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Title: Chetwynd Calverley - New Edition, 1877
Author: Ainsworth, William Harrison
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chetwynd Calverley - New Edition, 1877" ***

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CHETWYND CALVERLEY

By William Harrison Ainsworth,

Author Of "Constable Of The Tower,"

"Lord Mayor Of London,"

"The Tower Of London,"

"Cardinal Pole," Etc.

New Edition.

Chapman And Hall, 193 Piccadilly. 1877.



CHETWYND CALVERLEY.



INTRODUCTION.--THE YOUNG STEPMOTHER.

I. OUSELCROFT.

|One summer evening, Mildred Calverley, accounted the prettiest girl in
Cheshire, who had been seated in the drawing-room of her father's house,
Ouselcroft, near Daresbury, vainly trying to read, passed out from the
open French window, and made her way towards two magnificent cedars of
Lebanon, at the farther end of the lawn.

She was still pacing the lawn with distracted steps, when a well-known
voice called out to her, and a tall figure emerged from the shade of the
cedars, and Mildred uttered a cry of mingled surprise and delight.

"Is that you, Chetwynd?"

"Ay I don't you know your own brother, Mildred?"

And as they met, they embraced each other affectionately.

"Have you been here long, Chetwynd?" she asked. "Why didn't you come
into the house?"

"I didn't know whether I should be welcome, Mildred. Tell me how all is
going on?"

"Then you have not received my letters, addressed to Bellagio and Milan?
I wrote to tell you that papa is very seriously ill, and begged you to
return immediately. Did you get the letters?"

"No; in fact, I have heard nothing at all from any one of you, directly
nor indirectly, for more than two months."

"How extraordinary! But how can the letters have miscarried?"

"I might give a guess, but you would think me unjustly suspicious. Is my
father really ill, Mildred?"

"Really very seriously ill. About a month ago he caught a bad cold, and
has never since been able to shake it off. Doctor Spencer, who has been
attending him the whole time, didn't apprehend any danger at first; but
now he almost despairs of papa's recovery."

"Gracious heaven!" exclaimed the young man; "I didn't expect to be
greeted by this sad intelligence!"

"You have only just come in time to see papa alive! Within the last few
days a great change for the worse has taken place in him. Mamma has been
most attentive, and has scarcely ever left him."

"She is acting her part well, it seems," cried Chetwynd, bitterly. "But
don't call her mamma when you speak of her to me, Mildred. Let it be
Mrs. Calverley, if you please."

"I don't wish to pain you, Chetwynd, but I must tell you the truth. Mrs.
Calverley, as you desire me to call her, has shown the greatest devotion
to her husband, and Doctor Spencer cannot speak too highly of her. She
has had a great deal to go through, I assure you. Since his illness,
poor papa has been very irritable and fretful, and would have tried
anybody's patience--but she has an angelic temper."

"You give her an excellent character, Mildred," he remarked, in a
sceptical tone.

"I give her the character she deserves, Chetwynd. Everybody will tell
you the same thing. All the servants idolise her. You know what my
opinion of her is, and how dearly I love her. She is quite a model of a
wife."

"Don't speak of her in those rapturous terms to me, Mildred, unless you
desire to drive me away. I can't bear it. I wish to think kindly of
my father now. He has caused me much unhappiness, but I forgive him. I
never can forgive _her_."

"I own you have a good deal to complain of, Chetwynd, and I have always
pitied you."

"You are the only person who does pity me, I fancy, Mildred. It is not
often that a man is robbed of his intended bride by his own father.
It is quite true that Teresa and I had quarrelled, and that my father
declared if I didn't marry her, he would marry her himself. But I didn't
expect he would put his threats into execution--still less that she
would accept him. I didn't know the fickleness of your sex."

"It is entirely your own fault, Chetwynd, that this has happened," said
his sister. "But I know how much you have suffered in consequence of
your folly and hasty temper, and I won't, therefore, reproach you.
Whatever your feelings may be, it is your duty to control them now. Papa
passed a very bad night, and sent this morning for Mr. Carteret, the
attorney, and gave him instructions to prepare his will."

"I always understood he had made his will, Mildred. He made a handsome
settlement upon--his wife?"

"It is as I tell you, Chetwynd. Mr. Carteret was alone with him in his
room for nearly two hours this morning; and I believe he was directed to
prepare the will without delay, and to return with it this evening."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Chetwynd, gloomily. "That bodes ill to me--to both
of us, in fact. He will leave all his property to Teresa--to his wife, I
am certain of it."

"Nothing of the sort, Chetwynd!" cried his sister. "Come into the house,
and see him."

"If he has made up his mind to commit this act of folly and injustice,
all I can say won't prevent it. Ah, here is Carteret!" he exclaimed, as
a mail phaeton entered the lodge gate, and drove up to the hall door.

The attorney and his clerk descended; and, leaving his carriage to the
care of a groom, Mr. Carteret rang the bell.

"Come in at once, Chetwynd, and you will be able to see papa before Mr.
Carteret is admitted. Come with me--quick!"

Chetwynd suffered himself to be persuaded, and passed through the
drawing-room window with his sister.

But he was too late. The attorney and his clerk had already gone
upstairs.



II. TERESA.

|Chetwynd, only son of Mr. Hugh Calverley, a retired Liverpool
merchant, residing at Ouselcroft, in Cheshire, was somewhat singularly
circumstanced, as will have been surmised from the conversation just
recounted--but he had only himself to blame.

Rather more than a year ago--when he was just of age--he had fallen
in love with his father's ward, Teresa Mildmay, a young lady of great
personal attractions, but very small fortune--had proposed to her, and
been accepted.

Teresa had lost both her parents. Her mother, Lady Eleanor Mildmay,
daughter of Lord Rockingham, died when she was quite a child. Her
father, General Mildmay, an Indian officer of distinction, was one of
Mr. Calverley's most intimate friends, and hence it chanced that the
latter was appointed Teresa's guardian.

General Mildmay's demise occurred at Cheltenham about two years prior
to the commencement of our story. By her guardian's desire, Teresa then
came to reside with his daughter at Ouselcroft. Though Mildred was two
or three years younger than her friend, and they were very dissimilar in
character, a sisterly affection subsisted between them. Originating when
they were at school together at Brighton, their friendship had never
since been disturbed. To Mildred, therefore, it was a source of the
greatest satisfaction when Teresa took up her abode with them.

The two girls differed as much in personal appearance as in character.
Both were remarkably goodlooking. Teresa Mildmay had a very striking
countenance. Her features were classical in mould, her complexion dark,
her eyes magnificent, and arched over by thick black brows. Her tresses
were black as jet, luxuriant, and of a silky texture, and were always
dressed in a manner that best suited her. Her figure was lofty and
beautifully proportioned. The expression of her face was decidedly
proud--too proud to be altogether agreeable. Nevertheless, she was
extremely admired.

Teresa possessed great good sense and good judgment, and was looked upon
by her guardian as a model of prudence and propriety. As he frequently
consulted her upon household matters, and, indeed, asked her advice upon
many other points, she naturally acquired considerable influence over
him.

A very charming girl was Mildred, though her style was quite different
from that of Teresa. She was a blonde. A ravishingly fair complexion,
a dimpled cheek, a lip fashioned like a Cupid's bow, teeth like
pearls--these constituted her attractions. Her figure was slight, but
perfectly symmetrical, and nothing could be sweeter than her smile.

Such were the two fair inmates of Ouselcroft, before a change took place
in the establishment.

Having proposed to his father's beautiful ward, as we have stated, and
been accepted, Chetwynd, who could not brook delay, was anxious that the
marriage should take place at once.

To this, however, the prudent Teresa objected. She was of a cold
temperament, and reflection convinced her that she had not done wisely
in accepting Chetwynd; but for several reasons she hesitated to break
off the engagement. She did not like to lose a comfortable home, and
hoped that the young man, who had hitherto been very careless and
extravagant, might turn over a new leaf.

In this expectation, she was disappointed. Chetwynd was very handsome
and agreeable, and had many good qualities, but his temper was
excessively irritable, and he was reckless in regard to expense. His
Oxford debts, which were heavy, had been paid by his father, and he
then promised amendment, but did not keep his word. On the contrary, he
continued his extravagant courses. Though intended for the law, he would
not study, but led a mere life of pleasure--riding daily in the parks,
and visiting all public places of amusement; and his father, who was a
great deal too indulgent, did not check him.

On his return to Ouselcroft, after an absence of a couple of months,
during which he had not deemed it necessary to write to Teresa, she
received him very coldly; and provoked by her manner, he told her next
day, when they were alone, that he did not think he should be happy with
her.

"If you really believe so, Chetwynd," she said, "the marriage ought not
to take place. I release you from your engagement."

The remarkable calmness--almost indifference--with which she spoke,
piqued him, and he exclaimed:

"Very well; I accept it! There is an end of all between us!"

Scarcely were the words uttered, than he repented, and would have
recalled them. He looked appealingly at her, but she seemed so cold,
that he became fortified in his resolution.

Mr. Calverley soon learnt what had happened from Mildred; but, feeling
sure he could set matters right, he sent for his son, and insisted on
his marrying Miss Mildmay, on pain of his severest displeasure.

Chetwynd refused point blank.

"You won't?" cried the old gentleman, ready to explode.

"I have already given you an answer, sir," rejoined his son. "I adhere
to my determination! Pray don't put yourself in a passion. It won't have
any effect upon me!"

"Very well," said Mr. Calverley, with difficulty controlling his rage.
"Since you decline to fulfil your engagement, I'll marry her myself!"

"Ridiculous!" cried his son.

"Ridiculous or not, you'll find I shall be as good as my word."

"Pshaw! The young lady won't accept you."

He was mistaken, however.

The young lady _did_ accept the old gentleman, and so readily that it
almost seemed she preferred him to his son. Within a month, they were
married.

Before the marriage Chetwynd went abroad, and did not keep up any
communication with his family. They ascertained, however, that he was at
Bellagio, on the Lake of Como.

Apparently, Mr. Calverley had no reason to regret the extraordinary
step he had taken. Teresa made him an excellent wife, and seemed quite
devoted to him. She studied him in everything--read the newspaper to him
of a morning, chatted agreeably to him when they drove out together in
the barouche, played and sang to him in the evening, and, in short,
kept him constantly amused. She managed his large establishment
perfectly--better than it had ever been managed before. She quarrelled
with none of his old friends--even though she might deem some of
them bores--but always appeared delighted to see them. Above all, she
continued on the most affectionate terms with Mildred, who had never
disapproved of the match. Nothing could be more judicious than her
conduct.

At first, everybody cried out Mr. Calverley was an "old fool;" but they
soon said he was a very sensible man, and exceedingly fortunate.

He was not, however, destined to enjoy a long term of happiness.
Hitherto, he had scarcely known a day's illness; but a few months after
his marriage his health began rapidly to decline.

Teresa tended him with the greatest solicitude.



III. MR. CALVERLEY.

|Repairing to the invalid's chamber, we shall find Mr. Calverley seated
in an easy-chair, his head supported by a pillow. For nearly a fortnight
he had not left his bed, but he insisted on getting up that day.

He had been a fine-looking old gentleman; but he was now wonderfully
reduced, and his attire hung loosely on him. Still his countenance was
very handsome.

His young wife was seated on a tabouret by his side, watching him
anxiously with her large black eyes. She was wrapped in an Indian
shawl dressing-gown, which could not conceal her perfectly-proportioned
figure.

"Give me a glass of wine, Teresa," he said, in a scarcely audible voice.
"I feel that dreadful faintness coming on again."

She eagerly obeyed him.

With difficulty he conveyed the wine to his lips; but having swallowed
it, he seemed better.

Taking his wife's hand, he looked at her earnestly, as he thus addressed
her:

"I must soon leave you, Teresa. Nay, do not interrupt me. I know what
you would say. It must be, my love. I cannot be deceived as to my state.
You have been an excellent wife, Teresa--a great comfort to me--a very
great comfort. You are aware I have given my solicitor, Mr. Carteret,
instructions respecting my will. I will now tell you what I have done.
I have the most perfect confidence in you, Teresa, and I know you will
carry out my instructions."

"Be sure of it, my dear," she murmured.

"Teresa," he continued, speaking very deliberately, "I have left my
entire property to you."

"To me!" she ejaculated, a slight flush tinging her pale cheek. "Oh,
love, it is not right you should do this! I am amply provided for
already by the handsome settlement you made upon me, and I tell you at
once, if you leave me your property, I shall not keep it. I shall divide
it between Chetwynd and Mildred."

A faint smile lighted up the features of the dying man.

"I had formed a correct opinion of you, Teresa," he said, looking at her
affectionately. "I know the goodness of your heart and the rectitude of
your principles."

Then, slightly changing his manner, he added, "I must now make an effort
to explain myself, and I pray you to give strict attention to what I am
about to say. I have left you the whole of my property, because I feel
certain it will be placed in safe hands, and I mean you to represent
myself."

"I listen!" she murmured.

"First, with regard to Chetwynd. I do not exactly know how he is
circumstanced, but I fear he is in debt. He has always been extravagant.
I think it will be best to continue the allowance I have hitherto made
him, of six hundred a year, for the present; and if he marries, or
reforms, let him have thirty thousand pounds."

"It shall be done exactly as you enjoin," said his wife, earnestly.

"Beyond the sum I have settled on you, Teresa," continued the old man,
"I estimate my property at sixty thousand pounds. Of this one half is
to go to Chetwynd, provided he reforms; the other half to Mildred, on
her marriage, provided she marries with your consent. This house, with
the plate, pictures, books, furniture, carriages, and horses, and all
the lands attached to it, are yours--for life."

"Oh! you are too good to me!" she exclaimed, her eyes filling with
tears.

"I have now told you all!" he said. "I leave you mistress of everything;
and; since you know my wishes, I am sure you will act up to them."

"I will! I will!" she ejaculated, in broken accents.

"Enough! I shall now die content!"

He then closed his eyes, and his lips slightly moved, as if in prayer.

Teresa constrained her emotion by a strong effort; and, for a few
minutes, perfect silence prevailed.

The door was then softly opened by an elderly manservant, out of livery,
who came to inform his master that Mr. Carteret had returned.

"Show him up at once, Norris," said Mr. Calverley, opening his eyes.

"His clerk is with him," said the butler.

"Show the clerk up as well," rejoined the old gentleman.

"Shall I withdraw?" asked Mrs. Calverley, as the butler retired.

"Perhaps you had better, my dear, till the will is signed," replied her
husband.

Mrs. Calverley remained till the attorney appeared, and having exchanged
a word in a low tone with him, left the room.



IV. FATHER AND SON.

|Tall and thin, and very business-like in manner, was Mr. Carteret.
Sitting down quietly beside the old gentleman, and taking the will from
his clerk, he proceed to read it.

Though conducted with due deliberation, the ceremony did not occupy many
minutes, and when the attorney had finished reading the document, Mr.
Calverley declared himself perfectly satisfied.

"All you have to do is to sign it, sir," said the attorney.

Accordingly, a small table was placed beside the invalid's chair, and
the will was duly executed and attested.

"Pray call in my wife," said Mr. Calverley, as soon as this was done.

When Mrs. Calverley re-appeared, she was informed by her husband that
the will was executed.

"Yes; the business is done, madam," observed Mr. Carteret, with a very
singular expression of countenance.

"Shall I leave the document with you, sir?"

"No; take charge of it," replied Mr. Calverley.

"Well, perhaps, it will be best with me," observed the attorney, glancing
at the lady as he spoke.

He was in the act of tying up the instrument preparatory to consigning
it to his clerk, when the door opened, and Chetwynd and his sister came
in.

The old gentleman looked greatly startled by the unexpected appearance
of his son, and did not, for a few moments, recover his composure.

Scarcely knowing what might ensue, Mrs. Calverley stepped between them.

"I was not aware of your return, Chetwynd," said Mr. Calverley, as soon
as he was able to speak.

"I have only just come back sir," replied his son, regarding him
steadfastly. "I hope I have arrived in time to prevent you from doing an
act of injustice to me and my sister?"

"You will have much to answer for, Chetwynd, if you agitate your father
at this moment," interposed Mrs. Calverley. "You see what a critical
state he is in!"

"I cannot help it, madam," rejoined the young man. "I must and will
speak to him while he is able to listen to me. Pray, don't go, I beg of
you, Mr. Carteret," he continued, to the attorney, who was preparing to
follow his clerk out of the room. "It is proper you should hear what I
have to say. I have reason to believe, sir," he added, to his father,
"that you have left your entire property to your wife, and have made my
sister and myself entirely dependent on her. If this is really the case,
I entreat you to alter your determination----"

"I don't understand why you permit yourself to talk to me thus,
Chetwynd," interrupted the old gentleman, his anger supplying him with
strength. "At all events, I shall not tolerate it. Even supposing it
were as you state, I have a perfect right to bequeath my property as I
see fit, and you have not proved yourself such a dutiful son as to merit
consideration on my part. Wait till the fitting season, and you will
learn what I have done."

"No, sir; I won't wait till your ears are deaf to my prayers! I _will_
speak while you are able to listen to me. I may have given you some
offence, but do not carry your resentment to the grave. Bethink you that
whatever you do now will be irreparable."

"I cannot bear this!" cried the old man. "Take him away! He distracts
me!"

"Mr. Chetwynd," said Carteret, "I am extremely reluctant to interfere;
but your presence certainly disturbs your father very much. Let me beg
you to retire!"

The young man showed no disposition to comply.

"Perhaps, Chetwynd, when I have spoken," said Mr. Calverley, trying to
calm himself, "you will either go or keep silence. I have done what, on
mature consideration, and with the prospect of death before me, I deem
best for you and your sister; and I am certain my wishes will be most
faithfully carried out."

"What you say, sir, seems to intimate that you have placed us entirely
in the hands of your wife," cried his son. "Why should you compel us to
bow to her will and pleasure?"

"Because she will take care of you," rejoined the old man; "and, though
you are two-and-twenty, you have not come to years of discretion."

"That is your opinion, sir. But, granting it to be correct, does it
apply to my sister?"

"Your sister makes no complaint," said his father, looking
affectionately at her. "She knows I have done all that is right. She is
in good hands."

"Yes, I am quite sure of that, papa!" cried Mildred. "Pray don't think
about me!"

"Chetwynd," she added to him, in a low tone, "I wouldn't have brought
you here had I imagined you would make this terrible scene!"

"I really must interfere to prevent the continuance of a discussion
which I am aware can lead to no beneficial result," interposed Mr.
Carteret. "I would again beseech you, Mr. Chetwynd, not to trouble
your father! I know he has good reasons for what he has done. Have you
anything further to say to me, sir?" he added to Mr. Calverley.

"Stop a minute, Mr. Carteret, I beg of you!" cried Chetwynd. "I am yet
in hopes that I may move him. Let me make one more appeal to your sense
of justice, sir!" he added to his father. "I promise you it shall be the
last!"

"I cannot listen to you!" replied Mr. Calverley.

"You refuse, then, to alter your will?"

"Positively refuse!" rejoined the old gentleman. "For heaven's sake let
me die in peace! Can you not prevail on him to go," he added to his wife
and daughter. "He will kill me outright!"

"You hear what your father says!" cried Mrs. Calverley, in an
authoritative tone. "Go, I command you!"

"Yes, I _will_ go," rejoined Chetwynd; "but not at your bidding! You are
the sole cause of this misunderstanding between my father and myself. By
your arts you have cheated me out of my inheritance!"

"Ah!" ejaculated Mrs. Calverley.

"This is madness!" exclaimed Mr. Carteret, trying to drag him from the
room.

"Hear my last, words, sir!" cried Chetwynd to his father. "I never will
touch a shilling of your money if it is to be doled out to me by this
woman!"

And he rushed out of the room.



V. THE OLD BUTLER.

|Pushing aside the attorney's clerk, whom he found on the landing, he
hurried downstairs, and had just snatched up his hat in the hall, when
he perceived the old butler eyeing him wistfully.

He had a great regard for this faithful old servant, whom he had known
since he was a boy, so he went up to him, and patting him kindly on the
shoulder, said--

"Good-bye, dear old Norris. I don't mean to remain a minute longer in my
father's house, and I may never return to it. Farewell, old friend!"

"You shan't go out thus, sir, unless you knock me down," rejoined
Norris, detaining him. "You'll do yourself a mischief. No one is in the
dining-room. Please to go in there. I want to have a few words with
you--to reason with you."

And he tried to draw him towards the room in question; but Chetwynd
resisted.

"Reason with me!" he exclaimed. "I know what you'll say, Norris.
You'll advise me to make it up with my father, and bow the knee to my
stepmother; but I'll die rather!"

"Mr. Chetwynd, it's a chance if your father is alive to-morrow morning.
Think of that, and what your feelings will be when he's gone. You'll
reproach yourself then, sir, for I know you've a good heart. I've
got you out of many a scrape when you were a boy, and I'm persuaded
something may be done now, if you'll only condescend to listen to me."

"Well, I'll stay a few minutes on purpose to talk to you. But I hear
Carteret coming downstairs. I don't want to meet him. I don't want to
meet anybody--not even my sister."

"Then I'll tell you what to do, sir. Go up the back staircase to your
own room. It's just as you left it. No one will know you're here. I'll
come to you as soon as I can."

And he almost forced him through a folding-door into a passage
communicating with the back staircase.

Chetwynd had disappeared before the attorney and his clerk reached the
hall; but Mr. Carteret stopped for a moment to speak to the old butler.

"Ah, we've had a frightful scene, Norris!" he said. "It will surprise me
if the old gentleman survives it. I suppose Mr. Chetwynd is gone?"

"I really can't say, sir. He was here a few minutes ago."

"Looking rather wild, eh?"

"I'm sure he looked wild enough when he passed me just now," observed
the clerk. "I thought he'd have thrown me over the banisters."

"Serve you right, too!" muttered Norris.

"Nothing could be more injudicious, and, I may add, more unfeeling, than
his conduct to his father," remarked Carteret.

"I'm sorry to hear it," said the butler; "but you must make some
allowance for him."

"I can make every allowance," rejoined the attorney. "But no good purpose
can be answered by such violence as he gave way to. On the contrary,
irreparable harm is done."

"Not irreparable harm, I hope, sir?"

"I very much fear so. He used language towards Mrs. Calverley that I
don't think she will ever forgive It's of the last importance that he
should be set right with her. Should you see him before he goes, tell
him so."

"I will, sir--if I _do_ see him. There's master's bell. Excuse me; I
must go upstairs."

"Don't mind me, Norris. I can let myself out. As I drive back, at Mrs.
Calverley's request, I shall call on Doctor Spencer, and send him to see
Mr. Calverley at once. That will save time."

"Very good, sir," replied the butler.

And he flew upstairs; while Mr. Carteret and his clerk went out at the
front door.

"Has anybody just left the house, Edward?" inquired Mr. Carteret of his
groom, who was waiting with the phaeton near the door.

"No, sir," replied the man.

"I fancied he was not gone," thought the attorney. "I am glad I spoke to
Norris."



VI. SELF-EXAMINATION.

|Chetwynd had become more tranquillised since he entered the room
that had once belonged to him--and that might be said to belong to him
still--since it had always been kept for him.

A comfortable bed-chamber, with windows looking upon the garden. Night
was now coming on, but it was still light enough to see every object in
the room, and Chetwynd examined them with interest--almost with emotion.

The furniture was precisely the same he had left; the narrow iron bed,
without curtains, and covered with an eider-down quilt--the easy-chair
on which he used to sit and smoke--the books on the shelf and the prints
on the walls, were still there, as of yore. Nothing seemed to have been
disturbed.

When he last occupied that room Teresa was his father's ward, and
believing himself in love with her, he indulged in dreams of future
happiness--for there seemed no obstacle to their union.

Now, all was gone. Teresa had become hateful to him. Yet, somehow or
other, her image was associated with the room.

Throwing open the windows, he looked out into the garden, and, after
listening to the singing of the birds, sat down in the easy-chair, and
tried to lay out a plan for the future.

Impossible! His mind was much too confused for the task. He could
decide on nothing. Never having done anything during his life but amuse
himself, he had no idea what he should have to do when thrown upon his
own resources.

Compelled to examine himself, he found his knowledge of business
exceedingly limited. However, he had plenty of friends, and did not
doubt they would help him to a situation of some kind.

The thought that most annoyed him was that he had well-nigh spent all
his money. He had not enough to pay a passage to Australia.

At length, Norris made his appearance, and explained that he could
not come sooner, having had a good deal to do in Mr. Calverley's room.
Doctor Spencer had paid a visit to his patient, and had only just left.

"However, all is quiet for the present," said the butler, "and I will
therefore beg you to come with me to my room, where I have got a little
supper for you."

"I shall really be glad of it, Norris. I suppose we sha'n't meet any of
the other servants?"

"No; I have taken care of that, sir," replied Norris.

In the butler's pantry, to which they repaired, they found a cold
pigeon-pie and a bottle of claret on the table, and being very hungry,
Chetwynd made a hearty meal.

"I'm sorry I cannot give you a very good report of what has been going
on upstairs, sir," said the butler; "though your father is not so bad as
I feared. He has been put to bed, and Doctor Spencer has seen him, as I
told you. The doctor gave him some stimulant that helped to revive him,
and has left a small phial with Mrs. Calverley, from which she is to
administer a few drops to him, as she may deem fit. I hope he may last
out the night, and I think he will, for he seemed better when I left him
just now. Heaven grant you may see him again, sir!"

"I despair of doing anything with him, Norris."

"Never despair, sir,--never despair!"

"Well, that's a good maxim. Extraordinary things have sometimes been
done when all has been deemed hopeless. Fresh wills have been made
almost _in extremis_. It may be so in my father's case, but I don't
think it likely."

"You must remain in the house to-night, sir. It's your last chance."

"_Is_ there a chance, Norris?"

"You shall judge for yourself, sir. When I was in your father's room
just now, standing by his bedside, he spoke to me about you in a way
that showed his good feelings towards you had returned. Evidently, he
didn't want Mrs. Calverley to hear what he said; but she was in the
dressing-room, though the door was partly open. He asked me, in a low
voice, if you were really gone; and seemed much relieved when I told
him you were still in the house, but begged me not to mention it to his
wife. 'It may alarm, her, Norris,' he said. I couldn't say anything more
to him at the time, for she came out of the dressing-room; but I shall
have another opportunity to-night. Of one thing I'm certain, sir; but
I shall have another opportunity to-night. Of one thing I'm certain,
sir--you haven't lost your hold of your father's affections."

At this moment a slight sound outside caught Chet-wynd's ear.

Wishing to ascertain if there was a listener, he immediately got up,
and, opening the door, looked along the passage right and left; but it
was quite dark, and he could distinguish no one.

"It was a false alarm," he said, as he came back. "For the moment I
fancied it might be Mrs. Calverley."

"No fear of that, sir; she never comes down here."

"Let us go back to my room. I shall feel easier there. After what you've
told me, Norris, I shan't think of leaving to-night."

"That's the right thing to do, sir," cried the butler, joyfully.

"Bring the bottle of claret and the glasses with you, and come along,"
said Chetwynd.



VII. TERRIBLE SUSPICIONS.

|In half a minute more they were in the old room upstairs.

The blinds were drawn down, the candles on the chimney-piece lighted,
the claret and glasses set on the table, Chetwynd was seated in an
easy-chair, and old Norris had taken a place opposite him.

"Now, Norris," said Chetwynd, "I should like to ask you a few questions.
In the first place, what is the matter with my father? Till I came here
this evening I have never heard he was unwell. What is his complaint?
What does Doctor Spencer say about him?"

"Doctor Spencer says it's a complete 'break up,'" replied the butler;
"but I don't think he understands the case at all. Your father used to
be a remarkably stout man for his years, as I needn't tell you, sir.
I never recollect him having a day's illness till his marriage; and,
indeed, he was as well as ever for three months, when he caught a cold,
and then a very sudden change occurred, and I thought all would soon he
over with him--but he rallied."

"Did he quite recover from his cold?"

"No, sir, he was much weakened, and didn't regain his strength. He
looked to me as if gradually wasting away."

"Why, so he was, I suppose, Norris. There is nothing but what is
perfectly natural in all this; yet you seem suspicious."

"I hope he has been fairly treated, sir."

"Why should you think otherwise?"

"Because he has symptoms that I don't exactly like, sir."

Then lowering his voice, as if afraid to speak the words aloud, he
added, "It looks to me almost like a case of slow poisoning!"

Chetwynd seemed horror-stricken at the idea.

"You must be mistaken, Norris," he said. "It cannot he. Whatever opinion
I may entertain of the person it is evident you suspect, I am certain
she is incapable of such a monstrous crime. Have you mentioned your
suspicions to Doctor Spencer, or any one else?"

"I told Doctor Spencer I thought it a very strange illness, but he said
there was nothing unusual in it--it was simply the result of a bad cold.
'It was quite impossible,' he said, 'that Mr. Calverley could be more
carefully attended to than by his wife. She had really kept him alive.'
I don't know what he would have said if I had ventured to breathe a word
against her."

"Did you warn my father? It was your duty to do so, if you really
believed he was being poisoned."

"My immediate discharge would have been the consequence," said Norris.
"And how could I prove what I asserted? Doctor Spencer thought me a
stupid old fool; my master would have thought me crazy; Mrs. Calverley
would have thought a lunatic asylum fitter for me than Ouselcroft; and
Miss Mildred would have been of the same opinion. So I held my tongue,
and let things go on. Had you been at home, sir, I should have consulted
you, and you could have taken such steps as you deemed proper. But it is
now too late to save him."

"If this were true it would be dreadful," exclaimed Chetwynd. "But I
cannot believe it. It must have been found out. Doctor Spencer, who is
a very clever, shrewd man, has been in constant attendance on my father,
and must have been struck by any unusual symptoms in his illness, but
he appears to have been quite satisfied that everything was going on
properly. To make an accusation of this sort, with nothing to support
it, would have been culpable in the highest degree, and I am glad you
kept quiet."

"Still, I can hardly reconcile my conduct to myself, sir," said Norris;
"but I fear I should have done no good."

"No; you would have done great mischief. I am quite certain you are
utterly mistaken."

Norris did not seem to think so, but he made no further remark.

After a brief silence he got up, and said:

"I must now go up to my master's room, and see whether he wants
anything. Perhaps I may find an opportunity of speaking to him."



VIII. DEATH OF MR. CALVERLEY.

|Left alone, Chetwynd revolved what the butler had told him; and on
considering the matter, he came to the conclusion he had previously
arrived at--that there was nothing whatever to justify the old man's
suspicions.

"I cannot imagine how he has got such a notion into his head," he
thought; "but, according to his own account, he has not a shadow of
proof to support the charge. Besides, setting all else aside, there is
no motive for such a crime. She could not wish to get rid of my father.
Perhaps she might desire to come into the property, but, even if she
were bad enough to do it, she would never run such a frightful risk. No,
no, the supposition is absurd and monstrous!"

At this moment the very person of whom he was thinking came in, and
closed the door.

In her hand she had a small lamp, but she set it down.

She looked very pale, but her manner was perfectly composed, though
there was a slight quivering of the lip.

Chetwynd arose, and regarded her in astonishment.

"You need not be alarmed at my appearance," she said. "I have no
unfriendly intentions towards you. I heard you were still here, and came
to speak to you. I am anxious to prevent further unpleasantness. You are
acting very foolishly. Why should you quarrel with me? Whatever you may
think, I mean you well."

By this time Chetwynd had recovered from his surprise, and, regarding
her sternly, said:

"I have no desire to hold any conversation with you, madam; but my
conduct requires explanation. I was about to depart, but have been
induced to remain for various reasons. I have learnt matters that have
determined me to see my father again."

The latter words were pronounced with great significance, but did not
seem to produce any impression upon Mrs. Calverley.

"I do not wish to prevent you from seeing him, Chetwynd, if you will
promise to behave quietly," she replied.

"I cannot let him go out of the world in the belief that you have acted
properly to him," said Chetwynd, fiercely.

"Then you shall not see him! Nothing you could allege against me would
produce the slightest effect upon him, but you shall not disturb his
latest moments."

"You dare not leave me alone with him--"

"No," she replied, in a severe tone, "because you cannot control
yourself. In my opinion, you ought to ask your father's pardon for your
manifold acts of disobedience, and if you do so in a proper spirit I am
certain you will obtain it."

"You venture to give the advice," he said. "But have you yourself
obtained pardon from my father?"

"Pardon for what?" she cried.

"For any crime you may have committed," he replied. "It is not for me to
search your heart!"

"I disdain to answer such an infamous charge!" she rejoined,
contemptuously.

"Have you not shortened his days?"

"What mean you by that dark insinuation?" she cried.

"My meaning is intelligible enough," he rejoined. "But I will make it
plainer, if you will."

A singular change come over her countenance.

But she instantly recovered, and threw a scornful glance at Chetwynd.

"What have you done to him?" he demanded.

"Striven to make his latter days happy," she replied, "and I believe I
have succeeded. At any rate, he seemed happy."

"That was before his illness," observed Chetwynd.

"Since his illness I have nursed him with so much care that those best
able to judge think I preserved his life. I saved him from all pain and
annoyance, and his confidence in me was such that he has left all to my
management."

"I know it, madam; and you have been in haste to assume the power, but
it may be wrested from your hands!"

"Make the attempt," she rejoined, defiantly. "You will only injure
yourself!"

Just then voices were heard outside that startled them both, and checked
their converse.

"Great heaven, it is your father!" exclaimed Mrs. Calverley. "He has
risen from the bed of death to come here!"

Next moment the door was thrown open, and the old gentleman came in,
sustained by Norris.

A dressing-gown scarcely concealed his emaciated frame. His features had
the most ghastly expression, and bore the impress of death. But for the
aid of the old butler he must have fallen to the ground.

Behind him came Mildred, carrying a light.

"Why did you allow him to quit his couch?" cried his wife, in a voice of
anguish.

"I remonstrated with him," replied Norris. "But I could not prevent him.
He would come down to see his son."

"I likewise tried to dissuade him, but in vain," said Mildred,

"Chetwynd is here, is he not?" cried the old man. "I can't see him."

"Yes, I am here, father," he replied, springing towards him, and
throwing himself at his feet. "Have you come to grant me forgiveness?"

"Yes, my son," replied the old man. "But first let me hear that you are
reconciled to my dear wife--your stepmother. Answer me truly. Is it so?"

"Father!" hesitated Chetwynd.

"Stand up, my son," said the old man.

Chetwynd obeyed.

"Now, speak to me. Is there peace between you?"

"If you can forgive her, father, I will forgive her."

"I have nothing to forgive. She has been the best of wives to me, and is
without a fault. These are my last words."

"Your blessing, father--your blessing!" almost shrieked Chetwynd.

The old man made an effort to raise his hands; but strength and
utterance failed him, and he fell dead into his son's arms.


END OF THE INTRODUCTION



BOOK THE FIRST--MILDRED.



I. SUITORS.

|Mrs. Calverley had been nearly a year a widow.

She was still at Ouselcroft, and apparently meant to remain there. No
change whatever had been made in the establishment, and old Norris was
still in his place.

The will had not been disputed, and the widow was in possession of her
late husband's entire property.

She intended to allow Chetwynd six hundred a year, in accordance with
his father's request, and instructed Mr Carteret to pay him the amount
quarterly; but he peremptorily refused to accept any allowance from her,
and ordered the money to be returned.

He had remained at Ouselcroft until after the funeral, and then went
abroad. As may be supposed, no reconciliation took place between him and
his stepmother.

Hitherto the fair widow had lived in perfect retirement with Mildred,
and was only to be seen arrayed in deep mourning in Daresbury Church, in
the vaults of which her husband was interred; but she now began to pay
visits, and receive her friends.

When Mildred re-appeared in society, after her temporary seclusion, she
created quite a sensation.

We are afraid to say how many persons fell in love with her. She was
still in mourning, of course, but her dark attire set off her fair
tresses and exquisitely delicate complexion, and suited her slight
graceful figure. Then her amiable and captivating manner heightened the
effect of her charms, and rendered her almost irresistible.

During her father's lifetime she had been greatly admired, and was
accounted, as we have said, the prettiest girl in Cheshire; but her
beauty was more talked about now, and many a gallant youth thought
himself excessively fortunate if he could obtain her hand for a waltz.

But Mildred was by no means a flirt, and had no desire to make
conquests. On the contrary, she was a very quiet girl, and gave the
herd of young men who beset her at balls and parties very little
encouragement. She did not care to dance much, and would only dance with
those who pleased her, or amused her.

There was no sort of rivalry between the lovely girl and her beautiful
stepmother. That there were already numerous aspirants to the hand of
the wealthy young widow was certain; but it was equally certain she was
in no haste to take another husband. She, therefore, felt no jealousy
of Mildred, but was delighted to see her admired and sought after, and
would willingly have promoted any advantageous match.

Mildred, however, made some objection or other to all who were
recommended to her. Thus, when Mrs. Calverley praised young Mr.
Capesthorne, and said he would have a fine old Elizabethan mansion,
with a park attached to it, and asked if he wouldn't do, the young lady
replied that she admired Mr. Capesthorne's old house, but didn't care
for him.

Again, when Colonel Blakemere, who was about to return to Madras, and
wanted to take a wife with him, paid her marked attention, and got Mrs.
Calverley to back his suit, Mildred settled the matter by declaring she
would never go to India.

However, these were nothing as compared with what followed.

It never rains but it pours, and offers now came by the dozen.

Mrs. Calverley received a number of little notes, the writers whereof
begged permission to wait upon her, intimating that they had an
important matter to lay before her, and at the same time making some
slight reference to Mildred, that left her no doubt as to their object.

Before replying to any of them, she consulted Mildred; and, having
ascertained her sentiments, agreed to see a couple of them on a
particular day, and within half an hour of each other.

On the appointed day she was alone in the drawing-room, seated in an
easy-chair, and wondering who would appear first, when Mr. Vernon Brook
was announced by Norris.

Mr. Vernon Brook belonged to a good old family, but was a younger son.

Dark, sallow-complexioned, and long-visaged, he piqued himself upon
having a Vandyke face. To assist the expression, he scrupulously shaved
his cheeks, and cultivated a pointed beard.

He had ridden over from his father's place, which was about ten miles
off, and arrived in very good spirits, deeming himself sure of success.

Mrs. Calverley received him very graciously, and begged him to be
seated. After a few words had passed between them, he came to the point.

"I've a question to ask you, my dear Mrs. Calverley, which I hope you
will be able to answer in the affirmative. Your daughter--step-daughter,
I ought to say--is a very charming girl, and I want to know if I have
your permission to pay my addresses to her?"

He said this in a very easy manner, and as if quite certain the response
would be favourable.

Mrs. Calverley's looks rather discouraged him.

"I must be allowed to consider THe matter, Mr. Brook," she replied. "My
late husband entrusted his daughter entirely to my care, and I cannot
allow an engagement to take place unless I feel sure it would conduce to
her happiness."

"But this would not amount to an engagement, my dear madam, though it
might lead to one--at least, I hope so."

"It will be best to come to a clear understanding at first, Mr. Brook.
I think it right to say that I see no objection to you. You have many
agreeable personal qualities, and are unexceptionable in regard to
family, but I am not exactly aware of your expectations."

Vernon Brook's dark cheek coloured, and he rather hesitated. He was not
prepared for such a point-blank question.

"I am a younger son, as you are aware, Mrs. Calverley," He said; "and,
like most younger sons, my expectations are not very great."

"I may as well speak frankly, Mr. Brook," she rejoined. "He who aspires
to Miss Calverley's hand must bring a corresponding fortune. He must
have a thousand a year, or a prospect of it."

"I am sorry to say I have neither the one nor the other, but I hope
my want of fortune may not be a bar. I think we could be very happy
together."

"Possibly; but the days of romantic marriages are over, and only exist
in novels. I have dealt with you very fairly, Mr. Brook. Miss Calverley,
as I have said, was left to my care by her father, and I shall act for
her as he would have acted."

"But I have reason to believe Mr. Calverley would not have made it
a _sine qua non_ that a suitor to his daughter should be a man of
property."

"You have been misinformed, Mr. Brook. No one can be so well acquainted
as myself with my late husband's intentions."

"Then I am not to hope?"

"It would be useless, sir."

Mr. Vernon Brook arose, and was reluctantly preparing to depart, when
Norris announced Sir Bridgnorth Charlton.

Thereupon he hurriedly bade Mrs. Calverley adieu, bowed stiffly to the
new-comer, and made his exit.



II. SIR BRIDGNORTH CHARLTON.

|Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, Baronet, of Charlton Hall, in. Staffordshire,
a very fine place, was a person of considerable importance. He had been
a member for the county, and was still a zealous politician. That he
had not married earlier in life was owing to a disappointment he
experienced, which had deeply affected him and caused him to remain a
bachelor.

In age Sir Bridgnorth was not far from sixty, still handsome, though
rather portly, and exceedingly gentlemanlike in manner. He had seen
Mildred at a county ball, and, being much struck by her resemblance to
his former love, the old flame was revived, and he determined to offer
his hand.

Accordingly, he wrote to Mrs. Calverley, as we have explained.

Sir Bridgnorth had never been in Ouselcroft before, and after a few
observations on the beauty of the grounds, he said:

"You will, no doubt, have conjectured why I have done myself the honour
of waiting upon you, ma'am?"

Mrs. Calverley slightly moved.

"You have a very lovely step-daughter. It is not necessary for me to
launch into her praises; but I may say I have only seen one person in
the course of my life who has charmed me so much. That person would have
been my wife had she not jilted me and wedded another. Miss Calverley
shall be Lady Charlton if she will accept me.

"You do us great honour, Sir Bridgnorth!" observed Mrs. Calverley.

"I don't know whether I am right, ma'am," he pursued; "but I prefer
making this offer through you, instead of direct to the young lady, as
you can put an end to the affair at once, if you think proper. I needn't
enter into any particulars. You know my position; you know what sort of
place I have got you know I can make a good settlement on my wife, as
well as give her a title. The main question is--will Miss Calverley have
me? Is she wholly free? for I would not, for the world, interfere with
any other engagement. I have suffered too much myself not to be careful.
I am not foolish enough to persuade myself she can love me; but I
believe I could make her a very good husband, and hope she would be
happy. I am quite sure she would be indulged."

He said this with an honest, manly sincerity, that produced a strong
effect upon Mrs. Calverley.

In a voice of some emotion, she remarked, "My own husband, as I needn't
tell you, Sir Bridgnorth, was considerably older than myself, and no one
could be happier than I was with him."

"You encourage me to hope, madam, that the disparity of years may not
prove an objection. Supposing the young lady to be entirely disengaged,
may I be permitted to see her?"

"Most certainly, Sir Bridgnorth! I would much rather she answered for
herself than I should answer for her. Ah! I see her in the garden! If
you will step out with me to the lawn I will present you to her!"

Sir Bridgnorth willingly complied, though he felt some little internal
trepidation. A variety of emotions agitated him.

Mildred was at the further end of the lawn, but she came to meet them,
and he thought her even more charming in her simple morning costume than
in evening dress.

"I had the pleasure of seeing you at the ball at Stafford the other
night, Miss Calverley," he said, after the presentation had taken place.
"You interested me exceedingly from the striking resemblance you bear to
a young lady to whom I was tenderly attached in former days. I will tell
you that little story some time or other should you desire to hear it.
Meantime, it may suffice to say that I was actually engaged to her, but
she threw me over for a better-looking man, and married him. It was a
severe blow, and I did not recover it for a long time. I made up my
mind never to marry, and for five-and-twenty years adhered to my
determination. But see what our resolutions are worth! The sight of
you dispelled mine in a moment! As I gazed at you, my youth seemed to
return. I felt as much enamoured as I had done before, and it was with
difficulty I could prevent myself from going up to you and saying,
'Behold your lover!'"

"I am very glad you didn't, Sir Bridgnorth," said Mildred.

"I knew you would think me a madman!" he continued; "and fearing I might
be guilty of some indiscretion, I would not even be introduced to you.
But I watched you throughout the evening, and your image has haunted me
ever since. Feeling that my happiness is at stake, I have come here to
plead my cause in person, and have just spoken to Mrs. Calverley. Now
you know all."

"Not quite all, my love," said Mrs. Calverley. "I am bound to add, that,
in making his proposal to you through me, Sir Bridgnorth has behaved in
the handsomest manner."

"I am convinced of it," said Mildred; "but----"

"Do not crush my hopes at once," cried Sir Bridgnorth, in alarm. "Give
me the chance of winning your affections. I don't desire an immediate
answer."

"But I am very fickle myself, Sir Bridgnorth, and extremely liable to
change my mind. You shall have no reason to complain of me as you do of
your former love."

"I don't complain of her," he said, in a quiet tone.

"Then you are extremely forgiving; for, in my opinion, she used you
shamefully."

"You must not say a word against her," exclaimed Sir Bridgnorth.

"Why not?" inquired Mildred, in surprise.

"For an excellent reason," he replied. "She was your own mother."

Mildred could scarcely repress a cry.

"I thought as much," said Mrs. Calverley. "Your fair inconstant was the
beautiful Annabella Chetwynd, my husband's first wife."

"Exactly so," said Sir Bridgnorth. "I never beheld her since her
marriage," he added, to Mildred. "No wonder, therefore, your appearance
produced such an effect upon me. For a moment I thought she had come to
life again. I shall always take an interest in you, and shall always be
delighted to serve you. Since I cannot be your husband, you must allow
me to be a friend."

"That offer I gladly accept, Sir Bridgnorth," she replied, extending her
hand towards him.

He took it, and pressed it to his lips.

"You may rely upon me, as you could have done upon your own father," he
said, with an earnestness that bespoke his sincerity. "Call on me when
you will, I will answer the appeal. And now farewell!"

"I hope you are not going, Sir Bridgnorth," said Mrs. Calverley. "Pray
stay and spend the remainder of the day with us! I am charmed to make
your acquaintance."

"I shall be quite grieved if you go, dear Sir Bridgnorth." added
Mildred.

"Since you ask me, I cannot refuse," he replied. "But my carriage is
waiting at the door."

"I will give orders that it shall be put up immediately," said Mrs.
Calverley. "It is so kind of you to stay."

And she went into the house to give the necessary directions.



III. INQUIRIES.

|Mildred now felt quite at ease with Sir Bridgnorth. His manner towards
her was so kind, that she almost began to regard him in the light of a
father.

"Excuse me if I ask you a few questions relative to your brother
Chetwynd," he said. "I am influenced by no impertinent curiosity, but
simply by the desire to ascertain if I can be of any service to him. I
am aware that a serious misunderstanding occurred between him and Mrs.
Calverley at the time of your father's death; and I have also heard that
he absolutely refuses to accept any allowance from her."

"What you have heard is quite correct, Sir Bridgnorth," replied Mildred.
"Mrs. Calverley desires to allow my brother six hundred a year, and has
instructed Mr. Carteret, her solicitor, to pay him the amount quarterly;
but he declines to receive the money, being excessively indignant that
my father should have left her the entire control of his property."

"But what has become of your brother? What is he doing?"

"I really cannot tell you, Sir Bridgnorth," she replied. "He came here
just before poor papa's death, and remained till after the funeral; but
he shut himself up in his own room, and saw no one except old Norris,
the butler, who is still with us. I had no idea he was going away so
suddenly, for he did not acquaint me with his intention, or even take
leave of me, or I would have tried to dissuade him from the step, though
I fear I should have been unsuccessful. His mind seemed a good deal
disturbed by painful circumstances that had occurred--chiefly, if not
entirely, of his own causing--and I dreaded to excite him still farther.
I have since reproached myself for my lukewarmness, but I acted under
the advice of Doctor Spencer. After his abrupt departure, he wrote to
me from an hotel in London, saying he was going abroad, and in all
probability should not return for two or three years; but Mr. Carteret
found out that he was still in town, and sent him a cheque for three
hundred pounds. The cheque was returned at once, accompanied by a
letter, stating that he would accept nothing from Mrs. Calverley."

"His conduct is inexplicable!" said Sir Bridgnorth. "But I suppose some
effort has been made to communicate with him?"

"Every effort has been made, but without any satisfactory result. He
left the hotel I have mentioned with the expressed intention of going
abroad. Whether he really did so, we have been unable to discover. We
fear he has no resources. We know from Norris, whom he took into his
confidence while he was here, that he had very little money."

"That is dreadful!" exclaimed Sir Bridgnorth. "He was pointed out to me
a year or two ago, at Ascot, and I thought him a remarkably fine young
man; but I was told he was very wild and extravagant--played and betted
heavily."

"He has been very extravagant, Sir Bridgnorth. Poor papa paid his debts
more than once, but could never keep him in bounds. That was the reason
why he left him dependent upon mamma."

"So I understood," said Sir Bridgnorth; "and I think he did quite
right."

"I am sure he acted for the best," replied Mildred; "and I am quite
certain Mrs. Calverley would have carried out papa's intentions had
she been able, but Chetwynd thwarted their designs by his fiery
and ungovernable temper. Heaven knows what will become of him!" she
exclaimed, the tears starting to her eyes. "It makes me very unhappy to
think of him."

"I fear I have distressed you," observed Sir Bridgnorth, much touched.
"Perhaps I ought not to have spoken?"

"I thank you sincerely for talking to me about my poor brother," she
replied. "I may appear indifferent to him, but I am not so. I love him
dearly, and would do anything for him. But I know not how to proceed.
Such is the peculiarity of his temper--such his pride, that if I could
find him, he would accept nothing from me if he thought it came from
Mrs. Calverley. Even if he were starving, he would refuse aid from her."

"Well, I must try what I can do," said Sir Bridgnorth. "He can have no
antipathy to me. The first thing is to discover where he is. I will see
Carteret, and hear what he has to say."

"I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sir Bridgnorth!" cried
Mildred, with effusion. "You are, indeed, a father, both to poor
Chetwynd and myself!"

Just then Mrs. Calverley reappeared.

"No more on this subject before mamma, I pray, Sir Bridgnorth!" said
Mildred. "It would be painful to her."

"I will be careful." he replied.

Mrs. Calverley came to say that luncheon was ready. And they went into
the house with her.



IV. PORTRAITS.

|The more Sir Bridgnorth saw of Mildred, the better pleased he was with
her.

Mrs. Calverley did not produce quite so favourable an impression upon
him, though he thought her very beautiful, and very clever. She seemed
to him wanting in heart--perhaps designing.

Taking this view of her character, he came to the conclusion that
she had married Mr. Calverley for his money, and possibly might have
alienated him from his son.

Three or four of Mildred's admirers called during the afternoon, and
they all seemed surprised at finding Sir Bridgnorth so much at home at
Ouselcroft. They could not believe that Mildred had accepted him--yet it
looked rather like it.

The young lady, however, did not trouble herself much about them; but,
leaving them to stroll about the garden with Mrs. Calverley, she took
Sir Bridgnorth to the library, telling him she wanted to show him a
picture.

It was the portrait of a very handsome young man, painted by a
well-known artist of the day. The features were regular and finely
formed, and very haughty in expression. The likeness was excellent, and
Sir Bridgnorth recognised it at once.

"'Tis your brother Chetwynd," he said, "and wonderfully like him. I
should have known it anywhere."

"He was extremely handsome then," observed Mildred; "but I fear he must
be much changed now. At that time, he thought he should have all his
father's property, and expected to marry the beautiful Teresa Mildmay."

"Yes; I know the story," said Sir Bridgnorth, "and do not wonder at
his vexation at the double disappointment. He has suffered much for his
hasty temper. Things look very dark just now; but let us hope all may
come right in the end."

She then drew his attention to another picture. "Your father. Yes; I
see. Time was, when I should have turned away from his portrait; but I
have quite forgiven him now."

"Since poor papa's death, Mrs. Calverley cannot bear to look at that
portrait," remarked Mildred. "But for my entreaties she would have it
put away, and she now rarely enters the room."

"That is not surprising," said Sir Bridgnorth. "The portrait awakens
painful memories."

"But I am always pleased to look at it, and I loved papa dearly!" said
Mildred. "I often come here by myself, and think I am with him."

At this juncture, their discourse was interrupted by the sudden entrance
of the very last person they expected to see.



V. THE POCKET-BOOK.


|It was Chetwynd.

He looked pale and haggard, and his features had a sombre and stern
expression, very different from that depicted in the canvas before them.

He closed the door after him as he came in, and started on perceiving
Sir Bridgnorth, whom he evidently had not expected to find there.

Uttering an exclamation of mingled surprise and delight, Mildred sprang
towards her brother, and flung her arms round his neck. While returning
her embrace, he said in a low voice, "Who have you got with you?"

"Sir Bridgnorth Charlton," she replied. "He takes great interest in you,
and has just been making inquiries about you."

"Not many minutes ago, I told your sister it would give me sincere
pleasure if I could render you any service," said Sir Bridgnorth. "I did
not expect so soon to have an opportunity of saying the same thing to
you. I beg you will look upon me as a friend."

"I am greatly beholden to you, Sir Bridgnorth," replied the young man.
"I have very few friends left."

"Mine are not mere idle professions, as you will find, if you choose to
put them to the proof," said Sir Bridgnorth.

"You speak so earnestly and so kindly that I cannot but credit what you
say," rejoined Chetwynd; "and I am the more inclined to believe you,
since I have never done you a favour. Indeed, if my recollection serves
me right, you have more reason to dislike than to befriend me."

"Your sister will tell you that the past is forgotten."

"Sir Bridgnorth has a noble heart," said Mildred. "You may speak freely
before him. He knows all that has occurred, and is aware that you have
refused to accept any allowance from Mrs. Calverley."

"And I may add that I sympathise with you," said Sir Bridgnorth.

"What has brought you back so suddenly?" said Mildred. "Are you in any
difficulty?"

"In a most desperate difficulty," he replied. "I want two hundred
pounds, and must have the money by to-morrow morning. I could procure
it at once from Carteret; but I would rather shoot myself than accept a
farthing from Mrs. Calveriey. Can you help me?"

"_I_ can," interposed Sir Bridgnorth, quickly. "Luckily, I have the
amount about me. In this pocket-book," he added, producing one as
he spoke, "you will find the sum you require. Repay me at your
convenience."

"A thousand thanks, Sir Bridgnorth?" cried Chetwynd. "You have, indeed,
conferred a very great obligation upon me, and I shall not speedily
forget it. Ere long, I hope to be able to return you the money."

"Don't trouble yourself on that score; but let me see you soon. Come to
me at Charlton."

"I cannot promise to visit you immediately, Sir Bridgnorth," replied the
young man.

"Why not?" inquired Mildred.

"Do not ask me to explain," he rejoined. "I am scarcely my own master,
and where I to make a promise, I might not be able to fulfil it. I must
now begone."

"Stay!" cried Sir Bridgnorth; "can I not bring about a reconciliation
between you and Mrs. Calveriey? I think I could accomplish it, if you
will consent to some arrangement."

"Never," replied Chetwynd. "And I beg that my visit and its object may
not be mentioned to her."

"How did you discover I was in this room?" asked Mildred.

"Old Norris, whom I saw on my arrival, told me I should find you in the
library, and I concluded you were alone; but I have found a friend as
well. And now I can answer no more questions."

"Ever mysterious and incomprehensible!" cried Mildred. "I do not like to
part with you thus."

"You must!" he rejoined. "It is necessary that I should be in London
to-night."

He then bade them both farewell, tenderly embracing his sister, and
renewing his thanks to Sir Bridgnorth.

Just as he was about to depart, the door was opened by old Norris, who
called out, "Mrs. Calverley is coming to the library!"

"I won't see her!" cried Chetwynd, fiercely.

But there was no retreat, and he was compelled to remain.

In another moment, Mrs. Calverley appeared. Her astonishment at
beholding Chetwynd may be imagined; nor, though she strove to veil it,
could she altogether conceal her annoyance.

"I did not expect to find you here, Chetwynd," she said.

"I came to see my sister, madam," he replied, haughtily; "and, having
had a brief interview with her, I am now about to depart."

And, with a stiff bow, he quitted the room.

As soon as she could recover her speech, Mrs. Calverley observed to Sir
Bridgnorth, "You see with what impracticable material I have to deal.
Any friendly overture on my part is always scornfully rejected. Well,
Chetwynd must take his own course; and if he suffers for his wilfulness,
he has only himself to blame. Do you feel at liberty to tell me what he
came about, Mildred?"

"I do not," she replied.

"You were present at the interview, I suppose, Sir Bridgnorth?"

"Quite unintentionally, madam," he answered. "And my lips are sealed."

This incident rather threw a damp upon the pleasure of the day.

Mrs. Calverley looked displeased, and Mildred appeared anxious and
thoughtful, so Sir Bridgnorth ordered his carriage.

But before taking his departure, he had a little private conversation
with Mildred, and promised to come over again to Ouselcroft on an early
day.



VI. BRACKLEY HEATH.

|Mrs. Calveriey had a very pretty pony phaeton, which she was accustomed
to drive herself. Easy as a lounging-chair, and with the two long-tailed
bay ponies attached to it, the luxurious little vehicle formed a very
nice turn-out.

One fine morning, about a week after Sir Bridgnorth's visit, Mrs.
Calverley and Mildred set out in the pony phaeton with the intention of
calling on Lady Barfleur and her daughter, at Brackley Hall, which was
about six or seven miles from Ouselcroft.

Usually, they were attended by a groom, but on this particular occasion
he was left at home.

The ponies were full of spirit, and eager to get on, but the ladies
would not indulge them, and proceeded quietly along the pleasant lanes,
through a rich and fertile district, abounding in farms, where some of
the best cheeses in the county are made.

To reach Brackley Hall, however, they had to cross an extensive heath, a
great part of which was very wild and marshy.

But this brown and uncultivated tract, where turf alone was cut, and
where there were two or three dangerous swamps, offered the charm of
contrast to the rich meadows they had just quitted. Here there were no
farm-houses, no cow-sheds, no large bams, no orchards; but the air
was fresh and pleasant, and lighted up by the brilliant sunshine, even
Brackley Heath looked well. At least, our fair friends thought so, and
the ponies were compelled to walk in consequence. Yet there was nothing
remarkable in the prospect, as the reader shall judge. The whole scene
owed its charm to the fine weather.

On the left the heath was bordered by the woods belonging to Brackley
Hall, and, through a break in them, the upper part of the fine old
timber and plaster mansion could be descried.

On the right the country was flat and uninteresting, planted in places
by rows of tall poplars, and a canal ran through it, communicating with
the River Mersey.

In front, but at some distance, rose a hill crowned by the ruins of
an old castle, and having a small village and grey old church in the
immediate neighbourhood.

In bad weather the heath had a dreary and desolate aspect. Here and
there a hut could be perceived, but these miserable habitations were
far removed from the road, and might have been deserted, since no smoke
issued from them, and nothing could be seen of their occupants. A few
sheep were scattered about in spots where the turf was covered with
herbage; but they seemed wholly untended. Rooks there were in flocks
from Brackley Park, plovers, and starlings. Even seagulls found their
way to the morass.

While the ladies were contemplating this scene, which they thought
highly picturesque, and commenting upon its beauties, they were
startled, and indeed terrified, by the sudden appearance of two
formidable-looking fellows, who had been watching their approach from
behind an aged and almost branchless oak that grew near the road.

Evidently, from their peculiar garb, tawny skin, black eyes, and raven
locks, these individuals were gipsies. They did not leave their purpose
in doubt for a moment, but rushing towards the ladies with threatening
gestures, shouted to them to stop.

Mrs. Calverley tried to whip on the ponies, but before they could start
off they were checked by one of the gipsies, who seized the reins, while
his comrade, addressing Mrs. Calverley, demanded her whip, and, as she
hesitated to give it up, he snatched it from her, and threw it on the
ground.

"Excuse my freedom, my lady," he said, in accents meant to be polite,
but that sounded gruff and menacing. "We can't allow you to go till
we've had some talk with you; but we won't detain you longer nor we can
help. We wants any money you may have about you, together with
ornaments, rings, watches, ear-rings, and sich like. Deliver 'em up
quietly, and you won't be molested--will they, Ekiel?"

"No," replied the other ruffian, who stood at the heads of the
ponies. "It would hurt our feelin's to use wiolence to two sich lovely
creaters."

Meanwhile, Mildred, who wished to preserve her watch, which had been
given her by her father, was trying to detach it from the guard, but
could not accomplish her object without attracting the attention of the
gipsy near Mrs. Calverley.

Dashing round to the other side of the carriage, he caught hold of the
chain, and broke it, but failed to secure the watch.

Mildred screamed loudly, though she had little expectation of help.

"Look quick, Clynch!" shouted Ekiel, in a warning voice.

"Give me the watch without more ado!" cried the gipsy to Mildred.

But she spread her hands over it, and redoubled her outcries.

"Here, take my purse and begone!" said Mrs. Calverley.

"Thank ye, my lady," rejoined Clynch, quickly appropriating the purse.
"But that's not enough. We must have everything you've got about you!"

"You shall have nothing more, fellow!" cried Mrs. Calverley, with great
spirit. "And see! assistance is at hand! If you stay a minute longer you
will be caught!"

And, as she spoke, a gentleman was seen galloping towards them, followed
by a groom.

Baulked of their prey, the gipsies ran off, and made for the morass,
with the intricacies of which they seemed well acquainted.

A minute or so afterwards their deliverer came up. A fine-looking young
man, between twenty and thirty, and having decidedly a military air, but
a stranger to them both.



VII. CAPTAIN DANVERS.

|I hope you have lost nothing, ladies?" cried the stranger.

"The robbers have taken, my purse," replied Mrs. Calverley; "and but for
your timely aid, they would have carried off all our ornaments."

"My chain is gone," said Mildred. "But I don't mind it. They did not get
my watch, which I value extremely. I owe its preservation entirely to
you, sir," she added, with a grateful look at the stranger.

"I am happy to find I have been of any service to you," he replied,
bowing. "Follow the rascals, Tom," he added to his groom, "and try to
capture one or both of them."

"Impossible, I fear, captain," replied the groom. "They can go where no
horse can go in that marsh, if they know the ground, as they seem to do.
But I'll do my best."

And he speeded after the fugitives, who were still in sight.

"Hold the reins for a minute, Mildred, while I pick up my whip," said
Mrs. Calverley.

"Allow me!" cried the stranger.

And, jumping down from the saddle, he presented the whip to Mrs.
Calverley, who gracefully acknowledged the attention.

"We are really very much indebted to you, sir," she said.

"You greatly overrate the service," he rejoined. "I have literally done
nothing. Hearing cries, and perceiving you were stopped by robbers, I
galloped on to your aid--that is all."

"May we learn the name of our deliverer?" she asked.

"I am Captain Charles Danvers," he replied; "nephew to Sir Lycester
Barfleur, of Brackley Hall, which you can see through the trees yonder.
But I dare say you know the place?"

"We were on our way thither, to call on Lady Barfleur, when we met with
this alarming adventure," observed Mrs. Calverley.

An idea seemed suddenly to occur to Captain Danvers.

"Are you not Mrs. Calverley, of Ouselcroft?" he inquired.

She replied in the affirmative; adding, "And this is my step-daughter,
Miss Calverley."

"I felt convinced of it!" he cried, again bowing. "I am indeed fortunate
in obtaining an introduction to a young lady of whom I have heard so
much."

"You can pay compliments as well as rescue ladies from robbers, it
seems, Captain Danvers," observed Mildred, slightly blushing. "We should
have met you, I have no doubt, at Brackley Hall."

"Very likely," he rejoined. "But I prefer an accidental meeting of this
kind; it is more romantic. I hope you are not going to turn back. If you
are, you must allow me to escort you. But they will be delighted to see
you, I am sure, at Brackley, and you can recount your adventure to
them."

"And extol your gallantry at the same time, Captain Danvers," laughed
Mildred. "I have quite recovered from my fright, mamma, so I think we
may as well go on."

"Do, by all means!" cried Captain Danvers, vaulting on his horse.

Mrs. Calverley assented; and they were just setting off, when the groom
was seen returning, so they waited until he came up.

"I see you have failed, Tom," said his master.

"Yes, captain," replied the man, touching, his hat. "I'm very sorry, but
it was no use attempting to follow them. I should have got over head and
ears in a quagmire."

"Immediate information of the robbery must be given to the police at
Frodsham," said Captain Danvers.

"It is scarcely worth while to take any more trouble about the matter,"
said Mrs. Calverley. "My purse had very little in it."

"And I don't care much for my chain, since my watch is safe," added
Mildred.

The party then set off, but not at a very quick pace, for Captain
Danvers rode by the side of the pony-carriage, and chatted with its fair
occupants.



VIII. BRACKLEY HALL.

|Captain Danvers lias already been described as a handsome young man
of about five-and-twenty, and it may now be added that he was tall,
well-made, and had marked features--the manly character of his
physiognomy being heightened by his brown moustaches.

A dark velveteen shooting-coat, boots of supple leather, that ascended
to the knee, where they were met by a pair of knickerbockers--loose,
Dutch-looking trousers--formed his costume, while his brown curling
locks were covered by a black felt hat. Such as it was, the dress suited
him, and both ladies thought it very becoming.

Captain Danvers was in a cavalry regiment, which was quartered at
Madras, and he had recently come home on leave. His father, Sir Gerard
Danvers, resided at Offham Court, in Kent, and was thought very wealthy.
Unluckily Charles Danvers was not an eldest son.

The party had now entered the park, and were proceeding along a fine
avenue leading to the house, which stood right in front of them.

Brackley Hall, which was in admirable preservation considering its
great antiquity, dated back to the period of Edward the Fourth, or even
earlier.

Constructed almost entirely of timber and plaster, it was remarkable for
the singularity of its form. It was only three storeys high, the upper
storey projecting far beyond the lower, but the summit of the building
was occupied by a lofty gallery, more than a hundred feet in length,
that looked externally like a lantern, since it had continuous ranges of
windows on every side.

Most curious was the timber-work, the gables and lintels being richly
carved, as was the porch. The immense bay windows, which constituted
the chief beauty of the house, were framed with heavy transom bars, and
exquisitely latticed.

In the court-yard was a chapel, surmounted in olden times by a tall,
square tower, but this had been taken down.

The hall was surrounded by a moat, and approached by a wide stone
bridge. Another bridge communicated with the gardens, which were
extensive, and laid out in a quaint, formal style, with terraces,
stone steps, fountains, quincunxes, clipped yew-trees, alleys, and a
bowling-green. We must not omit to mention that the old mansion had the
reputation of being haunted.

Adjoining the house was a grove of noble elms, wherein a colony of rooks
had been settled for centuries.

About half a mile off, at the rear of the mansion, was a small lake, or
mere, remarkable for the blackness of its water. But black as was the
mere, it abounded with fish, and at certain times of the year was a
great resort of wild fowl.

Captain Danvers had sent on his groom to the hall to inform Sir
Leycester and Lady Barfleur that Mrs. Calverley was coming on to call on
them, and also to explain what had occurred.

Consequently, when the ladies had crossed the bridge and entered the
court, they found Sir Leycester and Lady Barfleur, with the fair
Emmeline, waiting to receive them, and they had no sooner alighted than
they were overwhelmed with expressions of sympathy. Some of the servants
who were assembled in the court seemed likewise greatly excited.

Sir Leycester, an old fox-hunter and rather choleric, was excessively
wroth, and vowed he would never rest till he had caught the rascals. He
had no idea whatever, he said, that the country was infested with such
vermin, but catch them he would. Mrs. Calverley endeavoured to dissuade
him from his purpose, but in vain. "I only waited to see you, or I
should have been off before," he said. "You'll excuse me quitting you so
abruptly, since I am going on your business."

"But I'd much rather you didn't go, Sir Leycester," said Mrs. Calverley.
"I'm afraid the gipsies may offer a desperate resistance."

"I'm sure they will," added Mildred.

"No matter; I'll have them!" rejoined Sir Leycester.

"If you really are going on this gipsy-hunt, my dear uncle, I'll go with
you," said Captain Danvers.

"No, no; I don't want you, Charles," rejoined Sir Leycester. "Remain
with the ladies. You must stay till I return, my dear Mrs. Calverley."

She promised that she would; and, after a word or two with Lady
Barfleur, he proceeded to the stables, and ordered a hunter to be
saddled immediately. He also told Booth, the coachman, on whom he could
place reliance, that he should require him and a couple of grooms to
attend him.

While the horses were being saddled, a footman brought a brace of
pistols, which Sir Leycester had sent for.

Armed with these, and accompanied by Booth, and one of his own grooms,
together with his nephew's groom, Tom, he set out on the expedition,
shaping his course towards the further side of the morass, where he
expected to find some traces of the robbers.



IX. LADY BARFLEUR.

|Lady Barfleur had been a very fine woman in her day, and though her
beauty was now somewhat passed, she was still a stately dame, and
accorded extremely well with the old mansion of which she was mistress.

The drawing-room, to which she conducted her visitors, was a very
splendid apartment, and merits a brief description.

The ceiling was adorned with pendants, and the upper part of the walls
was covered with a profusion of plaster ornaments, among which were
the arms of Elizabeth and James the First. The dark oak wainscoting was
richly carved in arches and pilasters, producing a very fine effect.

The principal feature of the room, however, was the magnificent
fireplace. Rising to a great height, it was adorned with pillars and
sculptured figures that supported the architrave, above which were
emblazoned the arms of the Barfleurs.

The furniture was consistent with the antique character of the
room--none of it being of a later date than the early part of the
seventeenth century.

As Lady Barfleur moved slowly and somewhat stiffly about this noble
apartment, or seated herself in a high-backed chair, carved in oak,
black as ebony, she looked as if she belonged to the same date as the
furniture; and her hair, having become prematurely grey, aided the
illusion.

Not so Emmeline. She was a very charming representative of the young
lady of our own period.

An exceedingly pretty brunette, she had splendid black eyes, shaded by
long silken lashes, and arched over by finely-pencilled brows, lovely
features, ripe red lips, and teeth like pearls--and, as she was very
lively, the latter were often displayed.

She was not tall, but her figure was symmetry itself, and Cinderella
might have envied her tiny feet. She was about the same age as Mildred,
and they were great friends.

At first, the discourse turned chiefly upon the robbery, which Lady
Barfleur begged might be fully described to her; but it was soon changed
to other topics.

For awhile, Captain Danvers seemed undecided whether to devote himself
to the beautiful and wealthy widow or her lovely step-daughter; but
at length he began to pay exclusive attention to the former, probably
because she gave him most encouragement. Indeed, Mrs. Calverley seemed
more favourably inclined towards him than to any other suitor since her
husband's death.

Captain Danvers, it appeared, had only arrived at Brackley a few days
previously, and this accounted for his not having met the ladies of
Ouselcroft before.

Whether Mildred was altogether pleased by having him carried off in
this manner, we will not say. Not the slightest sign of annoyance was
manifest. She laughed and chatted gaily with Emmeline; and when that
young lady proposed that they should go and look at the gallery, she
readily assented, and left Mrs. Calverley in quiet possession of the
handsome captain.



X. THE GALLERY.

|Ascending a beautiful spiral oak staircase, the two young ladies soon
reached the gallery, which, it has already been mentioned, was situated
at the top of the house.

Like all the other rooms in the old mansion, the gallery was maintained
in its original state. At all events, it had undergone no alteration
since 1570, as appeared from an inscription above the door.

Exceedingly light and cheerful, as might be expected from the multitude
of windows, it seemed of immense size. It had a wooden roof--the rafters
being painted; and the panels were covered with tapestry, or hung with
family portraits. In the room were several curious old cabinets.

"I am always charmed with this gallery," exclaimed Mildred, as she gazed
around it in admiration. "If I lived here, I should spend all my time in
it."

"You would get tired of it," rejoined Emmeline. "For my part, I prefer
my own little chamber, with its carved oak bedstead, and beautiful
bay-window."

"Yes, your room is very pretty, but not to be compared with this grand
gallery."

"The gallery is too large to be pleasant," said Emmeline. "Indeed, I
rarely come here, unless we have company. But do sit down. I want to
have a little private and confidential talk with you."

"I hope you have some affair of the heart to communicate," said Mildred,
as she sat down on an old-fashioned sofa, covered with Utrecht velvet,
and just large enough for two, while Emmeline placed herself beside her,
and took her hand.

"You must know, then," began Miss Barfleur, "that two or three years ago
I had a _tête-à-tête_ with a very handsome young man. We were seated on
this very sofa. Mamma and several other persons were present, but they
were too far off to overhear what passed."

"That is one advantage of a very large room," remarked Mildred. "But
I am sorry this _tête-à-tête_ occurred so long ago. I hope it has been
renewed.

"No; and I fear it never will be renewed," sighed Emmeline. "But I have
not forgotten it."

"Did it come to a positive proposal?" inquired Mildred.

"Not exactly; but if the gentleman _had_ proposed I am sure I should
have accepted him; and I feel I never can love any one else."

"You think so now. I suppose he is still unmarried?"

"Shortly after the interview I have mentioned, he was engaged to another
person; but the engagement was broken off, and he is now free."

"Have you seen him again lately?"

"Not for a long, long time, Mildred; but I love him still, despite his
inconstancy, and I should like to know something about him."

"Emmeline," said Mildred, regarding her fixedly, "you are not referring
to my brother Chetwynd?"

"To whom else could I refer?" was the reply. Mildred uttered an
exclamation of surprise.

"I perfectly remember Chetwynd speaking of you in rapturous terms," she
said, "and telling me he had had a strong flirtation with you in the
gallery at Brackley Hall, but I had no idea you were at all serious on
the occasion. Oh, what a chance of happiness he has missed! Had he
been fortunate enough to possess you, how different would have been his
life!"

"I loved him!" said Emmeline, with emotion; "and I don't believe Teresa
Mildmay ever did."

"I entirely agree with you," remarked Mildred. "I have listened to your
recital with the deepest interest, dearest Emmeline, and I wish I could
give you a good account of Chetwynd, but I really cannot. I saw him the
other day, but only for a few minutes."

"At Ouselcroft?" inquired Emmeline, eagerly.

"Yes. He came there quite unexpectedly, and left immediately."

"I am afraid his hasty departure doesn't look as if he had made up his
quarrel with Mrs. Calverley."

"Alas! no; and I greatly fear he never will become reconciled to her.
Perhaps you are aware he won't accept anything from her?"

"Yes; and I admire his spirit."

"Still he is very foolish. He is punishing himself, not her."

"But he adhered to his word. I shouldn't like him half so much if he
yielded."

"Then your regard won't be lessened, for I feel certain he won't yield."

"I judged him rightly, you see," said Emmeline; "and I persuade myself he
will triumph in the end. And now, dearest Mildred, before we finish our
discourse, will you faithfully promise to let me know when you next see
him or hear from him?"

"I won't delude you, Emmeline. I don't expect either to see him or hear
from him. Sir Bridgnorth Charlton has very kindly undertaken to look
after him, but he may not have an opportunity of doing so. Unlike
anybody else, Chetwynd seems to shun those who love him or would serve
him."

"I hope he won't shun me," said Emmeline.

"Not if he could be made aware that you take an interest in him; but how
convey the information? He does not correspond with me, and I don't even
know his address, or what way a letter could reach him."

"Then I must remain in the same state of uncertainty as ever," said
Emmeline, in a despairing tone. "You give me small comfort, Mildred."

"I pity you from my heart, dearest Emmeline; but comfort you I cannot."

For a moment, Emmeline seemed overpowered by emotion. She then found
relief in tears, and her head dropped on Mildred's shoulder.

"Think of him no more--think of him no more!" cried Mildred. "He does not
deserve your love, I, his sister, say so."

Emmeline made no response, but continued to sob.

Neither of them were aware that Lady Barfleur had entered the gallery.

Greatly surprised at what she beheld, her ladyship stood still.
Fortunately she did not hear the words uttered by Mildred, so she could
only guess at the cause of this sudden outburst of grief.

At length she announced her presence by a slight cough, and Mildred
perceived her.

"Calm yourself, dearest girl," she whispered to Emmeline. "Your mother
is here."

"Here!" exclaimed Emmeline, looking up. "Yes, I see. Can she have heard
anything?"

"I think not. But be calm, or you will betray yourself!"

Thereupon they both arose, and Emmeline did her best to repress her
emotion, and succeeded in forcing a smile.

"You will scold me, mamma, when you learn that I have been so foolish as
to weep at a very pathetic story told me by Mildred," she said.

"I am glad to find it is nothing serious," replied Lady Barfleur.

"Have you come to tell us that papa has captured the gipsies?"

"No; he has not yet returned," replied Lady Barfleur. "I came to let you
know that Mrs. Calverly and Captain Danvers have gone to the garden.
Perhaps you may like to join them there."

"Shall we, Mildred?"

"By all means," was the reply. "I shouldn't think I had been at Brackley
unless I had had a stroll in the delightful old garden."

"Don't wait for me; I'll follow," said Lady Barfleur.

Glad to escape further questioning, the two delinquents flew down the
spiral staircase, and hastened to the garden.



XI. WHAT PASSED IN THE GARDEN.

|Do you know, Mrs. Calverley, I have never been at your place,
Ouselcroft, and I hear it's uncommonly pretty."

This remark was made by Captain Danvers, as he was seated by the side of
the charming widow on a bench near one of the fountains.

"Come and see it, and judge," she replied. "We shall be at home
to-morrow."

"Give me the greatest pleasure to ride over," he said. "A country place
is charming; but I almost wonder you haven't got a house in town."

"I think of taking one," she replied. "Mildred has never been in
town--never resided there, I ought to say. Her papa objected to noise
and racket--didn't care for the parks or the Opera, and disliked large
parties. I don't think he could have stood a season in town. I
prefer quietude and the country myself. However, Mildred ought to be
considered, and as she wishes to mix a little more with society than she
is able to do here, we shall go to London for a time."

"'Pon my soul! you're exceedingly kind," cried the captain. "Miss
Calverley is blessed with a most indulgent mamma--'sister,' I was going
to say, but I recollected myself in time."

"I shall make her as happy as I can, so long as she remains with me,"
replied Mrs. Calverley. "When my late husband entrusted his daughter to
my care, he knew I should do my duty to her."

"And your first duty," he remarked, with a smile, "is to get her well
married. That will be easily accomplished, for I hear there are many
_prétendants._ No wonder!--she is a most lovely creature."

"And will have a very good fortune," said Mrs. Calverley. "I make no
secret that I mean to give her thirty thousand pounds as a marriage
portion." Captain Danvers was astounded. If she was to have such a
fortune as this, he began to think he had better turn his attention
to the step-daughter. He endeavoured to look indifferent, but Mrs.
Calverley perceived that the remark had told, as she intended it to do.

"You are the most generous of your sex, Mrs. Calverley," he observed.
"Few women, circumstanced as you are, would make so great a sacrifice."

"I don't consider it a sacrifice, Captain Danvers. I regard it as a
duty. I simply represent her father. What he would have done, I shall
do."

"I cannot withhold my admiration of conduct as rare as it is
praiseworthy," said the captain. "I repeat, you deserve infinite credit
for your generosity. But Mr. Calverley, I believe, left a son as well as
a daughter? What will he say to this magnificent portion?"

"He has no voice in the matter," replied the lady. "My husband left the
entire control of his property to me."

"A wise man!--a very wise man!" cried the captain.

"Chetwynd Calverley has been very wild and extravagant," said the widow.
"It was necessary, therefore, to tie up the property."

"Quite necessary!--quite proper!" remarked the captain. "Though I
shouldn't like it myself," he thought. "Is Chetwynd satisfied with the
arrangement, may I ask?"

"Very much the reverse," she replied. "But that is immaterial."

"He doesn't know what is good for him," said the captain. "None of us
do," he mentally ejaculated.

"Then you approve of the course I am about to pursue, Captain Danvers?"

"Entirely, my dear madam--entirely," he replied. "I think it most
judicious."

"And now you have asked me a good many questions, let me ask you one in
return?" said Mrs. Calverley.

"Delighted to answer any questions you may put to me," he replied,
wondering what she was going to say.

"But don't answer this, unless you like," she observed.

"Let me hear it," he rejoined, fearing something unpleasant was coming.

"How is it that your lovely cousin, Emmeline, has not married? I know
she has had several very good offers."

"'Pon my honour, I can't tell. I fancy--but mind its only fancy--she has
had some disappointment."

"I should think that scarcely possible," observed Mrs. Calverley. "Why,
she is an only child, and will be a great heiress!"

"Well, that's the only solution I can give of the mystery. I know Lord
Bollington proposed to her, and I know my uncle would have liked the
match to take place, but the young lord was refused."

"Possibly she has an attachment," observed Mrs. Calverley, thoughtfully.
"If so, it's a great pity."

"Here she comes, with Miss Calverley," said Captain Danvers, as the two
young ladies were seen advancing along the terrace.



XII. BRACKLEY MERE.

|By this time, all traces of tears had disappeared, and Emmeline's dark
eyes looked lustrous as ever.

Judging from her lively manner, no one would have dreamed that she
nourished a secret attachment. But she kept it carefully locked up in
the recesses of her heart, and had no confidante except Mildred.

Captain Danvers rose to meet them, but Mrs. Calverley retained her seat.

"We shall see now how he acts," she thought.

He did not leave her long in doubt. He immediately began an animated
conversation with Mildred, and kept by her side as they walked round the
garden, leaving Emmeline to amuse Mrs. Calverley.

No doubt the handsome captain could make himself extremely agreeable if
he chose, and he now exerted himself to the utmost, and succeeded.

Having expatiated upon the beauty of the formal old garden they were
surveying, and saying how much he preferred it to the landscape style,
he turned the discourse to the amusements and gaieties of London, and
soon found that Mildred was really anxious to spend a season in
town; whereupon he expressed the greatest satisfaction, as he should
frequently have an opportunity of meeting her.

By this time Lady Barfleur had made her appearance, and as she could
report nothing of Sir Leycester, she suggested a visit to the mere.

"It is a nice shady walk there through the wood," she said; "and if you
have not seen the mere, I think you will be struck by it."

"Not by its beauty, mamma," remarked Emmeline, "but rather by its
blackness."

"Well, such blackness as that water boasts _is_ a beauty," said Captain
Danvers. "In my opinion, the mere is well worth seeing."

"There are all sorts of legends attached to it," said Emmeline. "Amongst
others, there is a superstition, that when anything is about to happen
to our house, a great piece of black oak, that has been sunk for ages at
the bottom of the lake, floats to the surface."

"An idle story," remarked Lady Barfleur.

"You excite my curiosity," said Mrs. Calverley. "I should like to see
this mysterious lake."

"You must excuse my accompanying you," said Lady Barfleur. "Captain
Danvers will conduct you there."

"With the greatest pleasure," said the captain. "I hope you will go too,
Miss Calverley?"

"Oh, of course!" she replied.

So they all set off, with the exception of Lady Barfleur, who rarely got
beyond the garden.

In a very few minutes, they had plunged into a wood, through which a
narrow road led to the mere.

In some places, the path was overarched by trees, and the branches
formed a delightful screen on that hot day.

Captain Danvers led the way with Mildred, and the path being only wide
enough for two, the others were obliged to follow. As the wood seemed to
inspire such a tone, his accents became low and tender.

Suddenly they burst upon the lake in all its sombre grandeur. The water
looked intensely black, but when examined, it was found to be perfectly
clear. The broad expanse was surrounded by trees, which, in some
instances, advanced beyond the bank.

The surface of the mere was unruffled, for not a breath of wind was
stirring, and reflected the trees as in a mirror. Occasionally, however,
a fish would leap up, and the smooth water was, for a moment, rippled.

But the effect of the scene was not cheerful. An air of gloom brooded
over the place, that impressed the beholder with melancholy. Both Mrs.
Calverley and Mildred acknowledged the feeling.

At the point where the visitors had approached it, the lake was shallow,
and occupied by a large bed of reeds and bullrushes; but, at the opposite
extremity, the water was profoundly deep, and supposed, by the common
folk, to be unfathomable.

On the left, and not far from where they stood, was a boat-house, and
Captain Danvers offered to row them to the further end of the lake, so
that they might have an opportunity of completely surveying it.

The proposal was gladly accepted.

Repairing to the shed, they embarked in a large flat-bottomed boat,
better adapted for fishing than moving rapidly through the water.

However, it answered the purpose. Captain Danvers took the sculls, and
contrived to get Mildred next him. The clumsy craft moved slowly on, and
was now and then stopped that the ladies might look around.

As they drew near the lower end, the lake seemed to become darker, and
the trees that shut it in assumed a yet more sombre appearance.

Here it was deepest.

Captain Danvers was tugging at the sculls, but still making very slow
progress, when the boat struck against something in the water that gave
it a great shock.

The captain ceased rowing, and looking round to see what he had come in
contact with, to his surprise and consternation, he beheld the blackened
trunk of a huge oak.

Hitherto, the dusky mass had scarcely appeared above the surface, but on
being thus forcibly struck, it rolled round in such manner as to display
its enormous bulk, and then gradually sank.

All three ladies saw the ill-omened piece of timber at the same time as
Captain Danvers.

Uttering a cry of fright, Emmeline stood up, and, pointing to it,
exclaimed:

"'Tis the black oak I told you of. One of my father's house is doomed!"

The others looked aghast, but spoke not. Even Captain Danvers seemed
struck dumb.

Without a word, he turned the boat's head, and began to row back.

While he was moving round, Emmeline sat down, and covered her eyes, to
shut the hideous object from her view.

"It is gone," said Mildred, in a low tone. "Try not to think about it."

"I ought to think about it," rejoined Emmeline, scarcely above her
breath. "It is a death-warning!"

"But not to you, dearest girl," said Mildred.

"I would rather it applied to me than to those I love," she returned.

Silence prevailed among the party till they landed. No more jesting on
the part of the captain. He looked very gloomy.

When they got out of the boat, he tried to cheer up his fair cousin, but
did not succeed.

They walked back quietly to the Hall, where a painful surprise awaited
them.



XIII. PURSUIT OF THE GIPSIES.

|Sir Leycester Barfleur, as we have shown, had ridden with his
attendants to the further side of the morass, where he hoped to
intercept the gipsies in their flight, but he could discover nothing of
them.

Posting himself with Booth, the coachman, on a little mound near the
marsh, he sent off the two grooms to the huts previously mentioned,
to ascertain whether the fugitives had taken refuge there; but his
emissaries brought him no satisfactory intelligence, and it was the
opinion of the turf-cutters who inhabited the huts that the gipsies had
gone off altogether.

Sir Leycester, however, felt convinced that the rascals were somewhere
about, and ordered his men to make a careful search, directing the
turf-cutters to assist them.

Again they were all at fault.

Sir Leycester next tried the wood that skirted the heath, and sent the
men on by different routes, fixing a place of meeting in the heart of
the thicket..

He himself pursued the main road, attended by Booth.

"It's a pity we didn't bring those two Scotch deerhounds with us, Sir
Leycester," observed the coachman. "If the gipsies have taken shelter
in this wood,-we shall never be able to find 'em without a dog of some
sort."

"I believe you're right, Booth," replied Sir Leycester. "I don't like
hunting men in that way. But what's to be done, if we can't catch them
otherwise?"

"It's the only sure plan," rejoined Booth. "We're wasting time now."

"Well, go and fetch the hounds," said Sir Leycester. "Ride to the
keeper's lodge as fast as you can. If Rushton shouldn't be at home, go
on to the Hall; but use despatch."

"Shall I bring Rushton with me, as well as the hounds, Sir Leycester?"
inquired Booth.

"Ay, do," replied the baronet.

"And a bloodhound?" asked the coachman, with a grin.

Sir Leycester signified his assent, and Booth galloped off.

He had scarcely started, when the baronet regretted the last order
given, and called out to him not to bring the bloodhound.

Booth, however, was out of hearing.

Sir Leycester then proceeded to the centre of the wood, keeping a sharp
look-out on either side as he rode along.

The others had already arrived at the appointed spot, but had nothing to
tell.

The baronet felt very much inclined to swear; but, just at the moment, a
burly farmer, named Marple, who used to hunt with him, came up, mounted
on a well-bred horse.

On hearing what was going on, Marple told the baronet he had just seen a
couple of gipsies, who appeared to be hiding on the banks of the Weever,
and offered to take him to the exact spot.

"No doubt they are the rogues you are looking for, Sir Leycester," he
added.

"No doubt of it!" cried the baronet, joyfully. "Come along!"

He then rode off with Marple, taking the two grooms with him, and
leaving the turf-cutters behind, to wait for Booth and the hounds.

The river Weever described a wide half-circle round the east side of the
wood, the spot referred to by Marple being about half a mile off.

As they rode at a rattling pace, they were there in a few minutes; but
when they approached the river, they proceeded cautiously.

If the gipsies had not decamped, they felt sure of catching them, the
Weever being here very deep, while there was no bridge within a mile.

But, cautiously as they came on, they had been descried, and perfectly
understanding their design, the gipsies were endeavouring to escape
by creeping along the bank of the river, which was here bordered by
willows.

Having got nearly to the end of this screen, the fugitives stopped,
determined, if hard pressed, to make for the adjoining wood, and being
both extremely fleet, they had no doubt of accomplishing their purpose.



XIV. THE BLOODHOUND.

|It soon became manifest to the gipsies that their pursuers were
following them, and searching carefully about among the willows; and
they were still more alarmed by the report of a pistol, discharged by
Sir Leycester, with the view of rousing them from the covert.

Accordingly, they dashed off; and so busily were their pursuers
occupied, that a minute or two elapsed before their flight was
discovered.

A piece of ground, level as a village green, and a couple of meadows,
lay between them and the desired place of shelter, and they had
gained the first hedge, and were scrambling through it, when they were
perceived by Sir Leycester, who instantly shouted a view-halloo, and the
whole party started in pursuit.

But not without reason had the gipsies reckoned upon their own speed.

Before Sir Leycester and his attendants cleared the first obstacle, they
had leaped a five-barred gate, and were flying across the second field.

In half a minute more they had plunged into the thicket, and fancied
themselves secure.

Sir Leycester, on the other hand, who was close at their heels, knew
very well they had run into the trap and chuckled at the thought of
their speedy capture.

Causing his companions to disperse, he went towards the centre of the
wood, expecting to find Booth with the keeper and the hounds.

Meanwhile, the gipsies, being well acquainted with the thicket, made
their way to its inmost recesses, where the brambles and underwood would
render it difficult, if not impossible, for the horsemen to follow them.

They heard Marple and the others on their left and right, pushing their
way through the trees, and vainly endeavouring to get near them. They,
therefore, felt quite safe; the only unpleasantness being that they
might be detained there till night.

But this feeling of security was quickly dispelled by some sounds they
did not at all like. They first heard voices at a distance, accompanied
by the crackling of small branches, announcing that some persons on
foot were searching for them, and Ekiel remarked, in a low tone, to his
comrade:

"Why, that's Ned Rushton, the keeper's voice. We're not safe here, if
he's after us."

"Keep quiet," muttered Clynch. "He mayn't come this way."

Shortly afterwards, a low, ominous growl, not to be mistaken by the
experienced, reached their ears, and filled them with alarm.

"Ned has got a bloodhound with him, Ekiel," said Clynch. "We must kill
the brute! Have you got your Spanish knife with you?"

"Ay! but I daren't attack that hound."

"Give me the knife, then! I'll do it!" cried Clynch. "We must get out of
this place as quickly as we can, and run for life."

"Run where?" demanded Ekiel.

"To the marsh," replied Clynch. "That's our only chance."

"That devil of a dog has taken all my strength out of me."

"Don't be afeared of him!" cried Clynch, unclasping the cuchillo, the
point of which was as sharp as a needle.

Just then, a long bay proclaimed that the hound had got the scent,
while the voice, stated by Ekiel to be that of Ned Rushton, was heard
encouraging him.

The gipsies set off; but had not gone far when the formidable hound
burst upon them through the underwood.

Quick as lightening, Clynch turned, and dropping on one knee, faced the
enemy with the cuchillo in his hand.

For a moment, the hound fixed upon him a red, deep-seated eye, and then
sprang at his throat.

But Clynch, whose gaze had never quitted the terrible animal, received
him on the point of the knife, and drove the deadly weapon to his heart.
With a fierce yell, the hound fell back.

Having thus liberated himself from his formidable foe, Clynch was making
off, when Ned Rushton appeared.

Exasperated by the slaughter of his favourite, he discharged both
barrels of his gun at the flying gipsy, but without effect. The shot
rattled over the head of the fugitive, but did him no harm. Clynch
quickly overtook his comrade; and, as soon as the ground became clear of
underwood, they speeded off towards the morass.



XV. THE DEERHOUNDS.

|Meanwhile, Sir Leycester had not been idle.

He had sent off Ned Rushton with the bloodhound to unkennel the gipsies;
but would not allow the other hounds to be unleashed.

However, when he heard the shouts, and caught sight of the fugitives,
one of them with a bloodstained knife in his hand, running towards the
morass, he shouted to Booth to loose the dogs, and, cheering them on,
started in pursuit.

The deerhounds quite understood their business, and rushed after the
gipsies at a tremendous pace, followed by Sir Leycester, who vainly
endeavoured to keep up with them.

Marple, Booth, and the two grooms likewise joined in the exciting chase.

After a good run, Ekiel dropped; and as the hounds had to be pulled
away from him, the incident caused a short delay, that enabled Clynch to
reach the morass.

There was for no time hesitation, so he took the first path that
offered--a narrow footway that seemed to lead towards the middle of the
bog.

He soon found he had made a bad choice, for the path grew narrower, and
the ground became soft.

But the deerhounds were after him, and behind them came Sir Leycester,
who had ventured to ride along the pathway, in spite of the warning
shouts of Marple and the others.

Clynch ran on a little further, and then stood at bay, preparing to
defend himself against the deerhounds with the cuchillo, which he had
never relinquished.

At this juncture, Sir Leycester's horse missed his footing, and slipped
into the bog, and in the effort to recover himself, threw his rider over
his head, completely engulfing him.

Cries of consternation arose from all who witnessed the accident; but
they could render no assistance.

Marple, who had all along been apprehensive of disaster, flung himself
from his horse, and hurried to the spot; but only to find that the
unfortunate baronet had disappeared.

"Call off these dogs, and I'll help you to get him out!" shouted Clynch.

In the hope of saving the baronet's life, Marple complied; and as soon
as he was safe from attack, the gipsy flung away the knife, and, setting
to work, did his best.

But his help was of no avail. The horse was got out; but Sir Leycester
had sunk, and could not be found.

Plenty of other assistance soon arrived. Booth, the coachman; Ned
Rushton, the keeper; the turf-cutters--all were there.

But though every effort was made, and every available appliance used,
more than an hour elapsed before the body could be recovered.

It was then conveyed to the Hall--Marple having gone on before, to break
the sad intelligence to Lady Barfleur.


END OF THE FIRST BOOK



BOOK THE SECOND--THE HEIRESS OF BRACKLEY HALL.



I. THE LAST OF THE OLD CHESHIRE SQUIRES.

|A terrible sensation was caused at Brackley Hall when tidings were
brought there of the fatal accident that had befallen its owner. Sir
Leycester had been an excellent master, and was beloved by all his
household, and their regrets for his loss were heartfelt.

Lady Barfleur was completely stunned by the shock. Marple endeavoured
to break the sad intelligence to her gradually; but his countenance and
accents betrayed him.

Rising from the sofa on which she was seated, she seized him by the arm,
and commanded him to tell her the truth.

Thus interrogated, he felt compelled to give a direct reply. But he
regretted doing so, when he saw the effect his words produced upon
her. She looked aghast, placed her hand on her heart, and, then, with a
half-stifled cry, sank upon the sofa.

Marple had taken the precaution to station a female servant at the door;
and he now summoned her to her mistress. Lady Barfleur had fainted.

Emmeline did not hear of the direful event till she returned from the
lake; and she then instantly bethought her of the death-warning she had
received. She managed to restrain her emotions till she reached her own
room, whither she was accompanied by Mildred, who was almost equally
shocked, and then gave way to a paroxysm of grief.

Mrs. Calverley was likewise much distressed. She could not help
reproaching herself as being, in some degree, the cause of the accident;
though she had endeavoured to dissuade the unfortunate baronet from
pursuing the gipsies.

Feeling certain, under the present afflicting circumstances, that
Emmeline would not be willing to part with Mildred, she settled in her
own mind that the latter should remain with her friend for a few days.
Moreover, she herself would spend the night at Brackley, if she could be
of any use to Lady Barfleur. Such were her mental resolves.

Hitherto, she had remained in the garden. She now went into the house.
It was all in confusion, the servants appearing quite scared. There was
no one to whom she could speak, for Captain Danvers had gone off to the
marsh.

The drawing-room was deserted. Nothing was changed there. But how
different the noble room looked in her eyes from what it had done in the
morning! Its splendour seemed dimmed. The great emblazoned shield over
the mantelpiece looked like a hatchment.

After gazing round for a few minutes, she sat down. Melancholy thoughts
intruded upon her. Perhaps, even feelings of remorse assailed her. But
we shall not search her bosom. She began to feel some disquietude at
being left so long alone, and wondered why Mildred did not come down to
her. Possibly, she could not leave Emmeline.

Suddenly, her attention was roused by a disturbance in the
entrance-hall, that seemed to betoken an arrival.

What it was she could not fail to conjecture.

Trampling of feet, as if caused by men bearing a heavy burden, and
muttered voices, were heard. Then followed other sounds, almost equally
significant, the opening and shutting of doors, and the congregating of
servants in the hall.

She waited for some minutes, in the expectation of being summoned, but
as no one came near her, she went forth.

The hall was empty, but the dining-room door stood open, and at it was
stationed the butler.

The man had a very sorrowful countenance indeed. He bowed gravely as she
approached, and motioned her to enter the room.

A very touching spectacle was presented to her gaze.

On a large carved oak table, covered with a crimson cloth, and placed
in the centre of the apartment, was laid the body of the unfortunate
baronet.

It was partially covered by a cloak; and the stains from the swamp in
which he had been engulfed had been carefully removed from his face and
grey locks. Strange to say, his features were not changed, but seemed to
wear their customary kindly expression.

Around were grouped the different members of the household, all of whom
looked deeply afflicted, and some of the female servants were weeping
bitterly.

On one side stood Ned Eushton, with two of his helpers, behind him.
Rarely did Ned's manly visage exhibit such grief as it wore on this sad
occasion. After gazing steadfastly at his late kind-hearted master for
some minutes, he cast down his eyes, and did not raise them again till
the moment of departure.

On the other side stood Marple, who, though burly of frame, was as
soft-hearted as a woman. He deeply lamented Sir Leycester, and well he
might, for the baronet had ever been a good friend to him.

At the end of the apartment stood Captain Danvers, a quiet but not
unmoved spectator of the scene. If his grief made little outward show,
it was not the less deep and sincere. He was strongly attached to his
uncle, from whom, indeed, he had some expectations, that might never now
be realised.

But the principal figures in this touching picture have yet to be
described.

Emmeline and Mildred were kneeling down in prayer, at the back, when
Lady Barfleur entered the room. She had nerved herself, as she thought,
for the ordeal; but on catching sight of the body, she uttered a cry
that thrilled all who heard it, rushed up to her dead husband, clasped
her arms round his neck, and fell with her head upon his breast.

No one ventured to remove her; and she was still in this attitude when
Mrs. Calverley entered the room.

The dark oak ceiling, the dark oak panels, the dim windows, harmonised
with the sombre character of the picture, which made an ineffaceable
impression upon Mrs. Calverley.

The scene suggested many reflections.

In the room, where for many years he had exercised unbounded
hospitality, and where his ancestors had feasted before him, lay the
last male representative of the ancient house of Barfleur.

Sir Leycester had had a son, who died when quite young, and the title
was now extinct. All the late baronet's estates and possessions would go
to his daughter and sole heiress. But Emmeline thought not of the wealth
she had thus suddenly acquired. She thought only of the irreparable loss
she had sustained in the death of the father who had treated her with
constant tenderness and affection, and whom she dearly loved.

But if no selfish thoughts occupied her, reflections somewhat akin
to them occurred to one near to her, who well knew how she was
circumstanced. Mrs. Calverley knew that Emmeline was her father's sole
heiress, and looked upon her as a very important personage, over whom
it would be desirable to obtain an influence. Such influence could
be easily acquired by Mildred, to whom, it was evident, Emmeline was
strongly attached.

Mrs. Calverley knew much, but there was one important matter of which
she was totally ignorant. How could she have been aware that Emmeline
cherished a secret attachment to Chetwynd?

The picture we have attempted to describe remained undisturbed for a few
minutes, when the new-made widow recovered from the swoon into which she
had fallen.

As soon as she could, Mrs. Calverley, who had come up, gently raised
her, and helped her to quit the room. Emmeline and Mildred arose and
followed.

Captain Danvers remained till the household had withdrawn, and then held
a consultation with the butler, to whom the entire management of the
house had been entrusted for the present by Lady Barfleur.

As Mrs. Calverley had foreseen, Emmeline would not part with Mildred;
and she herself remained till the following day, having despatched a
messenger to Ousel-croft with a note to her housekeeper, explaining
matters, and desiring her to send back some things that she and Mildred
required.

Passing over the dreary interval that comprised the inquest, and the
examination and committal of the gipsies, we shall come on to the
funeral, to which a great number of important personages---relatives,
connexions, and friends of the deceased baronet--had been invited.

Sir Gerard Danvers, of Offham Grange and his eldest son Scrope,
Charles's brother, arrived at Brackley Hall on the eve of the sad
ceremonial.

Up to this time, Lady Barfleur had not quitted her room; but she could
not refuse to see her brother and nephew, and she, therefore, dined with
them. It was a _triste_ party, as may be imagined, for her ladyship's
presence cast a gloom over it. Emmeline looked ill; Mildred was out of
spirits; and Mrs. Calverley, who had come over that afternoon, had to
supply the conversation. Both Sir Gerard and Scrope thought her very
charming.

Scrope was about thirty, tall, thin, dark-complexioned, and by no means
so handsome as his brother; but he was exceedingly gentlemanlike, and
would be very rich, and that was much in Mrs. Calver-ley's opinion; so
she took some trouble to please him.

It was with difficulty that Captain Danvers could maintain a grave
exterior. Mr. Carteret, the solicitor, who had acted professionally for
Sir Leycester as he had done for Mr. Calverley, had been over that day;
and when the will of the deceased baronet was examined, it was found he
had left his nephew Charles five thousand pounds. Impossible, after such
a windfall as this, that the captain, who was not over-burdened with
cash, could look very dull.

Members of some of the oldest and best Cheshire families--Egerton,
Cholmondeley, Leigh, Venables, Vernon, Brereton, Mainwaring, Davenport,
and others--attended the funeral.

Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, who had been an old friend of the deceased
baronet, was likewise invited, and came.

Before the funeral _cortège_ set out, Sir Bridgnorth took an opportunity
of speaking to Mildred, and said he would call upon her in a few days,
as he had something to tell her respecting Chetwynd.

Sir Leycester was not interred in the little chapel in the court of the
old Hall, where some of his earlier ancestors reposed, but in his family
vault in the neighbouring church of Brackley, and was borne thither,
according to custom, on the shoulders of the tenantry. Sir Gerald
Danvers and his two sons followed on foot, with a long train of mourners
composed entirely of the deceased baronet's retainers. The carriages of
the important personages we have mentioned closed the procession.

A word respecting Sir Leycester ere we lose sight of him for ever.

Not inappropriately, he might be termed the last of the Cheshire
squires, since he left none behind who so completely answered to the
description of that traditional character.

He seemed to belong to another age--a ruder but manlier age than our
own. Yet Sir Leycester, though sometimes coarse and careless of speech,
could be most courteous.

His ancestors had always been loyal--always true to the Stuarts.
Brackley Hall had held out against the Parliamentarians in the time of
Charles the First, and Sir Chandos Barfleur was killed at the siege. His
son Delves was just as faithful to the king's fortunes, and lost part
of his property; but it was restored by Charles the Second, and again
jeopardised in 1715. Circumstances prevented Sir Wilbraham Barfleur from
joining the Rebellion of '45. From this date the Barfleurs became loyal
to the reigning family.

Born in the latter part of the last century, Sir Leycester belonged to
that epoch rather than to the present. He retained the manners of his
sire and grandsire, and thus became a type of the old school--a type
that has now completely disappeared.

In look, bearing, physiognomy, costume, manner, he differed from the
present generation. But there was no better gentleman, no cheerier
companion, no stauncher friend, no better rider to hounds, than Sir
Leycester Barfleur, the last of the old Cheshire squires.



II. A CONSULTATION.

|About a week after the funeral, Sir Bridgnorth Charlton rode over to
Brackley Hall, in fulfilment of his promise to call on Mildred.

Lady Barfleur was not well enough to appear; but Emmeline and Mildred,
who had been impatiently expecting his visit, received him in the
drawing-room.

They were attired in deep mourning; and, though there was no personal
resemblance between them, they looked like sisters.

After some inquiries respecting Lady Barfleur, and messages of
condolence to her, Sir Bridgnorth looked at Mildred, who interpreted his
glance correctly, and said:

"You may speak freely of Chetwynd before Miss Barfleur, Sir Bridgnorth.
She takes great interest in him."

"A very great interest," added Emmeline. "I hope you bring us some news
of him?"

"Very little," replied Sir Bridgnorth. "And what I do bring is not
satisfactory. You desire me to speak plainly about your brother, Miss
Calverley?"

"Most certainly!" she replied.

"Well, then, you may remember, when I accidentally met him at
Ouselcroft, I gave him a pocket-book, containing a certain sum of
money?"

"I am not likely to forget your kindness," replied Mildred.

"It appears there was rather more in the pocket-book than I thought,"
pursued Sir Bridgnorth--"bank notes to the amount of three hundred
pounds. I mention this, because your brother has most scrupulously
repaid me the exact sum, of which he kept a memorandum."

"He behaved like a man of honour!" cried Emmeline.

"Undoubtedly. But I did not want the money back. I want to assist him. I
want him to come to me--to talk to me."

"Will he not do so?" said Mildred.

"I fear not. I suspect he is still in difficulties."

"If so, he must be got out of them, and you must manage it, Sir
Bridgnorth," said Mildred.

"But I can't manage it, my dear young lady. I don't know where to find
him."

"But he _must_ be found!" cried Emmeline.

"Easily said; but not so easily accomplished," rejoined Sir Bridgnorth,
smiling at her vivacity. "I have used every endeavour, but can obtain no
clue to him."

"Is he in London?" asked Mildred.

"I believe so," he replied.

"Surely then he can be discovered?" she remarked.

"I have not succeeded in discovering him, that is all I can say,"
rejoined Sir Bridgnorth. "And I have really taken a great deal of
trouble in the business. He has been remarkably successful in hiding
himself."

"Do not keep anything back from me, I pray you, dear Sir Bridgnorth!"
said Mildred. "Is he without resources?"

"I cannot imagine so," he replied. "He must have had some funds to
enable him to repay me, unless--" and he paused.

"Unless what?" said Mildred.

"You enjoin me to speak the truth," replied Sir Bridgnorth; "and I will
do so at the hazard of giving you and Miss Barfleur pain. My idea is
that he has lost money at play. Mind, I have no proof of what I assert.
It is simply conjecture."

"I fear you are right, Sir Bridgnorth," said Mildred, heaving a deep
sigh.

"In your opinion, Sir Bridgnorth," said Emmeline, who had listened
anxiously to the discourse--"in your opinion, I say, has Chetwynd lost a
considerable sum of money at play?"

"I fear so."

"Has he paid it?"

"I fear not."

There was a pause, during which the two young ladies regarded each other
wistfully.

At length, Mildred spoke.

"Sir Bridgnorth," she said, "Chetwynd's debts of 'honour'"--and she
emphasised the word--"must be paid, and shall be paid, at any sacrifice,
by me! You will do me the greatest kindness by finding out exactly how
he is circumstanced, what he owes, and, especially, what are his debts
of honour."

Emmeline looked earnestly at Sir Bridgnorth, as if she felt equally
interested in the inquiry.

Sir Bridgnorth was evidently troubled, and for some moments made no
answer.

"Excuse me, my dear Miss Calverley," he said; "if your brother is in a
scrape, I think he should be allowed to get out of it--as he best can."

"No!" exclaimed Mildred, decidedly. "It is not like me, Sir Bridgnorth,
to give such advice."

"No!" added Emmeline, equally decidedly. "He must be freed!"

"Upon my word," said Sir Bridgnorth, surprised, "whatever may have
happened to him, this young man cannot be called unfortunate."

"Then act as a true friend to him, dear Sir Bridgnorth!" said
Mildred. "Make immediate arrangements to get him out of all difficulties.
You will incur no personal responsibility."

"None whatever," said Emmeline.

Sir Bridgnorth was much touched.

"I think you had better leave him to himself," he said. "But, since you
won't, I must needs help you I'll do all I can. But I cannot proceed as
expeditiously as I could desire. I have reason to believe Chetwynd is
living in London under a feigned name. Since all private inquiries have
proved unsuccessful, I will cause some carefully-worded advertisements
to be inserted in the newspapers, that may catch his eye and bring him
forward. Could he be made aware that a beautiful young lady takes an
interest in him, I am sure he would speedily reappear. But fear no
indiscretion on my part. Nothing shall be disclosed till the proper
moment arrives." Then, addressing Mildred, he added: "As soon as I can
ascertain the amount of his debts, I will let you know."

"Pay them, dear Sir Bridgnorth--pay them!" she rejoined.

"But they may be very large?"

"Never mind; pay them!" cried Emmeline. "Mr. Carteret shall repay you."

"No man ever had such a chance," exclaimed Sir Bridgnorth. "If he does
not reform now, he is incorrigible."

"I have no misgivings as to the future," said Mildred.

"Well, I sincerely trust all will come right," observed Sir Bridgnorth.
"There seems every probability of it, I must own."

Just then Mrs. Calverley was announced.

"I must take my leave," said Sir Bridgnorth, rising hastily. "You shall
hear from me soon, or see me."

"Let us see you, please!" said both young ladies.

Before he could depart, Mrs. Calverley entered, and stopped him.

"Ah, Sir Bridgnorth!" she exclaimed; "I'm delighted to meet you! I want
to have a word with you."

Sir Bridgnorth evidently wished to get away. But she begged him to
remain for a few minutes; and he could not very well refuse.

Mrs. Calverley then went on to the young ladies. After the usual
greetings had passed, she said to Mildred, "I have a letter for you; or,
rather, a packet. It arrived this morning."

Having given her the letter, she moved to a little distance.

Glancing at the superscription, Mildred turned pale.

"What is it that disturbs you?" inquired Emmeline.

"A letter from Chetwynd," replied Mildred, in a low voice. "Come to my
room, that we may read it together."

Emmeline signified her assent by a look.

Mrs. Calverley took no notice of what was passing, though she must have
perceived it.

Before leaving the room, Mildred went up to Sir Bridgnorth, and,
addressing him in a low voice, said:

"You must not go, Sir Bridgnorth. I may have something important to tell
you about Chetwynd."

"In that case, I will stay as long as you please," he rejoined.

Meanwhile Emmeline prepared to follow her friend.

"Will you mind my leaving you for a few minutes, dear Mrs. Calverley?"
she said.

"Don't stand on the slightest ceremony with me, my love," replied the
other. "Besides, I want to have a little talk with Sir Bridgnorth."

The two young ladies then went out.

"I am now quite at your service, madam," said Sir Bridgnorth, as soon as
he and Mrs. Calverley were alone.

"Then sit down, that we may have a confidential chat," replied the lady.



III. CHETWYND'S LETTER.

|In such haste were the two girls to open the packet that they almost
ran up the spiral-staircase to Mildred's bedroom, in which was a deep
bay window.

In this recess they sat down.

Mildred's hand trembled as she tore open the packet.

It contained a long, closely-written letter, inside which was a folded
sheet of paper that looked like a document of some kind.

This document dropped on the table, and was not examined at the moment.

The letter was dated on the previous day, but bore no address.

Ere she had read many lines, a mist seemed to gather over Mildred's
vision. Unable to proceed, she laid the letter down.

"You terrify me," cried Emmeline. "What has happened?"

"He meditates self-destruction," replied Mildred. "But read the letter,
dearest--I cannot."

Mustering up all her courage, Emmeline read aloud as follows:

"This is the last letter you will ever receive from me, dearest sister,
and, in bidding you an eternal farewell, I implore you to think kindly
of me.

"With one exception you are the only person in the world whom I love,
and my latest thoughts will be of her and you.

"You know her, and will easily guess her name, but I shall not confide
it to this sheet of paper. In all respects she is superior to the artful
and treacherous woman by whom I allowed myself to be deceived--superior
in beauty and accomplishments, and amiable as beautiful. Had I been
fortunate enough to wed her, I should have been a different man. Now it
is too late, I see my folly, and comprehend my loss."

"You see that he dearly loved you, Emmeline, for it is to you that he
refers," observed Mildred. "But proceed, I entreat you!"

"I have met with the basest ingratitude. Men who have received from me
favours innumerable--hangers-on who have sponged upon me, and professed
the greatest regard for me, have shrunk from me, and avoided me in my
misfortunes--men who have fleeced me, who have ruined me, and driven
me to desperation! My funds are almost exhausted, but they will last
me out. I owe nothing, for I have paid that kind-hearted Sir Bridgnorth
Charlton the exact sum he lent me. Had I not obtained it from him, I
should have been called a defaulter. Fortune favoured me for the moment,
for I won sufficient to discharge my debt to him. He would lend me more,
I doubt not, but I will never borrow again. As to the woman who has
robbed me of my inheritance, I have sworn I will accept nothing from
her, and I will keep my oath. She will be responsible for her conduct
before Heaven."

Again there was a pause, but neither made a remark and Emmeline went on:

"Fear nothing, dearest sister. I have changed my name, and have taken
such precautions that my retreat cannot be discovered. Nothing will be
found upon me that can establish my identity. A body will be found; that
will be all!"

"Gracious Heaven!" ejaculated Mildred. "Grant that this dreadful
catastrophe may be averted!"

Emmeline's voice had been suffocated by emotion, but after a pause she
proceeded:

"Mildred, I have been reckless and extravagant, and have led a most
foolish and most useless life. I have been a gambler and have squandered
large sums upon persons who profited by my follies; but I have done
nothing dishonourable--nothing to tarnish my name as a gentleman. I
think I could have retrieved my position, but it is not worth the
trouble. I am weary of life; sick of the hollowness, the ingratitude,
the perfidy of the world! Timon of Athens did not hate mankind more
bitterly than I do. I would consent to live if I felt certain of revenge
on some of those who have wronged me; but on no other condition. This is
not likely to happen; so it is best I should go!"

"Alas, poor Chetwynd!" exclaimed Mildred. "His fancied wrongs have
driven him to the verge of madness!"

"He seems extraordinarily sensitive, and to feel most acutely the
slights shown him by his ungrateful associates," said Emmeline.

"Is the letter finished?" asked Mildred.

"No," replied Emmeline. "There is a farewell to you. But I cannot read
it. My voice fails me!"

Mildred then took the letter, and went on with it:

"You know exactly how I am circumstanced, Mildred. I have nothing, that
I am aware of, to leave; but I have made my will, and in your favour,
and shall enclose it in this letter. I may have some rights of which I
am ignorant; and if it should prove so, I desire that you may benefit by
them."

"Here is the will," she remarked, taking up the little document and
examining it. "I see he has observed all necessary formalities. Strange
he should be able to do this at such a time!"

Though deeply affected, she resumed the perusal of the letter:

"And now farewell, dearest sister! Again I implore you to think of me
kindly! My faults are inexcusable; yet do not judge me harshly. The
world has done that, and with sufficient severity. Do not suppose these
lines are written to move your compassion. Long before they meet your
eye, I shall be indifferent to scorn, neglect, and treachery!

"Should an opportunity ever occur of breathing my name to her I have
loved, say that my chief regret was that I threw away the happiness that
might have been mine!"

Emmeline uttered an exclamation of despair, but it did not interrupt
Mildred:

"Trouble yourself no more about me. Search will be in vain. Nothing can
arrest my purpose. Ere tomorrow morn I shall have ceased to breathe, and
have quitted a world I hate. Neglect not my last request! Farewell, my
sister! May you be happier than your unfortunate brother!"

"Heaven have mercy on his soul!" exclaimed Mildred, dropping on her
knees, and praying fervently.

Emmeline, likewise, knelt down and prayed.

After awhile, they arose.

"Sit down for a moment, dearest Emmeline," said Mildred; "I have
something to tell you. I believe the fatal act was committed at one
o'clock this morning."

"Why at that precise hour?" inquired Emmeline.

"You shall hear. I was sleeping on yonder couch, and was awakened by the
striking of the clock. The moon was shining brightly through the window,
and I thought I saw a figure standing just where you are seated. I
should have felt much more frightened than I did, if I had not been
convinced it was Chetwynd; though how he came here at that time I could
not imagine. I called out, but no answer was made, and I then became
seriously alarmed. Suddenly, the figure, which had hitherto been looking
down, raised its head, and fixed its mournful gaze upon me. I then saw
that the features were those of Chetwynd, but pale as death! The phantom
did not move from its position, but seemed to wave a farewell to me, and
then melted away in the moonbeams."

"And this phantom you beheld?" said Emmeline, who had listened with
intense interest in the narrative.

"I saw it as plainly as I now see you," replied the other. "Why it
appeared to me, I now understand."

The silence that ensued was broken by Mildred.

After carefully replacing the letter and the will in the envelope,
she said: "Let us go down-stairs and communicate the sad news to Sir
Bridgnorth. It is right he should know it."

"True," replied Emmeline. "But oh! dearest Mildred, I can never like
Mrs. Calverley again. I look upon her as the cause of this dreadful
event."

"You do her an injustice, dear Emmeline," said

Mildred, who, however, began to regard her stepmother with altered
feelings.

"We shall see how she bears the intelligence," said Emmeline; "and from
that, some judgment may be formed."



IV. HOW THE DIREFUL NEWS WAS RECEIVED BY MRS. CALVERLEY; AND HOW SIR
BRIDGNORTH VOLUNTEERED TO MAKE INQUIRIES AS TO ITS TRUTH.

|As the two girls entered the drawing-room, their changed appearance and
mournful looks struck both Sir Bridgnorth and Mrs. Calverley, who were
still seated on the sofa, conversing together earnestly.

Sir Bridgnorth immediately arose, and, advancing to meet them, said to
Mildred:

"I am afraid you have not received very good news of Chetwynd?"

"Alas! no, Sir Bridgnorth," she replied, in a sorrowful voice. "You need
give yourself no further concern about my unfortunate brother!"

"Why not?" he interrupted, anxiously.

"He is gone!" she replied, sadly.

"You shock me greatly!" he ejaculated. "Mrs. Calverley and myself have
been considering what could be done for him, and have just devised a
scheme that we hoped might be successful."

"All schemes for his benefit are now useless," said Emmeline. "He no
longer needs our aid."

"Did I hear aright?" said Mrs. Calverley, starting up, and coming
towards them. "It cannot be that Chetwynd is dead?"

"It is so," said Emmeline.

"But how did he die?" asked Mrs. Calverley.

"By his own hand!" replied Emmeline, regarding her fixedly.

Mrs. Calverley looked aghast, and as if ready to drop.

"I did not understand he had destroyed himself," said Sir Bridgnorth.
"When did this sad event occur? Can you give me any particulars?"

"I can only state that he contemplated suicide," replied Mildred. "This
letter is a last farewell to me."

"Ah! then we need not despair of beholding him again," said Sir
Bridgnorth, with a sensation of relief. "Many a man, now alive, has
threatened to put an end to his existence. I hope it may turn out to be
so in Chetwynd's case."

"I sincerely hope so!" said Mrs. Calverley.

"I have no such belief," observed Mildred, sadly.

"If you had read his most affecting letter, you would entertain no doubt
as to his determination," added Emmeline, with difficulty refraining
from tears.

"We shall soon be able to ascertain the truth," said Sir Bridgnorth.

"Not so," replied Mildred. "He has taken such precautions that his fate
will remain a mystery."

Sir Bridgnorth shook his head.

"I can't believe that possible," he said. "It will be important, on
several accounts, to have proof of his death. He may have made a will."

"He _has_ made a will, and has sent it me in this letter," replied
Mildred.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Mrs. Calverley, surprised. "But he had nothing to
leave."

"He seems to have thought otherwise," said Mildred. "He fancied he had
certain rights and claims, and those he has left to me."

The slight shade that passed over Mrs. Calverley's countenance was not
unnoticed by Emmeline.

"This shows it will be absolutely necessary to establish the fact of
his death," observed Sir Bridgnorth. "What is the date of the letter you
have received?"

"It was written yesterday," replied Mildred. "But he is not alive now,"
she added, solemnly.

"You believe he destroyed himself last night?" asked Mrs. Calverley.

"I firmly believe so," she rejoined.

Mrs. Calverley then turned to Sir Bridgnorth, and with a coldness that
appeared revolting to Mildred and Emmeline, said:

"Is any case of suicide reported in the papers this morning?"

"I have seen none," he replied. "But it might have escaped me. I seldom
read such cases."

Emmeline rang the bell, and desired the butler to bring the newspapers.

The order was promptly obeyed, and search made, but no "mysterious
death" or "supposed suicide" could be discovered.

"It is needless to ask if any address is given with your letter,"
remarked Sir Bridgnorth to Mildred.

"It is not likely there would be."

"And nothing mentioned that could serve as a guide?"

"Nothing."

Sir Bridgnorth then bade them all a formal adieu, and made a final
attempt to give them comfort.

"I hope Chetwynd may have changed his mind at the last moment," he
said. "I believe it will turn out so. To-morrow I shall set out on my
melancholy errand, and institute inquiries. You shall hear from me as
soon as I have anything to communicate; and I promise you one thing--I
will not remain idle. It shall not be my fault if the facts of this
painful affair are not discovered."


END OF THE SECOND BOOK



BOOK THE THIRD--WALTER LIDDEL.



I. ON WESTMINSTER BRIDGE.

|Nearly at the same date as the incident related in the foregoing
chapters, and about two hours past midnight, a strongly-built,
middle-aged man, whose garb proclaimed him a mechanic, took his way
across Westminster Bridge.

He was not walking very fast, but when the hour was tolled forth from
the lofty tower, he began to mend his pace, glancing occasionally at the
sullen river that swept on beneath him.

The bridge was completely deserted. The last policeman he had seen was
standing near New Palace Yard, and the belated mechanic was thinking
how strange and solitary the usually crowded footway appeared, when he
descried a figure leaning over the low parapet.

He had heard many tales of suicide, and something in the attitude of the
figure caused him to hurry on.

As he advanced, he perceived, by the light of the lamp, that it was a
young man, bare-headed, for a felt hat was lying on the pavement.

The person was muttering to himself, and his demeanour was altogether so
wild, that the mechanic was convinced that his suspicions were correct,
and he, therefore, called out.

He instantly turned at the cry, and exhibited a haggard visage; but
instead of replying, made an attempt to spring upon the parapet.

But the workman was too quick for him, and seized him before he could
execute his desperate purpose.

The intended suicide quite shook in the grasp of his powerful preserver.

He was a young man, and his brown hair and beard made the ghastly hue of
his countenance yet more striking by the contrast. Moreover, he had the
look of a gentleman, but it was difficult to judge of his condition from
his grey tweed habiliments.

He offered very little resistance to his friendly captor, his strength
apparently being gone.

"Let me go!" he said in a hoarse voice. "I don't wish to live!"

"Madman!" cried the mechanic. "What's the matter, that you would throw
away life thus?"

"What's the matter?" echoed the other, with a laugh that had nothing
human in it. "I am ruined--utterly ruined! Had you let me alone, my
troubles would have been ended by this time!"

And he made another ineffectual attempt to free himself.

"Don't think to get away!" said the mechanic. "I'm sorry for you, but
it's my duty to prevent you from committing this wicked act. I shall
hold you till a policeman comes up!"

"No; don't do that!" cried the wretched man. "Though I don't know where
to turn for a night's lodging, I don't want to be locked up! Leave go
your hold; I promise not to make the attempt again!"

"Well, I'll trust you," replied the mechanic, releasing him.

They looked at each other for a few moments, and both seemed satisfied
with the scrutiny.

The intended suicide was apparently about three or four and twenty;
tall, handsome, well-proportioned. As already intimated, he had brown
locks and a brown beard, and was dressed in such manner that no precise
idea could be formed of his rank.

In regard to his preserver, there could be no mistake. His working
attire and cap proclaimed his station. He had an honest, manly
countenance. In age he might be about forty-five.

"Here's your hat, sir," he said picking it up. "I should like to have a
word with you before we part. Perhaps I may be warranted in asking you a
question or two, especially as my motive is a good one. I'm not
influenced by mere curiosity. I'll begin by telling you my name. It's
Joe Hartley. I'm a stonemason by trade, and live in Lambeth Palace
Road--at least, close beside it. The reason I'm out so late is that I've
been doing a job at Paddington. But I don't regret it, since I've been
the humble instrument of saving a fellow-creature. Now you know all you
may care to learn about me, and, in return, I should like to hear
something about you."

"I can't tell you who I am, Mr. Hartley," he replied, "nor can I
acquaint you with my strange history. You may guess that I must have
been brought to a desperate pass."

His voice changed as he went on.

"What's a poor fellow to do when he's utterly ruined? I've spent all
my money, pawned my watch, my ring, and another little trinket. I've
nothing left--not a sou."

"But have you no relatives--no friends?" inquired Hartley, kindly.

"Yes; I've relatives, but I've quarrelled with them, and would die
rather than go near them!" he cried, in a bitter, desperate tone, that
left no doubt of his fixed determination. "Friends I have none!"

"Well, well, I won't argue with you about that," said Hartley. "But
there is no occasion for one so young as you are to starve. There are
hundreds of ways in which you may earn a living. Amongst others, you
might 'list for a soldier. I'm much mistaken if you don't stand six feet
two. They'd take you at the Horse Guards in a minute.

"I did think of that; and, perhaps, might have done it, but I was goaded
to this desperate act by a circumstance on which I won't dwell. I think
I must have been mad. Very likely I shall enlist tomorrow.

"But you want rest, and have nowhere to go. Come home with me," said the
stonemason.

"You are very good, Mr. Hartley," he replied, much affected. "This is
real kindness, and I feel it--feel it deeply!"

"Come along, then," cried Hartley. "There's a policeman moving towards
us, and he'll wonder what we are about. You won't tell me your name, I
suppose?"

"Call me Liddel--Walter Liddel," replied the other. "It's not my real
name, though I have a right to use it. At any rate, I mean to be known
by it henceforward, and it will serve me with the recruiting sergeant."

"It will serve you with me as well," said Hartley. "So come along, Mr.
Walter Liddel."

Presently they encountered the policeman, who eyed them rather
suspiciously, but was satisfied with a few words from Hartley.

On quitting the bridge, the stonemason turned off on the right, into
Lambeth Palace Road.

They walked on in silence, for Liddel did not seem inclined to talk.

Gradually the street became wider, and Hartley, noticing that his
companion began to walk very feebly, told him he had not much further to
go.

Their course seemed to be stopped by the high wall of the palace
grounds; but Hartley turned into a narrow street on the left,
called Spencer's Rents, and halting before the door of a neat little
habitation, said:

"Here we are!"

Walter Liddel replied, in a faint voice, that he was glad of it.

Hartley then knocked softly at the door, which was presently opened by
his wife.



II. THE HOUSE IN SPENCER'S KENTS.

|Perceiving that some one was with her husband, Mrs. Hartley was about
to beat an immediate retreat, but Hartley stopped her, and after a short
colloquy between the pair, the stonemason entered with his companion.

Mrs. Hartley had disappeared, but there was a light in the kitchen, into
which Walter Liddel was introduced.

The hospitable stonemason begged him to sit down, and, opening a
cupboard, took from it some cold meat and bread, which he set before
him, and bade him fall to.

Next proceeding to the scullery, Hartley drew a jug of beer. Walter
Liddel ate as voraciously as a famished wolf.

Leaving him to enjoy the first good meal he had made for some days,
Hartley went up-stairs, and his voice could be heard in consultation
with his wife.

Evidently, some little preparation for their unexpected guest had to be
made by the worthy couple, but it was completed before he had finished
his meal. He was still engaged when Hartley reappeared.

"Glad to see you getting on so well, Mr. Liddel," observed the
stonemason. "It ain't often we've a spare bed, but it so happens that
our daughter Rose is away, so you can have her room."

"Anywhere will do for me," replied Walter, who by this time had devoured
all the meat and bread, and emptied the jug of beer.

"Come on, then," said Hartley, taking up the candle, and signing to his
guest to follow him.

A short, narrow staircase brought them to a landing, whence two or three
doors opened, one of which admitted them to a small chamber, simply
but very neatly furnished. It breathed an atmosphere of purity and
innocence, with which Walter, exhausted as he was, could not help being
struck.

"There's your bed," said Hartley, pointing to the neat little couch, the
patchwork quilt of which being turned down, revealed the snowy sheets.

"Thank you, my good friend; I couldn't wish for a better," replied
Walter, squeezing the mason's horny hand. "Heaven bless you for your
kindness to me."

"Don't disturb yourself too soon," observed Hartley. "I'm not going out
early myself to-morrow. I'll call you. Good night."

So saying, he retired, and closed the door after him.

As soon as he was alone, the penitent knelt down, and besought Heaven's
forgiveness for the sinful act he had attempted, and which had been so
fortunately frustrated. His contrition was sincere, and his resolution
to lead a better life heartfelt.

His prayers ended, he took off his attire, and, lying down in the little
couch in which innocence alone had hitherto reposed, almost instantly
fell asleep.

His slumbers were sound, and he had not stirred when Hartley had entered
the room on the morrow.

On opening his eyes, Walter could hardly make out where he was; but by
degrees the recollection of all that occurred returned to him.

"Don't think any more of last night," said Hartley, noticing the pained
expression of his countenance. "It's nearly noon, but if you feel tired
I'll come again later on."

"Nearly noon!" cried Walter, preparing to spring out of bed. "I ought to
have been up hours ago!"

Thereupon, Hartley retired, and his guest proceeded to make his toilette
with a care that showed he had not forsaken early habits.

While thus employed he could not help casting his eyes round the
chamber, and was more than ever struck by its extreme simplicity and
neatness. Everything seemed in its place. It appeared like a profanation
to invade such a temple of purity.

On going down-stairs, he found Mrs. Hartley, a middle-aged, matronly
woman, decently attired as became her station, and still comely.

It was too late for breakfast, and the cloth was spread for dinner. On
the table was a baked shoulder of mutton and potatoes.

Mrs. Hartley greeted him very kindly, and, with great good feeling and
good taste, made no allusion to the circumstances that had brought him
to the house, though she could not have been ignorant of them. But his
appearance prepossessed her in his favour.

"Don't say a word about being so late, sir," she observed with a kindly
smile. "I'm glad to see you looking so well. You must be content to make
breakfast and dinner together to-day, sir."

While Walter was making a suitable reply, Hartley came in, and seemed
quite surprised and delighted at his guest's improved appearance.

"A few hours' rest has done wonders with you, Mr. Liddel," he said.
"This is my wife," he added; "and I will say it to her face, that no man
could have a better."

"A good husband makes a good wife, Joe, as I always tell you," she
replied, smiling. "Pray sit down, sir," she added, to Walter.

Both Hartley and his guest had good appetites, and a large hole was made
in the shoulder of mutton before they had finished their meal. Far from
begrudging Walter, Mrs. Hartley seemed pleased.

"Now, Mr. Liddel," said Hartley, as he laid down his knife and fork, "I
must go to my work. The missis will take care of you till my return. We
may have company in the evening."

"I must go and look after some employment," said Walter.

"Time enough for that to-morrow," rejoined the mason. "We'll have some
talk together on the subject to-night. Meantime, keep quiet."

And the worthy fellow went about his business.

Mrs. Hartley showed her guest into the little parlour, and when she had
cleared away the things, joined him there, and they had a little chat
together; but whatever curiosity she felt, she restrained it.

Limited as was her knowledge of the world, she felt convinced that
Walter was a gentleman. She talked to him in a kindly, motherly tone,
that soon drew him out.

At last, after beating about the bush, she said, in a straightforward
way:

"You must excuse me, sir, if I take upon me to give you advice, but
don't you think you had better go back to your friends?"

"Never!" he replied. "I will never go back to them. If you knew all, you
would agree that I have been infamously treated! No, Mrs. Hartley, my
resolution is taken. I am down, but I will make my way up in the world.
To mount the ladder, one must begin at the lowest step."

"I approve of your resolution, sir," she rejoined, kindly; "and if you
are determined, you cannot fail of success. You have youth, strength,
good looks. I dare say, now," she added, unable to repress her desire
to know something more of him, "I dare say you think you have been
wronged?"

"I have had great injustice done me," he replied. "But you must not ask
me any questions, Mrs. Hartley. I shall never speak of what I have been,
unless----"

"You reinstate yourself," she supplied.

"Exactly, And many years may elapse before I can do that."

"Ah! you don't know," she replied with an encouraging smile. "But you
must excuse me. I have got the house to attend to. You may like to see
the paper?"

Having spent some little time over the daily paper which she gave him,
Walter took up his hat, and went out.

Strolling leisurely along, he came to Lambeth Palace, and standing near
the pier at the foot of the bridge, he watched the boats arriving and
departing--landing passengers and carrying them away.

The lively scene served to amuse him. Among those who were embarking,
he noticed a tall, thin man, dressed in black, whose sharp features were
familiar to him.

The individual in question was only just in time, and as soon as he got
on board, the boat was cast off, and took its course towards the other
side of the river.

It had not gone far, when the tall, thin man, approaching the stern,
descried Walter, and almost started at the sight of him.

They remained gazing at each other as long as the steam-boat continued
in view, but no sign of recognition passed between them.

The sight of this person, whoever he might be, seemed to awaken a train
of painful reflections in Walter's breast.

He sat down on a bench on the little esplanade, and remained there for
some time contemplating the busy scene on the river.

By degrees he recovered his serenity, and it was in a more cheerful
frame of mind that he returned to the house in Spencer's Rents.



III. INTRODUCES MR. TANKARD, MR. LAEKINS, AND MR. PLEDGER DAPP.

|The tea equipage was set out in the little parlour, and Walter enjoyed
a cup of bohea with Mrs. Hartley very much, and passed the evening with
her in tranquil converse. He began to feel a great regard for the good
dame, and listened to her advice.

Hartley did not return till nearly supper time, and brought with him a
friend--a neighbour--whom he introduced as Mr. Tankard.

Rather an important personage in his way was Mr. Tankard--stout, short,
red-faced, possessing a rich mellow voice, consequential in manner, and
respectably dressed in black. Some of his friends called him "Silver
Tankard," but Hartley took no such liberty. Mr. Tankard had been a
butler before setting up in business in the Lambeth Road, where he now
kept a large china and glass shop.

Though generally distant and proud, Mr. Tankard unbent towards Walter,
and was unusually civil to him.

"I like the looks of that young man," he observed, in a very loud
whisper to Hartley.

Mrs. Hartley deemed it necessary to apologise to Mr. Tankard for the
poorness of the supper, and told him if she had expected the honour and
pleasure of his company she would have provided something better; but he
begged her condescendingly not to mind--"he wasn't at all partickler."

Mrs. Hartley knew better. She knew he was exceedingly particular.
However, she did the best that circumstances would allow, and as a
finish to the rather scanty meal, gave him a dish of stewed cheese,
and a jug, not a "tankard," of ale with a toast in it. With this he was
tolerably well satisfied.

After supper, Hartley asked his guest if he would like to smoke, to
which proposal Mr. Tankard made no sort of objection. A flask of Scotch
whisky was likewise set on the table.

Scarcely were the pipes lighted, when the party was increased by the
arrival of Mr. Pledger Dapp and Mr. Larkins, who it seems were expected
by Hartley, though he had said nothing about them to his wife.

Pledger Dapp, a brisk little man, was a cook and confectioner in the
York Road, and Larkins was a greengrocer in the same neighbourhood, and
likewise went out to wait. They worked together with Mr. Tankard, and
each recommended his friends whenever he had the opportunity.

More glasses were placed on the table, and more hot water, and everybody
was puffing away.

The room was soon so full of smoke that Mrs. Hartley could stand it no
longer, and retired to the kitchen.

A great deal of merriment prevailed among the company, and they laughed
heartily at each other's stories. These related chiefly to their
customers.

At last, Hartley contrived to bring Walter forward by making a direct
allusion to him.

"I want to have your opinion about my young friend, gentlemen," he
observed, taking the pipe from his mouth. "He thinks of joining the
cavalry, but I think it is a pity such a fine young man should throw
himself away. What do you say, gentlemen?"

After a sip of whisky and water, the person chiefly appealed to replied:

"I think it would be a thousand pities. No doubt he would make a very
fine Life Guardsman, but in my opinion, he would do much better as a
figure footman."

"Much better," echoed Pledger Dapp and Larkins.

"I'm not ashamed to say I began life as a page," pursued Mr. Tankard;
"and you see what I've arrived at."

"It's no secret that I was a cook in a gentleman's family before I set
up for myself as a confectioner," said Pledger Dapp.

"And I was a gardener before I became a greengrocer," said Larkins.
And he added, with a laugh, "I'm a gardener now, though no longer in
service."

"Take the advice we all of us give you, sir, and become a footman," said
Tankard. "I'll answer for it we'll soon find you a place."

"But I've no qualifications," replied Walter. "I don't know the
duties--that is, I know what a footman ought to be--"

"Well, that's quite enough," interrupted Pledger Dapp. "You'll soon
learn all the rest."

"It just occurs to me that Lady Thicknesse, of Belgrave Square, is in
want of a footman," observed Tankard. "That would be a very good thing.
It's a first-rate place."

"Lady Thicknesse! I think I've heard of her," remarked Walter. "A widow,
isn't she?"

"Widow of Sir Thomas Thicknesse--middle-aged and rich. Besides her town
residence, she has got a country house in Cheshire."

Walter reflected for a few minutes.

The proposition had taken him by surprise. The notion of becoming a
flunky amused him vastly, and he could hardly entertain it seriously.
However, there seemed to be no difficulty in assuming the part.

The result of his cogitations was that he felt inclined to adopt the
expedient, and he told Mr. Tankard so.

"But I cannot offer myself under any false pretence," he said. "Lady
Thicknesse must be made aware that I have never served in this capacity
before."

All his auditors, except Hartley, laughed loudly at his scruples.

"Bless you, my dear fellow, you needn't be so diffident," cried Mr.
Tankard. "If Lady Thicknesse is satisfied, that's all you need mind.
I'll set about the business to-morrow. In a week I expect you'll thank
me for my pains."

"You'll have a first-rate situation, if you get it, I promise you,"
remarked Pledger Dapp.

"Very handsome livery and powder," observed Larkins.

"Powder!" exclaimed Walter, in dismay. "Is it necessary to wear powder?"

"Indispensable," replied Tankard. "But you'll find it very becoming," he
added, with a laugh. "Powder will suit your hair. You're above six feet
in height, eh?"

"Six feet two," replied Walter.

"Capital!" cried Tankard. "Stay! One thing mustn't be neglected," he
added, rubbing his chin expressively. "You must get rid of that handsome
brown beard."

"S'death! must I shave?" cried Walter, amid the general merriment.

"Certainly, my dear fellow," replied Tankard. "Whoever heard of a
footman in a beard? Follow my instructions, and you may make yourself
quite easy about the place. I'll engage you shall obtain it."

"But I've not quite decided myself," said Walter.

"Pooh! nonsense! you can't do better," cried Tankard. "Can he,
gentlemen?"

Everybody concurred with him in opinion.

Partly in jest, partly in earnest, Walter assented. So much, in fact,
was said in favour of the plan, that he began to grow reconciled to it.

As the clock struck eleven, Mrs. Hartley came in, and her appearance was
the signal for the breaking up of the party.

While shaking hands with Walter, Mr. Tankard renewed his promises, and
said:

"I'm a man of my word. What I say I'll do. Tomorrow I'll go to Belgrave
Square, and see my friend, Mr. Higgins, Lady Thicknesse's butler. On my
return I'll call and tell you all about it."

"Really, Mr. Tankard, you are taking a vast deal of trouble----"

"Not in the least, my dear fellow!" replied the other. "It is a pleasure
to me--a very great pleasure."

"And if you knew him as well as I do, you'd feel that it must be, or he
wouldn't do it," observed Hartley, laughing.

In another minute the company were gone, and shortly afterwards the
whole of the little household had retired to rest.

Visions of his new life floated before Walter as he laid his head on the
pillow. He slept soundly enough, but on awakening next morning he rather
regretted the promise he had given.

"I don't like the idea of turning flunky," he thought; "but the livery
will serve as a disguise."



IV. SIGEBERT SMART.

|Before going out to his work, Hartley had a little talk in private with
Walter.

Fearing he might be inconvenienced from want of money--having heard him
say, at their first meeting on Westminster Bridge, that he had none--the
worthy stonemason, with great consideration, volunteered to lend him
five pounds, on the simple understanding that this sum was to be repaid
when Walter had earned so much wages.

Thus amply provided with funds, Walter sallied forth after breakfast
to make a few necessary purchases preparatory to entering upon the
situation, should he obtain it--and telling Mrs Hartley what to say
to Mr. Tankard, in case that obliging person should call during his
absence.

His first business was to seek out a hair-dresser's shop; and, hearing
there were several in the Lambeth Road, he went thither.

He had not proceeded far, when he came to an establishment that bore
the name _Sigebert Smart_, in large gilt letters, above the window, and
promised all he desired.

Entering the shop, he perceived two persons--one a showy-looking female,
stationed behind a counter laden with pots of pomade, flacons of oil,
brushes, sponges, and perfumery; the other, a dapper, fair-complexioned
young man, with his blonde hair brushed back from his forehead.

This was Sigebert Smart in person. Having been for a year in Paris, at a
large shop in the Rue St. Honoré, he considered himself perfectly versed
in all the arts and mysteries of a French coiffeur, and incomparably
superior to any of his rivals in the Lambeth Road.

Walter thought the hairdresser stared at him rather inquisitively as
he entered the shop; but the man's manner was perfectly polite, and,
on learning his customer's requirements, he begged him to step into an
inner room, communicating by a glass-door with the shop.

"Pray be seated, sir!" said Sigebert, pointing to a well-stuffed
arm-chair. "Shaved, I think you said, sir?"

"Shaved!" repeated Walter.

"Before taking the irreparable step," said Sigebert, placing himself in
front of his customer, and regarding him steadfastly, "let me ask if you
have reflected?"

"What d'ye mean?" cried Walter, staring at him in surprise.

"Excuse me, sir," rejoined the hairdresser, "but have you positively
determined to part with that magnificent beard?"

"I don't like to lose it, I confess," replied Walter. "But I have no
choice."

"That's hard. Never in my experience have I beheld a finer beard, nor
better grown. I shall be loth to cut it."

"You are pleased to compliment me," said Walter.

"It is not my habit, sir, I assure you. Generally I am frank to a fault.
_Apropos des barbes_, I will tell you a curious story. A gentleman
called here last evening, and inquired whether a very tall young man,
dressed in a grey tweed suit, exactly like yours, sir, and having a
particularly handsome brown beard, the very ditto of yours, sir, lodged
in the Lambeth Road, or hereabouts. I told him I had not remarked any
such person; but you, sir, answer precisely to the description. Strange
you should put in an appearance next day!"

"That's why you stared at me so hard when I entered the shop?" cried
Walter.

"Couldn't help it, sir. Quite startled."

"And now for a description of the individual who has taken the liberty
to inquire about me?" said Walter.

"Tall, thin, sharp features; long, straight nose; professional-looking,"
replied Sigebert.

"I know him," said Walter. "I saw him yesterday."

"At Lambeth Pier; he said he caught sight of you there. He appears most
anxious to find you, and has been making inquiries about you in the
neighbourhood."

"Did he mention any name?"

"No; he was exceedingly reserved on that point. But I think he'll call
again."

"I've no especial desire to see him. But now to work."

"Must I really commit this outrage?" cried Sige-bert, flourishing his
scissors. "My soul revolts at the deed."

Walter, however, insisted, and, in a very few minutes, his luxuriant
beard had vanished, and his cheeks and chin were perfectly smooth.

He had just got up from the arm-chair, when the glass-door opened, and a
tall man came in.

"You have found your friend at last, sir," cried Sigebert, on beholding
him. "I suppose my wife told you he was here?"

"She did," replied the other.

Walter, however, did not seem willing to acknowledge the intruder as a
friend, but drew himself up, and regarded him sternly--almost angrily.

"Perhaps I had better retire, gentlemen," said Sigebert. "You may wish
to have a little private converse."

With this, he went out, but we rather fancy the door was left slightly
ajar.

"How is it that you have presumed to follow me about in this way?" asked
Walter, in an offended tone.

"You must forgive me, sir. I saw you yesterday, and have searched for
you here to-day. It is my earnest desire to induce you to return to your
relatives and friends. They feared something terrible had happened to
you."

"They need not trouble themselves about me," rejoined Walter. "I shall
not trouble myself about them."

"But I have certain propositions to make to you."

"I reject all propositions. It is useless to talk to me."

"I have, also, a sum of money at your disposal. Will you not receive
it?"

"If it comes from a particular quarter, and as an allowance, no!"

"Permit me to say, sir," remarked the tall gentleman in a grave tone,
"that you are acting very injudiciously, and are throwing away a great
piece of good fortune. All can be easily put to rights if you will only
allow me to do it. And there are many other advantages that might accrue
to you, to which I cannot now more particularly advert."

"I am the best judge of what concerns myself, sir."

"I don't think so," rejoined the other. "You seem obstinately bent upon
pursuing a wrong course. Have you any debts?"

"None!"

"Any liabilities?"

"None!"

"Then why not assume your proper position? You will have every aid. I
understand your objections, and though I deem them ridiculous, I shall
not attempt to combat them at this moment. But there are friends willing
and anxious to assist you. Amongst others," he added, lowering his
voice, "Sir Bridgnorth Charlton."

"Sir Bridgnorth is an excellent man--one in a thousand!"

"Then you cannot distrust him?"

"I do not distrust him! On the contrary, I have entire confidence in
him! He is a gentleman and a man of honour!"

"Let him have the management of your affairs."

"Do you come from Sir Bridgnorth?"

"Sir Bridgnorth is not certain you are alive. He fears you have
committed suicide. It will be a great satisfaction to him and several
others to learn that you have not executed your fell purpose."

"Suffer them to remain in ignorance. I would rather they supposed me
dead. Keep this secret for me, I beg of you. It is the sole favour you
can do me. I will reappear at the proper time."

"But, meanwhile, you will make several persons very unhappy--your
sister, who has the greatest affection for you, as I can testify--and
Miss Barfleur."

"Miss Barfleur!" exclaimed Walter, starting. "She has no interest in
me."

"You are mistaken," replied the other. "Sir Leycester Barfleur having
recently died, she is now a great heiress."

"The very reason why she should not think of me."

"Don't despair! Make your appearance!"

"I have said I will appear at the proper time--not before."

"Won't you give me any idea of your projects?"

"No."

"Do you want money? I am ready to advance it to you."

"I want none."

"Then our interview is at an end."

"Once more, I must ask you not to mention that you have seen me."

"I cannot consent to keep those persons who are attached to you in
doubt--nor ought you to ask it. If, for reasons of your own, you choose
to live in concealment and under a feigned name, however I may regret
your determination, I shall not attempt to interfere with it. But I am
persuaded you will speedily change your mind."

"If I do, I'll write to you."

"No; write to Sir Bridgnorth. He is searching for you. He ought to have
a letter. Address him at the 'Grosvenor Hotel.' He is now in town."

"I will do it. Before we separate, give me your word that you won't
follow me, nor attempt to find out my abode. You will gain nothing by
the discovery."

"I give you my word," replied the other. "Enough," said Walter. "I thank
you heartily for the trouble you have taken about me. Adieu!"

On issuing forth into the shop, Walter found the hairdresser standing
rather suspiciously near the glass-door. But he seemed to have some
employment at the counter. Walter, however, could not help remarking
that Sigebert's manner towards him seemed more respectful than it had
been.

As he received payment for the task he had performed, the hairdresser
exclaimed:

"Ah, sir, I fear you'll regret the loss of your beard. Your best friend
wouldn't recognise you--you're so much changed. But don't lay the blame
on me. I did my best to dissuade you."

As he bowed the young man out, he looked after him for a moment, and saw
that he proceeded towards the bridge, whereupon the wily Sigebert made a
significant gesture to his wife as he returned.

At this juncture, the tall, professional-looking gentleman came forth,
and having nothing to pay, merely offered his thanks as he went out.

A hansom cab chancing to pass at the moment, he immediately got into it,
and ordered the driver to go to the "Grosvenor Hotel."

Meanwhile, Sigebert, having divested himself of his apron and put on
a hat, nodded to his wife, and followed Walter, who was not yet out of
sight--his tall figure rendering him easily distinguishable.



V. ROMNEY.

|On his way back, Walter stopped at a large linen-draper's shop to
purchase some shirts and other articles, never dreaming he was followed
by Sigebert. Having provided himself with all he required, and given
orders where the parcel should be sent, he proceeded on his course.

Not till he had fairly housed him did the hairdresser discontinue the
quest, and he then hovered near the spot for some time.

There was a mystery about Walter that greatly excited Sigebert's
curiosity, and he determined to unravel it.

"Why, what have you done with your beard, sir?" cried Mrs. Hartley, as
Walter entered the house.

"Left it at the hairdresser's!" he replied, with a laugh.

"Well, I can't say your appearance is much improved. I wish Rose had
seen you as you were."

"What! has your daughter come back?" cried Walter.

"No; but I expect her very shortly. She has been at Harrow-on-the-Hill,
on a visit, as I think I told you, and I've just got a letter from her,
telling me she will return to-day. 'Father must meet me at Lambeth Pier
at noon, and carry my carpet-bag'--that's what she says; but I don't
think he'll be back in time."

"Well, I'll meet her, and carry the carpet-bag, with the greatest
pleasure!" said Walter.

"But you won't know her."

"Describe her, and I shall. Not very tall, I suppose?"

"Not very--rather short."

"Pretty figure?"

"I think so."

"Blooming complexion?"

"Odd you should guess that. Well, she has a pink complexion."

"That's why you call her Rose. What sort of eyes?--black, blue, grey, or
nondescript?"

"I never heard of nondescript eyes. Rose's are light blue. But how
stupid I am! Here's her photograph. Very like her it is."

"And a very pretty girl it represents," replied Walter, examining it.
"You might have said a great deal more in her praise without being
charged with maternal vanity. Having seen this, I can make no mistake."

"Not easily; for she wears the same blue serge dress, and the same hat.
I'm sorry you'll lose your room, but we'll find a bed for you."

"Oh, it can't be helped!" he cried, affecting an indifference he did not
feel. "Pray has Mr. Tankard been here to-day?"

"I've seen nothing of him as yet," she replied.

"Well, then, I'll be off. I'll soon bring your daughter back to you."

"Dear me, how surprised she'll be!" cried Mrs. Hartley. "She'll wonder
who you are."

"Don't be afraid. I'll explain matters."

As Walter went forth, he noticed a stout ash-plant hanging up in the
passage, and took it with him--very fortunately, as it turned out.

Pleased with the task he had undertaken, he marched along quickly, and
did not remark that Sigebert, who had seen him come out, was on his
track.

A boat had just landed its passengers as Walter reached the pier, but
he saw no one among them bearing the slightest resemblance to the pretty
damsel he was looking for. However, it was not yet twelve o'clock.

About a quarter of an hour later on, another steamboat could be seen
crossing the river; and on a near approach of the vessel, the deck not
being crowded, he easily made out Rose.

Her photograph did not do her justice. She was even handsomer than he
anticipated, and her good looks had evidently gained her the unwelcome
attentions of a young but dissipated-looking individual, who was
standing near her.

This person, whose looks, gait, dress, and manner showed that he
belonged to the Turf, was well known to Walter, and with good reason,
since he had won large sums of money from him. The young man's name was
Romney; and though he contrived to hold up his head in the betting-ring,
he was not in very good repute, and was regarded as a blackleg. Walter
held him in detestation, for he mainly attributed his ruin to him.

Though he must have perceived that his attentions were annoying to Rose,
Romney did not discontinue them, but became more impertinently assiduous
as the boat neared the pier, and seemed determined not to part with her.

Rose looked out anxiously for her father, but could not discover him,
nor did she perceive any person she knew, or whose protection she could
claim.

Stepping on shore before her, Romney offered her his hand, but she
refused to take it, and his proposal to carry her bag was peremptorily
declined.

At this juncture, Walter came up, and pushing the intruder forcibly
aside, bade him begone, and no longer molest the young lady.

"What business have you to interfere?" cried Romney, furiously. "Who are
you? Do you know him?" he added, to Rose.

"I never saw the gentleman before," she rejoined. "But I am greatly
obliged by his assistance."

"_Gentleman!_" echoed Romney, scornfully. "He doesn't deserve the term!"

"Blackleg and scoundrel!" vociferated Walter. "Do you dare to speak thus
of one you have cheated and plundered?"

And seizing him by the throat, he applied the ash-plant vigorously to
his shoulders.

No one attempted to interfere; and when Romney was released, he made
himself scarce as soon as he could; perceiving, from the observations
that reached his ears, that the feeling of the bystanders was decidedly
against him. He was followed by Sigebert, who had witnessed the
encounter, and determined to have a word with him.

Meanwhile, Rose had found another protector. Mr. Tankard had come up,
and was standing with her at a short distance. He had given her all
needful explanation respecting Walter; and when the latter joined them,
after the scuffle, she said to him:

"I never imagined you came from our house, Mr. Liddel. You have really
done me a great service. But how on earth did you know me? I never
remember seeing you before."

"I don't suppose you ever did," he replied. "I knew you from the
photograph your mother showed me when I offered to go and meet you at
the pier, in place of your father."

"Well, I declare, that _is_ curious!" she cried.

"And I promised to carry your carpet-bag; but Mr. Tankard, I'm sure, is
too gallant to surrender it."

"Quite right," replied the other. "I'm proud to be of use to Miss Rose.
I was just coming to call upon you, Mr. Liddel. I've been to Belgrave
Square, and have got you the situation. I saw Mr. Higgins, the butler,
and he says you're to enter upon your duties the day after to-morrow."

"Quite soon enough," remarked Walter, laughing.

"There's something about the livery that I have to tell you; but that
will do by-and-by," added Tankard.

"Dear me, Mr. Liddel!" exclaimed Rose, raising her finely-arched
eyebrows in surprise; "you're not going to wear a livery, are you?"

"Livery and powder," supplied Tankard.

"Impossible!" exclaimed Rose.

"No; it's too true," said Walter.

By this time they had reached the house. Rose rushed in, and was
welcomed by her mother with kisses and embraces.



VI. ROSE HARTLEY.

|Rose Hartley was just nineteen, and had all the freshness and bloom of
youth.

A remarkably neat, but rather plump, figure, comely features, brilliant
complexion, sparkling eyes, nut-brown hair and particularly small feet,
constituted the sum total of her charms; and she had considerably more
than fall to the lot of nine girls out of ten.

Rose was puzzled upon one point. She could not exactly understand how
Walter had found his way to her father's house; and her mother did not
care to enlighten her. However, his appearance and manner pleased her,
and she felt sure she should soon learn all about him.

"Mr. Tankard." said Mrs. Hartley, "I must get you to help us out of a
difficulty."

"With the greatest pleasure, my dear madam, if it lies in my power."

"I needn't tell you our accommodation is very limited; and now Rose has
returned, I fear----"

"I know what you are going to say," interrupted Tankard. "You wish
Mr. Liddel to have a bed at my house. I expected the request, and am,
luckily, able to comply with it. He _shall_ have a room."

"Upon my word, Mr. Tankard, I'm very much obliged to you," said Walter.

"Not in the least," rejoined Tankard. "But we must have a merry meeting
to-night, Mrs. Hartley. You must all come and sup with me. Mr. Higgins,
Lady Thicknesse's butler, has promised to give the pleasure of his
company; and, since Miss Rose has returned, I'll ask Harry Netterville,
of Gray's Inn, as I'm well aware she likes the society of that amiable
and agreeable young man."

"Pray don't ask Mr. Netterville on my account, Mr Tankard!" observed
Rose, with affected indifference. "I'm not particularly anxious to meet
him."

Mr. Tankard, however, knew better; and said that as soon as he got
back, he would send off a note to the young gentleman in question. Mr.
Netterville, he explained to Walter, belonged to the legal profession,
being clerk to an eminent solicitor in Gray's Inn.

"And now, Mr. Liddel, I must take you with me," said Tankard. "I've got
some arrangements to make with you. If we don't meet before," he added
to Rose and her mother, "I shall see you all at nine this evening--that's
understood."

Rose would have preferred Walter remaining a little longer, but as he
promised to come round in the course of the afternoon, she felt quite
reconciled to his departure.

Mr. Tankard first took his companion to the shop of Mr. Pledger Dapp,
in the York Road. Mr. Dapp, as we have said, was a pastrycook and
confectioner, and the numerous good things on the counter looked very
tempting at that hour.

Mr. Dapp was delighted to see them, insisted on serving each with a
basin of mock-turtle soup, and stood beside them while they discussed it
at a small table at the further end of the room.

"Well, is all satisfactorily settled, may I inquire, Mr. Liddel?" he
said.

"Yes; all's settled, Dapp," said Tankard, answering for his friend. "The
very livery is ready!"

"Indeed!" cried Walter, looking up in surprise. "Has it appeared by
magic?"

"I've not yet had time to enter into details," rejoined Tankard; "but
when I saw Higgins this morning, he told me Lady Thicknesse had left the
arrangements entirely to him, so we had only to talk them over together;
and it was then agreed that he should come to my house this evening,
where he could have an opportunity of meeting you, and judge for
himself, though he entertained no doubt, from description, that you
would suit."

"So far good," remarked Walter. "But about the livery?"

"You shall hear," replied the other. "It seems that Charles Brownlow,
the late footman, who was as near as possible your height and figure,
was discharged at a moment's notice for impertinence. His livery, no
doubt, will fit you."

"But has he worn it?" cried Walter.

"No; it has not been delivered. Higgins will order the suit to be sent
to me, so that you can try it in the evening, and we can judge of the
effect."

"A capital plan," laughed Dapp.

"A dress rehearsal, in fact," said Walter. "Well, it may be useful."

"No doubt you'll play your part to perfection," said Tankard.

"I shall see how I like it myself," rejoined Walter. "This is why you've
invited the party to supper, I conclude?"

"Exactly," replied Tankard, laughing. "You've divined my purpose.
By-the-by, Dapp, you must send me a good supper to-night--a very good
supper, mind!"

"For how many guests?"

"A dozen; and make one of them yourself. That'll keep you up to the
mark.

"I'll give you a supper worthy of the 'Silver Tankard,'" replied Dapp.
"At what hour shall it be?

"Ten o'clock precisely. Direct Larkins to send me some flowers--cut
flowers; and tell him to come, too. We'll do the thing in style."

"Nothing shall be neglected. I know how particular you are," replied
Dapp. "But won't you take one of these?" he added, placing a dish of
pates before them.

Just then he was obliged to leave his friends to attend to some
customers. When a couple of pates had been devoured, Tankard and his
companion arose, and quitted the shop.

"Who is that tall young man?" remarked one of the customers at the
counter.

"Mr. Walter Liddel," replied Dapp.

"I don't think that's the name," said the individual. "I've heard it
before, and feel almost certain it's not Liddel."

Dapp made no remark at the time; but he afterwards pondered a little
upon the matter.

"He's a very singular fellow, that Walter Liddel," he thought. "I expect
he'll turn out a Claimant of some sort, or he may be a dook in disguise.
Shouldn't wonder."



VII. TOM TANKARD.

|Mr. Tankard's establishment was larger and handsomer than Walter
expected to find it. In the windows there was a very good display of
china and glass, and the shop was tolerably spacious.

Mrs. Tankard, to whom he at once was presented, and who received him
very kindly, was still goodlooking, though somewhat on the wane; but she
was sharp and intelligent, and evidently very well able to attend to the
business in her husband's absence.

The Tankards had an only son--an only child, we ought to say.
Tom Tankard was a much smarter man than his father, and much more
self-important. Like his father, he had a sobriquet, and was called
"Cool Tankard." Tom ought to have attended strictly to the shop; but
being allowed to do pretty much as he liked, as a natural consequence he
did little or nothing.

Tom was not handsome. On the contrary, he was decidedly an ugly dog.
Short, fat, snub-nosed, round-faced, he had deep-seated, grey eyes, and
these had a cunning, though rather comic, expression. His pink cheeks
were totally destitute of whisker, and his whity-brown hair was cut
extremely short.

A brown Newmarket coat was buttoned over his broad chest, but his
shoulders were out of proportion with his spindling legs, which were
cased in very tight trousers.

Nevertheless, Tom was a smart fellow in his way, though rather loud in
his style, and exceedingly particular about the flaming colour of his
tie and the size of his gold pin.

Now and then he used to drive in the Park when he could afford to hire
a drag, and took some smart young ladies with him. More than once he had
ridden at the Croydon Steeple-chases, and he occasionally contrived to
attend a meet of the Surrey hounds.

Tom chanced to be in the shop when Walter came in with his father, and,
being struck by his appearance, condescended to pay him some attention.

Mr. Tankard lost no time in informing his wife that Mr. Liddel would
occupy a bed in the house for a night or two; and then went on to
explain that he had invited a few friends for the evening, and had
directed Pledger Dapp to send in a little supper--thinking it would save
trouble.

Mrs. Tankard received the intelligence with great good nature, and Tom
was told to take Mr. Liddel up-stairs and show him the spare room, which
proved to be a very neat little chamber.

They were still talking together, when Mr. Tankard came up with a large
brown-paper parcel, and, deeming it advisable to mystify his son, winked
at Walter, to let him into his plan, and then said to the hopeful youth:

"Do you know, Tom, Mr. Liddel is going to a fancy dress ball?"

"How jolly!" exclaimed Tom. "What costume?"

"As a footman," replied old Tankard. "Here's his dress."

"As a footman!" exclaimed Tom, with a droll expression. "Jeames of
Buckley Square--or Chawles. Well, he's just the figure for one of those
gentry. Is he going to the ball to-night?"

"No; but I've persuaded him to appear in private at my little party this
evening, that we may see how he looks."

"Oh! he can't fail to look well," said Tom, somewhat sarcastically. "But
let's see the dress, guv'nor. Beg pardon, Mr. Liddel! I ought to have
asked your permission."

"Oh, don't stand on any ceremony with me, I beg!" cried Walter.

The parcel was then opened, and a very handsome suit of livery produced.
There was likewise another rather smaller parcel inside.

"Here's a gorgeous coat! here's a brilliant pair of plooshes!" exclaimed
Tom, holding up the latter. "You'll look uncommon well in these, Mr.
Liddel."

"No doubt he will," said Mr. Tankard. "But no more of your chaff, sir."

The smaller parcel was then opened, and was found to contain a pair of
thin shoes, buckles, silk stockings, shirt, and white cravat.

"I was going to put you in mind, Mr. Liddel," observed Tankard, "that
you'd want several articles to rig you out completely--but here they all
are. I dare say the shoes will fit you."

"I'm certain of it," replied Walter, examining them.

"Another thing mustn't be forgotten, Mr. Liddel," said Tom. "Since
you're going to appear as Jeames, or Chawles, you'll want your 'air
powderin'. I'll get you a _coiffeur_. When will you have him?"

"Not till evening," replied Walter.

"Very good," said Tom. "He shall be here at eight."

"Now, go down to the shop, Tom," cried Mr. Tankard. "Send off a note at
once to Harry Netterville, and ask him to supper. Consult your mother,
and if she approves, ask Mrs. Tripp and Clotilde, Mrs. Sicklemore and
Flora, or anybody else agreeable to her, but don't exceed half a dozen,
for we have got five or six already.

"Counting Harry Netterville?"

"No; not counting him."

"You've seen Rose Hartley, of course, Mr. Liddel?" cried Tom. "Sweet
girl, ain't she? Harry Netterville is rather smitten in that quarter.'

"Then give him the chance of meeting her," said his father.

Thereupon Tom disappeared.

After an early dinner with the Tankards, Walter betook himself to
Spencer's Rents, and saw Rose, who was alone in the little parlour.
Evidently she regarded him with more interest than she had done.

"My mother has told me all about you, Mr. Liddel," she said, "at least,
all she knows, and I feel exceedingly sorry for you. But I hope all
will soon be right. I am neither old enough nor wise enough to give you
advice, nor is it right or proper for me to do so, but I am sorry
you are thinking of becoming a footman. I feel quite sure you are a
gentleman--"

"I have been one," interrupted Walter. "But I have no money, and must
do something. The offer was made me, and I accepted it. Any honest
employment is respectable."

"So it is, undoubtedly. What I fear is that you may hereafter regret
having taken the step."

"I can leave if I don't like the employment. But I must say you talk
very sensibly, Miss Rose. I wish I had had such a counsellor a year or
two ago, before I committed my worst follies."

"You wouldn't have listened to me," she replied, shaking her head.

"I don't know--I might have done. But your remarks seem to produce some
salutary effect upon me, and that is more than I could say of myself
formerly."

"Then you are improved by misfortune."

"In some respects, I think I am. But there is considerable room for
further improvement."

"Mr. Liddel, I am convinced you have a great deal of good in you. Only
do yourself justice."

"I will try," he replied. "But how is it, I must again ask, that you,
who are so young, are able to give such sensible advice?"

"I have a good mother," she replied.

At this very moment Mrs. Hartley came into the room.

"I hope you heard what was said of you, ma'am?" observed Walter. "Your
daughter has just been telling me how much she owes you."

"I owe quite as much to her," cried the good dame, affectionately. "She
is the joy of the house, and I don't know what I shall do when I lose
her. But I suppose I must make up my mind to it one of these days."

"Not yet, dearest mother," said Rose.

"I suppose we shall meet the fortunate individual this evening?"
observed Walter. "Mr. Harry Netterville, eh?"

"Yes, that's the name; and a very nice young fellow he is," replied Mrs.
Hartley. "I only wish he was a little richer."

"Well, we must wait contentedly till he becomes so," sighed Rose.
"Poverty and happiness don't go together in married life."

"Again I must compliment you on your good sense, Miss Rose," remarked
Walter.

"That's one of my mother's maxims," she rejoined. "But don't call me
_Miss_ Rose, please. After the service you rendered me this morning, I
shall always regard you as a friend, and so will Harry!"

"I think I told you that Romney, the insolent fellow by whom you were
affronted, was one of those who mainly contributed to my ruin?" remarked
Walter. "He is a great libertine, and I hope you may experience no more
annoyance from him. I may not always be at hand to protect you."

"Luckily, he doesn't know where I live, or I might feel some
uneasiness," said Rose.

"Ah, those rakes are dreadful--no keeping them off!" cried Mrs. Hartley.

At this moment there was a knock at the outer door.

Rather startled, Mrs. Hartley went to see who it was; and presently
returned with a letter in her hand.

"This is for you, Rose!" she cried. "It was left by a stranger, who said
no answer was required, and went away immediately."

"For me!" exclaimed Rose, turning pale. "It is certainly addressed to
me, but I don't know the handwriting."

She then opened the letter, and, after angrily scanning it, read it
aloud.

"The gentleman who had the great pleasure of meeting Miss Rose Hartley
on the steam-boat this morning, hopes soon to behold her again, as her
charms have made an ineffaceable impression upon him. He feels certain
that the incident that occurred on the pier must have been as vexatious
to her as to him; but she may rest assured that the ruffian who
committed the assault shall not pass unpunished."

"So, then, he has discovered your address!" cried Walter. "I wonder how
he learnt it, since he ran off."

"I could not have credited such audacity, without proof positive!"
exclaimed Rose, indignantly. "Does Mr. Romney imagine I will ever
exchange another word with him, except to express my anger and scorn?
Have I given him any encouragement, that he should dare to write me such
a letter?" she added, tears of vexation starting to her eyes.

"No, no! I am sure not," cried Walter. "But it is part of Romney's
system; he believes no woman can resist him. I now begin to think he
will persist in the attempt, notwithstanding the chastisement he has
received, and the utter want of encouragement on your part."

"Dear me! I declare I'm all of a tremble!" cried Mrs. Hartley. "I don't
know what we shall do to get rid of him."

"Never mind him," cried Rose. "I'm not at all afraid."

"Leave me to deal with him," said Walter. "Tomorrow I'll look after him."

"It is Harry Netterville's business to defend me," cried Rose.

"But I understand the man," rejoined Walter. "Besides, I have still an
account to settle with him. Leave him to me."

"Yes; Mr. Liddel will manage him best," said Mrs Hartley. "But I'll go
and bring in tea; a cup will do us all good after this bother."

As the good dame had foreseen, the pleasant beverage soon produced
a tranquillising effect, and enabled them to spend an hour or two in
cheerful converse.

Walter then thought it time to go back to Mr. Tankard's, but offered to
stay and take charge of them if they felt at all afraid. Mrs. Hartley
said she expected her husband every minute, and he would bring them to
the party.

"In that case, you can dispense with me," said Walter. "We shall meet
again before long, and then you'll find me completely transmogrified."

"I am sorry to hear it," said Rose; "I like you very well as you are."

Walter laughed, and set out, taking with him his parcel of purchases.



VIII. AS A FOOTMAN.

|Preparations for the supper party had already commenced when Walter
arrived at Mr. Tankard's. The shop had been closed at an earlier hour
than usual, but was lighted up, and so arranged that the company could
walk about it if they thought proper.

After casting a look around, and exchanging a word with Mr. and Mrs.
Tankard, both of whom seemed very busy, Walter went up-stairs to his
own room, which had now been converted into a nice little _cabinet de
toilette_. No doubt he was indebted for this attention to Mrs. Tankard.

His first business was to try on the livery, and he was quite surprised
to find how well it fitted him. We have already said it was a handsome,
showy suit; and on Walter, who was very tall and extremely well
proportioned, it produced its full effect.

What was his first thought as he contemplated himself in the glass, when
thus metamorphosed, may be inferred from the loud laugh into which he
burst.

Just at this juncture, Tom Tankard, who was now in evening dress, came
into the room, and joined very heartily in the merriment.

"Excuse my laughing, Mr. Liddel," he said; "but yourself set me off.
I never beheld such a swell footman before. You'll astonish 'em down
stairs presently. But I've come to tell you the _coiffeur_ is waiting
outside. I suppose you're pretty nearly ready for him?"

The hairdresser proved to be Sigebert Smart; and great was the surprise
of that inquisitive individual when he found that the customer who had
so much excited his curiosity had assumed a new _rôle_, and found a new
lodging.

"Can I believe my eyes?" he exclaimed, with a theatrical start. "Do
I, indeed, behold the gentleman whom I was compelled to deprive of his
beard? I now understand the meaning of that order. With a costume
like this, a beard would be incongruous. But is the dress worth the
sacrifice?"

"Cease this foolery, and begin!" said Tom. "The gent wants his 'air
powderin'. He's goin' to a fancy ball, as I told you!"

Begging Walter to take off his coat, and flinging a loose gown over his
shoulders, and giving him a napkin to protect his eyes, Sigebert set to
work, and carefully powdered the young man's fine brown locks, pausing
ever and anon in his task.

At length, he exclaimed, as he laid down the powder-puff:

"Now you'll do, sir--now you'll do! What do _you_ think of the effect,
Mr. Tom?" he added, appealing to our fat friend.

"Hum!" cried Tom, without delivering an opinion. "Wants a little more at
the back, don't it?"

"Not a particle! Couldn't be better!" said Sigebert. "Now, let me help
you on with your coat," he added to Walter.

And having thus aided in arraying him, he exclaimed, in affected
admiration:

"Why, you're quite a picture, sir! You eclipse the finest of the Court
lacqueys! You'd get a first-rate place, if you wanted!"

"That he would!" laughed Tom. "What's the damage, Sigebert?"

"Would five shillings be too much?" said the _coiffeur_, with a droll
expression. "It's half a crown for a real footman!"

"Well, here's a crown," replied Walter.

Sigebert received the money with a bow, and, while putting his things
together, said:

"May I inquire where the fancy ball takes place?"

"Not far off," replied Tom.

"Here?" asked Sigebert.

Tom nodded.

"I guessed as much," said Sigebert. "Judging from this specimen, it will
be very good. But how is it you're not in character, Mr. Tom?"

"Domino and mask easily put on!" replied Tom not caring to enlighten him
further.

Upon this, Sigebert bowed and departed, Tom attending him as far as the
shop.

As he went out, the hairdresser saw Pledger Dapp, whom he knew, with his
assistants, bringing in the supper; and he also saw Larkins, with some
flowers, but he did not say anything to either of them. In fact, he was
absorbed in thought.

When he got out into the street, he stood still for a few moments, and
reflected.

"What the deuce is he doing here?" he thought. "He seems to have changed
his quarters. And what's the meaning of this disguise?--for disguise I
believe it is. Something may be made of the discovery."

Having arrived at this conclusion, he hailed a hansom cab, and bade the
coachman drive to the Grosvenor Hotel.



IX. IN WHICH MISS CLOTILDE TRIPP AND MISS FLORA SICKLE-MORE MAKE THEIR
APPEARANCE.

|Not long after Sigebert's departure, Mr. Higgins, Lady Thicknesse's
butler, arrived, and was cordially welcomed by Mr. Tankard.

Stout, florid, bald-headed, well-mannered, quiet, wearing a white choker
and a black dress coat, Mr. Higgins seemed the very model of a butler,
and he certainly was most useful and important in the establishment
over which he ruled. Lady Thicknesse confessed she could not do anything
without Higgins.

"Odd things occurred this afternoon." remarked Higgins, after a little
preliminary converse; "and I'll mention it now, while there's an
opportunity. Sir Bridgnorth Charlton called on my lady; but, as she
wasn't at home at the time, he conferred with me, and inquired whether I
knew anything about Mr. Chetwynd Calverley. I told him 'no.' I had often
heard the name in Cheshire, but had never, that I was aware of, seen the
gentleman. This didn't satisfy Sir Bridgnorth. He next inquired whether
we had recently discharged a footman, and I told him 'yes,' but we had
just engaged another, though I myself had not yet seen the new man, but
I expected he would enter on the place to-morrow. I had received a very
good character of him from you. Sir Bridgnorth then inquired your
address, which I gave him, and likewise the young man's name--Walter
Liddel--and he expressed his intention of calling upon you. I can't tell
what he wants, or why he began by asking about Mr. Chetwynd Calverley."

"Sir Bridgnorth has not been here yet, and I've nothing to tell him
when he does come," remarked Tankard. "I never heard of Mr. Chetwynd
Calverley. Who is he?"

"The son of a rich gentleman who lived at Ouselcroft, in Cheshire.
He was ruined on the turf, and disinherited by his father, and his
stepmother has got the entire property. These circumstances happened
about a year ago, and were the talk of the county at the time, so
perhaps you may have heard of them."

"No; they're news to me," replied Tankard. "I never was in
Cheshire--never heard of Ouselcroft, or the Calverleys. But the case is
not very extraordinary. We _do_ hear occasionally of youngsters getting
ruined on the turf, and being disinherited in consequence. It's a piece
of luck for the stepmother."

"Yes; and she's young and handsome!" said Higgins.

Their converse was here interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Tankard and
Tom, both of whom expressed themselves as very glad to see Mr. Higgins.

The lady wore a yellow satin dress, covered with black lace, and a
rather showy cap; and Tom had the usual evening dress, with white tie
and polished boots.

Tea and coffee had just been brought in by a female servant, when a
knock was heard at the side-door, and directly afterwards a very tall,
well-powdered footman advanced with stately step into the room, and
announced, in agreeable tones, not too loud, but quite loud enough, Mr.
Henry Netterville.

Nothing could be more effective than Walter's entrance.

Higgins gazed at him in astonishment. Prepared as he was to behold a
fine, tall footman, he had not expected such a well-grown, handsome
young fellow as this.

"By Jove! he'll do!" he exclaimed.

Harry Netterville, who was by no means a bad-looking fellow, and no
smaller than the rest of his species, was completely dwarfed by the tall
footman.

Tankard and his wife expressed their satisfaction in low tones; but the
irrepressible Tom gave a little applause.

Walter, however, having done his devoir, immediately withdrew, being
summoned by another knock at the door; but presently reappeared and
ushered in Mrs. Tripp and her daughter, who were quite astonished at
being thus introduced, and thought the Tankards must have taken leave of
their senses.

Mrs. Tripp was a milliner, and Clotilde Tripp, who assisted her mother,
was a very pretty girl, and looked upon Tom as an admirer.

But she had a formidable rival in Flora Sicklemore, whose mother kept
a Berlin wool, fringe, and trimming warehouse in Kennington Road. Flora
was quite as pretty as Clotilde--much prettier, in her own opinion--for
had she not bright golden locks and a very fair skin--while Clotilde's
tresses were coal-black, and her complexion olive-coloured!

Both charmers were smartly dressed, and both bent on captivating Tom.

Like the Tripps, the Sicklemores were filled with amazement at the sight
of the grand footman, but they felt sure such an extraordinary addition
to the establishment could only have been made by Tom.

Everybody had now arrived, except the Hartleys.

At last they appeared. Walter received them as he had done the others,
at the side-door, and offered to announce them, but Rose wouldn't let
him; so they entered the room quite quietly, but were very cordially
welcomed by the host and hostess; and even Tom, for some reason or
other, was particularly civil to them. He paid Rose a great many
compliments; but they were appreciated by the young lady at what they
were worth; and she gladly turned to Harry Netterville, who was dying to
talk to her, and who devoted himself to her for the rest of the evening.

Meanwhile, Higgins, wishing to have a word with the new footman, went in
quest of him with Mr. Tankard.

They found him in the shop, which communicated with the other rooms.
Bows and presentations took place. Then the parties shook hands.

"'Pon my word, Liddel," said Higgins, in a good-natured but extremely
patronising manner, "you promise exceedingly well! Indeed, with a
little instruction, which I shall be extremely happy to give you, I
unhesitatingly assert you will '_do!_'"

"Such commendation from a gentleman of your judgment and experience is
extremely encouraging, Mr. Higgins," said Walter, bowing. "I was really
desirous you should see me before I was finally engaged, that you might
form your own opinion as to my capabilities."

"I had perfect confidence in my friend Tankard," replied Higgins; "nor
did he mislead me. You have great personal advantages, Liddel, and they
count for much in a footman. I will say this for you, and you may take
it as a high compliment, I have never before seen our livery look so
well."

"I am much gratified," replied Walter, again bowing.

"A single question, and I have done," said Higgins. "Do you happen to
know Sir Bridgnorth Charlton?"

"I am aware there is such a person," replied Walter, rather embarrassed.

"I've also a question to ask you, Liddel," remarked Tankard. "Did you
ever hear of Mr. Chetwynd Calverley?"

"Not lately," replied Walter, without hesitation; "and I don't think
I am likely to hear of him again very soon. I fancy he has disappeared
altogether. But why do you inquire, sir?"

"Sir Bridgnorth Charlton was asking about him this morning," interposed
Higgins: "and, somehow, you got mixed up in the inquiry."

"That's strange," replied Walter. "Surely he didn't suppose I was Mr.
Calverley?"

"No; he didn't think that," rejoined Higgins, laughing; "but he wanted
some information respecting the young gentleman."

"Well, I'm unable to give him any," said Walter.



X. SUPPER.

|After a brief conference with Pledger Dapp, Mr. Tankard returned with
Higgins to the company.

Presently, the gladsome announcement was made by the fine footman that
supper was ready.

Mr. Tankard showed his guests the way by taking out Mrs. Tripp;
Mrs. Sicklemore followed with Hartley, whose arm she took with some
reluctance; then came Larkins with Mrs. Hartley; then Harry Netterville
with Rose, by far the best-looking couple in the assemblage; then came
the gallant Tom, with a young lady on either arm, singing to himself,
like Captain Macheath, "How happy could I be with either;" and, lastly,
came the hostess and Mr. Higgins.

Walter stood at the supper-room door as the company entered, and Flora
and Clotilde made some complimentary remarks upon his appearance. Tom,
however, would not allow them to stop for a moment, but took them to
their seats, and placed himself between them.

The table was not very large, but it was well covered with dishes;
for Pledger Dapp had been as good as his word, and had given a capital
supper.

The chickens, hams, and tongues being ready carved, could be helped
without delay; and the lobster salad was pronounced faultless by Mr.
Higgins, who professed to be a judge.

The creams, jellies, and _pâtisserie_ were equally good, and Tom took
care the young ladies should have plenty.

Nor was Harry Netterville less attentive, though Rose was far more
easily satisfied.

Claret-cup and sherry were the beverages, and the glasses were
constantly replenished by Pledger Dapp.

Ever since the supper began, Walter had disappeared. At length, his
absence was remarked by Flora and Clotilde.

"I don't see your fine footman, Mr. Tom," said the former. "I suppose he
won't wait at supper?"

"Can't say," replied Tom. "He does pretty much as he likes."

"Now, do tell me, Mr. Tom," said Clotilde, "is he _really_ a footman?"

"To be sure he is!" cried Tom. "What do you take him for?"

"_I_ take him for a gentleman," said Flora.

"And so do I," added Clotilde.

"Well, he _is_ a gentleman, in his way," said Tom. "What wages do you
suppose we give him? A hundred a year--quarter in advance--separate
meals. He's gettin' his supper by himself at this moment; will have his
pint of champagne, though the guv'nor only allows _us_ claret-cup--ha!
ha!"

"I don't believe all this stuff you're telling us about high wages and
champagne, Mr. Tom," said Flora. "But I'm certain there's something
extraordinary about your new footman. You may as well let us into the
secret."

"Well, if you want to know his history, I must refer you to Miss Rose
Hartley," said Tom. "She can tell you about him."

"Is this so, Rose?" said Harry Netterville, who overheard the remark.

"Don't ask me for any explanation just now, please Harry," she replied;
"I'd rather not give it."

"Why not?" cried Netterville, who was rather of a jealous temper. "Have
you known him long? I never heard of him before."

"I have already said I shall not answer any questions concerning him
just now."

"Ah! yonder he is!" exclaimed Flora. "I can see him in the shop, through
the open door. I declare, he has changed his dress! He doesn't look half
so imposing now."

"But he is much more like a gentleman," said Clo-tilde, who also
perceived Walter in the shop, now in his morning attire. "Do be
good-natured, Mr. Tom, and tell us who he is!"

"I would rather stop both your mouths with a little of this trifle,"
said Tom, helping them.

Harry Netterville's eyes had followed the same direction as those of the
two girls.

He noticed the change that had taken place in Walter's exterior, and
said, rather sharply:

"Clear up the mystery, Rose."

"Not to-night," she replied, quietly.

"I wish Mr. Liddel would come in and join us at supper," said Mr.
Tankard to Pledger Dapp. "Do go and ask him."

"Yes; pray do, Mr. Dapp!" said Flora. "We can easily make room for him
here."

But Walter was prevented.

Just before the message was sent, a knock was heard; and, thinking it
was a visitor, he went to open the street-door, and found himself face
to face with Sir Bridgnorth Charlton and Mr. Carteret.

An instantaneous recognition took place on either side. Walter hastily
retreated, but neglected to shut the door after him; and the two
gentlemen followed him into the shop, where he checked their further
progress.

"You must excuse this intrusion," said Sir Bridgnorth, "and attribute it
to my anxiety to find you. I have been searching for you everywhere, and
rejoice that I am, at last, successful."

"Not so loud, Sir Bridgnorth," said the young man, pointing to the party
in the adjoining room. "I am only known here as Walter Liddel."

"What I have to say may be said very briefly; and it cannot matter who
hears it," rejoined Sir Bridgnorth. "Your friends wish you to return to
them."

"I have already given Mr. Carteret an answer," said Walter. "I refuse."

"But I would remonstrate with you on your folly."

"It is useless. I beg there may not be a scene. It will produce no good
effect, and may do mischief, by interfering with my plans."

"But your plans cannot be carried out. Come to me at the Grosvenor Hotel
to-morrow, and I will convince you of their utter absurdity."

"No," replied Walter; "I am inflexible in my purpose. The only favour I
will ask of you and Mr. Carteret is not to reveal my name."

"But, my good fellow, listen to reason. Don't take a step you will most
assuredly repent. Hereafter you will thank me most heartily for giving
you this advice. You won't want money. Carteret has got five hundred
pounds, which he will pay over to you. You won't want friends, for we
will all rally round you. Come, don't hesitate!"

It was clear that the worthy gentleman's earnestness had produced an
impression. Walter seemed inclined to yield, but still hung back.

At this moment, Tankard, who had heard some conversation going on, came
out of the supper-room, accompanied by Hartley and Higgins.

As they issued forth, they shut the door after them,

"I believe I have the honour of addressing Sir Bridgnorth Charlton," said
Tankard, bowing.

"Yes, I am Sir Bridgnorth," replied the other; "and I feel persuaded you
will assist me to restore this rather wrong-headed young gentleman to
his friends."

"Then I am right in my notion that he is Mr. Chetwynd Calverley?"
remarked Tankard.

"It is useless to conceal his name, though he seems to desire
it," rejoined Sir Bridgnorth.

"Yes, I _am_ Chetwynd Calverley," said the young man. "I care not who
knows it. I have been a great fool, and I suppose I shall continue one
to the end."

"No, don't!" cried Hartley, advancing towards him, and regarding him
very earnestly. "Don't commit any more folly. Perhaps I have a right to
advise you."

"You have, Hartley. I fully recognise it," replied Chetwynd, taking his
hand "You saved my life. Whatever you advise me to do, I will do!"

"Then, go back to your friends," said Hartley. "That's my advice."

"And mine," said Tankard.

"And mine, too," added Higgins. "I shall be sorry to lose you; but
that's of no consequence."

"Hartley," said Chetwynd, clapping him in a friendly manner on
the shoulder, "you have decided me. I'll go back at once with Sir
Bridgnorth."

"That's right, sir--that's right!" replied the other.

"I owe you a large debt," continued Chetwynd. "But I'll not fail to pay
it."

"You owe me nothing, sir," rejoined Hartley.

"Yes, I do," replied Chetwynd, earnestly; "more than I can ever pay."

He then shook hands with the others, and, taking the hat and valise
which Tankard brought for him, bade them all three farewell, and quitted
the shop with Sir Bridgnorth and Mr. Carteret.


THE END OF THE THIRD BOOK



BOOK THE FOURTH--PROBATION.



I. THE FIRST STEP.

|We will now return to Brackley Hall, where we shall find the two young
ladies.

They were still in a great state of uncertainty in regard to Chetwynd,
though Sir Bridgnorth had written them a letter calculated, in some
degree, to relieve their anxiety.

Of the two, Emmeline seemed to suffer most--probably because her
temperament was more vivacious than Mildred's; but it is certain that
the feelings she had formerly entertained for the inconstant Chetwynd
had completely revived, if not become intensified.

Mildred, as we have shown, was strongly attached to her brother, and
her affection for him remained undiminished, but constant and sad
disappointment had taught her to control her emotions. She did not say
so to Emmeline, but she scarcely hoped to behold him again.

Mrs. Calverley was at Ouselcroft, but she drove over almost every day in
the pony phaeton, and remained for an hour or two.

As to Lady Barfleur, she had been almost entirely confined to her room
since Sir Leycester's death.

Things were in this state at Brackley Hall, when one morning, about an
hour after breakfast, the two girls went out into the garden. They were
in an uneasy and excited state, but the soft air and the fragrance of
the flowers soothed them.

That morning's post had brought Mildred a brief letter from Sir
Bridgnorth Charlton. It contained only a few words, but they stimulated
curiosity and raised hopes.

"To-morrow, I shall send a messenger to you with some important
intelligence. Expect him soon after the receipt of this letter.

"B. C."

They had been in the garden some little time, and were slowly returning
towards the house, when they saw a tall figure, dressed in black,
crossing the moat.

Evidently, it was the messenger from Sir Bridgnorth, as they had given
orders that he should be sent out to them.

But who was he? Could it be Chetwynd in person? Not a doubt about it.

On making this discovery, Mildred uttered a slight cry, and flying to
meet her brother, was clasped in his arms.

Emmeline stood still, and placed her hand upon her heart to check its
palpitations.

In another minute, Mildred disengaged herself from her brother's
embrace, and without stopping to make any inquiries, and scarcely to
exchange a word of greeting, led him towards Emmeline.

As he approached, Emmeline became pale as death, and felt as if she
should sink to the ground; but she sustained herself by a great effort.

She thought him changed. He had a careworn look, and his features were
sharper; but he was still very handsome--and, perhaps, he had more
interest for her, looking thus, than if he had appeared full of health
and spirits.

He raised his hat as he drew near, and took the hand she offered him,
but did not venture to address her till she spoke.

"I am truly glad to see you again, Chetwynd," she said, in kind but
tremulous accents. "We have been very, very anxious about you."

Having called him "Chetwynd" formerly, she did not hesitate to do so
now. It is impossible to describe how much he felt her kindness. But
he did not presume upon it, and scarcely dared to lift his eyes towards
her.

"I should not have ventured to present myself to you, Miss Barfleur," he
said, "after my unpardonable conduct, had I not been strongly urged to
do so by Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, who told me you were good enough to
still take an interest in me. I felt that I must have for ever forfeited
your good opinion."

"Not for ever," she replied.

"I must go through a long period of probation ere I can hope to regain
it," he rejoined. "I do not wish to make professions which you might
naturally discredit, but I intend henceforward to become a very
different man."

"It rejoices me to find you have formed such a praiseworthy resolution,
dearest Chetwynd," said his sister.

"I have had a very serious conversation with Sir Bridgnorth," he
replied, "and what he said to me carried conviction with it. I am
determined to reform. As I have just stated, I do not expect you to
believe in the sincerity of my repentance till I have proved it. It
may be no easy task to change one's nature, to curb a hasty temper, and
check a propensity to folly and extravagance; but I have promised to do
it, and I will keep my word at any cost."

"I am sure you will," said Emmeline, "and the cost will be far less than
you expect."

"But you must begin to reform at once," said Mildred.

"I have already begun," said Chetwynd. "Had I not done so, I should not
be here. This is my first step, and it will lead to all the rest."

"But why should coming here be part of your probation?" asked Emmeline.

"You know not what I felt at the idea of appearing before you," he
replied; "and had you treated me with scorn and contempt, it would
only have been what I deserved. Blinded by the charms of an artful and
deceitful woman, I threw away such a chance as rarely has fallen to the
lot of man; but when I recovered my senses, I comprehended what I had
lost. Bitterly did I reproach myself--but it was then too late to repair
my error, or at least I thought so--and the sense of my folly drove
me almost mad. I will not attempt to exculpate myself. My faults are
inexcusable. But this is their explanation. Had it not, been for Sir
Bridgnorth's encouragement I should not be here."

"On all accounts, I am glad you have come," replied Emmeline. "I do not
doubt what you tell me. Pass through the period of probation, and you
may be fully restored to favour."

"How long a period do you enjoin?" he inquired, anxiously.

"A year," she replied.

"'Tis not too much," said Mildred.

"I am content," he answered. "Nay, more, I am deeply grateful."

"But you must likewise obey my commands--however hard they may seem,"
said Emmeline.

"I will cheerfully obey them all," he replied.

"Then the first injunction I lay upon you is to become immediately
reconciled to your stepmother."

"Ah!" he exclaimed.

"Do you refuse?"

"No," he replied. "You could not have imposed a harder condition.
Nevertheless, I will obey you."

"In all sincerity?"

"I promise to forgive her--if I can. At any rate, I will manifest no
more resentment."

"But accept your allowance like a rational being," said Mildred.

"Yes; Sir Bridgnorth and Mr. Carteret have argued me out of my
scruples."

"I am truly glad to hear it," said Mildred. "This is, indeed, a point
gained."

"Mrs. Calverley generally drives over to luncheon," observed Emmeline.
"I dare say she has arrived. Come and see her at once."

Chetwynd made no objection, and they proceeded to the house.



II. THE SECOND ORDEAL.

|Mrs. Calverley had arrived, and they found her in the drawing-room.

She appeared greatly surprised at the sight of Chetwynd, and perhaps not
altogether pleased, but she quickly recovered herself, and greeted him
in a friendly manner.

Certainly, she did not expect it, but he immediately stepped forward,
and, for the first time for a lengthened period, shook hands with her.

"Let there be peace between us," he said.

"Willingly," she replied. "I never sought a quarrel with you, Chetwynd,
and since you desire a reconciliation, I gladly agree to it. I am
anxious to forget the past."

"You are very kind, madam," he replied. "I frankly own I have been much
to blame, and have no right to expect your forgiveness."

"After this admission on your part, there is an end of all
misunderstanding between us," said Mrs. Calverley. "Some painful, but
clearly groundless, rumours having reached me," she added, "I must say
that I am truly rejoiced to see you again."

"I have reason to thank Heaven, madam," he replied, gravely, "that I am
still alive. But I ought still more to be thankful that my sentiments
are changed. All my vindictive feelings are gone."

"Yes, I can answer for it, that my dear brother is now in a very proper
frame of mind," observed Mildred, in a low tone.

Mrs. Calverley seemed much relieved by the assurance.

"Where are you staying, Chetwynd?" she inquired.

"With Sir Bridgnorth Charlton," he replied. "I rode over from Charlton
Park this morning. I owe a large debt of gratitude to Sir Bridgnorth.
He has behaved like a father to me, and has extricated me from all my
difficulties. Without him, I know not what I might have become. Now the
world is once more open to me."

"Dearest brother," exclaimed Mildred, "how thankful I am you have found
such a friend!"

"I have found other friends, though in a very different sphere of life,
who have rendered me great service, and shown me much kindness," he
replied; "and I should be ungrateful indeed if I did not acknowledge my
obligations to them. One day you shall know all, and then you will admit
that poor men have as good hearts as their richer brethren. But for one
of my humble friends I should not be here now."

Some bright eyes were dimmed at this remark, and a momentary silence
ensued.

It was broken by Mrs. Calverley, who said, in a kindly tone:

"I hope you mean to make Ouselcroft your home, Chetwynd?"

"I shall be delighted to do so, since you are kind enough to ask me,
madam," he replied. "I shall not give you much trouble, for I propose to
live very quietly."

"Don't mistake me," she rejoined. "The house will be as much your own as
during your father's lifetime. Come and go as you please. Your friends
will always be welcome. In a word, do just as you like, and don't
imagine I shall be any restraint upon you."

"You are too kind, madam," he rejoined, somewhat confused.

"I desire to meet you in the same spirit in which you have come to me,"
she said. "Now I hope you understand me."

"I do, madam, and I will avail myself of your offer, In a day or two I
will again take possession of my old room."

"It has always been kept for you, as you will find; but you shall have
any other room you may prefer."

"None can suit me so well as that. And since you permit me to ask my
friends, I will mention a gentleman I have just met at Charlton, as I
feel sure he will be agreeable to you."

"Do I know him?"

"Perfectly--Captain Danvers. I will bring him with me, if you have no
objection."

"Do so, by all means," she replied. "I shall be delighted to see him,
and so, I am sure, will Mildred."

"Yes; he is very amusing," said that young lady.

"Captain Danvers is my cousin, and a great favourite of mine as well,"
observed Emmeline. "I am glad you have formed his acquaintance; and I am
sure you will like him."

Luncheon being announced at this moment, they repaired to the
dining-room, where they found Lady Barfleur, who had come down-stairs
for the first time since the day of Sir Leycester's interment.

Being strongly prejudiced against Chetwynd, she received him very
coldly, and as she could be very rude when she pleased, she made several
very unpleasant observations in his hearing, greatly to Emmeline's
annoyance.

"I didn't expect to see your brother here," she remarked to Mildred.
"I fancied he had got into some fresh scrape, worse than any of the
others."

"Oh! no," cried Mildred, almost indignantly. "He has got out of all his
difficulties."

"Since when?" asked Lady Barfleur, dryly.

Mildred made no reply.

"What is he going to do now, may I ask?" pursued her ladyship.

"Coming to reside with mamma, at Ouselcroft," replied Mildred.

"Oh! she is good enough to take him back again, eh?" observed Lady
Barfleur. "Well, she is very forgiving, I must say."

"Mamma!" exclaimed Emmeline, reproachfully, and trying to check her.

"Nay, I meant nothing," muttered her ladyship. "It is her own concern,
not mine. I have no right to interfere."

"I shall be greatly pleased to have him with me again--that is all I can
say," observed Mrs. Calverley, rather offended, for she felt the matter
was carried somewhat too far for Chetwynd's patience, and dreaded an
outbreak.

Happily, none occurred. Chetwynd could not fail to hear all that was
said, but appeared calm and indifferent.

Lady Barfleur, however, had not yet exhausted all her displeasure.

"What is he going to do?" she asked, after a pause. "I suppose he has
nothing."

Mrs. Calverley smiled.

"Your ladyship is entirely mistaken," she said. "He has a very fair
income, and," she added, with some significance, "extremely good
expectations. You may trust me on this point."

"Of course," replied Lady Barfleur. "But allow me to say I was under a
very different impression."

That Chetwynd felt highly indignant at this discussion in his presence,
is certain, but he allowed no symptom of anger to appear. On the
contrary, he seemed perfectly indifferent.

Emmeline was very anxious, fearing that his visits in future to the
house might be interdicted. But she was needlessly alarmed, as it turned
out.

Chetwynd's unwonted self-control served him well. Lady Barfleur began
to relent, and to view him in a more favourable light. She made no more
rude remarks; indeed, she seemed rather inclined to be friendly towards
him; and he so gained upon her by his tact and good nature that,
before luncheon was ended, she observed, in an audible whisper, to Mrs.
Calverley:

"Upon my word, I must say Chetwynd is vastly improved!" And, to
Emmeline's infinite delight, she added, "I shall be very happy to see
him at Brackley whenever he likes to come over."

The two girls exchanged a look.

"I think he'll do now," whispered Mildred. "He has got through this
ordeal remarkably well."



III. THE RETURN TO OUSELCROFT.

|Three days afterwards, Chetwynd, accompanied by Captain Danvers, came
to Ouselcroft.

Mrs. Calverley, who seemed to have buried her former quarrels in
oblivion, gave him a very hearty welcome, and was particularly civil
to Captain Danvers. Mildred had returned on the previous day, bringing
Emmeline with her--so there was quite a little party in the house.

Everything look bright and cheerful, and Chetwynd was received like the
prodigal son.

All the household appeared delighted to see him again, and old Norris
declared it was the happiest day of his life. They all thought him
changed, and that his manner was much more sedate than it used to
be--the general impression being that he was greatly improved.

On entering the hall he stood still for a moment, and as he gazed around
a singular and indefinable expression crossed his countenance. But it
passed away quickly, and was succeeded by the grave composure that now
habitually distinguished him.

The look, however, had not been unnoticed by Norris, who was close
beside him, watching him anxiously, and made the old butler think he was
acting a part.

But it was in his own chamber, where no one could observe him, that
Chetwynd gave utterance to a few words that revealed the secret of his
breast.

"Once more I am in my father's house," he murmured; "and I will never
quit it till I penetrate the mysteries it hides. At length I have
learned to dissemble, and my purpose shall not be thwarted by haste
or imprudence. The part is hateful to me, but I will play it, and with
care. My former want of caution will avert suspicion from my design. I
will not even make old Norris my confidant."

He remained for some time in his room, occupied by a variety of
reflections, until at last he was disturbed by a tap at the door, and on
opening it, Norris came in.

Evidently, from his manner, he expected that Chet-wynd would make him
the depositary of some secret, but he was disappointed.

"Whatever may be your motive in coming back, I think you have acted
most judiciously," he said; "and I am truly glad to find that a complete
reconciliation has taken place between you and Mrs. Calverley, though I
own I never expected it."

"Yes, Norris," replied Chetwynd. "We have become really friends. At one
time I never supposed it would be so, as you are well aware. But strange
things happen. I am very much changed since you saw me last."

"Well, I own you _are_ changed, sir; but for the better--very much
improved. I hope you mean to reside here altogether now?"

"I do, Norris. Mrs. Calverley has behaved with great kindness to
me--with great generosity, I may say--and the animosity I felt towards
her has been completely extinguished in consequence. She has asked me
to make Ouselcroft again my home. I have accepted the offer, and here I
shall remain!"

"It would have been very unwise to refuse the offer, sir," said Norris.
"But are you convinced of her sincerity?"

"I cannot doubt it, after such proofs as she has given me. I only
wonder she has shown so much forgiveness. But she shall have nothing to
complain of in future."

"I approve of your determination, sir. Let bygones be bygones!"

Norris was completely puzzled.

He did not believe in the reality of the reconciliation, either on one
side or the other. But he saw plainly enough there would be a suspension
of hostilities.

Obviously, it was greatly to Chetwynd's interest to yield to his
step-mother; but hitherto, the step-son had proved so obstinate, that
any arrangement seemed impracticable. On the other hand, Norris had
believed that Mrs. Calverley harboured great resentment against him; but
now she seemed suddenly to have forgiven him.

Were they deceiving each other. He thought so.



IV. WHICH OF THE TWO?

|Captain Danvers had never before been to Ouselcroft, and was charmed
with the place.

The house was admirably kept up, and the garden in beautiful order. Mrs.
Calverley had received him in the most flattering manner; and he had
found Mildred there, and his cousin Emmeline. Chetwynd had promised him
a pleasant visit, and he felt sure it would turn out so. What can offer
greater attractions than an agreeable country house, with two or three
lovely inmates?

Captain Danvers had not quite made up his mind whether he preferred the
wealthy young widow or her pretty step-daughter.

There were reasons that inclined him to turn his thoughts exclusively to
Mrs. Calverley, but Mildred's image would not be dismissed. He fancied
he should be able to decide during his stay at Ouselcroft; but it was
not an easy matter, as he found out.

Possibly in accordance with some plan he had formed, Captain Danvers
devoted himself on the day of his arrival to Mrs. Calverley.

Next day, he seemed inclined to go over to Mildred, but she did not give
him so much encouragement as she had done at Brackley; and piqued by
her indifference, he sought by every means to regain the ground he had
apparently lost, and succeeded.

But Mrs. Calverley resented the neglect, and treated him coldly in her
turn. He seemed, therefore, in danger of losing the grand prize. Though
he found it next to impossible to go on with both, he was unwilling to
give up either.

He then put the momentous question to himself--to which of the two
should he propose?

Clearly Mrs. Calverley would be by far the most advantageous match, in
a pecuniary point of view; and being greatly governed by selfish
considerations, he inclined towards her.

Still, he was really in love with Mildred, and the thought of losing her
was more than he could bear.

On reflection, he found he had put a question to himself that he could
not answer.

That very morning an opportunity offered for saying a tender word to
Mildred; but his courage failed him. Loving her as he did, and feeling
sure she loved him in return, he hesitated to commit himself.

They were walking in the garden, and the animated conversation with
which they had commenced had gradually died away, and was succeeded by a
silence that was almost embarrassing.

Clearly the moment had arrived. What could he do?--what say? He took her
hand. She did not withdraw it, and he pressed it to his lips; but, oh,
disgrace to manhood! no word was uttered. He heaved a deep sigh--that
was all.

It was almost a relief to him when Mrs. Calverley and Emmeline were seen
approaching.

"How provoking!" exclaimed the captain, who, however, was secretly
pleased by the interruption.

Had he thought proper, he might have moved on; but instead of doing so,
he turned round and met those who were coming towards them.

Mrs. Calverley, who had very quick sight, had seen what took place,
but did not of course make the slightest remark until she found herself
shortly afterwards _tête-à-tête_ with the captain, the others having
walked on.

"I think I explained to you, Captain Danvers, what my intentions are in
regard to Mildred?" she said.

"Yes, I perfectly recollect," he replied. "You said you meant to give
her a marriage portion of thirty thousand pounds; and I thought it
exceedingly handsome."

"But you did not quite understand me, I fancy," said Mrs Calverley,
regarding him steadfastly. "I ought to have added that she will have
this sum on her marriage, provided I approve of her choice."

"Ah! that proviso makes all the difference!" exclaimed the captain. "The
money may not be given, after all."

"I shall never withhold it unless I see some decided objection to the
match," she rejoined. "Think over what I have told you."

No more was said; but the caution thus given him produced the effect
intended on Captain Danvers. He saw that Mildred was completely in her
step-mother's power, and that the latter would do nothing if offended.

He now rejoiced that he had not made a positive proposal, as he would
then have been compelled to take the fair girl without a portion, and he
was not disinterested enough to do that.

However, he put the best face he could on the matter, and said:

"I am obliged to you for the information you have given me. Had I meant
to propose to Miss Calverley, it would not have deterred me; but I have
no such intention."

"And you expect me to believe this after what I beheld just now?" said
Mrs. Calverley, incredulously.

"I expect you to believe what I tell you," rejoined the captain rather
haughtily. "And I again assert that I have _not_ proposed to her."

"I am glad to hear it. It would have pained me to do a disagreeable
thing."

"But you would have done it?"

"Undoubtedly. However, since you give me this assurance, I need say no
more."

Later on in the day, Chetwynd and Captain Danvers were smoking a cigar
in the dressing-room of the former, when the captain broached a subject
on which he had been ruminating.

"Chetwynd, old boy," he said, "I want to ask you a question. Don't think
me impertinent; but I should like to know whether it is true that Mrs.
Calverley has the entire control of your sister's fortune?"

"I'll answer the question frankly," replied Chetwynd. "She has. My
father, as you may be aware, made an extraordinary will, and it was
the strange disposition of his property that caused the quarrel between
myself and my step-mother. You talk of my sister's fortune. Properly
speaking, she has none. She has a handsome allowance from Mrs.
Calverley, who always declares she will give her a portion of thirty
thousand pounds on her marriage."

"Provided she approves of her choice--is not that a condition?" said the
captain.

"Yes; but it means nothing."

"Pardon me. I think it means a great deal. It might cause a match to be
broken off."

"It might, certainly, if acted upon. But Mrs. Calverley is very much
attached to my sister, and will never oppose her choice. At least I
fancy not."

"I have reason to believe otherwise, my dear Chetwynd. She has already
given me a pretty strong hint!"

"Have you said anything to her about Mildred?"

"_No_; but she has spoken to me, and has clearly intimated that I am not
the man of _her_ choice. Were I to be accepted, depend upon it, Mildred
would have no portion."

"You think so?"

"I'm sure of it. Can you help me?"

"I don't see how. I have no influence over Mrs. Calverley, and am
determined not to meddle in any family matters. Besides, I should do no
good. But I don't think there is any real ground for apprehension. As
I have just said, she is extremely fond of Mildred, and if she felt
my sister's happiness were at stake, she wouldn't interfere with any
engagement she might form. I am certain of that. Though I cannot
aid you, I will tell you who can, and most efficiently--your cousin,
Emmeline Barfleur. I wonder she has not occurred to you."

"My dear fellow, I have had no time for consideration," rejoined
the captain. "I have only just received this obliging hint from Mrs.
Calverley. But I entirely agree with you. Emmeline is the person of all
others who can aid me. Let us go and look for her at once. Most likely
we shall find her in the garden, for they are not driving out this
afternoon."

Chetwynd assented; so they flung away their cigars, and went downstairs.



V. HOW CAPTAIN DANVERS WAS THROWN OVER BY BOTH LADIES.

|Mrs. Calverley was in the drawing-room occupied with a novel; and
feeling easy, as far as she was concerned, the two young gentlemen went
out in quest of the girls, and soon found them.

At a sign from Captain Danvers, Emmeline came and sat down beside him on
a lawn-chair, while Chetwynd and his sister walked on.

"Now, Charles, what have you got to say to me?" she inquired.

"I want to talk to you about Mildred."

"Well, I am prepared to listen. It would be quite superfluous to tell me
you are in love with her, for I know that very well. Indeed, if I am not
mistaken, you were interrupted in making a proposal this very morning!"

"I own the soft impeachment. But the interruption seems to have been
fortunate, for I should have got into a serious scrape if the proposal
had been actually made."

"How so?" she exclaimed in astonishment.

"Mrs. Calverley holds her step-daughter's destiny--that is, her
fortune--in her own hands; and has since given me clearly to understand
that, in my case, Mildred would be portionless."

"And pray what else could you expect? You have been flirting so
outrageously with Mrs. Calverley herself, that you have caused her to
regard her stepdaughter as a rival. Were it not that Mildred may suffer
from your conduct, I should say you were very properly punished. I
declare I thought you had proposed to Mrs. Calverley!"

"Not quite!" he replied, laughing.

"Then you have misled her. No wonder she is angry when she finds you so
inconstant."

"Will you do me a good turn, dearest Emmeline?"

"I can't promise. I feel greatly displeased with you myself."

"I'm sorry for that. But perhaps the mistake can be remedied."

"How can it be done? No! You have lost Mildred, and must put up with
Mrs. Calverley!"

This suggestion threw the captain into a fit of despair.

"She is very handsome," pursued Emmeline, "very rich, and has got
this fine house, with all the furniture, plate, pictures, horses and
carriages. You won't be so badly off."

"I would rather have Mildred with her portion," sighed the captain.

"But you must take her without a portion you see. How will you like
that?"

"It is not to be thought of! Give me some advice."

"My advice to you is to retire from the field altogether."

"You are laughing at me; that is cruel, under the circumstances."

"It is the best thing you can do."

"But I mean to stay, and hope to gain my point."

"Mildred's hand?"

"Yes, and the portion."

"You must cease to pay attentions to Mrs. Calverley."

"I have done so, and you see the result. I think I had better resume
them."

"That would be most improper, and I cannot countenance such a
proceeding. One or the other it must be--not both."

"But I must keep Mrs. Calverley in good humour, or there will be a
quarrel; and that must be avoided."

"You are incorrigible," laughed Emmeline. "The sooner you go, the
better!"

"I have just told you I don't mean to go! Ah! here comes Mrs. Calverley!
Pray don't desert me!"

"Expect no assistance from me, deluder!"

As Mrs. Calverley came up, they rose to receive her.

"I am sorry to disturb you!" she said. "You seemed engaged in a very
interesting discourse."

"We were talking about you," replied Emmeline.

"About me?" cried Mrs. Calverley, in affected surprise.

"Yes; but I can't tell you what we were saying. It mightn't be agreeable
to you."

"I will take my chance of that."

"Well, then, I was just saying to Captain Danvers that if I had such
a charming place as you possess, and such a good income, I would never
marry again."

"I have no idea of marrying again," observed Mrs. Calverley, carelessly.
"I may sometimes listen to the nonsense talked to me," she added,
glancing at Captain Danvers, "but I rate it at what it is worth. I
prefer being my own mistress. If I wanted companionship, I might think
differently; but as things stand at present, I shall certainly adhere to
my resolution."

"Such resolutions are never kept," said Captain Danvers. "Your sex are
allowed to change their mind as often as they please."

"At all events, I shall wait till Mildred is married," she rejoined.

"Then I don't think you will have to wait long," remarked Captain
Danvers.

"You are mistaken," rejoined Mrs. Calverley. "Mildred, I feel sure, will
not marry immediately." This was said with so much significance that
both her hearers were struck by it; and Emmeline gave her cousin a
slight pinch, as much as to say:

"There, sir, you see what you have done."

At this instant Chetwynd and Mildred returned from the further end of
the garden, and joined the party on the lawn.

Captain Danvers thought Mildred's manner colder to him than it had been
before, but he soon received an explanation of the change from Chetwynd,
who took him aside and said:

"I have had some conversation about you with my sister, and have
ascertained her sentiments. It will be useless to propose to her. You
will be refused."

"Is this quite certain, my dear Chetwynd?"

"Quite certain. Whether she is acting by Mrs. Calverley's advice, I
can't say; but she has made up her mind to refuse you."

The captain was confounded.

Apparently he had lost his chance with both ladies.



VI. MRS. CALVERLEY RENDERS CHETWYND AN IMPORTANT SERVICE.

|Next morning while the party were assembled at breakfast, Captain
Danvers announced his intention of terminating his visit, which he
declared had been most agreeable; and, though pressed to stay by Mrs.
Calverley, he declined.

"I have promised to spend a few days with Lady Barfleur before my return
to town," he said, "and must not disappoint her. I have written to tell
her she may expect me at dinner to-day."

"Then you really mean to leave us?" said Mrs. Calverley. "This is a very
short visit. I hoped you would spend at least a week here. But you won't
be far off, and can come back again if you are so inclined. I shall be
very glad to see you."

Mildred did not say a word. If she had spoken, he would have assented.

"You are very good," he rejoined; "but it is possible I may be summoned
to town."

"It is quite certain you will find Brackley very dull after this lively
house, Charles," said Emmeline. "Take my advice and stay where you are."

"A little solitude will suit my present mood," he rejoined. "If I feel
very, very lonely, I'll ride over here."

"Well, we offer you our society," said Mrs. Calverley.

"All of you?" asked the captain, glancing at Mildred, who was on the
opposite side of the table.

But she did not look at him.

"If you are positively going, I'll ride over to Brackley with you this
afternoon," observed Chet-wynd.

"And stay to dinner," said the captain. "My aunt will be very glad of
your company."

"That she will, I'm sure," observed Emmeline. "Suppose we all go? What
say you?" she added to Mildred.

The young lady appealed to shook her head.

"The drive will do you good," said Emmeline. "Be persuaded."

"No, thank you; not to-day," replied Mildred.

Captain Danvers looked at her imploringly; but she remained steadfast.

"Well, since you are so perverse, you deserve to be left behind,"
said Emmeline. "You shall drive me in your pony-carriage, dear Mrs.
Calverley."

"With greatest pleasure," replied the lady. "But I can't promise you an
adventure--"

Then feeling that the remark might awaken painful recollections, she
stopped short.

During the latter part of this discourse, Norris had entered the room,
and, approaching Chetwynd, told him, in a whisper, that two persons
wanted to see him on important business.

"Who are they?" inquired Chetwynd, thinking there was something strange
in the butler's manner.

"They didn't give their names, sir," replied Norris; "and I've never
seen them before. I've shown them into the library."

"Quite right. I'll come to them after breakfast."

"Better see them at once, I think, sir," observed Norris, significantly.

On this Chetwynd got up, without disturbing the party, and following the
butler out of the room, repaired to the library, where he found the two
personages.

Looks, dress, and deportment proclaimed their vocation. Coarse, stout,
red-faced, vulgar-looking dogs, they seemed up to their business. Each
was provided with a stout stick.

Having seen such fellows before, Chetwynd instantly understood what they
were. But they would not have left him long in doubt.

As he entered the room, one of the twain stepped up to him, and said,
with an attempt at a bow.

"Mr. Chetwynd Calverley, I presume?"

Chetwynd replied in the affirmative.

"My name's Grimsditch," said the fellow, "and my mate's name is Hulse. We
are officers. We have a writ against you for seven hundred pounds."

"But I owe no such sum," replied Chetwynd.

"Beg pardon, sir," said Grimsditch. "But we have the particulars. You
gave a bill for six hundred pounds to Philip Marsh Romney, Esq. With
costs and interest it now amounts to a hundred more."

"You'll find it quite correct, sir," added Hulse. "I dare say you'll
recollect all about it."

"I recollect something about a gambling debt to Mr. Romney for six
hundred pounds; but I was told I ought not to pay it, and I won't."

"Sorry to hear you say so, sir," replied Grimsditch. "We hoped the matter
would be quietly settled. But if it can't be, you must come along with
us."

Chetwynd looked very angry for a moment, and seemed inclined to kick
them both out of the room.

"We can't help it, sir," said Grimsditch. "We must do our duty."

"However unpleasant it may be to us," added Hulse.

"Make no excuses--I don't want them," said Chetwynd. "I'll be back
directly."

"Can't part with you, sir!" said Grimsditch, planting himself before the
door, so as to prevent egress. "Against rule. Hulse will ring the bell
if you wish it."

"Do so, then," said Chetwynd.

The bell was rung, and the summons immediately answered by Norris, who
must have been close at hand.

Chetwynd then sat down at a table on which writing materials were
placed, and traced a few hurried lines on a sheet of paper, which he
enclosed in an envelope.

"Take this note to Mrs. Calverley," he said to Norris.

"Instantly, sir," replied the butler, glancing indignantly at the
officers.

While Norris went on his errand, Chetwynd remained seated at the table
with his back towards the officers.

In a few minutes the door opened, and Captain Danvers came in with a
note in his hand.

"Out of my way, men!" he said, as he marched past them.

"Mrs. Calverley has sent you a cheque on the Chester Bank for the amount
you require--seven hundred pounds," he added to Chetwynd. "Pay these
fellows, and get rid of them!"

"Here's the bill, with charges and all particulars," said Grimsditch,
following him to the table.

"And there's the cheque," said Chetwynd, giving it to him after he had
endorsed it.

"All right, sir," replied Grimsditch. "On Chester, I see; my own
bank can't be better. Always glad to have one of them cheques in my
pocket-book. And now, sir," he added, "if you'll allow me to sit down,
I'll give you a receipt."

This business completed, Grimsditch got up, bowed, and was retiring with
his companion, when Chetwynd called out to them.

"Stay a minute!" he said, in a stern tone. "I wish you to understand
that I consider this as a most nefarious transaction. I have been
robbed!"

"Sir!" exclaimed both officers.

"Not by you, but by your employer. Philip Marsh Romney is a consummate
scoundrel! Tell him so!"

"We won't do you such a bad turn, sir," rejoined Grimsditch. "Mr. Romney
might bring an action for libel."

"No, he won't," said Chetwynd. "He knows better. He may have done with
me, but I have not done with him. Tell him that, at all events."

"We will," replied the officers, as they disappeared.

"I'm glad you've got rid of those rascals, Chetwynd," said Captain
Danvers. "Upon my soul! I think Mrs. Calverley has behaved remarkably
well. On receiving your note, she got up to write the cheque at once,
and begged me to take it to you. She wouldn't bring it herself, you see,
as her presence might have annoyed you."

"Yes, it was very well done, I admit; and I am greatly obliged to her."

"But you don't seem half grateful enough," said Danvers.

"Oh, yes, I am grateful--very grateful!" replied Chetwynd.

Shortly afterwards he went to Mrs. Calverley, and said:

"You have rendered me a great service; but I don't know when I shall be
able to repay you."

"Repay me whenever it may be convenient," she replied; "or not at all.
Just give me a memorandum that I have advanced you seven hundred pounds;
that is all I require."



VII. HOW CHETWYND AND EMMELINE PLIGHTED THEIR FAITH IN THE OLD CHAPEL.

|No persuasion on Emmeline's part would induce Mildred to go to Brackley
that day, nor would she bid Captain Danvers adieu.

The other arrangement was carried out; the captain's valise being sent
on by his groom, who, at the same time, took a note from Emmeline to
Lady Barfleur, to let her know whom she might expect.

About three o'clock the party set off; the two ladies in the
pony-carriage, the gentlemen on horseback. The day was fine, but sultry;
and as they crossed the heath, a peal of thunder was heard in the
distance, but it came to nothing. Mrs. Calverley certainly did not seem
to regret Mildred's absence. She was unusually lively, and appeared
quite to have forgiven the captain's inconstancy, and to be willing to
take him into favour again. So he renewed his assiduities.

Chetwynd looked preoccupied. He rode by the side of the pony-carriage,
but did not converse much with Emmeline, who was struck by his sombre
expression of countenance. It was the same at Brackley. They walked
together in the garden, but he spoke little, and did not breathe a word
of love. Had he something on his mind?

In the courtyard of the old Hall, as already stated, there was an
ancient chapel, in excellent preservation. Originally, it was devoted
to the rites of the Church of Rome, as it must needs have been, since it
was built nearly a hundred years before the Reformation.

Chetwynd had often admired the exterior of the old fabric, but had never
been inside it, and Emmeline offered to show it to him as they passed
through the court.

The door being unfastened, they went in. The windows were filled with
stained glass of the richest hues, and there was a large sculptured
monument, that instantly caught the eye, to Sir Simon Barfleur and Dame
Beatrix, his wife, who flourished in the time of Henry the Seventh.

Other monuments there were that somewhat encroached on the space of the
little structure, but none of the family had been interred in the vault
beneath for more than a century.

The chapel was provided with a large pew for the family and guests, and
seats for the household. A venerable divine, the Reverend Mr. Massey,
officiated as chaplain, and had done so for sixty years.

After advancing a few steps, Chetwynd paused, and looked round. Every
object was coloured by the painted glass, now illuminated by the rays of
the declining sun.

After admiring this glowing picture for a few moments, he joined
Emmeline, who was standing near the precincts of the altar.

His countenance had still the melancholy look it had borne throughout
the day; but he gazed earnestly at Emmeline, as he said, in a low,
supplicating voice:

"I have not yet proved myself worthy of your love; but, if I dared, I
would entreat you to plight your faith to me here."

For some minutes, she made no reply; but seemed occupied with serious
reflection. She then said:

"I think I may trust you, Chetwynd."

"You may," he replied, in accents that bespoke his sincerity.

She hesitated no more, but freely gave him her hand.

"I hereby solemnly plight my faith to you, Chetwynd," she said. "If I
wed you not, I will wed no other. That I swear."

His countenance underwent an instant change, and became lighted up with
joy.

He repeated the words she had uttered; but added:

"I must not claim your hand. My task is not completed--scarcely begun."

"I am witness to the vow you have made," said a voice behind them.

Looking round, they perceived the old chaplain, Mr.

Massey, who had followed them unseen into the chapel.

A venerable man, in age more than fourscore, with silver locks, and a
most benevolent expression of countenance.

"Heaven bless your union, whenever it takes place, and though I may not
live to see it!" he said.

"I trust you may unite us, reverend sir," said Chetwynd. "But you ought
to know who I am."

"I _do_ know, sir," replied Mr. Massey; "and I have perfect faith in
you, or I would not have sanctioned this solemn engagement. Should it be
carried out, as I doubt not it will, Mr. Chetwynd Calverley may esteem
himself the most fortunate, and the happiest man in England. I have
known the fair young lady who has just plighted her faith to him since
she was a child, and have loved her as a father, and have met with
none of her sex in any way comparable to her. Again, I say to you, Mr.
Calverley, you are most fortunate; and, should the Almighty bless you
with this treasure, guard it as you would your life!"

"I will," replied Chetwynd, deeply moved.

They did not remain many minutes longer in the chapel, but repaired to
the house, accompanied by Mr. Massey.



VIII. THE HAUNTED BOOM.

|The day, as previously stated, had been fine, but exceedingly sultry,
and the sunset portended thunder.

Just as those about to return to Ouselcroft were preparing for
departure, a heavy thunder-storm came on, and as there seemed every
likelihood of its continuance, they were easily induced to pass the
night at Brackley.

A messenger was immediately sent off to Mildred to prevent alarm,
and Captain Danvers undertook that Chetwynd should be put to no
inconvenience in regard to his toilette.

There was no difficulty about beds, for there was a superfluity at
Brackley. A large chamber was assigned to Chetwynd, containing an
antique canopied bedstead with twisted oak pillars, and heavy brocade
curtains, the splendour of which was somewhat dimmed by years. There
were a couple of old black cabinets in the room, and the dark oak panels
were hung with sombre tapestry, or adorned with portraits.

The only modern furniture was a card-table, set with two chairs in the
centre of the room, opposite the end of the bed. Candles were placed
upon the table, and a couple of packs of cards.

Very likely these preparations had been made by order of Captain
Danvers.

Chetwynd had heard there was a haunted room at Brackley, but it never
occurred to him that this was the identical apartment, and though
Captain Danvers was aware of its ghostly reputation, he thought it best
to say nothing about it.

He accompanied his friend to the room, having previously supplied him
with such articles as he might require for the night, and then pointing
to the table, said, "Shall we have a game at _écarté?_"

"No, thank you," replied Chetwynd. "I've vowed never to touch cards
again."

"Well, I won't tempt you to break your oath," replied Danvers, laughing.
"Good night. I hope you'll sleep well."

And he quitted the room.

Chetwynd sought his splendid couch, and though the thunder rattled
awfully overhead, and the lightning blazed, he speedily fell asleep.

How long he slumbered he could not tell, nor could he exactly say what
awoke him, but when he opened his eyes he perceived a light in the room.

At first he thought it must be the lightning, for he was certain he had
put out the bed-candle, but this illumination was continuous.

Looking up, to his great surprise, he perceived two elderly gentlemen
seated opposite each other at the card-table. The wax candles were
lighted, and the two strange personages were playing at _écarté_, or
some other game.

An unaccountable dread seized Chetwynd as he watched them, and he
wondered how they came to be there at that time of night. Perhaps they
might not be aware of his presence, so he thought he ought to apprise
them of it.

Raising himself on the pillow to examine them more narrowly, he
perceived that one of them was Sir Leycester Barfleur, and the
other--his own father!

Astounded and dismayed at this discovery, he felt utterly unable to
speak, and remained-gazing at them, while they continued their game.

At last, they threw down their cards, and got up.

Then Mr. Calverley, as it seemed, exclaimed, in an unearthly voice,
"I've won!"

Upon which Sir Leycester, in accents equally unearthly, replied, "Not
yet!"

Then they both looked towards the occupant of the bed, and the
expression of their countenance was so fearful that Chetwynd was unable
to endure it, and fell back insensible.

When he recovered--or, rather, when he awoke--he did not feel quite sure
that the supernatural appearance which he thought he had witnessed might
not have been a dream.

On examination, the candles did not appear to have been lighted, and
both packs of cards were untouched. This seemed to favour the idea that
it must have been a dream, but Chetwynd could not believe so. He felt
sure he had seen the two old men.

Captain Danvers was curious to learn how his friend had passed the
night, and owned that the room was said to be haunted.

Chetwynd made an evasive reply.

"I'll tell you a strange thing," said Danvers. "My uncle, Sir Leycester,
once lost a large sum to your father in this room."

"They have not yet finished the game," said Chetwynd. "I saw them
playing during the night."



IX. WHAT PASSED BETWEEN CAPTAIN DANVERS AND MRS. CALVERLEY IN THE
GARDEN.

|After the stormy night came a magnificent day.

Brackley looked so charming, that the guests were in no hurry to
depart. Captain Danvers took a stroll in the garden with Mrs. Calverley,
resolved that the interview should decide his fate. It was idle to think
any more of Mildred, who had behaved very heartlessly in refusing to
bid him adieu. His selection was made. He would offer his hand to the
beautiful and wealthy widow, who had given him every encouragement.

The bowling-green, though delightful, was rather too damp after the rain
of the previous night, and the benches were not yet dried, so they moved
on towards a shady walk, where the captain commenced:

"I hope you have quite forgiven me, my dear Mrs. Calverley?" he said. "I
can scarcely account for my folly, but I can assure you I am now quite
sensible of it, and will never again offend in the like manner. Indeed,
I will put it out of my power to do so, by binding myself indissolubly
to you."

"Do you mean this as an offer?" she said.

"Certainly," he replied. "What else can it mean?"

"Then I must have a little time for consideration. I cannot make up my
mind in a moment on such an important point."

The captain's ardour was very much damped. He had flattered himself
he should be at once accepted. "But you don't reject me?" he said,
anxiously.

"No! you must remain on trial for a month. If I am quite satisfied with
your conduct during that interval, I may become yours."

"Then it is not to be an engagement?" he cried. "Yes; I am quite willing
it should be an engagement--but not binding on either party."

"Such an arrangement amounts to nothing," he said. "If you love me well
enough to give me your hand, accept me now, and let the marriage be
fixed for some early day."

"I cannot agree to that," she replied. "We shall have to come to an
understanding on many points."

"We are sure to do that," he replied. "I agree to all beforehand.
You shall have your own way entirely. I shall be a very good-natured
husband."

"I am not so sure of that," she replied, with a slight laugh. "Men
who make promises of compliance beforehand, often turn out most
impracticable."

"That won't hold good in my case."

"Well, you sha'n't say that I take you in, for I announce that I mean to
retain entire possession of my own property."

The captain could scarcely hide his confusion at this unexpected
intimation. However, he did not make any objection.

"In a word, my house will be conducted precisely as it is now," pursued
Mrs. Calverley.

"That is just what I should like," he rejoined. "Arrange it as
you please. I shall never interfere. Have we come to a distinct
understanding?"

"Yes; and if you retain these sentiments, we shall probably agree."

"Are we not now agreed?"

"On the main points," she replied. "But our engagement must be private
for the present. I have my reasons for the request."

"I won't ask them, but comply. In all things you shall be obeyed."

She smiled very graciously, if not every affectionately, and gave him
her hand, which he raised to his lips.

Her beautiful features underwent a slight change at that moment, and the
expression startled Captain Danvers so much that he almost repented the
step he had taken; but it was now too late to retreat.

"Though our engagement will be secret, you can come to Ouselcroft
whenever you please," she said. "Only remember there must be no
renewal----"

"Fear nothing," he replied. "There shall be no more of that."

They then returned to the house, and on the way thither met Emmeline
and Chetwynd. The former smiled on seeing her cousin and Mrs. Calverley
together, but made no remark.

Later on, however, when an opportunity offered, she said to Captain
Danvers, "All is settled, I perceive, between you and the rich widow."

"What makes you think so?" he asked.

"Both of you look as if you already repented," she replied. "But I hope
you may be happy."

Captain Danvers rode back with them to Ouselcroft; but he did not stay,
nor did he see Mildred.

However, he agreed to return in a few days.

Emmeline was distressed to find her friend looking less cheerful than
usual. Indeed, she appeared decidedly low-spirited.

"I hope you are not troubling yourself about my unworthy cousin
Charles," said Emmeline.

"I wish I could cease to think of him," replied Mildred, with a sigh. "I
have tried, but in vain."

"You must think of him no more, dearest girl," said Emmeline.

Mildred looked at her anxiously.

"What is it? Don't keep me in suspense!" she cried.

"He is engaged to Mrs. Calverley," replied Emmeline.

Mildred became white as death.

"Engaged to _her!_" she ejaculated. "Oh, this is too much!"

She would have fallen if Emmeline had not caught her.

Fortunately, this occurrence took place in Mildred's own room, and,
restoratives being at hand, it was not necessary to summon assistance.



X. AN INVITATION TO TOWN.

|Next day a letter was forwarded to Emmeline from Brackley.

It was from Lady Thicknesse, of Belgrave Square, of whom mention has
been previously made. Lady Thicknesse, it may be stated, was a sister of
Lady Barfleur, though several years her junior, and, consequently, aunt
to Emmeline.

The letter, which had an enormous black border, and was sealed with
black wax, was to the following effect:

"It will give me great pleasure, my dearest niece, if you will come and
spend a few weeks with me in Belgrave Square--quite quietly, of course.
I think the change will do you good, and I shall be very glad of your
society, for I have been rather _triste_ of late. Poor Sir Leycester's
death affected me a great deal. I don't ask my sister to accompany you,
for I know she won't stir from Brackley, but I shall be very glad if you
will bring with you your friend, Mildred Calverley. I remember her as a
very charming girl, and know you are much attached to her. She must not
expect any gaiety. You will be as quiet here as you are in the country.
Adieu, dearest Emmeline! Come as soon as you can, and don't fail to
bring Mildred with you. I write separately to your mamma."

Emmeline was in Mildred's room when Lady Thicknesse's letter was
delivered to her. She read it aloud to her friend, and, on finishing it,
exclaimed:

"Now, Mildred, what do you say? Will you go to town with me? I am sure
my aunt, Lady Thicknesse, will be very glad to see you, and she is most
agreeable and kind-hearted--but I needn't describe her, since you have
seen her."

"Yes; I know her slightly, and am persuaded I shall like her much when I
know her better."

"Then you will go?"

"Certainly, since you wish me to accompany you. I confess I don't feel
happy here just now. It will be an escape."

"Mrs. Calverley won't object, I suppose?"

"On the contrary," replied Mildred, with a singular smile. "I think she
will be glad to get rid of me for a time."

"I'm sure there will be no difficulty on mamma's part," observed
Emmeline. "Why, here is a note from her that I have not read! As I
expected!" she cried. "She urges me to accept the invitation, and hopes
you will accompany me. Let us go downstairs, and settle the matter at
once."

They found Mrs. Calverley seated with Captain Danvers in the
drawing-room, engaged in a very interesting _tête-à-tête_, and the
discovery increased Mildred's desire to be gone.

The captain rose, and bowed to her, and she made him a very freezing
salute in return. It appeared that he had brought the letters from
Brackley, and, having heard of the invitation from Lady Barfleur, had
mentioned it to Mrs. Calverley, so that she was fully prepared.

"I know what you are come to tell me," she said. "Captain Danvers has
already informed me of Lady Thicknesse's invitation, and I sincerely
hope you intend to accept it."

"Since the plan is agreeable to you, we shall do so," replied Emmeline.

"And we propose to go soon," said Mildred.

"As soon as you please, my love," said Mrs. Calverley, smiling. "I won't
delay you. You can set out to-morrow, if your preparations can be made
in time."

"We have very few preparations to make," remarked Emmeline. "We are not
going to any parties. I will write to Lady Thicknesse to prepare her for
our arrival to-morrow evening."

"You will want some one to take charge of you," observed Mrs. Calverley.
"You can't travel alone."

Captain Danvers was about to offer himself, but a look from Mrs.
Calverley checked him.

"Chetwynd will take charge of them," she said.

This proposition was very agreeable to the two young ladies, and when
Chetwynd made his appearance a few minutes afterwards, he readily agreed
to it.

So the matter was settled.

Later on, Emmeline and Mildred went to Brackley, in order to spend the
evening with Lady Barfleur. Captain Danvers remained to dine with Mrs.
Calverley--so they saw nothing of him.

Next morning, Chetwynd came over, fully prepared for the journey; and
Mrs. Calverley was with him, wishing to see them off.

With praiseworthy punctuality, all the boxes and portmanteaux were
ready at the appointed time, having been packed by the young ladies
themselves, as they did not mean to take a lady's-maid with them.

Lady Barfleur took leave of her daughter in private, and bedewed her
cheek with tears when she embraced her at parting; but not many tears
were shed on either side when Mildred bade her step-mother adieu.

Captain Danvers offered his hand to the offended damsel as she stepped
into the carriage, but she declined the assistance.

Accompanied by Chetwynd, the two girls drove in the large, old-fashioned
carriage to Chester, whence they proceeded by rail to London, arriving
at Kensington about six o'clock.

Having conducted them to Lady Thicknesse's residence in Belgrave Square,
Chetwynd took leave, promising to call on the morrow.

He then drove to the Grosvenor Hotel, where he engaged a room, and
ordered dinner.


END OF THE FOURTH BOOK



BOOK THE FIFTH--LADY THICKNESSE.



I. IN WHICH CHETWYND LEARNS HOW A QUARREL HAS TAKEN PLACE BETWEEN ROSE
AND HARRY NETTERVILLE.

|After he had dined, Chetwynd took a hansom cab and drove to Lambeth.

Alighting at the foot of the bridge, he walked to Hartley's house in
Spencer's Rents, wondering whether he should find any one at home.

He knocked, but not very loudly, and the summons was presently answered
by Mrs. Hartley, who came from the kitchen with a light.

"Why, bless me! if it ain't Mr. Walter Liddel--or rather I ought to say
Mr. Chetwynd Calverley!" she exclaimed, very nearly letting the candle
drop in her surprise. "Who would have thought of seeing you here
to-night, sir?"

"I've just come to town, Mrs. Hartley," he replied, "and I couldn't help
calling to inquire how you all are. How is your worthy husband?--and how
is Rose?"

"Both are well, sir," she replied, in a tone that did not sound very
cheerful, "But pray come in, sir," she added, leading him to the little
parlour, with which he was so familiar.

When another candle was lighted, and he had taken his seat, she
remarked: "A good deal has happened since you went away, sir."

"Nothing unpleasant, I hope?" he inquired.

"You'll be sorry to hear that Rose's engagement with Harry Netterville
is broken off."

"Broken off!" he exclaimed. "That is bad news indeed! On what account?"

"I was going to say on your account, sir; but that wouldn't be right,"
she replied. "However, this is what has taken place. An anonymous
letter has been sent to Harry Netterville making reflections upon Rose's
conduct with you; and as Harry is very jealous, he believed what was
said, and reproached her; and Rose being very hasty, a quarrel ensued,
and they both declare they won't make it up, but I hope they will, for
I'm sure they're very much attached to each other."

"I'm surprised as well as grieved by what you tell me, Mrs. Hartley,"
replied Chetwynd. "I thought Harry Netterville had more sense than to
be influenced by an anonymous slanderer. He ought to have treated the
letter with scorn. He knows Rose too well to doubt her for a moment.

"Yes; and that's what makes her so angry with him. 'Harry has never had
the slightest reason to complain of me,' she says; and now he gets this
false, wicked letter, which is only written to make mischief, he thinks
it all true!"

"I fancy I can give a guess at the writer," said Chetwynd. "The villain
had a double motive for sending the letter! But I will see Harry
Netterville myself to-morrow, and talk to him."

"I fear you'll only make matters worse, sir. He is very prejudiced and
stupid."

"But the affair cannot be allowed to remain in this state. I owe it to
myself to set it right."

"Well, you must talk to Rose, sir. I expect her back shortly. She's gone
about a place."

"A place?" exclaimed Chetwynd.

"Yes; since her quarrel with Harry, she has determined to go into
service, and our good friend Mr. Tankard has got her a situation as
lady's maid. She is gone this evening to Belgrave Square to see Lady
Thicknesse, who has engaged her."

"Now, indeed, you surprise me!" cried Chetwynd. "This is a strange
coincidence!"

"Yes; I thought you'd be surprised when I mentioned the name, as you
recollect that was the house---- But here she comes!" she exclaimed, as
a knock was heard at the door. "Rose, my dear," she added, "here's some
one waiting to see you."

"I know who it is," replied her daughter. "I expected to find Mr.
Chetwynd Calverley here."

In another moment she had taken off her hat and cloak, and came into
the room, looking as pretty as ever, and, what could hardly have been
expected under the circumstances, in very good spirits.

"I felt almost certain I should find you here, Mr. Calverley," she said,
after salutations rather more distant than formerly had passed between
them. "You will understand why I say so when I tell you I have just
seen your sister and Miss Barfleur, and two more charming, amiable young
ladies I never beheld. It will be quite a pleasure to me to attend upon
them. And I must say they appeared equally well pleased with me. They
seemed to know all about me."

"Yes; I had described you to them," remarked Chetwynd.

"So they told me," said Rose. "It's a curious thing altogether; but what
makes it more singular is that I should go to the house at the very time
of their arrival. I believe I was engaged by Lady Thicknesse expressly
to attend to them."

Mrs. Hartley had uttered a great many exclamations as her daughter went
on, and she now said:

"And how do you like Lady Thicknesse, Rose?"

"Very much indeed," was the reply. "She is a middle-aged lady, perhaps
turned fifty, but still goodlooking, and has a fine tall figure, and
dresses very richly. I should have thought more of her if I hadn't been
so much taken up with the young ladies. She received me very graciously,
and said I should suit her perfectly, especially as her niece, Miss
Barfleur, and Miss Calverley seemed pleased with me."

"Nothing was said to her ladyship in reference to any previous matter?"
inquired Chetwynd.

"Nothing whatever, sir," replied Rose. "The young ladies spoke to me
in private. I had likewise some conversation with Mr. Higgins, who
cautioned me; but I told him I should never breathe a word on the
subject. You needn't feel the slightest uneasiness, sir. To-morrow I
enter upon my duties, and am sure I shall be very happy."

"I sincerely hope so, Rose," said Chetwynd. "I am very sorry for the
misunderstanding that has occurred----"

"I've told Mr. Calverley all about the quarrel, my dear," remarked Mrs.
Hartley.

"I'm very angry indeed with Harry," cried Rose, "and don't feel at all
inclined to make it up with him."

"You'll think differently by-and-by, I dare say," observed Chetwynd.
"My belief is that the writer of that mischievous letter to Harry is no
other than the scoundrel who annoyed you in the steam-boat, and whom I
chastised for his insolence."

"The same idea occurred to me," said Rose: "and I should have mentioned
my suspicions to Harry, but he would listen to no explanations. Knowing
his jealous temper, I never told him of that occurrence, as I fancied
it would put him out. I also blame myself for not mentioning one or two
circumstances that have occurred since your departure; but I really felt
frightened."

"Has Romney made an attempt to see you again?" asked Chetwynd.

"More than once," she replied. "He annoys me dreadfully. When my
father is with me, he keeps out of the way; but I cannot always have a
protector at my side. This is one reason why I have resolved to go into
service. I shall be secure from my tormentor."

"I hope he won't trouble you much longer," remarked Chetwynd.

Just then a knock was heard at the door. It was rather sharp, and
surprised the hearers.

"Who can that be?" cried Rose, uneasily.

"I'll go and see," replied her mother.

The person at the door was no other than Tom Tankard. He inquired for
Rose, and Mrs. Hartley begged him to come in, and ushered him at once
into the little parlour.

Tom, who was dressed in evening attire, appeared very much surprised at
the sight of Chetwynd, and would have retreated, if he could have done
so with a good grace.

Declining to take a seat, he addressed himself to Rose, and said:

"I hope you will excuse this intrusion, Miss Hartley, but I am the
bearer of a message to you from my friend, Mr. Harry Netterville. He
wishes to know whether you will grant him an interview?"

"Shall I?" said Rose, in a low voice.

"Nay, don't appeal to me," replied Chetwynd. "Exercise your own
discretion."

"I ought to say that Mr. Netterville is without," observed Tom; "so that
he requires an immediate answer. When I inform him who his here, I don't
feel quite sure that he will come in."

"He can please himself," said Rose. "Tell him, in reply to his message,
that I will see him, but not alone."

"Have the goodness, also, to tell him from me, Mr. Tom," observed
Chetwynd, "that I have a few words to say to him. I intended to call on
him to-morrow."

"I will do your bidding, sir," replied Tom, "But I remark----"

"Pray, don't make any remarks at present, sir," interrupted Chetwynd.
"Just convey my message." Tom bowed, and left the room.

He was attended to the street-door by Mrs. Hartley, who waited to see
whether he would return.



II. HARRY NETTERVILLE'S JEALOUS RAGE.

|Some persuasion on Tom Tankard's part was evidently required to induce
Harry Netterville to enter the house; but, at length, he reluctantly
consented to do so, and followed Mrs. Hartley into the parlour.

As soon as he saw Chetwynd, he could no longer control himself, but flew
into a transport of jealous rage, and would certainly have made a scene
if Tom, who was close behind, had not checked him.

A sort of calm being restored, Chetwynd remarked, "Allow me, Mr.
Netterville, before anything more is said, to offer a word of
explanation. My presence here this evening is purely accidental. I have
just arrived in town, and came to inquire after my good friends. It
grieved me to learn that a misunderstanding has arisen between you and
Rose; but I am sure it can be easily set right. The anonymous letter you
have received was from a great reprobate, who, for purposes of his own,
wished to destroy your confidence in this good and truthful girl, who is
sincerely-attached to you, and, unfortunately, he has succeeded in his
object."

"Your explanation, though plausible, has very little weight with me,
sir," replied Netterville. "I only consented to enter the house to
convince myself by ocular demonstration that you are here. Having done
that, I shall depart. Farewell, deceitful girl--farewell, for ever!"

"Stay, Harry!" cried Rose, rushing towards him, and seizing his arm. "I
cannot allow you to depart thus! Listen to the explanation Mr. Calverley
desires to give you. You have been made a dupe."

"I know it!" rejoined Netterville, bitterly; "but I will be duped no
longer! It is idle to say how much I have loved you, faithless girl! I
now tear you from my heart for ever!"

"Oh, don't say so, dearest Harry!" she cried. "It is all a mistake. You
will be sorry when you find out your error. You have been very foolish."

"Foolish!" he exclaimed, in a tremendous voice. "Your conduct has been
enough to drive me mad! If you really love me, as you pretend, come away
with me now."


"No; I can't do that, dear Harry."

"You _shall_, whether you like it or not!" he said, seizing her arm.

Frightened by his violence, she uttered a cry, rushed back, and flung
herself into Chetwynd's arms, who was coming forward to assist her.

As may be imagined, this occurrence inflamed the jealous lover to the
highest pitch, and Tom Tankard had some difficulty in holding him back.

"Let me go!" cried Netterville, struggling with his friend. "My worst
suspicions are now confirmed, Let me go, I say! I'll punish him!"

"No you sha'n't," cried Tom, who could scarcely refrain from laughing at
the absurdity of the scene. "You've committed folly enough already. Come
along."

And he dragged him out of the house.

"I didn't believe Harry could behave in such an extraordinary manner,"
said Rose, as soon as he was gone. "He terrified me so much that I
scarcely knew what I was about. I hope you'll excuse me, sir."

"There's nothing to excuse," replied Chetwynd; "but you must judge your
lover as leniently as you can. His violence only proves the strength of
his affection for you."

"I would rather he didn't show his affection in this way," she rejoined.

"Certainly he allowed his passion to carry him a great deal too far,"
said Chetwynd. "But he will be very sorry to-morrow."

"When he comes here again, he will find me gone; and I sha'n't write to
him," said Rose.

"Don't make resolutions you are sure to break," said Chetwynd. "And now,
adieu. Possibly I may see you to-morrow in Belgrave Square."

Bidding good night to Mrs. Hartley, and leaving a kindly message for her
husband, he then quitted the house.



III. LORD COURLAND.

|Lady Thicknesse, widow of Sir Thomas Thicknesse, of Haslemere,
Cheshire, was some four or five years younger than her sister, Lady
Barfleur. In her day she had been considered a great beauty, and
was still attractive, for her manners were extremely agreeable. She
habitually resided in Belgrave Square, and not being fond of the
country, seldom spent more than a couple of months in the autumn at
Haslemere.

She still had a large establishment, much larger than she required, for
the state of her health did not allow her to keep much company, and she
no longer gave any of those grand parties that had once made her the
fashion.

Lady Thicknesse had no children, but she was proud and ambitious, and
her great desire was that Emmeline should marry a person of rank.

During Sir Leycester's lifetime she despaired of accomplishing her
purpose, for he would allow no interference on her part. His demise,
however, left the stage clear; and as Emmeline had now become a great
heiress, the matter seemed quite simple and easy. The noble husband had
only to be chosen.

After a little consideration, she fixed upon Lord Courland, the eldest
son of the Earl of Lymington, who seemed to possess all the requisites,
and in whom she herself felt an interest. Besides, he was a great
friend of her nephew, Scrope Danvers, a circumstance that seemed very
favourable to her design.

Lord Courland was about four-and-twenty, very much liked generally on
account of his agreeable manners, and sufficiently good-looking. She had
never heard him express an opinion on the subject, but she fancied he
was just the man who would desire to marry an heiress. The real question
was whether Emmeline would accept him. On this point Lady Thicknesse had
no misgiving, having perfect reliance on her own powers of persuasion.

Her plan settled, she wrote the letter we have seen to her niece. It
quite answered its purpose, and excited no suspicion. All the rest
followed as narrated.

On their arrival in Belgrave Square, Lady Thicknesse received the two
girls with every demonstration of delight, and she appeared so amiable
and affectionate, that they were charmed with her.

She was told that Chetwynd Calverley had brought them to town; but she
attached no importance to the circumstance, not conceiving it possible
that Emmeline could care for him.

Until now, she had never seen Mildred, and was quite surprised by her
beauty. Had she known she was so good-looking, she didn't feel sure she
should have asked her. She might outshine her niece.

Next morning the two girls, who were both in very good spirits, and
looking very well after their journey, were seated in the large and
splendidly furnished drawing-room, when Lady Thicknesse began to open
her plan.

"By-the-by, Emmeline," she said, "I ought to mention that your cousin,
Scrope Danvers, is in town, and will very likely call this morning, for
he knows you will be here. I hope he may, and bring with him his friend,
Lord Courland. I needn't tell you that Lord Courland is the eldest
son of the Earl of Lymington; but I may say he is very agreeable, and
singularly unaffected for a person of his rank, and I am persuaded you
will like him."

"I dare say I shall," replied Emmeline. "I have heard Charles Danvers
speak of him as a very nice fellow."

"He is a great favourite of mine, I own," said Lady Thicknesse. "His
father is in very bad health; so it cannot be long before he becomes
Earl of Lymington and master of Guilsborough Castle, one of the finest
places in Hampshire. But I won't say any more about him. You'll see him
presently, and judge for yourself."

The opportunity soon offered. Scarcely had Lady Thicknesse done singing
the young lord's praises, than he and Scrope Danvers were announced.

Decidedly, he produced a favourable impression. Tall, and slight of
figure, with features agreeable in expression, if not handsome, he was
easy and refined in manner, and seemed to possess great tact. He had
light-brown hair, a beard of the same hue, and very good teeth.

Both girls were pleased with him, and he was evidently struck by their
beauty; but he paid no exclusive attention to Emmeline, and talked quite
as much to Mildred as to her. His sole aim seemed to be to amuse them,
and his chat being very lively, and some of his stories very diverting,
he perfectly succeeded. When he and Scrope rose to depart, after a visit
of half an hour, during which there was no pause in the conversation,
Lady Thicknesse asked them both to dinner, and the invitation was
accepted--much to the delight of the girls.

"Well, what do you think of Lord Courland?" observed Lady Thicknesse,
who thought the affair had commenced capitally. "Have I said too much in
his praise?"

"Not at all," replied Emmeline. "I never spent half an hour more
agreeably."

"Nor I," added Mildred. "I feel quite ashamed of myself for laughing so
much, but I really couldn't help it. He is an excellent talker!"

"I hope you will see a great deal more of him during your stay in town,"
said Lady Thicknesse.

"I hope we shall," rejoined Emmeline. "He promises to be a very
agreeable acquaintance."

"He may possibly be something more than a mere acquaintance, my love!"
remarked her ladyship, significantly. "I think you have made a conquest.
He seemed quite captivated!"

"Not by me, my dear aunt. If he was captivated by either of us, it was
by Mildred. She has made the conquest!"

"Quite unintentionally," replied Mildred. "But I agree with Lady
Thicknesse; you were the chief attraction."

Emmeline smiled, and shook her head.

"Well, whoever wins him will have good reason to congratulate herself,"
said Lady Thicknesse.

"We shan't quarrel about him, that's certain," said Emmeline. "I'm quite
ready to retire from the field in your favour." she added to Mildred. "I
should like nothing better than to see you Lady Courland!"

"I fear we are getting on a little too fast, dear girls," said Lady
Thicknesse, who was not pleased by the turn things seemed taking. "I
have raised expectations that may never be realised. I really don't
think Lord Courland is a marrying man."

"I entertain quite a different opinion, aunt," said Emmeline. "Within a
week I feel sure he will have proposed to Mildred."

"I hope Miss Calverley won't take what you say seriously," observed Lady
Thicknesse. "She may be disappointed."

"No, indeed, I shan't," said Mildred. "I have no idea of catching this
young lord. I am not dazzled by his rank, though not insensible to it.
I am charmed with his affability and good nature, but that is all. You
won't find a rival in me, dearest Emmeline."

"Never mind me, Mildred," said Emmeline. "You know very well I am out of
the question. I ask you plainly, wouldn't you like to be Lady Courland?"

"I can't tell," replied the other. "I haven't thought about it."

"Then we'll talk it over, and I'll give you my reasons," said Emmeline.

"You'd better hear mine first," remarked Lady Thicknesse. "But tell me
what you meant by bidding Miss Calverley 'not to mind you,' and adding
'she knew very well you are out of the question?' That is an ambiguous
phrase."

"It is intelligible enough to Mildred, my dear aunt, and only means that
I have no idea of marrying at present."

"But how came you to form such a silly resolution?"

"You mustn't ask me, my dear aunt,"

"Not now; but at some more suitable time I shall think it my duty to
require an explanation."

Rather fortunately, the discourse was interrupted just at that moment by
Chetwynd, who was ushered into the room by Higgins.

Lady Thicknesse had never seen him before, and was very much struck by
his appearance. She had no idea he was so handsome, and a suspicion of
the truth then crossed her.

Could he be engaged to Emmeline? But she dismissed the notion as soon as
formed.

She had been prejudiced against him by the accounts she had heard of
his follies, extravagance, and impetuous temper; but his good looks and
quiet deportment operated strongly in his favour, and he had not been in
the room five minutes before she felt disposed to like him, and evinced
her friendly feeling by asking him to dinner.

On his part, Chetwynd was very much pleased with her ladyship, and
could not help smiling as he thought to himself what might have been the
consequence if his original plan had been carried out.



IV. A VIEW OF THE RING ROAD.


|After some little time spent in conversation, Emmeline remarked to Lady
Thicknesse:

"As you don't mean to drive out till after luncheon, aunt, and as there
is still plenty of time, Mildred and myself would like to take a walk in
the Park, if you have no objection. Chetwynd will accompany us."

"With the greatest pleasure," he said. "You will see all the world, for
people now go to the Park in the morning as well as later in the day."

"So I understand," she replied. "May we go, dearest aunt?"

Lady Thicknesse assented, upon which the two girls withdrew to make the
necessary preparation for the promenade. In these they were assisted by
their new lady's maid, Rose, who had commenced her duties that morning,
to their great delight.

As soon as they were ready, they set out with Chetwynd, and took their
way along Wilton Street and through Albert Gate to the Serpentine.

The morning being extremely fine, a great many people were about, and,
even at that early hour, the banks of that lovely sheet of water were
thronged with fashionable pedestrians, while the adjacent rides and
drives were crowded with well-mounted equestrians of both sexes, and
splendid equipages.

Unaccustomed to such a display, our two country girls were struck with
admiration. How could they be otherwise? Passing in review before them,
or grouped around, were some of the loveliest and best dressed women in
the land; and certainly no better specimens of the youthful aristocracy
could be found than might be seen mounted on those thoroughbred steeds,
guiding those well-appointed drags and lighter vehicles, or lounging,
cigar in mouth, against the iron railing. In its way the scene was very
striking.

To the regular frequenters of the Ring, crowded as it was, it was not
difficult to decide that the two lovely girls, dressed in deep mourning,
were strangers.

Every one was struck by their remarkable beauty, and wondered who they
were. Information on this point could not be had, since no one possessed
it. Some persons remembered Chetwynd Calverley, who was standing beside
the unknown fair ones, and fancied they might be his sisters; and this
notion being promulgated, soon obtained general credence.

Among the equestrians was one who instantly recognised them--this was
Sir Bridgnorth Charlton.

Riding up to the railing, he made his presence known to Chetwynd, who
instantly went to speak to him, and explained that the girls had just
come to town, and were staying with Lady Thicknesse in Belgrave Square.

"Delighted to hear it," said Sir Bridgnorth, bowing and waving his hand
to the girls. "Tell them I'll call to-morrow."

"Why not call to-day?" said Chetwynd. "They will be charmed to see you,
and so will Lady Thicknesse. She was talking of you not an hour ago, but
had no idea you were in town. Come, if you can."

"I will," replied Sir Bridgnorth.

And with another friendly salute to the two girls, he rode on.

Among the loungers collected near the rails when Sir Bridgnorth pulled
up, was Romney. His quick ears caught all that was said. He learnt that
the two girls were staying with Lady Thicknesse, and that Chetwynd
was on intimate terms with her ladyship, together with some other
information that he thought might be useful to him.

Though he was quite close at hand, Chetwynd did not observe him, but
returned to the young ladies, who were very glad to learn that Sir
Bridgnorth meant to call upon them.

It was now almost time to return, but the scene was so lively and
amusing that they remained for a few minutes longer.

During this interval rather a smart mail-phaeton passed by slowly,
containing a couple of showily-dressed but decidedly pretty girls,
and driven by a young man who tried to look a swell, was rather loudly
dressed, and seemed very vain of his coachmanship.

In the occupants of this vehicle, Chetwynd, to his great astonishment,
recognised some acquaintances of his own--the loudly-dressed young
swell, who appeared to think so much of himself, being no other than
Tom Tankard, and the young ladies with him Miss Clotilde Tripp and Flora
Sicklemore.

How Tom came to be possessed of such an equipage, and such a pair of
horses, Chetwynd could not conceive.

Perhaps he had hired them? Perhaps some friendly coachman, whose master
was out of town, had lent them to him? In any case, Tom paraded them as
his own.

The supercilious air with which he gazed around, and which only excited
ridicule and contempt, though he thought otherwise, was intended
to convey that impression. He fancied people were staring at him in
admiration, when they were merely laughing at him as a fool.

At last his eyes alighted on the tall figure of Chetwynd, conspicuous
amid the throng, and he gave him a familiar nod; but Chetwynd pretended
not to see it.

Enraged by the slight, Tom turned to the girls with him, and said:

"There's that tall fellow whom you saw dressed up as a footman at our
house. He chooses to cut me, but I'll be even with him. He shan't 'cut
and come again,' I can tell him!"

"Perhaps he didn't see you," suggested Clotilde.

"Oh, yes, he did!" rejoined Tom. "He couldn't help seeing me, since he
was looking this way at the time. Never mind; I'll serve him out!"

"What two pretty girls those are with him!" cried Flora.

"Not to compare with two others close at hand!" rejoined Tom, gallantly.

"Ah, we can't accept that compliment, Mr. Tom," said Flora. "Those are
two very stylish young ladies, indeed."

"I can't see it," remarked Tom. "I don't admire women in black. I like
something bright--something in your style, Miss Flora."

"Or in mine?" suggested Clotilde.

"Exactly," said Tom. "I hope that fellow won't tell the guv'nor that he
saw me driving you in the Park."

"Good gracious! I hope not!" exclaimed both girls.

"But he's not likely to see Mr. Tankard, is he?" observed Clotilde.

"Don't know--just possible! If he should, there'll be a jolly row. The
guv'nor 'll never rest till he's found it all out."

"Well, don't let us spoil our pleasure by thinking about it," said
Flora. "It's very charming! never enjoyed anything so much in my life as
this drive!"

"Not even our drive to Hampton Races?" said Tom, with a knowing look.

"Not even that," she replied.

"I'm sure we shall always feel indebted to you for a most delightful
day, Mr. Tom!" said Clotilde.

"Well, it is pleasant," cried Tom. "I like to see all these fine folks,
and I like to be seen myself, but I don't like to be cut. Confound that
fellow! I can't forget him!"

"That's not like you, Tom, to let such a small thing worry you,"
observed Clotilde.

"You're right," said Tom. "My maxim is--never bother yourself if you can
help it. And now let us move on a little faster."



V. LORD COURLAND CONTINUES UNDECIDED.

|While Tom and his fair friends were pursuing their course, Chetwynd and
the two young ladies were quitting the gay scene.

As they made their way through the throng, they encountered Lord
Courland and Scrope Danvers, who had been watching them from afar, and
had both come to the conclusion that the two prettiest girls to be seen
in the Park on that morning were Miss Barfleur and Miss Calverley.

Lord Courland did not know which he admired most; at one moment he
thought Emmeline the prettiest, but the next he gave the preference to
Mildred.

"Your cousin, Miss Barfleur, is certainly a most charming girl, Scrope!"
he said; "but----"

"You prefer Miss Calverley," supplied the other. "No; I don't say that,"
rejoined Lord Courland. "But Miss Calverley has lovely features, and an
enthralling expression--at least, I find it so."

"I see you are half in love with her already, my lord," said Scrope,
rather disappointed. "I quite admit that Miss Calverley is very
beautiful; but don't forget that my cousin Emmeline is a great heiress."

"I am only indulging in a little sentiment, my dear boy," said Lord
Courland. "Either of those girls must be admired for herself alone. Your
fair cousin needs no large fortune to enhance her attractions--neither
does Miss Calverley. Looking at them as equally well endowed in this
respect, I should be puzzled to choose, even if choice were allowed me.
But when to almost matchless beauty Miss Barfleur adds the possession of
great wealth, there can be no hesitation."

"There I entirely concur with your lordship's opinion," said Scrope;
"and had not my uncle, Sir Leycester, been a very crotchety fellow, she
would have been married long ago. Even your lordship would have found
some difficulty with him."

"I dare say," he replied. "But who is that with them?"

"Miss Calverley's brother Chetwynd."

"I thought so. He is uncommonly handsome."

"He has been very wild and extravagant; but, I believe, has taken to
better ways. I don't know him myself; but my brother Charles, who has
seen a good deal of him, gives a very favourable account of him, and
says he is an excellent fellow. By-the-by, Charles has been very much in
love with Miss Calverley; but, I believe, all that is at an end."

"And Chetwynd Calverley is not a suitor to Miss Barfleur?" asked Lord
Courland.

"That would never be heard of for a moment," rejoined Scrope. "He
has run through all his property; and, as far as I can understand, is
entirely dependent upon his step-mother."

"He may desire to repair his fallen fortunes."

"He won't repair them by a marriage with Miss Barfleur," said Scrope, in
a decided tone. "But see! they are evidently going away. Shall we join
them?"

"By all means," replied Lord Courland.

So they went up to them, as previously mentioned; and the two gentlemen
having been introduced to Chetwynd, with whom they were much pleased,
the whole party walked on to Albert Gate, where Lord Courland and Scrope
took leave, the others proceeding to Belgrave Square.

Lady Thicknesse had always been noted for her dinners, and she still
maintained her reputation. She had a good French cook, and an excellent
butler, as we know. Her chef, Monsieur Zephyrus, had been a pupil of the
renowned Olivier Givors, of Orleans, and did credit to his master.

On this occasion, Zephyrus sent up a charming little repast, that
pleased all who partook of it.

A small round table sufficed for the party, which only numbered seven.
Among the guests was Sir Bridgnorth, who was asked at a very late hour;
but he stood upon no ceremony, and was delighted to meet the two girls.

Again, it was quite impossible to say whether Lord Courland intended to
devote himself to Emmeline or Mildred.

As a matter of course, he took down Lady Thick-nesse to dinner, and sat
between her ladyship and Emmeline; but he managed to talk a great deal
to Mildred, who was placed opposite him; and had the girls been rivals,
neither of them could have boasted of a triumph.

Next to Mildred was Sir Bridgnorth, and Emmeline was separated from
Chetwynd by Scrope Danvers, who sat on her left, and prevented all
conversation between them.

Chetwynd's deportment was very quiet during dinner, and he said little;
but in the evening he talked a great deal to Lady Thicknesse, and
pleased her so much that she gave him a general invitation to the
house--a point he was very desirous to gain.



VI. LADY THICKNESSE HAS A CONFERENCE WITH SCROPE.


|Nearly a week passed much in the same way.

The young ladies walked out in the morning with Chetwynd 5 drove out in
the afternoon with Lady Thicknesse; and dined at eight, with nearly the
same party, and on an equally good dinner.

Very little progress, however, seemed to be made with the important
affair Lady Thicknesse had in hand. Her ladyship began to get tired, and
had a private conference with her nephew, Scrope, but he could not help
her.

"I cannot make out whether or not Lord Courland has spoken to Emmeline,"
she observed. "If he has, she has said nothing to me."

"Nor has his lordship said anything to me," rejoined Scrope, "though
I have given him several pretty strong hints. The affair must take its
course. We shall spoil all by precipitation."

"I sometimes think Emmeline has a secret attachment," observed Lady
Thicknesse, after a short pause. "If my conjecture be right, it must be
for Chetwynd Calverley."

"Impossible, my dear aunt!" exclaimed Scrope.

"No, it's not impossible," said Lady Thicknesse. "Chetwynd is an
exceedingly fine young gentleman, and calculated to inspire an
attachment. I have half resolved to question her."

"Better write to Lady Barfleur, I think."

"I have written to my sister, and very cautiously; but, as yet, I have
received no answer to my letter."

"Well, then, wait till you do before taking any steps. Things are going
on very smoothly."

"But very slowly--too slowly for me."

"That can't be helped. You must control your impatience, dear aunt."

"I didn't count on this delay. I expected the matter would be concluded
in a week. I think I shall consult Sir Bridgnorth Charlton. If any one
is in young Calverley's secrets, he is."

"But he won't betray them."

"He may give me some advice."

"His advice will be exactly the same as mine. He will recommend you to
keep quiet. I really don't see any occasion for alarm. Things appear to
me to be going on very well--if you could only think so. Cour-land won't
be driven."

"Mildred Calverley is decidedly in the way. Pm very sorry I invited
her."

"Perhaps it was a mistake. However, she can't be got rid of now."

"And Pm not sure Emmeline would have come without her."

A slight pause ensued, after which Lady Thicknesse said:--"By-the-by,
your brother Charles is coming to town. I've just got a letter from him.
I think I shall ask him to stay with me for a week. Is he really going
to marry Mrs. Calverley? He says nothing about her."

"I believe the match is broken off. She wants to keep all her property
to herself. Had she behaved generously, as she ought to have done, and
settled a handsome sum on Charley, it would have been a famous thing for
him, no doubt. But it never does to be dependent upon an imperious woman
like Mrs. Calverley. So he is quite right, in my opinion, to beat a
retreat while there is yet time."

Lady Thicknesse seemed to take a different view of the matter.

"Pm sorry he has thrown away such a chance," she remarked. "Has she a
large income?"

"Four or five thousand a year, Charley tells me. Old Calverley was very
rich, as you must be aware, and she has got all his money."

"Not all, surely? Chetwynd and Mildred must have some of it."

"Both are dependent upon her. Chetwynd has had a very bitter quarrel
with her, and has only just made it up. I think he acted very wisely,
since he is completely in her power."

"What a singular position she is placed in!"

"Old Calverley must have been in his dotage to give it her."

"She is still young and handsome?"

"Not many years older than Mildred, and quite as good-looking. I saw her
at Sir Leycester's funeral, and was charmed with her. No doubt, she is
very fascinating."

"You excite my curiosity. I should like to see her."

"I dare say you will have the opportunity. But you won't see her as Mrs.
Charles Danvers."

"Why not? They may still come to an understanding."

"Well, if you can bring them together again, and prevail upon her to
make a handsome settlement on Charley, you will do a great thing,"
remarked Scrope, with a laugh.

"I will consider what can be done," replied Lady Thicknesse. "Meantime,
I will write and ask Charles to come and stay with me."

Thus ended their conference.



VII. THE VISIT TO MRS. HARTLEY'S.


|Rose Hartley made a charming lady's maid.

She was so pretty, dressed so neatly, had such nice manners, and was
so cheerful, good-natured, and obliging, that the two young ladies were
enchanted with her.

They had a dressing-room in common, and nothing pleased them better than
a chat with the lively little damsel, while she dressed their hair, or
assisted in making their toilettes. While thus employed, Rose appeared
to the greatest advantage, and the pretty soubrette, whose figure
rivalled those of her mistresses, in her neat morning dress, and the
two lovely girls, in their very becoming dishabille, formed a picture of
grace and beauty.

Brought together in this way, it was quite natural that she should
relate her little story to them. They had listened to it with much
interest, and expressed the greatest indignation at the annoyance she
had experienced, but advised her not to trouble herself, as they felt
sure her persecutor would not dare to annoy her now.

One morning, however, she showed them a letter she had just received,
and evidently from the same source. In it the writer said he had just
discovered her abode, and would pay her a visit ere long.

They were inclined to laugh at it, and treat it with contempt; but, as
she seemed uneasy, they advised her to consult Mr. Higgins, the butler,
who had been very kind to her, and treated her like a daughter.

Higgins recommended her not to go out unattended for a few days, as she
might be annoyed; but added if the gentleman ventured to call at the
house, he would have reason to repent his audacity.

When the young ladies heard what the butler said, they thought he was
quite right; but Emmeline added, "You sha'n't be kept in-doors by this
impudent varlet, who deserves to be horsewhipped. Lady Thicknesse says
we can have the carriage whenever we please. We'll take it out this
morning, and you shall go with us."

Delighted beyond measure, Hose essayed to express her thanks.

"We'll pay your mother a visit," pursued Emmeline. "We want to see her."

"But I should have liked to give her some notice of your kind
intentions," said Rose, rather embarrassed.

"No; that would defeat our object," said Mildred. "We wish to take her
by surprise."

Rose had nothing more to say, so the carriage was ordered at once.

All three got into it, and were driven to the esplanade near Lambeth
Bridge, where they alighted, and walked towards Spencer's Rents.
Emmeline would not allow the footman to accompany them.

Great was Mrs. Hartley's confusion at this unexpected visit.

She was busy in the kitchen at the time, and when Rose rushed in to tell
her Miss Barfleur and Miss Calverley were at the house, she uttered a
cry of astonishment, and blamed her daughter for not letting her know
beforehand.

"Don't scold her, Mrs. Hartley," cried Emmeline, who heard all that was
passing. "We wouldn't allow her to prepare you for our visit. We wanted
to see you just as you are."

"Dear me! it's very kind of you, miss!" cried the good dame, not
venturing to show herself. "Be pleased to step into the parlour, and
I'll come to you as soon as I've put myself a little to rights. Rose
will show you the way."

Smiling as they went into the little room, which they thought very tidy
and well furnished, the young ladies sat down, and sent Rose to her
mother, who presently came in, and made many apologies for keeping them
waiting.

Both were very much pleased by her appearance, and after she had been
presented to each of them in turn, she said to Mildred:

"And so you're Mr. Chetwynd's sister, miss? Well, I don't see any great
resemblance."

"I never was considered very much like my brother," observed Mildred,
smiling.

"Ah, you might be proud of resembling him, miss; for he's a very fine
young gentleman. Don't you agree with me, miss?" she added, turning to
Emmeline.

"Yes; he is generally considered very good-looking," replied the young
lady, slightly blushing--a circumstance that Mrs. Hartley did not fail
to remark, "Whoever gets Mr. Chetwynd for a husband will do well," she
said. "Of that I'm certain."

And she would have launched still more strongly into his praises, had
not Rose checked her.

"I'm very glad to have an opportunity of thanking you for your great
kindness to my brother, dear Mrs. Hartley," observed Mildred. "He always
speaks of you with gratitude, and says you were quite like a mother to
him."

"I felt like one," she replied. "It touched my heart to see him. But,
Heaven be thanked! all that's gone by, and I trust he's happy, as he
deserves to be Nothing would please me better than to hear that he has
found some charming young lady to------"

"All in good time, Mrs. Hartley," interrupted Mildred. "You shall be let
into the secret, I promise you, as soon as there is one to communicate."

Mrs. Hartley looked as if she thought that would be very soon, but she
didn't venture to give utterance to her sentiments.

"And now let us speak about your daughter, Mrs. Hartley," said Emmeline.
"We came to talk of her. She will tell you, I think, that she is happy
in her new place."

"I ought to be," said Rose; "since every kindness is shown me."

But she sighed as the words were uttered.

"Ah, you can't help thinking of Harry Netterville, I suppose?" observed
her mother. "He doesn't deserve your love. These dear young ladies shall
hear my opinion of him."

"Not unless it's favourable," said Emmeline.

"Well, I've nothing to say against him, except that I don't want to have
the engagement renewed," replied Mrs. Hartley.

"Why not?" asked both young ladies, eagerly.

"Because I don't think it would be for my daughter's advantage."

"I'm afraid she will never be satisfied without him," said Mildred.

"If I thought so, I wouldn't oppose it," rejoined the good dame.

"Then take the assurance from us," said both young ladies, earnestly.

"After that, I have nothing to say," observed Mrs. Hartley. "Rose must
decide for herself."

"Oh, thank you, dearest mother!" exclaimed her daughter, kissing her. "I
should then say that if----"

Her speech was here interrupted by a knock at the door.

"Good gracious! I hope nobody is calling," said Mrs. Hartley.

"Don't mind us," cried the young ladies.

"You had better not let anybody in, mother," whispered Rose.

As Mrs. Hartley went out she closed the parlour door after her.

But some conversation could be heard going on in the passage. Familiar
tones reached Rose's ears, and she said to the young ladies:

"I do believe it is Harry Netterville himself!"

"How strange if it should be!" cried Mildred.

Next moment Mrs. Hartley returned, her countenance wearing a very
singular expression.

"Who do you think has just come in?" she said to her daughter.

"I know very well--Harry Netterville," replied Rose.

"Yes; he knows you are here. What shall I say to him for you?"

Before answering, Rose looked at the young ladies, as much as to ask,
"What do you advise?"

"See him, by all means," observed Emmeline.

"Alone?"

"No; here."

"Bring him in, my dear mother," said Rose.

No culprit ever presented a more abject appearance than did Harry
Netterville, as he entered the room with Mrs. Hartley. He seemed
thoroughly ashamed of himself, and could hardly look at the young
ladies.

"May I ask what has brought you here this morning, Mr. Netterville?"
inquired Rose.

"I didn't expect to find you, dearest Rose," he replied, in a
penitential tone, that touched all the listeners except the one it was
meant to move. "I came to see your mother."

"Why do you address me as 'dearest Rose?'" said the young damsel, rather
severely.

"You are still dear to me, and must ever remain so," he replied. "I
confess I have behaved very badly."

"Well, the poor fellow can't say more," said Emmeline, moved by his
looks and manner. "I hope you will forgive him."

"Do," added Mildred.

Netterville awaited his sentence with anxiety; but Rose did not seem
inclined to pardon him at once.

"You have acted so unreasonably that I cannot forgive you till you have
made some amends," she said.

"I am ready to do anything you may enjoin," he replied.

"You shall deliver me from the annoyance to which I have been subjected,
and which has caused our disagreement," she replied. "You shall find out
the writer of that anonymous letter to yourself, and who has likewise
written other infamous letters to me, and punish him--punish him as
he deserves. When you have done this, I will forgive you, but not till
then."

"We quite approve of your decision, Rose," said Mildred, "and till Mr.
Netterville has done this he doesn't deserve your regard. He ought not
to hesitate."

"I don't hesitate," he replied, energetically.

"That's right," said Rose. "I begin to like you again. Here is the last
letter I have received. Read it," she added, tossing it to him.

After scanning its contents, Netterville turned pale. "And this has just
reached you?" he asked, with quivering lips.

"Yesterday," she replied.

"The writer must be discovered," he said.



VIII. HOW HARRY NETTERVILLE FOUND ROMNEY.

|When the carriage came from Belgrave Square, those within it were not
aware that it was followed by a hansom cab, from which a person
having the appearance of a gentleman alighted near Vauxhall Pier, and
addressing the footman, said, in a very civil tone, calculated to obtain
a response:

"Pray is this Lady Thicknesse's carriage?"

"It is, sir," replied the man, touching his hat.

"Is her ladyship with it?" pursued the inquirer.

"No, sir. We only brought the two young ladies here."

"Are they gone to the Palace?"

"I don't think so, sir. They have got the lady's-maid with them."

"Then I know where they are. Thank you very much."

And he walked off in the direction of Spencer's Rents.

As the individual we have mentioned, who was by no means bad-looking,
walked on, he considered within himself what course he should take, and
being utterly unscrupulous, he determined to go to the house and see
Rose, whatever might be the consequences.

Just as he arrived at the corner of Spencer's Rents he encountered Harry
Netterville, whom he knew by sight, and accosted him without hesitation.

"Can you tell me which is Mrs. Hartley's house?" he asked.

Netterville had no idea who stood before him; but he was surprised at
the inquiry, and rejoined rather sharply:

"Pray what business have you with Mrs. Hartley?"

"I might decline to give an explanation to an inquiry put in such
terms," said the other, "but I have no objection to tell you that I wish
to speak to her about her daughter."

"Her daughter!" exclaimed Netterville, starting back, and assuming an
angry look. "Perhaps you are the very person of whom I am in quest? Have
you recently addressed a letter to Miss Hartley? Have you written to
me?"

"I have written no letters at all," replied the stranger. "My object is
to warn Mrs. Hartley against a certain individual."

"Who is he?" demanded the attorney's clerk, eagerly.

"A very designing individual named Henry Netterville," replied the
stranger.

So astounded was Netterville, that for a moment he could hardly reply.
At length, he said:

"What have you to allege against the person whose name you have
mentioned?"

"Much! But it is for Mrs. Hartley's ear. I am not likely to communicate
to one unknown to me!"

"Then learn, sir, to your confusion, that I am Henry Netterville!"

"Indeed!" exclaimed the other. "I shall not retract a word I have said. I
shall convince Mrs. Hartley that she ought to get rid of you.

"For what reason?" demanded Netterville. "Show cause why!"

"I propose to do so. But since you force me to speak, I will say you are
acting a most dishonourable part. You profess love for Rose, when
you are making love to another. You offer her your hand, when you are
already engaged."

"I engaged!" exclaimed Netterville. "This is news to me. To whom am I
engaged, pray?"

"To Miss Clotilde Tripp, if I am rightly informed," replied the accuser.
"If not to her, to Miss Flora Sicklemore."

"You must be confounding me with Tom Tankard," said Netterville. "I
never paid the young ladies in question the slightest attention. And now
allow me to ask a question? Who are you, sir, who interest yourself so
much in my concerns, and of whom I know nothing? I am not aware that
I ever saw you before; but though you pretend ignorance, I strongly
suspect that you know me very well. I believe you are the person who
have been annoying Rose. I think you wrote the lying epistle to me, and
the unmanly letters to her. You imposed upon me for a time, but I have
now found you out. Accident has delivered you into my hands, and I don't
mean to part with you. Rose is at home at this moment. Come with me and
apologise to her, or I'll break every bone in your body!"

"I will do nothing of the sort," replied Romney, for it was he.

"We'll see that!" cried Netterville.

And springing upon him suddenly, he caught him by the collar and dragged
him towards the house, which was not very far off.

Finding his struggles ineffectual, Romney submitted, for he did not care
to call out for assistance, as that would have led to an exposure, which
he desired to avoid.

It chanced at this precise moment, that the door of Mrs. Hartley's house
opened, and the two young ladies came forth, attended by Rose; but the
spectacle that greeted their eyes sent them instantly back, for they
guessed what had occurred.

Another ineffectual struggle took place at the door; but Romney was
dragged in by Netterville, and forced into the parlour, whither the
ladies had retreated with Rose and her mother.

"Beg pardon, ladies!" said Netterville, still keeping fast hold of his
captive. "I hope you'll excuse the intrusion!"

"Oh, never mind us!" they rejoined. "We are glad you have caught the
wretch!"

"Is this the scoundrel who has annoyed you, Rose!" said Netterville.

"It is!" she replied.

"Then down on your knees, and ask her forgiveness!" said Netterville to
his prisoner.

And he forced him to this humiliating posture.

"I have done nothing to call for this usage!" said Romney.

"You deserve a horsewhip!" cried Mrs. Hartley. "And if my husband were
here, you'd have it!"

"Dare you say to my face that you have not several times annoyed me in
the street?" asked Rose. "Do you deny writing those shameful letters to
me?"

"I should not have written them if you had not given me encouragement!"
he rejoined.

"It is false!" cried Rose. "I have never given you any encouragement. I
detest you!"

"We do not believe a word he says, Rose!" cried Mildred, in accents of
scorn and indignation. "Let him go, Mr. Netterville. The presence of
such a creature is disagreeable to us!"

"Begone!" cried Netterville, releasing him, in obedience to the
injunction. "Begone, I say, double-convicted liar and coward!"

And as Romney departed, he kicked him through the open door into the
street.

The crestfallen blackleg stood for a moment before the house, as if
about to return; but he had not the courage to face Netterville, and
sneaked off.

"I think you have now got rid of him, Rose!" said Netterville, as he
returned to the parlour.

"Yes; he won't trouble, her again, I'm sure!" cried Emmeline. "You have
served him quite right!"

"You are a brave fellow, Harry!" cried Rose, taking his hand, and gazing
at him proudly and affectionately.

"And a lucky fellow as well!" he replied. "If this stupid scoundrel had
not thrown himself in my way, I should not have caught him so quickly!"



IX. CAPTAIN DANVERS ARRIVES IN BELGRAVE SQUARE.

|Two days after the incident just related, the party at Lady
Thicknesse's house in Belgrave Square was increased by the arrival of
her nephew, Captain Danvers, whom she had invited to spend a week with
her.

By this time, Mildred's resentment had, in some degree, abated, though
she still treated him with coldness. But the captain looked so unhappy,
that her heart was touched with compassion, and she soon showed a
disposition to relent.

One morning on coming down to breakfast, he found her and Emmeline in
the dining-room, and the latter perceiving she was rather in the way
good-naturedly left them together.

The captain immediately took advantage of the opportunity.

"Mildred," he said, in his softest tone, "will you allow me to offer an
explanation?"

"I do not want any explanation, Captain Danvers," she replied. "I have
ceased to take any interest in you."

"I hope not," he replied; "I trust I may be able to exculpate myself!"

"You will find that rather difficult!" she said.

"Yet hear me, I implore you!" he entreated in such moving accents, that
she could not refuse.

"First, let me inquire whether Mrs Calverley has sent you any special
information?" he said.

"I have not heard from her for nearly a week," she replied. "Indeed, I
have not written to her."

"Then you are not aware that all is at an end between us?"

"Your brother, Scrope, told me that the engagement was broken off."

"Did he tell you it was broken off by me?"

"He did," she replied, colouring slightly.

"Mildred, I could not have married her. For a short space she seemed to
cast a spell over me; but I soon recovered from it, and found that you
alone are mistress of my heart, and that I could not live without you.
But I had lost you--I had forfeited your regard, and could never hope to
regain it."

"You judged correctly," said Mildred. But her looks rather belied her
words.

"Though justly punished, I was resolved not to unite myself to a woman I
cannot love, and who, I believe, is equally indifferent to me. A pretext
for breaking off the engagement was easily found--nay, presented itself.
Certain she would refuse, I required a handsome settlement to be made
upon me. Her answer, as I anticipated, set me free; and now, dearest
Mildred," he added, venturing to take her hand which she did not
withdraw, "you have heard my explanation, can you forgive me?"

"You do not deserve forgiveness!" she replied in a voice that showed she
relented.

"I know it," he said, raising her hand to his lips. "But I feel that I
am forgiven."

Further discourse was interrupted by the entrance of Lady Thicknesse and
Emmeline, both of whom had witnessed the tender incident just described,
and understood that a reconciliation had taken place, but neither made a
remark.

"I've an agreeable surprise for you," said Lady Thicknesse. "Who do you
think is coming to me tomorrow? You'll never guess; so I may as well
tell you--Mrs. Calverley."

Exclamations of surprise rose from all; but no one seemed particularly
pleased.

"I was not aware you knew her, aunt," remarked Captain Danvers, who did
not care to conceal his vexation.

"I have never seen her," replied Lady Thicknesse. "But I wrote to say
I should be delighted to make her acquaintance, and hoped she might be
induced to spend a week with me while Mildred and Emmeline are in town.
She has just answered that she accepts my invitation with the greatest
pleasure, and I may expect her to-morrow. She will make a delightful
addition to our little party."

"I am not so sure of that," muttered Captain Danvers.

"What put it into your head to ask her, dear aunt?" said Emmeline.

"A conversation I had with Scrope. He extolled her so much, that I
longed to see her."

"I wish he had held his tongue," mentally ejaculated the captain.

Just then Higgins and a footman brought in breakfast, and an end was put
to the conversation.

Later on, when she had an opportunity of saying a word to Lady
Thicknesse privately, Emmeline observed:

"I think, aunt, you'll regret asking Mrs. Calverley. Though very
handsome, very clever, and very agreeable, she's extremely mischievous.
Everybody has been trying to get out of her way, and now we shall have
her in our midst again. I shall be very much surprised if she doesn't
cause some unpleasantness."

"Don't be afraid of that, my dear," said Lady Thicknesse, laughing. "I
expect she'll be very useful."

"Useful in what way, aunt?"

"I can't explain, but such is my opinion."

"I advise you to take care of her, aunt. Depend upon it, she's a very
designing woman."



X. MRS. CALVERLEY MAKES AN IMPORTANT CONQUEST.


|Next day, Mrs. Calverley arrived in plenty of time for dinner.

She looked extremely well, and produced a most favourable impression
upon Lady Thicknesse, who thought her one of the handsomest and best
bred woman she had ever seen, and would not believe a word that had been
said against her.

The meeting with Mildred was not very cordial; but Mrs. Calverley, who
was a most accomplished actress, contrived to make it appear that there
was no want of affection on her part, and completely imposed upon Lady
Thicknesse.

With Emmeline it was the same thing. Whatever feelings she secretly
entertained for that young lady, she professed the greatest regard for
her.

Nor did she exhibit any coldness or resentment towards Captain Danvers,
of whose conduct she had just reason to complain. No one could have
guessed that they had recently quarrelled.

In short, Lady Thicknesse could see nothing in her but what was
charming, and congratulated herself upon having invited her.

A splendid chamber was assigned her, with an adjoining room for her
lady's-maid, Laura.

As usual, there was a small dinner-party on that day, consisting of
Lord Courland, Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, Scrope, Captain Danvers, and
Chetwynd.

Mrs. Calverley had a little talk with Chetwynd in the drawing-room, and
they appeared on the most friendly terms; but their conversation was
interrupted by the entrance of Lord Courland, who was presented to the
beautiful widow, and claimed her attention.

Evidently the young lord was very much struck with her, and, seeing the
effect she had produced, she exerted herself to the utmost, and before
the end of the evening had completely enthralled her new admirer.

To Scrope, who knew his friend well, it seemed almost certain Mrs.
Calverley would eclipse Emmeline. Hitherto, as we have shown, Lord
Courland had divided his attentions between the two girls; but on this
occasion he was engrossed by the fascinating widow, and had eyes for no
one else.

Sir Bridgnorth came to the same conclusion as Scrope; and as he had
taken Mrs. Calverley down to dinner, and found himself rather _de trop_,
he was able to judge.

Even Lady Thicknesse began to see the error she had committed in
introducing so dangerous a rival. Mrs. Calverley was far more to be
feared than Mildred, and might carry off the prize.

However, the beautiful widow acted with great discretion. Apparently,
she attached no importance to the conquest she had made. When rallied
on the subject next morning by Lady Thicknesse, she owned that she had
flirted a little with Lord Courland, but had not for a moment regarded
his attentions seriously.

"I am glad to hear you say so," replied her ladyship. "Had it been
otherwise, you would have run counter to a plan of mine. To tell you
the truth, I rather wish to bring about a match between his lordship and
Emmeline."

"Nothing could be better!" said Mrs. Calverley. "I wouldn't interfere
with it for the world. But I fear there is a little difficulty that you
may not be aware of. I suspect Emmeline has an attachment."

"The same notion has occurred to me; but I have never questioned
her, and she has said nothing to me. To whom do you suppose she is
attached?--to Chetwynd?"

"No; it is only surmise on my part. But still I think I am right."

"If she won't accept Lord Courland, it will be monstrously provoking
after all my trouble. He has met her every day for nearly a fortnight,
and the affair has not advanced a single step. She seems to like his
society, but nothing more, and he appears just as much pleased with
Mildred as he is with her."

"Have you tried to bring him to the point? Have you spoken to him?"

"No; my nephew, Scrope Danvers, is strangely averse to such a course."

"He is wrong. Pardon me if I say you ought to come to an immediate
understanding."

"But Scrope advises me to proceed very cautiously."

"There may be excess of caution as well as too little. Something must be
done. I will speak to his lordship if you like."

"I shall feel immensely obliged if you will. I should like to place the
affair in your hands. I am confident you will manage it better than I
can."

"I shall be able to put questions to him that your ladyship could not.
Is he coming here to-day, may I ask?"

"I am not quite sure. But he will dine here tomorrow."



XI. LADY THICKNESSE CONSULTS SIR BRIDGNORTH.

|Lord Courland did not call on that morning; but Scrope did, and had a
private conference with Lady Thicknesse in her boudoir.

He looked very grave as he addressed her.

"Your matrimonial scheme is at an end, my dear aunt," he said. "Courland
has fallen desperately in love with Mrs. Calverley."

Her ladyship uttered a cry of astonishment.

"He declares she is the most charming woman he ever met. I feel certain
he will propose to her. Now what is to be done?"

"It seems embarrassing, certainly. But you need have no uneasiness. I
have just been talking to her. He won't be accepted."

"Don't delude yourself, my dear aunt," he cried. "Mrs. Calverley would
like very much to be Lady Courland, I feel quite sure. She may tell you
otherwise. But it is so. She is an ambitious woman."

"What is to be done?" exclaimed Lady Thicknesse, in consternation.

"We must gain time. I have prevented him from calling here to-day."

"How did you manage that?"

"By telling him I wanted to ask Charles a few questions. Meantime, you
must speak to Emmeline."

"But I very much fear she won't mind me," said Lady Thicknesse. "I'll
get Sir Bridgnorth to do it."

"He's the very man for the purpose; and, fortunately, he's in the house.
I left him just now with the ladies."

"Then beg him to come to me," said Lady Thicknesse.

Scrope needed no second bidding, but immediately quitted the boudoir,
and reappeared a few minutes afterwards with the good-natured baronet.

"I won't interrupt the _tête-à-tête_ which her ladyship wishes to have
with you, Sir Bridgnorth," said Scrope as he left them together.

"Pray be seated, Sir Bridgnorth," said Lady Thicknesse. "I want your
advice and assistance."

"Both are at your ladyship's service," he replied.

"I expected nothing less from you. You are a real friend. It is a very
delicate matter on which I desire to consult you."

And she paused.

"Does it relate to a matrimonial alliance between Lord Courland and your
niece, Miss Barfleur?"

"You have guessed right," replied Lady Thicknesse. "You can assist me
most materially in the affair, if you will. Emmeline, I know, has a very
great regard, I may almost say affection, for you, and might possibly
speak more freely to you than she would to me. Will you ascertain what
her sentiments are respecting Lord Courland?"

"I can give your ladyship the information you desire at once," replied
Sir Bridgnorth, "and shall really be glad to do so. Indeed, I have
thought of speaking to you on the subject, but feared you might deem me
impertinent. Any expectations your ladyship may have formed of such an
alliance must be dismissed. It will never take place."

"You think so, Sir Bridgnorth?" said her ladyship, looking dreadfully
chagrined.

"I am quite sure of it," he replied. "Miss Barfleur will never accept
him."

"You would not make this assertion so positively without good reason, I
am certain, Sir Bridgnorth," said Lady Thicknesse.

"I had the declaration from Miss Barfleur's own lips," he replied, "and
was requested to repeat it to your ladyship. I am also permitted to
mention a circumstance that will prevent any discussion on the subject."

"You are not about to tell me she is engaged, I hope, Sir Bridgnorth?"
said her ladyship, manifesting fresh alarm.

"Such is the fact," he replied, quietly. "It is desirable you should
know the truth."

"It is proper I should know the _whole_ truth, Sir Bridgnorth," she
rejoined. "To whom is my niece engaged? Speak frankly."

"To Chetwynd Calverley," he replied without hesitation.

Lady Thicknesse did not seem much surprised, for she expected the
answer; but she said, in a haughty, decided tone:

"That union can never take place!"

A slight smile played on Sir Bridgnorth's kindly countenance.

"I do not see how it can be prevented," he said. "She is an heiress, and
Lady Barfleur's consent has been obtained."

Lady Thicknesse looked thunderstruck, and remained silent for a few
moments, and then said:

"Why have I been kept in ignorance of this engagement? I suppose
Emmeline felt I should disapprove of it, as I do most decidedly!"

"I certainly think the matter ought to have been communicated to
your ladyship," said Sir Bridgnorth. "But since the marriage, in all
probability, will not take place for some time, I suppose it was not
deemed necessary to mention it at present."

"That explanation does not satisfy me, Sir Bridgnorth! I feel highly
offended. I suppose Mrs. Calverley has been in the dark as well as
myself?"

"She has," replied Sir Bridgnorth. "And in her case, I think the caution
was judicious. She is not to be trusted with any secrets but her own,
and those she can keep. I shouldn't wonder if she wins the prize that
has been offered to Miss Barfleur."

"It seems likely," said her ladyship. "There is one consolatory
circumstance in this disagreeable affair; the marriage will not take
place for some time. I trust it may be indefinitely postponed!"

Thinking the interview had lasted long, Sir Bridgnorth arose; but her
ladyship would not let him depart thus, and said:

"Pray come and dine with me as usual. I shall expect you at eight. By
that time, I hope I shall have got over my vexation. Don't imagine
I shall make a scene! I never do make scenes. I shall say nothing to
Emmeline till to-morrow. _Au revoir!_"

And she extended her hand to him.

As Sir Bridgnorth took the delicately white fingers, he felt inclined to
raise them to his lips; but he didn't, and withdrew.



XII. ANOTHER EXPLANATION.

|Meanwhile, another explanation took place in the drawing-room between
Mrs. Calverley and Emmeline.

They were standing close beside a window, looking upon a square, and
sufficiently removed from a central table, near which were seated
Captain Danvers, with Chetwynd and his sister.

"I have brought you here, my love, to have a few words with you,"
commenced Mrs. Calverley. "I am commissioned by Lady Thicknesse to ask a
question, which she doesn't like to ask herself. If you haven't already
discovered it, I must tell you she has set her heart upon marrying you
to Lord Courland."

"I am very much obliged to her!" said Emmeline. "But I suppose my
consent will be first obtained?"

"That is the very point upon which I have undertaken to consult you,"
said Mrs. Calverley. "Should his lordship propose, are you inclined to
accept him?"

"He is not likely to propose to me," replied Emmeline. "I may
congratulate you on the conquest you have made."

"I am quite as indifferent to his lordship as you appear to be, my
love," rejoined Mrs. Calverley.

"I shouldn't have supposed so!" laughed Emmeline. "But of course, I take
your word for it. Pray tell my aunt I am sorry to disappoint her, but
she has made a wrong choice for me!"

"May I add anything more? May I assign a motive for your conduct? May I
tell her you are already engaged?"

"Tell her whatever you please, dear Mrs. Calverley; but make her
clearly understand that no persuasion shall ever induce me to marry Lord
Courland. I surrender him entirely to you!"

"Never mind me! But do tell me who is the highly-favoured individual you
have chosen?"

"Can you not guess? There is but one person I could choose, and he is
not very far off."

"Chetwynd?" cried Mrs. Calverley.

"Yes."

"And you have accepted him?"

Again the answer was in the affirmative. "He is indeed most fortunate?"
exclaimed Mrs. Calverley. "One question more and I have done."

"I know what you would ask," replied Emmeline. "Mamma has given her
consent. But the marriage will not take place for some months."

"Oh, how delighted I am!" cried Mrs. Calverley, with difficulty
refraining from embracing her.

At this juncture Chetwynd arose. He had been watching them, and guessed
what they were talking about.

As he approached, Mrs. Calverley sprang forward to meet him.

"Chetwynd," she said, "I have just received some information that has
given me the greatest pleasure. I think I ought to have been let into
the secret; but I am too much overjoyed to complain!"

"I am glad the disclosure has been made," he said. "The maintenance of
the secret has placed Emmeline in a false position."

"But no harm has ensued," observed the young lady. "I have only just
discovered my aunt's scheme, or I should have acquainted her with the
engagement. I now regret that I did not do so when I first came to
town."

"And I am at liberty to explain all to Lady Thick-nesse?" inquired Mrs.
Calverley.

"You will greatly oblige me," said Emmeline. "I shall be very glad to
escape the task."

"I will go to her at once," said Mrs. Calverley.

And quitting the room, she repaired to the boudoir.

There she found that Sir Bridgnorth had been beforehand with her, and,
explanations being unnecessary, she talked the matter over quietly with
Lady Thicknesse, and endeavoured to reconcile her to the arrangement,
apparently with some success.

Mrs. Calverley had quitted the boudoir rather more than half an hour,
and Lady Thicknesse was alone, and lamenting the failure of her scheme,
when Scrope again made his appearance.

His countenance had a singular expression, and he remained standing,
while he said, in rather a stern voice:

"Don't give yourself any concern about Emmeline's imprudent engagement
with Chetwynd Calverley, aunt. I have just learnt something that will
enable me to put an end to it."

"You don't say so! What is it?" exclaimed Lady Thicknesse, in surprise.

"I cannot explain now," he rejoined. "Wait till to-morrow!"

But finding her ladyship could not repress her curiosity, and determined
not to gratify it, he abruptly quitted the boudoir, leaving her in a
high state of excitement.



XIII. A SOIREE DANSANTE.

|A party was to be given that evening at the house in Belgrave Square;
but below stairs, not above.

Exceedingly indulgent to her servants, Lady friends; and he had invited
the Tankards, to whom he owed a return, and several others of our
acquaintance--namely, Mrs. Tripp and the charming Clotilde; Mrs.
Sicklemore and the fair Flora; Mr. and Mrs. Hartley, Harry Netterville,
Pledger Dapp, and Larkins--to a _soirée dansante._

Of course, the servants of the house were included, and they mustered
very strong--footman, coachman, page, housekeeper, lady's-maid,
housemaids, and kitchen maid. Nor must we omit to mention Rose, and Mrs.
Calverley's lady's-maid, Laura, who had some pretension to good looks.

Most important, however, of all was the French cook, Monsieur Zephyrus,
who next to Mr. Higgins himself, was the principal person in the
establishment.

A very smart young man was Zephyrus, when not compelled by the duties
of his vocation to disguise himself in a white apron, white _veste_, and
white _bonnet-de-nuit._

He now wore an evening dress, made by a fashionable tailor in the
Boulevard Italien, the peculiar cut of which proclaimed its French
origin; and, as he had a light figure, he looked very well in it.

Zephyrus was not bad-looking, and had a dark complexion, black eyes, and
large black whiskers, of which he was not a little vain. When in full
dress, as on the present occasion, he wore a _lorgnon_ stuck in his
right eye.

On the previous day he had paid a visit to his friend Sigebert Smart,
whom he had known in Paris, and invited him and Madame Smart to the
party. Both accepted the invitation with delight.

In addition to a piano, brought from upstairs, and on which Mrs. Tripp
had kindly consented to perform, a violin, violoncello, and cornet had
been provided by Mr. Higgins. Nothing, indeed, was neglected.

The large housekeeper's room, in which dancing was to take place, was
brilliantly lighted up and decorated; and supper, prepared by Monsieur
Zephyrus himself, was to be served in the _salle à manger_. Nothing was
seen of the kitchen.

Not till ten o'clock, when dinner and all other matters upstairs had
been disposed of, did the company begin to assemble.

Of course they were obliged to descend the area steps; but, the passage
once gained, and the doors thrown open, they were surprised by the
splendour of the scene.

They were received by Mr. Higgins, who was supported by Monsieur
Zephyrus.

First to arrive were the Tankards. Tom was very much struck by the
appearance of Zephyrus, and wondered who he was, never supposing him to
be a cook. His father told him he was a _cordon bleu_, but that did not
enlighten him; and the marked attentions paid by the gallant Frenchman
to Madame Sigebert Smart, when she arrived with her husband, puzzled
him still more. He could not understand how such a distinguished-looking
personage could be on intimate terms with a _coiffeur_ and his wife.

As soon as he got an opportunity, he said to Sigebert:

"Who's that very polite French gent talking to Madame?"

"Monsieur Zephyrus," replied the _coiffeur_. "Don't you know him?"

"I don't recollect seeing him before," remarked Tom. "The guv'nor says
he's a _cordon bleu_. What does that mean?"

Scarcely able to refrain from laughing, Sigebert replied:

"It means that he's a knight of the Saint Esprit, The order was given
him by Louis Napoleon. Chevalier Zephyrus is entitled to wear a broad
blue ribbon, with a cross attached to it, but he doesn't put it on now."

"He seems a very condescending sort of fellow for a chevalier," said Tom.
"No nonsensical pride about him."

"None whatever," replied Sigebert. "You'll find him very affable. But
don't talk to him about cookery. He dislikes that subject."

"I'll take care to avoid it," said Tom.

By this time, the whole party having assembled--guests and inmates of
the house--Mrs. Tripp was conducted to the piano by Higgins, and the
musicians began to strike up.

Then it was that Zephyrus, who acted as master of the ceremonies,
clapped his well-gloved hands, and exclaimed:

"_Messieurs, un quadrille--prenez vos dames!_"

"That means we're to take our partners for a quadrille. Ma'mzelle," said
Tom, stepping up to Clotilde, "shall I have the honour?"

"Too late, Mr. Tom," she replied, coquettishly. "Already engaged to
Monsieur Zephyrus."

"Ah, the Chevalier knows how to take care of himself, I perceive!" cried
Tom.

"Yes. You'd better look quick, and secure Flora, or she'll be snapped
up," said Clotilde.

Acting on the advice, Tom hurried off, but would have been too late if
the thoughtful young lady had not reserved herself for him.

All the cavaliers seemed choosing partners, but the master of the
ceremonies would only allow four couples in the first quadrille. These
were himself and Clotilde, Tom Tankard and Flora, Harry Netterville and
Rose, and Sigebert and Laura.

"Will you be our _vis-a-vis_, Monsieur Grandpot?" he said to Tom.

"With the greatest pleasure, Chevalier," replied our young friend. "But
my name's not Grandpot; I'm Mr. Tom Tankard."

"_Mille pardons!_" exclaimed Zephyrus. "But we call a tankard a _grand
pot d'argent_. Be pleased to take your place, Monsieur Tom."

The quadrille then commenced.

Monsieur Zephyrus danced with wonderful spirit and lightness, cutting
cross capers, forward capers, side capers, back capers--now executing
the _boree_ step, the _courant_ step, and the _gaillard_ step--hopping,
jumping, bounding, and ending with a pirouette that astonished all the
beholders.

Tom Tankard tried to imitate him, but the performance was a mere
caricature, and though it excited laughter, must be pronounced a
failure.

Sigebert was more successful. He had figured at the Grand Chaumière at
Paris, and treated the company to some of the fantastic steps he had
seen performed there and at other _salles de danse_ in the Bois de
Boulogne.

Though very much amused by what he beheld, Harry Netterville did not
indulge in any of these absurdities.

Both Flora and Clotilde danced very well, as they had had some practice
at Cremorne, but Rose was very quiet.

A rigadoon followed, which again enabled Monsieur Zephyrus to display
his grace and skill; then a valse, in which Flora fell to the share
of the Frenchman, and Clotilde to Sigebert. Tom was obliged to content
himself with Madame Sigebert, for Rose declined to dance with him.

When the valse was over, a country dance was called for by Mr. Higgins,
who wished to dance with Mrs. Tankard, and led off with her. Almost
everybody joined in this lively dance, which was carried on with the
greatest spirit, and amid much laughter, for more than half an hour.

The elderly people seemed to enjoy it as much as the young folks, but
Mr. Higgins and Mrs. Tankard could not go down a second time.

Monsieur Zephyrus, who was evidently quite captivated by Clotilde,
induced her to dance with him, to the great disgust of Tom, who began to
feel a little jealous of the gay Frenchman. However, Flora contrived to
console him.

Harry Netterville and Rose thoroughly enjoyed the merry country dance,
and did not feel in the least fatigued by their exertions.

The company then proceeded to supper; where, we have already explained.

The men-servants of the house, who were intended to wait, went in first.
Mr. Higgins gave his arm to Mrs. Tankard, and was followed by Mr.
Tankard and Mrs. Tripp, Mr. Larkins and Mrs. Hartley, with the rest of
the party.

A very elegant supper greeted them--quite a triumph of skill on the part
of Monsieur Zephyrus, who had done his best. Iced champagne and moselle
cup were to be had in plenty.

Tom Tankard was in raptures.

"By Jove!" he cried; "I never saw a nicer supper! Lady Thicknesse must
have a capital cook!"

Monsieur Zeyhyrus, who chanced to be near him, smiled.

"Enchanted to find you are pleased with my performance, Monsieur Tom!"
he said."_Your_ performance, Chevalier!" cried Tom. "You don't mean to
say you prepared the supper?"

"_Mais oui, mon cher_," said Zephyrus, proudly. "I, and no one else.
Don't you know I am Lady Thicknesse's cook?"

"Give you my word I wasn't aware of it till this moment," cried Tom. "I
was told you are a _cordon bleu_."

"And so I am," said Zephyrus. "But don't you understand that a _cordon
bleu_ means a first-rate cook?--that's my description."

For a few moments Tom seemed lost in astonishment. He then exclaimed:

"The guv'nor's completely taken me in!"

The company did not seem inclined to leave the supper table, and no
wonder, considering the excellence of the repast and the abundant supply
of champagne.

But Mr. Higgins, who was very careful, thought they had sat long enough,
and moved off to the ballroom, where the music again struck up, and
dancing recommenced with even more spirit than before.

The only person who looked discontented was Tom Tankard. He had drunk a
good deal of champagne, and it had got into his head and made him rather
quarrelsome. He felt jealous and angry at the evident preference shown
by Clotilde for Monsieur Zephyrus.

They were again engaged in a polka. Ordinarily, Tom was very fond of a
polka; but on this occasion he refused to join in the dance, but stood
on one side and noticed the passionate glances bestowed by the Frenchman
on the inconstant charmer. His breast swelled; but he was obliged to
devour his rage.

When the polka ceased several couples proceeded to the supper-room for
a glass of champagne and amongst them were Zephyrus and Clotilde. In a
minute or two the others came back; but the Frenchman and the fair syren
did not appear.

Maddened by jealousy, Tom went in search of them.

As he approached the supper-room, the door of which was partly open, he
perceived at a glance that they were alone together, and that Zephyrus,
who was seated beside her, was still pouring forth tender speeches in
her ear; but they were too much engrossed by each other to notice him.

His first impulse was to rush in upon them; but hearing his own name
pronounced, he stood still.

"I hope you don't care for that _grand nigaud_, Tom Tankard," said
Zephyrus. "Indeed, it is hardly possible you can--he is so frightfully
ugly, besides being ridiculous and stupid. But I believe he flatters
himself you are in love with him."

"He certainly pays me a great deal of attention," replied Clotilde; "but
if he fancies I am in love with him, he is very much mistaken. In fact,
to confess the truth, I am becoming rather tired of him."

"That gives me hopes," said Zephyrus. "I shall try and please you
better."

"You please me very much," said Clotilde. "You dance charmingly--much
better than Tom."

"He cannot dance at all," said Zephyrus, contemptuously. "But dancing is
the least of my accomplishments. I am a skilful musician; I ride well,
drive well, shoot well----"

"And cook well," added Clotilde. "The supper you have given us was
perfect."

"Ah, you shall taste a wedding breakfast; but not prepared for that
odious Tom Tankard!"

"For whom, then?" inquired Clotilde.

Before an answer could be returned, Tom rushed into the room, and quite
frightened Clotilde by his looks.

"So you are getting tired of me, are you?" he cried to the fickle girl.
"How long have you been tired? Only this very morning you said you liked
me better than any one else; but this French cook has made you change
your mind. He may have you, and welcome. I've done with you for ever."

"You don't mean it, dear Tom?" she cried, penitentially.

"Yes, I do," he rejoined, "and I'm glad I've found you out in time. But
I can't say much for your choice!" he added, casting a glance of scorn
at his rival.

"What have you to say against me, saar?" cried

Zephyrus, with a fierce gesticulation, and shaking his clenched hand at
Tom.

"You won't frighten me, monsieur," observed Tom, quietly. "Consider
yourself thrashed."

"But I won't!" cried Zephyrus. "I never was thrashed, and never will
be!"

"Yes you will!" cried Tom.

And being somewhat of a bruiser, he dealt him a smart tap on the nose,
or somewhere near it, that knocked him backwards against the table,
upsetting a number of glasses with a tremendous crash.

Clotilde ran screaming out of the room.

"_Diable, vous avez poché mon oeil au beurre noir, monsieur!_" cried
Zephyrus, as he picked himself up. "But you shall pay for the affront
with your life's blood!"

"Don't be afraid, monsieur," said Tom, stoutly. "I'll give you
satisfaction in any way you like; sword, pistol, or this!" he added,
holding up his clenched fist.

"But the duel is no longer allowed in your country," said Zephyrus.

"Then we'll settle our quarrel in yours," rejoined Tom. "I'll go over
with you to Boulogne, or Dieppe, whenever you please."

While these menaces were exchanged, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Tankard, and
several others had entered the room, alarmed by the crash of glass and
Clotilde's cries.

They instantly perceived that a conflict had taken place.

"What's the meaning of this disturbance, gentlemen?" cried Mr. Higgins.
"Can't you spend the evening quietly?"

"I'm ashamed of you, Tom!" cried Mr. Tankard.

"The quarrel wasn't of my seeking, guv'nor," said the young man.

"But it won't end here," cried Zephyrus, holding a handkerchief to his
face.

"I hope it will," rejoined Higgins.

"Tom," said his father, sternly, "I insist on your making an apology to
Monsieur Zephyrus."

"I make an apology?" rejoined the youth. "Don't expect it, guv'nor."

"Nor will I accept an apology," said Zephyrus. "I will have his life!
Sigebert," he added to the _coiffeur_, who had entered the room with the
others, "you shall be my _parrain_--my second."

"With great pleasure," replied the other.

"If you talk of fighting a duel, I'll have you both bound over to keep
the peace," said Higgins. "But come, we've had quite enough of this
nonsense; shake hands like good fellows."

"I'm quite ready," said Tom. "I'll either fight or make friends, as
suits Monsieur Zephyrus best."

This was said in such a good-natured way that it pleased the Frenchman,
and he seemed disposed to make up the quarrel.

"I'm sorry I hurt you, for I don't believe you're half a bad fellow,"
said Tom. "There, will that suffice?"

"_Parfaitement_," replied Zephyrus, taking the hand offered him.

"Bravo!" cried Higgins. "Now let us all have a glass of champagne, and
then we'll go back to the ball-room. We must have a reel."

"No more dancing for me," said Tom.

"Nonsense!" cried his father. "I insist that you dance with Clotilde."

"Do you consent, Monsieur?" said Tom, with a droll look at Zephyrus.
"She now belongs to you."

"You shall have her back altogether, if you like," replied the
Frenchman.

"Nay, I won't tax your generosity so far," said Tom, with a laugh.

Champagne was here handed round, and, after the brimming glasses had
been emptied, they all repaired to the ball-room.

Clotilde flew to Tom on his appearance, and he was foolish enough to
forgive her.

A reel was called, in which all the company took part, except poor
Monsieur Zephyrus, who was obliged to apply a piece of brown paper,
steeped in brandy, to his injured orb.



XIV. AN UNPLEASANT INQUIRY.

|Next morning, about eleven o'clock, Chetwynd found his way, as usual,
from the "Grosvenor Hotel" to the house in Belgrave Square.

He had breakfasted very pleasantly with Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, who
was staying at the same hotel as himself, and had not the slightest
idea that anything disagreeable awaited him; but he was rather struck by
Higgins's manner, as he let him in.

Evidently the butler had something to communicate.

It may be proper to mention that, since Chetwynd's resumption of his
own name, and appearance in his true character at Lady Thicknesse's, no
allusion to the past had ever been made by Higgins, who had always been
particularly respectful.

"Mr. Calverley," he said, as they stood together in the vestibule,
"I must prepare you for an interview with her ladyship and Mr. Scrope
Danvers. They are in the dining-room, and I am directed to conduct you
thither on your arrival. I know nothing, but should any questions be
asked me, you may rely on my discretion."

"I am greatly obliged to you, Higgins," replied Chetwynd; "but you are
at liberty to tell all you know respecting me. I desire no concealment.
Of course, I should be glad to throw a veil over the past if I could;
but that is impossible."

No more was said.

The butler ushered him into the dining-room, where he found Lady
Thicknesse and her nephew.

Her ladyship received him with her customary good nature, and begged him
to be seated; but Scrope's manner was cold and haughty.

After a few preliminary remarks by Lady Thicknesse, Scrope interposed,
and in a very grave tone said:

"Will you allow me to ask you a few questions, Mr. Calverley? I shall
be sorry to give you pain, but circumstances compel me to adopt this
disagreeable course."

"Since the questions you desire to put refer, no doubt, to a very
painful period of my life, it might, perhaps, have been better if you
had spoken to me in private," rejoined Chetwynd. "But proceed."

"Pray understand that it is at my particular request that Lady
Thicknesse is present," said Scrope. "We have long been aware that some
time ago you were in great difficulties, and on bad terms with your
father and stepmother; but, until very lately neither of us knew you had
attempted to commit suicide."

"What you have heard is quite true, sir," replied Chetwynd. "I was
driven to desperation by my own folly; but I have never ceased to feel
deep remorse for the attempt, and I daily thank Heaven that I was saved
from the commission of the sinful act."

Hitherto Lady Thicknesse had looked down, but she now regarded him with
an interest she had never felt before.

"These sentiments do you credit, sir," said Scrope. "But I must now ask
what steps you took immediately after the attempt?"

"I endeavoured to obtain employment."

"In what way?"

"I decline to answer that question, sir," replied Chetwynd.

"As you please, sir," said Scrope. "I can easily obtain the requisite
information."

And he rang the bell. The summons was promptly answered by the butler.

"Higgins," observed Scrope, "when Charles Brown-low, the former footman,
was discharged, did Mr. Tankard apply for the place?"

"He did, sir."

"For his son?"

"No, sir; for a young man named Walter Liddel."

"Are you certain that was his real name?"

"I can't be quite sure, sir," replied Higgins. "At any rate it was the
name given me by Mr. Tankard."

"Did you see the party spoken of?"

"Oh, yes, sir! I saw him at Mr. Tankard's house, and was very much
pleased with his appearance. The livery suited him extremely well."

"Oh! then he had on the livery?"

"Yes, sir. I wished to see how it fitted, and it _did_ fit him to
admiration. I never saw such a fine-looking footman in my life."

"And you engaged him?"

"At once, sir. I thought him a great catch."

"Did he enter on the situation?"

"Something prevented him. Either his father died quite suddenly, and
left him a large fortune, or else he married; I don't recollect which."

"Be serious, if you please, Higgins. Have you ever seen him since?"

"Not that I am aware of, sir."

"Should you know him again if you saw him?"

"I don't think I should, sir. I only saw him in livery, and a handsome
livery like ours sets a man off to advantage. Are these all the
questions you propose to ask me, sir?"

"One more, and I have done; and I beg you will answer it distinctly. Do
you see him now?"

"Walter Liddel? No, sir."

"You are a very cautious fellow, Higgins, but it won't do," said Scrope.

"Speak out, Higgins," said Chetwynd. "I have no wish for concealment."

"Now I look again," remarked the butler to Scrope, "I should say there
is a very strong resemblance between Walter Liddel and Mr. Chetwynd
Calverley."

"Enough!" cried Scrope. "You may retire." Higgins bowed, and left the
room.

"And now," said Chetwynd, "may I ask the meaning of this inquiry?"

"My object is merely to establish a fact," replied Scrope. "Lady
Thicknesse and myself have just learnt, to our great surprise and
annoyance, that our charming relative, Emmeline Barfleur, has had the
imprudence to form an engagement with you."

"Imprudence, sir!" cried Chetwynd.

"I might use a stronger term, but that will suffice. It cannot be very
agreeable to those connected with her, that the daughter of the proud
Sir Leycester Barfleur, who might marry any one she pleases, should
throw herself away upon a--footman!"

Chetwynd absolutely started, but controlled himself by a great effort.

"I now understand your anxiety to secure Lady Thicknesses presence at
our interview," he said. "You have aimed a cowardly blow at me, but
it has failed in effect. I treat your observation with scorn!" Then,
turning to Lady Thicknesse, he added, "Since your nephew refuses to give
me credit for acting like a gentleman, I must inform your ladyship that
Emmeline is acquainted with the ridiculous circumstance of which so much
has been made, and it merely excited her laughter. I have confessed all
my follies and faults to her--_all!_--and she has forgiven me, because
she believes in my promises of amendment."

As he spoke the door opened, and Emmeline herself entered the room,
accompanied by Mildred and Sir Bridgnorth Charlton.



XV. EVIDENCE IN CHETWYND's FAVOUR.

|I thought I should be required as an important witness in the inquiry
which I understood is going on here," said Emmeline, stepping quickly
forward, "so I have come to give my evidence."

"You are too late, my love," said Lady Thicknesse. "The inquiry is
over."

"Has it ended satisfactorily?" asked Emmeline.

"Not to me," replied Chetwynd. "Your cousin Scrope has endeavoured to
show that if you had not intentionally been kept in the dark as to
certain matters, you would not have entered into an engagement which he
holds to be utterly unworthy of you. Nor has he acknowledged his error,
though every assurance has been given him that he is mistaken."

"Will my amiable but incredulous cousin accept my assurance to the same
effect?" observed Emmeline. "He shakes his head, and declines to answer.
He is, therefore, out of court. Nevertheless, I will tell him, and all
who choose to listen to me, that Mr. Chetwynd Calverley has behaved in
the most honourable manner, and has concealed nothing from me. I will
also tell my proud cousin, and he may make what use he pleases of
the information, that I have engaged myself to as good a gentleman as
himself, and that nothing that he or any one else can say will induce me
to break my promise."

"Thank you, from my heart!" said Chetwynd.

"Now is your time to speak, if you have anything to say," observed
Emmeline to her cousin.

But Scrope shrugged his shoulders, and declined the challenge.

"Then I will tell you one thing, which you don't know, and, perhaps,
won't believe when you are told it," said Emmeline. "Chetwynd himself
proposed to go through a period of probation before our engagement took
place: and he readily agreed that the marriage should be deferred for a
year. Will that content you?"

"I should be better pleased if it were postponed altogether!" muttered
Scrope.

"Let me say a word for my friend Chetwynd," interposed Sir Bridgnorth.
"As yet, it is somewhat early to declare that he has reformed, but I
sincerely believe in his professions, and I feel persuaded he will carry
them out."

"I won't disappoint you, Sir Bridgnorth!" said Chetwynd, earnestly.

"I have entire confidence in you," rejoined the baronet.

"And so have I," said Lady Thicknesse. "I am so well satisfied with
the explanation that has taken place, that I give my full consent to
Emmeline's engagement."

"I am delighted to hear you say so, dearest aunt!" cried the young
lady. "You make me quite happy. It would have grieved me to incur your
displeasure. I don't care a bit about Scrope!"

"Won't you even give me credit for the desire to serve you?" said
Scrope.

"No. I am displeased by your uncalled-for interference. You do more harm
than good!"

"Before deciding against my friend Chetwynd, Scrope," said Sir
Bridgnorth, "you ought to give him a fair trial."

"That is all I desire," remarked Chetwynd. "Six months hence, if I have
not proved myself worthy of Emmeline, I will retire from the field."

"I take you at your word," said Scrope. "Am I to decide the point?"

"No; because you have shown yourself unfair and ungenerous," said
Emmeline.

At this juncture, Captain Danvers entered the room, and uttered an
exclamation of surprise on seeing so many persons present.

"I wondered where you all were," he said. "What important affair have
you been discussing?55

"A marriage!" replied Lady Thicknesse.

"And everybody, except Scrope, is pleased with it!" said Emmeline.

"Oh, never mind him!" remarked the captain. "He'll come round to the
general opinion."

"Don't be too sure of that!" said Scrope.

"Ten to one you come round before a month!" said his brother.

"Done!" rejoined Scrope.

"I wish I could bet!" said Emmeline. "I'd lay fifty to one that in less
than a week Scrope will own his mistake, and ask my pardon!"

"I'll back you!55 said Sir Bridgnorth, looking at Scrope.

"Taken!" rejoined that person.

"And now let us go up-stairs," said Lady Thicknesse.

"Not to the drawing-room, dear aunt," rejoined Captain Danvers.

"Why not there?" inquired her ladyship, surprised.

"Because we should interrupt a very tender interview," said the captain.
"Lord Courland and Mrs. Calverley are in the drawing-room, dear aunt."

"I should think the affair must be settled by this time," observed
Scrope.

"Give them another quarter of an hour," said the captain.

The proposition was unanimously agreed to.

That morning, Mrs. Calverley's lady's-maid, Laura, had delivered to
her mistress a little _billet doux_ from Lord Courland, entreating the
favour of a private interview.

The request was granted, and, through the instrumentality of Mr.
Higgins, who was consulted by Laura, it was arranged that the meeting
should take place in the drawing-room, the obliging butler undertaking
that the pair should not be interrupted.

Never had the charming widow looked more beautiful than on that morning.

As she sat in the drawing-room awaiting Lord Cour-land's appearance,
her breast swelled with triumph, and her eyes shone with more than their
customary splendour.

Great pains had been taken with her toilette by Laura, who assured her,
with a smile, that she looked enchanting, and added that there was not
another person in the house to be compared with her.

The fair widow believed what was said, and might be excused for doing
so under the circumstances, since she had at once carried off the grand
prize from those whom she regarded as competitors.

Lord Courland was enraptured when he beheld her.

He did not throw himself literally at her feet when the discreet
Higgins, who had ushered him into the room, had retired, but he
manifested all the ardour of an impassioned lover.

He gave utterance to a few expressions of delight as he sat down beside
her on the sofa, and pressed her hand to his lips, but his looks were
far more eloquent than his words.



XVI. LORD COURLAND PROPOSES TO MRS. CALVERLEY.

|To many a courageous man a proposal is a formidable business, but Lord
Courland certainly did not appear to find it so; nor was it necessary
for the beautiful widow to give him any encouragement.

"Need I say I adore you?" he exclaimed. "You must be conscious that from
the first moment I beheld you I was fascinated by your charms."

She smiled softly, but made no audible response.

He continued in the same passionate strain.

"Let me have a word to say I am not an object of indifference to
you--that you requite my love."

She regarded him more tenderly than before, but spoke not.

He could not misunderstand the look.

"You love me!" he cried. "Your eyes confess more than your lips are
willing to avow! You force me to snatch an answer from them!" he added,
suiting the action to the word.

"Now you are mine, Teresa," he continued, still holding her hand. "Soon
to be Viscountess Cour-land, hereafter Countess of Richborough. But you
are silent. Speak, I conjure you! Tell me you are content!"

"Can you doubt it?" she replied, with a look that seemed to penetrate
the inmost recesses of his breast.

"And you really, truly love me?"

"Really, truly!" she rejoined. "I never loved till now!"

"May I credit this?" he remarked, somewhat incredulously. "I am willing
to be deceived."

"I repeat, you are the only person I have ever really loved."

Another kiss followed the gratifying assurance, which might possibly
have been correct.

"Are you ambitious, Teresa?" asked the enamoured young nobleman.

"I do not think so," she rejoined. "I am influenced by your agreeable
qualities, not by your rank. Though a recommendation, your title would
not have gained you my hand."

"But I ought to tell you I am not very rich, and I shall not have much
during my father's lifetime."

"It matters not," she replied, with a smile. "I have a tolerably good
income, and Ouselcroft is rather a pretty place, as I think you will own
when you see it."

"No doubt. Scrope says you have one of the nicest seats in Cheshire."

"I cannot contradict him, since I entertain the same opinion myself. But
you must come and see it. I shall not prolong my stay in town. Possibly
I may return to-morrow."

"So soon?"

"I have nothing to detain me, and, under present circumstances, I shall
be glad to get back."

"It will be far more agreeable to me to see you at your own house, than
here," observed Lord Courland.

"Then be it so," she replied. "Come as soon as you please."

"Shall I bring Scrope Danvers with me?"

"By all means; I have plenty of room. Besides, Brackley, Lady Barfleur's
residence, is only a few miles off."

"Miss Calverley resides with you, I believe?"

"Yes; and a great delight she is to me. I couldn't do without her."

"And Chetwynd--pardon my asking so many questions--is he also with you?"

"For the present. I hope you like him?"

"I like him immensely. I'm sure we shall get on together uncommonly
well. And now, am I at liberty to inform Lady Thicknesse and Scrope that
you have consented to become Lady Courland?"

"Yes; I think it will be quite proper to do so," she replied.

Not many minutes afterwards voices were heard without, the door was
thrown open by Higgins, and Lady Thicknesse and most of the persons whom
we left below entered the room.

As Lord Courland arose and advanced to meet her ladyship, she could not
fail to be struck by his joyous air.

"I hope I may congratulate your lordship?" she said.

"Do I look like a rejected suitor?" he remarked.

"Not exactly," she replied. "I should say all has gone well."

"Yes; my suit has prospered," he said. "But I am entirely indebted to
your ladyship for the treasure I have gained."

"That you have gained a treasure, I am certain," rejoined Lady
Thicknesse. "But I do not see how you owe it to me."

"Is it not here that I have found it?" he said. "But for you, I might
never have met the only person who can make me happy."

By this time Mrs. Calverley herself had come forward to participate in
the general felicitations.

"What think you of this proposed marriage?" observed Sir Bridgnorth, in
a low tone, to Chetwynd.

"I think very little about it," replied the other. "It will never take
place."

"Wherefore not?"

"I cannot explain myself," said Chetwynd; "but, depend upon it, I am
right."

"Well, time will show," said Sir Bridgnorth. "I am going down to
Charlton to-morrow. Come, and spend a few days with me. I feel certain
there will be a general move."

And so it proved.

No sooner did Mrs. Calverley announce her intention of returning to
Ouselcroft on the morrow, than Emmeline and Mildred said they should
return at the same time, though Lady Thicknesse besought them to stay a
few days longer.

At last, when she could not prevail upon them to remain, she declared
she would go down to Haslemere for a short time, and while in Cheshire
would come and spend a week with her sister, Lady Barfleur, at Brackley
Hall.

Determined not to be left out, Captain Danvers likewise volunteered to
go to Brackley. Indeed, from the various plans proposed and discussed,
there seemed every prospect that the whole party would soon meet again
in the country.

As it was quite impossible that Emmeline and Mildred could part with
Rose, it was arranged that she should accompany them; and in the mean
time the little damsel was allowed to take leave of her friends.

One of the best dinners Monsieur Zephyrus had ever served formed the
farewell entertainment. The merit of the repast was fully appreciated;
but the company was not so lively as heretofore.

Next day the party broke up.

Though the purpose for which she had assembled her guests had not
been accomplished, good-natured Lady Thicknesse was content, and her
congratulations to Mrs. Calverley were sincere.

As to the fair widow, who had now reached the summit of her ambition,
she did not attempt to disguise her satisfaction.

Since she had formed the engagement with Lord Courland, a slight but
perceptible change had taken place in her demeanour. Her manner to
Mildred was more haughty.

Before her departure she had a private conference with her noble suitor,
when a good many matters were talked over, but in the pleasantest way
possible. In fact, all seemed _couleur de rose_.

Lord Courland attended her to the station, and, while bidding her adieu,
she reminded him that in three days she should expect him at Ouselcroft.

"Doubt not you will see me," he rejoined. In the same railway carriage
with Mrs. Calverley were two young ladies, a lady's maid, and two
gentlemen. The gentlemen were Chetwynd and Sir Bridgnorth, who were
about to accompany the ladies to Chester.

The lady's-maid was remarkably pretty; but there was a tear in her
bright eye, the cause of which will be understood when we mention
that on the platform stood a tall, black-whiskered young man, gazing
wistfully at her.

Harry Netterville--for it was he--did not dare to approach the carriage,
but waved his hand, as the snorting engine started on its journey and
bore his love away.


END OF THE FIFTH BOOK



BOOK THE SIXTH--THE CLAUSE IN MR. CALVERLEY'S WILL.



I. OLD NOBBIS QUESTIONS LAURA.

|Carriages, ordered by telegraph, were waiting for the ladies at
Chester, and conveyed them to their respective destinations.

Mrs. Calverley, attended by Laura, drove direct to Ouselcroft. Emmeline
and Mildred, accompanied by Rose, who had now got over her grief, and
was full of curiosity to behold her new abode, proceeded to Brackley
Hall.

Sir Bridgnorth and Chetwynd stopped to dine at the "Queen's Hotel," and
then went back to the nearest point on the line to Charlton Hall, where
they arrived about nine o'clock.

As a matter of course, the important news that their mistress was
engaged to be married to Lord Courland was immediately communicated
to the household by Laura, and caused a great sensation--some of the
servants being pleased, while the others did not exactly know how their
own particular interests might be affected.

The unexpected intelligence produced a singular effect upon Norris. For
a time, he remained absorbed in thought, neither expressing approval nor
disapproval. He then called Laura into the butler's pantry, and, begging
her to be seated, said:

"This is a very sudden affair, Laura. I can't understand it!"

"You must be very stupid, Mr. Norris! Can't you understand that a young
nobleman like Lord Courland may easily fall over head and ears in love
with such a captivating lady as Mrs. Calverley? I wasn't surprised at
all. I felt sure she would carry him off, and so she did. The girls
hadn't a chance with her. Mr. Higgins told me his lordship never said
a tender word to either of them. I dare say it has been a great
disappointment to Lady Thicknesse; but Mrs. Calverley can't help that."

"It's a great match to make," observed Norris--"a very great match! Is
the wedding-day fixed?"

"Bless you, no!" exclaimed Laura. "Why, his lordship only proposed
yesterday! A deal will have to be done before the marriage takes place."

"You're right," remarked Norris, drily. "What does Miss Mildred think of
it?"

"I can't tell," replied Laura. "But it's perfectly immaterial what she
thinks. Mrs. Calverley hasn't consulted her, and doesn't mean to
consult her. But I don't fancy she likes it. Not that she cares for
his lordship, for I believe she has made it up with Captain Danvers.
However, I'm not in the secret, for the girls have got a lady's-maid of
their own, and she doesn't talk much. But if that's the case we shall
have a lot of marriages before long."

"How so, Laura?" inquired Norris.

"Why, it's certain Miss Barfleur has accepted Mr. Chetwynd!"

"Accepted Mr. Chetwynd!" exclaimed the old butler. "That's good news,
indeed--too good to be true, I'm afraid!"

"Oh, no, it's quite correct," rejoined Laura. "Mr. Higgins told me there
was a great consultation about it yesterday. Lady Thicknesse and Mr.
Scrope Danvers, it seems, object to the match; but Miss Barfleur
is determined to have him, and when a young lady makes up her mind
opposition is useless, Mr. Norris!"

"Especially when the young lady is a great heiress!" rejoined the
butler. "Now tell me something about our new master, Laura, for I
suppose we shall have to call his lordship 'master' before long. Is he
handsome?"

"Well, there is a difference of opinion on that point, Mr. Norris," she
replied. "But he has a very stylish look, and is extremely affable in
his manner. In short, he looks like a person of rank. But he's coming
here in a few days, and then you'll be able to judge for yourself."

"Coming here, is he?" cried Norris, gruffly. "I'd rather he kept away. I
suppose he wants to see whether the place will suit him?"

"Being engaged, he must take it whether it suits him or not," observed
Laura.

"Ah, you are a wit, Miss Laura!" said the butler. "Well, the description
you give of Lord Courland is satisfactory. But I shall be sorry to see
my old master's property pass into other hands. Have you any idea what
Mr. Chetwynd thinks of the match?"

"Not the slightest," replied Laura; "except that I feel certain it can't
be satisfactory to him or his sister."

"Impossible--quite impossible!" cried Norris.

"Such is Mr. Higgins's opinion," observed Laura.

"Your Mr. Higgins seems a very sensible man," remarked Norris. "I should
like to have some talk with him."

"You would find him most agreeable, as well as very shrewd," said Laura.
"You will be pleased, I'm sure, to hear that he thinks very highly of
Mr. Chetwynd."

"Another proof of his discernment," said Norris. "By-the-bye, where is
our young master? Have you left him in town?"

"He came with us as far as Chester, but he has gone to Charlton Hall
with Sir Bridgnorth for a few days."

"He would have done better to come on here. And Miss Mildred, you say,
has gone to Brackley with Miss Barfleur? Well, a great change is at
hand. It won't affect you, Laura; but it will affect me. Lord Cour-land
will find me too old. He will require a younger and smarter butler, and
I shall be dismissed."

"Oh, I hope not, dear Mr. Norris!" cried Laura. "That would grieve me
excessively!"

"It will be so, my dear," he replied; "and I almost think Mrs. Calverley
herself will be glad to get rid of me."

"If she does, she will provide for you."

"I am not sure of that. Old servants are not always rewarded--very
rarely, indeed, I should say. Ah! if my good old master had lived, it
would have been different! But I feel convinced I shall not retain
my place unless something happens; and it _may_ happen!" he added,
significantly.

"What do you mean, Mr. Norris?"

"I can't explain my meaning. But perhaps, on consideration, Mrs.
Calverley may deem it expedient to keep me on."

"I'll give her a hint," said Laura, as she quitted the room.



II. THE CABINET.

|On going up-stairs, after looking for her mistress in the bed-chamber,
where she had left her, Laura proceeded to a small cabinet, in which the
late Mr. Calverley was wont to transact his private business, write his
letters, and hold consultations with his tenants and others. Here, in a
large oak chest, all the old gentleman's deeds and bulky documents
were deposited, while an escritoire contained his smaller papers,
account-books, and memoranda.

On tapping at the door of the cabinet, Laura was bidden by her mistress
to come in.

From the expression of Mrs. Calverley's countenance it was clear that
something had gone wrong, and the sharp lady's-maid scarcely needed
any information on the point when she observed that several of the
escritoire drawers were pulled out.

"You can't find something, I perceive, ma'am?" said Laura. "Can I help
you?"

"You'll do little good, Laura," replied the lady. "I've searched these
drawers most carefully, and can't find what I want."

"Is it a letter, may I venture to ask?" said Laura.

"No; it's much more important than a letter," replied Mrs. Calverley.
"Nothing less than my late husband's will."

"Good gracious, ma'am!" exclaimed Laura. "I hope you haven't lost it?"

"Lost it?--no. Besides, it wouldn't much matter if I had, since the will
has been proved, but I can't conceive what has become of it. I placed it
in one of those drawers myself. I hope it has not been stolen."

"It couldn't be stolen, ma'am, if it was safely locked up in one of
those drawers," said Laura. "I wish you'd let me search for it."

"It will be useless, but you may try."

On this, Laura turned over the contents of the drawers, which were
chiefly old letters and memoranda, but without success.

"It's gone, no doubt, ma'am," she said.

"Yes; I felt sure you wouldn't find it," remarked her mistress. "The
occurrence is most vexatious, but I won't worry myself any more about it
now. I shall see Mr. Carteret in the morning. You know I've telegraphed
to him to come to me?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am; and I guessed what you wanted to consult him about,"
rejoined Laura, with a knowing look.

"Tell me, Laura," said Mrs. Calverley, "what do your fellow-servants say
about my engagement with Lord Courland? Speak freely; I should like to
know the truth."

"In general, they are very much pleased, ma'am; but old Mr. Norris
is rather afraid he shall lose his place. He fancies his lordship may
prefer a younger butler."

"Well that is just possible," remarked Mrs. Calverley. "Norris is
a faithful old servant, and I am greatly attached to him, but he is
growing superannuated."

"I think it might be prudent to keep him on for a time, ma'am," said
Laura, with a certain significance, "since he has lived so long in the
family."

Mrs. Calverley looked inquiringly at her.

"Has he said anything to you, Laura?"

"Only that he hoped his services might not be forgotten, but he said it
in a way that meant a great deal. I think it would be well not to get
rid of him at present, ma'am."

"I have no intention of doing so," replied Mrs. Calverley. "I have a
great regard for him, as you know."

"So I told him, ma'am."

"Does he doubt it?"

"He seems uneasy and resentful; and, unless quieted, I think he may make
mischief."

"In that case, his dismissal would be unavoidable. But I hope he will
display better judgment. Assure him that I have not the slightest idea
of parting with him, and that it will be entirely his own fault if he
does not remain here for many years longer."

"I will tell him what you say, ma'am," replied Laura; "and I am
confident it will give him great satisfaction. You have no further
commands for me, I suppose?"

"I would rather you didn't mention down-stairs that the will is missing.
It will be time enough to make inquiries about it to-morrow when I have
consulted Mr. Carteret. I shall see you again before I retire to rest."

"Certainly, ma'am," replied Laura, as she withdrew.

Left alone, Mrs. Calverley locked up all the drawers of the escritoire,
and then sat down to reflect.

That the will had been abstracted she now felt certain; but by
whom?--and with what design?

At one moment her suspicions alighted on old Norris; but she instantly
rejected the supposition, as inconsistent with his character. Besides,
she could see no motive for the theft, since the instrument would be
valueless to him in every way. Again, how could he know that it was
placed in the escritoire?--and had he a key of the drawer? No, no;
Norris could not be the thief.

But who else could have taken it?

Unable to answer the question, she turned her thoughts to other matters.

Mrs. Calverley's feelings were of a mingled character. Though pride and
triumph predominated, her anxieties had increased, and every step she
took seemed fraught with difficulty.

But she shook off all misgivings, and congratulating herself on her
splendid achievement, determined at whatever risk, and whatever might be
the consequences, to carry out the important arrangement she had made.



III. HOW THE WILL WAS FOUND.

|MRS. Calverley, as already intimated, had sent a telegraphic message
from London to Mr. Carteret, desiring him to come to her next morning at
Ousel-croft; and she gave him a hint of the business on which she wished
to consult him, by mentioning that she expected Lord Courland.

Accordingly, about ten o'clock next morning, in compliance with the
summons he had received, Mr. Carteret made his appearance, and was
conducted by Norris to the cabinet just described, where he found the
beautiful widow seated at a desk, with writing materials before her.

"I am so much obliged to you for coming to me, Mr. Carteret," she said,
giving him a very warm welcome. "I want to see you most particularly.
Pray sit down!"

"If I am not mistaken, madam, you are about to form an important
matrimonial alliance?" he remarked.

"You have guessed rightly, Mr. Carteret," she said, with a smile.
"I went up to town a few days ago perfectly free, and have returned
engaged."

"To Lord Courland?"

"To his lordship."

"Accept my congratulations," he said, rather gravely. "But I am obliged
to treat the affair as a matter of business, and must dismiss all
sentiment. Does his lordship propose to make a handsome settlement upon
you?"

"No doubt he would, if it were in his power; but he is unable to do so."

"I feared not,"' replied Carteret. "But I hope he doesn't expect a
settlement to be made on him?"

"I rather think he does," replied the lady.

"But surely you have not made any promise to this effect?" observed
Carteret.

"Indeed, I have, sir," she rejoined. "You look surprised. But I really
could not do otherwise. I have promised to settle half my property upon
him."

"But how will you fulfil your promise?"

"I see no difficulty in the way," she rejoined. "I have only to give you
the necessary instructions."

"If that were all, it would be easy enough. But I can scarcely conceive
it possible you can be in ignorance of----"

"In ignorance of what?" she hastily interrupted.

"Of the clause in your late husband's will, which directs that in the
event of your marrying again, the whole of the property shall go to
Mildred. Thus you will have nothing more than the settlement made upon
you before your marriage."

"Is this so?" asked Mrs. Calverley, with some astonishment. "I was not
aware of it."

"It is exactly as I state," he replied. "I am amazed to find you have not
read the will."

"I _have_ read it," she cried. "But I did not notice the clause you
mention."

"I will show it you in a moment if you will give me the will," he said.

"I fear the will has been stolen," she rejoined.

"Stolen?" he ejaculated.

"Yes; I wished to refer to it last evening, but could not find it."

"Had you put it in a safe place?"

"I put it in one of the drawers of this escritoire. The drawers were all
locked, but the will was gone!"

"Have you examined the drawers to-day?" asked Carteret.

"I have not, because I consider further search completely useless."

"I should like to satisfy myself before making inquiries," said
Carteret.

Mrs. Calverley unlocked the top drawer, and opened it, and had no sooner
done so, than Mr. Carteret sprang forward, exclaiming:

"Why, there it is!"

Had it come there by magic?

Mrs. Calverley could scarcely believe her eyes.

"Are you certain you examined this drawer?" said Carteret.

"Quite. Laura searched it after me."

"But how came the will back?"

"That I cannot explain," replied Mrs. Calverley. "But it is clear one
of the servants has a key that fits this lock. I scarcely like to say
so--but I suspect Norris."

"I can't believe the old man capable of such an act," said Carteret.
"However, we'll speak of that presently. First, let me convince you that
my statement in regard to the will is correct. Here is the clause. It
is at the very end of the instrument:--'And I hereby declare that if
my dear wife, Teresa, shall marry again, without the consent in writing
first had and obtained of my dear daughter Mildred, then, and in such
case, the whole of my property hereby devised to my said wife, shall go
and revert to my said daughter Mildred, anything heretofore expressed to
the contrary notwithstanding.' Thus you see, madam," he pursued, "if you
marry again, all your property, which may be roughly estimated at five
thousand pounds per annum, will go from you, and you will have nothing
but your settlement. I cannot imagine how this important clause escaped
you."

"Neither can I," said Mrs. Calverley.

"But it will now be necessary to decide whether you will sacrifice your
present large income, or break off the important match you have just
formed. I don't think you can have much hesitation. In my opinion, when
Lord Courland learns how you are circumstanced, he will be anxious to
retire."

"I do not think so," exclaimed Mrs. Calverley.

"Well, you will have an excellent opportunity of testing the sincerity
of his affection."

"I am taken quite by surprise, as you see, Mr. Carteret," said
Mrs. Calverley, who was greatly agitated, "and must have time for
consideration before I can decide. I anticipate no difficulty."

"It is certainly an awkward dilemma," said Carteret; "but I don't see
how you can get out of it, unless you are content to remain single. I
quite thought you understood your position, or I should have ventured to
give you some advice before."

"I wish you had," said Mrs. Calverley. "I little imagined Mildred held
my destiny in her hands. She cannot be aware of her power?"

"I have no means of judging," replied Carteret. "But I fancy not."

"Then let her be kept in ignorance for a short time, till we are able to
think the matter over. I cannot, will not give up Lord Courland--I love
him!"

"That alters the case, madam."

"But though I cannot give him up, I know not whether he is disinterested
enough to take me with my small fortune."

"Fifteen hundred a year is not a small fortune," said Carteret, "and you
have that, at any rate. If Lord Courland loves you as strongly as I am
persuaded he does, I am sure he will be content with it."

"But he has been led to expect more," said Mrs. Calverley.

"Yes; that is unfortunate. His expectations having been raised so
highly, a disappointment may ensue. But I do not anticipate a rupture
is to be apprehended. Let me state that I did my best to prevent
the introduction of this objectionable clause into the will. But my
remonstrances were ineffectual, Mr. Calverley was determined. 'If she
marries again, the property shall return to my family,' he said. So I was
obliged to carry out his instructions. I know not what are your plans,
madam, but my advice to you is to delay the marriage as long as you can,
so that some arrangement may be made with Miss Calverley."

"I will follow your advice, Mr. Carteret. But, when Mildred discovers
her power, I think she will prove impracticable."

"It may be so," he rejoined. "But you are still mistress of the
situation. She may prevent your marriage, but she can do nothing more.
Evidently, she is in the dark at present. Keep this matter secret till
you have concocted your plans; you will then be able to make a better
arrangement."

"But you forget that I have an enemy in the house. Whoever abstracted
the will--and I still suspect Norris---is in possession of the important
secret, and will communicate it. That is certain."

Struck by what she said, Mr. Carteret reflected for a few minutes.

"Under the circumstances, it may be well to keep on good terms with old
Norris," he said. "Chetwynd and Mildred, I find, are both absent, so
that you need not apprehend immediate interference from either of them.
Summon me, if you require my counsel, and I will come at once. I can
render you no service just now. But mind! make no proposition to Mildred
without consulting me."

And he left the cabinet.

As he went out, he found Norris in the hall, and took the opportunity of
speaking to him.

"Well, Norris," he said, "you're going to have a great change in the
house before long. How does it suit you?"

"Not at all, sir," replied the old butler, who looked very gloomy. "I'd
rather things remained as they are. But do you really think, sir, this
marriage will take place?"

"What's to hinder it?" remarked Carteret, looking at him inquiringly.

"Nothing that I know of," replied Norris; "but perhaps Mrs. Calverley
may change her mind. She has got everything she wants now."

"Except a husband!" replied Carteret, laughing.

"And he may cost too dear," said Norris.

"Too dear! What do you mean?"

"A young nobleman is not to be had for nothing," replied Norris.

"Well, Mrs. Calverley can afford to pay a high price for such a luxury,
if she chooses," said Carteret. "However, that's not the way to look at
the matter, Norris. This is a very great match, and must be conducted in
a befitting manner. A large settlement must necessarily be made."

"I don't dispute that, sir," said Norris. "But _can_ a large settlement
be made?"

"The rascal has read the will!" thought Carteret. "Of course it can!" he
added, aloud. "Mrs. Calverley can do what she likes with her own."

"Well, you ought to know better than me, sir," said Norris; "but I fancy
you're mistaken. I always understood my old master didn't wish his wife
to marry again, and I concluded he would take precautions to prevent her
doing so."

"I wouldn't advise you to make such observations as those to any one but
me, Norris," said Carteret.

"Not even to Mr. Chetwynd, or Miss Mildred, sir?"

"I see what you are driving at, Norris; but you had better hold your
tongue, and keep quiet; you'll do yourself no good by meddling in what
does not concern you. Things are by no means settled. Most certainly,
the marriage won't take place at present. Very likely it may not take
place at all. But if it does, the testamentary directions will be
strictly carried out."

"That's all I wished to know, sir," replied the butler. "I won't say a
word more to any one."

And he attended Mr. Carteret to the door, where the solicitor's
mail-phaeton was waiting for him.



IV. A LETTER PROM LORD COURLAND.

|On quitting the cabinet, the door of which was locked, and, taking
the key with her, Mrs. Calverley went out into the garden, looking,
apparently, quite cheerful, though she had an anxious breast, and had
just sat down on a lawn chair, when a letter that had arrived by post
was brought her by Laura.

As yet, Mrs. Calverley had said nothing to her lady's-maid about the
restoration of the will, as she thought it best to leave that matter
in doubt for the present, and she now allowed her to depart without any
allusion to the subject. Indeed, she was dying to read her letter, which
she saw was from Lord Courland.

It was just such a letter as might have been expected from him, but
there were some passages in it that produced an effect contrary to that
intended by her noble suitor, and heightened her uneasiness.

"I must write you a line, dearest Teresa," he began, "though I have
nothing to say, except to tell you how supremely wretched I feel now you
are gone. However, I try to console myself by the thought that I shall
soon behold you again, and in your own house, which I long so much to
see--as it will be my abode when I am made the happiest of mortals by
the possession of your hand.

"I have to thank Mr. Calverley for two things--first, that he was
considerate enough to die; and secondly, that he left his large property
at your entire disposal. I shall always entertain the highest respect
for his memory.

"This may seem rather heartless jesting, sweet Teresa, but it is the
simple expression of my feelings. Really, very few men would have
behaved so well as your late husband, but he fully appreciated you. I
wish I could follow his example--not by quitting you, for I don't intend
to do that, if I can help it, for many years to come--but by making a
handsome settlement upon you.

"Fortunately, you have enough--enough for us both--and I cannot
sufficiently thank you for your kind promises. My devotion shall prove
my gratitude. Ouselcroft, you tell me, is a charming place, and I ought
not to accept it, or any share in it; but I can refuse nothing you offer
me--not even that priceless treasure, yourself.

"I do not ask you to write to me, though one word would enchant me, and
enable me to endure this separation.

"Adieu, sweet Teresa! I shall count the minutes till we meet."

The perusal of this letter gave Mrs. Calverley infinitely more pain than
pleasure, for she now feared she should never be able to carry out her
noble suitor's wishes, and she saw plainly that he would not be content
with the income derived from her settlement.

She read the letter again, and this conviction struck her even more
forcibly on the second perusal.

She revolved the matter in her mind very deliberately.

What could she do?

Dark thoughts possessed her. There seemed only one way of extricating
herself from the difficulty. She shrank from it; but it recurred again
and again, till she became F=familiarised with the idea, and it appeared
less dreadful than at first.

The step seemed unavoidable.

She resolved to answer Lord Courland's letter, but very briefly, and to
make no allusion to her promises to him, though he seemed to expect it.

She was still buried in thought when Laura came to her, and with the
familiarity which this favourite attendant usually displayed, said:

"Dear me, ma'am, you look dreadfully pale! I hope nothing has gone
wrong?"

"Nothing whatever," replied Mrs. Calverley, with a forced smile. "I have
had a most charming letter from Lord Courland. But I feel rather faint.
The air doesn't seem to revive me, so I shall go in-doors." And she
arose.

"I came to tell you, ma'am," said Laura, "that old Norris is greatly
obliged by your kind promise to him. He says he now feels quite easy."

"There was no need to trouble himself before," observed Mrs. Oalverley.
"By-the-bye, I haven't told you that the will has been found."

"Indeed, ma'am! Where?" exclaimed Laura.

"In the top drawer of the escritoire!"

"I'm sure I searched that drawer, ma'am!"

"Mr. Carteret found it at once. But don't say anything more about it. I
don't want the matter talked about. By-the-bye, I mean to drive over to
Brackley in the pony-carriage this afternoon, and shall take you with
me."

"I'm always pleased with a drive, ma'am, especially to Brackley,"
replied Laura.

As they entered the house, they met the aged butler, who bowed
respectfully to his mistress.

"Much obliged to you for thinking of me, ma'am," he said. "You've always
shown me great kindness."

"Not more than you deserve, Norris," she replied graciously. "It was
quite a misapprehension, I assure you. I never intended to part with
you, and should never think of doing so without making you a comfortable
provision."

"I'd rather stay where I am, ma'am," replied the butler. "After living
in it for half a century, a man gets attached to a house."

"Then rest easy, Norris," she rejoined. "You shall stay here to the
last--that I promise you."

The old butler muttered his thanks, for he felt rather husky, and Mrs.
Calverley went up-stairs to her own room.



V. SHOWING WHAT MRS. CALVERLEY'S DRESSING-BOX CONTAINED.

|After closing the door, Mrs. Calverley approached the large Psyche that
stood opposite her, and ejaculated, "No wonder Laura was struck by my
appearance! I do look frightfully pale! I must take care my looks don't
betray me."

But her countenance assumed a deathly hue, and her limbs seemed scarcely
able to support her as she moved towards the door communicating with,
the dressing-room.

There she stopped, her entrance, apparently, being barred by a shadowy
figure resembling her dead husband.

But Teresa, as we have shown, was a woman of high courage, and not to be
daunted by superstitious fears.

Convinced that the figure was a mere effect of her imagination, she
passed into the inner room, and then, standing still for a moment till
she had quite recovered her self-possession, proceeded to unlock a large
dressing-box that stood upon the toilet-table, and took from it a small
casket apparently containing scent bottles.

When the casket, in its turn, was unlocked by a diminutive and
peculiarly-shaped key, four very small phials were disclosed.

Teresa selected one of them, filled, as it seemed, with a very bright
spirit, held it up for a moment, and then, taking out the stopper,
breathed at the contents of the phial.

Just then a slight noise disturbed her, and she became aware that she
was watched by Laura, who was standing at the bed-room door.

Though appalled at the sight, she exhibited no sign of alarm, but with
the utmost coolness said:

"I thought some _eau-de-luce_ would do me good. I always take it for the
_migraine_ from which I am now suffering. But you need not stay. Order
the pony-carriage in half an hour, and be ready yourself by that time,
Laura."

Not for an instant doubting the truth of what she was told, Laura
withdrew; and she was no sooner gone than Mrs. Calverley wrapped the
small phial in her embroidered pocket-handkerchief, and then replaced
the casket, and carefully locked the dressing-box.



VI. POISON IN THE CUP.

|Half an hour later, Mrs. Calverley, who had completely recovered,
and, indeed, looked remarkably well, drove over to Brackley in the
pony-carriage, attended by Laura and a groom.

The two girls were in the garden when she arrived at the Hall, but
Lady Barfleur, who was much impressed by the brilliant engagement Mrs.
Calverly had formed, received her with great ceremony.

"Accept my congratulations, dear Mrs. Calverley!" she said. "I felt sure
you would marry well, but I did not expect you would make such a
great match as this. You are fortunate in every respect, it seems,
for Emmeline tells me Lord Courland is exceedingly good-looking and
agreeable. I hope he may like Ouselcroft. I should be very sorry if you
left this part of the country."

"Don't be alarmed, dear Lady Barfleur," rejoined Mrs. Calverley. "I
should never think of leaving Ouselcroft, and I am persuaded Lord
Courland will be pleased with the place. I expect him on Thursday."

"You must all come and dine with me during his stay. I don't give
dinners now, as you know, but I must see him."

"He will be delighted to dine with you, I am sure. But I must bring him
over some morning to see the old Hall."

"By all means," replied Lady Barfleur. "You will always be welcome."

Here the two girls came in fresh from the garden. Emmeline looked
blooming and full of spirits, but Mildred complained of slight
indisposition, and, in fact, did not seem very well.

Mrs. Calverley noticed these symptoms with secret satisfaction. They
favoured her dark design.

"You seem rather poorly this morning, my love," she said.

"I am a little out of sorts," replied Mildred. "I think I caught cold on
the journey. But I shall soon be better."

"Better when a certain person arrives," whispered Emmeline. "Well, he
will be here this evening, or to-morrow at latest. Don't fall ill before
he comes!"

"Unfeeling creature!" exclaimed Mildred, with a sickly smile.

Just then, the luncheon-bell was rung, and the ladies proceeded to the
dining-room.

It might have been noticed--if such a trifling circumstance could
attract attention--that Mrs. Calverley carried her embroidered kerchief
in her hand.

While they were crossing the hall, the Reverend Mr. Massey made his
appearance, and after saluting Lady Barfleur and the others, went in
with them to luncheon.

As they took their seats at table, Mrs. Calverley easily managed to get
a place next her step-daughter.

Some little progress had been made with the repast, which it is supposed
ladies enjoy more than dinner, when Emmeline remarked:

"You must let us have some champagne to-day, mamma, please. Mildred is
rather out of spirits."

The proposition was seconded by the chaplain, who was always exceedingly
cheerful, and had been conversing very agreeably with Lady Barfleur. So
the wine was brought and handed round by the butler.

"You must not refuse, Mildred," cried Emmeline. "The champagne was
ordered expressly for you."

"And for me," added the chaplain, laughing.

"For you as well," said Emmeline. "You are entitled to a second glass."

Even as the words were spoken, with singular boldness and dexterity, and
screened by the handkerchief, Mrs. Calverley contrived to let fall two
or three poisonous drops from the phial into Mildred's glass.

The action passed completely unnoticed, Mildred's attention being
diverted at the moment.

No peculiarity was perceptible in the flavour of the champagne. It
seemed excellent, and really believing the exhilarating wine would do
her good, Mildred emptied the glass.

In answer to a friendly sign from the chaplain, Mrs. Calverley raised
the glass to her lips, but her handkerchief had disappeared.

The enlivening effect of the wine on the party was speedily
apparent--except in the instance of Mildred, who began to feel ill, and
was obliged to rise from table, and leave the room.

Mrs. Calverley, who seemed greatly concerned, and was very attentive to
her, wished her to see Doctor Spencer, but she declined, insisting that
it was a mere passing indisposition.

Emmeline was of the same opinion, but Rose Hartley, who bad been
summoned to attend her, thought otherwise, and prevailed on her to
retire to her own room.

By this time, she had become so faint, that Rose had to assist her to
mount the spiral staircase.

To disarm suspicion, Mrs. Calverley remained for an hour,
conversing with Lady Barfleur and Mr. Massey, and played her part to
perfection--charming them both.

Before setting out on her return, she went up-stairs to see Mildred, and
found her lying on a couch with Emmeline and Rose by her side. The glow
of the painted glass in the bay-window somewhat disguised the sufferer's
paleness.

No touch of pity agitated Teresa's breast as she gazed at her victim.
On the contrary, she secretly exulted in the success of her direful
attempt. Nevertheless, she inquired with well-feigned solicitude:

"How do you feel now, my love?"

"Somewhat better, I think, mamma," replied Mildred.

"I am so glad to hear you say so!" remarked Mrs. Calverley. "I hoped to
take you and Emmeline back with me to Ouselcroft, but that is quite out
of the question now."

"Quite, ma'am," observed Rose. "I think Miss Calverley ought to have
medical advice."

"So do I," rejoined Teresa. "Shall I send for Doctor Spencer, my love?"

"No, mamma," replied Mildred. "If he comes, I shall be laid up for a
week, as I know from sad experience. You recollect how tiresome he was
during my last illness, and wouldn't let me stir. I won't have him now,
unless I'm obliged."

"Better let her have her own away," whispered Emmeline, unconscious that
she was playing into Mrs. Calverley's hands. "She wants to see a certain
person on his arrival here."

"Well, you mustn't blame me if any harm ensues," rejoined Teresa. "I
really think she ought to have immediate advice."

Rose looked imploringly at her, but did not venture to remonstrate.

"Well, I shall come over to-morrow morning," said Mrs. Calverley; "and
then----"

"What then?" asked Mildred, faintly.

"I shall go and fetch Doctor Spencer myself, unless you contrive to
get well in the interim. However, I shall feel easy about you, knowing
you're in good hands."

"Yes; Rose and I will take every care of her," said Emmeline.

"Don't bring Doctor Spencer, or send him, till you see me again, I beg,
mamma," said Mildred. "Promise me that."

Mrs. Calverley gave the required promise, though with apparent
reluctance.

As she bade her victim adieu, and kissed her fevered brow, Mildred
instinctively recoiled from the contact of her lips.



VII. PANGS OP REMORSE.

|No trace of anxiety could be discerned on Mrs. Calverley's beautiful
countenance as she drove back to Ouselcroft with Laura by her side. On
the contrary, she seemed quite elated.

Struck by her want of feeling, the lady's-maid said:

"I am sorry to hear Miss Mildred has been taken ill."

"Oh, there is nothing much the matter," rejoined Mrs. Calverley. "She
has been slightly indisposed all the morning, and something disagreed
with her at luncheon."

"Glad to hear it, ma'am. I was afraid from what Rose Hartley said, it
was a serious attack."

"Oh, no," replied Mrs. Calverley. "She thought so little of it herself,
that she wouldn't let me send for Doctor Spencer. I shall drive over
again to-morrow, and trust to find her quite recovered."

"I should think a little _eau-de-luce_ would do her good, ma'am?"
remarked Laura.

"Why do you think so?" asked Mrs. Calverley > startled.

"She seems to have had such a sudden seizure, like yourself, ma'am."

"Mine was merely a violent headache, Laura, accompanied by faintness.
Ah!" she exclaimed, in real alarm, after vainly searching for it in
her bag. "What did I do with my handkerchief? I hope I haven't left it
behind!"

"No; it's here, ma'am," replied Laura, giving it her. "You had laid it on
the seat."

"Oh! thank you, Laura," cried Mrs. Oalverley, looking inexpressibly
relieved.

And squeezing the handkerchief to make sure the phial was safe inside
it, she put it into her bag.

"I wonder why she was so agitated just now?" thought Laura.

All signs of exultation had now vanished from Mrs. Calverley's
countenance, and she looked thoughtful and uneasy during the rest of the
drive, and scarcely made a remark to Laura, who could not account for
the sudden and extraordinary change in her mood.

On arriving at Ouselcroft, she went upstairs almost immediately to her
own room, but, contrary to custom, and greatly to the surprise of the
lady's-maid, did not take her with her.

This time, on going into her dressing-room, she did not neglect to lock
both doors.

Feeling now safe from intrusion, she sat down to reflect. But there
was such a turmoil in her breast, such confusion in her brain, that she
found it impossible to do so calmly.

The fancied loss of her handkerchief, with the phial inside it, which,
if it had really occurred, must have inevitably led to the discovery of
the terrible crime she had committed, had completely unnerved her.

All was now quiet, but when the dreadful catastrophe occurred, suspicion
would be instantly aroused, and the slightest circumstance that bore
upon the dark deed would be weighed and examined.

The will, which had been prepared by Carteret, and which, she could
not doubt, had been read by Norris, supplied the motive of the
crime; inasmuch as it showed that her step-daughter's death would be
extraordinarily advantageous to herself--so advantageous, indeed, as
almost to suggest Mildred's removal.

Evidence sufficient to condemn her could be furnished by Laura, whose
strange curiosity had enabled her to become a fatal witness against her.

When she clearly understood the frightful position in which she
was placed, her terror increased, and she would have given all she
possessed, and all she hoped to gain, if the deed could be undone.

So agonising were her remorseful feelings, that life had become
intolerable; she resolved to put an end to it, and by the same means she
had employed to remove Mildred. She had not yet put by the phial,
though she had come thither for the express purpose of doing so. With
a terrible feeling of exultation at the thought of escaping the
consequences of her last crime, and of another crime equally dreadful
that still weighed upon her conscience, she raised the phial to her
lips, with the intention of swallowing the whole of its deadly contents.

But her fatal purpose was arrested by a tap at the bedroom door.

For a few moments, she could scarcely collect her thoughts, and when she
spoke, her voice was hoarse.

"Who is it?" she demanded.

"Laura," replied the person in the bedroom. "May I come in?"

"No," rejoined the wretched Teresa.

"I have only come to tell you that Mr. Chetwynd has just arrived with
two young men," said Laura.

The mention of that name produced an instantaneous effect on Mrs.
Calverley, and dispelled her fears.

Even if he had come to charge her with her crime, she would have met him
and defied him.

"Tell Mr. Chetwynd I will come down directly," she said in a firm
voice. "Who are the persons with him? Do you know them?"

"They are two young men whom I saw at Lady Thicknesse's, ma'am--Mr.
Harry Netterville and Mr. Tom Tankard. I don't know what business
they've come about, but I fancy it relates to Rose Hartley--Miss
Barfleur's lady's-maid."

Completely reassured by this remark, Mrs. Calverley told Laura to go
down at once, and desire Norris to offer the young men some refreshment;
and as soon as she found that the inquisitive lady's-maid had departed,
she unlocked the dressing-box, replaced the phial in the casket, and
then, having made all secure, went down-stairs.



VIII. HARRY NETTERVILLE AND TOM TANKARD APPEAR AT OUSELCROFT.

|Mrs. Calverley found Chetwynd in the library with the two young men,
who bowed very respectfully as she made her appearance.

"What has happened?" she said to Chetwynd. "I thought you were staying
with Sir Bridgnorth?"

"I have only just come from Charlton," he replied. "We have got a
strange business on hand, as you will admit when you learn what it is.
You have heard me speak of an infamous scoundrel named Romney. Well, it
seems that this daring libertine, who for some time has persecuted
Rose Hartley with his addresses, has resolved to carry her off from
Brackley."

"Such audacity seems scarcely credible!" exclaimed Mrs. Calverley.

"It is, nevertheless, certain he is about to make the attempt this very
night," said Netterville. "My friend Tom Tankard discovered his design
in a very singular manner, as he will tell you."

"Yes, ma'am," said Tom, with one of his best bows; "I went to get my
hair cut yesterday by a _coiffoor_ named Sigebert Smart, and while I was
undergoing the operation, Sigebert, who is rather too familiar, says to
me, 'Do you remember Rose Hartley, Mr. Tom' 'To be sure I do!' says
I. 'And a very pretty girl she is. She has gone to Brackley Hall, in
Cheshire, with Miss Barfleur and Miss Calverley.' 'But she won't remain
there long,' remarked Sigebert. 'Why not?' says I. 'Don't she like the
place?' 'Can't tell about that,' observed Sigebert. 'But there's a
gentleman going to look after her.' 'Indeed!' says I, pricking up my
ears--for I thought of my friend, Harry Netterville. 'It won't be any
use if he does.' 'You're very much mistaken there, Mr. Tom,' says he,
with a knowing look. 'I'm going with him!' 'You!' says I, in
astonishment. 'Yes; and if we can't manage it, the deuce is in it!'
'Manage what?' says I. 'You don't mean to carry her off?' 'That will
depend,' said he. 'There may be an _enlevement._ But I dare say she'll
come willingly enough."

"On hearing this, I said no more to alarm him, for I knew who he meant,
and wished to catch the rascal. But I presently inquired, 'When do you
set out on this expedition?' 'To-morrow,' he replied. 'We shall get down
to Brackley Hall in the dusk of the evening. But don't go and talk about
it--especially to Harry Netterville--or you'll spoil all.'

"I promised to keep silence, but had no sooner left the rascally
hairdresser's shop than I took a cab, and drove to Gray's Inn to see
Harry, and tell him what I had found out. At first, he didn't believe
it."

"I couldn't," said Netterville. "The attempt seemed too wild; but Tom
convinced me it would be made. We then arranged our plans, and having
ascertained from Lady Thicknesse's butler, Higgins, that Mr. Chetwynd
Calverley had gone to spend a few days with Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, we
set off for Stafford early this morning, and saw Mr. Calverley, hoping
he might feel disposed to accompany us, and he did not hesitate a
moment."

"No," cried Chetwynd; "and I confess the intelligence you brought gave
me the utmost satisfaction, for I felt that at last Romney had delivered
himself into my hands. I judged it best to come on here, instead of
proceeding direct to Brackley," he added to Mrs. Calverley, "as I feared
to alarm the rascals. But I shall send over a note to warn Rose, and
give her some instructions. Romney must not escape me!"

"I should be very sorry for that," said Mrs.

Calverley. "But it is rather unlucky that Mildred should have been taken
ill this morning, and Rose is obliged to be in attendance upon her."

"She is not seriously ill, I trust?" inquired Chetwynd, anxiously.

"No; and Emmeline can stay with her, while Rose leaves her for a time,"
said Mrs. Calverley.

"Nothing more will be needful," said Chetwynd.

Then turning to Netterville, and pointing to the writing materials on
the table, he added, "Sit down and prepare a note to Rose, and I will
send it off a once by a groom to Brackley, together with another letter
from myself."

So saying, he quitted the library with Mrs. Calverley, but presently
returned for Netterville's letter which he gave to the groom, enjoining
him to set off at once.

Meanwhile, Norris came to the library, and invited the two young men to
come to the butler's pantry where a substantial repast was set out for
then together with a bottle of claret.

"I say, Harry," remarked Tom, as he discussed the pigeon-pie, and
quaffed the claret, "I shouldn' mind an expedition like this every day,
if I could insure such prog. And what a beautiful creature that Mrs.
Calverley is! I declare I'm quite in love with her myself. How do you
feel?"

"Very comfortable," replied Harry. "I can think of nothing but Rose."

"Oh, Rose! lub'ly Rose!" chanted Tom. "Take another glass of claret.
That'll cure you!"



IX. THE ATTEMPTED ABDUCTION.

|On that same evening, about nine o'clock, two individuals, who had
recently alighted from a hired carriage at no great distance from
Brackley Hall, and had contrived to cross both bridges, traverse the
courtyard, and get into the garden--these two persons, we say, were
standing near a yew-tree alley, looking towards the ancient mansion,
which could be distinguished through the gloom, with its picturesque
outline of gables and windows.

There were lights in some of the windows, but the general appearance of
the house was exceedingly sombre.

Fortunately for the two individuals we have mentioned, there were no
dogs in the court-yard. These protectors were all with the keeper, Ned
Rushton. Not even a watch-dog was kept at the Hall, so that no alarm was
given.

"Well, I think you may succeed in your design," said one of the pair,
"if you can only contrive to get the girl out of the house. There's the
difficulty. The carriage is not more than a quarter of a mile off."

"We must have it much closer at hand presently," replied the other. "I
wonder we haven't seen Lomax. He ought to be here by this time. I hope
he has not played us false. Let us go towards the house."

On this, they quitted the garden, crossed the moat, and re-entered the
court--proceeding with the utmost caution. But there did not seem any
one about.

However, they soon discovered that some slight preparations had been
made for them.

Reared against the side of the house was a ladder which could easily be
shifted to any other spot that was required; and not far from the ladder
was an open bay-window without curtains, in the deep recess of which
window a candle was set, that illuminated the chamber, and showed Rose
was its sole occupant.

This arrangement of things appeared so promising, that it almost looked
like a snare.

But Romney did not hesitate. Without giving himself a moment for
reflection, he carried the ladder to the open window, mounted as quickly
as he could, and sprang into the room, followed by Sigebert.

On seeing them, Rose flew towards the door, but was instantly followed
by Romney, who fastened a scarf over her mouth, so as to stifle her
cries.

All this was executed with wonderful success, but it is quite possible
Rose might have made more noise if she had thought proper. She did not
even struggle much when they proceeded to take her through the window.

"She goes very quietly," thought Sigebert. "I believe we shall have no
trouble whatever with her. In my opinion, she's not at all disinclined
to be carried off."

Having got first down the ladder, Sigebert received the precious burden
from his principal; but, as soon as Romney landed, he once more took
charge of the fair damsel, and endeavoured to get her out of the court.

Hitherto, she had been quiet enough; but she now made a grand
disturbance.

She quickly succeeded in tearing the scarf from her face, and then
the court rang with her cries; in answer to which came forth Harry
Netterville and Tom Tankard, who had been hidden in the old chapel. Each
being armed with a stout stick, they soundly belaboured both rascals.

After a while, both caitiffs were released, but only for a worse
punishment. As they were running off, in the hope of gaining their
carriage, they were stopped by Chetwynd, and taken in charge by a couple
of police officers, by whom they were conveyed in their own carriage to
Knutsford, where they were locked up in the gaol.



X. HOW MILDRED RECOVERED.

|On going over to Brackley next morning, Mrs. Calver-ley found Mildred
much better, and decidedly out of danger.

She had not expected such a favourable change, and could not very well
account for it; but, for many reasons, she was glad the poison had not
taken full effect.

Of course Mildred was still very weak, though rapidly recovering; but,
as her symptoms differed in no respect from those of an ordinary illness
now, it seemed quite unnecessary to consult Doctor Spencer. Thus the
evil woman escaped that danger.

But, though she had been saved the perpetration of this dreadful crime,
and its consequences, she felt no regret. No pity touched her heart.
Even as she looked at Mildred on that morning, while suffering from the
poison she had administered, she resolved to complete her work--but more
deliberately, so that there should be no possibility of detection. While
thus planning Mildred's destruction, she feigned the greatest affection
for her, and seemed beyond measure rejoiced at her recovery. Perhaps,
she rather overacted her part; for both Mildred and Emmeline doubted her
sincerity.

However, since this favourable change had taken place, she now proposed
that both girls should come over to Ouselcroft next day, and bring Rose
Hartley with them. Mildred felt sure she should be quite well by that
time, so the proposition was agreed to.

At this particular juncture, Mrs. Calverley's great desire was to render
herself agreeable to everybody. She, therefore, pretended to take a
great interest in Rose Hartley, and made her give her full particulars
of the intended _enlèvement._ From Rose she learnt that all had been
prepared for the intruders, and that Romney and his companion had
completely fallen into the trap.

"Miss Barfleur was good enough to lend me her room for the
occasion," said Rose, "as it was very conveniently situated for our plan,
and we hoped they would venture into the house. And so they did. Taking
the ladder, which had been placed close at hand, ready for them, they
mounted to the window, got into the room, seized me, tied a scarf over
my mouth, and carried me off. But I was soon free; while my assailants,
after receiving a sound thrashing from Harry Netterville and Tom
Tankard, were taken in their own chaise to Knutsford Gaol, where
they are likely to remain some time; so that, at last, I am rid of my
persecutor!"

"I am glad of it," cried Mrs. Calverley. "The business was capitally
managed. But where are Harry Netterville and his friend?"

"They are still here, ma'am," replied Rose. "And perhaps they may remain
for a day or so."

"Ask them to come over to Ouselcroft to-morrow," said Mrs. Calverley.
"I will direct Mr. Norris to take care of them. We shall have some
festivities going on."

"I'm sure it is very kind of you, ma'am," said Rose. "They will be
delighted with the invitation. The young ladies, I believe, are going to
you to-morrow?"

"Yes; and you will come with them," said Mrs. Calverley. "Therefore I
make this proposition in regard to your friends, thinking it may be
agreeable to you."

"It is most agreeable to me, ma'am," said Rose. "And I am exceedingly
obliged to you. A few days at two such charming country-houses as
Brackley and Ouselcroft will be a great treat to Harry and his friend."

"Well, I hope they may enjoy themselves," said Teresa. "And now take care
to get Miss Calverley quite well by to-morrow. We mustn't have any more
illness."

"Oh, she'll get well to-day, ma'am, I'm sure," said Rose, with a
significant look. "Captain Danvers is expected!"

The tact and good-nature displayed by Mrs. Calverley quite charmed Rose,
who had not previously a very great liking for her.

The two young men were enchanted by the invitation to Ouselcroft.
Tom Tankard had fallen desperately in love with Mrs. Calverley. His
egregious vanity made him imagine she was struck by his appearance, and
he fancied it was on his account that he and Netterville were invited to
Ouselcroft.



XI. MORE LETTERS.

|Next morning, several letters arrived at Ouselcroft, and were brought
by Laura to Mrs. Calverley's dressing-room.

The first opened by the lady was one from Lord Courland, as full of
ardour and passion as his last letter, but considerably shorter.

Its chief object was to mention that he and Scrope Danvers would make
their appearance in plenty of time for dinner. But he added, as a
postscript, that he was dying with curiosity to behold Ouselcroft.

"The place is not yet mine," thought Teresa. "But rest easy. You shall
not be disappointed. My project is only deferred."

The next letter opened was from Lady Thicknesse. This was quite
unexpected. Her ladyship had talked of coming to Ouselcroft, but at a
later date. She now volunteered a visit. But we must give her own words:

"You have pressed me so strongly to come to you, dear Mrs. Calverley,
that I cannot resist. I propose to come to you to-morrow about mid-day.
I have got a surprise for you. You will wonder what it is; but as you
will never guess, I must tell you I am bringing with me my _chef_,
Zephyrus, and I place him at your disposal."

"Charming!" exclaimed Teresa. "This will be a great delight to
Lord Courland. I know how highly he appreciates Monsieur Zephyrus's
performances. Nothing could please me better. But he is not the only
one, it seems. I shall have an entirely new household."

"I shall also venture to bring with me my butler, Higgins. He is a very
clever man, and I think you will find him useful; but if he is at all in
the way, he can go on to Brackley."

"Oh, I am so glad Higgins is coming!" cried Mrs. Calverley. "He will be
of the greatest use, and will enable me to get rid of that suspicious
old Norris, whose eye seems ever upon me. But stop! I must not offend
old Norris, or I shall arouse another enemy. He must be kept in the
background as much as possible. So far, my letters have been very
satisfactory. Here is another, and I think it is from Sir Bridgnorth
Charlton. Let us see what he says."

"Since Chetwynd does not seem disposed to return, I must come to
Ouselcroft. Have you room for me for two or three days?"

"Plenty of room, and shall be delighted to see him!" remarked Mrs.
Calverley. "Here's a note from Captain Danvers," she added, with
indifference. "They all seem resolved to come here. Well, I dare say I
shall be able to accommodate him."

But, besides these, there was one person on whom nobody counted.

This was Mr. Tankard. He had written a letter to Chetwynd, saying he
was coming with his friend, Mr. Higgins, and hoping it might not be
considered a liberty.

Chetwynd went at once to Norris; and the old butler, glad to find that
Higgins was coming to see him, undertook that beds should be prepared
for that important personage and Tankard--to say nothing of Harry
Netterville, Tom Tankard, and Zephyrus.

With such a party below stairs, it seemed more than probable that some
of the gaieties of Belgrave-square might be repeated at Ouselcroft.

Having ascertained the train by which Lady Thick-nesse must of necessity
arrive, Mrs. Calverley met her at the station in her pony-carriage.

The whole of the luggage, which was rather cumbrous, together with
Zephyrus, Higgins, and Tankard, came by a special omnibus.

Lady Thicknesse was one of the very few persons whom Mrs. Calverley
really liked, and she showed she was glad to see her. The day happened
to be fine, so they had an extremely pleasant drive of five or six miles
to Ouselcroft.

Lady Thicknesse was in high good humour, and disposed to be pleased with
everything. The approach to the house charmed her. Properly speaking,
there was no park, but there was a good deal of land that had a very
park-like character, being tolerably well timbered, while all the hedges
were taken down.

As the carriage was stopped for a moment at a good point of view. Lady
Thicknesse exclaimed:

"You are most fortunate, dear Mrs. Calverley. This is just the house to
live in! I am sure Lord Courland will be of my opinion."

But her ladyship was quite as much pleased with the house on a nearer
inspection, as she had been on a more distant survey. The gardens and
grounds were perfection; and, as she looked out on the smooth lawn from
her chamber window, she thought she had never seen a lovelier place.

Mrs. Calverley had an interview with Zephyrus soon after his arrival,
and expressed her great satisfaction at having the advantage of his
services.

Flattered by her compliments, the distinguished _chef_ promised her an
excellent dinner, but, to achieve his object, he declared he must have
absolute control of the kitchen. This was readily accorded him, and
everything else he required; so he proceeded to make his arrangements,
and struck terror into the breast of the cook and her assistants by his
arbitrary manner.

Pursuing her policy of conciliation, Mrs. Calverley was very kind and
courteous in her manner to Mr. Higgins and Mr. Tankard, begged them
to make themselves at home, and desired Norris to show them every
attention.

Harry Netterville and Tom Tankard likewise came in for a share of her
civilities. They had just been to Knutsford to attend the examination
of Romney and his companion who were sentenced by a full bench of
magistrates to six months' imprisonment. Mrs. Calverley expressed
her great satisfaction at the result, and took the opportunity of
complimenting the young men on their prowess. Her observations were very
simple; but Tom was greatly elated by them.

"There! did you see how sweetly she smiled on me?" he said to
Netterville: "I told you I was high in favour."

Tom was not particularly gratified by his father's unlooked-for
appearance on the scene, thinking, perhaps, his own importance might be
diminished.

"What the deuce has brought the guv'nor down here?" he remarked to
Netterville. "We could have done very well without him."

"He's come to look after you, I've no doubt, Tom," observed Netterville,
laughing.

"No; it's Higgins!" cried Tom. "He can't live without Higgins. Where
Higgins goes, Tankard must go too. I believe if Higgins set off for
Jerusalem by next train, if there is a railway to Jerusalem, Tankard
would set off after him. But I must shut up! Here come the guv'nor and
Higgins. I hope they didn't overhear my remarks."

But it seemed they did, for they both shook their hands at him.



XII. LORD COURLAND ARRIVES AT OUSELCROFT.

|When Lord Courland and Scrope Danvers arrived later in the day, a very
pretty picture was presented to them.

On the lawn, which was charmingly kept, the whole party now staying
in the house were assembled, and, judging from the lively sounds that
reached the ear, they were all amusing themselves very well.

The two girls were playing lawn tennis with Chetwynd and Captain
Danvers; and Sir Bridgnorth, who had arrived about an hour previously,
was conversing with Lady Thicknesse and Mrs. Calverley. It was rather
unfortunate that all the ladies should be in mourning, but in spite of
the sombre costumes the scene looked gay and pleasant.

Mrs. Calverley had sent her carriage to the station for Lord Courland
and Scrope, and no sooner had his lordship alighted than, without
waiting for any formal announcement by Norris, he flew to that part of
the lawn where Teresa was seated.

She did not wait till he came up, but hastened towards him, and a very
lover-like meeting took place. So much ardour as Teresa now displayed
seemed scarcely consistent with her character, but either she was
passionately in love with Lord Courland, or she feigned to be so.

After exchanging a few words, and we suppose we must add a few kisses,
they walked off to another part of the garden, having, apparently, a
great deal to say to each other that would not brook an instant's delay.

Lady Thicknesse and Sir Bridgnorth looked after them with a smile.

"Well, and how do you like Ouselcroft?" inquired Teresa.

"I have hardly had time to look around me," he replied, gazing on her.
"At present, I can behold only one object."

"But I really want to have your opinion. Does the place equal your
expectations?"

"It surpasses them."

"You have seen nothing yet. You ran away from the lawn, which is the
prettiest part."

"We will go back there presently, when we have had a few minutes to
ourselves. Too many curious eyes were upon us. When one is desperately
in love, as I am, one wants solitude. But you will soon be mine."

"Not quite so soon as we anticipated. Some little delay, I find, will be
unavoidable."

"I hope not," said Lord Courland, with a look of disappointment. "I
would rather the marriage were expedited than delayed."

"I am afraid that will be quite impossible," said Teresa. "I shall have
to make some preparatory arrangements."

"I thought the property was entirely in your own hands?" he said.

"So it is," she replied. "And there is really nothing to prevent the
marriage from taking place immediately."

"Then yield to my impatience, I beseech you!"

"I have consulted my lawyer, and he advises a little delay."

"Lawyers always are tedious. They have no consideration for one's
feelings. Even when nothing has to be done but draw up a settlement,
they will make a long job of it. I fancied all might have been arranged
in a few days, signed, sealed, and delivered."

"Perhaps it may," said Teresa. "But we are getting quite serious in our
discourse. All matters of business must be deferred till to-morrow, when
I doubt not they can be satisfactorily arranged."

"I think if I could say a word to your lawyer, I could make him use more
despatch," said Lord Courland.

"I scarcely think so," replied Teresa, uneasily. "I have given him all
needful instructions. But there is the first bell. We must go and dress
for dinner."

By the time they reached the lawn, the whole party had gone into the
house, so they had it to themselves, and remained there for a few
minutes.

Lord Courland was positively enchanted with the place, and could
scarcely find terms sufficiently strong to express his admiration.

"Then you _do_ like the house?" cried Teresa.

"It is everything I could desire," he replied.

"I hope to make it yours ere long," she said. "But you must not be too
impatient."

"I am eager to possess you, sweetheart--not the house," he rejoined.

"Ah! if I thought so!" sighed Teresa. "But I know better."

They then passed through one of the drawing-room windows, and were met
by Norris, who conducted Lord Courland to his room.



XIII. A DANCE ON THE LAWN.

|Never before bad a dinner so perfect been served at Ouselcroft. But, in
the opinion of the distinguished _chef_, sufficient justice was not done
to it. He was very particular in his inquiries of Norris and Higgins,
both of whom were in attendance, and discovered that some of his
best dishes had been neglected by the guest for whom he had specially
prepared them.

This was very vexatious, but Zephyrus endeavoured to console himself
by reflecting that Lord Courland was in love, and about to be married,
either of which misfortunes, as he termed them, was sufficient to
account for his lordship's want of appetite.

However, the repast was not wasted, but appeared again in the servants'
hall, where quite as large a party sat down to it as had done in the
dining-room; and it would seem they were far better judges, since
the very _recherché_ dishes that were previously neglected were now
completely devoured.

As it happened to be a lovely moonlight night, and very warm, Mrs.
Calverley took out the whole of the guests upon the lawn, and they had
not been there long when Captain Danvers suggested a dance.

With the drawing-room windows left wide open, it was found that the
piano sounded quite loud enough; Lady Thicknesse, who was a very good
musician, immediately sat down and played a waltz.

Lord Courland and Teresa, with two other couples, were soon footing it
lightly on the smooth turf, and a very agreeable impromptu little dance
was got up.

But this was not all. At the instance of Lord Courland, a servants'
dance was got up at the farther end of the lawn, near the two cedars of
Lebanon already described.

Notice of the proposed dance was given by Norris, at the very moment
when the party in the servants' hall had finished supper.

Nothing could have been more agreeable to Tom Tankard and Zephyrus than
the suggestion. They had heard that dancing was going on in the garden,
and if they could not join it, they at least desired to look on; but
this proposition completely satisfied them.

The main difficulty seemed in regard to the music; but on inquiry it was
found that the footman could play the flute, the coachman the violin,
and the groom the banjo, and, provided with those instruments, they
proceeded to the lawn. When the band struck up, it was found very
efficient, and elicited great applause.

It was decided to commence with a quadrille, and finish with Sir Roger
de Coverley.

As may be supposed, Harry Netterville had already secured a partner in
Rose, but a contest occurred between Tom Tankard and Zephyrus for the
hand of Laura; and the Frenchman proving successful, Tom was obliged to
content himself with Clarissa, the rather smart upper housemaid.

Both the portly Mr. Higgins and the still more portly Mr. Tankard took
part in the quadrille--the one dancing with the cook, and the other with
the second housemaid, Lucy, who was quite as pretty as Clarissa.

Owing to the bright moonlight, the quadrille could be distinctly seen
by the party near the house, and afforded them great amusement. Indeed,
when Zephyrus danced his _cavalier seul_, Lord Courland and Teresa came
forward to witness the performance. Tom Tankard was likewise stimulated
into an extraordinary display by the presence of Mrs. Calverley and the
other ladies.

But Sir Roger de Coverley was the real success of the evening. In this
cheerful dance, form was set aside. Mrs. Calverley led off with Lord
Courland, and danced down the long lines, making Tom Tankard supremely
happy by giving him her hand for a moment. She was followed by
Emmeline and Chetwynd, after whom came Mildred and Captain Danvers. Sir
Bridgnorth induced Lady Thicknesse to walk through a part of the dance
with him, but her ladyship retired long before she got to the bottom.
The dance seemed interminable, and was not brought to a close till long
after the great folks had withdrawn.

Old Norris declared this was the merriest evening he had ever spent at
Ouselcroft since Mr. Chetwynd was christened, and he thought the good
times were coming again.

Before retiring to her own room, Teresa accompanied Lady Thicknesse to
her chamber, and sat with her for five minutes, during which they talked
over the events of the evening--her ladyship being of opinion that
everything had gone off remarkably well; and that, so far as she could
perceive, Lord Courland's affability and good nature had produced a very
good effect upon the establishment.

"I think his idea of a servants' dance on the lawn was excellent," she
said, "and I am very glad you allowed it. Higgins told me they were all
greatly pleased."

"It was particularly kind in your ladyship to take part in it," observed
Mrs. Calverley.

"Well, I haven't danced for many a year, but Sir Bridgnorth seemed so
anxious, I could not refuse him."

"I was delighted to see that he had prevailed," remarked Mrs. Calverley,
with a smile. "I think your ladyship will very soon have to consider
whether you are inclined to give him your hand altogether. He is
certainly very devoted."

"I have a very great regard for Sir Bridgnorth," said Lady Thicknesse,
"and think him very kind-hearted----"

"And as it seems to me, exactly suited----"

"In some respects, perhaps he is," said Lady Thicknesse. "At all events,
I don't dislike him."

"And Charlton is really a very fine place," remarked Teresa:

"So I'm told," said Lady Thicknesse. "By-the-bye, I didn't expect to find
Sir Bridgnorth here."

"I owe the pleasure of his company entirely to your ladyship," said Mrs.
Calverley. "Had he not expected to meet you, I am certain he would not
have come."

"You flatter me!" said her ladyship, evidently pleased.

"When I beheld you together on the lawn this evening," pursued Mrs.
Calverley, "and especially when I saw you together in the dance, I was
rejoiced that the meeting had taken place, as I knew how it must end.
And now, good night, and pleasant dreams!"

Teresa entered her own room in a very lively mood, and continued so as
long as Laura stayed with her, and diverted her with her chat.

The lady's-maid had nothing but what was satisfactory to say of
Lord Courland. He had produced a most agreeable impression upon the
household, and his good-natured deportment in the dance had carried all
the suffrages in his favour.

"Even old Norris is pleased with him," said Laura; "and if to-morrow
goes off as well as to-day, everybody will be enthusiastic. Do you think
we shall have another dance, ma'am? Monsieur Zephyrus is so anxious to
try the polka with me! I said I'd ask you."

"We shall see," replied Mrs. Calverley. "I can't make any promises.
I hope you're not falling in love with Zephyrus, Laura? I thought he
seemed very attentive to you!"

"There was nothing particular about him, I assure you, ma'am," replied
Laura. "It's his way!"

"But you seemed to encourage him."

"Well, there's no choice between him and Tom Tankard, and I can't bear
that forward young man. Would you believe it, ma'am, the vain little
fool flatters himself you are struck by his appearance?"

"I think him a most ridiculous object," said Mrs. Calverley. "But
now, before you go, I have an order to give you, and I wish particular
attention paid to it. Should Mr. Carteret come to-morrow morning, I wish
him to be shown at once to my cabinet."

"It shall be done, ma'am, depend upon it!" replied Laura, who thereupon
withdrew.



XIV. HOW MRS. CALVERLEY PASSED THE NIGHT.

|Until lately, it had not been Teresa's custom to fasten her
chamber door. But as soon as Laura was gone, she locked it, and the
dressing-room door as well.

She then sought for the phial of poison, and placed it on a small table
near her bed. Why she did this, she could scarcely tell. Probably she
felt that if an impulse of self-destruction assailed her during the
night, she would yield to it, and get rid of the ceaseless mental
torture she endured.

Though all had gone well since Lord Courland's arrival, she had been
greatly alarmed by some remarks he had made, and had vainly endeavoured
to tranquillise herself by thinking that the difficulties and dangers
that beset her could be easily overcome.

Now she was left alone, she saw the folly of such reasoning. She felt
that her marriage project could only be accomplished by the commission
of another crime. Lord Courland had given her several hints that
convinced her he would claim the fulfilment of her promise, and how
could she fulfil it, if Mildred were not removed?

But the contemplation of this crime awakened such horror in her breast,
that sleep fled, and her thoughts drove her almost distracted.

Unable to rest, she arose, wrapped herself in a dressing-gown, and sat
down, trying to calm her thoughts. But in vain.

A lamp burning on the table on which the phial was placed, kept that
terrible object constantly before her, and seemed to prompt her to have
recourse to it.

Being long past midnight, it was to be supposed that all the inmates of
the mansion, except herself, were buried in slumber, but the restless
woman felt sure she heard footsteps in the gallery outside.

Who could be there at that hour? She was not left long in doubt. A
tap was heard at the door, and to her inquiry who was there, a voice
answered, "Rose."

Everything alarmed her now, and even this visit terrified her.

But after a moment's delay, she opened the door, and saw Rose in a _robe
de chambre_ belonging to one of the young ladies, and holding a taper in
her hand.

"Pardon me for disturbing you, madam," she said. "But Miss Calverley has
been taken suddenly ill, and is very faint, and Miss Barfleur has sent
me to you for some _sal-volatile_, or some other stimulant, to revive
her."

On hearing this, an infernal idea crossed Teresa.

"Give her three or four drops of _eau de luce_ from this phial," said
Teresa, giving her the poison. "I have just taken that quantity myself,
for I have not felt well to-night. Not more than four drops, mind. Be
very particular. And when you have given her the dose, bring back the
phial to me."

"Won't you give it to her yourself, ma'am?" said Rose.

"No; I would rather not leave my room," replied Teresa. "Lose no time."

"The spirit of darkness has aided me," cried Teresa, as Rose departed on
her terrible errand. "The deed will now be done."

Though not many minutes elapsed before Rose returned, it seemed a
century to Teresa. She could scarcely restrain herself from going to the
room occupied by the victim.

At length, Rose reappeared, bringing the phial with her. Teresa received
it with trembling fingers.

"Has she taken the drops?" inquired Teresa, in a scarcely articulate
voice.

"She has," replied Rose. "She was very unwilling to take them, but Miss
Barfleur and myself persuaded her."

"You did right," observed Teresa. "She will be well before morning."

"I hope so," said Rose. "But you look very ill yourself, ma'am."

"I _am_ ill," replied Teresa. "But don't mind me. Go back to Miss
Calverley. I hope I shall now get some sleep."

As soon as Rose was gone, Teresa again locked the door.

Amid the turmoil of thoughts that agitated her, she preserved a sort of
calm that enabled her to go through the business she had to do.

Without a moment's loss of time she unfastened the dressing-box,
replaced the bottle of poison, took out another phial resembling it, and
really containing _eau de luce_, and then made all secure again.

This done, she drank a very small portion from the phial, and placed it
where the poison had stood. Before seeking her couch she unlocked both
her doors, judging it best to manifest no uneasiness.

Did she sleep?

How are we to account for it? She had scarcely laid her head on the
pillow, than she fell into a deep, sound slumber, that was not disturbed
by a dream, and that lasted till daybreak.



XV. HOW DOCTOR SPENCER WAS SENT FOR.

|Little did the many guests staying at Ouselcroft imagine what had
occurred during the night. They slept on, undisturbed by any idea that a
direful deed was being enacted in an adjoining chamber.

Rose's nocturnal visit to Mrs. Calverley was heard by no one; and, since
then, all had been tranquil. Was Mildred better? Was she sleeping? At
all events, those with her were quiet.

Thus, when the large establishment arose, at an early hour, for they had
an unusually busy day before them, no alarm whatever had been given.

No report was brought down-stairs that Miss Calverley had been taken ill
during the night; but the housemaids were bustling about, and getting
the rooms ready for the guests, who might be expected to make their
appearance some two or three hours later.

Rose had promised Harry Netterville overnight that she would meet him in
the garden at six o'clock, and they would have a stroll together; but,
though the morning was charming, the young damsel did not make her
appearance, greatly to Harry's disappointment.

Monsieur Zephyrus was more fortunate. Laura had engaged to meet him at
the same early hour, and she was true to her appointment.

She must have been up soon after it was light, for she had evidently
spent some time over her toilette. Zephyrus was enraptured by her
costume and looks, and paid her many high-flown compliments in French,
the import of which she understood. Undoubtedly she looked very
captivating.

The amorous pair did not remain long on the lawn, though they met there,
but sought a retired walk. They had not, however, proceeded far, when
they saw another couple advancing towards them, whom they instantly
recognised as Tom Tankard and Clarissa.

Salutations were exchanged in the most approved style, praises bestowed
on the beauty of the morning, and on the delightful singing of the
birds; and they were about to separate, when Laura thought proper to
give Tom a friendly caution.

"If you don't want to meet your father," she said, "I advise you to keep
clear of the lawn. He's there with Mr. Higgins and our old butler, Mr.
Norris."

"Since that's the case, we'll turn back, if you please, Miss Clarissa.
My guv'nor's an odd sort of man, and he don't like my paying attention
to young ladies."

Clarissa, who was very good-natured, did not mind which way she went, so
Laura suggested they should walk together to the fish-ponds, which were
about half a mile distant, and they set off in that direction.

Amongst those who were early astir on that fine morning, and who had
come forth into the garden, was Chetwynd.

Of course, he know nothing that had happened during the night; but
a strange foreboding of ill oppressed him. He found old Tankard and
Higgins on the lawn; and, after a brief converse with them, he was
proceeding to the stables, when Norris came up and begged to have a word
with him, and they went into the library together.

"I am going to ask you a singular question, sir," said the old butler;
"and I will explain my motive for doing so presently. Do you think this
marriage with Mrs. Calverley and Lord Courland will really take place?"

"I believe it will, Norris," replied Chetwynd. "I see nothing to prevent
it. I don't know whether all the preliminary arrangements are settled;
but his lordship appears perfectly satisfied. And so he ought to be, if
what I hear is true."

"It will be more advantageous to you than to him," said Norris.

"I don't understand you," rejoined Chetwynd, regarding him fixedly.

"When I say advantageous to you, sir, I mean to your sister," observed
the butler. "But it cannot fail to be beneficial to you. You ought to
pray that the marriage may take place, instead of opposing it."

"What the deuce are you driving at, Norris?"

"It appears to me, sir, that you have never read your father's will."

"You are right; I have not. But I know that the property is left
entirely to his wife."

"Very true, sir--very true. But there is a most important proviso, of
which you are evidently ignorant. In the event of the widow marrying
again, she forfeits the property, which then goes to the testator's
daughter, Mildred."

"Are you sure of this, Norris?" cried Chetwynd, astounded.

"Quite sure, sir," replied the old butler. "I have read the will myself,
most carefully. As I have already said, the best thing that can happen
to you is that your step-mother should marry again. But will she make
this sacrifice? I fear not."

"Can she be aware of the proviso you have mentioned, Norris?"

"Impossible to say," rejoined the old butler. "I should think so. She
has the will in her possession. I. do not see how it can fail to act as
a bar to a second marriage, unless she comes to some arrangement with
Miss Mildred."

"That she will never do," said Chetwynd. "My sister, I am certain, will
never surrender her rights to her."

"Has the matter been broached to Miss Mildred?" inquired Norris.

"Impossible, or I should have heard of it."

"Then nothing is left Mrs. Calverley but to break off the match, and
that is the point from which I started," said Norris.

"It is incomprehensible she should have allowed the affair to proceed
so far," said Chetwynd. "I am altogether perplexed. But I will have an
early interview with my sister this morning, and hear what she has to
say. Something must be done forthwith. She cannot give a tacit assent to
the arrangement."

At this moment Rose Hartley appeared at the open window, and Chetwynd
called her in.

"I was looking for you, sir," said Rose, who appeared very anxious. "I
came to tell you Miss Calverley is very ill."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Chetwynd, surprised and alarmed.

"She was taken ill in the night with a renewal of the attack she
experienced the other day at Brackley, but recovered for a time, and
obtained some hours' sleep; but she is worse again this morning."

"What ails her?" asked Chetwynd.

"I can scarcely describe her illness; but she suffers a great deal of
pain. I think she ought to have immediate advice."

"She shall," replied Chetwynd. "I should wish to see her myself."

"Not now, sir; later on."

"Has Mrs. Calverley seen her?" he asked eagerly.

"No, sir; but she sent her some _eau de luce_ by me."

"Some _eau de luce?_"

"Yes, sir. I knocked at her chamber door in the middle of the night,
and she gave me a small bottle that was standing by her bedside. Miss
Calverley only took a few drops of it."

"Quite enough, I should think," muttered Norris.

"Well, don't give her any more at present," said Chetwynd.

"I haven't got any more to give her," replied Rose. "I took back the
phial."

"Mark that, sir," observed Norris.

"Why mark it?" inquired Rose.

"Never mind him," said Chetwynd. "Go back to my sister at once, and
remain with her till Doctor Spencer arrives. Don't give her anything
more, and don't let Mrs. Calverley come near her if you can help it."

"Mind that!" said Norris, emphatically.

Rose looked at him, but made no remark.

"Tell her I have something to say to her, and must see her this morning;
but don't make her uneasy," said Chetwynd. "I suppose Miss Barfleur is
with her?"

"Yes, you may be sure she won't leave her, sir," replied Rose. "Your
message shall be delivered to your sister, and your instructions
attended to."

As soon as Rose was gone, Norris could no longer contain himself.

"Here we have it as plain as possible, sir," he cried. "The sole bar
to the marriage is to be removed. Don't you see it, sir? I do, plainly
enough. How else should she fall suddenly ill just at this time?"

"Whatever you may think, Norris; and however difficult you may find it
to do so, I insist upon it that you hold your tongue," said Chetwynd,
authoritatively. "If you disobey me, you'll ever afterwards lose my
favour. Now go and send for Doctor Spencer at once, and leave the rest
to me."

"Don't fear me, sir," said Norris. "I'll keep silence as long as you
enjoin me."

And he proceeded to the stables, and sent off a mounted groom for Doctor
Spencer.



XVI. CHETWYND MAKES COMMUNICATION TO SIR BRIDGNORTH.

|Chetwynd was pacing to and fro on the lawn, occupied with painful and
distracting thoughts, and scarcely knowing what course to pursue,
when he was joined by Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, who saw he was greatly
disturbed, and kindly inquired what was the matter.

Chetwynd found it somewhat difficult to explain, as he did not desire
for the present to enter into details; but he mentioned that his sister
had been taken ill during the night, and was still rather seriously
indisposed. This was quite sufficient to account for his anxious looks.

However, Chetwynd desired to consult his friend; and, therefore, said to
him:

"I have a communication to make to you, dear Sir Bridgnorth, which I am
convinced will give you great surprise, and very likely induce you to
take a totally different view of certain matters now before you. My
sister and myself have hitherto been completely in the dark in regard to
a very important provision of my father's will."

"Indeed!" exclaimed the baronet. "I should not have conceived that
possible. What is it, pray?"

"From examination of the will, it appears that if Mrs. Calverley marries
again, the whole of the property bequeathed her by my father goes to
Mildred."

"Now, indeed, you surprise me!" exclaimed the baronet. "And is it
possible this very important proviso has only just been discovered? Such
negligence is inconceivable!"

"The proviso cannot, I think, have been known to Mrs. Calverley, or
she would not have proceeded so far with her present matrimonial
arrangements. But, whether known to her or not, it is the fact. Now
comes the important question--does she mean to marry Lord Courland?"

"I have no doubt of it," replied Sir Bridgnorth. "Unless prevented, she
will marry him."

"Most assuredly, then, she will forfeit her property. Besides, she can
make no settlement upon him."

"Yes; she has property of her own. She can settle that."

"True; but will that be sufficient?"

"I cannot say," replied Sir Bridgnorth. "I am not in Lord Courland's
confidence."

"As yet, I don't think his lordship has been let into the secret."

"Nor is it desirable he should be. He must look after his own affairs.
It is not your business to prevent the marriage, but to forward it.
If Mrs. Calver-ley does not choose to tell her noble suitor how she is
circumstanced, that is her own concern. She is a very clever woman,
and can take care of herself. I should not have thought her capable of
making such a sacrifice as this for any man. But she seems to be really
in love with Lord Courland; or, perhaps, she is resolved at whatever
cost to make an important match. At any rate, her scheme must not be
thwarted."

"Not unless it should turn out to be mischievous," observed Chetwynd.

"It cannot be mischievous to Mildred," said Sir Bridgnorth. "Lord
Courland, probably, will be disappointed when he finds the property pass
away from him; but that will be the worst that can happen. And if his
lordship is a loser, Charles Danvers will be an immense gainer.
How oddly things turn out! After all, Charles may become master of
Ouselcroft, in right of his wife. Ah! here he comes!" he added, as the
captain made his appearance. "I wish I could tell him what a brilliant
prospect he has before him; but I musn't."

"Well; are you laying out your plans for the day?" said Captain Danvers,
as he came up.

"No; we were talking about you," replied Sir Bridgnorth. "I was wishing
you might be able to reside here."

"Ah, that's out of the question now!" rejoined the captain. "It's a
charming place, but I fancy both Chetwynd and myself shall soon be shut
out of it. Lord Courland is certain to make a great change, and bring in
a new set. If I had been master here, my aim would have been to keep my
old friends about me. Chetwynd should always have had his room, and old
Norris should have remained in his place."

"I'm glad to hear you say so," remarked Sir Bridgnorth. "I'm certain Mr.
Calverley never meant his property to be disposed of in this fashion.
It's a great pity half didn't go to Mildred."

"Ay; it ought to have been divided between Chetwynd and his sister. That
would have been the right thing to do. Now, Mildred is not even to marry
except With her step-mother's consent."

"You need have no uneasiness on that score," remarked Chetwynd. "Mildred
will have her marriage portion, and something besides."

"You think so?" said Captain Danvers.

"I'll answer for it," rejoined Chetwynd.

"And if you require an additional guarantee, I'm ready to give it," said
Sir Bridgnorth. "But mind! should you ever come to be master here, I
shall hold you to your promise to make us all at home."

"You shan't need to remind me of it, should that fortunate day ever
arrive," said the captain.

At that moment, the person who seemed to stand most in the captain's way
came forth, and wished them "Good morning."

They all fancied he assumed a little of the air of the master of the
house.

"I must consult you on a little matter after breakfast, Sir Bridgnorth,"
he said. "I know you are a man of great taste. It strikes me some
alterations might be made in the garden."

"I hope your lordship won't touch the lawn," remarked Sir Bridgnorth. "It
is very much admired."

"The lawn itself is charming," said Lord Courland; "but I don't like
those two sombre cedars."

"They were my father's especial favourites," observed Chetwynd. "I hope
your lordship will spare them."

"I should consider it a sacrilege to remove them," said Sir Bridgnorth.

"I don't carry my veneration for trees quite so far," rejoined Lord
Courland; "and, as I have no particular associations connected with the
two cedars, I shall merely consider whether my lawn cannot be improved."

"_My_ lawn!" whispered Chetwynd to Captain Danvers. "He is master here
already."

"I will get you to walk round with me presently, Sir Bridgnorth,"
said Lord Courland, "and favour me with your opinion on the general
arrangements."

"If I may venture to give your lordship my opinion, without walking
round," replied Sir Bridgnorth, "I would strongly advise you to let
the gardens and grounds alone. It is allowed to be one of the prettiest
places in the country, and I should be sorry if it was destroyed."

"But I don't mean to destroy the place; I desire to improve it."

"Such improvements as your lordship contemplates, I fear would destroy
its character," said Sir Bridgnorth; "and that is what I should regret."

Just then the breakfast bell put an end to the discourse, and attracted
the party to the house.



XVII, DOCTOR SPENCER.

|Lady Thicknesse and Scrope Danvers were in the breakfast-room when the
others came in, and her ladyship said to them, "I am very sorry Mrs.
Calverley will not be able to make her appearance at breakfast, this
morning."

"I hope she is not unwell," remarked Lord Courland.

"She is not very well," replied her ladyship. "But she wishes to confer
with Doctor Spencer. He has been sent for to attend Miss Calverley, who
has been taken ill during the night."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Captain Danvers, anxiously. "She seemed quite well,
and in excellent spirits last evening."

"Perhaps she took cold," observed Lady Thicknesse. "I fear we remained
out rather too late. Only think of my dancing Sir Roger de Coverley in
the open air! If I had been laid up, like Mildred, you would have been
to blame," she added, to Sir Bridgnorth.

"But your ladyship is looking better than ever," he rejoined gallantly.
"You ought therefore to thank me."

"Well, I don't think I'm the worse for it, and I certainly enjoyed the
dance very much."

Breakfast was then served and Lady Thicknesse presided at the table.

She took care to have Sir Bridgnorth beside her, and they seemed the
most cheerful persons present, for the absence of the three other ladies
cast a gloom over the rest of the party.

Meanwhile Doctor Spencer was with Mrs. Calverley in her dressing-room,
she having given orders that he should be brought there immediately on
his arrival.

An elderly man, with white hair, jetty eyebrows and black eyes. The
expression of his countenance was kindly and composed, his accents
agreeable, and his manner singularly pleasing. All his patients liked
him.

Mrs. Calverley had been a great favourite with the doctor, and he had
hitherto had a very high opinion of her, founded not only upon his own
notion of her character, but on the praises bestowed upon her by her
late husband.

She thought his manner less cordial than it used to be, but she was so
troubled she could scarcely judge.

"I am very sorry Miss Calverley is ill," he said, taking a seat. "What is
the matter with her?"

"I can't exactly tell," she rejoined. "I have not yet seen her this
morning. We were all dancing on the lawn rather late last evening, and
she may have taken cold."

"Dancing on the lawn!" exclaimed Doctor Spencer shaking his head. "That
was imprudent. Mildred is delicate. She has got a chill, I suppose?"

"I can't tell. Her maid came to me in the middle of the night, and said
Miss Calverley felt very sick and ill, so I sent her a restorative. She
took a few drops of _eau de luce_, as I understood, and I thought she
was better, for I heard nothing more till the morning, when I learnt
that the sickness was not gone, so I sent for you."

During this explanation, Doctor Spencer kept his eye fixed on Mrs.
Calverley in a manner she did not like.

"This is not a feverish cold, as I thought," he observed. "But I shall
be better able to judge when I see her."

"Emmeline Barfleur and their maid occupy the same room with her, so she
has had plenty of attendance. I should have gone to her if she had been
alone."

At this moment a tap was heard at the door, and Emmeline came in.

She looked very much frightened, and said, hastily:

"Pray come and see Miss Calverley at once, Doctor Spencer! She has just
fainted!"

Doctor Spencer instantly prepared to obey.

"Take these restoratives with you," said Mrs. Calverley, giving him
several small bottles; "and come back to me when you have seen her."

"I will," replied the doctor, as he followed Emmeline.

Some little time elapsed before Doctor Spencer appeared again.

To the guilty woman, who awaited her sentence, it was an interval of
intense anxiety; but she endeavoured to maintain her calmness, fearing
to betray herself.

Thinking she ought to be employed, she sat down to write a letter, but
had not got very far with it when Doctor Spencer came into the room.

Closing the door after him, he fixed a strange and searching glance upon
her, and so terrified her by his looks that she could not speak, nor did
he break the silence.

At length, she gave utterance to these words:

"I am afraid you bring bad news, doctor. Is she seriously ill?"

"She is," he replied, sternly. "But I think I shall be able to save
her."

"What ails her?" inquired Mrs. Calverley.

"Have you no idea?"

"None whatever," she replied, looking perplexed.

"Poison has been administered to her!"

"Impossible!" she exclaimed.

"I cannot be deceived!" said Doctor Spencer. "The attempt has been
twice made. In each instance the dose was, fortunately, too small to be
fatal."

The slight nervous tremour that agitated Mrs. Calverley was not
unnoticed by the doctor.

"This is a terrible accusation to make!" she said.

"But it can be easily substantiated," he rejoined. "Indeed, it would be
difficult to conceal the evidence of the crime!"

"On whom do your suspicions alight, doctor?" asked Mrs. Calverley, as
firmly as she could. "On any one in attendance upon her?"

"One of them has been an unconscious instrument," he replied. "But the
hand that really provided the poison was elsewhere."

After a short pause, he added, in a stern tone:

"Madam, yours is the hand by which the deed has been done!"

"Mine!" she exclaimed, fiercely and defiantly.

"Nay, it is useless to deny it!" he rejoined. "I have but to search this
chamber to find proof of your guilt."

"Search it then!" she cried, in the same defiant tone.

Doctor Spencer glanced around, and his eye quickly alighted upon the
dressing-box.

"Open this box!" he cried, seizing her hand, and drawing her towards it.
"Open it, I say!" he reiterated, in a terrible voice. "There the poison
is concealed!"

So overpowered was she by his determined manner, that she did not dare
to disobey.

Without offering the slightest resistance, she unlocked the box, and
disclosed the casket.

He uttered a cry of satisfaction on beholding it.

"Now unlock this!" he said, giving her the casket.

Again she obeyed; but instantly took forth a phial containing the
poison, and would have swallowed its contents, had not Doctor Spencer
snatched it from her.

"Why do you treat me thus cruelly?" she cried. "Why not let me die?"

"Because I desire to give you a chance of life," he rejoined. "If your
intended victim escapes the fate you designed her, I will not denounce
you. If she dies, you know your doom!"

"Do you think she will live?" asked Teresa.

"Her life hangs on a thread. But a few days--perhaps a few hours--will
decide. For the present, I will keep your terrible secret, and screen
you from suspicion. But only on the condition that you remain here,
and abide the result of your dreadful crime. Attempt to fly, and I will
instantly check you. Now you know my fixed determination."

"And you will remain in constant attendance on Mildred?" she asked.

"I shall," he replied. "And rest assured I shall do my best to save
her."

With this he left the room, taking the phial with him.



XVIII. DOCTOR SPENCER HAS AN INTERVIEW WITH CHETWYND.

|While the terrible scene just described was taking place up-stairs,
Chetwynd had quitted the breakfast-table and repaired to the library,
where he proposed to have an interview with Doctor Spencer, after the
latter had seen Mildred.

He subsequently learnt from Norris that the butler had had a private
conference with the doctor on his arrival, and had given him some
information that would serve to guide him in his proceedings.

Chetwynd thought the doctor a long time in coming down, and when at last
he entered the library, the young man did not augur very well from his
looks.

"I am afraid you find my sister worse than you expected, doctor?" he
said.

"She is in a very precarious state,"' replied Doctor Spencer. "Still, I
hope to save her life."

Then assuming a different manner, he added, "I had better mention at
once that Norris has made certain disclosures to me, the truth of which
I have just ascertained."

"You are satisfied, then, that an attempt has been made to poison my
sister?"

"I am," replied the doctor.

"By her step-mother?"

"By Mrs. Calverley. I have discovered the poison in her room, and have
it now in my possession."

"Then what should prevent us from instantly delivering her up to
justice? No pity ought to be shown her."

"I think differently," said the doctor. "I have promised that if I can
save your sister's life--as I hope I can--her own shall be spared."

"She does not deserve such consideration," cried Chetwynd.

"Perhaps you will think differently," said the doctor, calmly, "when I
tell you that it is your sister's wish that she should be spared for a
life of penitence. The dear girl entreated me so earnestly to screen her
intended murderess, that I consented."

Chetwynd was deeply moved.

"Mildred is an angel of goodness!" he exclaimed, in a voice half
suffocated by emotion.

"You would say so, if you had seen her, as I have done," said the doctor.
"No one could be more gentle and patient, though she suffers much,
and she is perfectly resigned to her fate, whatever it may be. But she
desires spiritual counsel, and Miss Barfleur has written to Mr. Massey,
the chaplain of Brackley, requesting him to come to her forthwith, and
it is certain he will promptly obey the summons. Under such painful and
peculiar circumstances, and where it is necessary that secrecy should be
observed, no better man could be found than Mr. Massey."

"I am certain of it," said Chetwynd. "I have had experience of his
goodness. He is as judicious and discreet as he is strict in his
religious duties."

"I must now go," said the doctor; "but I shall return again ere long.
I need not say more to you about the necessity of attending to your
sister's wishes. Should she be disturbed or excited, I will not answer
for her life. I have already cautioned Norris, and I think he will
attend to my injunctions."

"I will also speak to him," said Chetwynd. "But you need not fear any
indiscretion on his part. Since you have made him aware of my sister's
wishes, he will attend to them--for he is strongly attached to her,
though he detests Mrs. Calverley. Unluckily, the house is full of
company; and you are also, I conclude, aware under what circumstances
Lord Courland is invited?"

"Yes; I understand that a matrimonial arrangement has been all but
concluded between his lordship and Mrs. Calverley. It is idle to
speculate as to what will now be the result. But I counsel you in no way
to interfere. Impossible you can do so without some explanation, which
cannot now be given. Your sister's wishes ought to be your paramount
consideration." With this injunction, the doctor took his departure.



XIX. WHAT PASSED BETWEEN LORD COURLAND AND MR. CARTERET.

|Lord Courland was in the drawing-room after breakfast, amusing himself
as well as he could, and hoping Mrs. Calverley would soon make her
appearance and dispel his _ennui_, when Norris brought him a message
from Mr. Carteret, who said that, if perfectly convenient to his
lordship, he should be glad to see him for a few minutes.

Lord Courland was delighted. He was aware that Mr. Carteret was Mrs.
Calverley's lawyer, and was particularly anxious to have a little
conversation with him.

"I'll come to him at once," he said. "Where is he?"

"I'll take your lordship to him," replied the butler.

And he conducted him to the cabinet, in which, as we have explained,
Mrs. Calverley was wont to transact her private business.

Mr. Carteret was alone, and bowed very respectfully as his lordship
entered.

After a little preliminary discourse, Lord Courland remarked, in a very
easy tone, as if everything was satisfactorily settled:

"I hope we shall be able to complete our arrangements, Mr. Carteret,"

"I hope so, my lord," replied the solicitor. "But I am desired by Mrs.
Calverley to offer you some explanation, as she fears there has been
a slight misunderstanding on your lordship's part. It is always better
these affairs should be arranged by professional men, who don't hesitate
to ask each other questions."

"I thought there were no questions to ask," said Lord Courland, rather
surprised. "Everything appeared clear."

"So it seemed. But I find, on conferring with Mrs. Calverley, that she
was under a misapprehension as to her power----"

"What do you mean, sir?" cried his lordship, quickly. "If I am rightly
informed, she has absolute control over her late husband's property?"

"She has so now, my lord," replied the solicitor.

"You don't mean to insinuate that she forfeits the property, in case she
marries again?" cried his lordship, in dismay.

"That is precisely her position, my lord," replied Mr. Carteret, calmly.
"The property will go to her step-daughter, Miss Mildred Calverley!"

"Why was I not informed of this before?" cried Lord Courland, looking
very angry.

"It is on this point that I desire to offer your lordship an
explanation," said the solicitor. "Until Mrs. Calverley conferred with
me about the settlement, she was quite unaware of her ability to make
one."

"This is incredible, sir," cried Lord Courland. "I shall make no
remarks, but it is useless to proceed with the business."

"Your lordship seems to form a very unjust and improper opinion of my
client," said Mr. Carteret. "She was greatly distressed when she made
the discovery I have mentioned--but more on your lordship's account
than on her own. Though she will lose this large property, she can still
settle fifteen hundred a year on your lordship, and has instructed me to
say that she will do so."

"I do not feel inclined to accept it, sir!" replied Lord Courland,
haughtily.

"Then I am to understand that the match is broken off?"

"It is," replied Lord Courland, in the same haughty tone.

"Permit me, then, to remark, on my own part," said Mr. Carteret, "that
I think Mrs. Calverley is much better off with her large property than
with a title. I will communicate your decision to her. I have the honour
to wish your lordship a good morning."

And he quitted the cabinet.



XX. THE PARTING BETWEEN TERESA AND LORD COURLAND.

|Left alone, Lord Courland did not feel by any means satisfied with what
he had done.

He was really in love with Mrs. Calverley, and now that he seemed likely
to lose her, his passion revived in all its force. He had made certain
of a large fortune, and vexation at his disappointment had carried him
farther than he intended. It was disagreeable to lose so charming a
place as Ouselcroft, and such a splendid income as he had been promised,
but it was far more disagreeable to loose the object of his affections.
Moreover, fifteen hundred a year, though it would not bear comparison
with five thousand, was not to be despised. Altogether, he blamed
himself for his precipitancy, and resolved, if possible, to set matters
right.

With this determination, he was about to quit the cabinet, when Teresa
made her appearance.

She looked exceedingly pale and ill, and, thinking he was the cause
of her suffering, he felt inclined to throw himself at her feet, and
entreat forgiveness.

But she checked him by her manner, which was totally changed, and almost
freezingly cold.

"I have learnt your decision, my lord," she said, in accents devoid of
emotion, "and entirely approve of it. I would not have it otherwise."

"But I was wrong, dearest Teresa!" he cried. "I retract all I have said,
and pray you to forgive me! I will take you without fortune! I cannot
live without you!"

A melancholy smile played upon her pallid features.

"Would I had known this before!" she said. "But it is now too late!"

"Why too late?" he exclaimed, despairingly. "I have told you I will take
you as you are. Do as you please with your own. I will ask nothing!"

"Alas!" she exclaimed, sadly. "I repeat it is now too late. I cannot wed
you!"

Lord Courland uttered a cry of anguish.

"Not wed me!" he ejaculated. "What hindrance is there to our union that
did not exist before? Pardon me, sweet Teresa; I feel I have deeply
offended you by my apparent selfishness, but I will try to make amends!
I am sure you love me!"

"I do!" she replied, earnestly, and with a look of inexpressible
tenderness. "You are the only person I have ever loved--not for your
rank, but for yourself. Had I been fortunate enough to wed you, I should
have been happy--happier than I deserve to be!"

"Not than you deserve to be, dearest Teresa!"

"_Yes,_" she replied, in accents of bitterest self-reproach. "I have no
right to expect happiness!"

"What is the meaning of this?" he exclaimed, regarding her in
astonishment.

"Do not question me," she replied. "Some time or other you will
understand me. I merely came to tell you it is best that we should
part, and therefore I approve of your decision as conveyed to me by Mr.
Carteret."

"But I recall it," he cried. "Think no more of it, sweetest Teresa."

"Again I say it is too late," she rejoined, in a sombre tone. "It is
idle to prolong this discourse, which can lead to nothing. Farewell!"

"Do you, then, bid me depart?"

"I do not bid you; but we cannot meet again."

"If so, it would be useless to stay. But you will think differently when
you become calmer."

"You mistake," she said. "I was never calmer than now. Had I not felt
so, I would not have seen you. But the parting moment is come. Again,
farewell!"

And with a look that remained for ever graven on his memory, she
disappeared.

Bewildered as if he had been in a troubled dream, Lord Courland remained
for some time in the cabinet, seriously reproaching himself with
having caused the mental malady with which he thought Teresa had become
suddenly afflicted.

He then went down-stairs, intending to consult Lady Thicknesse, but
found she had gone to Brackley Hall with Sir Bridgnorth Charlton, who
had driven her thither in his phaeton.

However, as his lordship could not rest in his present anxious and
excited state, he determined to follow her; and, explaining his
difficulty to Scrope, though without entering into particulars, the
latter offered to accompany him, and they went at once to the stables to
procure horses.



XXI. HOW MRS. CALVERLEY MADE HER WILL.

|On returning to her dressing-room, after the painful interview with
Lord Courland, Mrs. Calverley sat down for a few minutes to collect
herself; and then, taking a large sheet of paper from a drawer, began to
write out a formal document.

She pursued her task, without intermission, for more than half an hour;
and then, having completed it, rang the bell for Laura.

"Shall I bring your breakfast, ma'am?" asked the lady's-maid.

"No; I do not require any breakfast," replied Mrs. Calverley.

"Let me persuade you to take some, ma'am. You look very ill."

"I am too busy just now," rejoined Mrs. Calverley.

"Beg Mr. Carteret to come to me. You will find him in the library. I
also wish to see Mr. Higgins. Request him to come up to me in about five
minutes--not before."

"I understand, ma'am."

"Stay!" cried Mrs. Calverley. "I have several letters to write, and
shall not want you. If you like you can drive to Brackley in the
pony-carriage."

"Oh! thank you, ma'am! May I take Monsieur Zephyrus with me?"

"Monsieur Zephyrus, and anybody else you like. You needn't take the
groom."

Laura departed, full of glee.

Shortly afterwards, the attorney made his appearance.

"Pray sit down, sir," she said. "I wish you to read this document."

"Why, you have been making your will, I perceive!" he cried, as he took
the paper.

"Will it suffice?" she asked, briefly.

"It seems to me, from a hasty glance, that it will answer perfectly," he
replied. "But we will go through it. You divide your property equally, I
find, between Chetwynd and Mildred, Quite right. But I do not approve of
the bequest of five thousand pounds to Lord Courland. However, I suppose
it must stand."

"It must," she observed in a peremptory tone.

Mr. Carteret then went on.

"I am much pleased that you have remembered your late husband's old
servant, John Norris. The faithful fellow well deserves the thousand
pounds you are good enough to leave him. I also observe that you have
made several minor bequests, and have not forgotten your attendant,
Laura Martin."

"I believe Laura is attached to me," remarked Mrs. Calverley.

"I have no doubt of it," said Mr. Carteret. "As executors, I see you
have appointed Sir Bridgnorth Charlton and Chetwynd, with a legacy to
the former of a thousand pounds. No appointment could be more judicious.
The will requires no alteration."

"I wish to execute it at once," said Mrs. Calverley.

"In that case, we shall require another witness. We cannot have Norris,
since he is a legatee."

"I have provided for that," said Mrs. Calverley; "and have told Laura to
send up Lady Thicknesses butler, Higgins. He may be without."

"I will see," replied Carteret.

Finding Higgins at the door, he explained the business to him, and
brought him in.

The butler bowed respectfully, and seemed greatly struck by Mrs.
Calverley's changed appearance, but he made no remark.

"I want you to witness my will, Mr. Higgins," she said.

"I am ready to do so, ma'am," he replied. "But I would rather witness
any other document."

The attorney then placed the will before Mrs. Calverley, and she
executed it with a firm hand--the two witnesses duly attesting her
signature.

This done, Higgins was about to depart, when Mrs. Calverley gave him a
purse that was lying on the table.

"This is far more than I desire or deserve, ma'am," he said, with a
grateful bow. "But I trust you may live many and many a year, and make
half a dozen more wills."

"I do not think I shall," she murmured, faintly.

With another profound bow, Higgins retired.

"All is now finished, madam," said Carteret. "Shall I take charge of the
will?"

"No; leave it with me," she rejoined.

Seeing she did not desire to say more, the attorney hastened to depart.

She remained sitting firmly upright till he was gone, and then sank
backwards.



XXII. CHETWYND IS SUMMONED TO HIS SISTER'S ROOM, AND IS SENT BY HER TO
TERESA.--THEIR INTERVIEW.

|Meanwhile, Chetwynd had been summoned by Rose, and a very touching
spectacle met his gaze as he entered his sister's chamber.

Near the couch on which Mildred was lying, looking the very image of
death, sat Mr. Massey. Before him, on a small table, was the sacred
volume from which he had been reading, and he was offering up a prayer
for the preservation of the sick girl. Kneeling by the bedside, and
joining fervently in the prayer, was Emmeline.

With the appearance of the venerable divine--his silver locks and
benignant aspect--the reader is already familiar; but his features
now wore a saddened and anxious expression. He was really alarmed by
Mildred's state, and scarcely thought it possible she could survive.

Chetwynd and Rose had entered so noiselessly that they did not disturb
the others, and good Mr. Massey continued his prayer, quiet unconscious
he had other hearers except those close at hand.

At length he ceased, and Chetwynd advanced, and bending reverently to
the good chaplain, took his sister's hand.

Hitherto, she had not perceived him, but a smile now lighted up her
pallid features, and she murmured his name.

On hearing his approach, Emmeline rose from her kneeling posture.

"I am glad you are come, dear Chetwynd," said Mildred. "I was afraid I
might not behold you again."

"I would have come before, had I thought you desired to see me, dearest
sister," he replied. "But how do you feel?"

"Somewhat better," she replied. "Mr. Massey's consolatory words have
done me as much good as the medicines I have taken--more, perhaps!
Doctor Spencer tells me I shall recover, and I have great faith in him."

"Trust only in Heaven, dear daughter," observed Mr. Massey, who did not
wish her to delude herself.

"I hope I am now prepared," she said, in a tone of perfect resignation.
"I shall quit this world without regret."

"A frame of mind attained by few--but the best," said the chaplain.

Here Emmeline could not restrain her tears, and Rose sobbed audibly.

"I will retire for awhile, dear daughter," said the good chaplain,
rising. "You may have something to say to your brother."

And he moved to a little distance with Rose.

"What would you with me, dearest sister?" asked Chetwynd, "Any
injunctions you may give me shall be strictly fulfilled."

"I wish to see Mrs. Calverley," she said.

"Better not," he replied.

"I think so, too," added Emmeline. "Her presence will only disturb you."

"I must see her before I die," said Mildred. "Bring her to me, if you
can. She is in her own room."

Chetwynd made no further remonstrance, but proceeding to Mrs.
Calverley's chamber, which was on the same floor, and at no great
distance, tapped at the dressing-room door.

A faint voice bade him come in.

He found Teresa lying back in the chair, as last described, and was
quite shocked by her appearance.

"What brings you here, Chetwynd?" she asked. "Has Mr. Carteret sent
you?"

"No," he replied. "I have come to tell you that Mildred desires greatly
to see you."

"I am unable to move, as you perceive, or I would go to her. What does
she desire to say to me? Any question you may ask me in her name I will
answer."

"In her name, then, I ask you--as you will have to answer at the bar
of the divine tribunal--have you endeavoured to take away her life by
poison?"

The wretched woman made an effort to speak; but her power of utterance
completely failed her.

"Since you do not deny the charge, I hold you guilty," he said.

"I am guilty," she replied. "The attempt has been twice made."

"Twice!" ejaculated Chetwynd. "Had you no pity on her?"

"None," replied Teresa. "My heart was hardened. She stood in my way, and
I did not hesitate to remove her."

"Horrible!" exclaimed Chetwynd. "But your murderous design has failed.
She will recover."

"You may not believe me when I tell you I am glad to hear it," replied
Teresa. "Nevertheless, it is so. The infernal fire that burnt for a
time so fiercely in my breast is extinguished. I had listened to the
promptings of the Evil One, and bartered my soul to him for worldly
gain that will profit me nothing. If I could, I would pray for Mildred's
recovery; but Heaven would not listen to me."

"You cannot judge of the extent of Heaven's mercy. If your repentance is
sincere, you may be forgiven."

"Alas! I have sinned too deeply! I have no hope for the future; but I
have striven to make atonement for my crimes."

"Atonement!--in what way?" demanded Chetwynd.

"By restoring the whole of the property I have wrongfully taken from you
and your sister. There is my will," she added, pointing to it. "When
you examine it you will see what I have done, and I trust you will be
satisfied."

Chetwynd stared at her in astonishment, almost doubting whether he heard
aright.

"Convince yourself that I have spoken the truth," she said.

Chetwynd opened the will, and glanced at its contents.

She kept her eye fixed upon him as he did so.

"I see it is in your own handwriting," he remarked.

"But do you perceive that I have left my entire property, excepting
certain bequests, to yourself and Mildred?"

"I do," he replied.

"Do you likewise notice that I have appointed you and your friend, Sir
Bridgnorth Charlton, joint executors of my will?"

"I do."

"Are you satisfied?"

He made no reply.

"You do not answer."

"You have deceived me often, and may be deceiving me now," he rejoined.

She uttered something like a groan, and then said: "I cannot blame your
incredulity. But keep the will--keep it securely. It will soon come into
operation."

"I cannot misunderstand the dark hint you have just thrown out," cried
Chetwynd. "You have swallowed poison."

"Seek to know no more," she rejoined. "You had best remain in
ignorance."

"Instant assistance must be obtained!" he cried. "You must not die
thus!"

"Nothing will save me," she replied.

"Do you refuse spiritual aid?" he cried. "Good Mr. Massey is with
Mildred; will you see him?"

"I will," she rejoined. "Send him to me--send him quickly, or it may be
too late."

Chetwynd hastily departed, but in a very short space of time returned
with the chaplain.

Mr. Massey had been told why he was summoned, and regarded the dying
woman with profound compassion, being greatly touched by her appearance.

"We must be alone and undisturbed," he said to Chetwynd.

"I will keep watch outside," replied the other. "No one shall enter."

And, with a pitying look at Teresa, he quitted the room.



XXIII. SIR BRIDGNORTH PROPOSES TO LADY THICKNESSE, AND IS ACCEPTED.

|On that morning, as previously intimated, Sir Bridgnorth Charlton had
offered to drive Lady Thicknesse to Brackley Hall; and as Mrs. Calverley
did not make her appearance, and no other arrangements were made,
in consequence of Mildred's illness, she accepted the proposal with
delight, secretly hoping that a proposal of another kind might follow.
Her ostensible purpose was to spend the day with her sister, Lady
Barfleur, and return to dinner.

Everything promised well. The weather was propitious, and as Sir
Bridgnorth assisted her to her place in front of his well-appointed and
well-horsed mail-phaeton, he squeezed her hand in a manner that seemed
to proclaim his intentions.

But his deportment and discourse when they had started on the drive left
her in no doubt. He lowered his voice, and bent down his head when he
addressed her, so that what he said could not be overheard by the two
grooms behind.

For an elderly gentleman, he acted the part of a suitor very creditably.
If his looks were not impassioned, his manner was devoted. Lady
Thick-nesse was pleased, and with good reason, for the match, if it took
place, would be satisfactory in all inspects.

A better _parti_ than Sir Bridgnorth could not be found. He had the
recommendation of an excellent social position, rank, and wealth.
Moreover, he was extremely good tempered.

Though somewhat of an invalid, Lady Thicknesse was a most charming
companion, and a great deal more amiable than so-called charming
people usually are. Besides being very rich, very well bred, and very
agreeable, she had a special recommendation to Sir Bridgnorth--she had
no family. He had resolved never to marry a widow with incumbrances.

Lady Thicknesse looked remarkably well that morning. Her pale and
delicate complexion was a little warmer than usual, and her eyes rather
brighter; but she was not in high spirits. Indeed, she never was in high
spirits; her manner being always subdued. She questioned Sir Bridgnorth
about Charlton, and seemed delighted with his description of the place.

"I hope you will see it ere long," he said, with a peculiar smile, that
made her heart flutter, and caused her to cast down her eyes.

Now seemed Sir Bridgnorth's opportunity.

After clearing his throat he remarked:

"It appears to me that such a residence as Charlton, with a large park
attached to it, and a house in Belgrave-square, would form a remarkably
nice combination of town and country. What does your ladyship think?"

"As a rule I am not very fond of the country," she replied. "But I fancy
I could be happy anywhere, under certain circumstances."

"Under what circumstances?" he asked, bending down his head.

"Don't ask," she replied, avoiding his ardent gaze. "But I am
particularly anxious to know," he said, "my own happiness being
dependent upon the answer. Could you contrive to spend six months at
such a dull place as Charlton?"

"Yes, very well," she replied, raising her eyes, and looking him full
in the face, "provided you will agree to pass the other six months in
Belgrave Square."

Sir Bridgnorth could scarcely believe what he heard.

"Is that a bargain?" he exclaimed joyously. "If so, let us conclude it
at once."

"With all my heart," she replied. "I am quite satisfied with the
arrangement."

"And I ought to be, and am," said Sir Bridgnorth. "I am sure I have got
the best of it."

"You say so now," she rejoined with a smile. "But you may alter your
opinion after six months' experience of Belgrave Square."

"Never!" he exclaimed. "My only fear is that your ladyship may get tired
of Charlton!"

"Then dismiss that apprehension," she rejoined. "I cannot feel _ennui_
if you are there."

Just then the clatter of hoofs was heard behind them, and the baronet's
spirited horses, startled by the sound, set off at a pace that gave her
ladyship a momentary fright.

But the runaways were quickly checked, and Sir Bridgnorth looking round,
saw that Lord Courland and Scrope Danvers were galloping after them.

"What the deuce is the matter?" he shouted.

"Nothing," replied Scrope.

"Then take it quietly," said the baronet. "My horses won't stand that
noise."

Thereupon, the pace was slackened on both sides, and Lady Thicknesse
asked Lord Courland if he was going to Brackley.

"I hope you are," she added. "My sister, Lady Barfleur, will be charmed
to see your lordship!"

"I want to consult your ladyship," he replied, bringing his horse as
close to her as he could, and speaking in a low voice.

"I hope nothing has gone wrong?" she inquired, rendered rather uneasy by
his looks.

"I'm very much afraid the match won't come off," he replied; "unless
your ladyship will kindly act for me."

"I will do anything you desire," she rejoined earnestly. "It would
grieve me beyond measure if any _contretemps_ occurred."

"I cannot explain matters fully at this moment," he said. "But it is
certain I am entirely to blame."

"Since your lordship so frankly makes that admission," she rejoined,
"there can be no difficulty in arranging the quarrel--for quarrel I
suppose it is."

"I will tell you all when we get to Brackley," he said. "But meantime,
I may mention a circumstance of which I am quite sure neither your
ladyship nor Sir Bridgworth are aware."

"Your lordship must speak in a lower tone, if you would not have me hear
all you say," remarked the baronet.

"But I do wish you to hear this," rejoined Lord Courland. "Mrs.
Calverley has only just discovered that if she marries again, the whole
of her property goes to Chetwynd and Mildred."

"You amaze me!" cried Sir Bridgnorth.

"When this piece of information was first communicated to me by
Carteret," continued his lordship, "I yielded to an impulse of anger for
which I now reproach myself, and declared I would break off the match."

"I don't wonder at it," said the baronet.

"But when I subsequently had an interview with Mrs. Calverley herself,
my purpose changed. I found my affections were so strongly fixed, I
could not execute my threat."

"I am delighted to hear it," said Lady Thick-nesse. "Such disinterested
conduct does your lordship the greatest credit. Then I presume all will
go on as before?"

"I hope so," he replied. "But I am in doubt. Mrs. Calverley seems quite
firm in her determination to break off the engagement."

"But she has nothing to complain of," remarked Sir Bridgnorth. "On
the contrary, she is the sole cause of the misunderstanding. I take a
totally different view of the matter from your lordship, and I suspect I
am much nearer the truth. If she is now resolved to break off the match,
it is because she is unwilling to lose her property."

"Oh, pray don't put that unfair construction on her conduct!" exclaimed
Lady Thicknesse.

"It seems to me quite natural," said Sir Bridgnorth; "quite consistent
with her character," he added, in a whisper, to Lady Thicknesse.

"She seems very greatly troubled," observed Lord Courland; "and if
anything occurs in consequence, I shall never forgive myself."

"Your lordship alarms yourself without reason, I think," said Lady
Thicknesse.

"You have not seen her this morning, I suppose?"

"I have not," she replied.

"Then you don't know how ill she looks."

"I am very sorry to hear it," replied Lady Thicknesse. "But she will
soon get well again if the matter is settled, as I am persuaded it will
be."

"I ought to tell you she has bidden me farewell," said his lordship.

"Don't despair," rejoined Lady Thicknesse. "I'll undertake to bring you
together again. I'm sorry you didn't call me in at the time; but it's
not too late now."

"Your ladyship gives me hopes," said Lord Courland retiring.

"If she marries, as I trust she may," observed Sir Bridgnorth, as soon
as his lordship was out of hearing, "it will be an immense thing for
Chetwynd and Mildred. But I doubt whether she will make such a sacrifice
for Lord Courland."

"I believe she is very much in love with him," remarked Lady Thicknesse.

"Possibly," said Sir Bridgnorth. "But this is too much to pay. As to her
being in ignorance of the contents of her late husband's will, I never
can credit that. Yet it puzzles me to conceive what she meant to do.
Somehow or other, her plan has failed. Your ladyship thinks the matter
will be easily settled. I am not of that opinion."

"To tell you the truth, dear Sir Bridgnorth," said Lady Thicknesse, "I
do feel rather uneasy about Mrs. Calverley."

"If your ladyship knew her as well as I do," he replied, in an
indifferent tone, "you wouldn't feel uneasy at all. My firm conviction
is that she won't marry Lord Courland."

"If she doesn't, I shall alter my opinion of her," said her ladyship.

Sir Bridgnorth smiled, and giving his horses a slight touch with the
whip, he quickened their pace, and the newly engaged pair soon arrived
at Brackley.



XXIV. THE RACE BETWEEN ZEPHYRUS AND TOM TANKARD.

|About a mile in the rear of Sir Bridgnorth was Mrs. Calverley's
pony-carriage, driven by Laura, by whose side was Zephyrus, very smartly
dressed indeed, and wearing a Paris hat, while in the groom's place at
the back, and looking very like a groom himself, sat Tom Tankard. Tom
thought himself rather slighted by being placed in an inferior situation
to the _chef_, but he was obliged to submit, or stay behind.

The first part of the drive was pleasant enough. Zephyrus was charmed
with the carriage and the ponies, and declared the equipage was as
pretty as any to be seen in the Bois de Boulogne. He was likewise
enchanted with Mademoiselle Laura's skill as a whip; and it was a
gratification to him that Tom Tankard, of whom he entertained a secret
jealousy, should be kept in the background.

But this latter circumstance, together with Laura's evident preference
for Zephyrus, vexed Tom, and made him ready to pick a quarrel with
the Frenchman. He soon grew very sullen, and took no part in the
conversation. But this they did not mind. They did not care for his
company, and Laura only brought him because she didn't like to drive out
alone with the Frenchman.

Precisely the reverse of Tom, and full of life and spirit, Zephyrus had
something amusing to say about everything. Laura was quite enchanted.
Never before had she enjoyed so pleasant a drive. But then she had never
before driven anybody except her mistress and the groom, and she didn't
condescend to talk to grooms.

When they reached the heath, Tom shook off his sulkiness, and surveying
the scene, called out:

"Look here, monsieur; here's a famous place for a steeple-chase!"

"A fine place, indeed!" observed Zephyrus. "I should say you could here
have all the dangers you desire."

"I wouldn't advise you to try the heath, Mr. Tom," observed Laura. "Sir
Leycester Barfleur lost his life in that dreadful quagmire."

"But a capital foot-race might be run on the hard turf," said Tom. "How
say you, monsieur? Shall we have a trial of speed? Half a mile for half
a sov'rin'?"

"Shall I run, mademoiselle?" said Zephyrus.

Laura gave him a look, as much as to say, "By all means; you'll beat
him!"

"Agreed!" cried Zephyrus. "Mademoiselle Laura shall hold the stakes, and
decide."

So saying, he placed a small piece of gold in her hand, his example
being followed by Tom.

"Our mark shall be yonder tree," said Zephyrus, pointing to the
shattered oak near which the ladies had been robbed by the gipsies.

"There and back?" asked Tom.

"There and back, of course," replied Zephyrus.

"Before we start," said Tom, "let it be clearly understood whoever wins
is to sit beside Miss Laura."

"Bon!" cried Zephyrus. "I shall be certain to occupy that envied place!"

"Not so certain," rejoined Tom, with a knowing wink.

Ready in a minute, and in another minute off, at a signal from Laura,
who had great difficulty in holding in the ponies when the start was
made.

There seemed very little doubt that the Frenchman would win, for he
was extremely agile, and ran far more lightly and fleetly than our fat
friend Tom.

But it soon appeared that young Tankard intended some ruse, for he
was still more than a hundred yards from the oak, and sixty or seventy
behind Zephyrus, when he suddenly turned round, and ran back as fast as
he could.

Zephyrus did not at first see what his opponent was about, but the
moment he did, he likewise turned, and set off after young Tankard at
such a pace that even then it seemed probable he would overtake him.

But by dint of extraordinary exertion, Tom managed to reach the
pony-carriage in time to spring into the coveted seat beside Laura, just
as the Frenchman came up.

"Come out, sir!" vociferated Zephyrus; "you've lost!"

"Lost the race--but won the seat!" rejoined Tom, with a triumphant
laugh.

"Come out, I insist!" cried the Frenchman.

To prevent the conflict that seemed imminent, Laura interfered; but
she could not induce Tom to surrender the seat, so she tried to pacify
Zephyrus by giving him the stakes, adding that they should soon be at
Brackley, where a change could be made quietly.

Matters being thus arranged, though by no means to Laura's satisfaction,
she drove on, and had just entered the park when Captain Danvers dashed
through the lodge gate, and soon came up to them.

Apparently surprised at the sight of Laura, he stopped for a moment to
speak to her.

"What are you doing here, Laura?" he inquired.

"My mistress allowed me to drive the pony-carriage to Brackley,
captain," she replied, rather quickly, for she didn't like to be thus
questioned; "and I brought these gentlemen with me."

"But don't you know your mistress is dangerously ill?" cried the
captain.

"Not the least idea of it, I assure you, captain, or I shouldn't be
here!" cried Laura, looking dreadfully frightened. "But I'll go back
immediately."

"I don't think you'll find her alive," was the captain's consolatory
remark; "but you may be of some service."

"What is it, sir?" cried Laura; "what is it?"

Captain Danvers, however, paid no attention to the inquiry, but dashed
off as hard as he could to the Hall.

"It's something terrible--I'm sure of it!" said Laura. "I feel ready to
faint."

"Change places, and I'll drive you back," said Tom. "It's lucky I'm
here."

"I don't know what I should have done without Mr. Tom," said Laura,
as she took his seat, and gave him the reins and whip. "Don't lose any
time."

"I won't, depend upon it," rejoined Tom. "The ribbons are in good hands
now they're in mine. Take my advice, dear girl, and don't make yourself
uneasy till you get there. Time enough, then. All's for the best, you
see, monsieur. If you hadn't given up that place, you'd 'a been forced
to give it up, since you can't drive."

"You're mistaken, sir, I _can_ drive--and very well, too," rejoined
Zephyrus.

"But not so well as me," said Tom. "I'll bring you to Ouselcroft in no
time," he added to Laura.

And he soon got the ponies into such a pace as they had never travelled
before.



XXV. CAPTAIN DANVERS BRINGS DISTRESSING NEWS.

|Leaping from his steed in the court-yard of the old Hall, Captain
Danvers inquired for Lady Thicknesse; and learning that she was with
Lady Barfleur, in the drawing-room, he hastened thither, and found the
two ladies in question, with Lord Courland, Sir Bridgnorth, and his
brother Scrope.

His looks caused general consternation, since all could perceive from
them that some direful calamity-had happened.

Lord Courland rushed up to him, and, taking his hand, said:

"You bring us bad news, I'm afraid, Captain Danvers?"

"I do, indeed, my lord," he replied in a sorrowful tone; "very painful
news."

At these words, the whole party gathered round him.

"To whom does your bad news relate?" inquired Lady Thicknesse.

"Chiefly to Mrs. Calverley," he replied.

"Great Heaven, my worst fears are realised!" exclaimed Lord Courland, in
a voice of anguish and despair. "Does she still live?"

"Death would be a release in her present state!" replied Captain
Danvers. "She has swallowed poison."

"Poison!" echoed several voices.

"And I am the cause of this dreadful act!" cried Lord Courland.

"Calm yourself, my lord, I entreat you!" said Captain Danvers. "It is
not exactly as you suppose. That love for you has led this unhappy lady
into the commission of a dreadful act is certain; but the attempt at
self-destruction, which no doubt will end fatally, has been made solely
to escape the consequences of her crime."

The whole assemblage listened in horror to what was said.

"I will not ask you for any farther explanation," cried Lord Courland,
"unless you feel justified in giving it to me. But you have made certain
dark allusions that ought to be cleared up. You charge Mrs. Calverley,
whom I love dearly in spite of all, with the commission of a dreadful
crime, to which she was instigated by love for me. What has she done? Is
it a secret?"

"No, my lord," replied Captain Danvers, with great feeling. "It is
perfectly well known at Ousel-croft. She has attempted to poison her
step-daughter, Mildred."

"But what was the motive?" demanded Lord Courland.

"To prevent Mildred from profiting by her father's will. Had she died
before the projected marriage, the property would have remained with
Teresa."

Lord Courland looked aghast.

"There is every reason to hope Mildred will recover," pursued the
captain. "Doctor Spencer is confident he can save her. He cannot save
Mrs. Calverley, because remedial measures were too long delayed."

A groan burst from Lord Courland.

"Pardon me, Lady Barfleur," he said, turning to her, "if I quit you thus
abruptly. I know you will excuse it under the circumstances. I shall
return at once to Ouselcroft."

"I will go with you," said Scrope.

And they quitted the room together.

"I am quite as agitated and distressed as his lordship," observed Lady
Thicknesse. "You must take me back, Sir Bridgnorth."

"I will order the horses at once," he replied. "In a few minutes the
phaeton shall be ready."

And he departed on the errand.

"I grieve to leave thus, dearest sister," said Lady Thicknesse. "But it
cannot be helped."

"I know it cannot," Lady Barfleur replied. "Let me see you to-morrow.
But nobody has told me how Emmeline is?"

"You needn't be uneasy about her, dear aunt," replied Captain Danvers.
"Through all this anxiety and trouble, Emmeline has kept up most
wonderfully. I saw Rose, her attendant, not much more than an hour ago,
and she said her young mistress had scarcely suffered from a headache.
And now, dear aunt, I must take a hasty leave. Like the rest, I shall
return to Ouselcroft, to see the end of this sad business. Adieu!"

Shortly afterwards Sir Bridgnorth appeared at the door to give Lady
Thicknesse notice that the phaeton was ready.

"It is fortunate you have got Sir Bridgnorth with you, sister," observed
Lady Barfleur. "He is one of the most sensible and most agreeable men I
know."

"I am glad to hear you say so, sister," replied Lady Thicknesse. "He
proposed as he drove me here this morning, and I accepted him."

"Bless me! That _is_ news!" cried Lady Barfleur. "Come here, dear Sir
Bridgnorth," she added, signing to him. "I must have a word with you. I
have just heard something that has enchanted me. You are made for
each other. Now don't stop here a moment longer, but take her to the
carriage. Goodbye!"



XXVI. TERESA'S CONFESSION.

|Alone with the dying Teresa. "Take comfort," said the good chaplain,
regarding her with tenderness and compassion. "Ease your breast by a
full confession, and then, if your repentance is sincere, doubt not
Heaven's goodness and mercy. Our blessed Saviour will not desert you."

On this, Teresa knelt down before him, and, though he strove to raise
her, she would not quit the humble posture.

"Prepare yourself for a dreadful relation, reverend sir," she said,
clasping her hands. "I had the best and kindest of husbands, who studied
my every wish, and strove in every way to make me happy. I persuaded
him I was happy; but I deceived him. The yoke I had put on was
unsupportable.

"An evil spirit seemed to have taken possession of my breast. I strove
to dismiss the wicked thoughts that assailed me; but they came back
again and again, and with greater force than before.

"I had not a fault to find with my husband--he was kindness itself. Yet
I sought to get rid of him by poison. It was long before I could make up
my mind to the dreadful act; but I was ever brooding upon it.

"At last I obtained the poison, minute doses of which would kill without
exciting suspicion. But not till my husband was attacked by some slight
illness did I administer the first dose.

"He grew worse. But it seemed only a natural increase of the malady, and
the symptoms excited no suspicion whatever in his medical attendant,
the progress of the poison being so slow and insidious. Moreover, I was
constantly with my victim, and acted as his nurse."

The good chaplain covered his face with his hands, and a short pause
ensued, which was broken by Teresa.

"And now comes the astounding part of my narration," she said. "I
can scarcely credit my own hardness of heart. As I saw this kind and
excellent man, who loved me so dearly, gradually wasting away--literally
dying by inches--I felt no compunction--none! I counted the days he
could live."

Here there was another pause, and the guilty woman had to summon up
resolution before she could proceed.

"To free myself from my marriage fetters was only part of my scheme,"
she said. "My greedy spirit would not be content without my husband's
property, and this I felt certain I could secure. He doted upon me. I
had obtained his entire confidence. I knew his inmost thoughts. He had
quarrelled with his son. I aggravated the dispute, and took care to
prevent a reconciliation, which could have been easily effected had I so
desired it.

"My ascendancy over my infirm husband was now so great that he acted
upon all my suggestions; and by hints cunningly thrown out, I easily
induced him to make a will in my favour, persuading him I would carry
out his wishes in regard to his son and daughter."

"Did no suspicion cross him?" inquired the chaplain.

"Not till the last night of his life," she replied. "But I think it did
then. If he suspected me, he never taxed me with my guilt."

At this moment a sudden change came over her, and she gazed strangely
into the vacancy.

"What troubles you?" inquired the chaplain.

"I thought I saw my husband standing there!" she replied, with a
shudder.

"'Tis fancy. Proceed with your confession. You have more to tell?"

"I have," she replied, with a fearful look. "The dark tragedy was over.
Intoxicated by the power and wealth I had acquired, I contrived to
stifle remorse. I kept Mildred constantly with me. Her presence seemed
to shield me, and I sought to make some amends by befriending Chetwynd.

"But vengeance was pursuing me, though with slow feet. My punishment was
accomplished in an unforeseen manner. Hitherto my heart had never known
love, and I thought myself proof against the tender passion. But it was
not so. I met Lord Courland at the house of Lady Thicknesse in London,
and he at once won my affections and offered me his hand.

"Loving him, and thinking to bind him to me, I promised him half the
large property I fancied at my disposal. All was arranged, and my
destined husband had come down here to see his future abode, when almost
at the last moment I discovered that if I married again the whole of the
property would go to Mildred.

"This discovery roused all the evil passions in my heart, and I
determined to remove her in the same manner I had removed her father.

"Provided with the means of executing my fell purpose, I did not delay
it. You were present, reverend sir, when I dropped poison, unperceived,
into her wine, and you may remember how soon it took effect?"

"I remember she was suddenly seized with illness after drinking a glass
of champagne," he replied, with a look of horror; "but I little thought
the wine had been drugged--nor did any one."

"She recovered," pursued the guilty woman; "and all might have been
well if I could have resisted the dreadful temptation to which I was
subjected. But I yielded.

"Again I contrived to give her poison, and another seizure followed.
Doctor Spencer was sent for. The symptoms could not be mistaken; the
terrible crime was discovered, and quickly traced to me. The poison
being found in my possession, my guilt was established."

"It may comfort you to learn that Mildred will recover," observed Mr.
Massey. "The medicines given her by Doctor Spencer have produced a
wonderful effect. At first I had little hope. But now I have every
confidence that her life will be spared."

"'Tis well," she replied. "But my doom is sealed. Doctor Spencer took
away the phial containing the poison; but I had enough left for myself."

"And you have done this desperate deed?" he asked.

"I could not live," she replied. "I should go mad. But that Mildred will
live is the greatest possible consolation to me. If I could see her,
and obtain her forgiveness, I think I could die in peace. But I have not
strength to go to her."

"She is here," said the chaplain.

The dying woman raised her eyes, and beheld Mildred standing before her,
wrapped in a loose robe, and supported by Emmeline and Rose Hartley.

Behind them was Chetwynd, who closed the door after him as he came in.

Mildred's countenance was exceedingly pale; but her eyes were bright,
and her looks seemed almost angelic to the despairing Teresa, who crept
humbly towards her.

"I do not deserve pardon," said the penitent woman. "Yet for the sake of
Him who died for us, and washed out our sins with His blood, I implore
you to forgive me!"

"I do forgive you," rejoined Mildred. "I have come hither for that
purpose. May Heaven have mercy upon you!"

"Since your repentance is sincere, daughter," said the chaplain,
"may your sins be blotted out, and the guilt of your many offences be
remitted."

"Amen!" exclaimed Chetwynd.

"Then farewell!" said Teresa, in a faint voice. "Farewell, Emmeline!
farewell, Chetwynd! Think not of me with abhorrence; but, if you can,
with pity!"

Without a word more, she sank backwards, and expired.

Chetwynd caught her before she fell, and placed her on a couch.

All those who had witnessed her death had departed, except Mr. Massey,
who was still in the room when Lord Courland entered.

On beholding the body, he uttered a frenzied cry, and rushed towards it.

"I would have given five years of my own life to exchange a few words
with her ere she breathed her last!" he exclaimed, in a voice of
bitterest anguish and self-reproach.

"You loved her, then, deeply, my lord?" said Chetwynd.

"She was the only woman I ever loved," replied Lord Courland. "Farewell,
Teresa!"

Bending down and kissing her brow, he quitted the room with Chetwynd.



XXVII. A MONTH LATER.


|A month must now be allowed to elapse.

During the interval, the dark clouds that hung over Ouselcroft have
dispersed, and the place has once more assumed a pleasant aspect.

Unhappy Teresa will never again trouble those connected with her.

Mildred, we rejoice to say, under the care of Doctor Spencer, has
entirely recovered, and looks more beautiful than ever. She is at
Brackley with Emmeline, who has quite regained her spirits and good
looks, both of which had suffered from her recent anxiety. Rose Hartley
is still with them.

Master of Ouselcroft, Chetwynd has already won the hearts of his
dependents. He looks somewhat older and much graver, and Norris says he
discerns a likeness to his father that he never perceived before.

As to Norris himself, we need scarcely say he still holds the most
important post in the household, and will continue to hold it as long as
he is able to do so.

Chetwynd has two guests staying with him--Sir Bridgnorth Charlton
and Captain Danvers--and they will remain at Ouselcroft till certain
contemplated events come off.

Lady Thicknesse is at Brackley with Lady Barfleur, and means to stay
there for a short time longer. She has engaged Laura, and is very well
satisfied with her. The talkative lady's-maid suits her exactly. Sir
Bridgnorth drives out her ladyship daily in his phaeton, and they then
discuss their future plans, but she has not yet seen Charlton, nor will
she visit her future residence till she goes there as its mistress. She
has every prospect of happiness with Sir Bridgnorth, who really devotes
himself to her, and strives to anticipate all her wishes.

Charles Danvers and Mildred pass all their time together. At first, they
contented themselves with the gardens of Brackley; but since Mildred has
grown stronger, and is able to take equestrian exercise, they have begun
to take long rides, and are seldom seen between luncheon and dinner.
Captain Danvers considers himself a most fortunate man, and with good
reason, for he will have a most lovely bride, and a very large fortune.

But what of Chetwynd? Ought he not to be esteemed fortunate? As far as
wealth is concerned, he has far more than he ever dreamed of, and if he
weds the heiress of Brackley, he will become one of the richest men in
the county. But his chief wealth, in his own esteem, is in the prize
he has won, and he looks forward eagerly to the day--now not very far
distant, he hopes--when he shall make her his own.

Such is the present state of things at the two houses the inmates of
which are constantly together, dining with each other daily, either at
Ouselcroft or Brackley; but we shall, perhaps, learn more, by assisting
at a confidential talk that took place one afternoon in the butler's
pantry at Ouselcroft, between old Norris and Laura.

"Well, Mr. Norris," she said, "I am come to see how you are getting on.
We are quiet enough just now, but we shall soon have plenty to do."

"In what way?" asked the butler.

"In the matrimonial line," replied Laura. "Three weddings will come off
very shortly."

"Are any of them fixed?" inquired Norris.

"Not that I am aware of," replied the lady's-maid; "but they cannot be
long delayed. All depends upon Lady Thicknesse. When she names the day,
the other two are sure to follow suit."

"Her ladyship, I suppose, has positively accepted Sir Bridgnorth?" asked
Norris.

"Positively," replied Laura; "and a very good choice she has made,
according to my notion. For my own part, I should prefer the old baronet
to either of the young men."

"Pooh, pooh! He won't bear comparison with my young master. Of course,
he's very suitable to a middle-aged dame like Lady Thicknesse."

"He's very agreeable, I repeat, and I think my lady uncommonly lucky in
securing him. I believe they've agreed to spend half the year in town,
and the other half in the country. That'll just suit me."

"At any rate, they'll have no lack of money," said Norris. "But, after
all, Lady Thicknesse is nothing like so rich as her niece--to say
nothing of Brackley, which must come to the young lady by-and-by."

"Yes; they'll have too much," observed Laura. "I wonder where Mr.
Chetwynd and his lady will reside?"

"Why, here--at Ouselcroft--of course," replied Norris.

"I don't feel sure of that," said Laura. "I sometimes fancy they'll live
at Brackley."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Norris. "Mr. Chetwynd will never leave his father's
house, now he has got possession of it. I'm certain of that."

"Then Captain and Mrs. Danvers may as well take up their quarters at
Brackley," said Laura.

"You're settling all very nicely!" said Norris, with a laugh. "But I
don't know that Lady Barfleur will consent to take them. I should think
not. All very well as visitors, but not for a permanence."

"Well, then, Mrs. Danvers must buy a place," said Laura. "She'll have
money enough."

Norris laughed; but, directly afterwards, his countenance changed, and
he said, gravely:

"Ah, Laura! we live in a strange world. A month ago, who would have
thought things would be in this state? Then we were talking over Mrs.
Calverley's contemplated marriage with Lord Courland. Now she is gone,
and other weddings are about to take place."

"Don't mention the poor dear lady, Mr. Norris, if you wouldn't make me
cry," said Laura, taking out her pocket-handkerchief. "She had dreadful
faults, no doubt; but she was always very kind to me, and I
will say this of her, she was the loveliest creature ever beheld."

"She contrived to do a great deal of mischief in her time," observed
Norris.

"Granted," rejoined Laura. "But you ought to feel some sorrow for her,
seeing how very handsomely she behaved to you, Mr. Norris. I'm sure I
feel very much obliged to her for my fifty pounds, though I wish it had
been five thousand, like Lord Courland's legacy."

"Yes, that's a good lumping sum," observed Norris, "and will console his
lordship for her loss."

"I suppose he has got the money?" remarked Laura.

"Yes; the legacy has already been paid," replied Norris.

"I thought it had," said Laura. "But do tell me, Mr. Norris--is it true
the poor lady has been seen since her death?"

"Clarissa declares she certainly beheld her the other evening in the
dressing-room," replied the butler.

"Dear me, how dreadful!" exclaimed Laura, "I should be frightened to
death. Clarissa saw her in the dressing-room, you say. How was it? Do
tell me!"

"Clarissa's tale is this. She was in the poor lady's bedchamber the
other evening, just as it was growing dusk, when fancying she heard
a sound in the dressing-room, she opened the door, which was standing
ajar, and then beheld an apparition exactly resembling Mrs. Calverley,
and holding a small phial, at which the figure was looking. So scared
was Clarissa at the sight, that she could neither cry out nor stir till
the apparition turned its head and fixed its eyes upon her. Their
expression was so terrible that she rushed back, and fell senseless on
the bedchamber floor. This is the account she gives, and most of the
women-servants believe it, but I regard it as mere fancy."

"_I_ believe it, Mr. Norris," replied Laura, shuddering. "I once saw
Mrs. Calverley myself in the dressing-room, in the exact posture you
describe her, with a little phial in her hand, containing _eau de luce_,
she said, but I am now sure it was poison. I shall never forget the look
she gave me. Depend upon it, Clarissa has seen her spirit."

"May be so," observed Norris.

"The poor thing can't rest, and I don't wonder at it," observed Laura.
"I suppose these rooms will be shut up, Mr. Norris?"

"Nobody has slept there since the poor lady's death," he replied; "but I
can't say about shutting up the rooms."

"I wouldn't sleep there for the world," remarked Laura. "Indeed,
after this occurrence, I don't think I shall ever venture into the
dressing-room again. I should always expect to find her there."

Just then a bell was rung, and Norris instantly prepared to answer the
summons.

"My young master wants to see me before he sets out for Brackley," he
said. "Stay where you are for a few minutes. I may have something to
tell you."

When Norris reappeared, he had a very joyful expression of countenance.

"I can tell you something you don't know, Laura," he said--"something
about Lady Thicknesse."

"I know what it is. The wedding-day is fixed."

"Right!"

"When is it to be?" she exclaimed, eagerly.

"This day week," replied the butler.

"Then her ladyship will get the start of the others," said Laura.

"I'm not sure of that," replied Norris, significantly. "I can't tell you
any more now. All I know is, my young master and Captain Danvers have
just ridden off to Brackley."



XXVIII. ALL IS SETTLED.

|When Chetwynd and Captain Danvers were about half a mile from Brackley
Park, they saw Sir Bridgnorth and Lady Thicknesse coming slowly along in
the phaeton.

The pair looked so happy, and so completely engrossed by each other,
that the two young men scarcely liked to interrupt them. However, Sir
Bridgnorth pulled up, and then the others stopped likewise.

After a few words had passed, her ladyship signed to Chetwynd to come
close to her, and said, in a low voice:

"I have had some talk with Lady Barfleur this morning, and I think
she has consented that your marriage with Emmeline shall take place
immediately. Sir Bridgnorth, who was present at the time, lent his aid,
and spoke so urgently, that I think he decided the point."

"I am infinitely indebted to you both," said Chet-wynd, glancing at Sir
Bridgnorth.

"You will find Emmeline in the garden," said Lady Thicknesse; "and by
the time we come back from our drive, I hope all will be satisfactorily
settled."

"This day week, mind!--not later!" added Sir Bridgnorth, leaning towards
him. "All is ready for us at Charlton."

The baronet then moved on, while the others rode off in the opposite
direction.

Arrived at Brackley, our friends ascertained that both young ladies were
in the garden, and immediately went in quest of them, and found them
seated near the bowling-green.

This being the first time we have seen them since their deliverance from
Teresa, we are bound to say they were both looking charmingly, and
in capital spirits. Mildred's illness hadn't left a trace on her fair
countenance. On the contrary, she seemed prettier than ever.

No sooner did their lovers appear than they arose, and flew to meet
them; and a very lover-like meeting took place.

But the couples then separated, and Chetwynd and Emmeline, whom we shall
accompany, moved off to a short distance.

"Emmeline," said Chetwynd, "I had resolved not to ask you to fulfil your
promise to me till I had gone through a year's probation; nor should
I have done so had I not been placed by circumstances in a totally
different position from what I was at that time. If you have confidence
in my reformation--if you think I have proved myself worthy of you--if
you can trust me--I will beg you to abridge my term, and give yourself
to me now. But if you have any doubt remaining--if you deem it better to
wait till the appointed time--I pray you to do so! Your happiness is
my chief concern; and, however irksome the delay may be, I shall not
complain!"

"I have entire faith in you, dear Chetwynd," she replied, in a voice of
much emotion. "In every respect you have proved yourself worthy of my
love, and I am prepared to give you my hand whenever you claim it."

"I claim it at once," he said, eagerly. "And as there is now no
obstacle--for Lady Thicknesse tells me your mother has given her
consent--I pray that our union may take place on the same day as the
marriage of her ladyship with Sir Bridgnorth."

"Be it so," said Emmeline; "and I hope another marriage will take place
at the same time."

Just then, the voice of Captain Danvers was heard at a little distance,
and he called out:

"Don't let me interrupt you; but Mildred won't fix the day till she is
satisfied you are agreed."

"Then tell her we _are_ agreed," replied Emmeline. "Will this day week
suit?"

"It will suit her perfectly," replied the captain.

"You answer for me!" said Mildred, laughing; "but, though you speak
without authority, it is really the day I should choose."

"I felt certain of it, or I should not have ventured to say so,"
observed the captain. "But, since all private arrangements are made,
and we are to be wedded at the same time, won't it be more convenient to
talk matters over together?"

"I am quite of that opinion," said Chetwynd.

No dissentient voice was raised. So they all came together, and began to
discuss the general arrangements.

Ere long they were joined by Lady Barfleur, who gave her formal consent
to her daughter's union with Chetwynd, and then took part in the
discussion.

It was agreed they should be married in the private chapel belonging to
the Hall, and that the Reverend Mr. Massey should perform the ceremony.

This was the chief matter, but they had a good deal to talk over
besides, and they were still engaged in the discussion when Lady
Thicknesse and Sir Bridgnorth returned from their drive.

Having already decided upon the private chapel of Mr. Massey, the
last-mentioned pair had only to express their satisfaction that their
own plans had been adopted, but they had many congratulations to offer
to Chetwynd and Emmeline.



XXIX. CONCLUSION.

|The auspicious day had arrived on which the three marriages were to
take place, or rather we ought to say four, since it had been arranged
that Rose Hartley was to be married to Harry Netterville at the same
time.

Harry had come down two days before to Ousel-croft, and had brought with
him, on Chetwynd's special invitation, Mr. and Mrs. Hartley, together
with Tom Tankard, who was to act as Harry's best man. Higgins was now
staying at Brackley, and Mr. Tankard had been invited there. Captain
Pon-sonby, an old friend, had agreed to act as Chetwynd's best man,
and Scrope Danvers would perform the same office for his brother.
Sir Bridgnorth dispensed with a friend, and Lady Thicknesse had no
bridesmaid. Emmeline's bridesmaids were to be the two Miss Bretons, the
beautiful Emma Ashton, and Hortensia Biddulph; Mildred's attendants were
the Miss Leiglis, Eugenia Radcliffe, and Blanche Dukinfield. It was not
deemed advisable to increase the number, considering the small size of
the chapel. Sir Gerard Danvers and Scrope were staying at Brackley,
but Sir Bridgnorth, Captain Ponsonby, and Captain Danvers were at
Ouselcroft.

A wedding portion of five hundred pounds had been jointly bestowed on
Rose by Emmeline and Mildred, and Harry Netterville was to be appointed
to the post of steward at Brackley.

The general arrangements was these. Chetwynd and his bride were to spend
their honeymoon in perfect retirement at Ouselcroft; Captain and Mrs.
Danvers meant to proceed to Windermere and the Lake country; and Sir
Bridgnorth and his lady, like sensible folks, intended to drive at once
to Charlton.

Such were the arrangements, and it was a matter of congratulation to all
when the morning proved fine.

An early and very cheery breakfast took place at Ouselcroft, for all
three bridegrooms were in excellent spirits. Another early breakfast
also took place in another room at the same house, at which Mr. and Mrs.
Hartley, Harry Netterville, and Tom Tankard assisted.

After they had finished breakfast, Chetwynd came into the room and shook
hands with them all.

"I'm right glad to see you here, Hartley," he said, clapping him kindly
on shoulder. "Without you, my good friend, I should neither have been
master of this house, nor wedded to her I love. I told you then I would
some day prove my gratitude; and I mean to do so now. I have got a nice
comfortable farm-house, which I shall bestow upon you and your wife,
and where Harry Netterville can live with you. He will have a post as
steward. I shall be glad to have you all near me."

"Heaven bless you, sir!" exclaimed Hartley, much affected. "You could
not have conferred a greater kindness upon me, nor one I shall more
appreciate!"

Mrs. Hartley was so overcome that she could hardly get out her thanks,
but she did so at last.

We must now repair to Brackley.

As the day advanced, the old Hall presented a gayer appearance that it
had done for many and many a year. The large court-yard was entirely
filled with the tenants and retainers of the lord of the mansion--who
henceforward would be represented by Chetwynd--their wives and
daughters, some of the latter being very good-looking, and very
well-dressed.

Harry had come down two days before to Ouselcroft, and had brought with
him, on Chetwynd's special invitation, Mr. and Mrs. Hartley, together
with Tom Tankard, who was to act as Harry's best man. Higgins was now
staying at Brackley, and Mr. Tankard had been invited there. Captain
Pon-sonby, an old friend, had agreed to act as Chetwynd's best man,
and Scrope Danvers would perform the same office for his brother.
Sir Bridgnorth dispensed with a friend, and Lady Thicknesse had no
bridesmaid. Emmeline's bridesmaids were to be the two Miss Bretons, the
beautiful Emma Ashton, and Hortensia Biddulph; Mildred's attendants were
the Miss Leighs, Eugenia Radcliffe, and Blanche Dukinfield. It was not
deemed advisable to increase the number, considering the small size of
the chapel. Sir Gerard Danvers and Scrope were staying at Brackley,
but Sir Bridgnorth, Captain Ponsonby, and Captain Danvers were at
Ouselcroft.

A wedding portion of five hundred pounds had been jointly bestowed on
Rose by Emmeline and Mildred, and Harry Netterville was to be appointed
to the post of steward at Brackley.

The general arrangements was these. Chetwynd and his bride were to spend
their honeymoon in perfect retirement at Ouselcroft; Captain and Mrs.
Danvers meant to proceed to Windermere and the Lake country; and Sir
Bridgnorth and his lady, like sensible folks, intended to drive at once
to Charlton.

Such were the arrangements, and it was a matter of congratulation to all
when the morning proved fine.

An early and very cheery breakfast took place at Ouselcroft, for all
three bridegrooms were in excellent spirits. Another early breakfast
also took place in another room at the same house, at which Mr. and Mrs.
Hartley, Harry Netterville, and Tom Tankard assisted.

After they had finished breakfast, Chetwynd came into the room and shook
hands with them all.

"I'm right glad to see you here, Hartley," he said, clapping him kindly
on shoulder. "Without you, my good friend, I should neither have been
master of this house, nor wedded to her I love. I told you then I would
some day prove my gratitude; and I mean to do so now. I have got a nice
comfortable farm-house, which I shall bestow upon you and your wife,
and where Harry Netterville can live with you. He will have a post as
steward. I shall be glad to have you all near me."

"Heaven bless you, sir!" exclaimed Hartley, much affected. "You could
not have conferred a greater kindness upon me, nor one I shall more
appreciate!"

Mrs. Hartley was so overcome that she could hardly get out her thanks,
but she did so at last.

We must now repair to Brackley.

As the day advanced, the old Hall presented a gayer appearance that it
had done for many and many a year. The large court-yard was entirely
filled with the tenants and retainers of the lord of the mansion--who
henceforward would be represented by Chetwynd--their wives and
daughters, some of the latter being very good-looking, and very
well-dressed.

Among our acquaintances was Marple, the farmer, who had been present
when Sir Leycester Barfleur was lost in the morass, and honest Ned
Rushton, the keeper.

Already a brilliant assemblage was collected in the large room
up-stairs, which was beautifully decorated with flowers, as were the
drawing-room and the Hall. In fact, there were flowers everywhere.

At length the bell began to ring, the several bridal parties assembled
in the Hall, and marshalled by Higgins and Norris, issued forth.

Preceded by a dozen young damsels dressed in white, who scattered
flowers in their path, they then moved through the crowded court to the
chapel, amid the audibly-expressed good wishes of the beholders.

Sir Bridgnorth and Lady Thicknesse took the lead, and her ladyship
looked magnificent in her bridal array.

Then came Emmeline, escorted by her uncle, Sir Gerard Danvers,
and followed by Chetwynd and Captain Ponsonby. She excited general
admiration, as did Mildred, who followed on the arm of Mr. Talbot
Hesketh, her mother's first cousin. Close behind them came Captain
Danvers and his brother Scrope. Lastly came Rose, charmingly and simply
attired in white, and looking quite as pretty as the others. Attended
by her mother, and leaning on her father's arm, she was followed by
Netterville and Tom Tankard. Laura and Clarissa were to act as her
bridesmaids, but they had already gone into the chapel.

The little chapel presented an exceedingly pretty sight; but it was so
full that very few of the tenantry could be admitted.

The chaplain was already at the altar, and his venerable figure
completed the charming picture.

A few minutes elapsed while the several couples were being placed; but
at length this preliminary proceeding was accomplished, and the ceremony
commenced.

At this juncture the scene was exceedingly interesting, and long lived
in the memory of those fortunate enough to behold it.

Rarely have two more beautiful brides than Emmeline and Mildred appeared
at the altar--nay, we may say three, for Rose was little their inferior
in beauty; and Lady Thicknesse, if she had not youth, had remarkable
grace and elegance.

Grouped around were the bridesmaids, all of whom were young, exceedingly
pretty, and charmingly attired.

Placed somewhat apart was Lady Barfleur, but being in deep mourning, she
would not mingle with the group.

The ceremony proceeded, and the different couples were united.

Lady Thicknesse became Lady Bridgnorth, greatly to the delight of the
excellent baronet. Chetwynd was made supremely happy by the hand of
Emmeline. Nor had Charles Danvers less reason to be content, for in
Mildred he obtained a treasure; while we doubt whether any one was
happier than Harry Netterville, when he could really call Rose his own.

The ceremony is over.

We will accompany the happy couples--and they really deserve to be so
described--as they cross the still crowded court, and pass through lines
of bowing tenantry into the hall; but we will not join the throng in the
drawing-room, nor sit down with the large party in the dining-room to
the admirable breakfast prepared by Monsieur Zephyrus.

We will make passing bows to the beautiful brides; we will say farewell
to our kindly Sir Bridgnorth, whom we rejoice to say still flourishes;
we will bid adieu to Chetwynd and Charles Danvers, and wish them all
happiness.

We will visit for a moment another table in another room, at which
we shall find our blooming little Rose and her happy husband--now the
happiest couple possible--her worthy father and doting mother; Tom
Tankard and _his_ father, who keeps him in order; Marple, the farmer;
Ned Rushton, the keeper; and a great many more, all of whom are enjoying
a most plentiful and excellent repast, at which, besides wine, there is
no lack of good strong ale, a couple of casks having been broached that
morning for the tenantry and general guests.

Our task is done.


THE END.





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