gardener, quickly, "you are your own
father's child, and I know how much you must have suffered when you
found any kindred of your'n a telling lies. But I forgive you, Miss Amy,
and never you do wrong like that again. Bless you, Miss Mabel, for you
be leading the dear young lady in the right path, as well as walking in
it yourself."



                              CHAPTER III.

     Love not, love not, the thing you love may change.


What general interest is excited by the arrival of the post. Who ever
settled himself in a new place, for the shortest time, without making
himself acquainted with its details, the time when it arrives and
leaves? And who ever entirely loses this interest, spite of its often
more than daily occurrence? There is no sameness in it, because there is
no certainty.

Letters only came to Aston twice in a week, and then they were brought
by a man--who could hardly be dignified by the title of postman--at
some uncertain time in the middle of the day.

On these days the road by which he came was an object of interest to
Mabel and her sister, and they often walked in that direction to secure
any letters there might be for them, without waiting for their tardy
delivery. They were often joined by Mr. Ware on the same errand, and
that afternoon they overtook him as he was leisurely mounting the first
hill on the road.

"Well, young ladies," said he, greeting them with a smile, "we are all
going to meet the postman as usual I suppose?"

"Yes, sir," replied Mabel, "the post always seems to have sufficient
interest to make even you choose this road on Tuesdays and Fridays."

"Well, I confess," he replied, "I always have great pleasure in seeing
the man turn the corner, besides, as he is so uncertain, one is tempted
to take a longer walk, expecting to see him every moment."

"Yes," said Mabel, "we almost always meet him, and yet there is seldom
more than the possibility of a letter after all."

"My hopes are not quite so indefinite," said Mr. Ware, "I am always
certain of a paper, which is often worth more to me than a letter. I
used to think when a person took great interest in the post it was a
sign that they were not quite happy at home or in themselves."

"And do you not think so still?" said Mabel.

"Not so much, certainly," he replied, "I think it often arises from the
feeling that we are not quite independent of the outer world till the
letters of the day have been read. Good and bad news must frequently
come by letter, and, therefore, as long as we have any friends separated
from us, we must feel a little anxious to know if there be any news at
all."

"Do you not think," said Mabel, "that this is sometimes carried too far,
and may degenerate into almost a sickly feeling?"

"Yes, certainly; I would not have any one indifferent on common
subjects, but too great attention to things of this kind must be wrong."

"I have often thought so," said Mabel, thoughtfully, "when I have felt
quite anxious on seeing the man coming, and then when I open my letters,
full of the most ordinary business, I feel quite ashamed of myself."

"And what were you really hoping for, dear child?" said Mr. Ware.

The color rose fast over her truthful countenance, but at this moment
the postman himself was seen, and saved her the pain of answering.

Mr. Ware soon secured his papers, and one or two letters, and being
anxious to convey one home to his nephew, he took leave of them where
the road separated.

"Now then," said Mabel, when they had parted from him, "let us see which
will get home first, for mamma will be glad to get this letter from aunt
Villars."

Amy reached home first, but Mabel quickly followed her to the
drawing-room.

"Here, mamma, is a letter from aunt Villars," said Mabel, echoed by Amy.

"From Caroline," said Mrs. Lesly, "I do not think it can be from
Caroline, for there is no Bath post-mark, it comes from Cheltenham."

"Do open it mamma, and see if they are at Cheltenham," said Mabel.

"Fetch me my glasses then," returned her mother, "stay--here they are,
but you must not hurry me, or my head will begin to ache again, it has
been very bad all the morning."

"Oh, yes, mamma, there is plenty of time; come, Amy dear, and take your
bonnet off."

Mabel had taken up her work before she again ventured to ask any
questions. At length she said--

"Is aunt Villars at Cheltenham, mamma?"

"Yes, my dear, but only for a week or ten days."

"Will she come and see us now she is so near?" she enquired.

"I will read what she says about that, my dear," said Mrs. Lesly, taking
up the letter, (some part of the aunt's communications being always
mysteriously reserved).

Here it is:--

     "I cannot leave Gloucestershire without coming to see you, dear
     Annie, and your sweet children, and therefore, if you say nothing
     to the contrary, I will drive over some how on Monday, and remain
     till Tuesday. If not asking too much of my dear sister, I shall
     leave Lucy with you; she is not quite well, and a run in the
     country will do her good, after the heat of Bath. My little girl
     finds pleasure in anything, and I promise you she shall be very
     good if you will let her come to you."

"Oh, how nice, mamma," cried Amy.

"Very nice that your aunt is coming, I allow," said Mrs. Lesly, "but I
do not know what to say to Lucy, all little girls are not so good as my
Amy."

"It would be unkind to refuse her," said Mabel.

"And if she is not well, poor child," added her mother. "I quite forget
how old Lucy is, she cannot be so very little after all."

"But," said Amy, "aunt calls her, her little girl, and says she will be
very good; if she were grown up like Mabel, of course she would not be
naughty."

"I do not know that," said Mrs. Lesly, with a smile, "grown up people
are often as naughty as little ones; so either way she was right to
promise. Well, we must have the spare room opened, it must be quite
damp, I fear, after being shut up so long."

"Oh, no, mamma," said Mabel, "I open the windows every morning, myself,
so that I am sure the room is well aired."

"There must be a fire there, however, I suppose," replied her mother,
trying to exert herself to think.

"Yes, Betsy shall light a fire there to-day, and I will see that the
room is comfortable."

"But stay," said Mrs. Lesly, who was always troubled by anything like
arrangements, "who is to sleep in Lucy's room when Caroline is gone. I
am afraid we cannot manage it."

"We will see how old she is when she comes," suggested Mabel, "and if
she is afraid to sleep by herself Betsy must sleep with her; but from
what I remember she cannot be very young."

"Well then, my dear," said her mother, "and so you will promise to
contrive to make everything comfortable; now nothing makes me so ill as
arranging, and your poor papa never left me anything of that kind to
think of. I remember once going down to Weymouth, when you were a baby.
I could not tell what I should do there, being obliged to sleep at an
hotel, for the first night, for we could not find a lodging, the town
was so very full. So when we came there, we could get nothing but a
small, uncomfortable room; and some how or other, we could not find any
of the baby's things without pulling our boxes all about so, and I was
so tired and teased, that I sat down, and--and--

"'Annie,' said he, 'now don't cry--I can bear anything better than your
tears--leave everything to me--it will be much the easiest plan.'

"And so I did--and he put my nurse to work so busily, that my baby was
asleep before I could think about it; and the next morning he was up
early, managed to secure us a lodging, and made us all comfortable. Ah,
I am afraid he spoilt me, I do not know how to do anything now, I
fear."

"Well, dear mamma," said Mabel, twining her arm round her neck, and
kissing her affectionately, "I would not have you miss my dear papa less
than you do; but you must not tease yourself about anything. Did I not
promise to try and supply his place? I do not mean to let you have any
trouble at all. Here is your desk and a new pen--the ink is a little too
light, but it writes freely--and now, while you answer my aunt's letter,
you will be glad to get rid of us."

"I do not want to drive you away, love," replied her mother; "but you
know I can never write if there is the least noise--so, perhaps, you had
better go, and take Amy with you. I have not written for such an age, it
makes me quite nervous."

"Oh, yes, I know, mamma dear; come, Amy, we will go and look to the
spare room. I will seal your letter, mamma, when it is finished."

Mabel was soon busy in thinking over the accommodations necessary for
visitors, with Betsy's aid, amidst Amy's incessant questions.

"Do you think, Mabel," she began, "that Lucy is very little?"

"I do not much think she is little at all," replied Mabel.

"But aunt Villars called her, my little girl," persisted Amy.

"Yes, but many mammas talk of grown up children in the same way."

"Do you think," said Amy, after watching her sister for a few minutes in
silence, "I had better put some of my books on the shelf for her to
read, if she happens to like them?"

"If you have any that will look pretty, you may put them there
certainly."

"Do you think she will like the swing at Mr. Ware's?"

"If she is like you, perhaps she may; but whether she be little or not,
we must both try and make her pass her time pleasantly, you know," said
Mabel, as she glanced round the room with approval.

The chintz curtains had been re-hung--the snow-white coverlet had been
placed upon the bed--and the dressing-table arranged with the most
careful attention to comfort and convenience. Everything, in the careful
arrangement which Mabel had bestowed upon the room, seemed to speak a
welcome; and through the open window the fresh breezes of the Cotswold
hills passed freely.

"Does it not look comfortable?" said Mabel, appealing to her talkative
companion.

"Yes, Mabel, dear, everything looks nice that you manage; but," added
she, returning to the former subject, "if she is a great girl, what can
I do to amuse her?"

"Oh, many things," returned Mabel; "even you can do, I think, if you
try; you must not talk to her very much, and ask her too many
questions."

"Do I tease you, Mabel, dear, when I ask you questions?"

"Not often; but then you know I love you," said her sister, "and
therefore do not get teased."

"But why do you think she will not love me?"

"I think it very likely she will love you," said Mabel, looking down
upon her affectionately, "if you are good; but not till she knows you,
not very much, at least. You know, we must buy people's love."

"Do you mean by making them presents?" said Amy, looking a little
shocked at the idea.

"Not what you mean by presents certainly," said Mabel, smiling.

"What then?"

"Well then, first, you must give them your love, before you consider
what they think of you."

"Is that a certain way of buying love?"

"It will be nearly certain," said Mabel, "to get you good will, at
least, from every one, whose esteem is really valuable, for when we
love, we try to do everything that is kind; we are not easily offended
by little things that might annoy us, if we did not love; and then the
wish to avoid giving offence, will lead us to govern our feelings, so
that we may not be sullen, or out of temper, which would make us
disoblige them by saying anything to wound their feelings."

"Would it do anything else?" said Amy, who always liked to hear her
sister talk.

"Yes, I think it would lead us to speak the truth, for fear of
encouraging them in any bad thing; for if we must not do wrong, we must
not let it be done by others, if we can help it, particularly by those
we love."

"But then," said Amy, "if a person is bad, do not you think it would be
better to wait and see? We ought not to like a bad person, you said, one
day."

"Not exactly that; I told you not to be intimate with Mary Watson,
because she did many things I did not like, and knew a good many little
girls, who could not teach her any good; but still, I think, if, for
some reason, we were obliged to have Mary Watson here, you might love
her just as much as I told you to love Lucy, for if you spoke the truth,
she could not think you liked any of her naughty ways."

"Then why may I not know her now--could I not speak the truth?"

"Perhaps you might," said Mabel; "but I think, sometimes, that not to
avoid temptation, is taking one step to evil; so I thought it best to
avoid Mary Watson, as I could scarcely hope you would do her very much
good, and she might do you harm."

"You always think of me, Mabel," said Amy; "when do you find time to
think of yourself?"

"When I go to bed," she replied, "and then I ask myself if I have been
as kind to my little orphan sister as I ought to be?"

"But, Mabel, dear, when you sit alone, sometimes, and look so very sad,
and I come in, and see tears on your face, is that about me?"

"No; but it is not often so."

"Not often; but I am so vexed when it is. Why is it, Mabel dear?"

"Because," she said, her eyes filling with tears as she spoke, "somebody
loved me once, who does not love me now."

"No, I am sure that is not true--every one loves you; mamma, Mr. Ware,
Miss Ware, Betsy, John, every one." "I am sure that can't be true, and
it is naughty to fancy unkind things; Mabel, dear, dear, Mabel," said
the child, jumping on a stool and throwing her arms lightly round her
neck, "and you are never naughty."

"Oh, yes I am, many many times a-day," said Mabel, hiding her face on
Amy's shoulder, "my good, good, child, what should I do without you."

"Oh, nothing without me, you could not get on at all without me."

"Not very well, I think, certainly," said Mabel, smiling through her
tears at Amy's satisfaction, "but we have been a long time away, and
mamma must have finished her letter--come and let us seal it before the
man calls again, for if it is not ready, what will become of our
visitors."

"But, Amy," said she, sinking her voice almost to a whisper, "never tell
mamma or any one that I ever cry, or why I cry."

"Oh, never, you know I can keep a secret."

"You promise," said Mabel.

"Yes, I promise faithfully."



                              CHAPTER IV.

     This is a likeness may they all declare,
     And I have seen him, but I know not where.

                                                        CRABBE.


Mrs. Lesly had been, as a girl, both beautiful and accomplished, gifted
with good natural talents, though possessing little perseverance and
much indolence of character. Upon her marriage every faculty of her mind
became absorbed in devotion to her husband, and an almost indolent
dependence on his will. Since his death she had continued so very
depressed that, at the time when both Mabel and Amy might have much
needed a mother's care, she felt every exertion too great for her
weakened nerves and failing health.

She had, by her marriage, entered a family a little above her own, and
now suffered the too general consequence, in the neglect of her
husband's relations. She felt all things deeply, and this, if possible,
aggravated her loss. The Lesly and Hargrave families were closely
connected, but the absence of the Colonel, whose family mansion lay so
near them, prevented her receiving that attention which the
neighbourhood of a rich relation might have procured her. The secluded
life to which she now clung so earnestly, only increased the extreme
sensitiveness of her feelings. Her mind therefore, suffered to prey upon
itself, became a curse instead of a blessing, as it might have been, had
it been employed in any useful purpose; and the delicacy and refinement
of her nature, now only quickened her perception of the slightest
coldness, or unkindness in those around her; spreading about her a kind
of atmosphere of refined suffering, which duller eyes would never have
discovered.

Yet the indulgence which she claimed from others always rendered her an
object of affection, and her devotion to the memory of her husband
veiled many failings, and excused her indolence sometimes even in the
eyes of the most ascetic. Joined to this weakness of character, however,
she possessed many fine qualities. She was generous in the extreme, and
liberal to a total forgetfulness of self, and would forgive, where no
injury was intended, with a magnanimity, which, applied to a real
offence, would have been noble. She was also very patient under the
oppression of continual ill health, and though too indolent to exert
herself, she was capable of suffering without complaint.

Mabel inherited her mother's intellect and delicacy of feeling, but
seconded by a strong will and great common sense. She possessed also
beauty equal, if not superior, to hers, though in her face it always
seemed secondary to the feelings which were spoken by it. But there was
one peculiar charm in her character, which secured the love of those
around her as powerfully as an Eastern talisman. It was a reliance on
the good will of others, drawn perhaps from the reflection of her own
heart--a kind of security in the feeling that there is always good to
those who rightly seek it; a trust in the virtue of others which often
proves a touchstone to wake its hidden springs, whilst all feel ashamed
of disappointing a hope, founded more on the truest feelings of charity,
than on weakness or pusillanimity.

Unlike her mother, she scarcely ever suffered from illness, and
gratefully used the blessing of strong nerves and untiring strength in
aiding the weakness or bearing with the irritability of others.

Happy the child who possessed such a guide and playfellow, to listen to
all the questions and trifles so wearisome to the sick or weak.

Mabel's patience was often called in requisition during the few days
which passed before the arrival of the aunt and niece from Cheltenham.
At least half a dozen questions would be asked almost in the same form,
to which she had to give answers.

At length however, the long expected hour arrived, and Amy had seated
herself on the lawn to catch the first sight of that corner of the road
which was the furthest point visible, and Mabel was frequently sent to
the gate to watch for the carriage, by Mrs. Lesly, who was enduring all
the discomfort and nervousness of being quite ready to receive them a
long while before it was at all probable they would arrive.

Captain Clair, too, who had, as Mr. Ware's nephew, established a kind of
intimacy at the cottage, was leaning over the gate, refusing to come in,
lest he should disturb the family meeting, yet seeming well inclined to
chat away the time with either of the sisters.

"I am sure you are spoiling your sister, Miss Lesly," said he, after
hearing the patient answer to the sixth repetition of 'do you think they
are coming;' and Amy had ran in to her mamma to report.

"That is a very grave accusation, but I do not think you quite believe
it," said Mabel; "indulge, but not spoil."

"Well, indeed," said he, "it would be difficult to find fault with such
persevering self-denial, so we will say, indulgence."

"It requires little self-denial," said Mabel; "to be kind to a very
young, and very dear sister. No, self-denial will not do, I will not
take the praise of a martyr for doing what I love best. Are you
certain," she added, "you do not feel the sun too much, where you are
standing, had you not better come in and speak to mamma?"

"Not on any account, thank you," he replied, smiling; "I intend to
vanish when the carriage comes up, and present only the very
interesting appearance of a departing friend, in order to give a little
life to such a landscape."

Mabel laughed.

"Here they are, then, now you may look picturesque."

"Not quite yet, wait a bit, I must be a little more prominent first, or
they would never see me. Now is the very moment," raising his hat to
Mabel, and with these concluding words, he walked slowly away.

Mabel was seized with momentary shyness, and retreated unobserved, to
seek Mrs. Lesly, whose head began to ache, from waiting so long--but, as
the party took a long time in alighting, and collecting from the vehicle
a multiplicity of boxes, she felt ashamed of being afraid of strangers,
and ran down again to meet them.

"Oh, my charming niece," exclaimed her aunt, with apparent cordiality,
and kissing her warmly; "how do you do, my sweet girl, let me make you
acquainted with my Lucy."

Lucy, who, to Amy's disappointed eye, did not look at all little, took
Mabel's hand with earnestness, and putting one arm round her neck,
kissed her with extreme warmth, exclaiming:--

"We shall be dear friends, I know."

"I hope so," said Mabel, startled alike at her relation's warmth, and
her own composure, which appeared something like coldness.

Mrs. Lesly was met by her sister with the same enthusiasm which quite
overcame her weak nerves, and she burst into tears; she could not tell
why, she thought it might be joy, or that her head was overpowered by
the sweet scent on their pocket-handkerchiefs, or the rapidity of her
sister's conversation, and expressions of endearment. Mabel looked on in
dismay, a scene had been produced which she was puzzled to remove.

"Dear mamma, do not cry," said she, then turning to Mrs. Villars who was
overwhelming her with caresses, she added, hastily; "mamma is not quite
well to-day, but she will be better presently, if she is quiet a little
while. Will you come and take your bonnet off, aunt, for you must be
tired after your drive."

"No, my dear, but I think I will venture to leave her a moment while I
run down and see if our boxes are all right; an immense deal of luggage,
but then, I am going home, you know. I brought my maid too, though I
forgot to mention her in my note." Mrs. Lesly looked alarmed. "I really
do not know if she has looked to every thing, but I will go and see, I
always like to see things right myself," and with an important air, she
hurried down stairs.

Mrs. Villars was of imposing appearance, though too bustling in her
manners to be altogether dignified, with colour a little too brilliant,
and hair a little too stiffly curled, to be quite natural. Yet, whatever
was artificial, was very well added to a good figure, and fine face.

Poor Amy was quite awed into a bewildered silence. Mrs. Villars
presently bustled back again, telling Mabel she was now quite ready to
go to her room.

"This way, then," said Mabel, shewing them to the chamber she had so
carefully prepared; "this is your room, and I hope you will find every
thing comfortable."

"Oh, I dare say," she said, looking round, as if approving a child's
doll's-house; "everything so very neat and nice, and where is Lucy to
sleep."

"This is the only spare room we have furnished and fit for sleeping in
now; the rest are shut up," said Mabel, a little timidly, "and we
thought you would not mind sleeping together for one night, as you say
you cannot stay longer, aunt."

"Oh, yes, we will contrive--but what is to be done with our maid."

"I must manage for her presently," said Mabel; "Betsy has been told to
make her comfortable for the present."

"What time do you dine, dear," said Mrs. Villars; "the air of these
hills makes one hungry. I really could dine unfashionably early to-day."

"I fancied so, and therefore ordered dinner to be ready half an hour
after your expected arrival," said Mabel; who tried to keep them in
conversation till Mrs. Lesly should have time to recover herself; and
this delay so far succeeded, that on their return to the drawing-room,
they found her quite composed.

Dinner being soon after announced, Mrs. Villars gave her arm to her
sister, in the tenderest manner possible, saying.

"Well, dear, I hoped to find you quite strong, I must not have any more
of these naughty hysterics, or I shall think you are not glad to see
me."

"Indeed--indeed, Caroline, you mistake my feelings."

"Well, then, smile away, and I shall read them right. What do you think
of my Lucy?" she added, in a whisper; "I wish I could shew you all my
girls--for admiring beauty, and accomplishments, as you always did--I do
not know what you would say, if you saw them all together. Now, in my
opinion, Mabel is perfect."

The last speech reached Mabel's ear, and, perhaps, was intended to do
so--but quick as she was in the ready perception of virtue, she had
never feebly blinded herself to the faults of others. These few words
made her feel uncomfortable--for she was immediately aware that there
was a want of sincerity in her aunt's manner, which, betraying some
latent reason for dissimulation, always produces a feeling of dislike,
or fear.

To Mrs. Villars Mabel soon became an object of fear--she could not tell
why, but she had scarcely been a few minutes in her company without
perceiving that superiority which the weak-minded find it difficult
cheerfully to recognise. Superiority in what, she did not stop to
analyse--but even while most lavish of her endearments, she was secretly
almost uncomfortable in her presence.

Mrs. Villars had given herself a worldly education, which, though it had
moulded even her virtues and foibles according to its own fashion, had
never yet been able, entirely, to eradicate the sense of right which had
been inculcated in earlier years; yet she only preserved it as a
continual punishment for every act of dissimulation and wrong, without
ever allowing it to regain entire ascendency over her; though it was a
conscience to which she felt bound perpetually to excuse herself. So
false, indeed, had she turned to herself, that Mabel's open, honest,
truth-telling eyes seemed something like a reproach.

Love for her children--one of the greatest virtues of a woman's
heart--had become one of her greatest failings. Her natural disposition
rendered her love strong and untiring; but worldliness had warped its
usefulness, rendering that love, in its foolish extreme, only a means of
making herself miserable, without really serving them. She learned to
spoil, but had no resolution to reprove; and they had grown up in
accordance with such training.

As children they had been coaxed and bribed to appear sweet-tempered and
obliging in company--the plan succeeded; but only left them more
ill-tempered and unmanageable when the restraint was removed. This
system was, however, too readily followed; and as they grew older, their
foolish parent saw no other efficient plan for securing their position
in society, than that of continuing the same course of indulgence. She
now tried, by the most unbounded gratification of their wishes, to
secure to herself that love which timely discipline might easily have
preserved in tempers not naturally degenerate. But veiling this
weakness, she prided herself on the greatness of her parental love, and
threatened to weary every one else by the excess to which she carried
it.

Glad of an opportunity of touching on her favorite topic, she said to
her sister--

"You must come and see us all some day. Mr. Villars would be so glad to
see you, and I should have an opportunity of shewing you my pet girls."

"I never stir out now," returned Mrs. Lesly, shaking her head
mournfully, "scarcely even beyond my own door. But Lucy will, I dare
say, give us a specimen of all your sayings and doings in time. I should
much like to see the children; but fear there is but little inducement
to ask any of them to a place where there is so very little going on. My
Mabel is very fond of the country, or I should often have been vexed at
our seeing so little company."

"Oh, you are quite mistaken, my dear," said Mrs. Villars, quickly.
"Caroline and Selina are very fond of the country, and so are you,
Lucy."

"Yes, I like it very well in the summer," said Lucy, languidly.

"Do you like the snow?" asked Amy, speaking for the first time.

"No, not much; but we had better not talk of snow in August--it is too
near to be pleasant," said Lucy, a little impatiently.

"You forget the balls, my dear," said her mama, soothingly, and watchful
of her children's tempers as a lover of his mistress.

"No, mama, I was speaking of snow in the country, and there, I suppose,
there is not much dancing. Are you fond of balls, Mabel? but I forgot, I
need not ask, for, of course, you are."

"I have never been to a public ball," replied Mabel, "but I have often
enjoyed a dance at a friend's house."

"Have you really never been to a ball," exclaimed Lucy, opening her
pretty blue eyes wide, with half real and half affected astonishment.
"You would be enchanted with Bath. We have such delightful balls once a
week. The Thursday balls they are called, and then every season--"

"Lucy, love, you will tire your aunt with your prattle," said her mama,
"now confess, Annie, does she not make your head ache?"

"A little," replied her sister, "but do not let my weakness interfere
with her enjoyment. She will have little else to listen to besides her
own voice," Mrs. Lesly added, trying to smile away her sister's chagrin
at finding it really possible that she could be tired at hearing Lucy
talk.

There was a momentary pause, when Mrs. Lesly, anxious to conciliate by
returning to the subject she perceived gave most interest, enquired--

"Is Lucy your eldest?"

"Oh, dear no! Caroline is the eldest, Selina second, and Lucy the
youngest."

"But I think you have one more, have you not?" said Mrs. Lesly.

"How can you forget how many children your own sister has?" said Mrs.
Villars.

"My memory is getting feeble, and you must excuse me," replied Mrs.
Lesly anxiously, "my forgetfulness arises from no want of affection; but
I have not seen you for a year or two now."

"I had forgotten," returned Mrs. Villars, "how time flies. I really must
write oftener to you, and keep up your knowledge of us. Well, there is
my Maria--but, poor child, I am in despair with her--so unfortunate."

"Not ill, I hope?" enquired Mrs. Lesly.

"No, no--that could be cured--a doctor might cure that; but this,
nothing can cure. She is ugly--positively ugly--by the side of her
sisters at least; and more than that, she is ungraceful. I have tried
the best academy in the town, but nothing will do her any good--such a
contrast to the rest, she never will settle I fear."

Mabel glanced at Amy, who was drinking in her aunt's words with the
eager curiosity natural to a child, and fearing the effects of this
worldly conversation upon her young sister, she persuaded Lucy to come
with them into the garden.

Lucy put her arm in Mabel's, whilst Amy watched the movement jealously.

"Here is a lovely peep at the hills," said Mabel, leading their guest to
one of the prettiest parts of the garden, where a stone seat was placed
near a break in the trees, commanding a view of the country beyond.

Here they seated themselves, looking for a short while, in silence, on
the landscape, which the setting sun rendered still more lovely. Had
Mabel expected any fine remark to follow this momentary pause in the
conversation, she would have been disappointed, for Lucy's next enquiry
was whether there were many nice people in the neighbourhood.

"Yes," said Mabel. "Mr. and Miss Ware are very nice people."

"Who are they?" asked Lucy.

"Our rector and his sister."

"Is he unmarried?" enquired Lucy, with increasing interest.

"Yes," replied Mabel, smiling, "but not very young."

"But still marriageable, I suppose?"

"Barely," said Mabel, "at least, I do not think he would consider
himself so now. Why, he must be nearly seventy."

"Then who was that fine young man that was walking down the road just
now, with light whiskers, and a military air. I did not expect to see
such a handsome, _distingué_ looking young man down in the country
here."

"That is Mr. Ware's nephew," said Mabel.

"Oh! then he does live here--what is his name?"

"Captain Clair; he is only here for a short time, for his health,"
replied Mabel; "but how could you tell he had light whiskers?"

"Because he passed while we were at dinner, so that I had a good look at
him," said Lucy, half blushing.

"Amy," said Mabel, "there is Captain Clair beckoning for you to run to
him, and I dare say he will get you the blackberries he promised you."

Amy ran away to the garden-gate, where Captain Clair was waiting for
her, and hand in hand they were soon down the blackberry lane that led
to the fields.

"What a very fine young man," exclaimed Lucy, as she watched them out of
sight; "do you see him often--I suppose he is a beau of yours?"

"No, oh, no," said Mabel; "a sort of friend he has made himself--but
certainly not a beau."

"Ah, you say so."

"And I mean so," said Mabel.

"You mean then, that he is free for conquest," laughed Lucy,
coquettishly.

"As far as I am concerned, he is as free as air," said Mabel; "but I
would not have you attempt such a conquest, I should think he was too
easily won to be kept long in subjection."

"Ah, I know what you mean," said Lucy; "a sort of man that falls in love
with every tolerable girl he meets--the very thing for a country visit."

"Well, I suppose neither party would be in much danger if those are your
real sentiments," said Mabel. "Captain Clair is too discerning to be
entangled by a mock feeling, and you are wise enough to think of nothing
more."

"Exactly so," replied Lucy; "but oh, whose pretty house is that amongst
the trees?"

"Colonel Hargrave's," said Mabel.

"Colonel Hargrave!" cried Lucy, "cousin Henry, as we call him now. Do
you know, Mabel, he is just come back to England, and mamma wrote to ask
him to come and see us in Bath. I am so longing to meet him; and we have
made up in our minds, already, a match between him and Caroline--that
you know would do very well, for she is just thirty, and he must be a
few years older, must he not?"

"Yes, I think so," said Mabel.

"And that would be a very nice difference, you know. I am quite longing
for him to come. I have talked the match over with Selina so often, that
I cannot help looking upon it as quite certain; and then we should have
such a nice house to come and stay at; and you would be so delightfully
near--would it not be pleasant?"

"You will find it cold without your bonnet," said Mabel, evasively,
"shall we go in and fetch it."

"No, thank you," said Lucy; "but I see you are not fond of
match-making."

"No, I confess I am not," said Mabel; "but I suppose you hear a great
deal of it in Bath, where so many matches must be talked over."

"Oh! an immense deal--it is quite amusing to hear of so many projected
marriages, and of their coming to nothing after all."

"But that is why I think match-making anything but amusing," said Mabel.

"But then all the _éclat_ of a conquest would be gone," suggested Lucy,
"if there were no talking beforehand. I assure you, last year, there
were I do not know how many half offers in our family. Selina and I used
to walk round the Crescent and count them all up, and they helped us
through the dull weather amazingly; something like the nibbling of a
trout, which just serves to keep up the hope of ultimately catching one.
Mamma talks a great deal about Caroline's beauty, and her charming
spirits--but she does not know how to sleep for wishing her married. It
would be horrible to have her an old maid--so I hope and trust the good
Colonel, with, I dare say, Indian guineas, and an Indian face, will take
pity on her, and bring her here."

"Give me a description of Caroline," said Mabel, suddenly. "Is she not
very beautiful and accomplished?"

"How you startle me," said Lucy. "Why she is very tall--fine features,
people say--she has black hair and black eyes, and dances
splendidly--polks to admiration--so very good-natured--and witty before
company--and rather the reverse behind the scenes--in short, would do
much better for Mrs. Hargrave than for the eldest of four maiden
sisters--and so, in all due affection, I should be very glad to see her
married."

"Is she clever as well as beautiful?" said Mabel.

"She sings and plays beautifully. Yes, I believe she is clever--knows
French well."

Mabel sighed.

"I do not know how it is," said Lucy, when after a short silence, they
prepared to return to the house, "but I feel you to be quite a friend
already. I must love you, whether you will let me or not."

"I shall be very glad to have you love me," said Mabel, gently; "but
wait till you know me better."

"I can never wait and deliberate, when loving is the question," said
Lucy; "it is like me; I am always quick in my likes and dislikes--and I
feel now as if I could tell you every secret of my heart--I am only
nineteen, so such want of consideration is pardonable--is it not, dear
Mabel?"

"It is not quite safe, perhaps," replied Mabel; "but yet rather easy to
forgive, in the present--instance--at least, when I feel myself to be
concerned. But if you make me your friend, you must give me the power of
an elder sister."

"Not like Caroline," said Lucy, with a look of pretended terror.

"I shall not let you find fault with Caroline," said Mabel, "that is my
first effort of authority; but you have chosen to love me, and you must
take my friendship on my own terms."

"Well, I think I will take it on any terms. I dare say it will be worth
having," said Lucy; "but first, you must seal our friendship with a
kiss, and tell me that you love me as much as I do you."

"My love is of slower growth," replied Mabel, smiling; "but I promise to
deal with you as if I loved you. Will that do?"

"I suppose it must," said Lucy.

"You are right," said Mabel, kissing her pouting lips, "that must do
till we know each other better."



                               CHAPTER V.

     Whence then that peace
     So dovelike? settling o'er a soul that loved
     Earth and its treasures? Whence that angel smile
     With which the allurements of a world so dear
     Were counted and resigned?

                                                MRS. SIGOURNEY.


Mabel and Lucy retired that night early, in order that they might leave
the sisters time to talk quietly over the fire, which a chilly evening
rendered not unwelcome.

Mrs. Villars placed her feet on the fender, and turning up her dress to
prevent the fire injuring it, she made herself perfectly comfortable in
preparation for a long chat. Mrs. Lesly had seated herself opposite in
her arm-chair, with a glass of lemonade on a small table by her side,
which she sipped from time to time, as she listened to long accounts of
her sister's hopes and fears for her children's welfare, together with
various anecdotes, tending to show the admiration they excited wherever
they appeared. At length, these long and varied narrations came to an
end--and Mrs. Villars, turning to her sister, enquired, in a tone which
seemed to say, confidence claimed confidence, if there had not been some
story about Mabel's marrying.

A very sensible feeling of pain passed for an instant over Mrs. Lesly's
countenance before she replied--

"Yes, but that was a long time ago, and I cannot bear to think of it
now."

"But," said Mrs. Villars, who always peculiarily interested herself in
anything relative to marriage, "you never told me the particulars, and I
should so like to know them."

"No," said Mrs. Lesly, "I remember I only just mentioned it for I was so
much pained at the time, that I could not write on the subject."

"You never even told me the gentleman's name," said Mrs. Villars.

"No, Mabel made me promise to mention that to no one; I felt it was
delicate and right in her to wish it, and I have never spoken of him
openly since, indeed amongst ourselves he is as if forgotten."

"A man of property, was he not?" said Mrs. Villars, "and quite young I
think you said?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Lesly, with a half sigh, "the marriage seemed in every
way desirable, they were well suited in age, and I thought in character,
and rejoiced to think that she would have a companion in life so well
calculated to show her off to advantage. He was, besides, a man of
considerable fortune, and my Mabel is, I think, particularly fitted for
a station above that which she at present enjoys. Her taste in painting
and sculpture, has been acknowledged by masters--and tho' so kind and
useful and simple hearted now, I always thought she was fitted to
dispense even patronage. Ah, well, these were the dreams of days gone
by, and I do not know why I bring them up to-night, except to shew you
that the sacrifice she made was no ordinary one. Ah, poor girl, the
contrast is striking, now she is soon likely to want even a home."

"Was it not a long attachment?" said Mrs. Villars as her sister paused.

"Yes," returned, Mrs. Lesly, rousing herself, "they had been more or
less attached from childhood. There was always a kind of wayward
goodness in Mabel, that was very attractive. She had generally her own
way, but that way seemed so unselfish that I had neither the power nor
the wish to complain. He admired this spirit, mixed with so much
sweetness; nothing she did seemed wrong, and even when she was
indiscreet, which I dare say she might have been very often--he said, it
was because she was more pure-minded than other people."

"Well, I do not see anything very sad in all this. I should have been
highly flattered," said Mrs. Villars, "now my Selina is so like what you
describe, she does the most indiscreet and pretty things imaginable
sometimes."

Mrs. Lesly continued silent for a few minutes, then again rousing
herself she continued--

"He used to call Mabel his little wife, long before her papa died, and I
used to think over it all, as you remember we used to talk of things a
long time since."

"I see," thought Mrs. Villars, "a case of jilt, very distressing, but an
old story to those who know the world as well as I do." She felt a
slight sensation of comfort at arriving at this idea, when she
remembered her own unmarried daughters.

"Well," continued, Mrs. Lesly, "whenever he came to the neighbourhood,
which he often did, they were almost always together. Sometimes they
would walk in the fields at the back of our house, Mabel leaning on his
arm, whilst he carried Amy. But unfortunately when his father died he
went to Paris, and staid there about a twelve-month. When he returned he
was altered, how or why I could not tell, but it seemed as if the
simplicity of his character was gone, though I tried hard to think him
only more manly. Mabel was a beautiful girl when he returned, and it was
soon easy to perceive that however changed he might be in other
respects, his affection for her remained unaltered." Mrs. Lesly stopped
to sip her lemonade, and then with some little effort continued--"His
return," she said, "to which we looked forward so much, did not make us
happier. He would persuade her to go out sometimes, but she always came
back soon, and often looked as though she had been crying, though she
never said any thing--I then noticed and watched him more carefully,
and at length I found that he had not entered the church since his
return from France, a practice he never before neglected. I then paid
more attention to his conversation, and often brought up serious
questions on purpose. Here I discovered the sad truth; he talked very
seriously of virtue and moral responsibility, but if I spoke of religion
in connexion with it, he changed the subject or looked at Mabel, and was
silent.

"I was now quite puzzled, it seemed hard to find fault with one so good
in every other respect, but in religion, which he spoke of as a curious
and useful superstition, acting as a guide to vulgar minds. 'Mabel,'
said I, one day, 'what does all this mean? What has come over him to
make him think as he does?'

"You must know, Caroline, that indolent as my weak health has made me,
and careless of imparting things, I used so much to value, I had not
neglected my child in the most important of all points of knowledge;
sickness had made me prize that, in proportion as every thing else lost
interest; but I did fear for her when, with only my weak lessons she
had, perhaps, to answer the arguments of a man of peculiar talent, and
great though mistaken penetration, aided by the love, I was well aware,
she felt for him."

"But you studied these points well I know," said Mrs. Villars, "and I
dare say fully explained them."

"You are right," replied Mrs. Lesly, "at least I tried to do so, I
always have endeavoured to make the heart and head act together. You
will see that I succeeded, beyond my hopes. It seemed that he had been
in the constant habit, of confiding every thing to her, and had always
found an admiring listener to his thoughts on most subjects. On his
return from France, he was too candid to conceal from her, the change
his opinions had undergone. It appeared, from his own account, that
while abroad, his society had been mostly composed of those generally
distinguished by the name of free thinkers. Perhaps, feeling that he
could argue well, and with a too presumptuous trust in himself, he
courted every opportunity of disputing with them on the nature of their
opinions. With daring intellect, he trusted every thing to his
understanding, and nothing to his faith. He found superior intellect,
and the consequences were too natural--I do not think he had any settled
views afterwards, and I very much fear became little less than an
infidel. All this I gleaned by repeated questions from my poor,
broken-hearted child.

"'Now,' said I, 'my Mabel, this is too serious a point for husband and
wife to differ upon, this I once hoped you would be to each other, but
he is no longer worthy of you. Now you must prove what and how you
believe.' I spoke sternly, for I feared for her, she kissed me fervently
but she could not speak. 'Do you understand me, Mabel,' I said.

"She only replied, 'I do,' but that was sufficient, my heart ached for
her, but I was at peace. It was not long after this conversation, that
the last scene occurred; I remember I had been sitting in my room all
the morning, finishing some work that Mabel had begun for me. At length,
I grew tired of being alone, and, taking up my work, I went down stairs.
I heard a voice speaking loudly in the sitting-room, and I guessed whose
it was. I felt frightened--for since my William's death, everything
affects me--so I stopped; but I heard my child sobbing, and I opened the
door directly. She was seated at the table, leaning down, and covering
her face with her hands. She always feared to vex me by letting me see
her grieve; but I saw she was too agitated even to think of me at that
moment. He was standing opposite, glaring on her like a maniac.

"'Madam,' said he, turning to me as I looked for an explanation, 'it is
well, perhaps, that you are here, to witness your daughter's coquetry,
or her madness.'

"'Sir,' replied I, 'pray remember to whom you speak; there may be a
slight difference in our rank, or wealth rather, but none that I
recognise where my child is concerned.'

"'Do not attempt to reason with me,' he replied, 'I am mad. Your
daughter, in whose love I, at least, had faith, is fanatic enough to
refuse to marry me, because we differ on some absurd points of
superstitious doctrine.'

"'I cannot agree with you,' I said, trying to speak calmly, 'in calling
them absurd, and that is where we differ. What happiness can Mabel
expect with one who ridicules the motives which are, at once, the guide
and blessing of her existence?--or what reliance can she have on a man
who does not even recognise the principles on which she alone relies for
strength. I think Mabel is quite right to remain as she is,
sacrificing, as she does, every worldly interest to a noble principle.'

"The poor girl started up, and walking to him, laid her pretty hand upon
his arm, and looking at him beseechingly, she said--'Do not let us part
in anger--I can bear anything but that--let me remain your friend for
ever, even as you are; but do not think me wrong for refusing to be your
wife.'

"I never shall forget that moment; he shook her from him, as if
she had been a serpent. She reeled back for an instant, and then sank at
my feet.

"He looked down upon her, as she lay upon the floor, hiding her
face in my gown, as if he would have withered her with his contempt. Oh,
how could he think I could have trusted her to one like him?

"'Feeble as was my hold on religion before,' he burst out--"'It is
broken now, if this be the effects of it,' and he looked down upon my
poor stricken girl.

"I was silent.

"'What right,' thought I, 'have I to retaliate upon him reproach for
reproach?' but I thought my heart would break.

"'Why did she not try to win me to her truth,' he exclaimed, 'if she
thinks it of so much consequence?'

"'Has she not done so for the last four months?' I said.

"'Yes; but as a wife,' he replied, 'she would have had treble power.'

"'She is forbidden to be your wife,' I said, 'by the very religion she
professes--and would her acting in opposition to its laws have convinced
you of its truth?'

"'There was no love in the case,' said he, not heeding me, 'and now she
wishes to be my friend,' he continued, with a sneer, 'as if there were
any medium with me between love and hate, except utter forgetfulness.'
"'Madam,' he exclaimed, as if suddenly remembering himself, 'forgive me
what I have been saying; had she let me, I would have been to you more
than a son--as it is--fare well.'

"Without another word to Mabel, he left us, and I have never seen him
since.

"I dare say a great deal passed more than I have told you; but I am very
forgetful now--though I well remember how miserable I was that day, and
for a very long time afterwards, for poor Mabel was very ill, and never
left her bed for weeks. I sent to our good Mr. Ware, and told him
everything, and asked him to come and comfort Mabel; and so he did, most
effectually. Night after night did I sit by her, terrified by her fits
of delirium and the dreadful exhaustion which followed them. I took cold
then, and my nurse wanted me to go to bed, and leave her to watch by
her; but what was life and rest to me, without my child?

"Amy sat upon her pillow nearly all day, and would whisper, 'don't cry,
dear Mabel.' There was not much comfort in her baby words; but I think
Mabel liked to hear her.

"Mr. Ware was unwearied in his attentions to her; and, at length, she
began to rally. Then I became ill, with anxiety, perhaps, or the cold I
took from the night-watching, and it was quite touching to see how hard
she tried to get well, that she might nurse me in turn. Oh, what a
comfort it was when she began to smile again. You see how well she is
now--she is never ill, and how cheerful and happy she seems. I try to
think it all for the best, though it is difficult sometimes."

"Well, you have, indeed, had a great deal to vex you," said Mrs.
Villars, much touched.

"I have, however, much happiness to look back upon," said Mrs. Lesly,
sighing gently, "in my William's kindness for so many years; but my
health is failing sadly--and I have one care certainly, when I think of
leaving my children without a friend in the world to take care of
them--particularly as with my life, my pension, which is the only source
of our income, will cease."

"Yes," said Mrs. Villars, "it was almost a pity she did not marry the
young man--what a provision it would have been for both."

"I think you would have acted as I did," said Mrs. Lesly, "would you
not?"

"Why you know," she replied, "I never thought of those things as
seriously as you do, and my love for my orphan children would have been
a great temptation. Indeed, that love for my family guides me in almost
everything, and after all, why his staying away from church would not
have prevented her going."

"No, no, Caroline," said Mrs. Lesly, too indolent to contest this narrow
view of the subject. "I have been foolish in many things, over and over
again, but in this I feel that I acted wisely."

"Not with much worldly wisdom, dear Annie," said her sister, smiling.

"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Lesly, "those who believe in an overruling
Providence, act most wisely, even for this world, when they obey its
laws."

Caroline sighed; her sister's single-minded language recalled days long
gone by; when their views had been more in accordance, and for the
moment, she would have given much to have retained the simple faith of
their childhood; for her life was made up of shallow, and quickly
forgotten repentances.

After a pause, she said:--

"Annie, I hope you will live many years; but if it should be otherwise,
do not have one care for your children, for while I live they shall find
a home, wherever I may be."

"My dear, dear sister," said Mrs. Lesly, while tears of gratitude and
affection dimmed her eyes; "that is so like your old kindhearted way of
speaking. Could I believe that you would, indeed, be a friend to my
children, I should be spared many a wakeful night, and this freedom
from anxiety might prolong my life. But, Caroline, you have a large
family, and can ill spare your means."

"It may be so," replied the other; "but you set me an example of doing
right without regard to consequences; why should I not follow it? And
you recall the days of our happy childhood, when these feelings, and
such as these, were common to us both--let them be common again, dear
Annie."

Mrs. Lesly, kissed her sister with grateful affection, and again, and
again, thanked her for her generous promises. Alas! judging of her by
herself, she little knew how evanescent were her resolutions, nor
guessed that the sentiments she sometimes professed, as little belonged
to her own heart, as the delusive images of the Fata Morgana to the
waters they enliven. They soon afterwards parted for the night, Mrs.
Lesly more cheerful, and her sister more serious than before their
evening conversation.



                              CHAPTER VI.

     He only can the cause reveal,
     Why, at the same fond bosom fed;
     Taught in the self-same lap to kneel,
     Till the same prayer were duly said.

     Brothers in blood, and nurture too,
     Aliens in heart so oft should prove,
     One lose, the other keep, Heaven's clue;
     One dwell in wrath, and one in love.

                                                CHRISTIAN YEAR.


Mrs. Lesly found Mabel waiting for her in her room. A book was lying
open by her side, but she appeared to have been rather thinking, than
reading.

"Mabel, my love," she said, "it is past twelve o'clock. I am so sorry
you sat up for me."

"I am only waiting to undress you, mamma," said Mabel, "you are so much
later to-night, that I thought you would be tired. I have been lying on
your sofa, half asleep, for more than an hour. Have you been talking of
me?" she added, lowering her voice.

"Yes, a little," replied Mrs. Lesly; "but why do you ask, what can any
one say ill of you."

Mabel sighed.

"I talked of you, dear, not merely to satisfy my sister's curiosity;
but, because there is in the world a very strong prejudice against
single ladies, old maids, as they are termed, in contempt, when there is
no good reason given for their not marrying. It is a foolish prejudice,
but still a strong one; and, therefore, I would rather that people knew
why you are not married; at least, that all those who have any right to
criticise your conduct, should know that it has been by your own
choice."

"Ah, mamma," said Mabel, "you are thinking of my feelings as they would
once have been."

"And as they may be again," said the mother; "but not as they ought to
be, I allow. But you bear your trial so well, love, that I would not
have it increased by one unkind, or worldly remark. You have done right,
and can, therefore, afford to suffer; yet there is no harm in sparing
yourself any needless pain. Go to sleep, now, my child, I do not wish to
see you tired, to-morrow."

Mabel retired to her own room, with feelings stirred up, she scarce knew
why, by the arrival of their new guests, and she would willingly have
thought awhile in silence, but Amy was awake, and restless.

"What time is it, Mabel, dear," for by that affectionate title, she
usually addressed her.

"Past one o'clock, dear," said Mabel; "are you awake, still."

"I have been to sleep, once," said Amy; "but I was dreaming all the
time, first of Lucy, and then about Captain Clair, and the
blackberries. You said she would not like me quite at first, but she
seems to love you in one evening--how is that?"

"I really do not know; Lucy puzzles me, rather, but she says she likes,
or dislikes, quickly."

"But that is what you tell me not to do," said Amy, sitting up in her
bed, as if prepared for a regular discussion of the subject.

"Yes," said Mabel, "because I am afraid you will not choose your friends
well, and may be mistaken if you judge too quickly."

"Well," said Amy, gravely; "I suppose Lucy is clever to find you out so
soon, but it puzzles me to think how she could tell you were good, in
one evening."

"I do not think she does know much about me, yet," said Mabel; "but do
not let us think of her just now, for if we never think of ourselves at
any other time, I think we should before we go to sleep. So, now you
must not talk any more."

Mabel then turned her pillow, smoothed the hair back from her heated
cheeks, and made her comfortable, so that Amy, having no further excuse
for keeping awake, soon fell asleep.

The next morning Mrs. Lesly was up earlier than usual, that she might
enjoy as much of her sister's society as her short visit permitted.

After breakfast, Mrs. Villars said, that if they could have a chat by
themselves, she should be glad.

To this Mrs. Lesly willingly agreed, and after some little conversation
on the arrangements of the day, led her to her sunny dressing-room,
where her own mornings were most frequently spent.

"I hope," said Mrs. Lesly, taking up her work, "that nothing unpleasant
has occurred, to make you wish to speak to me; but, perhaps you have
been thinking over our last night's conversation."

Mrs. Villars coloured slightly with the consciousness that the feelings
awakened by her sister's conversation, had been of very short duration.

"No, dear," said she; "last night I listened to your trials and
troubles, this morning you must hear mine."

"Oh," said Mrs. Lesly, "I would never have taken up your time last
night, had I known that you were thinking of any thing that pained you."

"You are always too kind to me," said Mrs. Villars, "and I am sure I
would much rather hear you talk than talk myself, for it does me good to
be with you, but really, now we are sitting down, I have hardly the
courage to speak of what I wanted to say."

"No one is ever afraid of me," said Mrs. Lesly, "and you know, if you
are in any trouble, I never can find fault."

"Well then," said Mrs. Villars, "I will tell you exactly how I am
situated. You must know that Mr. Villars has had, or pretends to have,
had a great many losses this year, which have really quite soured his
temper. He does nothing now but grumble, saying, I am not half so
economical as I ought to be, and I do not know what peevish stuff. He
says I dress the children too expensively, and then he tells me they
would look better in white muslin than in all the laces I put on them."

"Well, there I think he is right," interposed Mrs. Lesly, "nothing makes
a girl look so nice as a simple white dress."

"I cannot agree with that," said Mrs. Villars. "Caroline has just the
figure--just the majestic style of beauty that does not do for white
muslin and simplicity, and in her black velvet and pearls, I do assure
you, she looks fit to be a duchess. Selina, too, has just that fairy
beauty which requires the lightest and most delicate of colors, and how
very soon they soil, particularly with polking--and, besides, they
cannot always be wearing the same dresses in a place like Bath. I cannot
help wishing to see them respectably dressed, when I hear every one
speak so highly of their beauty. You must forgive a mother's pride, but
I cannot help it."

"But, my dear," said Mrs. Lesly, "if your object is to marry them well,
you ought not to dress them so expensively. Few men intending to marry,
like the prospect of furnishing an extravagant wardrobe. The idea of
having to pay for their dress should gently insinuate itself, not glare
upon their attention in velvet and satin."

"Now, Annie," said Mrs. Villars, "how unkind it is of you to talk in
this way. You see, I had reason to be afraid of speaking to you."

"I meant it most kindly, I do assure you," said Mrs. Lesly.

"That may be," said Mrs. Villars, poutingly; "but that cutting way of
speaking hurts the feelings, and you are very fond of it, sometimes."

"Well, dear," said Mrs. Lesly, "I only meant a little good advice, but
as you do not like it, I will say no more."

"Besides," continued Mrs. Villars, "I expect girls with such pretensions
and advantages as mine have, to marry men of wealth and station, who
will only be too proud to see them dress well. You ought to see them
enter a ball-room, and how immediately they are surrounded."

"Ah, yes, I dare say," said Mrs. Lesly, who was always too indolent for
any long argument, and generally gave up a point, even with Amy, when
persisted in beyond her patience.

"But now then, to return to my little difficulty," said Mrs. Villars,
recovering her good-temper. "You know Mr. Villars is so horribly cross
now, I do not dare to bring anything before him."

"I am sorry to hear that," said Mrs. Lesly; "my William never said a
cross word to me, that I remember."

"Ah," sighed Mrs. Villars, "it is very different with me, I assure
you--Villars is always finding fault now, since the girls are come out."

"Well," repeated Mrs. Lesly, "I certainly never remember being afraid of
my poor husband."

"No; but then he was a soldier, that makes a man very different," said
Mrs. Villars, "so kind and open-hearted. Now Villars, though he has left
his business in the city, and is only a sleeping partner, yet he seems
to take as much interest in it as ever; and if anything goes wrong, then
he is off to London to give his advice, he says, and comes home so
cross, there is no speaking a word to him, and if he finds us going out,
as we do, of course, nearly every night, then he goes off sulky to his
study. Married life with such a man, is no joke, I can tell you. When we
first married, he had such an easy temper; he says I spoilt it, but the
fault lies at his own door, of that I am certain. But I would not say
this to every one."

"I hope not, indeed," said Mrs. Lesly, much pained; "it is better to
keep these things from everybody; and you cannot blame him without
finding fault with yourself at the same time."

"And that I am not disposed to do," interrupted Mrs. Villars; "no, I
assure you, before company, I make him appear the very pattern of
perfection. I would not lower myself by showing the world how very
little influence I have over him. But now to the point--I must tell you,
that last winter, I was foolish enough to run up some bills with my
jeweller, milliner, and others, a little higher than ordinary, and now
every day they become more importunate, and I have made excuses till
they will listen no longer. I do not know where to turn for money, till
this business pressure is over and Villars has recovered his temper. Now
could you, I know you could if you would, just lend me a hundred pounds
for a few months?"

"Ah, Caroline, but ought I?" said Mrs. Lesly; "think of my poor
children, and my health such as it is."

"But what possible harm could that do them?" said Mrs. Villars, as if
surprised; "do you think I could be so barbarous as to think of hurting
them. It is perfectly safe with me; and I will pay you in six months."

"But, my dear Caroline," said Mrs. Lesly, "why not tell Mr. Villars? it
will be but the anger of an hour--contrast that with the pain of
deceiving him."

"I do not mind telling him everything, when his present difficulties
are over--now it would be unkind to ask me."

"But," answered her sister, timidly, "do you think I am right in
suffering more of my money to be in private hands, even in yours?"

"Oh," said Mrs. Villars, coloring slightly, "you are speaking of the
five hundred I owe you already; but you know I promised to pay that back
with five per cent interest when my aunt Clara dies, and leaves me the
legacy she promised, and which Villars always said I should do just as I
liked with. I gave you a memorandum of the promise, in case of any
mistake."

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Lesly; "but I really do not know what I have
done with it--I am afraid it is mislaid."

"I dare say," said Mrs. Villars, again coloring, and looking down upon
the spill she was twisting from the pieces of an old letter; "but
surely, if it be lost, you could not think your own sister would--"

"Oh, no, no," said Mrs. Lesly; "I think nothing but that you are
imprudent; and oh, Caroline, however I may disguise the truth from
Mabel--I am not ignorant that a few weeks may, and a few years certainly
will, bring me to my grave. Now am I right to trust so much even to
you?"

A mother's courage was strong, even in her timid and indolent mind, and
she spoke with tears in her eyes.

"Now then," said Mrs. Villars, "I promise, if you will be generous this
once, that your children shall never want a home while I have one, and
every comfort which my own possess shall be theirs; only rescue me this
once from my husband's anger."

"I have done it so often," said Mrs. Lesly, "I am afraid it is unkind to
both of you to do it again."

"Oh, do not say so," cried Mrs. Villars, "oh, think again, do not say
that, and you so kind and good. You know I have given you a written
promise, to pay it out of the legacy aunt Clara is to leave me, and that
is as binding to my mind, beloved sister, as a legally executed deed; as
Villars promises positively, I shall do what I like with the money, when
I get it. Have I not promised to continue to pay five per cent interest
to your children as well as yourself, should you not live, as I hope
and trust you may, many, many years. I can do that easily, as I have
done before; at least I could have done so had we not agreed to let the
interest accumulate, that I might pay you in the lump. Where is my
promise? you have lost it you say, but I remember it all well enough.
Oh, good, kind Annie, think again."

"But that paper is lost," said Mrs. Lesly, with a vacant look, and she
passed her hand over her forehead, as if trying to remember something of
it.

"I would offer to write another promise," said Mrs. Villars, "only I do
not like to bind myself to two sums; for every one may not be so
honourable as yourself, and you must have it somewhere, but you need not
doubt me if it is lost, need you?"

"I wish you would not talk of doubting," said Mrs. Lesly, "it makes me
feel so uncomfortable; but once again, my dear sister, let me entreat
you to have no concealments from your husband, they never lead to good.
If you will tell him everything, I promise to lend you the money."

"That is as good as refusing altogether," replied Mrs. Villars, sulkily,
"why not say you will not at once, that would be plain and open, but as
it is," she added, bursting into tears, "I see you do not care for me."

"Well, dear," said Mrs. Lesly, much pained, "you know I can never bear
to see you cry--dry your tears and listen to me. How are we to get the
money?"

Mrs. Villars brightened up in an instant.

"Why," said she, "you bank at Coutts's--write me a draft, and I will get
it changed in Bath, some how; I can manage it as I did before."

"My money," said Mrs. Lesly, with unusual gravity, "has been reduced for
your sake, to a very few hundreds, a mere trifle, but my children!"
exclaimed she, suddenly dropping her pen, and clasping her hands
convulsively.

"I have promised to be their mother," said Mrs. Villars, "but nonsense,
you will live many years yet."

"Do not think of it, do not think of it, my doctor knows my constitution
too well to flatter me with such vain hopes. I have been better since
you have been here, but that is excitement, and now my head aches so."

She placed her hand upon her forehead, and sank into deep thought.

Mrs. Villars grew impatient; for there was a struggle going on within
her, in which her better self was busily engaged; and the worldly woman
almost feared the world would lose the victory, while she trembled at
the feelings she was exciting.

The whole truth indeed being, that the money she so earnestly solicited,
was intended, not to discharge debts already incurred, but to furnish
additional display both in dress and housekeeping, during the
approaching visit of Colonel Hargrave to Bath, which the worldly mother
hoped, till she believed, would end in a marriage between him and her
eldest daughter, whose temper was becoming soured, by the failure of
repeated matrimonial speculations.

Mr. Villars had found it necessary to lay down a plan of economy for the
following year; limiting its proposed expenditure in a manner which
little suited the taste or the tactics of his family, and it, therefore,
occurred to his imprudent wife, that there would be no harm in
forestalling the legacy of a thousand pounds, promised by an invalid
aunt, by adding another hundred to the five she had already borrowed
upon it, under the impression that any present expenditure would be
amply compensated if she succeeded in placing her daughter in possession
of Aston, with whose broad lands she was well acquainted, though of the
character, disposition, or principles of its owner, she was quite
ignorant.

She well knew how to work upon her sister's feelings, already enervated
by grief and ill-health, and the narrow views of a selfish woman had
often led her to do so; but now, as she regarded the weakness that
seemed to implore protection, she felt her powers of dissimulation fast
failing before these new thoughts of compunction. After all, she thought
she might do without the money, the girls' old dresses were new to
Hargrave, and he might be a man of simple habits, and, perhaps, would
really be more attracted by white muslin, than crimson velvet--if so,
she was perhaps sinning for no purpose--might she not do without the
money--she might, but she had never learnt the principle of self-denial,
where right and wrong is concerned; and then come second thoughts--why
did she wait for them? When temptation is present, the first quick
generous impulse is the safest. There is a voice in our hearts which
never directs us wrong, let us listen to its least whisper. Why, like
the avaricious prophet of old, are we dissatisfied with its first
answer--why will we ask, and ask again, till the reply suits, not our
conscience, but our desires.

In this case as in many others, Mrs. Villars's second thoughts
triumphed. Why should she submit to her husband's pitiful economy--was
it not his fault if she were forced to borrow; and she paid, or meant to
pay, her sister good interest, which would atone for every thing; and,
at the end of the season, no doubt the longed-for marriage would take
place; and, even supposing her grateful daughter forgot to share her pin
money with her, Mr. Villars could not but applaud her conduct and settle
her debt; and, even if not--but she was in no humour for ifs--and a
glance from the window at the rich woods which skirted the Aston estate,
and a glimpse through the trees at the mansion itself, quite settled the
question, and she continued twisting her spills with perfect
satisfaction.

Not so Mrs. Lesly, she had seated herself at her desk, indeed, and taken
up her pen with a trembling hand; but her eyes were vacantly following
her sister's occupation.

"This will never do," thought the worldly woman; yet she was afraid to
hurry her.

"I was thinking," said Mrs. Lesly, at length, after continuing in the
same attitude of observation, "I was thinking how very strange it was
that I never remember our talking about money, but you were making
spills all the time."

"Why, you see," said Mrs. Villars, carelessly, "I never thought it worth
while to bring my work for the short time I generally stay, and I never
like to sit quite idle."

"Yes; but when you stayed with me for a month, it happened then as
well," said Mrs. Lesly, in a musing kind of tone.

"It was rather strange, certainly--but more strange that you should
remember such trifles," said Mrs. Villars, her face turning rather
disagreeably pale.

Poor Mrs. Lesly, fearing she had offended her, took up her pen, and
wrote like a frightened child, then quickly handed her the draft.

Mrs. Villars hastily rose and kissed her, and then, taking her pen from
her hand, wrote a memorandum of the loan, which Mrs. Lesly placed in her
work-basket.

At that moment, Amy ran into the room, crying out--

"Mamma, mamma, I have cut my finger--do please give me a piece of rag,
or I shall spoil my dress."

Mrs. Lesly, easily frightened, hurried to her assistance, and, though
Amy kept exclaiming that she was only anxious about her dress, hurried
her off to a receptacle of old linen, which she kept in preparation for
every accident.

Mrs. Villars glanced at the paper she had just written.

"How careless Annie is," thought she. "Yet she seemed suspicious just
now about the spills--could she have guessed I tore up the other papers
I wrote? No--impossible! It is so awkward to be pressed for money, at
all sorts of times, and poor Annie is not long for this world, I see.
That Mabel has a sharp eye, and would not be easily deceived. Well, it
does not alter the obligation one bit, and what does it signify between
sisters. I only do not wish to be hurried."

A clue to these thoughts might be given by her putting out her hand, and
drawing the paper to her, amongst the pieces she was tearing up. Where
was the voice of conscience then? Alas! for a time, it slept, for she
had slighted its first warning.

She tore the paper in two, and then said to herself, "Well, it is done
now," rather as if somebody else had done it, and it was no act of her
own. Then she slowly twisted bit after bit into spills, laying each with
those she had already done, and the last piece had just assumed its
taper appearance, when Mrs. Lesly entered the room.

"What did I do with that paper?" said she, after looking on all sides
for it, "how careless I am."

"I think," said Mrs. Villars, "you put it in your secretary--you had it
open while you were writing."

"Ah, so I must, I suppose," said Mrs. Lesly; but she looked
suspiciously at the secretary, she had no remembrance of going there;
yet, she had had it open that morning, she knew. Her sister must
remember better than she did. She would look presently, she had not
quite the resolution to look now; and suffering her characteristic
indolence to overcome her prudence, she sank into an arm-chair, and took
up her knitting.

At this moment, the chaise, which had been ordered, slowly drove up to
the door, and Mabel entered to tell them that luncheon waited them in
the sitting-room.

Mrs. Villars started up, full of business and bustle, which she felt to
be a welcome relief after the morning's _tête-à-tête_, and hurried down
stairs. Mabel regarded her mother's pale looks with affectionate
anxiety; but there was little time for thought, as Mrs. Villars and her
maid kept the house in a perfect ferment for the next five minutes.

Amy stood looking aghast at a very bright carpet-bag, with a kind of
travelling scent about it, which she thought grander and newer than
anything of the kind she had before seen; and she quite shrank within
herself when her aunt kissed her, and blessed her in a tone which made
her feel cold; nor was she sorry when she saw her get into the carriage,
attended by the bright carpet-bag--and when box after box was moved to
the top of the creaking vehicle--and when the vehicle itself moved down
the walk, she drew a long breath, as if relieved from some heavy
pressure, feeling the place once more quite their own.

Lucy ran to the gate, to open it to let her mamma pass, kissing her hand
to her, and stopping to watch till the carriage turned the corner, and
was only visible down Amy's point of observation on the wall. She then
came back with her cheeks crimson, and putting her arm round Mabel's
waist, she whispered--

"Who do you think passed while I was holding the gate?"

"Who?" said Mabel, a little surprised at anything like an apparition in
their quiet village, and not yet quite aware of their Bath cousin's
usual train of thought. "I cannot guess."

Lucy's cheeks were of a deeper tint, as she whispered--

"Captain Clair."



                              CHAPTER VII.

     But when the weight of sorrow found
     My spirit prostrate and resigned,
     The anguish of the bleeding wound
     Taught me to feel for all mankind.

                                                    ELIZA COOK.


Mrs. Lesly's ill health had made her rather retire from society, than
take any pains to seek it, during her widowhood, and she had gradually
drawn her circle of friends so closely round her, that it now scarcely
extended beyond her immediate neighbourhood. Mabel, whose affectionate
attendance was necessary to her mother's happiness, never thought of
leaving her, by accepting any invitation to stay from home; and years
had almost insensibly passed away in the cultivation of elegant tastes,
and in constant, but local benevolence, without their being tempted to
ask any distant relative or friend to visit them.

Mabel was, therefore, at first, a little puzzled to think how she might
render their quiet home agreeable to the gay girl who had so
unexpectedly entered it. Lucy, however, seemed determined to be pleased,
if only allowed to be moving, and she ran away with great cheerfulness,
to prepare for the walk which Mabel proposed soon after the departure of
Mrs. Villars.

"Do you often call at the rectory?" she asked, as they strolled up the
hill leading through the village.

"We will call as we return from our walk," replied Mabel, "if you fancy
going there with me."

"Oh, yes," said Lucy, "I should like it so much, for you said Mr. Ware
was such a nice man; his sister, I suppose, is quite an old maid."

"She is such a pleasant old lady, that you cannot help liking her,"
said Mabel; "but I ought not to say that, I suppose, as some people
always dislike those they are told they shall like, and I should be very
sorry if you were not pleased with them both."

"Oh, I shall be sure to like them if they are favorites of yours. But do
look how lovely;" she exclaimed, as a sudden turn in the winding walk
they had chosen, gave them a fine view of the distant country, with
Aston manor in the fore-ground. "What a beautiful house. Is that the
house we saw from the garden? Is that Harry Hargrave's?"

"Yes," was the laconic reply.

"Why do you look so grave?"

"I did not mean to look so," said Mabel; stopping by an old hawthorn
tree, which was lying upon the ground, though the branches were still
covered with foliage. "Let us sit down here, for the sun is quite
oppressive. This," continued she, "is a favorite seat of mine; the tree
fell a long time ago, and has been left as it is, ever since. You will
get a better view of the house here, than you will find any where
else."

Lucy readily seated herself by Mabel's side, upon the old tree which had
fallen in a pleasant spot. A high hedge shaded it from the sun on one
side, and clusters of wild roses hung down it, and scented the air. A
gentle breeze stole up from the valley, and a small stream rippled by in
melodious monotony, falling in a tiny cascade over the bank into the
river below. The songs of many birds came from all sides of the well
wooded country--and here and there a gay butterfly crossed over the
fields.

They continued for some little time in silence, which Lucy was the first
to break, by enquiring if Aston Manor were as pleasant inside as it
seemed to promise to be.

"Yes, even more pleasant," replied Mabel; "it is a very compact house,
the rooms are of a very good size--and the whole place splendidly
furnished, and generally admired in our county; the hall is surrounded
by a gallery, hung with paintings of great value. The gardens are very
beautiful, and every thing else in keeping. Indeed, I think it is quite
a bijou of a place."

"Is there any room that would do nicely for a dance?" enquired Lucy.

"They used to have many pleasant dances there, in good Mrs. Hargrave's
lifetime, which mamma remembers well."

"Oh, that will be so nice," said Lucy.

"What will?" said Mabel, in surprise.

"Why, when our castle in the air marriage takes place," said Lucy;
"because Caroline is so very fond of dancing, and could lead off a ball
with such spirit; and I shall contrive to be nearly always staying with
them."

"Why do you suppose every thing so certain," said Mabel, startled, alike
at the indelicacy of the scheme, and Lucy's cool thoughtlessness in
speaking of it.

"Do not say it will not be," said Lucy, "or I shall punish you some how
or other. Now, would you not be glad to have us down here, Colonel
Hargrave and all; think what nice parties there would be; and who knows
what nice beau might come down and take you away with him."

Mabel's cheek blushed scarlet, and her lips curled in preparation for
some angry retort--suddenly she checked herself as she remembered the
conversation of the preceding night. Have I then failed so soon, thought
she to herself.

"Ah, mamma, you know my vain wicked heart better than I do--for the
first observation that seems to point me out as single, and needing a
lover, makes me angry."

"Ah, you blush, Mabel," pursued her heedless tormentor, too unaccustomed
to feel for others, to be able to read her countenance, or tell why her
words had given pain; "perhaps, you are engaged to some one, under the
rose, all the while."

Mabel was silent for a moment; it required that moment to seize the
reins with which she usually held her temper in check, and then she
replied, gently, but gravely.

"I am not engaged to any one; you mistake my face entirely, but I
colored because I was silly enough to feel angry at your thinking I was
wishing to be married--but it was wrong of me, because you could not
understand my feelings without being told. So I must tell you," she
continued smiling, "that I am a determined old maid; though, perhaps,
you may think such a resolution needless in a place where gentlemen
seldom come to disturb our equanimity."

"What, wedded to your duties, are you? Or what other queer reason may
have led you to such a determination," enquired Lucy, who could not help
feeling that her new friend's speech meant more than it usually does in
the mouth of a beautiful girl; and she was surprised to think she should
wish to retire from the field of conquest, before actually driven from
it by dulness or age. Her own vanity could not conceal from her, a
certain indescribable something which rendered her cousin particularly
attractive, and, though she certainly ranked her second to herself,
that did not imply any very low degree of merit.

Mabel's composure, which was seldom lost, was now entirely restored, and
she answered Lucy's wondering eyes with one of her peculiarly sweet and
gentle smiles.

"You may well wonder," said she, "that I, who seem so little your
senior, should already have made such a resolution. I too, who am fond
of society, fond of companionship, and all that is domestic, and choose
solitude only as wholesome medicine; but some destinies are fixed early,
others late; and I, who once thought, and still think, marriage, with
its social harmony and sweet feelings of dependence, most fitted for a
woman's nature, have yet quite made up my mind to remain single."

"I shall not believe you till you give me some good reason," said Lucy.

"You are too kind," replied Mabel, as her voice slightly trembled, "to
seek to probe a wound only from the curiosity of seeing how deep it
is--when you have no power to heal. I speak of myself now," she added,
hastily; "lest in our future conversations, you may pain me without
knowing it, and perhaps I might think you unkind when you were only
seeking to amuse me. Oh, Lucy," said she, turning round with sudden
energy, "I have suffered terribly, and still suffer, when I lose my
self-command for a moment--do not then talk of my loving or needing
love--do not tease me with the intention of pleasing--do not talk--"
Mabel suddenly stopped and burst into tears--for a very long time, she
had never spoken intimately with a young girl in her own station of
life, and the novelty had surprised her. A few large drops rolled
quickly down her crimson cheeks, but were soon brushed away, and half
smiling, she begged her cousin's forgiveness for speaking so hastily--in
a few more seconds, she was again gentle and submissive as a child.

"Then must I never speak of love at all?" said Lucy, fearing that all
the most interesting of her stories would find an unwilling listener.

"Oh, you mistake me," said Mabel; "do not think me so selfish--talk as
much as you like of yourself, and forget me; and you will, perhaps, find
me a better listener, perhaps a better adviser, because I have
altogether retired from the lists of conquest; and, be assured, the
necessity of placing a guard over myself, and the difficulty of doing it
effectually, only tells me how much I ought to feel for others. If you
will always let me speak the truth, without being offended with me, I
will take interest in your feelings at any time, only remember that mine
are like 'The Arab's sealed fountain,' whose waters will never see the
light again."

"You are a very strange girl, my sweet, new friend," said Lucy; "but I
love you better for having a history, although I see I must not read it
quite yet; at all events, not till I know you better, and you learn how
well I can keep a secret."

"No, not even then," replied Mabel, "I cannot speak of myself without
speaking of more than myself; so content yourself with what I have told
you, and do not think of me again, or I shall repent having said
anything."

"Well, it shall be quite as you like, I will do anything you wish, only
you must tell me, that you love me very, very much indeed."

"I will tell you no such thing," said Mabel, laughing; "remember, I only
met you yesterday morning."

"Well then, come and call at the rectory, and that will shew me you love
me."

"But I could do such a little thing, whether I loved you or not," said
Mabel; "so I will take you for charity's sake, for I see, like the cat
who was turned into a lady, and yet ran after mice--you cannot go
without your accustomed food."

"I thought you said you liked society," said Lucy.

"And so I do--so let us walk on, for this green lane will lead us round
to the rectory."

One of the rectory pets was an immense Newfoundland dog, who began to
bark loudly as they approached the house.

"Oh!" said Lucy, with a half scream, "I cannot go on--I am sure he is
untied--nasty thing."

"No, he never barks when he is loose--come on, dear, I am sure he will
not hurt you."

Lucy clung to her arm in real or affected terror till they reached the
house door.

Much to her disappointment, they found no one but Miss Ware at home, and
she sat up during the visit, as silent, and apparently as timid, as a
child, amusing herself by poking her parasol through the cage of the pet
parrot, who appeared highly offended at her familiarity.

Mabel was a great favorite at the rectory, and Miss Ware, certain of
finding her interested in her news, had many little things to tell her;
she had had a letter from one old friend, and had worked a birth-day
present for another, with many other little incidents to notice, which
Lucy amused herself by silently turning into ridicule, though they were
so kindly told that few would have found it difficult to enter into the
little cares and joys which, after all, were never selfish.

"My brother and nephew are gone to look over the church," said she,
"which I conclude Miss Villars has not yet seen. Edwin is always wishing
to improve the old tower, and to scrape away the mortar and white-wash
from the walls inside the church, for he says they are painted with
beautiful figures--but he will never have money enough for that I am
afraid--yet he puts by all he can spare--for he does not like running
into debt, and I agree with him, it is doing evil that good may come. So
he saves every year--but I fear he will not get enough in his lifetime,
to carry out this pet scheme."

"I wish we were all rich enough to raise a subscription," said Mabel, "I
should so much like to see him fully employed in finding out all the
beauties of our dear old church."

"Yes," said Miss Ware, "I like to hear him talk on the subject, because
he enters upon it in the true genuine spirit--he feels it to be almost
an insult to religion to allow its altars to be kept in the slovenly
state they too often are; grudged almost the necessary repairs by those
who are lavish where their own minutest comforts are concerned. The
Roman Catholics might cry shame at us."

"Why do you not ask Colonel Hargrave, ma'am?" enquired Lucy, turning
round from the parrot.

"My brother has mentioned the subject several times," said Miss Ware,
"without being able to interest him. Young men too seldom enter, with
warmth, on these subjects, and he has now left us so long."

"Oh, I will tell him he must," said Lucy, "with his fortune it is
really quite shabby of him."

"Do you know him then?" enquired Miss Ware.

"Yes--no--not exactly--but he is a relation of ours. He is coming to
stay with us in Bath, and I will take an early opportunity of mentioning
the church to him."

"Oh, I remember," said Miss Ware, "he is, I know, related to you through
Colonel Lesly, but I am afraid you will scarcely succeed, where my
brother has failed--if strength of argument be needed, few can put a
thing in a stronger light than Edwin can."

"Oh," said Lucy, laughing, "I never condescend to argue with a man--I
will tell him he _must_--suggest that not to do so is shabby, mean--with
a few more epithets to match, and then leave his own good taste to draw
the conclusion."

"Well," said Miss Ware, recovering from her slight pique, at thinking
any one could succeed where Edwin failed, "if you never use your
ridicule for a worse purpose, you will do well."

The subject here took another turn, and Lucy again applied herself to
tease the parrot with the same listlessness as before--thinking the
conversation very dull, yet too idle to throw in her share. She was
aroused from her apathy, by hearing Miss Ware ask Mabel if she would
bring her young friend to tea on the morrow, if Mrs. Lesly could content
herself with Amy's company; for to ask her, she knew to be useless. Lucy
feared Mabel was going to decline, and she cast such an imploring look
at her as to decide the question, and make her promise that, if Mrs.
Lesly continued as well as she had been, and would consent to part with
them, they would come with pleasure. Lucy thought this, a very
satisfactory conclusion, to so dull a visit, and once again all smiles,
shook Miss Ware warmly by the hand, as Mabel rose to leave, and returned
home in high spirits.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

     A parent's heart may prove a snare;
     The child she loves so well,
     Her hand may lead, with gentlest care,
     Down the smooth road to hell.
     Nourish its flame, destroy its mind,
     Thus do the blind mislead the blind,
     Even with a mother's love.


Lucy Villars was a pretty girl, with fairy-like figure, small features,
laughing mouth, bright blue sparkling eyes, and a profusion of light
ringlets. Her step was buoyant, and her voice full of animation. It
might have been vanity that made the sparkle of those eyes so brilliant,
and her smiles so frequent, but as her merry laugh echoed back the
joyousness of her own heart, few were disposed to condemn the feeling,
whatever it might be, that rendered her so seemingly happy with herself,
and all around her.

What mental abilities she might possess, however, were completely
overshadowed by the mistakes of early education; at times they would
peep forth when her feelings were really stirred by any strong impulse
of good or evil; but so uncommon were these indications of mind, that no
one could regard them as any true sign even of an originally strong
intellect; and her ordinary flippancy was, perhaps, more certainly
chosen as an index to the spirit within.

She had been but an apt pupil in a bad school. When scarcely more than a
tottering child, she had taken her place at the dancing academy,
learning in her lisping language to compare waltzes and polkas, and
criticise dress, and to display her tiny figure for the admiration of
spectators; feeling her little heart bound when perhaps she attracted
notice from being the smallest and gayest of her companions. Then, in
the juvenile party, where the lesson of the morning could be so well
displayed, where she early learnt to hear her nonsense listened to with
pleasure, and, where, even the old and sensible regarded her little
affectations with a smile, she found another opportunity for display in
the world for which she was educated.

These were too tempting after the dry formula of French verbs and
geography lessons, not to engross the greater part of her thoughts; and,
as she grew older, the evening ball, with its glare of light, its
flirtations and too visible admiration, and the morning promenade,
concert, or town gossip, served to keep up the excited, thoughtless
feeling to which she had been so early trained. Oh, England, do you
educate all your daughters in this manner! Your matrons, reverenced by
all nations, answer no!

It could scarcely be wondered at, that Lucy Villars had thus learnt to
place too high a value on personal beauty. We would not for an instant
deny its merit. We reverence all that is beautiful in art or nature, we
glow with admiration of a fine picture, and the sight of a rich
landscape elevates the feelings of him who gazes upon it; we picture
angels beautiful, and we look forward to a heaven where all is perfect
beauty. It cannot then be valueless when exhibited in the human face or
figure. It has indeed been much over and underrated. May we not look
upon it as a talent bestowed for some high purpose, as a means of
influence which must be some day accounted for.

No such thoughts ever occupied Lucy's mind for a moment; she had learnt
her own estimate of its value from the frivolous admiration of a gay
city; she had heard it praised in others as if of the greatest
importance; and she had chosen her acquaintance amongst those who
studied every means of enhancing its charms.

She now entered on her country visit with the same feelings; and, bent
on displaying herself to the best advantage at the rectory, she spent
the greater part of the next morning, during the hours usually occupied
by Mabel in attending to Amy's lessons, in selecting from her wardrobe a
dress best suited for the occasion. Mabel was again and again consulted,
and Amy began to show great impatience at her sister's divided
attention, usually all her own, during her study hours.

But Mabel, much to her disappointment, not unwilling to teach her
self-denial, persisted in attending to Lucy's questions, and in the
evening the latter found herself attired to her perfect satisfaction,
and looking remarkably well.

"You seem to think dress of little importance," she said, lounging into
her cousin's room, and stopping to take another peep in the glass,
without seeing that Mabel had not finished dressing, and was a little
late.

"No indeed," replied Mabel, fastening a bouquet of geraniums in her
simple white dress, without the aid of the usurped mirror, "I think it
of so much consequence, that no woman should be indifferent to it, when
at her toilet, or with her milliner. They say a lady's taste is to be
read in her dress, and I should not like to give soiled lace or badly
blended colors, as an index to mine."

"Do you find any fault with my dress to-night?" enquired Lucy.

Mabel only suggested that a simple brooch might be preferred to the
bright bow which ornamented her bosom, but she had ample time to repent
the observation, for Lucy insisted on going over her whole box of
jewelry to find a substitute, and was scarcely ready by the time when
Mabel, having provided books, work, tea, and every thing she could think
of for Mrs. Lesly and Amy, waited for her in the garden.

They found Mr. Ware looking for them at his garden gate. Mabel hurried
forward to meet him, and then turned to introduce her cousin.

"Most welcome, my dear young ladies," said he, extending a hand to each,
"my sister has no mean opinion of her own hospitality to venture on
inviting you to join our party."

Lucy blushed with conscious beauty, while Mabel said, with a smile--

"You throw all the blame on Miss Ware. I fear then, you would not have
asked us to come yourself."

"Nay, nay, I cannot exactly say what I would have done; but here is
Arthur, no doubt he can play at words better than I can."

Captain Clair gracefully raised his hat as he came in sight, and then
shaking hands with Mabel, requested, in a low voice to be introduced to
her lovely cousin. The "lovely," was pronounced distinctly enough to
reach Lucy's ears, and the blush with which she received Mabel's
introduction shewed him that the compliment had been accepted.

As the party lounged round the garden, Mabel reminded Mr. Ware of his
promise to show her some improvements he had been making amongst the
evergreens in the shrubbery; and Lucy Villars gladly seized the
opportunity of commencing a flirting conversation with Captain Clair,
who, being well drilled in the accomplishment of small talk, by long
practice, easily fell into a _tête-à-tête_.

Mabel's hand was placed affectionately in the old man's arm, as they
walked on together, finding some kindred thought from every topic they
chose. He had been kind to her when a firm friend had been most needed,
and she now sought to shew, in every way, that he had not bestowed that
kindness on one incapable of appreciating it.

The ready sympathy she felt in all in which he took any interest, was,
perhaps, the best return she could have thought of. We value most that
for which we pay the highest, and friendship is purchased by no common
coin.

It was a great pleasure to Mr. Ware, to have her society and ready
sympathy. Few friends lay within reach of Aston, and her elegant mind
supplied what would otherwise have been wanting in his simple home, and
gave him an opportunity of conversing on his favorite topics.

"We shall not be seeing so much of you I fear," he said, as they walked
back towards the house, "but I must not be selfish."

"Indeed I hope that will not be the case," she replied, "do come and
walk with us whenever you have time. No one can shew the the beauties of
our county better than you can, and I never enjoy a party so much as
when you are with us."

"If you are in earnest I feel inclined to gratify you, if not, to punish
you, by accepting your invitation."

"Do not let us even pretend to be insincere," said Mabel, eagerly,
"hypocrisy is so hateful. Take me at my word, and trust me till I break
it."

"Well, then, so I will; I scarcely know which I like most, to trust or
be trusted, both are so pleasant; so, if you are going to do any thing
delightful out of doors, like a walk or a nutting expedition, ask us to
join you, and we will do the same, so we shall the better be able to
amuse our guests. People often require too good a reason for meeting--we
will have none."

"I will most willingly promise," returned Mabel, "only remember, that on
some days mamma feels so low that I never leave her--then you must
excuse me, for every thing at home depends on her."

"You are quite right to let it be so," said Mr. Ware, "and I will never
say a word against such an arrangement. Only tell her we mean to take
her by storm some night and come to tea. You shall give it us on the
green, and then she can look on without minding our noise."

"Mamma will be very glad to see you, I am sure," said Mabel, "if you
will only propose it. The effort would do her good."

"Very well then, I will tell her when I see her next," said Mr. Ware,
with a smile.

They had now reached the open window of the sitting-room, where Mabel
was welcomed by Miss Ware.

"The evening is really quite sultry," said she, "yet the air at this
time of day so often gives me cold, that I had not courage to venture
out, though I so much wished to join you."

"Had I known that, my dear Miss Ware, I should not have been tempted to
remain out so long."

"No, no, dear child, I am not so selfish, for I know when once you begin
to talk to Edwin there is no leaving off; but I hope you have not
forgotten your pretty cousin to-night. You promised to bring her with
you."

"Oh, yes, she is with us," said Mabel, turning round, but no Lucy was to
be seen.

"Oh, Arthur is taking care of her, I believe," said Mr. Ware, "and they
will be here soon, I dare say."

It was some little time, however, before they did appear, and then they
were seen advancing down the gravel walk, both laughing, and Lucy with
a very high colour.

"Why," said Mr. Ware, "you stole a march upon us, Arthur, where have you
been keeping this young lady in the damp?"

"Are we at the chair of confession?" asked the young officer, still
laughing.

"Yes, yes, every one confesses everything here; but sit down to tea
first, and take off your bonnet, Miss Villars."

"Well then," said Clair, when they were comfortably seated at the
tea-table, "I perceive I must apologise for a very grave offence in
keeping Miss Lucy Villars so long absent; the whole crime, I fear, lies
with me, I indeed, the scape-goat for every offender, must, I fear, take
the blame on myself."

"Come, come, Arthur," said his uncle, "be laconic."

"My dear uncle, you should allow a prisoner to state his own case
fairly--if he has not studied Burke on the 'Sublime and Beautiful,' the
'Patriot King,' and other models of pure English composition, you must
let a poor fellow express himself as he can, so that he speaks the
truth. So to proceed; we were talking of country pursuits, and Miss Lucy
could not understand how I could contrive to while away my time, after
being accustomed to town, Portsmouth, Southampton, Cheltenham,
Scarborough, Bombay, Calcutta and such places; how, in fact, I contrived
to vegetate here."

Lucy laughed merrily, and displayed in doing so a very pretty set of
white teeth. But Mr. Ware saw with regret that a new spirit had entered
their small circle of society, whose influence might do much to
counteract his own on the versatile disposition of his nephew, even
without being conscious of it.

"Well, aunt," Captain Clair continued gaily, "you look serious, as if I
meant any bad compliment to the sweetest village in England; though, my
dear aunt, vegetation is vegetation after all, whether displayed on the
Cotswold hills or in the back woods of America."

Mabel looked at him for an instant, and her deep blue eyes seemed to
deprecate a remark which her ever kind heart told her was giving pain.
Clair bowed, and then said almost in a whisper: "Thank you, I was
wrong," and continued his narrative, after a moment's pause.

"Well, as I before said, Miss Lucy wished to know how I amused myself in
the country, and, amongst other things, I mentioned my workshop,
situated, as you may remember, over the stable, and accessible only by a
ladder. However, this lady honored me by expressing a wish to see it,
and you know how difficult it is to refuse to gratify a lady's taste for
a hobby of our own, therefore, we proceeded to the stable, where, after
some time being spent in the ascent of the ladder, in looking at my
tools, and all my attempts at carpentering rickety garden chairs, and
tables that never will be persuaded to stand even, and after my giving
her a promise to turn her a jewel box, (which I hope she did not
believe) we experienced the same difficulty in coming down, that we did
in going up, but at length we are here, and at your service."

"What a long story about nothing," said his aunt.

"Then, if you think so, you do neither me nor my narrative justice; I
have given it for the amusement of the public, and feel myself ill-used
to find it not appreciated. Miss Lucy you play chess, you said. Honor me
by playing? We are ill-treated by the rest of the company, so may well
retire from notice."

Mabel was surprised to see the sudden intimacy which had sprung up in
less than an hour, and expected that Lucy would evade the familiarity
with which she was so soon treated, by some evidence of woman's tact;
but she very soon saw her seated by the little chess-table, in the
corner, apart from the rest, and listening to the low conversation
addressed to her, as if her host, and hostess, and friend, had not been
in the room.

She could not help feeling a little angry at her cousin's total neglect
of the friends whom she had ever been accustomed to treat with affection
and respect, but studiously endeavoured to engage their attention, and
to prevent their thinking of it. Still, it is never so difficult to talk
as when we most try to do so, and, almost for the first time, with them,
she felt it tedious to support the conversation.

At length, after giving Lucy two or three games, which her inferior play
would never have won, Captain Clair shut up the board, and the two
turned round for amusement to the rest of the company.

"Do you know, Mabel," said Lucy, "that Captain Clair came home from
Malta with Colonel Hargrave."

"Yes, Mr. Ware told me so."

"Do then join with me in begging a description of him."

"Surely," she replied, "Captain Clair does not need two requests."

"Do then," said Lucy, turning to him, "give us a nice long description
of him."

"I really do not know where to begin," said he, "particularly as you say
you will see him so soon."

"Oh, yes," said Lucy, with quiet pride, "he is coming to see us in Bath.
But now do describe him," she reiterated, with her prettiest look of
entreaty.

"Well then, though it is hard to have to describe a character that
throws one's own into shade."

"No, my dear boy," said Mr. Ware, his eyes glistening at this modest
avowal; "true praise of another's worth only enhances your own."

"Not in every one's opinion, I fear, uncle; virtue seems to stand so
much by comparison, at least, I have often found it so; but that shall
not prevent my giving as faithful a picture as I can remember of
Hargrave. I am rather fond of studying character."

"How you wander," said Lucy; "do begin--."

"No, miss Lucy, I was not wandering so much as you think, my observation
on character might after a bit have led to Hargrave--but, like a true
knight, once more I obey. What shall I begin with? A man's agreeable
qualities are generally judged by his acres; allow me," said he, waving
his hand towards the window, and pointing to the landscape of hill and
vale, and rich woods, and winding river, over which the moon was
shining, to shew you his most agreeable phase in the eyes of fair
ladies.

Lucy visibly colored, and Clair looked at her scrutinisingly, till she
laughingly told him to go on.

"Well, if that description does not satisfy, I must be more minute, and
bring up qualities, which, in these refined days, are not so much
thought of, unfortunately. First, then, his personal appearance. He is
very tall, and broad shouldered, and athletic; yet, at the same time,
though he is as strong as a giant, you might almost call him graceful.
He seems to have acquired the difficult art of standing perfectly still;
no shifting from one foot to another, a habit, Miss Lucy, I am prone to
indulge in. Now then for his face, dark eyes, dark hair, dark
complexion, white teeth, and a good nose, and I suppose my description
is complete."

"No, not yet, by any means," said Lucy, "tell us a little more."

"Ah, I forgot his sneer, which is perfect, I never saw one so cutting
before; but then his smile atones for it, though as rare as the sunshine
in November. The sneer is that of a proud, contemptuous, arrogant
man--the smile, that of an infant. Then, his eye--there is no describing
his eye--you, may remember it, uncle; it seems as if continual fire were
sleeping in it, like the fire of uncurbed intellect; an eye capable of
reading the countenance of another, yet, almost slothful in the attempt
to do so."

"What a horrid man!" exclaimed Lucy.

"You will not think so when you see him, or if you do, you will be
singular," said Clair. "Then I was going to tell you, that he is
changeable as the moon. Perhaps, when you are alone with him, he will
startle and entrance you, by his eloquent observations on men, and
things; and you will invite your friends to meet him, expecting them to
be equally fascinated; but, perhaps, during the whole evening, he will
scarcely make even a common-place observation. He is, indeed, a curious,
fascinating, wilful being; clever, and accomplished, beyond a doubt, and
his character is unimpeachable; yet he always seems to want something to
make him entirely happy."

"Poor fellow," sighed Mr. Ware.

"Perhaps he is in love," suggested Lucy.

"Hardly unsuccessfully, I should think; indeed, were I he, I should
never despair--but I own," said he, laughing; "I have sometimes caught
him looking at the moon."

"Well," said Mabel, rising; "I am sure we have to thank you for your
description of our lord of the manor, though you have made him rather a
terrible personage. Come, Lucy, I fear we must go."

"If you must, you will allow me to see you home," said Clair.

"I always take Mabel home," said his uncle; "but, if you will come with
us, as there are two ladies to be taken care of, we shall walk home
together."

Clair gladly assented to this arrangement; but, to Lucy's surprise,
offered Mabel his arm, leaving her to walk with his uncle; a plan she so
decidedly disliked, that she insisted on keeping her pocket-handkerchief
to her mouth the whole way home, though the night was remarkably clear,
and her stifled and negligent answers gave little encouragement to her
companion's attempts at conversation.

When they reached home, they found only Betsy, waiting up for them, and
Mabel begged Lucy to go as quietly as possible to her room, for fear of
waking Amy--but she insisted on following her, without stopping to
remark the expression of unusual paleness and fatigue, which was visible
in her countenance, and compelled her to listen to the story of her
evening's adventures.

"You know," said she, blushing, "when I was up in that high poky place,
at the top of the long ladder, Captain Clair said he would not let me go
down till I gave him some reward; of course I knew he wanted a kiss, but
I was not going to give it him, and so I stood still, till I was so
tired, that I compromised the matter by giving him my hand to kiss; so
then he let me go, saying, he supposed he must be contented."

"Oh! Lucy," cried Mabel, "how could you be so imprudent as to go up
there alone--how impertinent of him--why did you let him take such a
liberty."

"Come, nonsense, now sweetest, do not be a prude, it does not become you
to look like an old maid. What is the harm of having a kiss on one's
hand, one's cheek would be different, and, of course, I would not allow
him to do that."

"But, Lucy, dear, is it not imprudent to place yourself in a position
which would allow him to ask such a thing--will it not make you appear a
flirt--does it not lower you to allow him to be so free, after seeing
him only for a few hours. Do consider."

"Why, one would think I was a grandmother. I hate being cross at every
little thing. I am sure it is more wicked to quarrel, after all."

"Yes, but if you would only understand me," said Mabel, "you would know,
I would not have you quarrel, either. But if you will let me, we will
talk of it again to-morrow, for now poor Amy is waking. You know," said
she, gently putting her arm round her pretty cousin, and kissing her
forehead softly; "you know you promised to let me talk to you in this
way, and you half promised to listen."

"Well, sweet cousin, I think you may be speaking the truth, after all.
It was very naughty of me, perhaps," she added, with a smile, "to go up
in the loft, and so I will try and be better in future. Oh dear! dear!
Amy is awake; well, I am very sorry. Go to sleep, child, Mabel is
tired," and off she ran to her own room, leaving her cousin to soothe
the restless child as she could.

Perhaps it was as well that Mabel was thus prevented from following the
train of depressing thought into which she seemed to have fallen on her
return from the rectory, for, as she sunk to rest, with Amy's head upon
her arm, she remembered, that if sorrow had ever laid its heavy hand
upon her life, the treasure of a sister's love had yet been given her--a
sister rendered more dear by sickness and weakness. And in these
thoughts the unselfish girl soon forgot all other feelings.



                              CHAPTER IX.

     But a trouble weigh'd upon her,
     And perplex'd her night and morn.

                                                      TENNYSON.


Mr. Ware and his nephew did not neglect to take advantage of Mabel's
proposal, that they would mutually help to pass the few weeks that
remained of the warm weather, more pleasantly than usual. Each bright
day of autumn we value the more highly, as we fear it may be the last;
and the little party of friends took every opportunity of visiting the
prettiest sights of the neighbourhood, either on foot, or in Mr. Ware's
carriage. Much as she enjoyed these excursions, Mabel, at length, found
that she was frequently obliged to excuse herself. The slightest
additional pallor on her mother's countenance, had always been
sufficient to make her give up the merriest party, or the most
engrossing study; and she now tried in vain to hide from herself the
growing weakness, and the fading and changing color she often
wore--though, with her accustomed buoyancy of disposition, she believed
that, the few autumn months once passed, her mother would again be
strong.

Mrs Lesly, sometimes tried to bring the subject of her precarious state
of health before her, yet could scarcely find courage to damp her hopes.
Since her sister's visit, she had felt an uneasiness which she found it
difficult to suppress, and, instead of being relieved on her children's
account, by the promise that they should share the comforts of a home
with her sister's own family, she experienced a sensation of vague
terror, which she found it impossible to define. Even the loss of six
hundred pounds, supposing them lost, could not be equivalent to the
pain she suffered.

The magnitude of our misfortunes depends, not so much on themselves, for
the pain they give us, as upon the state in which they find us. In good
spirits, and vigorous health, we may, perhaps, smile at trials which
would make another's cup of sorrows run over.

Poor Mrs. Lesly, weakened in health, and with feeble nerves, began to
entertain suspicions that she had acted imprudently. A fear, of she knew
not what, entered her mind, and she began to feel a restless impatience
to find the written promise given by her sister, which remained as the
only security for the money with which she had so weakly parted. This
anxiety seemed, for a time, to conquer her constitutional indolence, and
much of her time was spent in looking over old drawers, desks, and
boxes, and the search always ended with the secretary, where she turned
over every paper in a vain investigation. Every excuse she could make
for being alone, she eagerly seized upon to renew it; for, while she
had, at first, felt it difficult to explain to Mabel, that she had
risked the greater part of her small fortune, not from any strong
motive, but, simply because her sister had been extravagant enough to
embarrass herself by the purchase of luxuries, and she had been too weak
to refuse the loan which the superior claim of her children had rendered
rather unjust than generous, she now found this difficulty increased by
a constant fear that she should guess the truth. It was, therefore,
necessary to carry on the search unobserved, and the wish to do so,
fixed upon her like a spell, and harassed her continually. She would,
then, on the morning of any proposed expedition, endeavour to appear as
gay and well as possible, that she might induce Mabel to join the party;
but, on their return, hours of harassing disappointment generally shewed
themselves in her sickly appearance at night; and Mabel was grieved to
find that, instead of welcoming her return as usual, after even the
shortest absence, she seemed rather surprised to find she had come back
so soon; regarding her presence almost with feverish impatience. In
vain, Mabel entreated to be allowed to know the cause of this change.
Mrs. Lesly only answered her questions by excuses; or, if much pressed,
by tears, causing poor Mabel the utmost uneasiness. The restless
agitation she continually felt, rapidly wore upon both health and
spirits, and their failure only increased the nervous desire to find
what now seemed of tenfold importance to her disordered fancy.

It is melancholy to trace the effects of bodily illness, when it finds,
as it were, an echo in the mind of the sufferer.

It was in vain that Mrs. Lesly reasoned with herself, trying to believe
that she could perfectly rely on her sister's promise. She could not but
remember her wanton extravagance, and the little guard she had ever
learned to place on herself, even in the indulgence of the slightest
whim; and her affection for her could not blind her to the fact that she
had chosen for her children a guardian too weak to protect herself from
the slightest temptation. Again and again, the same thoughts pressed
upon her, and the same course of reasoning occurred, giving her less
satisfaction on every recurrence to it.

Then followed the burning desire to recover the lost papers; with
renewed impatience she would return to the secretary--till wearied and
worn out she would sink into her chair disappointed and spiritless.

"Ah, dearest Mamma," said Mabel, when having determined to remain at
home, though the day was lovely, and favored a walk to the woods which
had been agreed on, she entered the room, and found her seated,
unoccupied, except by her own harassing thoughts. "You are unhappy, and
will not tell me why. Is not this unkind?"

"Unkind," echoed Mrs. Lesly, vacantly, "yes, I have been very unkind to
you both."

"No, no, dear Mamma, I do not mean that--not really unkind--only it
vexes me to see you so sad."

"I am sad indeed, my dear," returned Mrs. Lesly, in the same absent
tone, "but I cannot find them, though they are all here." She stopped
and glanced at the secretary wistfully, as if its old-fashioned drawers
could speak if they liked.

"What is lost?" said Mabel, "let me try and find it--I will look over
all the papers if you will let me."

"No, no, what I have lost I ought to find, it is my own indolence which
has done it."

"Yes, but do not think of that now, mamma, love, remember Doctor
Parkinson said you were to be kept quite quiet, and now you are
wandering about all day--only think how precious your health is to us,
and how happy we all are when you are well."

"Mabel, you kill me by these words--I feel that I am dying, but do not
kill me before the time appointed."

Mabel was silent, and stood looking at her mother with painful
earnestness.

"Do not look at me so, sweet child. Well may you be surprised when I
have ruined you both."

"Ruin! my own mother, what do you mean?"

"Ah, you may well wonder at me," replied Mrs. Lesly, much excited, "how
could I be so silly as to injure my own children."

"Ah, now you are unkind," said Mabel, "why not tell me--is there a
sorrow I have refused to bear--is it not my privilege to be sorrowful."

Tears rolled down her heated cheeks, and Mrs. Lesly continued to regard
her in silence.

"Is it not unjust to me, your own child," continued Mabel, (for she had
often before failed in obtaining her confidence,) "day after day you are
wearying yourself with something you will not let me know, and injuring
your health, which is more precious to us than any thing else--mamma--I
did not know you could be so unkind."

"Dear child, do not talk in this way, my only thought is of my children,
and oh!" said she, turning her head towards the secretary, "if I could
but find them."

"What?"

"The papers."

"What papers? Do tell me, can any thing be worse than this
concealment--you have always told me everything."

"Ah, if I had," said Mrs. Lesly, with a sigh.

"But do tell me now, I would rather hear any thing than see you suffer."

"Can you really bear it?" enquired her mother, seeming to shake off the
oppressive calmness with which she had been speaking before, and looking
attentively at her daughter, whose warm feelings were almost ready to
burst control.

"I will bear any thing," answered Mabel, walking to her, and kneeling
by her side, "any thing you can tell me."

"Then you shall hear me now, lest you have cause to curse your mother's
memory, if you heard it when I was gone from you. Your poor father put
by a thousand pounds, which I never told you of before. It would have
been but a poor pittance--yet it would have saved you from want; but
this is nearly all gone now, for my sister has been borrowing of me from
time to time, promising to be a mother to my children--I have lent her
six hundred of the thousand, and I have lost her promises to repay them
back. Should any thing happen to either of us, what will you do?"

"Trust to me, mother, dear. He who has supported me through far worse
trials will support me still."

"Reproach me now, Mabel," said Mrs. Lesly, sorrowfully, "but do not live
to curse me in the bitterness of your heart."

"No, my loved mother," said her daughter, looking up in her face with
unmistakeable cheerfulness, "think no more of this now. Amy shall not
suffer while health is left me, and power to use the education my dear
father gave me; and I am so happy to think nothing worse is to be
feared, even should any thing so strange occur as that aunt Villars
could not pay us. And do you think I could once forget that it was
because you were kind, unselfish and generous, that you lent the money."

Mrs. Lesly lent down and folded her child in her arms, saying, in a low
repentant voice--

"Not generous but weak, we should but injure ourselves, not those
dependent on us in order to serve others."

Yet she felt as if a weight had passed from her heart, and though she
was still apprehensive, she was no longer despairing.



                               CHAPTER X.

     How brief is the time since her voice was the clearest,
     Her laughter the loudest, amid the gay throng.

                                                        HEMANS.


Could the selfish but remember how much less they would feel their own
sorrows by sharing those of others, they would learn an easy way to
alleviate the unhappiness they are continually guarding against, by so
occupying themselves in thoughts of pity and kindness as to leave little
room in their own minds for fear or regret.

The kindhearted very soon begin to feel an interest in those who are
thrown much with them, and, though Lucy presented many faults to her
notice, Mabel learnt to watch her with great interest. It soon became
evident to her that she was perfectly in earnest in her attempts to
engage the affections of Captain Clair, and, though at first she had
been disgusted and pained at the idea--more ready to pity than
condemn--she felt for Lucy when she perceived, by her variable spirits,
that her heart was engaged in the flirtation she had so thoughtlessly
commenced. The conduct of Clair puzzled her, she wished to believe that
his attentions were serious, and yet she could not help thinking they
meant nothing beyond the fashionable love he might often have professed
for the most pleasing young lady of any society in which he happened to
find himself. Still, she hoped she was mistaken; and thought, over again
and again the little anecdotes which Lucy daily brought to her
confidence, assuming them as unmistakeable signs of an affection which
would soon declare itself.

Mabel knew that a look, a single word, even an emphasis on an ordinary
word are sometimes the evidences of affection. Yet, all that Lucy told
her, seemed to fall short, certainly of her ideas of love, formed, as
they had been, from her own unhappy history. Yet she hesitated to speak
her opinion freely; for, after all, it might be only a very unkind
suspicion of one who had not given any very good cause for believing him
to be a trifler. He had, besides, been so kind to herself, that she
could not help feeling prepossessed in his favor.

Meanwhile, Clair appeared as attentive as ever, but his attentions were
never varied by ill humour or depression. Still Lucy rested confident in
the power of her own attractions--and, persisting in believing he was
only diffident--she became more and more lavish of encouragement,
without, however, finding her admirer become either warmer or bolder.

What was to be done? Her letters to Bath had been full of the
admiration she had inspired in the young officer, and of expectations
that, in a few more posts, she would have to announce his decided
proposals. The letters she received in return were full of delighted
badinage from her sisters, and good advice from her mother. How then
could she bear to return home with the tacit confession that her vanity
had deceived her; and thus subject herself to her sisters' cutting
jests, and the bitterness of her often disappointed mother. The poor
girl had been spoilt by education and companionship, and she was,
according to her own idea, forced to play desperately in order to
justify what she had written home. She did not stop to consider that all
delicacy, modesty, and all that is precious in a woman, would be risked
in such a game, when she read such words as these in her mother's
letters, "you might well pride yourself," she wrote, "on being the first
of my daughters whom I shall have the pleasure of seeing married.
Indeed I have always flattered myself, that my Lucy would be the first
to secure herself an establishment."

The seeds of vanity, thus sown by a mother's hand, grew quickly in the
daughter's heart. To be the first to be married was an idea that filled
her with pleasure; she did not stop to analyze, or she might have
discovered that the hope of mortifying her sisters by her marriage, was
inconsistent with the love she believed she felt for them.

But now, what could she do! how could she bring her backward lover to a
proposal! She eagerly seized any opportunity of meeting him, and never
neglected pursuing any conversation which seemed likely to lead to love.
Still she was as far from her object as ever, and at length she felt the
feverish eagerness of a gambler to bring the game to a successful close.

Mabel, who saw she suffered, sincerely, pitied her, though unable to
divine her thoughts. Disappointed affection the poor girl might have
successfully struggled against; but she could not banish the idea of
the sneers and jests, which, in contrast to her present popularity,
would meet her at home. Home, which in its sacred circle ought to have
afforded a refuge from every evil passion, as from every outward danger.
She knew it would not be so, and willingly would she almost have thrown
herself at the Captain's feet, and begged him to protect her from it,
rather than oblige her to return to such a sanctuary.

Oh, fashionable and speculating mothers, why do you crush in your
children some of the sweetest and loveliest of their feelings. Why are
you so utterly foolish, as, first to make them unworthy of a husband's
trust and confidence, and then wonder that they do not obtain them. A
man seeks, in his wife, for a companion to his best feelings, fit your
daughters to fill such situations, and, should they then fail to obtain
them, they will still hold an honored place in society.

Lucy felt that her success, in a matrimonial point of view, was all that
her mother regarded, that she seemed to view her daughters with the
eyes of the public, and valued them in proportion to the admiration they
excited, and she now strained every nerve to gratify both her and
herself.

There was one little plan to which she looked with great interest. Mr.
Ware's proposal of their taking tea in Mrs. Lesly's garden, was to be
carried into effect. They were all to dine early, and drink tea soon
enough to prevent any danger of taking cold, and Mabel was to prepare
them tea and fruit in the garden, while Miss Ware would take hers
quietly in doors with Mrs. Lesly. Amy talked herself tired with planning
it, for a week before, asking Mabel for an exact list of all the fruit
she meant to get for their entertainment. Lucy looked forward to it more
seriously; she fancied Clair entered so eagerly into the plan that she
hoped he had some particular reason for wishing it, more than the mere
pleasure of taking tea in the open air. Was it not very likely, that
lounging down one of the shady walks which skirted the garden, he might
find courage to tell all she so much wished to hear.

The expected evening at length arrived.

Mrs. Lesly was unusually well, for the renewed confidence between
herself and her daughter had produced the most happy effects. Lucy was
all sparkling animation, and Clair forgot to be rational in the
effervescence of his good spirits. Lucy, whose fear of caterpillars was
quite touching, had persuaded Mabel to place the tea-table on the open
grass-plot--and there the sisters had delighted themselves in arranging
the simple repast. Amy was so accustomed to bustle along by Mabel's
side, that she had come to the belief that she could do nothing well
without her; and she now hurried about, laughing merrily, as she
conveyed to the table, plates of early fruit, which old John had always
carefully matted through the summer. Mr. Ware was particularly fond of
fruit, and it was a great pleasure to the sisters, to store up every
little luxury for him.

The table looked very pretty with its fruit, and cream, and flowers, and
the little party was a merry one, ready to take pleasure and amusement
in anything. Mr. Ware told stories of other days, and Clair brought
anecdotes of the fashionable world of his day, while the girls were
well-pleased listeners.

When tea had been fully discussed, they strolled round the garden,
watching for the sunset, which was to be the signal for taking shelter
in the house. Lucy, the captain, and Amy, went off laughing together,
while Mabel, choosing the driest path in the garden, paced up and down
by the side of Mr. Ware.

"It is very kind of you," he said, "to prefer my company to those who
are gayer and younger; but I am sorry to perceive that you are not quite
in your usual spirits--I hope you have no reason to be depressed."

"None at all," replied Mabel, "and yet I am foolish enough to feel
low-spirited. But have you never felt a vague apprehension that
something dreadful was going to happen--I cannot overcome it to-night."

"I have often felt the same from no reason, as you say, and have as
often found my fears groundless. Do you not remember those beautiful
words--'_He feareth no evil tidings_?'"

"Oh yes--I must not think of it again."

Mr. Ware thought this might be no bad opportunity of speaking of Mrs.
Lesly's delicate health, and leading her to prepare herself for a trial
which he foresaw was not far distant; but at the very moment that he was
thinking how to introduce the subject, the sound of merry laughter came
from the other side of the garden, and Mabel exclaimed--

"Oh, I fear they are at the swing, and John says it's unsafe. I must go
and stop them."

And so saying, she ran quickly across the garden, till she reached the
spot where the swing was suspended from the branch of two tall fir
trees.

Amy was in the swing, which Captain Clair was pushing, while Lucy was
clapping her hands as each time the child rose higher in the air.

"Oh, do stop," said Mabel, running up to them quite out of breath, and
scarcely able to say any more.

"No, no," said Lucy, "we want to see if Amy can touch that bough. What a
beautiful swinger she is--she nearly did it then, I declare--try again,
Amy."

"John says it is unsafe," cried Mabel, trying to be heard, "do, do
stop--for mercy's sake, Captain Clair, do stop her."

Both were, however, deaf to her entreaty. Lucy rejoiced in what she
thought superior nerve, and called to her not to be an old maid,
frightened at everything; while Clair thought her very feminine and
pretty, but apprehended no real danger.

Mabel continued to exclaim, till unable to get a hearing, she burst into
tears of vexation and alarm, fearing to touch the rope, lest she might
cause the accident she feared.

At the same moment, while she watched Amy ascend quickly through the
air, till her feet scattered a few leaves from the bough she had been
trying to touch, there came a heaving sound, then a loud crash--the
swing gave way, and Amy fell violently to the ground. With a scream of
piercing anguish, she sprang to her side, where she lay close by a
knotted root of the tree, which she had struck in falling.

Lucy stood blushing and terrified, uttering some confused excuses for
not listening to one who justice whispered was never fanciful.

Captain Clair looked bewildered and thoroughly ashamed, for often the
only excuse for daring is its success.

Mr. Ware fortunately soon reached the spot, and though extremely vexed
at such a termination to the day's enjoyment, merely roused his nephew,
by telling him to carry the poor child into the house, and then to fetch
a doctor, that they might be certain she had sustained no serious
injury.

His nephew, too happy to have some duty assigned, raised Amy in his
arms, for she was perfectly insensible, and, as Mabel supported her
drooping head, carried her into the house. Mabel's conduct during that
short walk cut him to the heart; she seemed entirely to have forgotten
that his obstinacy had injured her sister; and in her anxiety for her
safety, she did not suffer a complaining word to escape her. Those who
possess little control over their own feelings, often reverence those
who have great self-command--and to Clair, who a few minutes before, had
been laughing with almost childish excitement, and was now utterly
depressed, Mabel seemed like a superior being in the calm dignity of her
silent distress.

At length, Amy was safely placed upon her bed, and leaving Mabel and
their servant-maid to try every means to restore her to consciousness,
he hastened in search of a surgeon. He met Lucy in the lane, who told
him that she had anticipated his errand, but that the doctor had gone to
see a patient many miles away.

"Then I shall go for a horse, and follow him," said he, "anything will
be better than this suspense."

"And what shall I do?" cried Lucy, wringing her hands; but Clair had no
comfort to offer, and hurried on to the village to find a horse.

Lucy returned to the house, frightened, and ashamed. She did not like to
remain alone, yet there was no one in the sitting-room; and not daring
to seek any one, she retired to her own chamber, which looked so still
and lonely, that she put the door half open, and seated herself in a
chair close by, to listen for any news from Amy's room. She could not
help recalling to herself the wild laugh of the poor child only half an
hour before, and she could not bear to think of how still she was lying
there.

At length she heard Betsy, the privileged maid, say:--

"It is all Miss Lucy's fault, I know, for the house has not been the
same since she came into it."

"Hush, Betsy," was the murmured reply, in her cousin's well known voice;
"those thoughts will only make it harder to bear."

Betsy was not so easily stopped, but Mabel seemed to reply no more.

Every word went to Lucy's heart. The frequent question of despairing
feeling. "What shall I do?" received no answer, and she sat on in her
desolate seat, or varied her watch by stealing on tiptoe to the end of
the passage. Thus the weary time slipt away, and she had listened to the
church clock, as it struck the hours till midnight--she then heard the
sound of horses' feet, and anxious for any change, she ran down
stairs--but she found that Clair and the surgeon had already been
admitted by Mr. Ware, who was watching for them, and, feeling herself of
no use, she again crept to her room to listen, trembling for the
doctor's opinion. The examination lasted a long time, and she became
nearly worn out with waiting, and trying every minute to divine
something from the hurried voices, or hurried steps of the attendants in
the sick room. But she could learn nothing, till she heard the doctor
leave the room, and lead Mabel to that next her own, and then she heard
her say in a tremulous voice.

"What do you think of her, Mr. Williams?"

"The accident has been a severe one," he returned.

"Can she recover?" was asked, in a tone which Lucy trembled to hear, and
she leant forward to catch the answer.

"A complete cure is beyond hope, my dear Miss Lesly; I entreat you to
bear up against this blow," were the words she caught; "my heart bleeds
for you, but I see the back is broken, and you know--" a groan of
anguish, which she would have fled miles to have escaped hearing, was
the only answer sentence thus given.

Then followed confused words, as if he were trying to comfort, broken by
suppressed sobs.

An agony of terror, alike for Amy and her sister, then seized her--she
trembled in every limb; and when she attempted to cry out, her tongue
seemed to refuse to utter a sound. She sank upon the floor, too
overpowered to move, and yet without the relief of fainting. Her
thoughts became more and more distinct--of Amy, growing, perhaps, in
beauty and womanhood, stretched on the bed of helpless sickness, unable
to find advantages in either. What a blight had she cast upon a home she
had found so happy. And Mabel, too, the beautiful unselfish Mabel, no
longer the playfellow of innocent childhood, but the hopeless nurse of
youthful decrepitude.

Too carelessly instructed as she had been, in the forms, and almost
wholly deficient in the spirit, of the religion she professed, she knew
of no balm that could heal a wound of such bitterness--she saw no light
that could have guided her to comfort. Highly as she prized youth and
its enjoyments, its hopes, and its ties, much as she sparkled in
company, and revelled in the admiration she excited, so much did she
feel the reverse to be dark and hard to bear. She pictured Amy passing,
in one five minutes, from her joyous youthfulness, with its light laugh,
and bounding glee, to the trials of sickness which she might never more
escape; probably, too, the highly intellectual child becoming only the
feeble-minded woman, weakened by disease and suffering, and cut off from
all those endearing ties so prized by a woman's heart. As these thoughts
passed slowly, and impressively before her--she covered her face with
her hands, and wept long and bitterly.



                              CHAPTER XI.

     Oh, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
     By that sweet ornament which truth doth give.
     The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem,
     For that sweet odour which doth in it live.

                                           SHAKSPEARE'S SONNET.


How awful is the feeling with which morning breaks in a house where
sudden grief and desolation has been wrought. Like Adam and Eve in the
garden, we shrink from each other, as if we feared to read our own
feelings in the faces of others, whose sufferings only embitter our own.

The stillness of the past night broken by household sounds usually so
familiar as to attract no attention, recall the mind to the fact that
another day has opened on our life, showing more clearly the sorrow of
the night before.

Poor Amy! Mabel's love had thrown a kind of halo round the orphan child,
and those who did not love her for her own, loved her for Mabel's sake.

Old John went heavily to his work, to move the benches and other signs
of the last evening's simple pleasure.

"Miss Mabel shall not see them again," he said to himself; "I cannot
give her much comfort--but I may spare her a little pain."

Mr. Ware and his sister had gone home, after affording all the comfort
and assistance in their power.

Mrs. Lesly had been persuaded to lie down, for, terrified and ill, she
needed repose, and Mabel, in grief, as in gladness, always took the
lead.

Lucy, exhausted and spiritless, too weary to get up, and too irresolute
to undress, had thrown herself upon her bed, and fallen asleep.

When she again opened her eyes, the noon-day light was streaming in upon
her bed, and, to her great surprise, Mabel was standing by her; she was
pale as the dead, and her countenance gave evidence of the agony of the
last few hours--but there was a pale light in her eyes, and a still
repose about her, that seemed to hallow the grief they concealed.

"I am glad you are awake," she said, in a voice scarcely above a
whisper--"I feared you might be ill--you slept so long."

Lucy's eyes were swollen with weeping and watching, and she looked at
her for a moment in despairing silence; at last she raised herself, and
seizing Mabel's hand, grasped it eagerly.

"Oh, Mabel, Mabel," said she, "what have I done--where can I hide my
face?"

And she sank again upon the bed, and buried her face in the pillow.

"You meant me no harm," replied her cousin--"at least, not much--and I
forgive you from my heart. My grief is too heavy for resentment. But
get up, Lucy, and do not distress me still more by giving way in this
manner."

"Oh, how I despise myself! to think that I am lying here while you are
waiting on me."

"Well, dear Lucy, get up now, for you will be better doing something,
and I cannot help pitying you here alone."

"Then tell me something I can do for you. Oh, I will do anything, but I
cannot get up to sit as I did last night."

"This is Saturday," replied Mabel, "and there are many things you can do
for me, which will enable me to be entirely with my poor Amy. Shall I
leave them to you?"

"Oh, yes," cried Lucy, jumping up, and throwing her arms round her; "you
are an angel--I cannot forgive myself--yet you forgive me before I ask
you."

Mabel kissed her silently, and gliding from the room, was soon again by
her sister's bed.

Amy was feverish, and perpetually wanted something to drink, but it was
touching to see how gently she asked for it, and how earnestly she
seemed to try to repress her own fretfulness, with her large blue eyes
fixed on her sister's face, as if trying to read her approval of every
checked complaint.

"It was very naughty of me," she whispered, "to get into the swing,
Mabel dear, when you told me not in the morning. Will you forgive me?"

"You are in pain, love," said Mabel, tremulously; "and I cannot call you
naughty now."

"Then I am glad you have taught me not to want to be told--but I shall
not be happy till you just say you forgive me."

"My own darling, I forgive you a thousand times--would that I could
suffer instead of you."

"If I had not done wrong, I should not so much mind," said Amy,
thoughtfully; "but give me a little water, dear."

Mabel held the water to her lips, and Amy looked at her earnestly as her
hand trembled.

"Do not cry, Mabel dear," said she, in a feeble voice, "I shall very
soon be well again."

And weary with the pain she was bearing, without a murmur, she closed
her eyes.

Mabel's restrained tears fell fast, for well she knew that years to come
might find her the same helpless invalid as she now lay before her.

The surgeon had given little hope, even in the first moment, when it is
seldom withheld; and she threw herself upon her knees, and covered her
face with her hands. Amy's fortitude and patience, while it deeply moved
her, made her thankful to find that her early lessons had not been
bestowed in vain.

Meanwhile Lucy roused herself with a stronger desire to be really useful
than she had felt for years. Mrs. Lesly had gone to sit with her two
children, so that she required nothing from her. She felt Mabel could
not more effectually have forgiven her than by allowing her to assist
in her duties, for it prevented her feeling the remorse of the evening
before. She ran down stairs with cups and waiters from the sick room,
which, if allowed to accumulate, give such real discomfort to the
sufferer, and even busied herself in helping Betsy in the kitchen, spite
of the sulkiness with which her services were accepted.

But idle habits are not easily thrown aside with the distaste for them;
and, as the day wore on, she began to feel so fatigued that she could
not think how Mabel managed to do everything she did on ordinary
days--when, spite of her desire to please her, she felt her strength
fail in a few hours.

"But I have not been brought up like Mabel," she thought, too willing to
throw the blame on others, if by so doing she at all removed it from
herself. "How can she ever get through it," she said to herself, eying
disconsolately the large basket of clean linen, caps, and frills, which
Betsy had just laid down before her, saying that Miss Lesly had said
she would be kind enough to sort them.

She forced herself, however, to attempt it with many a sigh over its
difficulties. She had scarcely finished her task, when she saw Clair
coming up to the house, and, feeling a better conscience from her
exertions, for her spirits were easily elated, she went down stairs to
meet him.

When she entered the sitting-room, where, not venturing to knock or
ring, he had already seated himself, she found him with his head buried
in his hands, which rested on the table before him. He looked up as she
entered, and a momentary shudder passed over him, which she could not
help perceiving. His face was deadly pale, and his features drawn
together, and bearing the traces of deeper thought than that in which he
usually indulged. He had indeed done many things more careless, and ten
times as wrong, but the consequences had never followed so rapidly nor
been so heart-rending.

"Oh, you have suffered," exclaimed Lucy, "and what a night I have
passed!"

"If you can see Miss Lesly," returned Clair, scarcely heeding her
observation, "ask her, in mercy, to see me for a few minutes."

His first thoughts are of Mabel, thought Lucy, with ready jealousy, not
one kind word for me.

"Will you?" said he, seeing her hesitate, "will you ask her to see me?
What does she say? How does she bear it? Does she reproach me?"

"What question shall I answer first?" said Lucy, with a little of her
returning levity.

Clair bit his lip, and looked at her with surprise, but Lucy quickly
recovering herself, said quietly,

"She bears it as we might have expected from her, she never spoke of
you--and forgave me before I dared ask for forgiveness, and she would
not suffer her servant to reproach me to her."

"Then there is some hope for me," he exclaimed, "but oh! how ten times
more killing is it to have injured one who will not return an injury by
an unkind word. Last night she looked at me with such pity in her
beautiful eyes, that I could have worshipped her. But do go."

Lucy burst into tears.

"What!" thought she, "was I earning for Mabel, when I was trying to shew
how much more nerve and spirit I possessed?"

Clair sat in silence, he did not spring to her side and take her hand,
soothing her, as only a lover knows how; and she left the room to seek
Mabel with feelings of indescribable remorse. Having delivered her
message to Betsy, she locked herself in her room, and once more gave way
to the most passionate grief.

Clair was left only a short while alone, before Mabel entered the room.
One glance at her pale cheek and sorrowful countenance, was sufficient
to tell, at once, how great the suffering had been, and how it had been
borne.

"Ah, Miss Lesly," he began, hurriedly, "can you ever look upon me again
without shuddering? I, who have been the cause of this dreadful,
desolating blow. Is it possible you can ever forgive me? but I know you
can; were I the vilest person on this earth you would forgive me, if I
asked it, but never will you look on me without lamenting the horrid
scene I shall always recall. Yet, I must hear your forgiveness, and oh!
if you could know what I have suffered, in these few last wretched
hours, you would pity me."

"I should not do you justice, Captain Clair," replied Mabel, trying to
speak steadily, "if I did not pity the pain you must feel in having been
the most unwilling cause of such an accident; but you must not forget
that it was unintentional: and I forgive you, from my heart, for any
share you may have had in this unhappy accident."

"They tell me," said he, shuddering, "that she never can be quite well
again. Oh!" cried he, throwing himself on his chair and groaning
heavily, "that I should have lived to be such a curse."

"You are but the instrument in a Hand mightier than your own," replied
Mabel.

"Few punishments can be so great," replied Clair, bitterly, "as to be
chosen for the instrument of justice. It is only the worst soldier in
the army that is forced to inflict death on his condemned brother. You
will hate the instrument that has been raised to afflict you?"

"Should I not then be rebellious against the Hand that raised it?"
replied Mabel. "But, for my sake and your own, command your feelings. I
dare not think, yet, and you would force me to do so. Why this has been
suffered I must not ask now, for my faith may be too small for argument,
while grief has almost robbed me of my senses. But I can see that you
may have been made the unwilling cause, possibly that you may _think_.
Do not forget the merit of suffering, for, if it chastens, it often
purifies the heart; and do not let poor Amy's health and hopes in life
be offered up for nothing, for there is a nobler self within you, which
sorrow for our loss may call forth--shake off all that sullies your
character--all its littleness or frivolity--and be yourself. Devote your
life to some higher purpose, and to nobler aims--go forth to the world
again, a blessing to those around you--and then," said she, sinking her
voice as her eye lost its brilliant fire, "and then Amy, on her sick
bed, will feel that her loss has been your advantage."

Clair almost held his breath while she spoke, and then exclaimed, with a
soldier's energy, as his eye seemed to have caught the fire which had
died in hers,

"I will, I will! You have doubly forgiven, for you have bestowed
thoughts which inspire me with hope. You," said he, as he respectfully
raised her hand to his lips, "you have more than forgiven, and I bless
you from my very soul."

Mabel gently withdrew her hand, and, excusing herself from staying
longer, left him to indulge the new reflections which her words had
awakened.



                              CHAPTER XII.

     In the service of mankind to be
     A guardian god below; still to employ
     The mind's brave ardour in heroic arms,
     Such as may raise us o'er the grovelling herd
     And make us shine for ever--that is life.

                                                      THOMPSON.


It was with increasing uneasiness, that Mabel perceived the effects of
their common grief on the weakened constitution of her mother. Mrs.
Lesly, at first, insisted on being constantly with her sick child, but
day by day her cheek became more pale, and her low hollow cough more
frequent, until she could scarcely reach Amy's room without fatigue,
and, instead of being able to nurse her, required, herself, a further
exertion of Mabel's ever watchful care. Grateful indeed did the latter
feel for the strong health, and stronger nerves, which enabled her to
maintain the watching and waiting required of her--while the
consciousness of being loved taught her that each personal service rose
in value because she rendered it. Lucy still remained with them; she had
insisted on her services being received; and, though the idle girl was
rather giving trouble than making herself useful, Mabel did not refuse
her offer to continue with her, hoping that the wish to serve might be
the seed of better feelings and stronger self-denial.

But Lucy had not perhaps fully understood her motives, when she ascribed
her wish to stay to the desire to be of service.

Clair seemed entirely to have forgotten her, or only to make use of her
to deliver messages, or to convey grapes and other luxuries to the
little invalid; but it seemed entirely to have escaped his memory, that
any thing, even so interesting as a common flirtation, had ever taken
place between them; and indeed he seemed in every way altered, as if he
were trying to convince her that he was scarcely the same person.
However, she did not altogether give up the hope of regaining the
affections she had before so fully counted upon. Yet, having thrown
aside the light and fashionable gallantry which he had delighted to
display, he was now utterly impervious to all the common attacks of even
the most accomplished flirt; and, however clever she might be in
raillery, badinage, and spirited nonsense, Lucy had learned little of
that language which springs from heart to heart, in trouble and
suffering--or of those serious and elevating thoughts which alone bring
with them consolation to the deep thinking.

She was, then, entirely at a loss when she found her former companion,
rather annoyed than otherwise, by conversation which would formerly
have amused him for half a-day; but this change only increased her
affection, while it effectually removed him from her power; she
listened, waited, and watched for him, but, though she tried every
capricious art to bring him again to her side, she found that nothing
prevailed, and, at the close of the day, she had not even the lightest
word to treasure up, as an evidence of the love she had already spoken
of as certain, to her friends in Bath.

One evening, as events were progressing in a manner so unsatisfactory to
Lucy, Mr. Ware and his nephew might have been seen pacing up and down
the lane leading to Mrs. Lesly's house, which was rendered romantically
pretty, by the trees which overhung it, from the garden which was
considerably raised above it.

Clair had been for some time engaged in silently beating down the leaves
and branches, which grew most prominently in the hedge above their walk,
with a light cane he carried in his hand, when Mr. Ware, turning
kindly, yet with a slight tone of embarrassment, said to him--

"My dear boy, I would not wish to presume a moment either upon my age or
my relationship to you, but would rather gain an interest by favor, and
as a friend; may I then ask a question, which my anxiety for you alone
dictates."

His nephew looked slightly surprised at this address, but replied in a
depressed tone.

"You may say any thing you like uncle, without fearing that I shall
mistake the kindness which leads you to speak at all. You have been too
kind to me, ever since I have been with you, not to make me feel that
affection must ever second the duty and respect you deserve from me."

"Thank you," replied his uncle, "I feel that the late unhappy accident
has much changed you; and what you now say convinces me that the change
is one which, however it may sadden you, cannot be regretted."

"I hope not," replied Clair, in the same tone of depression; "can you
understand what I mean, when I say that I feel, that, though I had no
intention the other evening beyond causing a momentary pain, which, in a
beautiful girl I thought charming, I yet feel that I have been so
thoughtless of the comfort of others, during my past life, that I have
deserved to be the agent of such a misfortune, in retribution, as it
were, for all that has before gone unpunished. Little Amy's sweet voice
rings in my ear wherever I go--such as it was when I first saw her, when
she looked up from the wild wreath she was twining, to give some kind
word to the laborers as they passed her, the morning after my coming
here. Her simple questions return to my memory, and her purity and
innocence have made a deeper impression on my mind, by the sad reverse
which has followed my acquaintance with her family--I cannot help
thinking what an interesting young woman she might have been, through
the careful training of such a sister, who has planted in her mind,
young as she is, her own childlike tenets of religion. When I reverse
the picture, I see her growing up a weak unhappy cripple, perhaps,
sinking under accumulated disease, the victim of an early grave. Can you
wonder that I am changed, uncle, and that I now find the follies and
amusements, in which I have too often sought forgetfulness of the
weakness of my own heart, now utterly repulsive to me? When I see Mabel
Lesly forgiving without reserve, and enduring without complaint, sorrow
which would have found me in a very different temper, can you doubt,
dear uncle, that, contemplating such rare and beautiful virtues, I have
been led to seek the cause, and to find out on what basis they are
founded; and, while raising my thoughts to the source and spring of
every true virtue, and pouring its healing waters on my soul, must I not
shudder to discover there, nothing but pollution, and feel depressed and
sad, with the sense of what I am, and what I have been.

"Yet do not think this dejection is attended with anything like despair;
no one, who had conversed with your sweet friend, would long retain such
a feeling. A few words, indeed, from her, while they convinced me of the
aimless existence I have been rather enduring, than living, gave me an
inspiring principle which spoke of better things. You may think I am
suddenly turned into an imaginary, but you can scarcely tell how deep an
impression this late accident has left upon me."

"Not so," replied Mr. Ware, "the heart that awoke to chivalry in other
days, is not dead because chivalry has assumed another form--and,
indeed, we too often try to be lukewarm in our feelings. But, to be
candid, my dear Arthur, I do think, as you say, that too much of your
time has been trifled away in the pursuits of garrison glory, and
watering-place amusements. I have been, for some weeks, patiently
waiting for some season or time, when I could enforce the necessity of
sowing a richer harvest for the decline of life, than you have hitherto
been doing. Could I have chosen some other less touching call to
wakefulness, I would have done so; but these things are not in our own
disposing--it only belongs to us, to use well the circumstances and
opportunities which are given us; and I was even now going to say what
you have anticipated. Grateful, indeed, am I to think, that, even so
trying a time, can yield its sweetness, for I hope you speak of your
feelings without any exaggeration."

Mr. Ware paused, but, as Clair did not seem disposed to reply, he
continued--

"There is one subject in which I feel particularly concerned--may I--I
ask it as a favor--may I speak candidly upon it?"

"You may speak with candour on any subject, sir, without fearing that I
shall be weak enough to take anything but in good part."

"Thank you for this confidence. May I then ask if you are quite sincere
in your attentions to Miss Villars? and, if so, why your behaviour has
so decidedly changed with regard to her? Forgive me for asking so
delicate a question, which nothing but the interest I take in your
happiness could excuse."

"Oh, do not be so alarmed on my account," said Clair, half smiling, "it
is only my tenth garrison flirtation, and you cannot think me seriously
entangled."

"Then," said Mr. Ware, with a tone of severity, which he very seldom
used, "what do you mean by becoming her constant companion--paying her
every attention, short of actually making love. Shame on your new-found
repentance--if this be the fruit of it."

"Do not be too hasty in forming your judgment," replied Clair. "I have
only done what most other young men would, under the same
circumstances--though, I own, my changed opinions have led me to
withdraw the attentions you condemn."

"I own that I would much rather have had your thoughts fix upon a girl
more like her cousin; but, when I believed you sincerely
attached--since you persisted in your attentions spite of my hints--I
thought it could not be helped; and, perceiving she returned your
attachment, I ceased to object, feeling that love corrects many faults.
Little knowing that all this time, you were acting a part which should
have made me blush for shame."

"Uncle, you are passing a stern judgment--sterner far than I deserve;
give me your patience for a few minutes, and I will convince you that I
am not so much to blame. Lucy Villars is one of that class of girls
called flirts, and, for a flirt, she possesses all the necessary
qualifications. She is chatty, thoughtless, and good-humoured--and,
better than all, has no heart. She is, however, something more than a
flirt--she is a husband hunter, and set her would-be affections on me,
before she knew a single feature of my face, much less a quality of my
mind--so that I do not flatter myself with possessing anything in her
eyes beyond an average fortune and family. Had I been a man of no
discrimination, I might have fallen a victim to a very bold game; but,
as I happen to have seen a little of the world, I have spent a few weeks
more pleasantly than ordinarily. And now may I ask you, uncle, would
you, even with your high sentiments of right, expect me to marry a girl
whom I could never trust--who would jilt me for a richer man to-morrow,
and if not so, granting even that she loved me, would form but an
insipid companion at the best."

"You are wrong," said Mr. Ware, who had been listening with great
impatience, "and you know that you are wrong, or you would not use so
much sophistry to convince me you are right. Let me ask you, if she be
the girl you describe her to be, was she a fit companion even for your
idlest moments? If she be the designer you would prove her to be, was it
right to place yourself in daily temptation, by communion with one whose
sentiments must be corrupt, if they rise from such a polluted spring?
Were you right in choosing for the object of your admiration, one whom
you despised in your heart? Sorry am I that you had not courage to
withhold your countenance from one whom you did not approve, but could
rather act so deceitful, so mean a part. But, think again, your judgment
may have deceived you, and, if she be not what you say, may she not have
given you a heart, which (if it be so) you have obtained in so unworthy
a manner."

"Could I think so," replied Clair, "I should be more vexed than you will
give me credit for; but I am too well acquainted with the world, to
believe anything like real affection can be hidden under such open and
daring encouragement as I have received from her; and, really, my dear
sir, you must not be grieved on her account, or my own. I feel too much
the frivolity of my past character, to try such amusements again; but,
at the same time, no chivalrous principle tells me that I should do
right to bring into my confidence, or to unite myself in, the holiest of
self-formed ties that can exist on earth, with a girl whose character
is so feathery. Far different would my choice be when thinking seriously
of marriage. The woman I should choose for a wife would be one who would
inspire me with higher thoughts and lead me to better things. One, who
pure as sensible, would make my home a paradise, and while, by her zeal,
she led me to heaven, would, by her womanly attentions to my wishes,
make a happy road to it. Such a woman would as much excel a flirt as a
small piece of gold would one double its size in tinsel."

"Arthur, your eloquence and sophistry are carrying you away altogether.
Had you acted thoughtlessly only it would have been easier to excuse;
but, now, I see, that with proper ideas and the most worthy sentiments,
you have yet been capable of acting a part as unlike to them as your own
comparison of gold to tinsel. Your excuses are common ones, and I fear
will not privilege you to minister to the follies of others by indulging
your own. How much kinder would it be to withhold undeserved
admiration, and to shew that yours is only to be earned by what really
deserves it. Would you not in this way, perhaps, find an opportunity of
reading a lesson without words, to many, who are still young enough to
improve by it. By refraining altogether from such deceitful flirtations,
you might tend to discourage those mothers who educate their daughters
for display, and force them to try for an advantageous settlement."

"And how many do you think would follow my example?" enquired the young
man with a smile.

"It is a consideration of no weight when making up your mind to do
right--though it sweetens a good conscience and embitters an evil
one--to remember that no one is so mean as to give no impulse to virtue
or vice by his example. One great mistake is, that men unfortunately
forget that they are christians, when in the fashionable world, as if
our duties were altogether banished by an evening dress, or the light
of conscience entirely eclipsed by the brilliant and fantastic tapers of
a ball-room. It is for this reason that so many turn anchorites:
forgetful that the world may be enjoyed with a christian's dress, and a
christian's thoughts, they only remember, that when they visited the gay
scenes they have resigned, they did so with a conscience peculiar to the
occasion, and entirely different from the one they were familiar with in
retirement."

"You speak severely," said Clair.

"I speak with the courage which arises from my knowing, that, though you
are thoughtless enough to err, you possess sufficient candour to bear
reproof without reproach to him who offers it, and, however scrupulous I
may in general be about offering advice, or venturing to find fault, I
cannot allow such sentiments as you have just expressed to be uttered in
my presence without testifying my sense of that error, if heard in any
company and from any person, much less from one so dear to me as
yourself, and I have spoken boldly, hoping to lead you to refine your
sense of honor, till it reaches a standard which a christian soldier may
not justly be ashamed to acknowledge."

A few weeks since Clair might have smiled at the simplicity and
unworldliness of his uncle's remarks, but there was something within him
then that told him they were stamped with the irresistible force of
truth.

He walked on in silence, pushing aside with his feet, the few withered
leaves which were straggling in his path. It was one of those dark,
mysterious days, when the wind blows sullenly amongst the trees,
speaking strange words, in its own wild tones, of the year that is past;
and the withered leaves as they spin round in the eddying wind, seem to
call attention to themselves, and to ask what men have been doing since
they budded forth in the gay spring, full of hope and promise to the
sons of earth. They had played their part well and merrily, they had
gladdened the heart and delighted the eye, they had made fair and
beautiful the spots where their short day of life had been spent, and
now, as they fell with their fantastic motion to the ground, their
rustling music seemed to speak in forcible language to the heart of him,
who had idled away part of the glowing summer of his life with few
thoughts but of selfish amusement.

With some such thoughts as these the two continued their short walk,
which had been confined to the dry bit of road under the trees, which in
damp or dirty weather was often chosen as a sort of promenade.

Mr. Ware was not sorry to see his nephew's unusual silence, for he was
naturally too ready to act without thinking, and often, by the readiness
of his professions in favor of any new idea of improvement, cheated his
conscience of its performance, and he now watched him, with the grave
interest which a good man feels, when he looks on the struggles of
conscience, and does not know on which side the victory will lie.

"Even you, sir," exclaimed Clair, rather suddenly, "would not wish me to
marry Lucy Villars! fool as I have been, you do not think I deserve so
great a punishment, as the possession of such a wife."

"I wish you," replied Mr. Ware, "to do neither more nor less then your
own sense of honor and good feeling may dictate, under the difficult
circumstances in which you have placed yourself."

"I cannot--I never can do that!" exclaimed Clair, vehemently.

"Neither will I ever ask you to approach so sacred a rite with
lightness, much less with repugnance; but, at the same time, you ought
to understand, that your attentions have been sufficiently pointed, to
make people suppose that you only wanted a convenient opportunity of
declaring yourself."

"Impossible! Who ever heard of a man's making serious love in such a
manner. You at least do not believe it."

"Now, certainly I do not, for your words bear a different
interpretation, and, if I mistake not, the opinion you now entertain of
her, arises from comparison with another character of a higher
standard."

Clair colored, but he answered quickly.

"If you have so far read my thoughts, do you find it possible to blame
me. Could I be insensible to the attractions of a girl of such uncommon
excellence?"

"Alas, I do blame you," replied Mr. Ware, sadly, "for you have been
acting a doubly deceitful part, but I cannot withhold my pity, for you
must meet the difficulties with which you have entangled yourself."

"I must think uncle, I must think," said Clair, stopping, "you put my
mind into complete confusion--I believed I was going to act for the
best; now, I do not know what to be at, though my chief consolation is
that Lucy Villars never cared a straw for me. I know you lay bare the
wounds of conscience only to heal them, and though you have spoken
severely I know you feel for me. What am I to do under these
circumstances? I feel I have been wrong, and would willingly make any
atonement, but remember, how many struggles there are in the world to
make us wretched, without our adding a desolate hearth, and a miserable
home to make everything else doubly hard. I must go and think alone."

"And remember," said Mr. Ware, "that Miss Lucy may deserve some
allowance for her feelings. I am not quite certain that she is so much a
trifler as you would make yourself believe."

"Why you will drive me out of my senses, uncle, I cannot increase my
difficulties by thinking that to be possible. I know women too
well--but, for the present, good bye," he said, laying his hand on the
stile which divided the path to the Aston woods from the road, "but do
not, at least till we meet again, think even so hardly of me as I
deserve," he added, in a tone of gentle persuasion, which often screened
him from blame, or, if not altogether so, had obtained the love of
those with whose esteem he often trifled.

Then, with a light bound, he cleared the stile, and, walking quickly
onwards, he was soon lost in the windings of the path he had chosen for
the scene of his meditations.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

     My friend, your house is made of glass,
       As any one may see,
     I pray you, therefore, have a care,
       How you throw stones at me.

                                                  CULVER ALLEN.


"If you please miss," said Betsy, entering Amy's room, where Mabel was
sitting, "will you go to Miss Lucy's room for she is crying and sobbing
like any thing, and she has got the door locked and will not open
it--something must be the matter."

"I will go to her directly, and will soon be back, love," said Mabel,
kissing her sister, who never saw her leave without regret.

She then went to Lucy's room, and tapping gently, demanded admittance.

After a short pause the door was opened by Lucy, whose eyes were swollen
with weeping, and her cheeks wet with the tears which were flowing
quickly. She had been lying on the bed, and, content with letting Mabel
in, she threw herself again upon it hastily, rubbing her eyes with her
pocket-handkerchief, though the tears burst forth afresh on every
attempt to clear them away.

Mabel's woman's heart quickly thought of Clair, and, seating herself by
her side, she waited patiently till she became a little composed, and
then begged her to say if she could do any thing for her.

"Nobody can do anything for me," said Lucy, and the effort to speak
called forth a fresh burst of sobs and tears.

"What has happened, do tell me?" said Mabel, "has any one been unkind
to you, dear Lucy."

"The wretch," sobbed Lucy, "the mean-spirited wretch."

"I hope you do not speak of Clair," said Mabel, "what can he have been
doing?"

"Oh, go away," cried Lucy, "go away, I am so unhappy, so wretched, I
wish I had never seen him--never come here. Oh! leave me, go away, where
shall I hide my face."

"I cannot leave you thus--do tell me what he has been doing?"

"They will laugh at me at home. What will Miss Lovelace say--oh dear!"

"Come, do tell me," said Mabel, anxiously, "I may be able to give you
comfort."

"Oh, I cannot tell you."

"Why not?"

"Ah, Mabel, if I were as good as you I should not cry."

A faint blush passed over her countenance, and she was silent, till,
presently, after many tears and sobs she told Mabel the cause of her
distress.

She had been walking in the nut avenue by the side of the lane, and had
thus overheard the greater part of the conversation between Mr. Ware and
his nephew, narrated in the last chapter. The sound of her own name had
attracted her attention, and, having once yielded to the temptation of
listening, she found, as she imagined, sufficient excuse for wishing to
hear all--and enough had, in this manner, reached her ears to send her
home full of mortified feeling.

Mabel listened, with unfeigned surprise, to the story of this
adventure--and to those sentences, which, applying directly to herself,
Lucy had most accurately remembered--but, when she heard from her of the
admiration which she had so unconsciously inspired, she looked entirely
amazed, and at a loss. This Lucy dwelt upon with a candour which
surprised her.

"The wretch," said the latter, when she had concluded her story--"the
worst of it is, that I cannot hate him as he deserves."

"Do not say so," replied Mabel, "if you are able to forgive him so
easily, you will have much less to suffer; there is nothing so painful
as the indulgence of sinful or angry passions."

"Mabel," said Lucy, gravely, "you will marry him, of course, and I will
try to wish you both happy."

"Dear Lucy," replied Mabel, taking her hand kindly, "I am very, very
sorry for you, but rely on my friendship if you can, and I, who have
suffered as much as you are suffering now, may be some support to you.
Do not, for one moment, imagine, that, should Captain Clair ever place
it in my power to marry him, I should for an instant think of it. I have
told you already, that unhappy circumstances have rendered all thoughts
of love repulsive to me, and, even if it were not so, I could not give
my affections to one whom I have so long regarded as your lover."

"Do you really mean that?" cried Lucy, with the desperation of a
drowning man catching at a straw.

"I do indeed. Do you think I would trifle with you, when you are in
distress. You must not let his unhappy preference prevent your trusting
me as much as before, and you must let me guide you till you are strong
enough to guide yourself."

Lucy flung her arms round her neck, saying heartily--

"You shall do anything you like with me, my own sweet friend; but, oh,
there is something wanting in my heart which you have not the power to
heal; but let me talk to you for a few minutes--if you understand me,
you can better advise me."

Mabel was silent, and Lucy, leaning back upon her pillow, and looking
fixedly at her, said, after a moment's pause--

"I have been brought up in a very different home from yours--and when
you think of me, you must give me all the excuses my circumstances
claim. I feel I might have been happier in a different life, yet, as it
is, I have been happy enough. When I first came here, I thought I never
could live in so dull a place, though I appeared delighted with it,
because I feared to offend you; but now I dread nothing so much as
leaving, and going back to Bath. Mamma talks a great deal of being very
fond of us--but she despairs of getting so many girls married, and would
give her right hand to get rid of us in a respectable manner. Very
little is talked of when we are alone, but the chances of this or that
young man's coming forward. I confess, with shame, that no one has
talked on this subject, with more zeal than I have done--and I boldly
determined to do my very best to get married. You will call this all
very unwomanly, and so I acknowledge now, but anything seemed preferable
to being an old maid. So far, you see, Arthur Clair was right; when I
first saw him--marriage being at all times uppermost in my thoughts--I
wished to make a conquest of him, if possible. You see how far I
succeeded--even you were deceived, and thought him sincere, while, it
appears, he was only trifling with me, as I deserved. I wrote home
glowing accounts to Bath--and by this time, it is whispered half over
the town, in all the coteries where mamma visits--and I shall now have
to go back to disappoint them, and be laughed at myself; but this would
be nothing, if I could go back, as light-hearted as I came here. Arthur
Clair is wrong in supposing I have no heart--but I do not love him less
for despising the character he supposes me to be. It was very cruel of
him to act as he did--but yet I must have appeared to him a sad trifler,
and worse than that, for, while I really loved you more than I do any
other girl I know, I was, when with him, perpetually turning you into
ridicule to prevent his admiring you. You, too, must hate and despise
me; but I am tired of deceit, and will have nothing more to do with it."

Mabel's quick judgment foresaw that her cousin's repentance was
probably as light, as her confession of deceit was easy--but she knew,
at the same time, that she had no right to take this for granted, and
that her only duty was to catch at even the lightest spark of virtue,
and use her utmost power to kindle it into a bright and lasting flame.
Sorrow was around her in every shape, destitution and dependence were
before her, yet, no grief of her own, could prevent her turning a
willing ear to the complaints, which, her truly womanly nature told her,
arose from that suffering which is perhaps the hardest a woman can feel.

With extreme gentleness she offered comfort, mingled with the censure,
she could not in sincerity withhold, and Lucy listened with surprise to
advice unmingled with any taunt or reproach.

"Do you not think," she said, "that I had better tell him I heard what
he said, and that I know that I do not deserve that he should think well
of me."

"By no means," replied Mabel; "I would strongly advise you to give up
all thoughts of him at once, for you are convinced that he does not care
for you, and you acknowledge that you have, in a great measure, brought
this unhappy affair upon yourself. You must forgive him fully, for, from
what you tell me, he certainly does not seem so much to blame as I
supposed; and, if you took any unworthy means to obtain his good
opinion, you certainly fully deserve to have lost it. I do not admire a
prude, but I do think that no woman has a right to make the first
advances, and, if she does so, she certainly must be prepared to take
the consequences. But let me earnestly beg you, to spend this season of
affliction in schooling your own heart against this and future
temptations, and hasten to vindicate your character to yourself, and to
him. Shew him, that if you have been wrong, you are changed. It will be
very difficult, I own, to teach him thoroughly to respect you; nay, do
not curl your lip at the mention of respect; there may be a time when
you will learn, how valuable, how necessary, respect is to a woman's
peace; and the calm dignity with which you can bear this disappointment
may purchase it, even from the doubting Clair. A calm and composed
behaviour you must aim at--do not assume total indifference, for that
will soon be perceived--but submit, if possible, without complaint, and
without resentment--you will find this the easiest way of bearing
trials."

Mabel secretly hoped, that, by following her advice, Lucy might not only
reform her character, but also display it to advantage in the eyes of
the man she loved--nor did she think it improbable, that, disappointed
in his suit to herself, he might find in Lucy's altered behavior, a
charm sufficiently strong to lure him to a real, instead of a feigned
affection, and thus preserve her from the snares which surrounded her in
her own home.

With these thoughts she returned to the sick chamber, leaving Lucy to
think over what she had said.

During the last few weeks, she had allowed herself but little repose.
Her time was spent alternately with her sister and mother, who in their
separate rooms, each needed the refreshment of her presence. Her step
was quick--her ready hand untiring--and her watchful eye always
observant--yet, though no complaint had passed her lips since the sad
night of Amy's accident, few could fail to observe how heavily she felt
the sorrow by which she was subdued.

The nights passed wearily, marked only by the hollow cough, which told
her of her mother's failing health, and the loud wintry wind which
whistled in the crevices of the house, or swept by it in loud blasts
from the hills.

All who have felt sorrow, or who have been called to watch by the bed of
the sick, must remember how much more sad these times appear in winter,
than in any other time of the year.

We need our best spirits to laugh away the frost, and snow, and foggy
days, and all the associations called up by the withering earth and
closing year.

Yet all these, with present trouble, past regret, and future fears,
marked this sad time to Mabel. Her greatest satisfaction now, was the
paying the most lavish attention to the two invalids.

Though their means were at all times limited, she spared no expense,
where it could be likely to be of any service to the sufferers; she
prevailed upon her mother to allow her to draw, as she pleased upon, the
few hundreds still remaining of her savings, and this enabled her to
procure, for both, the best medical advice which England afforded,
though at a cost which the warmest of her friends could scarcely
advocate.

All her efforts, however, were unavailing, her mother's strength rapidly
failed, and the utmost care could scarcely keep her sister from sinking
under the pain she suffered.

Day after day, the opinion of the medical man fluctuated, until he
scarcely gave any hope--for he well knew that Amy's constitution, from
infancy, little fitted her to struggle with disease of any kind. Still
Mabel clung fondly to the possibility of her recovery, with a
pertinacity which made her enter eagerly into any new course of
treatment, which she hoped might prove more successful.

It was with difficulty that she found time to think of Lucy--yet a
willing heart can do much. She endeavoured to keep as much with her as
possible to support her, in her new formed resolutions--and she was
gratified to find, that Lucy had been able to meet Clair several times,
with the composure she had recommended.

Poor Lucy's dignified calmness, however, very much resembled pouting,
and, instead of inspiring Clair with any great respect, a little amused
him; for he looked upon this change in her manner as a new mode of
attack, against which he resolved to be armour proof. Her stability of
character being not very great--she could scarcely preserve her manner,
when she saw it produced no immediate effect as she had anticipated. It
was vain to hope that he would notice her composed forgiveness; and her
well-meant resolution faded away before the disappointment of failure.

She was one afternoon engaged busily in blaming him, and excusing
herself, when he entered the morning-room, where she was seated at work,
and, saying he had been to meet the postman, presented her with a letter
from Bath. It contained the news, that Mrs. Clifford, one of the richest
ladies in the town, intended giving a fancy ball at the Rooms which was
to eclipse everything that had been seen for many seasons, and Mrs.
Clifford was very anxious she should return for it. Besides, Colonel
Hargrave had accepted the invitation to visit them, and was expected in
Bath the following week. The letter was of great length, but contained
little more than those two pieces of news greatly enlarged upon.

It seemed as if all Lucy's grief and gravity had disappeared, like the
mist before the sunshine; for, starting up, she gave three bounds
towards the ceiling, clapping her hands in utter thoughtlessness.

"Miss Villars," cried Clair, indignantly, "can you forget where you are?
How can you give vent to such expressions of joy, in a house you have
helped me to make desolate?"

"I wish," exclaimed Lucy, turning round pettishly, "that you would not
preach to me all day the same disagreeable truths, with a face as long
as that of a methodist parson--and such a face too, 'tis indeed a pity
it covers such a wicked dissembling heart; but there is no trusting
appearances in these days."

"What do you mean, Miss Villars?" he enquired, coloring violently.

"Ask your own conscience, and then, if it has not forgotten how to speak
the truth, you will find which is the greatest sinner, you or I," said
she, trying to speak playfully, to hide the real passion which burnt in
her eyes, and tingled in her cheeks.

"Surely," said Clair, a little haughtily, "you do not allude to the
silly flirtation, which I have quite sufficiently repented, as my
manners may have already expressed."

"You double dealing wretch," exclaimed Lucy, in a perfect rage at the
superiority he assumed, "you oily-tongued hypocrite, how dare you talk
to me in this way? Why, I heard you talking to Mr. Ware, when you little
thought I was walking in the nut-avenue. You despised me, did you, in
your vaunted goodness--and, because you are fickle enough to turn from
one girl to another, you try to justify your behaviour, by abusing me to
one too good to listen to such stuff about either of us. What do you say
to me now?" she said, her eyes dancing with delighted passion at seeing
him utterly confounded. "Now carry your sanctimonious looks elsewhere,
for they will not take with me, I can tell you. I could have forgiven
your flirting, because they say--'a fellow feeling makes us wondrous
kind;' but, bad as I am, I never abused a man that had been silly
enough to admire me--nor did I ever set myself up as anything better
than I am. I am glad you feel what I say, and now go to the
noble-hearted Mabel, and say, 'Here I am--I have been flirting, before
your very eyes, with a girl I despised; but she served to make a few
weeks pass more pleasantly than they might otherwise have done. I have
been sporting with her feelings instead of making honest court to you.'
And then, flushed with the success, purchased by such hypocrisy, tell
her, that you have come to lay your laurels and a deceitful heart at her
feet, and that you think them just offerings to her purity, and an ample
return for the cruelty you were led to commit, by my persuasion. It will
be safest to lay all the blame on me, to her, as well as to Mr. Ware. It
told with him, and it may with her--go and try."

She here stopped for want of breath, but, as Clair made no reply, she
quickly resumed.

"You have not a word to answer me, have you now? How very pretty you
look, standing abashed before the girl you despised. If I were a man
you might run your sword through me, for want of a better argument in
your favor, but, as it is, I am afraid there is nothing to be done," she
continued, (as her companion threw himself into an arm chair and seemed
determined to let her say her worst, without the slightest attempt at
interruption,) then walking to the window she began singing part of the
Spanish girl's song to her Irish lover.

     "'They say that the spirit most gallant in war
     Is always the truest in love.'"

"For Mrs. Lesly's sake do not make so much noise," said Clair.

"Unfortunately," replied Lucy, "I am not so unfeeling, for Mrs. Lesly's
room is at the other end of the house. You said, if I remember rightly,
that my character was too feathery to suit you--nevertheless, I think
for a feather my strokes are rather hard. Have you nothing to say for
yourself?"

"Yes, when you have blamed me as much as you may think I deserve, I
will venture to reply."

"Oh, say on, I have done."

"Then, if you have leisure to hear me, I will now say, that, before this
conversation, I thought I might have been wrong; but I am now fully
convinced by the indignation you so openly express, that I have been
mistaken in you. I confess that I have injured you in the most
ungenerous manner--for which I dare not offer any excuse, since every
one would be too light to have any weight. I will then only ask you to
be generous enough to forgive me?"

Lucy, whose feelings were ever subject to the most sudden variations,
burst into tears and ran out of the room, but, as Clair continued
regarding the door through which she had made her sudden exit, it opened
as quickly as it had closed, and she again entered; holding out her
hand, as she walked up to him.

"I am glad you are not gone," said she, panting for breath, "because I
can tell you I forgive you on condition that you forgive and forget all
I said in my passion just now."

"It was richly deserved," said Clair, grasping her hand warmly.

"But that does not make it the more easy to bear, you know. If it is
quite unjust we let it pass as 'the idle wind which we regard not,' but,
if it be just, we take it more to heart, and, seriously, I am very sorry
for what I said just now."

"And I," said Clair, "am very sorry for a great many foolish things I
have said and done in the last few weeks."

"Well then," cried Lucy, "we are both sorry, so let us be friends, and
talk no more about love and all that kind of nonsense. I shall go home
in a day or two, and then," said she, with a half sigh, "all I ask is,
that you will not think me quite so thoughtless and foolish as you did;
or, if you do," she added, smiling quickly, "remember you were as weak
and thoughtless as myself."

"I will not fail to do so," he answered, returning her smile, "if the
remembrance of your present generosity, does not make me forget
everything which caused it to be called into exercise."

"I have had quite enough of your flattery," said Lucy, holding up her
finger, "do not give me another dose, or I shall be obliged to repeat
the antidote, and give you another scolding. Come now, I am thinking of
the fancy ball, and, as I am determined to be in time for it--for I am
of no use to Mabel by staying here--I shall choose my character at once.
Here," handing him a book of Byron's beauties, "choose me the one you
think would suit me best."

"Let me venture to suggest," replied Clair, as he took the book and
turned over the leaves thoughtfully, "that leaving such a house as this,
it would scarcely be right for you, to appear at a fancy ball at all."

"Oh, you methodist! give me the book."

"You will not then be persuaded," he said, laying his hand gently on the
sketches of the frail beauties she had asked him to choose among.
"Think, that for the sake of a few hours of doubtful enjoyment you lay
yourself open to severe self-reproach, and may wound the feelings of
your friends here. It may sound odd that I should venture to speak so
seriously, but--"

"Yes, it does seem very odd, certainly, and I thought I had given you a
surfeit of preaching just now."

"Yet before you decide, I would ask you to consider whether you are not
wronging yourself, by acting so thoughtlessly."

"Now let me ask you in return," she replied, pettishly, "if I am at Bath
what harm my going would do or what good I could get by staying away?"

"Very little, perhaps, actually, but no one could think any unkindness
intended by your remaining at home. I can hardly expect you, however, to
listen to me, but, should your own better judgment lead you to come to
the same determination I shall be rejoiced."

Lucy sat down, half sullenly turning over the book of beauties, and
seeming to be examining their dresses with the greatest attention, as if
she were trying to discover how they might be imitated by tinsel and
gauze.

The Captain stood looking at her earnestly. Mr. Ware's advice recurred
to his mind, and, though he had found it difficult to follow it, he had
tried his best.

Lucy, with her face glowing with excitement, her eyes moist with recent
tears, looked exceedingly pretty, and he could not help longing for the
power to plant a different spirit within her, at length he exclaimed,
with sudden energy--

"Lucy Villars, will you not listen to me. Do not trifle, after the
fearful judgment that has fallen upon this house, through our means. Is
it possible you can forget what a withering blow it has been. Surely,
surely you will not go to a fancy ball, while Mabel is watching over her
suffering mother and sister. You do not mean it, you surely cannot; only
think for one moment," said he, laying his hand upon hers, and staying
the quick motion with which she turned over the leaves of the book. It
is doubtful how Clair might have felt (for he had certainly deceived
himself when he imagined she had never made any serious impression upon
him) had his advice, his first effort at serious advice, been well
received, for there was an earnestness in his manner, which he had never
before displayed. But Lucy rose hastily, and brushing his hand aside
with an indignant motion, prepared to leave the room; turning at the
door, she said coldly--

"There might have been a time when Captain Clair could have asked a
favor, without risk of being charged with interference or impertinence,
but I can now see no excuse which would lead me to make his wishes the
rule of my actions--I would advise you in future to obtain influence,
before you seek to use it."

So saying, and bowing coldly, she left the room.

Her return home, and her plan of travelling, were soon settled by her
hearing of a friend who was at this time returning to Bath from
Cheltenham, and whose escort was offered her.

Perhaps the pleasure of piquing Clair, added a little zest to the
preparations which were carried on with a cheerfulness that surprised
him. Deeply touched himself by recent events, and quite unable to
recover his spirits, he regarded her with a wonder not a little mingled
with contempt.

Mabel herself, as keenly susceptible to pain as she was open to
pleasure, could scarcely understand the variable nature of her cousin's
disposition, which, at times attracted her by its _naiveté_ and candour,
at others, alarmed her by its indifference and frivolity. Though really
a little hurt at the coolness with which she prepared to leave her,
directly it suited her own convenience, after her many professions, she
suffered her to take her course without remark; particularly when she
found, from the account she received of her conversation with Clair,
that she could not preserve towards him, the composure necessary to
ensure her own dignity.

All was, therefore, soon arranged, and Lucy, as the parting drew near,
became so affectionately distressed, that Mabel quickly forgave her
previous indifference, and parted from her with a regret, she had
scarcely supposed she could have felt a few weeks before.

As she stood for several moments in the garden, watching the vehicle
which bore her from the village, her thoughts naturally recurred to the
hour when, with far different feelings, she had stood in the same place
to wait her coming. The scene was the same, and yet how changed. There
was not a leaf upon the many bold trees which skirted the landscape.
Here and there round the garden a single monthly rose bloomed in place
of the many gay, autumnal flowers, which had then been so brilliant.
Heavy clouds hung overhead, and silently and gloomily feathery pieces
of snow fell through the cold air.

"It is the sunshine of the heart that is gone," thought Mabel,
unconsciously clasping her hands, and glancing at the scene around her;
while she remembered how comparatively free from care she had been that
day, and how gladly had the little Amy waited to catch the first sight
of the expected carriage, how eagerly she had watched the first peep of
the high road. Where was she now, poor child? when would her light feet
carry her so merrily to that gate again.

"I know it must be right," thought Mabel, as if unwilling to dwell
longer on feelings and afflictions which unnerved her; but sick at
heart, and with tears swimming in her eyes, she turned towards the
house. She stopped on hearing Clair's voice, who approached to meet her,
having waited till the parting was over, hoping to remove any feeling of
loneliness she might experience on Lucy's departure. His steps were
sedate, and his countenance serious and reflective, as it had of late
become.

"Ah," said he, as he joined her. "Happy would it have been for you had
neither of us crossed your path, to throw the shadow upon it we have
done."

"We will not blame poor Lucy now she is gone," said Mabel, "and do not
blame yourself again. I did not think I should miss her as much as I do;
but there is such a pleasure in meeting a friend of about my own age."

"If there are three dark sides to a subject, and one bright one, you are
sure to turn to the bright," said Clair.

"Should we not do so?" said Mabel, smiling faintly--"particularly when
we must feel that even the one bright side is undeserved."

"I should very much have liked to have known your poor father," said
Clair, rather abruptly.

"You would, indeed," said Mabel, "but what made you think of him?"

"Because I have heard that the lessons he gave you were so admirable;
and practically illustrated--they are beautiful!"

"Nay, if you wish to flatter me, speak of him--not myself; truly, he was
a gentleman, a scholar, and a soldier," said Mabel, as her eyes
brightened, "and I cannot tell how much I owe to him. Now, if I am
tempted to do anything wrong, his spirit seems to stand between me and
the temptation. See what an advantage it is to be good," said she
smiling, as if fearful of speaking too much of herself, "what an
influence you possess."

"You do, indeed, possess an influence," said Clair, emphatically, as he
turned his eyes to hers, with an expression of mingled admiration and
respect.

"I must go in," replied Mabel, hurriedly, "talking of my dear father has
cheated me into staying longer than I meant to have done. I must go to
my dear child--good bye," said she, extending her hand frankly. "Go, and
do anything but be sad about me."

Without waiting for a reply, she ran into the house, and Clair leant
upon the gate and watched her departing figure, like one entranced,
till, fearful of attracting observation, he briskly roused himself, as
if from some pleasant dream, and pursued his walk through the village.

Meanwhile, Lucy continued her journey. At first the natural pain of
parting from Aston led her to a train of sorrowful reflection. Perhaps
she too remembered how different the home she had left had been when she
entered it; but she had also to remember many mortifying things besides.
Her easy conquest, as she imagined, had ended in total failure. If she
had unintentionally brought evil on Mabel, she had also brought good, in
the admiration of the fascinating Clair. Her recollections soon became
too painful to be encouraged, and she took the ready source of comfort
open to those who do not care to probe the conscience, and tried not to
think at all. It was easiest and most agreeable, but she had to arm
herself for the reception she would probably meet at home. How could she
say she had entirely failed; and what reason could she give for
believing that Clair was in earnest; she had not the heart to blame him.
"If Mabel had not been there," she thought, "he never would have
changed, but I will not think any harm of her, I _suppose_ she could not
help it."

"Once in Bath, this country dream will be over, and I shall have the
pleasure of preparing for the fancy ball--and then, the arrival of
Colonel Hargrave, and possibly--if he is not attracted by Caroline's
majestic style of beauty, who knows but he may find other objects of
admiration--" and she glanced down upon her pretty little foot, with an
air of condescending affection, as it rested on the shawl which lay
beneath it. Then came the remembrance that Mabel had lent her that
shawl, and had herself wrapped it round her with that attention to the
comfort of others, which was so peculiar to her, and she lent back and
wept bitterly for some miles.

At Cheltenham, however, she was joined by her promised fellow traveller,
also returning to Bath for the season. Mrs. Richardson, for this was her
name, was a good-tempered, stout little lady, who possessed a great
fondness for young people, particularly for those who, either pretty,
witty, or engaging, were sure to be popular in society. She formed a
very useful chaperone, in case of necessity, never being unwilling to
join any party of pleasure, from the most crowded rout, to the dullest
and quietest card party.

Lucy had not been slow in finding out this useful virtue, and, Mrs.
Richardson being a great admirer of hers, they usually got on very well
together. But now, the badinage she had to endure, on the many conquests
she must have made, during her country visit, amongst rich squires,
grated sadly on her ears; while her attempts to divert the
conversation, only renewed her companion's desire to obtain an account
of all she had been doing and seeing.

The tedious journey, however, drew at length to a conclusion, and she
found herself once more in Bath. Again settled at home, she was not a
little surprised, and not quite pleased to find that her Aston adventure
had occupied far less of the family attention than she had imagined.
Indeed, so thoroughly were they occupied in preparing for Colonel
Hargrave's visit, that they scarcely listened to her accounts. The whole
house, and household furniture, seemed stirring up to look their best
welcome to the rich Indian wanderer. The best stair carpets were laid
down, and the best drawing-room was uncovered and made habitable, and a
thousand little expenses were excused, under the pretence of necessity,
on such an occasion. The name of Hargrave was passed perpetually from
one to another, and Caroline already fancied herself mistress of Aston
Manor.

"Oh!" thought Lucy, "could I have thought they cared so little about me,
I would have been more independent of their opinion."

She, however, soon endeavoured to dispel the listlessness which followed
her return to old pursuits, by entering into the subject of general
interest, with as much seeming zest as her sisters; but, sometimes, when
she seemed the merriest of them all, her thoughts would revert to Aston,
and her gay laugh would find a check. Gaiety may sear, but it never yet
has healed a wounded heart.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

     He shall again be seen when evening comes,
     And social parties crowd their favorite rooms,
     Where on the table pipes and papers lie,
     The steaming bowl and foaming tankard by.

                                                        CRABBE.


Almost every village possesses a house of public entertainment, however
humble in appearance. Unfortunately, this is generally the most
comfortable place accessible to the lower orders, who are often
unwittingly tempted to increase the one pint of beer, which secures a
seat by the large inn fire, drop by drop, till habits of drunkenness are
too readily acquired. Some have recommended the establishment of
something similar to a coffee-room in every village, where laboring men
might enjoy the pleasures of society and conversation, without the
temptations to a vice which adds many a tragedy to "the short and simple
annals of the poor."

It could indeed scarcely be wondered at, that at Aston, many of the
laborers left their weather-beaten cottages, which, in some cases,
formed scarcely a shelter from the wind and rain--and, without stopping
to calculate the mischief which might ensue to their neglected families,
should frequently resort to the "Hargrave Arms," where a blazing fire
and a comfortable seat by a chatty neighbour were generally to be found.
Here, at least, poverty and discomfort might be forgotten for a while,
even by those who did not seek to drown remembrance in the fatal
draught.

One Friday evening, many of the regular customers of the house assembled
themselves as usual, more, perhaps, to chat than to drink, for they
seldom carried their conviviality to any great height, except on the
Saturday, when the young men of the village brought, too often, the
first fruits of their week's earnings. On the occasion we now mention, a
more sober conclave was assembled. The white haired Giles, whom Clair
had visited with his uncle, on the first morning of his visit, was one
of the guests. Not, now, with his head bent, and his hands extended over
the dying embers of his wood fire, but with head erect in a comfortable
corner, with the air of a man whose opinions are respected, and whose
words claim immediate attention. Martin, the poacher, was also there,
smoking a pipe, whose dusty colour bespoke long service. Besides these,
were several of the most respectable labourers of the village, young and
old.

The landlord, himself, was a middle aged, sleepy looking man, with eyes
that seemed to say that they had no particular time for taking rest,
but seized every opportunity that occurred for shutting up at a moment's
notice.

The night was cold and gusty, and the large fire burnt with peculiar
brightness--conversation went on briskly; when a new object of attention
presented itself in the sound of horses' feet, which at this hour were
very unusual.

This caused the landlord's eyes to open to the things about him, and he
walked to the door to offer whatever hospitality might be required by
the new comer.

By the time he had reached the open air, which he did with some
reluctance, he found that the rider had dismounted. His horse appeared
to have been well ridden, for, though a fine strong built animal, fitted
for the hilly country he had been through, he seemed exhausted, and
covered with dust and foam. The gentleman, on the contrary, seemed
perfectly cool and free from fatigue, and equally indifferent to the
weather, though the wind was high, and easterly, and his short cloak was
whitened by the snow, which had been falling, at intervals, during the
afternoon, giving signs of an early coming winter. There was sufficient
of that nameless something in his appearance, even by the light of our
host's lantern, to speak him a gentleman, and to procure for him a
series of nods, intended for graceful acknowledgments of welcome.

"My horse wants rest, and a good stable," said the new comer; "light me,
and I will see him housed, myself. I will follow you."

This was spoken in a tone of accustomed and easy authority, and taking
the bridle over his arm, he followed his landlord to the stable; where,
with indifferent extravagance which baffled any interference, he seized
an immense armful of straw from a heap which lay in one corner, and
threw it on the bed, which already seemed tolerably supplied. So rapid
and easy were his movements, that, before his astonished landlord had
framed the remonstrance he meditated offering, he announced himself
ready to accompany him to the house.

"Would you like dinner in the parlor, sir," enquired his sleepy host,
leading him back through the court-yard.

"No, I will take a glass of grog, in the bar."

"The bar is full, sir; and maybe you will not like--."

"What," enquired the stranger, "to sit side by side, with a poor
man--you are mistaken, but heark-ye," said he, stopping, "the less
civility you show me the better, I will pay you."

"I twig," he replied, shutting one sleepy eye with an attempt to look
cunning, while, at the same time, he was a little startled at the deep
and peculiar tone of the voice which addressed itself so particularly to
his ear, and he was not sorry to catch a full view of his own huge
blazing fire, and the familiar faces around it.

"A stranger wants a seat by the fire," muttered he, as he entered the
bar.

"A stranger should have the best seat," said old Giles, moving quietly
to offer him his arm-chair.

"I have been accustomed, sir, to take place according to my years," said
the stranger, in a voice of peculiar melody, as he declined the offer,
and, at the same time, chose a seat further from the fire, where the
fitful light only sometimes partially illumed his countenance.

"Landlord," said he, "your guests will, I dare say, join me in my grog;
bring enough, not forgetting yourself."

A short silence followed this speech, partly caused by the landlord's
absence; during which all eyes were turned to observe the appearance of
the last arrival. His figure was considerably above the middle height,
but his limbs were in such exact proportion, that he preserved the
appearance of strength which tall men often lose. His shoulders were
broad, and his chest wide and expansive. The only sign of delicacy about
him appeared in his hand, which, for his height, was small, and very
white and smooth, ornamented by a plain signet ring. This, they had an
opportunity of observing, for his head was resting on his hand, though,
seemingly more in thought than fatigue. His eyes were large, dark, and
penetrating, made to flash with anger, to command, or reprove; yet,
bearing in general a cold still hue, as if more accustomed to command,
or to suffer, than to ask, or supplicate the world's favour. The mouth
was expressive of great sweetness, as long as his features continued, in
repose, though the lips seemed especially capable of curling into a
sneer. His nose was long and aquiline, and gave a character of boldness
to the countenance; and a finely sloped head, well set upon his
shoulders, added to his lofty bearing.

All these features, fitted to form a face of striking manly beauty, were
quite spoilt by the fact that, while the whiskers, moustache, and finely
arched eye-brows, were black; his hair, of which he wore a great deal,
and that, too long for the English fashion, was of a bright red, and
gave a very peculiar shade to his countenance.

His dress was half military, though remarkably simple, and on the
present occasion, much soiled with long riding, and even shabby; with
the exception of his boots, which appeared to have shared the care which
had secured to the hand the marks of gentle breeding. It would have been
very difficult to trace his age, in any part of his outward bearing,
beyond the certainty that he was neither twenty nor fifty--anything
between these two periods might have been attributed to him without much
difficulty. Since his entrance he had not changed the position into
which he had thrown himself; perfectly at ease in every limb, and still
as a statue, he seemed scarcely aware of the observation he excited from
his companions.

Probably he was inured to the weather, and indifferent to its effects,
for he did not attempt to dry his clothes by drawing nearer the fire.
Perhaps, his studious silence was intended to set his companions at
ease, or, perhaps, occupied with other thoughts, he really forgot them
after the first order he had given for their entertainment. However it
might be, conversation gradually returned to its former channel, and he
remained almost unnoticed.

The snowy afternoon led them to speak of the weather, when Martin
enquired, with an indifferent tone--

"Did it come in upon you last night, Giles?"

"It did sadly," he replied; "I was obliged to get up, and move my bed."

"Has the rain been so heavy here then?" enquired the stranger with some
interest.

"Not in particular, sir," said Martin, "if our roofs were
waterproof--but they ain't; I don't care who knows it. Look at this old
man," he said, turning to Giles, "is he fit to live in a hole with the
roof half off, and the sun and rain coming in every where. It almost
drives me wild to think of it--and if it goes on much longer, there'll
be mischief come on it, that I know."

"Do not talk in that way," said old Giles, gently, "if I am content with
my house, you should not make it a cause for dispute."

"Yes; but if any one could claim a proper shelter for his head, it is
you, Giles. You served the family for fifty years, and after spending
the best part of your life working for them, the least they could do,
would be to keep the wind and rain off your old white head."

"It is not right to talk like this, Martin," returned Giles, gravely,
"for you might make me discontented with my lot. You forget that by
allowing me to work for them, they gave me food for all those years--and
if I did my work honestly, only for the reward they had to give me, I
deserved to lose it."

"Of what family are you speaking?" enquired the stranger, slightly
rousing himself, and drawing a little more into the circle.

"Who is your landlord, and what prevents his seeing to your comforts?"

Martin seemed anxious to reply; but he was prevented by Giles.

"Our landlord is Colonel Hargrave, a very brave officer, I have heard;
but, in looking for glory abroad, he has, unfortunately for himself and
us, forgotten his dependents at home. He has scarcely seen anything of
us since he came into the property."

"But surely," said the stranger, warmly, "if he did spend his time
beyond the seas--I dare say, for some private reason--he must have left
some trusty steward, who could take charge of his property during his
absence, and protect the labourers on his estate from the privations you
speak of?"

"Trusty steward, indeed," Martin began, in a growling voice, but Giles
again interrupted him.

"Sir, it is kind of you to take so much interest in our concerns. It may
be that you have estates somewhere yourself--it may be that you have
left them to the care of others, believing that you are trusting honest
servants; but, if you could see how much we have suffered, you would
never do so again. Our landlord has left with us an oppressive and cruel
man, who takes pleasure in shewing his power in the smallest thing. In
our good lady's time, we were allowed to pick up any wood that the wind
blew down, so that our firing cost us next to nothing; but now this is
entirely done away by the keepers. Many of our little rights too he has
taken away, according, as he says, to his master's orders, though 'tis
not very likely a gentleman abroad would think of such things so many
miles away. He receives our rents without spending any part of them in
repairing our cottages, and the consequence is, they are tumbling down
for want of repair, while the same rent is demanded for them. This
brings much illness and discomfort--but what I lament over most," said
the old man, with a sigh, "is that the feelings of every one are
aggravated against Colonel Hargrave, who, it may be, knows nothing
about it."

"Then he ought to know," said Martin.

"There is a sad spirit spreading, sir," said Giles, casting, as he
continued, a reproving look on Martin, "amongst our young men, and a
hatred of the gentry, which cannot be right, though it is hard to keep
them from it when we have so much privation."

"Aye, that is true enough," said Martin, glancing at his younger
companions.

"Why do you not write to Colonel Hargrave?" said the stranger, bending
forwards, and suffering his large full eye to fall on Martin for an
instant, "surely you should not judge him so hastily."

"Parson Ware has written, and the only answer he gets is, that Mr.
Rogers is an old and tried servant, and he can depend on his doing for
the best."

A bitter laugh went round the circle in echo to this unpopular opinion.

The stranger lent back in his chair, and fixing his eyes on the fire,
seemed inclined to leave the conversation, which the wounded feelings of
those present appeared likely to render too heated.

"Things never went right," said a little old man in the chimney-corner,
in a deep husky voice, for he prided himself on being a sort of prophet
in the village, "since he went to France, and I never had no very great
opinion of Frenchmen before--ha, ha, ha!" There did not seem much to
call for laughter; but he generally accompanied his speeches with that
peculiar chuckle, which sounded anything but pleasantly to those who
were not accustomed to him. "I saw him many times after that," continued
he, "and he warn't the same open-hearted gentleman he was afore. He
often looked as if he'd got some one looking over his shoulder as he
didn't over relish--ha, ha!"

The sepulchral chuckle which followed this remark produced a short,
uneasy silence, which was broken by Martin, who enquired--

"Do you think his religion has anything to do with our houses and
wages?"

"Yes," replied Giles, "can we expect that he who has proved disloyal to
his Maker, would be thoughtful for his fellow men."

He spoke in a tone of such gentle authority, that even Martin was
silent, and, for a few seconds, the ticking of the old-fashioned clock,
and the crackling of the wood on the fire, were the only sounds.

"I can call to mind," resumed the old man, interrupting the silence,
which had followed his last remark, "a time of much sorrow to me, and I
never think of it without trembling. It is some years since, now, when I
worked on the Manor, and I used to be something of a favorite of my
young master's; and I am sure, at that time, I would have given my life
to serve him; he had such a way with him; no one had anything to do with
him without loving him. Well I remember how glad I was when he ordered
me to go out with him to beat up the bushes for game. But the time I
said I was sorry to remember, was when, one Saturday night late, he came
down here in a great hurry, and he said he must go again on the Monday,
and so he would look about him. I can't tell how it was we took so to
each other; but I was strong and hearty then, though 'tis but a few
years ago. Martin speaks truth when he says I have served the family
fifty years, for I began by running errands for the servants, when I was
but a little boy, and I am now nearly seventy; but I was quite a strong
man at that time I have been talking about, and I used often to go out
shooting with Master Hargrave, to carry his game, and such like. Well,
on this Sunday morning, he told me to take his gun, and wait for him at
the entrance of the wood. Nobody ever said no to him then, and I had not
the courage, and, though I knew that I was doing wrong all the while, I
took the gun; and went as he bade me. We had a regular good day's
sport, and we went to the woods furthest from the village, for fear the
guns or dogs might be heard. 'Twas a beautiful autumn afternoon, I know,
as we came home, and, when we came to the wood overlooking the church,
the bells rang out such a merry peal. I had forgot 'twas Sunday, for my
blood was hot, and the sport was good; but now, as we stopped on the top
of the hills, like thieves, I could not help wishing we had never been
out, and I said so with a dogged, frightened air, for I was afraid of
him all the while. He laughed at my fright, and began talking as if
going to church were all mummery. Well, I could not help listening--what
he said seemed so clever and funny, I could not answer him. After that
day, I began to doubt and doubt, till I believed nothing the minister
said, and left off going to church."

"And what turned ye?" enquired the little man in the chimney-corner.

"I was wretched," replied Giles; "I felt that I had no comfort upon
earth, and no hope beyond it. Till, at last, I thought that this
unbelief was only a curse for having done wrong. So I took to prayer,
and never gave it up till better thoughts came."

"But how," asked the stranger, bending forward, and regarding the old
man earnestly, till it made him almost shrink from that dark eye, which
looked almost piteous in its intensity, while the voice of the enquirer
was touching, deep, and melodious, "how could you pray when you had no
faith."

"Sir," said Giles, "whatever creed or religion you may profess, you must
still feel, that to doubt as I did, is the greatest curse that can fall
upon the heart of man, and doubt as we may, we know it to be a curse. If
you ever feel as I did, do not ask questions, and put yourself wrong,
and then try and set yourself right by your own judgment, as I did; but
go down upon your bended knees, and pray for light as a child might
pray--I never found peace till then."

The stranger folded his arms upon his breast, and, with his eyes fixed
on the fire, as before, gave no sign that he had even heard the reply to
his question.

Giles, perhaps, thought he had said too much, and remained in confusion,
glancing uneasily at him. The wind, which had been rising more and more
during the evening, now howled aloud increasing the comfort of the inn
fire, and the dislike of the party to separate; yet no one seemed
inclined to speak, and the wind roared on, yelling as it swept in heavy
gusts through the building.

Suddenly, a loud and tremulous knocking was heard at the door, together
with voices demanding admittance. After a little hesitation, the door
was opened by the landlord, and several women rushed in, crying
vehemently.

"For, heaven's sake, come and help us, for the place is all on fire!"



                              CHAPTER XV.

     She came with smiles the hour of pain to cheer;
     Apart she sighed; alone she shed the tear.
     Then, as if breaking from a cloud, she gave
     Fresh light, and gilt the prospect of the grave.

                                                        CRABBE.


On the night which followed Lucy's departure the cottage seemed
singularly lonely. The wayward girl could not but be missed in so small
a household. Her very waywardness, indeed, had caused excitement, which
slightly roused Mabel's thoughts from present and coming evils.

It was night--how strange is its power over us? Can it be more than
fancy that the spirits of darkness have freer power to wander unseen
upon our earth? Why else should we start with such vague terror, at the
slightest sound which breaks the stillness? Why should we often feel
almost a childish desire for companionship?

Mabel had stolen to her mother's room to persuade herself that she
slept, and stood for a moment watching her. The feeble light of the
night lamp shone upon her features, and she trembled when she marked the
sunken cheeks, and the countenance deeply traced and drawn down by care
and pain. It seemed as if, in that moment, the conviction which she had
so long defied, forced itself upon her mind, and she felt that that
loved parent must die. Those only who have experienced that sudden
belief can tell of the bitterness with which it comes. And it is sudden,
for we may speak of death as possible, nay, even probable, with
calmness; but this is not belief, not the feeling which comes when the
varying color, the emaciated hand, or the hollow eye attracts our
attention, and we feel the truth striking coldly on our hearts. Then,
almost for the first time, the full power of fear and love is known. We
long to arrest the hand of death by the vehemence of our passion; and,
though we know such efforts are vain, yet how difficult is it to be
resigned.

Mabel turned from her mother's room with the choking sensation, of
tears, that will not be suppressed. The cold, loud wind beat against the
cottage, tossing dry leaves and broken sticks against the casement, then
howling round, as if in derision of her grief. Amy was sleeping, the
sweet, gentle, exhausted sleep, that sometimes follows pain; but Mabel
knew that in a short while she would awake, and require refreshment, and
she did not care to lie down, till she had made her comfortable.

There was a letter lying upon the dressing-table, placed so as to catch
her eye; the sight of it was a relief to her, and she took it and broke
the seal, then shading the light from her sister, she sat down and read
as follows:--

      "DEAR MISS LESLY,

      "I will trust that you will forgive me the liberty I take in
      addressing you by letter; for your unwearied attention to those
      who now claim your care, gives me little hope of speaking to you
      without interruption. I might not have time to tell you that the
      remembrance of my share in the late unhappy accident renders me
      miserable when I am compelled to watch your patient suffering,
      without the power to afford you the least redress or comfort. It
      is impossible to remember the last few happy weeks, without
      contrasting them, but too painfully with the present. I cannot
      forbear continually reproaching myself with the change, nor shall
      I cease to be unhappy till I may, in some way alleviate your
      sufferings. Let me entreat you, then, to forgive my presumption,
      in seeking a remedy in the gratification of the fondest hopes of
      my life. I needed some acquaintance with you, to remove the
      prejudices which I have been led to form, through the too
      thoughtless behaviour of some ladies, it needed, I may say, even
      the last bitter trial, to shew me the nature of your character,
      and the refinement to which sorrow could bring it. How else could
      I have been aware of the existence of such uncommon resignation,
      and such sweet forgiveness. They have inspired me with a feeling,
      which, while hope remains, softens the pain I feel; they lead me
      to aspire with boldness, which may surprise you, but I am a
      soldier, and though too accustomed to feign sentiment which does
      not exist, I am only capable of bluntness where my heart is really
      touched; and, therefore, at once, most boldly, but most
      respectfully do I ask you to be my wife.

      "The fortune with which I am blessed, renders my profession more
      an amusement than a necessity, and it would be amply sufficient to
      secure your sweet sister all the comforts which may alleviate
      pain, and all the medical advice which may help to remove it. Only
      give me the power to protect you from the cold blasts of the
      world, and the right to aid you in taking charge of one, whose
      helplessness has been caused by my fault, and I will shew you that
      a husband's tenderest love and a brother's most watchful care will
      ever be ready to protect you both. One word more. Though with the
      most jealous hand I would guard you from all pain, I must, though
      but for a moment, inflict it in alluding to past events. I am
      aware of much, if not all, of your early history, and know that I
      cannot be the first object of your affections; yet would I rather
      have your second love, or even your friendship, than the warmest
      attachment of any other woman living.

      "Do not then turn away from me without consideration, think of
      your sister--of me--and of yourself, unprotected in a world of
      strangers, and, if you can, accept the love of

                   "Your most devoted and respectful

                                                         "ARTHUR CLAIR."

      "The Rectory,
        "Friday Evening."

Mabel was troubled, not only by the generous tone of the letter, but
because it brought to view, subjects which she had not allowed herself
to think upon; for her real strength consisted in a knowledge of her
weakness, and she knew that she should be quite incapable of acting, if,
to present pain, she added the contemplation of future trials. But now,
Clair, in offering her a provision for the future had forced her to
think of it. Perhaps generously to save her from the imputation of
accepting him, only when pressed by circumstances, as she might be, in
but a few weeks.

Now the letter as it lay before her would have her think. She had but a
few minutes before left her mother's room with the saddest conviction;
and now, crowding on her remembrance came a thousand little speeches,
that told her, how earnestly, that dear mother had tried to warn her of
her approaching death. Speeches which then appeared but the result of
nervous weakness, now occurred to her as truths, which no reasoning
could controvert. Some of their little property she knew rested in the
hands of an improvident and extravagant aunt, and the remainder of their
income would fail altogether when her mother's pension dropped.

And Amy, whose precarious health rendered her now unable to be even
moved from room to room, she on whom she had lavished all the comforts
which affluence can invent, how could she bear the trials of poverty?
How could she suffer the privations to which they would inevitably be
reduced; she who could scarcely hear the sound of a heavy footfall
without pain, or be moved, without the greatest agony, from the couch on
which she constantly lay. Not that she wavered with regard to Clair, but
his letter made her uneasy. Poverty, death, and even that place where
"all that's wretched paves the way to death," she would have preferred
to marriage, if she could but have endured them alone. But who would be
her companion? She turned her eyes to the bed where, with cheeks flushed
and eyes that scarcely closed, lay the little sufferer, her small,
wasted hand tightly compressed as if with pain. At this moment she
slightly moved, and Mabel was instantly by her side. Her eyes glistening
bright with fever were now opened wide, and gazing anxiously on poor
Mabel's tell-tale face.

"Mabel," said she in a low, sweet but peculiar voice, "sit down by me,
for I must talk to you to-night, as my pain is all gone."

Mabel seated herself by her, and took the little hand in hers.

"You will not be frightened, Mabel dear," said the child, "if I talk
about strange things, and about going away."

"No, sweet one, no," replied her sister, "talk of anything you like; but
where are you going?"

"Mabel, dear," she returned softly, "I suffer such pain that I do not
think it will be much longer--I must die soon, and then I hope I am
going to that beautiful country we have talked of so often in the
church-yard. I wish you could come with me, Mabel dear, for I dream so
often that papa is waiting for me, and it is all so beautiful."

A quiet pressure of her hand was the only answer.

"But I cannot help thinking of you, love," continued Amy, "and what you
will do without me when I am gone; but yet, Mabel dear, think how
strange it would be to me to lie here always; and, if I grew big like
this, you would only cry over me, as you do when you think I am asleep;
so, Mabel dear, let me go to heaven."

The last words were spoken in the coaxing tone with which she used so
often to carry her point in some little argument, and, finding no
answer, she pat her hand under Mabel's head, which was bent down, and
raised it gently, her face was very pale, and tears were streaming from
her eyes.

"Mabel, dear, dear Mabel," cried Amy, "I, who have been such a trouble
to you all my life, are you so sorry to part from me, your naughty
child. But now, I know it was very good in you to correct me sometimes,
or I never should have been as happy as I am, and now, I feel it to be
all right that I should be in such pain. Will you not rejoice too,
darling? Look at me, there are no tears in my eyes though I am talking
of leaving you."

But the moment the sisters' eyes met, Amy's were filled with tears, and
her head sunk back exhausted. Mabel could not trust herself to say
anything; but, gently smoothing her pillow, she suffered her own head to
sink upon it, and, fatigued alike by grief and want of rest, she closed
her eyes, and fell asleep.

     "Tired nature's sweet restorer balmy sleep,"

Of what untold comfort are you to the mourner. Cares, that bow the head
to the earth at night, seem lighter to the waking thoughts, refreshed,
perhaps, by good angels while we sleep. Were there no such sweet
forgetfulness of sorrow, could we bear to look upon it long?



                              CHAPTER XVI.

     But oh! to him whose self-accusing thought
     Whispers: ''twas _he_ that desolation wrought.'

                                                        HEMANS.


"Fire! fire?" Who starts not at that terrible cry?

The terrified women had scarcely told their tale, before all the men in
the "Hargrave Arms" were on their feet, starting into the open air. They
soon perceived cause for alarm. Proceeding from that quarter of the
village where the houses lay closest together, rose a column of smoke
and flame, blown hither and thither by the boisterous wind, which was
spreading the red sparks in every direction, tossing them high in the
air, and then suffering them to fall on some distant cottage, whose
thatched roof rendered it a ready prey.

So rapidly had the fire spread, that several cottages were already
burning, and the men ran hither and thither from one to the other in
consternation, and uncertain what course to pursue to save their
property. All seemed at stake--wives, children, the sick, household
furniture, the cherished articles purchased, perhaps, by long and mutual
saving before marriage, and therefore doubly dear--and these thoughts
occurring to each, confused the movements of all.

But, in the midst of these sudden difficulties, the coolness of the
stranger did not desert him. He had followed his companions from the
inn, to ascertain the cause of alarm, and he was almost immediately
after seen leading his horse. Arresting the attention of old Giles, he
enquired--

"Where shall we send for fire engines?"

"There is not one to be had nearer than Cheltenham," was the reply.

"Now then," cried he, seizing a young man, who was hurrying about,
scarcely knowing what he did, "do you know the road to Cheltenham?"

Being answered in the affirmative, he bade him mount his horse, and ride
as fast as possible in search of engines. Well he knew his own good
steed would die rather than give up the journey, and, though he sighed
as he thought how long the way would be, he dared not reckon his horse's
life against those of his fellow creatures.

His next effort was to bring the scattered crowd a little into order,
for the purpose of checking the rapid spread of the fire. Nothing
secures obedience to a command so much as the decision and coolness with
which it is given; and all were soon engaged in pulling down, at his
suggestion, the cottage which lay nearest to those already burning.

But the futility of the attempt was soon perceived by the sparks leaping
over and catching the roof of a more distant tenement. As soon as the
fire touched it, an up-stair lattice-window was thrown open, and a woman
leaning out, and raising her hands wildly in the air, cried aloud for
help.

"Come down," said the stranger, in a voice distinctly heard above the
tempest, and the confused noises around him, "come down, and you are
safe--nothing hinders you."

"My father!" screamed the woman, "I cannot move him--come up, in mercy,
come to me. Help! help!--we are all on fire!"

The stranger, followed closely by Clair, who, on hearing the tumult had
hurried to the scene, accompanied by his uncle, hastened into the house,
and soon reached the upper room, from which the woman had called for
assistance. The strong fire-light gleaming on all around, disclosed to
their view a room, which made the stranger shudder. A low bedstead,
scarcely raised from the ground, with a box in one corner, on which an
old coat was lying, formed the only furniture of the room; while thin
holes in the lath and plaister wall, let in the cruel blast. On the
floor was lying an old man, with some bed-clothes huddled round him. It
seemed that his daughter had dragged him from the bed; but had been
unable to get him farther than the door.

"Father's been bed-ridden these two years," said the woman, hastily, "he
cannot crawl down stairs, and I cannot carry him."

"You are safe now," said the stranger, in a re-assuring voice. "Follow
us;" and he took the old man up in his powerful arms. "Why do you stay?"
he said, turning at the door. "Could there be anything worth saving,"
thought he, "in this wretched hovel--anything but life?"

The woman soon joined them, bearing in her arms, a small geranium-pot,
and an old Bible.

The stranger turned aside his head, and the old man wondered to see a
tear in his fearless eye.

Gently placing his burden on the ground, he returned to the house, and,
leaning his shoulder against the door, forced its rusty hinges to give
way, then, throwing the scanty mattress upon it, he lifted up the old
man, and placed him securely on this hastily formed litter, which had
been constructed before the woman had time to think of her deliverance.
He then called to two or three able-bodied men,

"For the love of mercy," cried he, "carry this poor man to Aston Manor,
and tell the house-keeper to see to his comfort."

"She'll never open the doors," growled the men in surprise.

"I tell you she will," cried he, as quickly roused by opposition as a
spoilt child, "take him along with you."

Thus urged, the men took up the rude litter, and, attended by the woman
bearing her cherished treasures in her arms, they made as much haste as
could be, to the Manor House, leaving the burning village behind them.
They needed neither moon nor stars to help them on their way, for the
sky was red with light, and the hills around reflected back the
fire--many times had they to rest, and often, as they did so, they
turned their eyes back--where sometimes the attempts of the villagers
would give a temporary check, or, the falling in of some roof, would
damp the flame, and give a moment's hope, till, presently, it would
again burst forth with wilder fury than before.

Then, urged with the desire to get back, or the curiosity to know
whether they would really be admitted beyond the closely shut door of
the Manor House, they moved on more quickly up the narrow pathway which
lay most directly in a line with it. Presently, they perceived a man
hurrying towards them, with a frightened and bewildered air. On coming
closer, they recognised the hated bailiff Rogers--he was one whose
manners, though smooth and oily to his superiors, were, to his
inferiors, blustering and loud; not indeed the off-hand manner which
often accompanies and conceals a good and kindly heart, but rather a
studied recklessness of wounding the feelings of others, a total
forgetfulness of the circumstances and tempers of those dependent on
him, to whom a kind word would have cost him nothing. Alas, since our
feelings are so finely tuned, why are we not more careful how we play on
those of others. But Rogers found that this deliberate carelessness of
offence, was, with the timid, a skilful weapon, for it made them fear
him, and he rejoiced in the influence this fear gave to him. He forgot
in the day of power, how little substance it possesses, or that the sway
of tyranny bears in itself the elements of decay, and must crumble away
before the force of circumstances.

He was evidently at that moment feeling at a disadvantage. His thin,
lanky figure hastily attired, looked not half so important as usual,
and he was trembling within with agitation or cold.

The whole party stopped; and the eldest of the young men, whose
countenance was very far from prepossessing, drawing the bailiff aside,
said, with a low, chuckling kind of laugh--

"Are you going down to the village, sir?"

"Yes," replied Rogers, "I have not come from it very long, and only just
stepped back to the Manor. But why do you ask?"

"Because, if you take my advice, you'll keep as clear of it as you can,
for the men are hot, and you know, sir," he added, with a low laugh,
"they aint all on em very particlar friends o'yourn. I heard words spoke
to-night, as may be you would not like."

"I must go, however," replied Rogers, with a shaky attempt to look
swaggering, "and I should like to see what the cowards dare do."

"I tell you ye'd better not," said the young man, decisively, "but I've
given my warning, I heard some one say, it was very hard if one life
was not lost in the bustle to-night--though I do not like peaching, but
I owe you a good turn for sending Sally Lyn and her old sick father out
of their cottage, that cold Christmas night, at my asking," he added,
with a bitter laugh.

Rogers did not look particularly obliged by this grateful reminder, that
he had once lent himself to his revenge at an easy bribe. As the mingled
smoke and flame rose in columns of awful majesty, like the workings of a
supernatural power, till he felt sickened at the sight, he would have
given a great deal could the young man have recalled one single act of
disinterested mercy.

"Yet I must go," he said, at length, "I cannot help it."

"Well, then, be careful, that is all," replied his companion.

Rogers smiled nervously, and passed slowly on towards the village,
leaving him to join the others, who, anxious to complete their task,
were waiting impatiently for him.

They had not much further to go, and soon entered a side gate from which
a narrow pathway led through a shrubbery of evergreens, round to the
back entrance. Here two or three dogs began to greet them with a loud
bark, giving no very pleasing indications of welcome; and, as they
carried their living burden up the court-yard, they felt half inclined
to turn back or to leave the sick man at the door to speak for himself;
but the woman hastily prevented them by ringing loudly at the bell,
which sounded through the building, making her heart sink. There was
rather a lengthened pause, and, tired with waiting for the unexpected
welcome, and anxious to shift the responsibility from themselves, the
men laid down their burden, and, spite of the woman's entreaties, left
them to their fate. They had scarcely passed the court-yard before they
heard the sound of doors unbolting, but they did not stop to enquire
further, and hurried back to the village, glad to escape from an office
of which they were heartily tired.

On their return, they found the place full of confusion; women and
children, endangered by the falling sparks, were running in all
directions; Mr. Ware, with a bottle of brandy and a glass, was moving
about, giving enough to the fainting men to keep up their strength, and
to encourage them to continue the labour of carrying water to throw upon
the flames.

"We must save the Manor House and the rectory, at least," said the
stranger, to a group of men who thronged around him in despair at the
failure of every effort; "but I see no hope for the thatched cottages."

"And the church," said Mr. Ware; "but that stands alone, and, I hope, is
safe."

"I would not raise my hand," said a sullen voice, which all recognized
as that of Martin the poacher--"I would not raise a hand to save the
Manor House, if I were to die for it."

"Shame on you," said the stranger; "if it be necessary, I will make
you."

"I should like to see how," said Martin, scowling on him; "there is not
many as can make me do as I don't like. And I say, if the master leaves
us to starve, he may take care of his house himself. Share and share
alike. We owe him little enough."

And he turned his eyes towards the fire, and pointed to his own cottage
which was smouldering in ruins.

The stranger fixed his quick eye upon him for a moment, and then turned
to Rogers, who, making his way through the crowd, came up, and whispered
for a few moments in his ear. He bent his head to listen, and then
looking at those around him, he said, as he fixed his keen eye on
Martin.

"I have received a message, which tells me, friends, that Aston Manor is
now open, for the women and children who may like to take refuge in it;
and you may put any of your furniture, which you can save, in the
stables; there it will be in safety. I understand that there are many
fine pictures, statues, and ornaments of every kind there, and I need
not ask you to take care of them."

Every one listened with surprise to this unusual news; but he bade them
hasten to send their wives and children away. "We shall be able to act
better when they are gone, sir," he said, bowing, for the first time, to
Mr. Ware, who failed not to applaud a measure, at once humane and
judicious, since it gave an object, to the discontented, to protect the
mansion should it be necessary.

In a short time, all the children had left the scene; but most of the
women remained, employed in dragging the furniture from the fire, either
laying it in heaps, or carrying it towards the stables.

Suddenly a frightful yell burst upon every ear.

"Some poor creature is in danger," said the stranger, who was the first
to speak--"I thought you had searched the burning houses. Come all of
you."

So saying, he sprang to the nearest cottage, whose blazing roof
threatened every moment to fall in.

Clair followed him closely, crying aloud--

"Do not venture, the roof is coming down--I have searched that place
myself."

But, as he said so, another yell sounded upon their ears.

"The door is tied here," said the stranger, tearing at a well-knotted
cord with impatient violence--but it would not give way. "Help me then,"
he said to Clair; and, leaning his shoulder against the door, the hinge
snapped, though the cord remained firm.

The apartment, on which they thus entered, was bare of anything, save
one living object. Both started, as they beheld the wretched Rogers,
tied round the waist, by a thick cord, to a strong piece of wood which
ran up the side to the ceiling. His eyes were glaring and distended--his
face filled with death-like anguish. Blood was gushing from his mouth
and nostrils, for he had ruptured a blood vessel in his attempts to
free his hands and mouth from the bandages, which appeared to have been
tied over them.

"Wretched man, repent before it is too late," said the stranger, as he
hastened to undo the cords which bound him.

It was not an easy matter, and every moment seemed an age of peril to
the three.

Rogers opened his eyes, wide with horror, upon the stranger, for a
moment, and then turned aside his head and fainted. The room was heated
to suffocation, and fast filling with smoke. Clair felt sick with
horror; but the stranger, whose thought seemed action, raised Rogers in
his arms. With his head laid carefully on his shoulder, and his own
hands and garments dripping in his blood, he bore him out, assisted by
Clair. Scarcely had they cleared the threshold, when the roof fell in,
and the cottage was in ruins.

A shout, from those who had feared to follow, welcomed them as they
appeared; and the stranger staggered through the ruins spread around
him, to the group who anxiously waited them. He singled out Mr. Ware,
and laid his fainting burden at his feet, then, bending his knee in
Eastern fashion before him, he said--

"Father, judge who hath done this, for he is a brother, though a sinful
one."

A murmur of horror passed through the crowd; and Mr. Ware, kneeling by
the side of the hated Rogers, tried to reanimate him.

"He is not dead, sir," said he, in a low voice; "he will live, I trust,
if we can once revive him."

"He will have time to repent, I hope," said old Giles; "bring some water
to moisten his lips, and let us clear the blood from his mouth."

"Will you watch by him, sir?" said the stranger, again addressing Mr.
Ware, "he is too sinful to die; and if he wakes, you can give him
comfort."

"I will," said he, "I will take care of him."

The stranger covered his face with his hands, as if anxious either to
shut out the scenes which had terrified him, or to collect his thoughts.

Then rose a hasty cry, "Widow Dacre's--the fire has taken it--there are
sparks on the roof."

He started, as if with sudden pain, and then ran wildly towards the
hill, at the bottom of which lay the widow's cottage. On its height the
church looked down in its holy stillness, and between both lay the
picturesque thatched cottage belonging to Mrs. Lesly.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

     But when I see the fair wide brow
     Half shaded by the silken hair,
     That never looked so fair as now
     When life and health were laughing there,
     I wonder not that grief should swell
     So wildly upward in the breast,
     And that strong passion once rebel
     That need not, cannot be suppressed.


All hands were now directed to save the small cottage belonging to the
Widow Dacre, but with very little effect, for the wind which came down
from the hills with furious blasts seemed to mock at every effort to
extinguish the fire, while it fanned the faintest spark into a flame,
and then spread it with wonderful rapidity. But it was not for the sake
of the tiny cottage, which its owner had long since vacated, they all
labored so zealously, but because it now seemed a link between the
ruined village and the dwelling which all looked upon with interest.
Romance seemed to have cast a kind of charm round the little family, to
which Mabel belonged.

Upon whose threshold had Mabel's light step been unwelcome? And who was
not ready to protect the roof that sheltered her from danger?

Now, as all eyes watched the building, it was, for the first time,
perceived, that no one stirred within; the shutters were fast closed,
and there was not the slightest sign that the general alarm had reached
it.

"Is it possible," said the stranger, turning to Clair, "that amidst all
this din and confusion they should sleep on and hear nothing?"

"I will go and try to get in," said Clair.

"And I," said the stranger, as they walked both together to the door and
rung the bell, at first gently, but more loudly as they heard no one
moving.

Presently a shuffling step was heard, and a somewhat sulky "Who's
there?" from within.

"It is I," said Clair, "open the door, for the village is on fire."

The door was immediately thrown open and old John the gardener staggered
back as he perceived the red sky, which glared above him on all sides.

"The ladies!--" he exclaimed.

"We will take care of them, only go and dress, and then come and help
us," said Clair.

John speedily availed himself of this permission, and then, with
considerable coolness, he hurried to the stable after his mistress's
Bath chair, which had not seen the light for many a month.

Meanwhile, the two gentleman hurried up stairs; they had, however,
scarcely reached the landing-place, when they heard a shout from the
outside, which made the stranger spring back down the stairs to
ascertain the cause, begging Clair to remain. The latter, accordingly,
began to search for the bed-rooms inhabited by Mrs. Lesly and her
daughter. Having hastily tapped at one, and receiving no answer, he did
not hesitate to open it. Here a night lamp was dimly burning, and, when
he looked at the heavy oak shutters, and the closely drawn curtains, and
perceived the stillness within, he no longer wondered that they slept.
This was Mrs. Lesly's room, and, on a bed at her feet, reposed the
faithful servant Betsy, and so soundly that Clair had to shake her with
some little violence before he could awaken her. Her expressions of
terror soon roused Mrs. Lesly, to whom Clair explained as much as he
thought proper, begging her to get up and allow him to take her from the
house, should it be necessary, saying he would wait for her on the
outside.

She needed no second bidding, but suffered the affrighted Betsy to
assist her to rise. Clair left the room with the intention of conveying
the same warning to Mabel, but, before he could do so, the stranger
hurried to him, and, seizing him by the hand, he wrung it wildly,
saying,

"That shout told that the back part of the house is already burning.
Will you take care of Mrs. Lesly and her maid? promise me not to leave
them till they are safe, and I hope I can manage the rest."

There was one other duty which Clair would willingly have chosen, but
there was now no time for parley, and the eager pressure of the hand,
which the stranger returned for his promise, made him no longer regret
it. But, as he leant against the wall of the passage, waiting for Mrs.
Lesly, his countenance became more and more haggard in appearance, and
his bloodless lips and heavy eyes rather spoke of mental pain than the
fatigue of bodily exertion.

But, there was not much time to think, the passage in which he waited
began to feel intolerably warm, and the air gradually thickened with
smoke.

He then called eagerly to Mrs. Lesly, and once again entering the room
where poor Betsy was sobbing with alarm, he hastily finished her
preparations, by taking up an immense cloak which lay on the floor, and
wrapping it round the poor invalid, who was coughing violently from the
exertion of dressing, he hurried her from the room, and down stairs to
the open air.

Here he was rejoiced to see the faithful gardener.

"Put missis in here," he said, dragging the chair forward, which he had
provided for her--"for I don't know which'll do her most harm, the fire
or the air."

"That's right," said Clair, placing her in it, and as he did so,
stooping down kindly, to sooth her anxiety for her children, and
covering her up from the night air, which blew chilly upon her, for she
had not left her bed for several weeks.

Hiding her eyes with her pocket-handkerchief, she turned away at once
from the terrific scene before her, and the many cherished objects of
her home, soon, perhaps, to be the spoil of the raging fire. A thousand
recollections crowded upon her mind, which was too sensitive, and too
delicately framed for the struggles of common life. The acuteness of her
feelings, added bitterness to every trial, by representing them to her
in the most touching, and even poetical light, till her heart was
entirely overcome by the sufferings she was too skilled in describing to
herself. In vain Clair endeavoured to comfort her, as he accompanied her
a little way on the road to the Manor House, when, finding his presence
of little service, he left her in the hands of her careful servant, and
hastened back to afford any assistance he could offer to the sisters.

During his absence, the stranger had not been idle; assured of Mrs.
Lesly's safety by the promise which Clair had given him; he turned to
another door, and, too impatient to summon its owner, he opened it
gently. Here, too, a lamp was burning, and the light that it spread
around, was quite sufficient for his rapid gaze. He turned to the bed
where lay the beautiful, delicately shaped child; her countenance still
wet with tears, yet serene and happy as if her dreams were not of earth.
Mabel's head lay upon the same pillow; the little hand in hers, and the
rich curls of her chestnut hair, half concealing her face; she seemed,
in her motionless slumber, like some trusting child, who knows that
watchful eyes guard her from danger--yet sorrow in many shapes, had
been, and was still around her.

He paused--the hasty call which would have wakened both, died upon his
lips; and he stood, as if entranced, and forgetful of the danger which
every moment's delay increased. He bent forward, and earnestly
contemplated the sleepers, and, as he did so, a smile passed over
Mabel's face, and she murmured something which made him listen still
more earnestly.

But, now she starts, her bosom heaves as if something troubled her.
Again, she sleeps--but only to start again--her hand unclasps, she turns
as if in pain--then, leaping to her feet--she suddenly stands before
him--yet scarcely roused from the dream which had awakened her.

Light, brighter than the moon, and more glowing than the sunshine,
streamed in upon the room, and rendered the stranger's face clearly
visible; Mabel's eyes fixed upon him with something between terror and
surprise; she tried to speak, but her lips trembled so convulsively,
that she could not utter a sound--she tried to advance, but she felt
that his eye quelled every movement; and what did that dark look mean,
with which he regarded her; and why, as it grew more dark, did Mabel's
form become more erect, while her lips curled, her cheeks flushed
crimson, and her eye also fixed on his, flashed with a fiery pride,
which but seldom showed itself upon her face. Yet, this was but for a
moment, for the stranger taking the cloak which he had brought for the
purpose, he threw it round her, and raising her almost from the ground
with the rapidity of his movements, he hurried her from the room, and
down the stairs. When they reached the garden, he loosened his hold, and
suffered the cloak, which had entirely covered her face and head, to
fall back. Mabel looked wildly round; a busy crowd was about the house;
the sickly smell of fire was in the air, and, as she gazed back, she saw
flames bursting from the lower windows of their cottage. In an instant
she had freed herself, and springing past him with a wild cry of terror
and agony, she entered the house, and through the smoke and sparks
scattered about her, she was once again by Amy's side, who was awake,
and greatly terrified; and, as Mabel threw herself upon her knees
beside her, she cried:--

"Do not leave me, Mabel dear--I shall die if you do."

"Leave you, my darling," cried Mabel, "nothing but death shall part us."

"If you had waited but a moment, I would have brought her to you," said
the stranger.

"Oh, why did you think of me first," cried Mabel.

"'Twas wrong, perhaps," said the stranger; "but it made only the
difference of a few moments. Come, my child," said he, stooping to lift
her from her couch.

"No, no," said Mabel, "you must take couch and all. Oh!" said she,
wringing her hands, "will no one come and help you?"

"I am not afraid of fire," said a gruff voice, and Martin entered; "I'll
help, but you must make haste."

"But my Mamma, where is she?" exclaimed Mabel.

"She is safe, and the two servants are with her."

"Oh then, dear Amy, let us go to them," she said; and, in a quick but
concise manner, she explained how the springs of the couch might be
altered, so as to render the carriage of it more easy.

The counterpane was then laid closely over, and a shawl placed over
Amy's face, and the stranger and Martin, carrying the couch, proceeded
carefully to leave the house--Mabel, bending over her sister, and
soothing her at every step, while she placed herself in the way of
anything which was blowing towards them, seemingly forgetful of her own
safety; but, though nothing shielded her, she passed through the fire
entirely uninjured.

Occupied as all were, each with his separate interests, few could resist
a feeling of admiration for the beautiful girl, who, in her own simple
neighbourhood, had won so much of the love of those around her.

Bending over the couch, which the stranger and Martin bore between them,
her hair blown in wild disorder about her face, which shewed a thousand
mingled feelings, as she sometimes turned, shrinking, from the terrible
scene around her, to which she had so suddenly awakened--sometimes,
looking up in strange bewilderment, but always, with out-stretched
hands, placing her unprotected figure between the loved child, and the
sparks and timbers, which were repeatedly blown across the road; she
looked like some wild and beautiful spirit of the storm, which it had no
power to harm. The uneasy motion gave the greatest anguish to poor Amy,
who, though usually so patient, uttered shriek after shriek of agony,
which pierced the hearts of those who hurried round in the vain hope of
affording assistance. At every turn they took, fresh torturing cries
broke from the little sufferer, who, agonised with pain, and terrified
at the scene around her, lost every power of self-control.

Entirely overcome by the cries, of the poor little sufferer, Mabel
entreated them to stop, and rather to lay her on the road side, than
take her further; Martin, who, though a bold, and not an over humane
man, looked pale and sick with the duty he had undertaken, readily
suggested that they might place her in the lodge, which had long been
deserted by its owner--an old woman--who had taken refuge with the
children at the Manor House.

To this the stranger consented; and, after some little difficulty, they
contrived to lay her in the old woman's room.

"It is the hardest night's work I've ever had," said Martin, as he
turned away. "I'll go and send some one to her, sir, as will do more
good than I can."

Poor Amy's shrieks had been heart-rending when they laid her down; but
shortly afterwards, they subsided into a low moaning sound.

"Though there's plenty of fire," said Martin, "I don't think there's a
candle left in all the place; but I'll find one if I can."

He then went away, and the stranger alone remained, for no one else had
followed so far but Clair, who had now gone to call his aunt.

"Can I do anything more for you?" said the stranger, in a voice
trembling with emotion.

Mabel raised her eyes, and as they met his for an instant, a warm blush
overspread her pale countenance.

"Bless you for what you have done," she murmured, despairingly.

"Water?" said Amy, opening her eyes.

Mabel turned entreatingly to the stranger, who, without another word,
left the room.

Martin soon afterwards returned with a light, and placed it on the
floor, and Mabel again entreated for water to moisten Amy's parched
lips; but it was more difficult to obtain than she imagined, for the
whole furniture of the house had been long since removed, and the empty
cupboard looked comfortless indeed.

But, in a short while, the stranger returned, and presented her with a
cup of pure water, which she eagerly gave to Amy.

"Thank you, sir," said Amy, gently, "and thank you for carrying me. Did
you mind my crying? I felt very ill, and could not help it," she looked
at him timidly. "Sir," she continued, rousing herself with an energy
which surprised him, "Mabel will soon be alone. Do you think any one
will comfort her, and take care of her?"

"May I," said he, to Mabel, suddenly moving towards them, "may I speak
to her alone?"

"Yes, yes," said Amy, eagerly, "let him speak to me."

"Her time is precious;" said Mabel, rising reluctantly, "do not keep me
from her long."

"No, I will not, but a few minutes," said the stranger, hurriedly, and
Mabel leaving the room went into the open air, and, leaning against the
door way, she tried to tranquillize her thoughts. The village was shut
out by the tall trees which surrounded the entrances to the Manor House,
and the low sighing of the wind, which was now beginning to sink, was
the only sound which met her ear, while the busy clouds, dimly lighted
by the occasional appearance of the moon, traced their way across the
heavens. There were wild thoughts in her own mind, which made her heart
beat tumultuously. With a sudden burst of anguish, she threw herself
upon her knees, and laid her forehead upon the cold earth in the
bitterness of her soul.

She only rose when she heard the stranger's step, and then, passing him
quickly, for she dared not trust herself to speak, she re-entered the
room.

Amy's cheeks were flushed, and the look of pain seemed entirely to have
passed away. Her eyes were bright, "as if gazing on visions of
ecstasy," while over her white countenance was spread a halo, at once so
childlike and so serene that Mabel stepped more softly and knelt in
silence by her side.

Amy put out her hand, and fondly stroked her cheeks and smoothed her
hair.

"You are very beautiful, Mabel dear," she said, with gentle pride, as if
she spoke to her own thoughts, "and you look more and more beautiful
because you are so good, and what pretty hair," she said, still speaking
to herself, while her sister blushed unconsciously at her praises.

"Oh, it is a dear, good Mabel," said Amy, fondly; then changing her
tone, and dropping her hands upon her bosom with simple devotion, she
said, softly--

"Sing me to sleep."

Mabel made a strong effort to overcome her emotion.

"I hear old John outside," said Amy, suddenly, though her sister could
hear nothing, "but I cannot see him," and her eyes filled with tears,
"but will you tell him to let no one else come, for I want to be alone a
little while, I feel better with you. Ah, poor mamma," she added,
thoughtfully, "but I cannot see her either, to-night."

Old John was at the door as Amy had said, and Mabel telling him to keep
any one from coming in, as Amy was going to sleep, returned to her and
then began the evening hymn. Sweetly did those beautiful lines sound,
breathed in low and trembling melody, but she had scarcely finished the
third verse when sobs stopped her utterance, she was, however, trying to
go on, but Amy laid her hand upon her lips.

"Don't go on, Mabel, dear, I shall soon hear angels' music. They are
waiting for me now, but I must go alone," she said, "and your dear voice
is the last sound I wished to hear on earth. Do not leave me," she
added, seeing her attempt to rise, "you have done all that can be done
for me, and you must not go away now."

Mabel saw indeed that it was too late to call for assistance, and she
scarcely breathed, lest a word might escape her ear.

"You have been very kind to me," murmured Amy, in faint accents, "and it
is very hard to part, but listen, listen," said she, holding up her tiny
hand; then, as if the sound were dying away, her hand fell softly down,
and all was over. A holy stillness stole over the chamber of death,
unbroken by a sound, for Mabel's anguish was too great for tears.

The old gardener had seated himself on the door step, and tears chased
each other down his weather beaten cheeks, as he listened to Mabel's low
singing, and remembered how often the voices of both had mingled in gay
and thrilling merriment, which had made his old heart dance, when he had
pretended not even to hear them.

"Ah," thought he, "let the old house burn since they that made it glad
are going or gone." But then came thoughts of the sunny garden, made
more pleasant by the cheerful faces and glad voices now hushed by death
or sorrow, his grief burst out afresh, and, burying his head in, his
knees, he gave himself up to old recollections, heedless of every thing
about him.

                             END OF VOL. I.


      T. C. Newby, Printer, 30, Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square.



Transcriber's Note


"_" surrounding a word or phrase represents the use of italics in the
original text.

Obvious typographical errors were corrected, as listed below. Other
apparent inconsistencies and errors have been retained, including a
mixture of British and American word usages. Perceptible missing or
incorrect punctuation or capitalization has been silently restored and
hyphenation has been made consistent. Period spellings, punctuation and
grammatical uses have been kept.

Page 5 and 332, "chesnut" changed to "chestnut". (Wide spreading oaks
and tall beeches, with the graceful birch and chestnut trees bending
their lower branches nearly to the green turf beneath,...)

Page 8, "of" changed to "or". (Though a little under the middle height,
there was a gentle dignity in his manner that could scarcely fail to be
noticed, or if not noticed, it was sure to be felt.)

Page 10 and 206, "recal" changed to "recall". (... we sigh to think that
childhood is gone--but no sigh will recall it.)

Page 22, "comtemplating" changed to "contemplating". (By the fire was
seated a strong hale young man, with his hands upon his knees,
contemplating it with gloomy fixedness.)

Page 23, "morniny" changed to "morning". ('_cursed is he that keepeth a
man's wages all night by him until the morning_,')

Page 23, "no" changed to "not". ("It is very hard, I allow, Martin,"
said Mr. Ware, "but the wrong done you does not excuse your sitting here
idle; have you been trying for work?")

Page 28, "therfore" changed to "therefore". (Besides, I do not much
approve of giving where it can be avoided; and, therefore, husband my
means for the scarcity of the coming winter.)

Page 50, "eommon" changed to "common". (I would not have any one
indifferent on common subjects, but too great attention to things of
this kind must be wrong.)

Page 61, "thonght" changed to "thought". (... so I thought it best to
avoid Mary Watson, as I could scarcely hope you would do her very much
good, and she might do you harm.)

The third paragraph on page 62 appears to contain speech from both Amy
and Mabel, and inconsistent use of double quotation marks. This has been
left as it appears in the original.

Page 72, "stffliy" changed to "stiffly". (Mrs. Villars was of imposing
appearance, though too bustling in her manners to be altogether
dignified, with colour a little too brilliant, and hair a little too
stiffly curled, to be quite natural.)

Page 85, "subjecttion" changed to "subjection". (I should think he was
too easily won to be kept long in subjection.)

Page 98, "seeemed" changed to "seemed". (It seemed that he had been in
the constant habit, of confiding every thing to her, and had always
found an admiring listener to his thoughts on most subjects.)

Page 99, "opprtunity" changed to "opportunity". (... he courted every
opportunity of disputing with them on the nature of their opinions.)

Page 104, "let" changed to "left". (Without another word to Mabel, he
left us, and I have never seen him since.)

Page 104, "wisper" changed to "whisper". (Amy sat upon her pillow nearly
all day, and would whisper, 'don't cry, dear Mabel.')

Page 116, extra "you," deleted. ("I meant it most kindly, I do assure
you," you," said Mrs. Lesly.)

Page 124, "Leslie" changed to "Lesly" for consistency. ("Well, dear,"
said Mrs. Lesly,...)

Page 124, "droppiing" changed to "dropping". ("My money," said Mrs.
Lesly, with unusual gravity, "has been reduced for your sake, to a very
few hundreds, a mere trifle, but my children!" exclaimed she, suddenly
dropping her pen, and clasping her hands convulsively.)

Page 127, "than" changed to "then". (... where right and wrong is
concerned; and then come second thoughts--why did she wait for them?)

Page 139, "und" changed to "and". (The gardens are very beautiful, and
every thing else in keeping.)

Page 150, "any ony one" changed to "any one". ("Well," said Miss Ware,
recovering from her slight pique, at thinking any one could succeed
where Edwin failed, "if you never use your ridicule for a worse purpose,
you will do well.")

Page 158, "siezed" changed to "seized". (Lucy Villars gladly seized the
opportunity of commencing a flirting conversation with Captain Clair,
who, being well drilled in the accomplishment of small talk, by long
practice, easily fell into a _tête-à-tête_.)

Page 163, "compostion" changed to "composition". (My dear uncle, you
should allow a prisoner to state his own case fairly--if he has not
studied Burke on the 'Sublime and Beautiful,' the 'Patriot King,' and
other models of pure English composition, you must let a poor fellow
express himself as he can, so that he speaks the truth.)

Page 164, 201 and 213, "Clare" changed to "Clair" for consistency.
(Clair bowed, and then said almost in a whisper: "Thank you, I was
wrong," and continued his narrative, after a moment's pause.)

Page 169, "n" changed to "in". (... yet, almost slothful in the attempt
to do so.)

Page 173, "hm" changed to "him". ("Oh! Lucy," cried Mabel, "how could
you be so imprudent as to go up there alone--how impertinent of him--why
did you let him take such a liberty.")

Page 187, "fee" changed to "feel". (The kindhearted very soon begin to
feel an interest in those who are thrown much with them, and, though
Lucy presented many faults to her notice, Mabel learnt to watch her with
great interest.)

Page 188, "Clari" changed to "Clair". (It soon became evident to her
that she was perfectly in earnest in her attempts to engage the
affections of Captain Clair ...)

Page 202, "answe" changed to "answer". (... which she would have fled
miles to have escaped hearing, was the only answer sentence thus given.)

Page 224, "past" changed to "passed". (Little Amy's sweet voice rings in
my ear wherever I go--such as it was when I first saw her, when she
looked up from the wild wreath she was twining, to give some kind word
to the laborers as they passed her, the morning after my coming here.)

Page 228, "forning" changed to "forming". ("Be not be too hasty in
forming your judgment," replied Clair.)

Page 235, "edying" changed to "eddying". (... and the withered leaves as
they spin round in the eddying wind, seem to call attention to
themselves, and to ask what men have been doing since they budded forth
in the gay spring, full of hope and promise to the sons of earth.)

Page 238, "highter" changed to "higher". (... if I mistake not, the
opinion you now entertain of her, arises from comparison with another
character of a higher standard.)

Page 274, "attemps" changed to "attempts". (... while her attempts to
divert the conversation, only renewed her companion's desire to obtain
an account of all she had been doing and seeing.)

Page 278, "errect" changed to "erect". (Not, now, with his head bent,
and his hands extended over the dying embers of his wood fire, but with
head erect in a comfortable corner, with the air of a man whose opinions
are respected, and whose words claim immediate attention.)

Page 286, extra "you" deleted. ("Do not talk in that way," said old
Giles, gently, "if I am content with my house, you should not make it a
cause for dispute.")

Page 290, "did'nt" changed to "didn't". (He often looked as if he'd got
some one looking over his shoulder as he didn't over relish--ha, ha!)

Page 294, "yonr" changed to "your". (If you ever feel as I did, do not
ask questions, and put yourself wrong, and then try and set yourself
right by your own judgment, as I did;)

Page 301, "repectful" changed to "respectful". (Your most devoted and
respectful ARTHUR CLAIR.)

Page 302, "altogther" changed to "altogether". (Some of their little
property she knew rested in the hands of an improvident and extravagant
aunt, and the remainder of their income would fail altogether when her
mother's pension dropped.)

Page 303, "footfal" changed to "footfall". (... she who could scarcely
hear the sound of a heavy footfall without pain, or be moved, without
the greatest agony, from the couch on which she constantly lay.)

Page 326, "wonnderful" changed to "wonderful". (... for the wind which
came down from the hills with furious blasts seemed to mock at every
effort to extinguish the fire, while it fanned the faintest spark into a
flame, and then spread it with wonderful rapidity.)

Page 331, "touehing" changed to "touching". (The acuteness of her
feelings, added bitterness to every trial, by representing them to her
in the most touching, and even poetical light,...)

Page 332, "haud" changed to "hand". (Mabel's head lay upon the same
pillow; the little hand in hers, and the rich curls of her chestnut
hair, half concealing her face;)

Page 344, "murmered" changed to "murmured". ("You have been very kind to
me," murmured Amy ...)





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