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Title: Addie's Husband - or, Through clouds to sunshine
Author: Smythies, Mrs. Gordon
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Addie's Husband - or, Through clouds to sunshine" ***

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  [Illustration:

  NO. 388. SINGLE NUMBER.                       PRICE 10 CENTS.

  THE
  Seaside Library
  Pocket Edition.


  Addie's Husband;
  OR,
  THROUGH CLOUDS TO SUNSHINE.


  By the author of "LOVE OR LANDS?"



  17 TO 27 VANDEWATER ST
  NEW YORK

  George Munro
  PUBLISHER

  The Seaside Library, Pocket Edition. Issued Tri-weekly.
    By Subscription $36 per annum
  Copyrighted 1885, by George Munro--Entered at the Post Office
    at New York at second class rates
  ]



  MUNRO'S PUBLICATIONS.

  THE SEASIDE LIBRARY.--POCKET EDITION.


  NO.                                         PRICE.

    1 Yolande. By William Black                   20

    2  Molly Bawn. By "The Duchess"               20

    3  The Mill on the Floss. By George Eliot     20

    4  Under Two Flags. By "Ouida"                20

    5  Admiral's Ward. By Mrs. Alexander          20

    6  Portia. By "The Duchess"                   20

    7  File No. 113. By Emile Gaboriau            20

    8  East Lynne. By Mrs. Henry Wood             20

    9  Wanda. By "Ouida"                          20

   10 The Old Curiosity Shop. By Dickens          20

   11 John Halifax, Gentleman. Miss Mulock        20

   12 Other People's Money. By Gaboriau           20

   13 Eyre's Acquittal. By Helen B. Mathers       10

   14 Airy Fairy Lilian. By "The Duchess"         10

   15 Jane Eyre. By Charlotte Brontë              20

   16 Phyllis. By "The Duchess"                   20

   17 The Wooing O't. By Mrs. Alexander           15

   18 Shandon Bells. By William Black             20

   19 Her Mother's Sin. By the Author of
      "Dora Thorne"                               10

   20 Within an Inch of His Life. By Emile
      Gaboriau                                    20

   21 Sunrise. By William Black                   20

   22 David Copperfield. Dickens. Vol. I.         20

   22 David Copperfield. Dickens. Vol. II.        20

   23 A Princess of Thule. By William Black       20

   24 Pickwick Papers. Dickens. Vol. I.           20

   24 Pickwick Papers. Dickens. Vol. II.          20

   25 Mrs. Geoffrey. By "The Duchess"             20

   26 Monsieur Lecoq. By Gaboriau. Vol. I.        20

   26 Monsieur Lecoq. By Gaboriau. Vol. II.       20

   27 Vanity Fair. By William M. Thackeray        20

   28 Ivanhoe. By Sir Walter Scott                20

   29 Beauty's Daughters. "The Duchess"           10

   30 Faith and Unfaith. By "The Duchess"         20

   31 Middlemarch. By George Eliot                20

   32 The Land Leaguers. Anthony Trollope         20

   33 The Clique of Gold. By Emile Gaboriau       10

   34 Daniel Deronda. By George Eliot             30

   35 Lady Audrey's Secret. Miss Braddon          20

   36 Adam Bede. By George Eliot                  20

   37 Nicholas Nickleby. By Charles Dickens       30

   38 The Widow Lerouge. By Gaboriau              20

   39 In Silk Attire. By William Black            20

   40 The Last Days of Pompeii. By Sir E.
      Bulwer Lytton                               20

   41 Oliver Twist. By Charles Dickens            15

   42 Romola. By George Eliot                     20

   43 The Mystery of Orcival. Gaboriau            20

   44 Macleod of Dare. By William Black           20

   45 A Little Pilgrim. By Mrs. Oliphant          10

   46 Very Hard Cash. By Charles Reade            20

   47 Altiora Peto. By Laurence Oliphant          20

   48 Thicker Than Water. By James Payn           20

   49 That Beautiful Wretch. By Black             20

   50 The Strange Adventures of a Phaeton.
      By William Black                            20

   51 Dora Thorne. By the Author of "Her
      Mother's Sin"                               20

   52 The New Magdalen. By Wilkie Collins         10

   53 The Story of Ida. By Francesca              10

   54 A Broken Wedding-Ring. By the Author
      of "Dora Thorne"                            20

   55 The Three Guardsmen. By Dumas               20

   56 Phantom Fortune. Miss Braddon               20

   57 Shirley. By Charlotte Brontë                20

   58 By the Gate of the Sea. D. C. Murray        10

   59 Vice Versâ. By F. Anstey                    20

   60 The Last of the Mohicans. Cooper            20

   61 Charlotte Temple. By Mrs. Rowson            10

   62 The Executor. By Mrs. Alexander             20

   63 The Spy. By J. Fenimore Cooper              20

   64 A Maiden Fair. By Charles Gibbon            10

   65 Back to the Old Home. By M. C. Hay          10

   66 The Romance of a Poor Young Man.
      By Octave Feuillet                          10

   67 Lorna Doone. By R. D. Blackmore             30

   68 A Queen Amongst Women. By the
      Author of "Dora Thorne"                     10

   69 Madolin's Lover. By the Author of
      "Dora Thorne"                               20

   70 White Wings. By William Black               10

   71 A Struggle for Fame. Mrs. Riddell           20

   72 Old Myddelton's Money. By M. C. Hay         20

   73 Redeemed by Love. By the Author of
      "Dora Thorne"                               20

   74 Aurora Floyd. By Miss M. E. Braddon         20

   75 Twenty Years After. By Dumas                20

   76 Wife in Name Only. By the Author of
      "Dora Thorne"                               20

   77 A Tale of Two Cities. By Dickens            15

   78 Madcap Violet. By William Black             20

   79 Wedded and Parted. By the Author
      of "Dora Thorne"                            10

   80 June. By Mrs. Forrester                     20

   81 A Daughter of Heth. By Wm. Black            20

   82 Sealed Lips. By F. Du Boisgobey             20

   83 A Strange Story. Bulwer Lytton              20

   84 Hard Times. By Charles Dickens              10

   85 A Sea Queen. By W. Clark Russell            20

   86 Belinda. By Rhoda Broughton                 20

   87 Dick Sand; or, A Captain at Fifteen.
      By Jules Verne                              20

   88 The Privateersman. Captain Marryat          20

   89 The Red Eric. By R. M. Ballantyne           10

   90 Ernest Maltravers. Bulwer Lytton            20

   91 Barnaby Rudge. By Charles Dickens           20

   92 Lord Lynne's Choice. By the Author
      of "Dora Thorne"                            10

   93 Anthony Trollope's Autobiography            20

   94 Little Dorrit. By Charles Dickens           30

   95 The Fire Brigade. R. M. Ballantyne          10

   96 Erling the Bold. By R. M. Ballantyne        10

   97 All in a Garden Fair. Walter Besant         20

   98 A Woman-Hater. By Charles Reade             15

   99 Barbara's History. A. B. Edwards            20

  100 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas. By
      Jules Verne                                 20

  101 Second Thoughts. Rhoda Broughton            20

  102 The Moonstone. By Wilkie Collins            15

  103 Rose Fleming. By Dora Russell               10

  104 The Coral Pin. By F. Du Boisgobey           30

  105 A Noble Wife. By John Saunders              20

  106 Bleak House. By Charles Dickens             40

  107 Dombey and Son. Charles Dickens             40

  108 The Cricket on the Hearth, and Doctor
      Marigold. By Charles Dickens                10

  109 Little Loo. By W. Clark Russell             20

  110 Under the Red Flag. By Miss Braddon         10

  111 The Little School-Master Mark. By
      J. H. Shorthouse                            10

  112 The Waters of Marah. By John Hill           20

  113 Mrs. Carr's Companion. By M.
      G. Wightwick                                10

  114 Some of Our Girls. By Mrs.
      C. J. Eiloart                               20

  115 Diamond Cut Diamond. By T.
      Adolphus Trollope                           10

  116 Moths. By "Ouida"                           20

  117 A Tale of the Shore and Ocean.
      By W. H. G. Kingston                        20

  118 Loys, Lord Berresford, and Eric
      Dering. By "The Duchess"                    10

  119 Monica, and A Rose Distill'd.
      By "The Duchess"                            10

  120 Tom Brown's School Days at
      Rugby. By Thomas Hughes                     20

  121 Maid of Athens. By Justin McCarthy          20

  122 Ione Stewart. By Mrs. E. Lynn
      Linton                                      20

  123 Sweet is True Love. By "The
      Duchess"                                    10

  124 Three Feathers. By William
      Black                                       20

  125 The Monarch of Mincing Lane.
      By William Black                            20

  126 Kilmeny. By William Black                   20

  127 Adrian Bright. By Mrs. Caddy                20

  128 Afternoon, and Other Sketches.
      By "Ouida"                                  10

  129 Rossmoyne. By "The Duchess"                 10

  130 The Last of the Barons. By
      Sir E. Bulwer Lytton                        40

  131 Our Mutual Friend. By Charles
      Dickens                                     40

  132 Master Humphrey's Clock. By
      Charles Dickens                             10

  133 Peter the Whaler. By W. H. G.
      Kingston                                    10

  134 The Witching Hour. By "The
      Duchess"                                    10

  135 A Great Heiress. By R. E. Francillon        10

  136 "That Last Rehearsal." By
      "The Duchess"                               10

  137 Uncle Jack. By Walter Besant                10

  138 Green Pastures and Piccadilly.
      By William Black                            20

  139 The Romantic Adventures of a
      Milkmaid. By Thomas Hardy                   10

  140 A Glorious Fortune. By Walter
      Besant                                      10

  141 She Loved Him! By Annie
      Thomas                                      10

  142 Jenifer. By Annie Thomas                    20

  143 One False, Both Fair. J. B.
      Harwood                                     20

  144 Promises of Marriage. By
      Emile Gaboriau                              10

  145 "Storm-Beaten:" God and The
      Man. By Robert Buchanan                     20

  146 Love Finds the Way. By Walter
      Besant and James Rice                       10

  147 Rachel Ray. By Anthony Trollope             20

  148 Thorns and Orange-Blossoms.
      By the author of "Dora
      Thorne"                                     10

  149 The Captain's Daughter. From
      the Russian of Pushkin                      10

  150 For Himself Alone. By T. W.
      Speight                                     10

  151 The Ducie Diamonds. By C.
      Blatherwick                                 10

  152 The Uncommercial Traveler.
      By Charles Dickens                          20

  153 The Golden Calf. By Miss M. E.
      Braddon                                     20

  154 Annan Water. By Robert Buchanan             20

  155 Lady Muriel's Secret. By Jean
      Middlemas                                   20

  156 "For a Dream's Sake." By Mrs.
      Herbert Martin                              20

  157 Milly's Hero. By F. W. Robinson             20

  158 The Starling. By Norman Macleod,
      D.D.                                        10

  159 A Moment of Madness, and
      Other Stories. By Florence
      Marryat                                     10

  160 Her Gentle Deeds. By Sarah
      Tytler                                      10

  161 The Lady of Lyons. Founded
      on the Play of that title by
      Lord Lytton                                 10

  162 Eugene Aram. By Sir E. Bulwer
      Lytton                                      20

  163 Winifred Power. By Joyce Darrell            20

  164 Leila; or, The Siege of Grenada.
      By Sir E. Bulwer Lytton                     10

  165 The History of Henry Esmond.
      By William Makepeace Thackeray              20

  166 Moonshine and Marguerites. By
      "The Duchess"                               10

  167 Heart and Science. By Wilkie
      Collins                                     20

  168 No Thoroughfare. By Charles
      Dickens and Wilkie Collins                  10

  169 The Haunted Man. By Charles
      Dickens                                     10

  170 A Great Treason. By Mary
      Hoppus                                      30

  171 Fortune's Wheel, and Other
      Stories. By "The Duchess"                   10

  172 "Golden Girls." By Alan Muir                20

  173 The Foreigners. By Eleanor C.
      Price                                       20

  174 Under a Ban. By Mrs. Lodge                  20

  175 Love's Random Shot, and Other
      Stories. By Wilkie Collins                  10

  176 An April Day. By Philippa P.
      Jephson                                     10

  177 Salem Chapel. By Mrs. Oliphant              20

  178 More Leaves from the Journal
      of a Life in the Highlands. By
      Queen Victoria                              10

  179 Little Make-Believe. By B. L.
      Farjeon                                     10

  180 Round the Galley Fire. By W.
      Clark Russell                               10

  181 The New Abelard. By Robert
      Buchanan                                    10

  182 The Millionaire. A Novel                    20

  183 Old Contrairy, and Other Stories.
      By Florence Marryat                         10

  184 Thirlby Hall. By W. E. Norris               20

  185 Dita. By Lady Margaret Majendie             10

  186 The Canon's Ward. By James
      Payn                                        20

  187 The Midnight Sun. By Fredrika
      Bremer                                      10

  188 Idonea. By Anne Beale                       20

  189 Valerie's Fate. By Mrs. Alexander            5

  190 Romance of a Black Veil. By
      the author of "Dora Thorne"                 10

  191 Harry Lorrequer. By Charles
      Lever                                       15

  192 At the World's Mercy. By F.
      Warden                                      10

  193 The Rosary Folk. By G. Manville
      Fenn                                        10

  194 "So Near and Yet So Far!" By
      Alison                                      10

  195 "The Way of the World." By
      David Christie Murray                       15

  196 Hidden Perils. By Mary Cecil
      Hay                                         10

  197 For Her Dear Sake. By Mary
      Cecil Hay                                   20

  198 A Husband's Story                           10

  199 The Fisher Village. By Anne
      Beale                                       10

  200 An Old Man's Love. By Anthony
      Trollope                                    10

  201 The Monastery. By Sir Walter
      Scott                                       20

  202 The Abbot. By Sir Walter Scott              20

  203 John Bull and His Island. By
      Max O'Rell                                  10

  204 Vixen. By Miss M. E. Braddon                15

  205 The Minister's Wife. By Mrs.
      Oliphant                                    30

  206 The Picture, and Jack of All
      Trades. By Charles Reade                    10

  207 Pretty Miss Neville. By B. M.
      Croker                                      15

  208 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray,
      and Other Stories. By Florence
      Marryat                                     10

  209 John Holdsworth, Chief Mate.
      By W. Clark Russell                         10

  210 Readiana: Comments on Current
      Events. By Chas. Reade                      10

  211 The Octoroon. By Miss M. E.
      Braddon                                     10

  212 Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon.
      By Chas. Lever (Complete
      in one volume)                              30

  213 A Terrible Temptation. Chas.
      Reade                                       15

  214 Put Yourself in His Place. By
      Charles Reade                               20

  215 Not Like Other Girls. By Rosa
      Nouchette Carey                             15

  216 Foul Play. By Charles Reade                 15

  217 The Man She Cared For. By
      F. W. Robinson                              15

  218 Agnes Sorel. By G. P. R. James              15

  219 Lady Clare; or, The Master of
      the Forges. By Georges Ohnet                10

  220 Which Loved Him Best? By
      the author of "Dora Thorne"                 10

  221 Comin' Thro' the Rye. By
      Helen B. Mathers                            15

  222 The Sun-Maid. By Miss Grant                 15

  223 A Sailor's Sweetheart. By W.
      Clark Russell                               15

  224 The Arundel Motto. Mary Cecil
      Hay                                         15

  225 The Giant's Robe. By F. Anstey              15

  226 Friendship. By "Ouida"                      20

  227 Nancy. By Rhoda Broughton                   15

  228 Princess Napraxine. By "Ouida"              20

  229 Maid, Wife, or Widow? By
      Mrs. Alexander                              10

  230 Dorothy Forster. By Walter
      Besant                                      15

  231 Griffith Gaunt. By Charles
      Reade                                       15

  232 Love and Money; or, A Perilous
      Secret. By Charles Reade                    10

  233 "I Say No;" or, the Love-Letter
      Answered. Wilkie Collins                    15

  234 Barbara; or, Splendid Misery.
      Miss M. E. Braddon                          15

  235 "It is Never Too Late to
      Mend." By Charles Reade                     20

  236 Which Shall It Be? Mrs. Alexander           20

  237 Repented at Leisure. By the
      author of "Dora Thorne"                     15

  238 Pascarel. By "Ouida"                        20

  239 Signa. By "Ouida"                           20

  240 Called Back. By Hugh Conway                 10

  241 The Baby's Grandmother. By
      L. B. Walford                               10

  242 The Two Orphans. By D'Ennery                10

  243 Tom Burke of "Ours." First
      half. By Charles Lever                      20

  243 Tom Burke of "Ours." Second
      half. By Charles Lever                      20

  244 A Great Mistake. By the author
      of "His Wedded Wife"                        20

  245 Miss Tommy, and In a House-Boat.
      By Miss Mulock                              10

  246 A Fatal Dower. By the author
      of "His Wedded Wife"                        10

  247 The Armourer's Prentices. By
      Charlotte M. Yonge                          10

  248 The House on the Marsh. F.
      Warden                                      10

  249 "Prince Charlie's Daughter."
      By author of "Dora Thorne"                  10

  250 Sunshine and Roses; or, Diana's
      Discipline. By the author
      of "Dora Thorne"                            10

  251 The Daughter of the Stars, and
      Other Tales. By Hugh Conway,
      author of "Called Back"                     10

  252 A Sinless Secret. By "Rita"                 10

  253 The Amazon. By Carl Vosmaer                 10

  254 The Wife's Secret, and Fair but
      False. By the author of
      "Dora Thorne"                               10


  [CONTINUED ON THIRD PAGE OF COVER.]



  ADDIE'S HUSBAND;
  OR,
  THROUGH CLOUDS TO SUNSHINE.


  By the author of "Love or Lands?"



  NEW YORK:
  GEORGE MUNRO, PUBLISHER,
  17 TO 27 VANDEWATER STREET.



ADDIE'S HUSBAND.



CHAPTER I.


"'Soldier, sailor, tinker, tailor, policeman, plowboy, gentleman--'
Adelaide Lefroy, lift your lovely head, my dear; you're to marry a
gentleman."

Miss Adelaide, who is absorbed in the enjoyment of a ruddy ribstone
pippin, turns her blooming freckled face to the speaker, and answers
pleasantly, though a little indistinctly--

"I'm to marry a gentleman, brother Hal? Well, I guess I've no
particular objection! Whenever he comes, he will find me ready to
do him homage, and no mistake! Can't you tell me more about him? 'A
gentleman' is rather vague. Is he to be rich, poor, or something
between? Am I to share his gentility in a Belgravian mansion or a
suburban villa?"

"The oracle does not say. I can't tell you any more, Addie. I've come
nearer the point with the others, though. Pauline is to be a soldier's
bride, Goggles a policeman's!"

"Don't you believe him, Addie!" burst in Goggles, a pale
delicate-looking child of twelve, with large protruding eyes and a
painfully inquiring turn of mind. "He cheated horribly; he ran the
policeman in before the tailor the second time, and left out the
sailor."

"I didn't, miss--I did it quite fairly. You had four chances; you
got the tinker once and the policeman three times. You're to marry a
bobby--there's no hope for you!"

"I won't, I won't, I won't!" she retorts passionately, angry tears
welling into her big, foolish eyes. "I won't marry a policeman, Hal!
I'd rather die an old maid ten times over."

"First catch your policeman, my dear," chimes in Pauline, languidly
waving aside a swarm of gnats dancing round her beautiful dusky head.
"You'll not find many of that ilk sneaking round our larder, I can tell
you!"

"I don't care whether I do or not. I won't marry a--"

"That will do, Lottie; we have had quite enough of this nonsense,"
interposes Addie, suddenly and unexpectedly assuming the tones of a
reproving elder sister. "You came out here to study, and I don't think
either you or Pauline has read that French exercise once, though you
promised Aunt Jo you would have it off by heart for her this afternoon.
Give me the book; I'll hear you. Translate 'I am hungry; give me some
cheese.'"

"_Je suis faim; donnez-moi du--du--_"

"No; wrong to begin with. It is _J'ai faim_, 'I have hunger.'"

"'I have hunger!'" grumbles Lottie. "That just shows what a useless
humbugging language French is! Fancy any one but an idiot saying, 'I
have hunger,' instead of--"

"Don't talk so much. 'Have you my brother's penknife?'"

"_Avez-vous mon frère's plume-couteau?_"

Miss Lefroy tosses back the tattered Ahn in speechless disgust.

"Never mind, Goggles; I'll give you a sentence to translate," whispers
Hal teasingly. "Listen! _Esker le policeman est en amour_--eh? That's
better than anything in an old Ahn or Ollendorff, isn't it? _Esker le
poli_--"

"Hal, do leave your sister alone, and attend to your own task. I don't
believe you have got that wretched sum right yet, though you have been
at it all the morning."

"And such a toothsome sum too!" says Pauline, leaning forward and
reading aloud the problem inscribed on the top of the cracked greasy
slate in Aunt Jo's straggling old fashioned writing--

"'Uncle Dick gave little Jemmy five shillings as a Christmas-box.
He went to a pastry-cook's, and bought seven mince-pies at twopence
halfpenny each, a box of chocolate, nine oranges at one shilling and
sixpence per dozen; he gave tenpence to a poor boy, and had four-pence
left. What was the price of the chocolate?'"

"It's a rotten old sum--that's what it is!" says Hal trenchantly.
"What's the sense of annoying a fellow with mince-pies and things when
he hasn't the faintest chance of getting outside one for--"

"Hal, don't be vulgar!"

"Besides, you can change the pies into potatoes or rhubarb-powders if
you like," puts in Goggles spitefully, "and work the sum all the same.
I'll tell auntie you did nothing but draw the dogs all the morning."

"Yah! Tell-tale tit, your tongue shall be split!"

"Why did you say I'd marry a--"

"Charlotte, hold your tongue at once!"

There is a ring of authority in Miss Lefroy's fresh voice that insures
silence.

Pauline throws herself back upon the mossy sward, yawning heavily;
Addie weaves herself a wreath of feathery grasses and tinted
autumn-leaves, then picks a milky-petaled flower, which she stealthily
and cautiously begins to fray.

"'Soldier, sailor, tinker, tailor, policeman, plowboy, gentleman--'
Again! How very strange! There seems a fate in it! I wish I could find
out more, though. I can't bring it to 'soldier'--heigh-ho!"

It is a still slumberous noon in early October: a mellow sun trickles
through "th' umbrageous multitude of leaves," which still linger,
vivid-hued, on the stately timber that shelters Nutsgrove, the family
residence of the pauper Lefroys.

Nutsgrove is a low rambling brick manor-house, built in the time of
the Tudors, surrounded by a stone terrace leading to a vast parterre,
which, in the days of their opulence, the Lefroys were wont to
maintain, vied in beauty and architectural display with the famous
gardens of Nonsuch, in the reign of Henry VIII., sung by Spenser,
but which now, alas, was a ragged wilderness, covered with overgrown
distorted shrubs, giant weeds, ruinous summer-houses, timeworn
statues, and slimy pools, in which once splashed fairy-mouthed
fountains.

    "So pure and shiny that the silver floode
    Through every channel one might running see"

to the bottom,

    "All paved beneath with jasper shining light."

Beyond this acreage of desolation is the orchard, protected by
crumbling walls, creeping into the famous nut-grove, the uncultured
beauty of which the noisome hands of neglect and decay have not touched.

As the nut-grove was in the days of Tristran le Froi, when he
established himself on Saxon soil, so it is now--a green-canopied
retreat, carpeted with moss and fringed with fern; it is the chosen
home of every woodlark, blackbird, thrush, and squirrel of taste in the
shire--the nursery, school-room, El Dorado of the five young Lefroys,
children of Colonel Robert Lefroy, commonly known as "Robert the Devil"
in the days of his reckless youth and unhonored prime, a gentleman who
bade his family and his native land goodnight in rather hurried fashion
about three years before.

"There goes Bob! I wonder did he get the ferret out of old Rogers?"
exclaims Hal, breaking a drowsy silence. "I wish he'd come and tell us."

But the heir of the house of Lefroy, heedless of appealing cry and
inviting whistle, stalks homeward steadily, a rank cigarette hanging
from his beardless lips, a pair of bull-pups clinging to his heels. He
is a tall shapely lad of eighteen, with a handsome gypsy face and eyes
like his sister Pauline's--large, dark, full of haughty fire.

"How nasty of him not to come!" grumbles the younger brother. "I
wonder what has put his back up? Perhaps old Rogers turned crusty, and
wouldn't lend the ferret. Shouldn't wonder, because--"

"The gong, the gong at last!" cries Pauline, springing to her feet. "I
didn't know I was so hungry until its welcome music smote my ears. Come
along, family."

They need no second bidding. In two minutes the grove is free from
their boisterous presence, and they are flying across the lawn,
their mongrel but beloved kennel barking, yelping, and scampering
enthusiastically around, making the autumn noon hideous.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What's for dinner?"

"Rabbits!"

"Rabbits! Ye gods--again! Why, this is the fourth day this week that
we've fared on their delectable flesh!" cries Robert, striding into the
dining-room in grim disgust.

"At this rate we'll soon clear Higgins's warren for him!" chimes in Hal.

"Aunt Jo, let me say grace to-day, will you?"

"Certainly, my dear," Aunt Jo responds, somewhat surprised at the
request. She is a mild, sheep faced old gentlewoman, with weary eyes
that within the last two years have rained tears almost daily.

Pauline folds her slim sunburnt hands, bows her head, and murmurs
reverently--

    "Of rabbits young, of rabbits old,
    Of rabbits hot, of rabbits cold,
    Of rabbits tender, rabbits tough,
    We thank thee, Lord, we've had enough!"

"Amen!" respond the family, in full lugubrious choir.

"I wonder if I shall know the flavor of butcher's meat if I ever
taste it again?" says Robert presently, with exaggerated exertion
hacking a cumbrous limb that covers his cracked plate--a plate which a
china-collector would have treasured in a cabinet.

"You certainly won't taste butcher's meat again until the butcher's
bill is paid," answers Aunt Jo sharply. "Thirteen pounds eleven and
sixpence--so he sent me word when Sarah tried to get a mutton-chop for
Lottie the day she was so ill. Until his bill is paid, he won't trust
us with another pound of flesh; that was the message he sent to me--to
me--Josephine Darcy! Oh that I should live to receive such a message
from a tradesman! What would my dear uncle the bishop have felt if he
could have heard it?"

"But he can't hear it, auntie dear," says Lottie, consolingly. "He's
dead, you know."

"Not dead, but gone before," reproves Miss Darcy, burying her face in
her handkerchief.

"Water-works again!" groans Robert, _sotto voce_. "Use the plug, some
one."

Addie obeys the elegant order by slipping her arm round the old lady's
neck.

"There, there, dear; don't take on so. You fret too much about us;
you'll make yourself ill in the end. Cheer up, auntie dear, cheer--"

"Cheer up!" she interrupts, in a wailing voice. "Oh, child, it is
easy for you to talk in that light way! Cheer up, when poverty is at
the door, starvation staring us in the face! Cheer up, when I look at
you five neglected, deserted children, growing up half fed, wholly
uneducated, clothed as badly as the poorest laborer on the vast estates
your grandfather owned--you my poor dead sister's children! Oh, Addie,
Addie, you talk and feel like a child--a child of the summer, who has
not the sense, the power to feel the chill breath of coming winter!
How can you know? How can you understand? You heard your brothers and
your sisters here grumbling and railing at me not five minutes ago
because I had not legs of mutton and ribs of beef to feed you with,
grumbling because this is the fourth time in one week you have had to
dine off rabbit. Well"--with a sudden burst of anguish--"do you know,
if Steve Higgins, devoted retainer that he is, had not the kindness,
the forethought to supply us, as he has been doing for the last month,
with the surplus of his warren, you'd have had to dine off bread and
vegetables altogether? For not a scrap of solid food will they supply
us with in Nutsford until my wretched dividends are due, and that is
four months off yet. Oh, Addie dear, don't try to talk to me; I can
bear up no longer! Sorrows have come to me too late in life. I--I can
bear up no longer!"

Her voice dies away in hysterical sobs. By this time the family
are grouped round the afflicted lady; even Robert's hard young arm
encircles her heaving shoulder. He joins as vehemently as any in the
sympathizing chorus.

"There, there; don't, auntie dear. Heaven will help us, you'll see!"

"Every cloud has a silver lining, every thorn-bush a blossom."

"Something is sure to turn up, never fear."

"And we shouldn't mind a bit if you wouldn't take on so and fret so
dreadfully."

"Don't heed our grumblings; they're only noise. We'd just as soon have
rabbit as anything else--wouldn't you, boys, wouldn't you? There,
auntie, you hear them. Boys must grumble at something; it wouldn't be
natural if they didn't."

"Oh, auntie, auntie, can't you believe us? We're quite, quite happy as
we are. As long as we are all together, as long as we have the dear old
place to live in, what does anything else matter? We're quite happy. We
never want to change or go away, or wear grand clothes, talk French, or
thump the piano like other common people. We don't--we don't indeed! If
you would only leave off fretting, we'd leave off grumbling, and be all
as happy as the day is long."

Somewhat cheered by this unanimous appeal, Miss Darcy wipes her eyes,
though still protesting.

"I know that, I know that; as long as you're allowed to wander at
your own sweet will, lie on haystacks, rifle birds' nests, strip the
apple and cherry trees, hunt rats and rabbits, and, above all, do no
lessons, and make no attempt to improve your minds in any way, you will
be happy. But the question is, How long will these doubtful means of
happiness be left to you? Acre after acre, farm after farm, has slipped
from the family within the last thirty years. You have now but nominal
possession of the house, garden, orchard, and part of the grove--only
nominal possession, remember, for the place is mortgaged to the last
farthing; the very pictures on the wall, the chairs you sit on, the
china in the pantry, are all security for borrowed money. And--and,
children"--impressively--"it is best for you to know the worst. If--if
your--your father should cease to pay the interest on this money, why,
his creditors could seize on this place and turn you out homeless on
the roadside at an hour's notice!"

There is a deep silence; then comes a protesting outburst. Robert's
dark face flushes wrathfully as he exclaims--

"But--but, Aunt Jo, he--he will--he must pay the interest, and give me
a chance of reclaiming my birthright. He--he couldn't be so--so bad as
to let that lapse under the circumstances."

"Circumstances may be too strong for him."

"In any case," says Pauline hopefully, "the creditors couldn't be so
heartless, so devoid of all feelings of humanity as to turn us out
like that; they must wait until some of us are dead, or married, or
something. Where could we go?"

"Your father's creditors are Jews, Pauline; they are not famed for
humanity or forbearance. However, as you say, children, it is best to
look at the bright side of things, and trust in the mercy of Heaven."

"And in the mercy of a Jew too!" chimes in Addie.

"'Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions--fed with the same food, hurt with the
same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter, as a Christian is? If
you prick him, does he not bleed? If you tickle him, does he not laugh?
If you poison him, does he not--'"

"Bravo, Addie--bravo; well done!"

"That was tall spouting, and no mistake! Where did you pick it all up?"

"That's Shakespeare," Addie answers, lifting her rosy pale face
proudly--"it is from the 'Merchant of Venice;' I read the whole play
through yesterday, and enjoyed it greatly."

"You imagined you did, my dear."

"Nothing of the kind, Robert; I found it most interesting."

"Don't tell me, Addie," says Pauline, with a tantalizing laugh, "that
you found it as interesting as 'The Children of the Abbey,' 'The Castle
of Otranto,' or 'The Heir of Redcliffe,' for I won't believe you."

"The styles are quite distinct; you could not possibly compare them,"
Addie retorts more grandly still. "I am going up to the grove now to
read 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' I believe it's beautiful."

"Don't you think, my dear niece, you had better mend that hole in your
stocking, just above the heel, first?" interposes Miss Darcy gently.
"It has been in that yawning condition for the last two days; and, to
say the least of it, it scarcely looks ladylike."

"I noticed it when I was dressing," assents Addie, placidly, "but quite
forgot about it afterward. Who'll lend me a thimble and a needle and
some cotton?"



CHAPTER II.


"Three hundred years, isn't it, Addie, since the Lefroys first settled
at Nutsgrove?"

"Three hundred years," repeats Addie automatically. "Since the year of
the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, A.D., 1572, when Tristran le
Froi, Sieur de Beaulieu, fled from his patrimonial estates in Anjou to
England, where he settled at Nutsgrove, and married, in 1574, Adelaide
Marion, daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Tisdale of Flockton, by whom
he had issue, three sons and two daughters--Stephen, Robert, Tristran,
who--"

"Three hundred years!" repeats Robert, with fierce bitterness, a lurid
light gleaming in his eyes. "What right had he to treat me like that?
He got it from his father, who got it from his, and so on backward from
son to father for generations. Why should I be made to suffer for his
iniquity? Why should I lose what he inherited in solemn trust for his
son or next of kin? It is infamous, it is monstrous! I suppose it would
be wrong to wish that one's own father--"

"Oh, hush, Robert--hush!"

Addie's hand is placed over the boy's quivering mouth; he is silenced.

Eight months have gone by, and the great evil foreseen by poor Aunt Jo
has come to pass.

Colonel Lefroy, out of reach of remonstrance or appeal, has let the old
home of his forefathers pass out of his hands and his son's forever.
The Jews have seized on the estate, evicted its nominal possessors,
sold by public auction the goods and chattels, the pictures, china,
plate, moldy tapestries, tattered carpets, curtains, scratched
and time stained Chippendale; even the worthless relics of their
nursery-days the homeless wretched children have not been allowed to
take with them. The house and immediately surrounding land, after
some brisk competition, has been purchased by Tom Armstrong, the
great manufacturer, owner of some half-dozen of the most unsavory
chimneys in Kelvick, which at times, when the wind is blowing due
south, carry their noxious effluvia over the dewy acres of Nutsgrove
and the surrounding estates, and most unpleasantly tickle the noses of
aristocratic county proprietors, who have nothing in common with the
busy plebeian heart of commerce and inventive industry throbbing in the
very center of their pastures.

And now Tom Armstrong of Kelvick, a man of the people, who has risen
from the lowest rung of the social ladder, is master of Nutsgrove. And
the dark-eyed, blue-blooded Lefroys stand, some two months after his
installation, leaning against a five-barred gate in an upland meadow,
gazing mournfully, and, oh! how bitterly down on the beloved home they
have lost forever!

"Three hundred years," repeats Robert, with a dreary laugh. "Well, at
any rate, it will take some time to wash the stains of our tenancy
out of the old house, to remove all traces of our footsteps from the
well-worn paths! By Jove, the wretched snob is at work already! Yes,
look at his people hacking away at the flower-beds, ripping up the
avenue, hammering away at the venerable walls! It's--it's enough to
make one's blood boil in one's veins! He might at least have had the
decency to wait until we had gone. I'd like to kick him from here to
Kelvick."

"I don't think he'd let you, Bob," says matter-of-fact Hal. "He's a
bigger man than you."

"Yes, but a plowman can't fight a gentleman; they're out of it in the
first round. Look at the way I polished off the butcher's boy the day
he insulted you--and he's twice my weight. I shouldn't be afraid to
tackle Armstrong if I only had the chance, and souse him in one of his
vile vitriol-tanks, too. That would stop his hacking and hammering
until I was at least out of hearing."

"But, Bob," interposed Lottie, awed by her brother's lordly threats,
"you're mistaken. That man on the ladder by the west wall is not
hammering or hacking anything; he's only trying to clean the big lobby
window outside the housekeeper's room, which, I heard Aunt Jo say one
day, hasn't been cleaned since the year poor mamma died, when I was
a wee baby. It's so hard to reach, and doesn't open; and--and, Bob,
you can hardly blame Mr. Armstrong for weeding those beds, for there
were more dandelions and nettles in them last year than stocks or
mignonette."

"You mark my words," continues Robert, with lowering impressiveness,
heedless of his sister's explanation; "should any of us Lefroys stand
in this meadow, say, this time five years, we shall not recognize the
face of our old home. All its beloved landmarks will be swept away;
the flickering foliage of the grove will have disappeared to make way
for stunted shrubs, starveling pines, and prim Portuguese laurels: the
ivied walls, the mossy stonework, the straggling wealth of creeper,
will have been carted away to display the gaudy rawness of modern
landscape-gardening; the little river gurgling through the tangled fern
and scented thorn-bushes will be treated like the canal of a people's
park; the whole place will reek of vitriol, of chemical manures and
commercial improvements. So say good-by to Nutsgrove while you may, for
you will never see it again--never again!"

"Oh, Robert, Robert, do you think it will be as bad as that?" cries
Addie, turning her soft gray eyes to his wrathful face in wistful
appeal.

"Of course I do! What chance has it of escaping moneyed Vandalism? If
even a gentleman had bought it, no matter how poor--But what quarter
can one expect from the hands of an illiterate vitriol-monger, a
low-bred upstart, like that Armstrong?"

"Do you know, I think you are exaggerating his defects a little, Bob?"
says Addie, languidly. "He's a plain kind of man certainly, both in
manner and appearance; but--but he would not give me the idea of being
exactly ill-bred. He does not talk very loud or drop his 'h's,' for
instance."

"No, that's just it. I'd respect him far more if he did; it's the
painful veneer, the vague, nameless vulgarity of the man that repels
me so, that gives me the idea of his being perpetually on the watch
in case an 'h' might slip from him unawares. If he were an honest
horny-handed son of toil, not ashamed of his shop or his origin, not
ashamed to talk of his 'orse and 'is 'ouse like Higgins and Joe Smith,
I should not dislike him so much; but he's not that style of man--he
belongs to the breed of the pompous upstart, the sort of man stocked
with long caddish words that no gentleman uses, the man to call a
house a domicile, a horse a quadruped, a trench an excavation, and so
on. Talk of the--There goes the beggar, quadruped and all! I dare say
he fancies himself a type of the genuine country squire. Ugh! Down,
Hal--down, Goggles; he'd spot you in a moment! I wouldn't give him the
satisfaction of thinking we'd look at him."

They descend from the gate and stand together, the five abreast, taking
their farewell look, with swelling hearts, at the home where they have
spent their happy careless youth in sheltered union. They are not a
demonstrative family, the Lefroys--not given to moments of "gushing"
or caressing; they quarrel frequently among themselves, coming of
a hot-blooded race; yet, they are deeply attached to one another,
having shared all the joys and sorrows of each others' lives, having
no interests, no sympathies outside their immediate circle; and the
thought of coming separation weighs heavily on their young hearts, as
heavily as the pall of death.

"Well, we'd best make tracks," says Robert, turning away, his hands
shading his eyes, "we'll not forget the 29th of May--your birthday,
Hal, old chap. Last year, you remember we had tea in the grove, and
old Sarah baked us a stunning cake; this year we have made our last
pilgrimage together. Next year I wonder where we shall be? Scattered as
far and as wide as the graves of a household, I fear."

At this point Addie, the most hot tempered but the most tender-hearted
member of the family, breaks down, and flinging her arms round her
brother's neck, sobs out piteously--

"O, Bob, Bob, my own darling boy, I--I can't bear it--I can't bear to
have you go away over that cruel cold sea! I shall never sleep at night
thinking of you. Don't go away, don't go away; let's all stick together
and--and--go--die--somewhere--together! Oh, Bob, Bob, my darling, my
darling!"

There is another general break-down; they all cling one to another,
Hal and Lottie howling dismally, Robert's haughty eyes swimming too in
tears, until the sound of voices in a neighboring field forces them to
compose themselves, and they walk slowly across the upland meadow, at
the furthest corner of which they separate, the boys, at the urgent
invitation of their terriers, making for a rat-haunted ditch in the
neighborhood, the girls strolling toward Nutsford through the northern
end of the grove.

Miss Lefroy stalks on moodily in front, Lottie, still battling with her
emotion, clinging to her firm young arm. Pauline walks behind alone,
full of bitter thought, her straight brows painfully puckered. On the
morrow a new, strange life is to begin for her, one that she knows will
be eminently distasteful; her free young spirit is to be "cribbed,
cabined, confined," in the narrow path of conventionality at last, and
the prospect dismays her. Look as far ahead as she can, she can see no
break in the gathering gloom--can see only that at seventeen the summer
of her life is over and the long winter about to begin. Hope tells her
no flattering tale; she does not know that in herself she holds the
key of a triumphant liberty, of a future of sunlight, of glory, of all
that is sweet too, and coveted by womanhood. Pauline does not know
that she is beautiful, does not feel the shadow of her coming power,
or guess that the lithe willowy grace of her straight young form, the
glorious black of her eyes, the pure glow of her brunette skin, the
chiseled outline of her small features, will purchase for her goods and
pleasures of which her careless innocent girlhood has never dreamed.
No lover has whispered in her ear "the music of his honey vows," and
the cracked, fly-stained mirrors at Nutsgrove have told her nothing;
and so she is sad and sorrow-laden, and the burden of dependence and
uncongenial companionship looming before her seems to her almost more
than she can bear.

In silence they pass out of the green gloom of the grove, where "fair
enjeweled May" has touched with balmy breath each tiny bud, each tender
leaf,

    "Half prankt with spring, with summer half embrowned."

Under a scented hawthorn-hedge, skirting the main road that leads into
the High Street of Nutsford, the Misses Lefroy pause for a moment to
adjust the sylvan vagaries of their toilet.

Addie pulls a long limp plume of hartstongue and branch of "woodbine
faintly streaked with red" from the battered leaf of her straw hat,
which she pitches lightly over her straggling locks, then gives her
pelerine a hasty unmeaning twitch that carries the center hook from
the right to the left shoulder, and feels perfectly satisfied with
her appearance. Pauline steps in front of her sister, with a request
to stand on a troublesome bramble caught in her skirt. Addie without
hesitation puts forth a patched unlovely boot, and the other moves
forward with a brisk jerk, leaving not only the incumbrance well
behind, but also a flounce of muddy lining hanging below her skirt; and
thus the descendants of the Sieur de Beaulieu saunter down the High
Street, with heads erect, callous, haughtily indifferent to public
opinion, looking as it the whole county belonged to them.

"Look, mother--look at those poor Lefroys!" cried Miss Ethel Challice,
the banker's daughter, as she drives past in her elegantly appointed
C-spring landau, perfectly gloved, veiled, and shod. "Aren't they
awful? Not a pair of gloves among them! And their boots--elastic
sides--what my maid wouldn't wear! Patched at the toes, too! You would
never say they were ladies, would you?"

"Poor children! They have no mother, you know, darling, and a bad, bad
father."

"Oh, yes, I know! But he was such a handsome, attractive man! Don't you
remember, mother, at Ascot, three years ago, when he asked us to lunch
on his drag, and introduced me to Lord Squanderford, how fascinating we
all thought him?"

Mrs. Challice shrugs her portly shoulders.

"Fascinating, but thoroughly unprincipled, my dear. I do pity his poor
children. What will become of them, thrown destitute on the world?
Well, I have nothing for which to blame myself. I tried to do my best
for them; but--whether it was from want of manner or through senseless
pride I can not tell--Miss Lefroy did not respond to my attempted
civility, and the last day I called--about a year ago--I saw the whole
family flying from the house across the wilderness like a crowd of
scared savages, when the carriage stopped at the hall door."

"Oh, it was all want of manners, of course, mother dear! That poor girl
would not know how to receive a visitor or enter a drawing-room. She
has never been in any society, you know. All the county people have
left off calling on them too; they treated them just in the same way
that they treated you. They're perfect savages!"

"The second girl promises to be rather good-looking."

"Do you think so? She's too gypsified for my taste--looks as if she
would be in keeping at a country fair, with a tambourine and a scarlet
cap."

"She's a remarkably good-looking girl--that's what she is," Mr. Percy
Challice puts in, with a knowing smile--"steps out like a thoroughbred,
she does. 'Twould be well for you, my dear sister, if you had her
action on the pavement."

"So I could have, if I wore boots and skirts like hers," retorts Miss
Ethel sullenly.

"Then I'd strongly advise you, my dear, to get the address of her
milliner and bootmaker at once."



CHAPTER III.


"I say, Pauline, is that Miss Rossitor going in at No. 3? It's just
like what I remember of her dear old-maidish figure. I know she was
expected home this month."

"Poor old Rossitor!" laughs Pauline. "Do you remember, Addie, the long
mornings she used to spend trying to make Bob and you understand the
difference between latitude and longitude?"

"I remember," answers Addie, with a sigh, "that she was wonderfully
patient and painstaking with us, and I wish now with all my heart that
I had profited more by her teaching. Pauline, I think I'll just run in
and see if it is she. You and Lottie can return and let auntie know
where I am."

Miss Rossitor, a neat bright-eyed little woman of thirty-five, daughter
of a deceased clergyman, had, some three years before, undertaken the
education of Colonel Lefroy's neglected children, spending three or
four hours every morning in their dilapidated school-room. She had
become much attached to her unruly pupils, and it was with sincere
regret that she had to give them up and go abroad as resident governess
in a French family, being very poor herself, and finding it impossible
to get her quarterly applications for salary attended to by the gallant
but ever-absent colonel.

"You old dear!" cries Addie, kissing the little lady vehemently. "It is
you, really! I'm so glad to see you again! When did you arrive? How did
you manage to get leave?"

"I arrived last night; mother did not expect me for another
week. I managed to get leave, because, most fortunately--I mean
unfortunately--well, well"--with a beaming smile--"we won't try to
qualify the circumstance--at any rate, one of my pupils had a bad
attack of rheumatic fever, and was ordered to some German baths for a
couple of months, and, as the family have accompanied her, I got leave
for the time being. Now let me have a look at you, my dear Addie. Well,
to be sure, what an immense girl you have grown! But your face has not
changed much. And all the others--the boys--I suppose they have shot up
too? Three years do make a difference, do they not?"

"Rather!" cries poor Addie, lugubriously plunging at once into the
subject of her woes. "It has made an immense difference to us. Oh, Miss
Rossitor, you left us three years ago the happiest, the most contented
and united family under the sun--you return, to find us the most
miserable, destitute outcasts in England! Oh, oh!"

"There, there, child; don't give way so, don't, dear! Tell me all your
troubles, Addie; it may lighten them for you. I don't know anything
about you clearly: mother has not had time to tell me yet; we've had
visitors all the morning."

"There--there is little to tell. About two months ago we were
turned out of Nutsgrove. Every article of furniture was sold by
auction--even--even mother's wedding-presents--and the place was bought
by Tom Armstrong, the great vitriol and chemical manure man of Kelvick.
That's the whole story."

"But your--your father, child! What of him? Surely he did not allow--"

"He--he--did nothing. He mortgaged every stick to the place, and did
not even pay the interest on the money raised."

"And, Addie, where is he now?"

"I don't know," she answers drearily--"in America somewhere, I believe;
he disappeared nearly three years ago. He backed the wrong horse for
the Derby, just ran down here for half an hour, burned some papers in
his study, kissed us all round, and went away. We never heard from him
afterward--at least, not directly."

"But surely he can not have deserted you altogether--have left you five
children totally unprovided for?"

"He left us with a capital of four pounds fifteen between us--four
pounds fifteen--not a penny more! And we have had nothing from him
since; and yet the Scripture tells us to honor our parents!"

"Hush, child--hush! We must not question the commands of Holy Writ.
Why, if it comes to that, women are ordered to love, honor, and obey
their husbands; and, oh, my dear, my dear," continues the little
woman, the corkscrew ringlets of her frisette nodding with impressive
emphasis, "if you could only have seen or heard the men some women are
called upon to honor--to honor, mind you--why, you--"

"Ah, but that is different, quite different! A woman has the power of
choosing her husband; if she selects the wrong man, there is no one
to blame but herself. But a child can't choose its own father; if it
could, you may be sure poor Bob wouldn't have selected one who would
rob him of his patrimony and cast him penniless on the world without
even the resource of education."

"Come, Addie dear, are you not too severe on your father? He has had
many temptations, has been unfortunate in his speculations; but, when
he knows the state you are in, you may be sure he will make an effort
to help you--probably send for you all and give you a home in the new
world."

Addie does not reply at once; a sudden wave of color floods her soft
face, and she says hurriedly--

"After all, why shouldn't I tell you? I--I dare say you will hear it
from some one else; I--I suppose half the county knows it."

"Knows what, dear?"

"That our father has abandoned us altogether--that he has other
family-ties we--we knew nothing of--"

"Addie, my dear, what are you talking of?"

"He did not leave England alone, Miss Rossitor," she answers excitedly;
"he asked none of us to go with him, but he took two other children we
had never heard of, and a--a wife. I believe she was an actress at a
London theater--"

"My dear child," interrupts Miss Rossitor, much flurried and shocked,
"where did you hear all this? Who told you? Do the others know?"

"No; I did not tell them--I don't mean to do so. I heard it all one day
accidentally. Aunt Jo and Lady Crawford were discussing it; they did
not know I was behind the curtain. My dress was all torn, and I didn't
want Lady Crawford to see me, so I hid there, and--and was obliged to
hear it all."

Poor Addie's crimson face sinks upon her outstretched arm; for a time
she sobs bitterly, refusing to be comforted. However, a cup of tea has
a somewhat soothing effect, and after a time she resumes her tale of
desolation:

"When he went, poor Aunt Josephine came to take care of us--you know
she was our mother's eldest sister, a maiden lady who lived with a
widowed childless niece in a pretty little house at Leamington, where
everything was peace and quietness and neatness--three things Aunt
Jo loves better than anything else on earth; nevertheless she stayed
on with us ever since, and has supported us on her annuity of eighty
pounds a year."

"Supported six of you on eighty pounds a year! I can't believe that,
Addie!"

"And yet it is true. We did not have dinners _à la Russe_, you
understand, nor did we get our frocks from Paris, and the boys had to
give up their schooling; but we managed to rub along somehow, and were
happy enough, all except poor aunt, who has never enjoyed a peaceful
hour since she left Leamington. We had the house, you know, and the
garden, which was stocked with fruit and vegetables; there was an old
cow too, and a few hens, who laid us an egg occasionally. Oh, we didn't
mind--we got along famously! But now--now Heaven only knows what is to
become of us!"

"My poor, poor child," exclaims Miss Rossitor, with tears in her voice,
"this is too sad! Something must be done. You have some other relatives
to help you? Where are you staying now?"

"I'll tell you all about it. When we left Nutsgrove, two months ago, we
took up our quarters at Sallymount Farm, belonging to Steve Higgins,
who was a stable-boy in grandfather's time, and who married our old
nurse Ellen Daly. She had some spare rooms, and she asked us to use
them while we looked about us and decided what was to be done. We began
by sending round the hat, as Bob calls it, to all our kith and kin. You
know in the old days we seemed to have a lot of prosperous relatives; I
remember, when I was a small child, a whole band of cousins stopping at
Nutsgrove for the Kelvick races, with their maids and valets. And so we
thought, for the sake of the family name, they would help us; but--but
somehow the hat failed to reach them; they seemed to have moved on, to
have vanished into space--they weren't to be found, in fact."

"But there is Mrs. Beecher of Greystones, your father's half-sister.
She couldn't possibly overlook you."

"No, she couldn't well, living within twenty miles and having no
children of her own. She and the admiral came over and reviewed
us _en masse_, and, I believe, were nervously indisposed for days
afterward--the admiral had to swallow half a bottle of sherry before
he recovered from the shock of our combined comeliness. They stayed an
hour, and said as many disagreeable and insulting things during that
time as we had ever heard in our lives before. However, the upshot of
their visit was that Aunt Selina offered to send away her companion,
Miss McToadie, and take Pauline in her place. Aunt Jo closed with her
at once, not giving poor Polly a voice in her fate; and so she is to go
over to Greystones the day after to-morrow. Poor, poor Polly!"

"Well at any rate, she is sure of a home. The Beechers will eventually
adopt her; and they are very rich people. You should not pity her,
Addie; it would be very injudicious," says Miss Rossitor sagely.

"Oh, I didn't to her face! Adversity is teaching me wisdom, I can tell
you. After that, Robert was put up in the market, and found wanting in
capacity for commercial or professional pursuits, so an old relative
with an interest in shipping got him a berth on board a vessel going
to China with a cargo of salt. The most horrid line in the whole
mercantile service, poor Bob says; and the worst of it is he won't get
a penny of salary for nearly three years, and he'll have to work like
a galley-slave all the time. Fine opening, is it not? But beggars can
not be choosers, you would say. Well, Miss Rossitor, that is all our
relatives have done for us so far, except that dear Aunt Jo--Heaven
bless her!--has adopted, or, at least, will try to adopt Lottie, and
take her back to Leamington when we break up. There is some talk too of
getting Hal into a third-rate endowed school near London. Judge Lefroy,
a cousin out in India, promises to pay ten pounds a year toward it if
two other members of the family subscribe the same sum. But we've had
no other advances; and so Hal's affairs are _in statu quo_ at present;
in other words, he's a pensioner on the poor aunt who has taken Lottie."

"And you, my dear, have you any prospect for yourself?"

"I? Miss Rossitor, I am--don't laugh, please--trying to get a situation
as governess to some very small and ignorant children. You remember of
old my list of accomplishments? Well, I haven't swelled their quantity
or quality since. I can't run a clean scale up the piano yet; I don't
know the difference between latitude and longitude; compound proportion
is as great a mystery to me as ever; and yet three times last week
I offered my services to the public in the columns of the 'Daily
News,' 'Daily Telegraph,' and the 'Kelvick Gazette,' and received
only one answer. It was from a lady who would give me a home, but no
salary--which would not do, as I must at least have a few shillings to
buy shoes and stockings, _et cætera_."

"Only one answer! That was unfortunate. You can not have worded your
advertisement attractively enough, dear."

"Oh, yes, I did! Bob composed it in strict orthodox fashion.
Unfortunately there were lots of other governesses advertising, and
no one seeming to want them; but there was a great run on cooks and
barmaids and housemaids. I don't know what is to become of me, for
I can not and I will not live on poor auntie--that I'm determined!
I'd--I'd rather scrub kitchen floors, or pick potatoes in the field
like a laborer's daughter!" cries the girl passionately, her cheeks
flushing.

"Addie," says Miss Rossitor slowly, hesitatingly, "I think I know of a
situation that might suit you, if you really wish--"

"You do? Oh, you dear, you dear! Tell me quickly where it is."

"It's so wretched I'm almost ashamed to mention it; but you seem so
anxious, dear," says Miss Rossitor deprecatingly. "A friend of mine is
there at present; but she is leaving this week to better herself, as
indeed she might easily do. No, no, Addie dear, I won't tell you about
it--it's too miserable, too mean--"

"Oh, Miss Rossitor, dear friend, don't refuse to help me! I am not what
I was; all my stupid pride is gone; work is all I crave. Oh, can't you
feel for me, can't you understand me?" she pleads vehemently.

Miss Rossitor gently kisses the pleading upturned face, and then
answers gravely--

"That will do, child; I will hesitate no longer. The family I allude to
are retired Birmingham tradespeople, not particularly refined, I fear,
in their habits or surroundings. They have four children ranging in
age from five to twelve--one boy and three girls; these you would have
to educate, and you would have to be with them all day, take them for
walks, help the nurse to dress them in the mornings, even, I believe,
occasionally to mend their clothes. Your salary for all this would be
twenty-two pounds a year--think of that--twenty-two pounds a year!"

"Will you give me their address?" is all Addie says.

"I will write for you myself, dear child, it you wish it. You can at
least make a trial; but I warn you that the life of a nursery-governess
in an underbred household cramped probably in a suburban villa is very
different from what you--"

"I know, I know; but I am prepared to bear anything. What does anything
matter now that we are all separated and have lost our beloved home for
ever? Oh, Miss Rossitor"--springing to her feet and pacing up and down
the room with clinched hands--"that is the thought that stings, that
paralyzes hope, that deadens energy--to think that it is gone from us
for ever! Sometimes I feel that, if Heaven had made me a man, it would
not have been so."

"What would you have done, Addie?"

"I would have thrown myself into the fight, and have struggled
undaunted against any odds--against hardship and disappointment and
failure--until I had won it all back, until I had ousted the upstart
who supplanted us. If he, an illiterate tradesman, friendless, alone,
without money, without education, without help of any kind, succeeded
in amassing a large fortune, succeeded in becoming master-mariner
on the great tide of industry in his native town, why should not I,
with such a heart-moving aim in view--I, with the blood of heroes
running in my veins--do so likewise? But what is the use of talking?
What can a woman do, tied down, hampered, checked on every side by
the superstition of ages? Oh, it is too stifling, too exasperating!
Sometimes I wish I had never been born. What good am I? What place have
I in the world? What--"

"You will find your use in the place Heaven gives you, my dear, if you
only put your trust in Providence. Tell me, Addie, something about this
prosperous upstart, Armstrong of Kelvick. Have you met him? What sort
of man is he?"

"Oh, a very ordinary style of man indeed! There's nothing remarkable
about him in one way or another. He seemed quiet and heavy, I thought;
I didn't notice him very particularly. He came two or three times to
the farm to talk over some business matters with auntie."

"Then you did not find him oppressively vulgar, did you?"

"No, not oppressively so; but I'm no judge of manners, you know, having
so little to boast of myself; Bob and Polly, however, who understand
these things, say that he is an out-and-out cad, that his every
movement betrays him, and that no one but a person utterly devoid of
delicacy and good taste would have sent us a present of flowers and
vegetables out of our own garden as he did."

"He sent you flowers and vegetables! How was that?"

"Yes, to Aunt Jo. The last time he called she asked him, when
he was leaving, how the peas were doing this year down near the
currant-bushes--for you know our garden was supposed to produce the
finest peas in the county; and that evening he sent her up a basket of
flowers and vegetables, and a couple of quarts of gooseberries, enough
to make a glorious 'fool;' but Robert pitched the whole lot out of the
window indignantly, and when auntie sent the young Higginses to pick
them up again, he went out and kicked them all round. He's awfully
proud, you know, dear Robert; I remember you used to call him 'Robert
the Magnificent.'"

"Yes; I have seldom met a young gentleman of his years who had such a
high opinion of himself and his social dignity."

"He has just the same opinion now. I sometimes tell him he ought to
have been born a sultan. And to think of him swabbing decks and tarring
ropes--oh, dear!"

"The chances are that Mr. Armstrong sent you the flowers and vegetables
only in a spirit of harmless kindness," says Miss Rossitor musingly.

"I dare say. People of that sort don't understand our feelings. Bob
said that, had we given him the slightest encouragement, he'd have
probably asked us to dinner. Well, I must be going now. Thank you
sincerely for your much-needed kindness, dear friend. You'll let me
know my fate as soon as possible, won't you? And may I sometimes come
down to you in the morning for a practice? They haven't a piano at the
farm. I've been reading up my French for the last week. _Bonsoir, bonne
amie, bonsoir!_"



CHAPTER IV.


"Addie, where are you going?"

"Only up to the grove for a good long morning's study, auntie; don't
wait for dinner for me if I'm not back at three. I have some bread and
apple in my satchel."

"Why can't you study quietly in the house, like any other sensible
girl?" says Aunt Jo querulously. "I never saw such children as you all
are; you'd live like squirrels if you were allowed. People may say what
they like about the grand Carlovingian dynasty of the Lefroys; it's my
firm belief they're the descendants of Bedouins or gypsies--nothing
else!"

"I couldn't study in the farm this morning, auntie dear," answers
Addie, laughing; "there is such a heavy smell of cabbage-water and
soap-suds all over the place; and then the baby, poor little dear, is
teething, and not a very soothing companion. Will you tell Bob where
I'm going, if he asks for me?"

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a fortnight since Miss Lefroy confided her troubles to her old
governess, and the first break in the family has taken place. Pauline
is safely established at Greystones, and in ten days more Addie is
to enter on her new duties as nursery-governess to the family of
Mrs. Augustus Moggeridge Philpot, of Burlington Villa, Birmingham.
That estimable lady, having been fascinated by Miss Rossitor's
recommendation of her candidate, has accepted Addie's services without
inconvenient questioning, and she is now busy storing her mind
with knowledge, unencouraged by advice or assistance from her more
experienced friend, who has gone to the seaside with her mother.

Addie stretches herself at full length on the scented sward, and
honestly tries to occupy her powerful intellect solely with the dry
pages of Noel and Chapsal, tries to banish the fleeting fancies of
the summer hour and all the worries and sorrows crowding her life so
heavily, tries--hardest task of all--to forget for the moment that this
is her beloved Robert's last week on shore, that three days more will
see him sailing down Channel with his sloppy cargo into the thundering
Biscay waves.

"'Adjectives ending in _x_ form their feminine in _se_--as, _heureux,
heureuse_; _jaloux, jalouse_. But there are many exceptions to this
rule--such as _doux, douce_; _roux, rousse_; _faux, fausse_.' Oh, dear
me, what a language French is for exceptions! Poor Goggles was about
right in her grumblings; it's a miserable language when you come to
look into it," sighs Addie wearily. "I've had enough of it for one
morning. I think I'll have a tussle now with the Tudors and those
bothering Wars of the Roses. I wonder how long it will be before the
Moggeridge Philpots--what an awful mouthful!--find me out! Not very
long, I fear; and, after that, the Deluge!"

The drowsy hours creep by; Noel and Chapsal, Ince and Mangnall lie
unheeded on the turf; crowds of ants, wood-lice, and earwigs are
exploring their dry surfaces; Addie, her soft rosy cheek resting
on a mossy bank, is fast asleep, dreaming that she is home again,
helping old Sally to make gooseberry-jam in the big tiled kitchen,
when an adventurous beetle, scampering sturdily across her nose,
awakens her. She rises, yawning heavily, collects her property, and
sets forth to refresh herself with a look at Nutsgrove. But the trees
are too luxuriant in foliage; she walks up and down and stands on
tiptoe without getting a glimpse of its brickwork. Near the high-road
she comes to a stalwart tempting-looking oak, with giant blanches
outstretched, inviting her into their waving shelter, promising her a
delicious peep into the green dell they overhang. She climbs nimbly,
firmly clutching her Mangnall, rests for a minute clinging to the
trunk, and then, advancing cautiously out, balances herself most
luxuriously on the swaying branch, an arm of which supports her back
and shoulders in most obliging fashion.

"This is jolly, and no mistake!" she laughs delightedly, nibbling a
wrinkled sapless apple. "If the aunt could see me now, there would be
some sense in calling me a squirrel. How sweet and still the old place
looks! Not a soul about hacking or hammering at anything to-day. I
am in luck. Now to work steadily and conscientiously. 'For what was
ancient Babylon famed?' Let me see--let me see. Oh, yes, I know! For
its hanging gardens, lofty walls, and the luxurious effeminacy of its
inhabitants. Hanging gardens! How funny! I wonder if they were as nice
as mine! I wonder if ever a poor Babylonian girl came up and swung in
one to have a peep at her dear lost home that she never--never--"

A sudden heavy swaying movement, an angry, cracking sound, and the next
second, with a sounding thud, Miss Lefroy and her book are deposited
side by side on the turf beneath.

"I think--I think I have broken something--something besides the
branch," pants Addie, half-stunned with pain--"my--my ankle I suppose.
Oh, oh, it is awful! I--I never felt anything like it before. Oh, what
shall I do? I feel so queer--so faint--so--so--"

A cold perspiration breaks over her quivering face, she swerves from
side to side, and then her head falls forward helplessly on the ground,
on a line with her crippled foot.

How long she lies thus she does not know; but, after a time, she is
dimly conscious of a man's arm raising her head, and forcing some
strong spirit through her lips, which, after reviving her for a
moment, sends her into a pleasant painless dream, from which she at
last awakens to find herself lying on a soft couch, her foot firmly
bandaged, a pile of cushions supporting her head, and a picture of
a Dutch fishing-scene which hung between the drawing room windows
at Nutsgrove facing her. She can not be mistaken; there is the same
"soapsuddy" sea, the same fat grimy boat all over on one side, the same
lovely gamboge sunset behind the distant pier, the same massive molded
frame, only well dusted and regilt.

She glances round and quickly recognizes other friends of her
childhood--an old Chippendale cupboard, a Louis Quatorze table, a
tapestried screen, and a pair of large Dresden vases.

"Why, it is Nutsgrove! I am in the drawing-room!" she cries, rubbing
her startled eyes. "The chairs, the carpet, the curtains, are
different; but the room--the room is the same. What does it mean? Who
brought me here?"

A buxom housekeeper who has been bandaging her foot answers at once,

"The master, Mr. Armstrong, brought you here, miss, in his dog-cart
about twenty minutes ago. He saw you lying in a dead faint under a
tree in the grove as he was driving home from Kelvick. I hope you
feel better now; I bathed your foot in hot water according to his
directions, and the swelling went down a good deal. The doctor will be
here in a minute. Ah, here he is already!"

Dr. Newton, after a hurried inspection, says that the ankle is only
slightly sprained, bandages it up again, orders an embrocation to be
applied twice a day, and then speeds off to a dying patient.

"You are looking much better, Miss Lefroy; are you quite free from pain
now?"

Addie turns with a start and finds the new master of Nutsgrove standing
behind her.

He is a tall heavily-built man of about thirty-eight, keen-eyed,
rugged-featured, with a dark strong face, the lower part of which is
entirely concealed by a tawny brown beard hanging low on his broad
chest. A decidedly powerful looking plebeian is Tom Armstrong of
Kelvick.

"Thank you--almost," she answers, a little flurried by his massive
incongruous appearance in that well-known room. "I feel quite restored
now; and I have to thank you, Mr. Armstrong, very much for your prompt
and kindly rescue."

"Pray don't mention it, Miss Lefroy; I was only too glad to have been
of assistance to you. You quite startled me at first, you looked so
still and white lying on the ground."

"I wish he'd sit down, or move away, or do something," thinks Addie
impatiently; "he's so big, he oppresses me and spoils the room." Aloud
she says, with a slightly nervous laugh, "I fell from the tree, you
know, and broke your lovely branch. It was so--so funny! I had just
been reading about the hanging gardens of--of--what's its name?"

"Babylon."

"Yes, Babylon--when down I came with such a thud! I suppose I must have
fainted then, or something, though I can't understand how I did such a
silly thing; it's the first time in my life it ever happened."

"You must have had a very heavy fall."

"Oh, but I've had much worse falls than that! I've come through trap
doors in lofts no end of times. I crashed through a glass-house once
and cut myself horribly. I've been bitten by dogs, had my hands
squeezed in doors and wedged in machinery--all sorts of accidents, in
fact--and I certainly never fainted after them. I'm sure I don't know
what the boys will say when they hear of it." She stops suddenly, with
an air of startled dignity, seeing the ghost of a smile hover round her
host's bearded mouth. "But I am detaining you, Mr. Armstrong; pray--"

"You are not indeed, Miss Lefroy," he answers easily. "I am free from
business in the afternoon. Would you not like me to send a message
to your aunt to let her know where you are, as the doctor thinks it
advisable that you should rest here for an hour before moving again?"

"It is not necessary, thank you. I told her I should probably not
return until the evening, so she won't be uneasy. I'm very sorry to
have to trespass so long on your hospitality," she says stiffly.

He waves aside the apology without comment.

"You must have found it very strange to awake and discover yourself in
this room, Miss Lefroy. Did you know where you were at once?"

"Yes, and--no. It was such a surprise, I could not tell whether I was
asleep or awake at first," she answers more naturally. "You--you have
not changed the room so much, Mr. Armstrong; the tone of the paintings,
of the carpet and curtains, is much as it was, and you have many of the
old things too. That's mother's old screen by the fireplace, just as
it always stood. She worked it when she was a girl at school. But that
corner over there by the second window is quite different--where that
_jardinière_ stands, I mean. That used to be my special little parlor.
I kept my old work-box there, papier-mâché desk, and two little padded
baskets for Andrew Jackson and the Widow Malone."

"For whom?"

"My dog and cat; we had one each. I gave Andrew to Mr. Rossitor, but
the poor Widow disappeared two days before the--the--auction, and I
have never seen her since."

There is a short uncomfortable pause.

"You--you were fond of your old home, were you not, Miss Lefroy?" he
asks presently.

The girl's gray eyes flash angrily, her cheeks deepen to a dusky glow;
she answers not a word. He looks at her seriously, a little sadly, in
no whit abashed by the eloquent rebuke of her silence. She glances at
the clock and half rises.

"I--I really must be going now, Mr. Armstrong; my aunt will be getting
uneasy, and my foot feels much better."

"Won't you at least wait to take a cup of tea, Miss Lefroy? The
carriage is not round yet--let me persuade you."

She hesitates; her eyes fall on the tea-tray that is being brought
that minute into the room, bearing most appetizing fare--a pile of
hot-buttered toast, a jug of delicious cream, home-made plum-cake, a
few dishes of fresh fruit resting on cool green leaves.

The servant lays his burden on a side-table, preparing to officiate,
when he is interrupted by a shrill cry from Miss Lefroy.

"Our old Crown Derby set! Our dear old set! Oh, have you got it--have
you really got it? Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Armstrong, let me pour out the
tea; do--just for this once! I always did it--always since I was seven
years old--and I never broke anything. Let me--do!"

Mr. Armstrong laughs outright at this impulsive appeal, at the eager,
childish face and outstretched hands. He motions to the butler to bring
the table to Miss Lefroy's couch. Blushing somewhat at the effect
of her outburst, and heedless of medical advice, she struggles into
an upright position and softly caresses the delicate surface of the
sugar-basin.

"There was a chip on the lip of the cream-jug. Yes, it's there still.
Hal did it when he was a baby. I see you've had a handle put on to this
cup. How neatly it is done!" sighs Addie, discontentedly acknowledging
to herself that even during his short tenancy the bachelor-master of
Nutsgrove has made some marked efforts to remove the stains, rents,
seams of their untidy reckless childhood, to purify his orderly
household from all trace of their damaging footprints, as Bob said he
would. What wonderful penetration, what knowledge of the world the
dear boy had! Yes, all would come to pass as he had prophesied; a few
years more and she would not know the old home again. This was her last
glimpse, her farewell view; that handle to the cup was the beginning of
the end, the key-note to the reign of paint, of varnish, of vandalic
renovation and commercial "improvements" that were to wreck the home
she loved.

But Addie does not linger long over these somber forebodings, for the
urn is hissing at her elbow, and duty and instinct claim her undivided
attention for the moment. In virtue of her twelve years' office she
has arrived at a pitch of perfection in the art of tea-making which
commands the family respect. Before the tea-pot she reigns supreme;
no one ever questions her authority or presumes to criticise the
quality of her brew, and her sarcastic information in reply to a
request for a fourth cup--"Certainly; as long as there's water there's
tea"--is always received in meek silence, from fear lest she, being a
hot-tempered and ofttimes hopelessly huffy young person, might throw
up office and leave the family at the mercy of either Pauline or Aunt
Jo, both of whom have been tried and found dismally wanting during her
temporary illnesses. She knows to a grain the quantity of sugar each
member requires, to a drop the cream; she knows who likes "mustard,"
whose nerves and tender years exact "wash," who requires a sensible and
palatable "go between."

Therefore, Addie unable to throw aside the patronizing attitude of
years, more or less overcome by the beloved familiarity of her
surroundings, rattles the enemy's rich-toned crockery with the same
freedom and brisk importance as if she were handling Ellen Higgins's
coarse "chaney" in the farm parlor.

"Do you take cream and sugar, Mr. Armstrong?"

"Cream and sugar," he repeats stupidly, as if half asleep--"cream and
sugar? How? Where?"

"Where?" Addie answers, a touch of elder-sisterly impatience in her
voice. "Where? In your tea, of course!"

"I beg your pardon, I'm sure. How dull I am! Yes, both, please."

This is the first time in his thirty-eight years of life that a lady
has presided at Tom Armstrong's tea-board, and the strangeness of the
circumstance has for the moment paralyzed his attention. He has had a
motherless, sisterless, almost homeless childhood; no woman's gentle
influence and refining contact have smoothed the rugged upward path
that he has been climbing for more than a quarter of a century. In his
springtide, when men's fancies are apt to "lightly turn to thoughts of
love," he was too absorbed in prosaic business and ambitious dreams
of wealth and power to have time for sweethearting like most young
fellows of his age and position. He has never strolled down country
lanes on soft Sabbath morns, his arm encircling the plump waist of some
apple-cheeked Mary Jane or Susan Ann; he has never picnicked with her
under scented hawthorn-hedges, or drunk tea with her, seasoned with
shrimps and radishes, at rustic inns or in beer-tainted summer-houses.
So to him the unusual position is unmarred by even shadow-clouds of
dead joys and by-gone pleasures. Addie's fresh flower face awakes no
ghost of fevered memory to taunt him with the sweets of lost youth.

"Here is your tea, Mr. Armstrong; you must tell me if it is right. I
don't know your tastes yet."

"It is delicious," he answers slowly, while a sudden thought strikes
his musing brain, flooding it with a stream of sunshine--a thought
he has never entertained before. What a pleasant thing it would be
to have a woman, a young, fresh-faced, gray-eyed woman like Miss
Lefroy, to sit by his fireside every night and hand him his tea, just
as she does that moment, with that quaint inimitable little air of
business-like patronage, of half-matronly, half-childish, yet wholly
graceful self-possession! Yes; how very pleasant it would be! He has a
house now, a rapidly-growing estate--he has a position of unimpeached
respectability, if not of aristocratic quality--he has a clear future,
a clean past, a goodly name at his banker's--why should he not take a
wife to himself at last, and create ties to dispel the gloom of coming
age--a wife just like Addie Lefroy--who would grace his hearth as
she does, who would refine and enliven with her graceful youth the
atmosphere of the heavily-draped room, which already he has begun to
find so still and wearisome after the bustling life outside his den at
the factory in Kelvick?

A wife just like Addie Lefroy--not one whit more elegant, more
beautiful, more fascinating, but just as she is--soft-faced,
irregular-featured, simple-mannered, gentle-voiced, yet with a
suggestion of hot-breathed, breezy youth about her every movement, her
every gesture. Yes; if ever he marries, it will be some one like her,
very like her--her exact counterpart, in fact; and where is he to find
that? That is the question. Rapidly, while he sips his tea, he runs his
eye, as he would down a stiff column of figures, over the many eligible
young ladies whose acquaintance he owns in his native town; but none
of them suits his prejudiced eye. One is too handsome, another too
tall, another too fashionable, another too affected--all of them are
everything that is not Addie Lefroy. Addie Lefroy, Addie Lefroy! Softly
he repeats her name again and again, as if the words themselves tickle
his palate and season his tea pleasantly, fragrantly. Addie Lefroy! How
the name suits her! It has a sort of liquid, swinging sound. If ever
she changes it, will she get another to suit her as well? For instance,
Addie--Addie--Arm--

With a start he "pulls himself together," and swallows a big lump of
cake that he loathes, which he hopes will act as a sort of break in the
dangerous current of his imagination.

Meanwhile Miss Addie, quite unconscious of the agreeable turmoil that
her presence is awaking in the breast of her massive middle-aged host,
sips her tea and munches cake in blissful unconcern.

"I suppose," she muses, with a little ruefulness, "if the boys and
Polly knew, they would think it awfully mean of me, feeding on the
enemy like this; but--but--I really can not help it--I'm half famished.
Perhaps, if they hadn't eaten anything from seven A.M. until five P.M.
but half a moldy apple, they wouldn't be so particular. I don't know
about Bob, though; I think his pride would stomach a longer fast than
that. I don't believe any strait of body would induce him to eat a crumb
under this roof now--and yet Mr. Armstrong hasn't behaved so badly. I
might have been lying in the wood but for him. Oh, dear, how horrible!
I've actually cleared the whole plate of toast alone! I--I hope he won't
notice; I'll shove the dish behind the urn. Yes; he can't see it there.
How did I do it? I never felt myself eating. That cake is delicious
too--better than any of Sally's. I feel so much better now; I suppose it
must have been hunger that helped me to go off in that ridiculous
fashion in the grove."

Her head sinks back pleasantly on the soft cushions; she looks out on
the sunny lawn and the timbered wealth she knows so well. Both the
windows are wide open, and a faint evening breeze brings to her couch
a breath of mignonette from a parterre outside, which her mother laid
out with her own hands when she came to Nutsgrove, a happy bride,
twenty-two years before. A thrush that has yearly built his nest in
the heart of the gloire de Dijon, the shining leaves of which are
fluttering against the casement, bursts into song. Addie closes her
eyes, and she is at home once more, living over again the sweet spring
evenings of her blissful neglected youth. Armstrong of Kelvick and his
trim purified apartments vanish into space; the notched and rickety
chairs are back again, the threadbare carpet with its sprays of dim
ghostly terns, the dusky curtains. Her work-box is standing in its old
place, she hears Pauline's light footsteps flying down the stairs, the
boys are calling the dogs

    "With wild halloo and brutal noise"

away to "marshy joys" in the grove, and old Sally is hunting the
chickens out of the kitchen with a peculiar hooting noise that no
throat but her own can produce.

"Miss Lefroy, you have not answered my question yet. You were very fond
of Nutsgrove, were you not?"

She starts up, an angry crimson dyeing her face, to find her host
leaning forward, his keen hazel eyes fixed intently on hers. She
answers vehemently, passionately--

"No, I did not answer you, because I thought it was a senseless
question; but I will answer you now, if you insist. Were we fond of
Nutsgrove? We were--we were--we were! Will that satisfy you? What else
had we to be fond of? We had no father, no mother, no friends, no
outside amusements or pleasures, and we wanted nothing--nothing but
to be left here together. We were content--oh, yes! Even--even when
Polly and I began to grow up, we never longed to go away to London or
Paris, to fashionable places, or balls and parties, like other girls;
and the boys--they never asked to go to school or foreign parts, never
wanted to see the world, like other boys. The woods, the river, the
gardens, the dear old farm-yard, gave us all we wanted the whole year
round--summer, winter, autumn, spring. Fond of Nutsgrove? Ah, we were!
We loved every blade of grass, every mossy stone, every clump of earth;
every flower and every leaf of the trees was dearer to us than they
can be to you if you live here half a century. Now you are answered,
Mr. Armstrong, and very rudely and impertinently too; but--but I could
not help myself. I--I am very hot-tempered, and you should not have
persisted when you saw--when you saw--"

"I know, I know," he interrupts earnestly; "but, believe me, Miss
Lefroy, I did not persist out of idle curiosity or for the purpose of
giving you wanton pain. Will you bear with me yet a little longer, and
permit me to ask you another question, which--which may appear to you
even more impertinent than the first? I have a purpose--an extenuating
purpose in both. You are leaving this house very soon, are you not, to
become a governess--a nursery-governess if I have heard aright--in a
family of inferior position, and at a salary so mean as to exclude the
idea of helping your family, who are--are almost completely unprovided
for, thrown on the world without any visible means of support? Is my
information correct?"

"Your information is perfectly correct, Mr. Armstrong," Addie retorts,
springing to her feet, her eyes blazing; "but I fail to see your object
in forcing me to discuss such--"

With a gesture he silences her, motioning her back to her seat almost
impatiently.

"A moment more, if you please; then I shall have done. On your own
admission, therefore, I may conclude that your future prospects,
both personally and collectively, are not, to put it mildly, in a
flourishing condition, and that at present you see no glimmer of
improvement, no chance of reprieve from a life of servile drudgery, for
which you feel yourself totally unfitted, first of all from a strong
distaste to teaching, and secondly from the unconventional nature of
your early life and education."

She is too amazed to resent even by a gesture this extraordinary
speech. After a slight pause, he resumes, in the same low mechanical
voice, with a faint tinge of color in his swarthy cheek:

"Therefore, I presume to ask you, Miss Lefroy, if in these
circumstances you would deem it any improvement to your condition
to--to--marry me and live out your life at Nutsgrove?"

She looks at him with eyes wide open, staring stupidly, and blank white
face.

"To--to marry you? I--I don't understand. Are you joking, Mr.
Armstrong?"

"No, Miss Lefroy, I am not joking; on the contrary, I am very much in
earnest. Men mostly are, I believe, when they ask a woman to be their
wife."

"You ask me to--to be your wife?"

"Yes, I most assuredly do. If you consent, I will settle this place on
you unreservedly, so that, whatever happens to me, nobody will be able
to oust you from it again. Nutsgrove will belong to you, you alone, as
virtually as it belonged to your grandfather sixty years ago, before
an acre was mortgaged. Will you marry me, Miss Lefroy? Is the bribe
sufficient?" he asks sharply.

But poor Addie has no power to answer; she sits gazing into the
frowning, flushed face of her suitor with the same blank expression,
without a tinge of shyness, hesitation, or embarrassment in her
attitude, or flicker of color in her cheek. Armstrong feels as if he
would like to shake her.

"She looks at me as if I were not human, as if I were some strange
animal escaped from a menagerie. She's a woman, I'm a man; why should
I not ask her to marry me?" he thinks. "Well," he says aloud, with
an irritation he strives in vain to repress, "have you understood my
question, Miss Lefroy? Must I repeat it? No? Then will you kindly put
me out of pain--that is the correct term, I believe--as soon as you
can?"

"Oh!" pants Addie, waving her hands nervously, as if pushing him from
her. "Can't you give me a moment to breathe--to feel--to understand?"

"Certainly, if you wish it."

He walks to the window, steps out, and paces up and down the terrace,
smoking furiously.

Addie, left to herself, heaves a great sigh of relief, then glances
languidly round the room, and tries to realize her situation, to
understand that she can be mistress of the old place again, that she
need never yawn the dreary hours away in the Moggeridge school-room,
need never darn alien socks, help to tub peevish babies, never bow her
haughty young head to the yoke of uncongenial servitude, but spend her
days by the familiar fireside, rambling through the leafy grove and
mellow orchards, her own, her very own forever. A flood of sunshine
bathes the park in flickering glory; every leaf trembling with the
pulse of coming summer, every bird singing in the budding grove, every
gurgling ripple of the stream that feeds the marshy pond behind the
park, seems to whisper to the girl's troubled heart words of welcome
and entreaty, seems to sing in gladsome chorus, "Come back, Addie, come
back, come back; we miss you sorely!" At that moment a shadow falls
across her path, the song of the birds dies into a wordless twitter,
the glory of the evening fades, as the burly, massive form of the
vitriol-manufacturer stands between her and the sunset.

"To live with him alone here!" she thinks, with a shudder, while
the hot blood dyes her face and neck. "Oh, I couldn't--I couldn't!
He would spoil everything; he would take the beauty, the poetry out
of everything I love. I couldn't--I couldn't! Nobody would expect
it of me. The bribe is big, but not sufficient--not sufficient,
unless--unless--Oh, I wish I knew what to do--what to say to him!
If he would let me be his gover--I mean his housekeeper, his
dairy-maid--anything--anything but his--his--wife! Oh, dear, dear, what
put it into his head? What made him think of such a thing? He never
even looked at me when he came to the farm; and now he wants to marry
me. He is a strange man; when he turns to me with that stern straight
look in his eyes, I feel--I feel as if I didn't belong to myself, as
if I had no power over my life. Ellen Higgins says that he always gets
everything he wants, that every one gives in to him sooner or later
in Kelvick--nice prospect for me! And the flowers told me last autumn
that I was to marry a gentleman--a gentleman they told me over and over
again--a gentleman!"



CHAPTER V.


A quarter of an hour later Mr. Armstrong re-enters the room, and stands
with still impenetrable face before his guest.

"You--you have given me good measure," she says, rather hysterically.
"I have been trying to think, to understand it all thoroughly."

"Yes?"

"It is very kind, very thoughtful of you to make such a suggestion,
to--to offer to give me back what I--I value so dearly and believed
forever out of my reach; and, you--you understand, I would not have
spoken as freely as I did--"

"I understand perfectly. Do you accept or reject my offer then?"

"Oh, dear, dear, how point-blank you are!" she answers flutteringly.
"I--I do neither yet. Of course it is a great bribe, a great
temptation; but--but--"

"But what? Do not be afraid of me, Miss Lefroy. Please tell me
unreservedly what is on your mind. I am not a very sensitive plant, I
assure you."

"I will then. I dare say it would be better always to come to the
point as you do," she says, with a weak laugh. "But women never can,
you know; they must flutter round corners and by-ways a little at
first--'tis their nature to, Bob says. What I mean is that, dearly
as I love the old place for itself, it--it was more the surroundings,
it was being all together--we five--that--that made it what it was to
me. I know, I feel sure it would--would never be the same, never be
the old home to me, if I were living in it all alone and they outside
struggling in the world. I'm afraid," continues Addie, her fingers
nervously crimping the ragged flounces of her cotton dress, "that I
don't express myself very--very clearly; but I think you--you will
understand what I mean."

"Yes I understand what you mean, Miss Lefroy," he returns slowly,
meditatively, and then relapses into silence, which she does not break.
"Perfectly, young lady, perfectly!" he echoes to himself grimly enough.
"You mean me to understand that, if I marry you, I must also marry your
entire family circle--the tall, dark-eyed sister, the small sickly
one, the two cubs of brothers, the hysterically-disposed maiden aunt,
who would do duly as mother-in-law--the whole interesting group--just
a round half dozen. Hum! Rather a formidable number, Tom, my man,
wherewith to plunge into the doubtful sea of matrimony--as a maiden
venture too--you who have hitherto steered so clear of petticoats,
who never until now felt any attractions in their refining rustle! To
start with a family of six--six useless dependent pauper aristocrats,
who would probably consider you the favored party in being allowed the
honor of feeding, housing, clothing, educating them--By Jove, 'twould
be a position to make a stouter-hearted man than I am quail! I'd better
hedge a bit while there is yet time, pause on the brink of--what? Ten
to one, on the brink of a gulf of irreparable folly!"

He looks stealthily at the origin of his troublous irresolution, at
the shabby gray-eyed girl whom half an hour before he had no more
idea of marrying than he had of marrying his cook, whose presence
he has barely noticed during the few times he has found himself in
her company. "Is the game worth the candle?" he asks himself for the
twentieth time in impatient iteration. She is no beauty, this Addie
Lefroy. Her features are not the least bit regular; her skin, though
pure and fresh, is thickly freckled; her figure, willowy and rounded
enough, is not the type of figure Madame Armine of Kelvick would love
to adorn. Then she has no accomplishments, scarcely any education, no
money, no connection, save her nightmare of a family; and--most damning
fact of all--she does not like him personally. He, Tom Armstrong of
Kelvick, is repugnant to her--that he can see clearly enough. Therefore
is he not making an ass of himself--an unmitigated ass? A man of his
years and experience to introduce on the impulse of a moment an element
into his hitherto self-sufficing contented life that may bring with
it infinite discord, life-long annoyance! Is there sense or meaning
in his vague intangible longing to possess that callous undisciplined
child who almost shrinks from his touch, just because she has sat in
his drawing-room as if she were at home there, and has handed him a cup
of tea gracefully? What is her fascination, her attraction? Not her
beauty, certainly, for she is not half as good-looking as other girls
he knows--as Miss Ethel Challice, for instance--no, certainly not!

He turns aside and unsuccessfully tries to recall to his mind's eye the
vision of that young lady as he sat by her side on the night before
in her father's elegant drawing-room. How handsome, how graceful she
looked in her shimmering silk, roses clustering in her golden hair! How
sweetly and kindly she smiled on him when he went to help her at the
tea-table! Why did he not fall in love with her, or have the sense to
invite her to come up to Nutsgrove and pour him out a cup of tea from
that magical exasperating pot? It might have done the business for him
just as well; and how infinitely more suitable and sensible it would
have been in every way! She--Miss Challice--would have been just the
wife for him, eligible all round--a handsome accomplished young woman,
six years nearer his age than the other, with eighteen thousand pounds
dowry and no incumbrance--a young woman who would have sat at the head
of his table, ruled his house, and reared his children, with comfort
and pleasant smooth-working skill.

"I think she might have said 'Yes' had I asked her," he muses ruefully.
"Now that I come to think of it, she always seemed pleased to see me;
and her parents are continually asking me up to their place. But I
never even thought of it, never noticed--If I had--well, well, if I
had, she wouldn't have stared at me as if I had just escaped from a
lunatic asylum or the Zoölogical Gardens. No, I think not; her pretty
eyes would have drooped a little, her cheeks have flushed ever so
faintly, no matter which way her answer would have gone. And she has
such lovely hair, too--though I remember a brute at the club said
it was dyed, one night. I don't believe it a bit, not a bit! How
stupid, how exasperating of me never to have noticed how handsome and
attractive--yes, really attractive, by Jove!--Challice's daughter
is--his only daughter too! And now--now--"

He turns from the window to take another covert look.

Miss Lefroy has left her couch and is kneeling on the carpet, a gaunt,
green-eyed, grimy-coated cat clasped to her breast, over which she is
cooing with the rapturous joy of a mother over a downy-pated infant
whom she has lost and unexpectedly recovered.

"It's the Widow, Mr. Armstrong," she explains, with dewy upturned
eyes. "My own dear, darling, long-lost Widow, whom I thought never to
see again! She must have heard my voice through the open window; she
came flying in straight to my arms five minutes ago. Oh, you don't
know what a cat she is! We've had her nine years, and she's had about
eighty-seven kittens. Hal kept an account; and the rats and the mice
she has killed--no one could keep an account of them--could they, my
darling, could they?"

"She seems glad to see you again--hungrily glad," says Armstrong,
stroking her dusty fur; "and she is giving you a demonstrative welcome,
and no mistake! I wonder if anything or any one in the world would be
as glad to see me after a few months' absence?"

"Why, of course, Mr. Armstrong, your brothers and sisters--and other
relatives would!"

"I have no brothers and sisters, or other relatives--at least, no near
ones," he answers a little wistfully.

"Dear, how lonely you must feel!"--looking at him with compassionate
eyes.

"Miss Lefroy," he says quickly, swallowing a lump in his throat, "With
regard to the difficulty we were discussing a few minutes ago, I wish
you to understand that, in case you--you--should decide on accepting
my offer, I--should quite sympathize with your family feeling in the
matter, and sincerely hope you would be able to induce your sisters to
come and live with you here--in fact, to look on Nutsgrove as their
home as long as they liked."

"Oh!"

"As regards your brothers, the case is different. You see, my chi--I
mean, Miss Lefroy, I am much older than you or they, and I am satisfied
I should only be doing them an irreparable injustice if I asked them to
continue to live the life they have hitherto led here. Men must go out
into the world, fight their way, and learn the value of independence
and success--must earn the birthright of self-respect to transmit to
those who come after them. I know it will be a harder struggle for
them than for others brought up differently; but I should be always
by to give them an encouraging hand and help them with my advice and
experience; and then, when their occupation allowed it, they could
always come here for a holiday--in fact, continue to look upon the old
place as their head-quarters until they built up separate homes and
shaped interests for themselves, as most men do sooner or later."

"You are very kind--you are very kind," she answers breathlessly.

"You have said that before."

"I know; but what else can I say?"

"Say that you will marry me."

"Oh, I think I will soon--not just yet--not just yet! Will you give me
a few hours more--until to-morrow--to think and talk it over with the
others?"

"I will give you until to-morrow morning."

"Thank you--you are very kind. There is a brougham at the door--for me,
isn't it? I must be going now"--with a great sigh of relief.

"But can you walk?"

"Oh, yes, with a little help, quite easily."

"Here is my stick--not a Rotten Row crutch, you see--lean on it well on
one side, and on my arm on the other--so."

At the threshold of the door she pauses to rest a moment and take one
backward glance at the beloved flower-scented room, at the dainty table
all awry, at the Widow Malone, her raptures exhausted, sipping a saucer
of cream on the spotless carpet.

"Oh, what a mess I have made of your beautiful tidy room!" she cries in
childish dismay. "It is easily seen a Lefroy has been in possession.
It's quite disgraceful--the cushions all upside down, the antimacassars
crumpled, saucers on the floor, and an old bow from my polonaise, with
two crooked hairpins, stuck in the arm of the sofa. I must get them,
let me go."

"No," he says, laughing; "leave the room exactly as it is, and consider
your property confiscated, Miss Lefroy."

With an impulse that she can not control, she looks up into his face
and says quickly, with a puzzled frown--

"What made you do it? What put it into your head?"

"What put what into my head?"

"Oh, you know what I mean! What made you ask me to marry you?"

Here is a splendid opportunity for the orthodox declaration as yet
unuttered in this strange courtship; but Armstrong takes no advantage
thereof, he answers lightly enough, with smiling, careless face--

"What made me? I hardly know myself as yet. A variety of intangible
emotions that I must analyze at my leisure."

"Pity, compassion?" she suggests softly.

"For whom?"

"For--for your neighbor."

He shakes his head.

"No, they were not the chief ingredients certainly. I doubt if they had
anything to say to it."

"A feeling of wider philanthropy perhaps, more in the Don Quixote line?"

"No, Miss Lefroy. It is of no use; you can not thus lay light finger on
the crotchets of man's 'most sovereign reason;' do not try."

"Well, I--I don't mind much, so long as you don't think I--I was trying
to--"

She stops, blushing furiously.

"Trying to what?"

"Nothing, nothing."

"I'll not let you leave the room until you finish that sentence," he
says decisively.

"You are a tyrant! Trying--trying to catch you--there! Oh, why will you
make me say such things?"

"Trying to catch me!" he exclaims vehemently. "Good gracious, child!
how could I imagine such a thing?"

"Oh, I don't know, I'm sure!" she answers, floundering helplessly under
the half-amused, half-bitter expression of his dark face. "They say all
men are conceited, no matter what they're like, and--and Ellen Higgins
says that--that a great many of the Kelvick girls had their eyes on
you, but that--that Miss Challice made--made the running too hot
for--Oh, what am I saying--what am I saying? Mr. Armstrong, don't mind
me; I'm a light-headed fool--a regular fool! Bob always said I hadn't
an ounce of ballast, and I haven't--I haven't! Let me go, let me go!"

"If I let you go like this, how do I know I shall ever get you back
again?"

"You said you would give me until to-morrow to decide--you know you
did."

"I repent of my promise, then. I'd rather know now, if you please."

"But I can't decide in such a hurry. You, as a business man, ought to
know it's ill-judged to rush at decisions in such--"

"I'm not in my office now, and don't feel at all like a business man;
it's of no use appealing to me as such, Miss Lefroy. Listen, while I
tell you a crisp anecdote that may help to throw light on the crotchets
of my character."

"It's very late. I must go; auntie will be--"

"One soft spring day I was sitting in a room alone with a young lady--"

Addie stops unconsciously, interested in spite of herself.

"A young lady whom I knew very slightly, and in whom I had hitherto
taken not the faintest interest."

"Yes?"

"Until she happened to hand me a cup of tea--"

"Oh!"

"And the fancy suddenly struck me that I should like to marry that
girl; and, before I had finished my cup, my mind was made up--I
determined she should be my wife. That's all."

"That's all, is it?" says Addie, drawing a long breath. "I--I don't
like your story much. You were determined, were you? And do you always
get what you determine on?"

"I don't want to boast; but I've been rather lucky up to the present."

"And, if the thing--the person is determined the other way, what then?"

"What then? You know every Britisher has a bit of the bull in him,
and enjoys his fight, and you have heard also that flowers out of
reach--nearly out of reach--smell the sweetest."

"Oh, there speaks the man all over! You've one touch of nature with my
boys, at any rate, Mr. Armstrong--anything well out of reach has the
most attraction for them. Bob always gathers his fruit from the ridge
of the wall, and Hal would climb the tallest elm in the grove to rob a
nest, and yet never lay hand on that of the thrush that builds every
year in the gloire de Dijon under the window."

"Well, my limbs are not as supple as they were twenty years ago. I
wonder shall I have to climb very high for the nest I want?"

Addie looks down and makes no reply.

They have now reached the brougham, into which he assists her
carefully, placing his stout ash by her side.

"Better keep it for a day or two, Miss Lefroy--you may find it
serviceable; and remember the doctor's instruction."

He busies himself for a few moments propping up her foot with shawls
and cushions, and then, as the horse is about to start, says in a low
voice, looking up in her face entreatingly--

"I would try to make you happy."

"You are very kind," says poor Addie for the fourth and last time that
day; and then the horse plunges forward, and she is off.



CHAPTER VI.


"What will they say? What will they do?" thinks Addie, with shuddering
presentiment as she is being driven along the high-road to Nutsford.
"And how can I tell them about it? Oh, the worst part of all is before
me now! How can I tell them about it--how can I tell them? If I only
knew how they'd take it--could only guess! But I can't--I can't!
Aunt Jo will be pleased, I think. She will say it's an intervention
of Providence, the turning of the tide, perhaps; but Aunt Jo is old,
and can't feel like the young--and then of course she's not a Lefroy.
That's the great point--she's not a Lefroy. Perhaps Bob will never
speak to me again for letting him say so much to me as he did; perhaps
Pauline will disown me too, if she hears Bob is so proud, so resentful,
so tetchy about the family prestige! It may be an awful blow to him,
poor darling--and he going away, too, full of sorrow and trouble
already! Wouldn't it be better if I said nothing at all about it until
he had left? But then--then--I've got only until to-morrow, and I've
promised an answer. Oh, dear! oh, dear! what am I to do? Why did I go
clambering up into that wretched tree, like the shameful tomboy that I
am? Why didn't I study quietly at home as the aunt suggested--why, why?
Good gracious, the farm already! How that horse flies! Perhaps they'll
guess, they'll suspect something, when they see me in his brougham? And
Hal is so vulgar, so exasperating when he begins to chaff, and Lottie
asks such dreadful, dreadful questions!"

She peers forth anxiously before venturing to descend, and, to her
great relief, sees that so far the coast is clear. Neither of the boys
is about. Hal is not at his usual noonday pastime of shying stones at
the pump, or worrying the donkey in the stubble-field. Bob is not, as
is his wont, leaning against the hay-rick, smoking away in sullen gloom
his last hours on shore. She hobbles up the little garden path and
pushes open the farm-house door.

A dismal wailing sound issues from the stuffy, low-roofed parlor to the
right, sacred to the family gentility.

"Oh, dear, dear, the aunt is at it again--worse than ever!" thinks
Addie ruefully. "She's an awful spendthrift in tears, poor soul! At the
rate she has been weeping for the last three months, she really must
cry herself dry soon!"

At that moment the door opens, and the old lady half stumbles out,
looking so utterly limp and woe-begone that her niece's heart sinks
with the fear of some fresh disaster.

"Oh, what is it, aunt? Has--has anything else happened? The boys?"

"My dear, my dear, we'd best give it up--throw up our hands and have
done with the struggle at once; it's of no use, of no use! I can hold
out no longer."

"Oh, what has happened? Tell me--tell me!"

"Pauline is home again. She came back half an hour ago."

"Pauline back!" echoes Addie, aghast. "Wouldn't they--wouldn't they
keep her?"

"She ran away from them."

After a moment's pause, Addie enters, and sees the young culprit, with
crimson cheeks and streaming eyes, standing in the center of the room,
the boys glaring at her in furious bitterness.

"Pauline!"

"Yes, that's my name; and here I am," the young lady answers, in a
shrill taunting voice. "What have you to say to me, Adelaide? I've just
been receiving the greetings of my brothers and aunt, and am ready to
receive yours now. Open fire, my dear; I'm prepared for any charge.
Don't be afraid."

But Addie says nothing--simply sinks into a chair, feeling that the
waters are closing round her on every side.

"Oh, Addie, Addie!" exclaims Pauline, disarmed by her mute dejection,
"don't be too hard on me, for I couldn't help it--oh, I couldn't help
it! You don't know, you can't conceive what a life I've led since I
left you--it was unbearable!"

"You've had good food to eat, a soft bed to lie on, warm walls to
shelter you, servants to wait on you," says Robert, with a fierce
sneer, "which is more than the rest of us have in prospect--more than I
shall enjoy for many a long day, Heaven knows!"

"More than I shall have in the charity-school they're trying to get me
into," adds Hal, moodily.

"More than your sister will have as a nursery governess in a grocer's
family," says Aunt Jo, with dreary emphasis.

"No, no, it isn't--it isn't!" bursts in Pauline passionately. "I'd
rather be cabin-boy on board a coal-barge, I'd rather starve at a
charity-school, I'd rather teach all the young grocers in England, I'd
rather be--be maid-of-all-work in a--a lunatic asylum than go on living
with Aunt Selina. Oh, you don't know what it was--what I had to put up
with! The very first evening I arrived she began nag, nag, nagging at
me, and she has kept it up ever since; her voice is dinning in my ears
even now; it haunted me every night in my sleep. Nothing I did, nothing
I said, was right. I was clumsy, awkward, uncouth, boisterous, stupid.
I could not enter a room, move a chair, or lift a book without making
her shiver and the admiral swear. I knew nothing, I could do nothing,
not even read the 'Naval Intelligence' without stumbling at every
second word. Five times running," continues the girl, with quivering
lip, "she has made me walk across the room, shut and open the door, her
own maid watching me, until--until I felt inclined to slam it with a
force to bring her warm walls about her wretched head. You don't know
what it was!"

Nobody makes reply. She looks round at the sullen averted faces, and
then bursts out again--

"I wish I hadn't come back to you--you hard-hearted, unfeeling,
cruel--I wish--I wish I had thrown myself into the lake at the back
of the park, as I ran out one night to do in my anger and pain. But I
didn't, because--because I thought of you all and how sorry you'd be. I
wish I had now; it would have been better."

Robert shrugs his shoulders and flings a half-consumed cigarette into
the grate.

"Better!" he repeats, with a callous laugh. "I won't gainsay you,
Polly. I think it would be better still if we made a family-party of
the dive--just plunge in in silence together, we five Lefroys. It could
be done poetically enough even in the old mill-pond behind the grove.
You girls could twine lilies in your hair, Ophelia-wise, and afterward
we would haunt the old place, five cold slimy ghosts, and drive the
vitriol-man back to the smoke whence he sprung."

"Bob, Bob, don't say such dreadful things! You frighten the life out of
me!" screams Lottie, clinging to her aunt.

"Bob, you're a--a wretch, and I wish I was dead!" cries Pauline,
flinging herself across the table in a storm of sobs.

Then Addie rises and speaks for the first time, her arm around her
sister's heaving shoulders.

"Don't fret, Polly, don't fret. Never mind them; you'll live at
Nutsgrove with me. I'll give you a home, dear."

"Addie!"

"I'm quite serious, Pauline--I mean what I say."

Adelaide's voice is very steady and grave, and there is a tone in it
that arrests the stormy attention of the family.

"Mr. Armstrong asked me this afternoon to marry him."

"Eh? What did you say?"

"Kindly repeat that statement, Addie, will you?"

She looks into her brother's startled face, and complies with
mechanical firmness, as if she were saying a lesson.

"Mr. Armstrong of Kelvick asked me this afternoon to marry him. I fell
from a tree and hurt my foot in the grove, and he found me there, and
drove me on to the house, where he asked me to marry him. He said that,
if I would, he'd settle Nutsgrove on me altogether, that I might have
the girls to live with me always, and that he'd help on you boys as
well as he could in the world."

"And what did you say?" comes in trembling eager chorus.

"I said nothing particular--neither 'Yes' nor 'No.' I said I wanted
time to consider and consult with you all."

"Thank Heaven, thank Heaven!" Miss Darcy's quivering voice breaks the
silence as she half staggers with arms outstretched toward her niece.
"And I had begun to doubt--to question Providence! I am rebuked now--I
am rebuked now. Addie, my dearest, you have made me a happy old woman
to-night!"

"I knew you would be pleased--would wish me to--to accept him," says
Addie softly, a little impressed by her heartfelt emotion; "it was the
others I felt doubtful about--whose opinion I wanted."

She looks round at the flushed faces of her brothers and sisters; but,
of the four, three, though evidently eager to give their opinions,
are afraid to open their mouths until "Robert the Magnificent," the
recognized head of the family, arbiter of its ethics and manners, has
first given tongue.

He walks round slowly from the fireplace, lays his hand heavily
upon his sister's shoulder, and then says, in a tone crisp, terse,
Napoleonic--

"Marry him! Shut your eyes, my girl, and swallow him as if he were a
pill."

"Oh, Robert, I--I couldn't do that! One could swallow anything but a
husband. A husband is always there; he can't be swallowed."

"Yes, he can. You don't understand those things, child. After the first
gulp, you won't notice him; one husband is much the same as another,
after a bit. It's his surroundings, not his personality, that will
affect your life and your happiness; and they are good--the best of
their kind."

"Oh, Bob, Bob, I never thought you would take it like this!" breaks in
Addie, half crying.

"Addie, child, my first thought is your welfare; all selfish emotions,
all inward stings must subside before that consideration. You'll not
get another chance like this; and we Lefroys must e'en bow our haughty
heads and swim with the tide. We're not prepared to pull against it; we
should only sink in the struggle. Marry him, Addie, my dear. It will be
as I have said, a bit of a wrench at first, but you'll soon get over
it, and you will always have your family to fall back upon. We shall
be always there, never you fear, to stand by you--to brush him up for
you, to--"

"Oh, yes, yes," bursts in an eager impassioned chorus, "we'll stand by
you, Addie, darling!"

"We'll brush him up for you!"

"We'll tone him down; you'll see--you'll see!"

"Marry him--marry him, dear! Never mind his vulgarity."

"Never mind the vitriol or the chemical ma--"

"Or the grocer's van, or anything. You'll have us and the old place
back again. What does anything else signify? Marry him, marry him,
Addie!"

Poor Addie, overwhelmed by the vigor and unanimity of the verdict
against her, so different from what she has expected, turns from one to
another, and then whimpers pathetically--

"It's all very fine you talking like that; but--but, if you were in my
place, how would you feel? I don't believe you'd marry him, Pauline,
not for all--"

"Wouldn't I, just?" breaks in Pauline stoutly. "Why, I'd marry him if
he were three times as old and as plain and as common as he is! Marry
him? Why I'd marry an Irish invincible, I'd marry the hangman himself,
in the circumstances! His age is another score in your favor, Addie;
he's a man pretty well on in life, I should say."

"Only thirty-seven," she puts in moodily.

"Well, thirty-seven is a good age--nearly double your own, child; and a
man like him, who has had such a hard life of it, who has been scraping
up sixpences since he was four years old, is sure to break up early--he
can't stand the strain much after his prime. The chances are ten to one
you'll be a free woman before you're thirty. Think of that, my dear!"

"Oh, yes, think of that, Addie! Think of yourself as a lovely--well,
not exactly lovely, but extremely nice young widow, with lots of money,
living at Nutsgrove, and we all around you, happy as the day is long!
Oh, wouldn't it be too awfully lovely!"

Addie shakes her head, wipes her eyes slowly, and tries to smile.
Pauline kisses her wet cheek coaxingly, Robert pats her plump shoulder.
There is a moment's soothing silence, broken by Lottie, who has also
crept up to her side, asking in an eager whisper--

"Addie, tell us what he said--what he did. Is he awfully in love, like
Guy was in the 'Heir of Redcliffe,' you know? Did he try to--"

"Lottie, Lottie," Addie answers angrily, with flaming cheeks, "what
silly, what absurd questions you do ask! I never met a child like you."

"I don't see how I am so idiotic," she rejoins aggrievedly. "Why should
Mr. Armstrong want to marry you unless he were in love with you, I'd
like to know?"

"Why?" repeats Robert loftily. "I think the reason ought to be patent
even to your immature comprehension, Lottie."

Addie looks at him with an expression of sudden interest.

"Bob, do you know I'm afraid I'm quite as dull as Lottie--for--for--I
don't see his reason for wishing to marry me. What is it?"

"He is marrying you for your position, of course. What other reason
could he have?"

"My position? Oh!"

"Yes, your position. He has money, he has lands, he wishes to found a
family and sink the manufacturer in the squire; therefore, like all
of his class, he looks about him for a wife who will bring breeding,
ancestry, position as a dowry, the only means by which he can creep
into county society. His eye naturally falls on you, the eldest
daughter of the House of Lefroy; he seeks to reinstate you as mistress
of your forefathers' acres. And what follows this move? Why, without
an effort on his part, without one introductory cringe, the gates of
county society are swung open to him through you, and his end effected.
By Jove, now that I come to think of it, it's a jolly smart move on his
part! I didn't give him credit for such clear-sightedness; he's a sharp
fellow, and no mistake. Good thing for you, Addie--you'll have me at
hand to look after your settlements. I'll keep a sharp eye on him!"

"So that is his reason, his motive!" thinks Addie, with contemptuous
bitterness. "Of course it is a much more likely solution than--than
that airy nonsense about the cup of tea. I wonder how a man, a big
middle-aged man like him can be so full of littleness, of meanness,
and--and--hypocrisy!"

"Yes," resumes Bob, with cynical fluency, "that is his little game; and
his next move will be to gently push the family cognomen from behind
the scenes and bring our identity to the fore. He'll begin after a
year or two by tacking 'Lefroy' on to 'Armstrong;' you'll be 'Mrs.
Lefroy Armstrong of Nutsgrove,' my dear; then a hyphen will be smuggled
in; after that you'll become 'Mrs. Armstrong-Lefroy of Nutsgrove;'
and, by Jove, before your son and heir reaches maturity probably,
he'll be as clean a Lefroy, at least in name, as would have been his
poor disinherited uncle but for the irony of fate. You must call him
'Robert,' after me, Addie."

But this generous speech has not the soothing effect intended, for
Addie, with red, angry face, starts to her feet and shakes off her
clinging family passionately.

"How do you know I shall ever marry him at all? I never said I would;
and I'm sure I won't now--I'm sure I won't. I might have done so
before--before, when I didn't understand; but, now that you have shown
me what he is, I won't be the staff to prop his mean snobbishness. Let
him get pedigree and breeding somewhere else; he shall not buy them
from me, big as his price is!"

Dismay appalls the family at this unexpected turn of affairs; the
unfortunate orator and elucidator stands staring with open mouth,
not able to produce a protesting sound. Aunt Jo it is who briskly
and successfully comes to the rescue. She has taken no part in the
discussion, but has sat at the window apart in a soothing daydream,
her heart singing a canticle of joy that the days of her bondage are
at last closing in--sat, living through in happy prospective the
coming year, established once more in her neat, comfortable little
house, where the day worked itself out from sunrise to sunset with
the soothing regularity of clock-work, where the voice of insulting
tradesmen never penetrated, where all was peace, neatness, comfortable
economy, and respectability.

"Robert, Pauline, Henry," she cries sharply, roused by Addie's
disastrous wrath, "what are you tormenting the poor child about,
talking of things you do not in the least understand? Don't you see
that she is perfectly worn out with exhaustion and excitement and the
pain of her foot. Come to bed, child, come to bed; you're not in a
state to be up. I'll make you a nice hot drink that will send you to
sleep at once. Here's your stick. What a grand one it is! Where did you
get it? From Mr. Armstrong? Well, it's like himself, strong, reliable,
and stout-limbed."



CHAPTER VII.


"How does your ankle feel this morning?"

"Better--much better, thank you. In a day or two it will be quite
strong again."

Miss Lefroy is seated in a moldy old summer-house at a corner of the
farm-house garden, shelling a dish of peas, little Emma Higgins, her
landlady's youngest but two, helping her with zealous dirty fingers.
Unable any longer to bear the horsehair hardness of the parlor sofa and
the stuffiness of the house, she has escaped hither, heedless of her
aunt's protestations.

Mr. Armstrong stands leaning against the rotting woodwork, supporting a
starved clematis-stalk, making the whole building creak and quiver with
the weight of his brawny shoulders.

"Mr. Armstrong, spare us!" laughs Addie nervously. "We're two such
miserable little specimens of the Philistine, Emmy and I--we're
scarcely worth destruction."

"I don't know about that. If measles or croup had carried off Delilah
when she was as young and harmless-looking as you, Miss Lefroy, why,
Samson might have died in his bed. May I enter? There are no scissors
on the premises?"

"No; your beard is quite safe; you may enter if you like."

"I went to the farm first, and your aunt directed me here," he says,
taking a seat beside her on the stone slab.

"I got tired of the house--it was so close. The smell of the laborers'
dinner toward midday is very strong everywhere; it flavors even the
sweetbrier outside the parlor window; so I came here."

"Yes, it was a good move."

A silence follows; Addie wildly racks her brain for a sensible remark,
but finds not one. He, resting his arm on the table, for some moments
contentedly watches the movement of her slim brown fingers.

"Miss Lefroy, you are throwing the pods into the dish and the peas on
the ground. Is that--"

"So I am, so I am!" she answers petulantly. "But I can't do anything
when I'm--I'm watched like--that. Mr. Armstrong"--with sudden desperate
bluntness--"you have come for your answer, have you not? Well, I have
consulted them all, and they think it ought to be 'Yes.'"

"Then you will marry me, Miss Lefroy?"

"I suppose so."

He takes her unresisting hand and holds it in a strong cool clasp,
while every nerve in her body tingles with the impulse to snatch it
rudely from him; but she resists it, and merely says, panting a little--

"I must go in now with the peas."

"Oh, not yet! There is time enough surely!"

"No; they are wanted for early dinner, and take a great deal of
boiling."

"Where's little Emmy? Gone off! Then I will take them in myself and
bring you out some cushions and footstools; your ankle is not at all
properly supported. I wonder your brothers or sisters did not look
after you better!"

As soon as he disappears Addie hobbles out eagerly, and looks around.
Spying Lottie prowling among the gooseberry bushes she hails her
imperatively.

"Lottie, come here at once! Where are the others?"

"Mooning about. Auntie gave orders that no one, on any account, was to
disturb you and Mr. Armstrong in the summer-house. She said I was not
even to peep through the cabbage-plot at the back. I wonder why? Is it
because he may want to kiss you?"

"Go and tell them all, all--to come to the arbor at once, and to stay
with me the whole time that Mr. Armstrong is here; do you hear? Tell
them--tell aunt, too--that, if they don't, I'll send him about his
business as sure as my name's Addie Lefroy! Go quickly, miss; I'm in
earnest. Let them come back before him now, or else--"

Lottie obeys, duly impressed by her sister's determined manner, and,
when the happy suitor returns, laden with footstools and cushions,
prepared for a long morning's _tête-à-tête_ with his love, he finds
the rickety bower in possession of the whole family, who linger by him
all the morning, favoring him with their views, and opinions of things
in general, favoring him also with diffuse reminiscences of personal
biography, and systematically intercepting the faintest exchange of
word, or even look, with his sweet-voiced betrothed.

He bears it with tolerable patience for an hour or so, and then
relapses into moody taciturnity, thus leaving the burden of
entertainment on the able shoulders of "Robert the Magnificent," who
fancies that the brilliancy and aristocratic flavor of his conversation
are creating a most favorable, in fact, overpowering effect on his
plebeian guest, little deeming, honest lad, that the said guest at
the time is inwardly voting his future brother-in-law one of the most
insufferably flippant young prigs and bores it has ever been his
misfortune to meet. At last, unable to stand it any more he takes an
irritated turn round the garden, where he is immediately joined by the
two younger Lefroys.

"Are you fond of gooseberries, Mr. Armstrong?" begins Lottie, whose
voice has not had fair play in the arbor. "Would you like me to pick
you some?--though they are wretched in this garden--little sour hard
balls scarcely worth picking."

"They're splendid up at Nutsgrove," he answers eagerly, struck with a
happy thought--"splendid, large, soft, sweet, and yellow. Suppose you
all trot up there now--Robert, Pauline, Hal, and you, and have a good
morning's feed--eh?"

"Oh, it would be delicious! You'd come with us, too, wouldn't you?"

"Well--ah, no; I would remain with your sister and aunt--keep them
company until you come back."

"Would you? Oh, dear, then we can't go."

"Why not, pray?"

"Because Addie made us all promise faithfully, while you were away with
the peas, that we would remain and help her to entertain you whenever
you came, and never to leave her. She has no conversational powers,
she says; but Rob and Polly have a lot--haven't they? And they have
promised, so have Hal and I too. It's an awful pity, isn't, it? I--I
wish you'd come with us; I know Addie wouldn't mind a bit. She's very
hot-tempered, you know--worse than any of us--but awfully good-natured,
and not a scrap huffy, like Bob and Poll."

Armstrong takes no notice of the suggestion, but walks straight back to
the arbor and bids the attached family farewell.

They stand in a group watching his tall massive figure stalking down
the path.

"How big he looks in this bit of a garden--regularly dwarfs the old
shrubs into plants!"

"Yes, he's what Sally would call a fine figure of a man. Well, Addie,
you'll have quantity, if you don't have qua--"

"I say, Addie," bursts in Bob, excitedly, "did you ask him about my
ship?"

"No, Robert, of course not."

"You didn't? And yet you know I have to sail on Saturday, and leave
here to-morrow afternoon. Quick, quick; run and ask him about it now!"

"What am I to ask him?"

"What? Why, hang it, there's a question! Ask him if I may write and
throw up the whole thing, of course."

"Oh, Bob, Bob," cries the poor little maid, coloring and shrinking.
"I--I couldn't ask him yet; I couldn't begin so soon--the very first
day!"

"What?" cries Bob, with angry bitterness. "Then you'll actually let me
sail in the beastly rotten old tub to-morrow, and live the life of a
water-rat for the next six months--perhaps never see me again--rather
than say one word that would save me? Oh, I never heard of such
confounded selfishness in all my life! I never imagined that any one
calling herself a sister could behave so!"

"Oh, Addie, Addie, don't be so hard, so selfish!"

"Don't send away poor Bob like that. Go after him--go after him, quick!"

"But my foot--my foot--I can scarcely walk! I should never catch him
now," she pleads.

"Yes, you could--here's your stick; he has stopped to light his cigar
at the gate. Go!"

Thus urged, she limps painfully after him, calling his name, but he
does not hear her, and the distance between them increases. She is
about to give up the pursuit in despair, when he stops a second time
to caress a tawny mongrel that has wriggled itself fawningly between
his legs; then her voice is borne to him on the light summer breeze.
He turns and advances quickly to meet her, with a glad smile and
outstretched hands.

"Have you come to say good-by to me, Addie?"

"Yes--no--yes," she answers breathlessly, unconsciously clinging to him
to steady her shaking knees. "It's--it's--about Robert. Need he--must
he join his ship on Saturday?"

He looks thoroughly bewildered.

"Need he join what ship--where? I don't understand."

"Oh, don't you remember? I told you about it yesterday--such a dreadful
service--no salary--articles for three years--cargo of salt to China!"

"Yes, yes, to be sure; I remember. He does not care for his
appointment. Tell him he may write to cancel it at once; I'll make
it right at head-quarters for him; and then we must find him a more
suitable berth on shore."

"Oh, thank you, thank you! How very kind you are!"

She is about to move away; but he lays his hand on her shoulder.

"Wait a moment; you're not half rested. You--you will try to like me a
little, won't you, Addie?"

"Oh, yes!" she answers fervently, her shining eyes looking straight
into his. "I will begin at once, and try as hard as ever I can to like
you, Mr. Armstrong; you are so very kind!"

With a laugh that is half a sigh his hands drop and he turns away.

"I'm a fool, a fool--a blind, besotted fool!" he says to himself
a little later. "I wish I could throw it all up; I wish I had the
strength of mind. It won't do--it won't do! I shall live to reap in
remorse and sorrow what I've sown in doubt and weakness--something
tells me I shall. Well, well, so be it, so be it! I must go through
with it now to the end, come what may."

       *       *       *       *       *

Addie somewhat sulkily imparts the good news to her family, and then
goes up to her room, locks the door, and lifts from the bottom of
her trunk her cracked old papier-mâché desk, from which she takes
a photograph wrapped in tissue paper, with the remains of a gloire
de Dijon rose that was nipped from the parent-stem one soft June
night three years before and fastened near her throat by warm boyish
fingers--cousinly, not brotherly fingers. She scatters its loose
stained petals out of the window, and then takes a long look at the
picture of her soldier-cousin, Edward Lefroy, who spent a month at
Nutsgrove the last time the colonel visited his home.

It is a bright laughing young face, fair and unbearded, as different in
form, color, and expression from the face of her present lover as it
possibly can be. The difference seems to strike the girl with painful
reality, for tears fall from her downcast eye and drop upon the smiling
features.

"Oh, Ted, Ted, did you mean anything on that day when you were rushing
away? It was all so quick, so hurried, when the order came for you
to rejoin, that I had not time to think, to understand. Did you mean
anything in that hot farewell whisper, 'Good-by, good-by, little woman;
we're as poor as a pair of church-mice now, but, should I come back for
you one day with a lac of rupees, you'll be ready for me, won't you,
Addie darling?' That was three years ago, Ted, three years ago--and
never a word from you since! I'm a goose to think of you now--I know
I am; something tells me you've whispered the same to half a score of
girls since; but, Teddy, if you did mean anything, come back for me
now, before it's too late, before it's too late!"

"Addie, Addie, dinner is up, and there's a batter-pudding! Come down
quick!"

"Coming!" she shouts; and then, carefully wiping the precious
cardboard, she opens the well-thumbed family album. "I needn't destroy
you, poor Ted; but you must leave my old desk now, and spend the rest
of your days with the family"--placing him opposite to a simpering
crinolined relative leaning against a pillar, with a basket of flowers
in her hand. "Good-by, good-by, dear boy; I've watered your grave for
the last time! And now for batter-pudding and a breaking heart!" she
adds, with a light, half-contemptuous, half-wistful laugh, as she runs
down-stairs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, when Miss Lefroy appears at breakfast, she finds
the parlor heavy with the breath of roses; eagerly she inhales their
delightful fragrance.

"Aren't they lovely?" cries Lottie. "Did you ever see such a basketful?
They are all for you, Addie, with 'T. A.'s compliments.' And look
at the dishes of cherries and strawberries! Bob has been at them
already--has polished off a couple of pounds. If you don't be quick,
you'll not have any left. Fall to, Addie, fall to!"

But Addie turns away her head, and declares that she does not care for
fruit so early in the day; and presently she even finds fault with the
flowers--they are too much for the small close room--they give her
a headache. She goes forth to the clover field opening out from the
yard, and stretches herself at full length on the fresh sward to while
away the long morning hours, her idle mind no longer troubled by the
irregularities of French grammar, or the habits and manners of ancient
Babylonia.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Addie, Mr. Armstrong is in the parlor with Aunt Jo. Will you go in to
him, or are we to bring him out here?"

"I'll go in to him; you're all there, aren't you?"

"Oh, yes. Don't you fear; we're all there, and we mean to stop."

"All right then; I'll follow you in presently," says Addie; and then,
after a minute or two, she moves toward the house, muttering to herself
as she does so, "'Soldier, sailor, tinker, tailor, policeman, plowboy,
gentleman--' Oh, you wretches, you mocking little wretches, you
shameful little fibbers, can you not tell me the truth even now? I'm to
marry a gentleman still, am I? Oh, Ted, Ted, does it mean that you are
coming across the sea to me--now--now, at the eleventh hour? I wish I
knew!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Armstrong does not stay long this afternoon, having business of
importance at Kelvick. He waits to drink a cup of tea poured out by his
love's nimble hands; and so, during a lucky moment, while the family
are engaged in a light skirmish, he manages to slip unperceived a hoop
of diamonds on her unwilling finger, and then he takes his leave.

After this they are not troubled very much with his society. About two
or three times a week he looks in for half an hour to enjoy a peep at
his future wife, whom he always finds enshrined in a circle of her
devoted family, a circle which, after the first unsuccessful attempt,
he does not try to rout. Miss Darcy is the only member with whom he
is able to enjoy the favor of an uninterrupted _tête-à-tête_; and one
morning toward the end of June, after being closeted with her for a
couple of hours, it is decided to their mutual satisfaction that the
sooner Miss Lefroy becomes Mrs. Armstrong the better for herself and
all those interested in her.

This conclusion is delicately conveyed to the young person, who has not
a tangible objection to raise, not a single plea to urge for delay,
particularly as Aunt Jo skillfully cuts the ground from under her feet
by complaints of her failing health and her longing for the restoring
air of Leamington, which would be sure to set her up again at once, she
feels.

Addie's marriage is settled to take place during the second week in
August, a little over two months from the day of her betrothal; and the
reign of bustle begins by an immediate migration from the undignified
shelter of Sallymount Farm to Laburnum Lodge, just outside Nutsford,
the residence of Mrs. Doctor Macartney, who has gone to the seaside
for a couple of months with her family, and who was quite ready, for a
smart pecuniary consideration, to let her neatly appointed house even
to the reckless Lefroys for the time being.

Addie hotly opposed the change at first, but, as usual, was overruled
by the family, backed by Aunt Jo.

"We can't afford it--you know we can't!" she pleaded earnestly. "You
told me not a fortnight ago that you had only seven pounds ten to
finish the quarter; therefore how can we afford to take Laburnum Lodge,
Aunt Jo?"

"We must manage it somehow, child," Miss Darcy answered, with a
slight blush. "Don't trouble your head about it any more, for the
thing must be done. It would be too unseemly to have you married from
Steve Higgins's farm, your sisters and brothers quite agree with me;
and--and--Mr. Armstrong wishes it besides--so there is nothing more to
be said about it."

It was the same with her _trousseau_. In vain she protested, objected,
revolted, against each article of attire added daily to her miserable
wardrobe--against dresses, bonnets, mantles, against shoes, gloves,
umbrellas, underclothes; it was all of no use. Aunt Jo and Pauline
went on ordering and suggesting just as if she had not spoken. It
seemed to the pained, bewildered girl that she was in the hands of
every tradesman and tradeswoman in the town of Kelvick, and, after
a couple of hours' shamefaced agony, she used to escape from Madame
Armine's smooth wily fingers and approving exclamations in a state of
impatient revolt that strangely puzzled that experienced lady. "Oh,
it is unbearable," she would cry, "to be lodged, fed, clothed by him
thus--unbearable to think that every pound of meat that comes to the
table is paid for by him, as well as the dress, the stockings, the
shoes, the gloves I shall wear standing beside him at the altar! It is
unbearable to think he is paying for me before I am purchased! How can
they stand it, all of them? How can Robert, whom I thought so haughty,
so proud, so sensitive, take it as he does? They must know--of course
they must know--and yet don't seem to mind."

At other times a mad impulse would urge her to take up the finery that
was fast filling the house, and fling it at Mr. Armstrong's feet,
refusing to be further suffocated by his benefits; but luckily the
opportunity failed for the uncomfortable feat, as Armstrong was called
away on business of importance to the North of England just a fortnight
before his wedding-day, and did not reappear at Laburnum Lodge until
all her boxes were safely corded and standing in a row in the hall,
labeled in Robert's round schoolboy hand--"Mrs. Armstrong, Charing
Cross, London."



CHAPTER VIII.


It is just a week before the wedding-morning. Aunt Jo and Pauline are
discussing the bill of fare for the breakfast; Addie is lying on a sofa
by the open window, languidly reading the newspaper.

"You have quite made up your mind then, Addie?" asks the elder lady.
"You won't have any one at the ceremony but just our immediate
circle--not even your Aunt and Uncle Beecher?"

"Quite!" answers Addie sharply. "I'll have no one but you and the
boys, Polly and Lottie--not another soul. I'll be married in my
traveling-dress, not in the white _broché_ at all; and no one is to be
let into the church. The doors are to be locked when we have entered."

"It will be a Quakerish kind of festival, certainly," says Pauline
regretfully. "If ever I get married, I'll make a little more noise than
that. And I suppose Mr. Armstrong will have none of his friends or
relatives either?"

"No."

"Heigh-ho! I think you might have let some one in, just to temper the
chill of the first family breaking-up--Teddy Lefroy, for instance. How
he'd stir us up! And I'm sure he'd come, if you'd ask him, Addie."

The newspaper drops from her hands; she turns quickly, with flushed
cheeks.

"Teddy Lefroy? What do you mean, Polly? How could I ask him? He's in
India."

"No, he isn't; he came home about a month ago for a year at the depot.
I heard it when I was at Aunt Selina's, but forgot to tell you until
now."

"Where is he--in England?"

"No, somewhere in Ireland, near Kilkenny. I forget the name of the
place."

"I wonder," says Addie, after a short pause, "if he has heard of my
intended marriage?"

"Can't say, I'm sure," answers Pauline, carelessly. "Oh, yes, though,
I should think the chances are that he has, for there was a pretty
brisk correspondence going on between him and the admiral while I was
at Greystones! You know he's the old gentleman's godson; and I suspect
Master Teddy had been dipping pretty freely and asking assistance,
to judge by the expression of the godpapa's benign countenance while
reading his letters. Poor Teddy, he's a regular Lefroy in that way;
his purse was a perfect sieve. Do you remember, Addie, the presents he
used to bring us from Kelvick--the blue silk handkerchief he brought
you, which Hal upset the pot of blackberry jam over? How mad you were,
to be sure! How you did pinch and cuff the poor child until the tears
ran down his face! It seems but yesterday. Dear Ted, how bright and
bonny he was, to be sure! I wish he'd come and see us while you are
away, Addie; and I wish you were not going in for such a tremendous
honeymoon--a whole month! How shall we get on without you, love? Oh,
dear, I hope you'll miss us awfully! I hope Mr. Armstrong will get
tired of you, and send you home to us before the time is half gone."

Every morning and evening for the rest of that eventful week Addie,
with straining eyes and quickly-beating heart, watches the postman;
but he never brings her what she wants, never brings her a line of
congratulation, renunciation, reproach, or regret from the neighborhood
of Kilkenny.

Her wedding-morning comes cloudless and sunny. She is married
uneventfully, with the quivering rays from the stained-glass windows
erected to the memory of René, Comte le Froi, and his wife Clothilde,
A.D. 1562, bathing her pale emotionless face in purpling
golden light. And then she signs her maiden name--Adelaide Josephine
Lefroy--for the last time on earth.

The breakfast is tearless, but a little strained, remarkable only for
an able and grandiloquent speech from Robert, which is however somewhat
marred at the close by the arrival of a costume from Madame Armine
at the eleventh hour, which entails the reopening of trunks and much
excitement and fuss.

Miss Darcy follows the bride up to her room, where she finds her gazing
blankly out of the window alone. She steals behind her and puts her
arms round her neck.

"Heaven bless you, my child, and give you every joy, every happiness in
the new life that lies before you!"

"Thank you, auntie darling; thank you also for your goodness to me,
and for all you have ever done and suffered for me and mine. I think
I never felt it, never understood it, until now," she adds, breaking
down a little at last. "But I'll never forget--never! You have been the
dearest, the truest friend we have ever had, and one day you will meet
with your reward."

"Not truer, my dear," Miss Darcy answers gravely, "than the friend,
generous, strong, and unselfish, into whose hands Heaven put you but a
few hours ago. You have a good husband, Addie, a truly good husband,
my dear--one whom you can respect, honor, and obey all the days of
your life. I am leaving you in his hands without a shadow of doubt,
a twinge of apprehension. He may not have the outward polish, the
surface-attraction of those born in the purple; but he is nevertheless
a gentleman at heart--a gentleman in the true sense of the word,
liberal, large-minded, incapable of a mean or ignoble act or thought.
You feel that you believe me, don't you, dear, don't you?" she repeats,
peering anxiously into the girl's wistful weary face.

"Yes--oh, yes!" Addie answers in a whisper. "I think I do, auntie, I
think I do."

For during the last month the theory of Mr. Armstrong's motive in
matrimony so unluckily broached by the keen-sighted Robert, and which
had awakened her active contempt, daily lost hold of her mind. She
had but little opportunity of studying his character, or even of
ascertaining the bent of his sympathies and tastes: nevertheless she
was forced to acknowledge to herself that, low-born as he undoubtedly
was, Armstrong of Kelvick was not a snob, that, though he respected
rank and its many attributes of power, he did not love a lord with the
servile fondness of the British tradesman, and that the end and aim of
his existence were not to have the gates of county society flung open
to him--nor was that the motive which had urged him to marry her.

"I could not tell you before, dear," resumes Aunt Jo softly, drawing
her niece to a chair beside her--"but now that you are a wife it is
different--what your husband has done for you and yours. I can not even
now tell you how delicate, how unobtrusively generous, he has been in
all his dealings with our unfortunate affairs."

"I know, I know--at least I half guessed it all."

"I had a long conversation with him last night, Addie, after you had
all gone to bed, and he then told me the arrangements he had made for
the children's futures. Will you listen to them now, or would you
rather hear of them from him?"

"From you, from you!"

"Well, to begin with Robert. He is taking him into his own office to
learn the elements of business; and, though I dare say the dear boy
will be more of a hinderance than assistance there at present, yet he
is giving him a fair salary to start with, and is establishing him
in the household of his head-clerk, a most respectable married man,
where he will have all the comforts of home. Hal he is sending to Dr.
Jellett's at St. Anne's, the best school in the county; and the girls,
who are to live with you, are to have the advantages of first-class
governesses and masters from Kelvick. And that is not all, Addie.
See this piece of crumpled paper he thrust into my hands when he was
going. It is a check for four hundred pounds--half of it to defray
little debts and personal expenses I've been put to in our late stress,
and to help me to start comfortably in my old home; the other half,
Addie, to pay off old bills that we Lefroys have owed in the place for
years--bills of your heartless father's, child--to coach-builders,
wine-merchants, tobacconists, and others, of which he must have heard.
And, oh, Addie, if you had seen how shamefaced and confused he was
when he was trying to explain what he meant, you'd have thought he was
the guilty party, not that other who--who broke my poor sister's heart
before she was thirty, and abandoned you for a--"

Addie moved away quickly, and pressed her hot cheek to the cool pane of
the window, and a sudden light breaks over her clouded sky, showing her
a purpose, an aim with which she can ennoble and sweeten the years of
coming life, make it of value to herself and to others.

"I will be a good wife to him," she whispers warmly. "I will try
to pay him back the debt we owe him. I will brighten his home, and
make it a happy one for him; I will never let him regret the day he
married me and mine; I will be gentle, loving, companionable, always
striving to please; I will curb my awful temper, put a check on my
impetuous tongue. He will never guess, never suspect that I am not
perfectly happy and contented, never know that I don't care for him
as I might have cared for another--another not half as good, as
noble, as generous, or as true as he is. Oh, why can't I--why can't
I? How perverse and hard-hearted I am! But it won't matter; he'll
never know--never! He'll never see me without a smile on my lips and
cheerfulness in my eyes. I'll be a good wife to you, Tom, I will! Oh,
help me, dear Heaven!"



CHAPTER IX.


The honeymoon is a fortnight old.

Mrs. Armstrong, in a pale silk of grayish blue, with ruffles of creamy
lace at throat and wrists, and sparkling diamonds in her pretty pink
ears, is languidly toying with a bunch of muscatel grapes, listening to
the grateful plash of the waves breaking on the pebbly shore below.

The room in which she sits is a charming one, delicately yet
luxuriously furnished, bright with hothouse flowers, with big French
windows opening on to a canopied balcony overhanging the restless
waters of St. George's Channel. Her husband is leaning back in his
chair, sipping his post-prandial claret in blissful enjoyment.

"Headache all gone, Addie?" he asks, breaking a pleasant drowsy silence.

She turns her smiling face to him with a slight start.

"Headache? Had I a headache, Tom? Oh, I remember! That was this
morning--ages ago--after bathing! Fancy your remembering all that time!"

"Well, I hope I am not such a callous wretch as to forget my wife's
ailments, even after the long 'ages' of a summer morning."

"That is a real pretty speech, as Miss Tucker, on the flat below us,
would say. I'll treasure it in my memory, Tom, and recall it to you,
say, this day five years."

"You'll find it in tune, my dear. I'm not afraid."

She shakes her head doubtfully.

"Impossible! Even though your spirit was willing, the boys would have
corrupted you long before. Fancy Bob or Hal inquiring after a headache
six hours old! Listen to the music; how sweet it sounds!"

"Like a turn on the pier, dear?"

She assents gladly, and trips off to array herself, returning almost at
once with a chip-hat and light lace-scarf thrown round her shoulders.

"Addie, you're not going out in that flimsy garment at this hour of the
night--quite a sharp wind rising too! Go and put on something warmer."

"But I'm quite warm, Tom. Why, I have been out in the bitterest east
wind, with snow on the ground and with a bad sore throat, not more
heavily clad than this!"

"Well, my dear, that is an experience you may boast of, but which you
will not practically repeat. Go, like a good girl, and put on that
white woolly thing I saw in your wardrobe this morning."

She complies sweetly, but when out of sight, petulantly pulls the wrap
from its shell, muttering--

"Well, I hope this will satisfy him. Why it's first cousin to a
blanket! I shall be suffocated. Oh, dear!"

They sally forth and stroll slowly through the fashionable crowd,
Addie's feet keeping time to a swinging gavotte, while she furtively
eyes some dozen couples whose demeanor and gay attire incline her to
suspect that they are in the same interesting position as herself and
Tom.

After a time they leave the crowd and walk to the end of the pier,
which they have all to themselves. They clamber over the moonlit rocks
and stand arm in arm looking across the rippling waters, the music
reaching them mellowed by distance into divinely soothing harmony.

It is an hour, a moment to put poetry into the breasts of the Smallweed
family.

Armstrong feels its influence. He bends his dark face over his wife's,
and asks sentimentally--

"Are you happy, Addie?"

"Oh, yes--yes!" she whispers back, with sparkling eyes. "Why should I
not be? You are so very k--"

He blocks the sentence with a kiss.

"You need not have been in such a hurry," she laughs. "How do you know
I was going to say that, after all? There are lots of other adjectives
beginning with a 'k,' besides 'kind.' Let me see--'kantankerous,' for
instance--"

"Hem! When I was at school, 'cantankerous' began with a 'c,' Mistress
Addie."

"Oh, dear! I won't try repartee again, no matter how grievous the
assault. Tom, what a valuable governess you robbed the Moggeridges of!
You owe them compensation, sir."

A faint breeze brings to them a few bars of one of the sweetest,
saddest love-songs ever written. Addie's voice drops; she says,
scarcely above her breath--

"And you, Tom--are you happy too?"

"Happier, dear, than I ever thought I could be, even in my wildest
dreams of matrimonial bliss. I've had you only a fortnight, little
wife, and yet I don't know how I did without you during all the past
years, or what life would be to me it you went from me now."

"I have no immediate intention of going," she remarks, rubbing her soft
cheek against his coat-sleeve.

"No, you're bound for life now, thank Heaven!" he says fervently. "And,
when I think of the many times I have been within an ace of losing you,
child, of throwing the whole thing up and letting you go, I rejoice in
possessing the gift of pig-headedness, and--"

"You were within an ace of giving me up! When, Tom? I never knew."

"Scores of times. I thought I could not make you happy, or myself
either. I shrunk from the risk."

"Why? What risk?"

"We were so different, you see, Addie--there was such a gulf between
us, not only of years, but of experience, of habit, of thought and
mode of life. My past had been so rough, so lonely, so self-sufficing.
And then--then, you did not like me, Addie; I saw that plainly enough.
You used to shrink if I tried to come near you; and the way you hedged
yourself in with those blessed boys was disconcerting, to say the least
of it."

"I saw you did not like it," she says, with a low laugh.

"Not like it! By Jove, if you could have guessed the many times my
fingers have itched to close on the shapely throat of that brother of
yours, my dear, you would--"

"Poor Bob!"--a little anxiously. "You must not bear him ill-will, Tom;
he's off his guard now. You see, I did not understand you then--did not
know how to talk to you; you looked so big--so out of my world. But now
it is all different." Then, after a short pause--"And so you think I
can make you happy, husband--you don't regret it? You won't find us too
much for you at Nutsgrove? For we're--we're not a comfortable family to
live with, Tom! Oh, indeed we're not! Poor Aunt Jo had an awful time of
it with us, and the Beechers found Pauline very trying at Greystones.
Then I have a shocking temper; and Lottie, poor child, is dreadful when
her questioning mood is on. Now don't be ridiculous, Tom, for I'm quite
serious."

"I like Lottie," he says, smiling; "she's persevering, to be sure,
but quite without guile. Pauline I think I can put up with too. Your
temper, sweetheart, may be a bit of a trial; but fortunately I've a
broad back, and a constitution, physical and mental, of granite."

"You'll want it, I suspect. But tell me, Tom, something about your
early life. Had you no father or mother that you remember?"

"No; my mother died when I was an infant, and my father left me on the
parish and went to America."

"How very strange--both our fathers behaving in much the same way! I
think fathers are rather a mistake in families, Tom."

He laughs.

"So I began life unembarrassed by family connections--a--a--foundling,
in fact--you don't mind, do you, Addie? And for the thirty-seven years
of my life I've lived alone, entirely for myself--worked for myself,
struggled for myself, dreamed for myself, built castles in the air to
be inhabited by myself alone. A despicable state of existence, wasn't
it? I blush when I look back on it now."

"You were not unhappy?"

"No, because I did not know any better. I could not go back to it
now; you have broken the charm of egotism and sordid ambition. Oh,
sweetheart, you cannot imagine how strange and refreshing it is to
shake off the monotony of self at last, to be absorbed in another night
and day, to forget one's separate existence, to feel that life before
one will be full to overflowing of goodly promise, unfading blossom! It
is like stepping back from the blightful shade of a late autumn night
into the glory of a fresh spring morning. Ah, you cannot follow me
there, little one! You have not been baptized in selfishness as I have
been; and, though you like me well enough not to shrink from the future
which is to me a vista of undimmed sunshine, yet I am not to you what
you are to me, Addie; I doubt sorely if I can ever be."

"Hush!" she says, quickly, with a shudder she cannot repress, "It is
no good discussing such matters now. You cannot expect me to follow
you in your pretty simile, because I am only passing from spring into
summer, and so I do not know what autumn may be like--it will come in
time. You like my youth, don't you? You would not have me older? I am
young in years, in experience, and in feeling. I cannot help that. I do
not know much; but I know that I like you, Tom. I know that; I know too
that you are good and stanch and true--ah, twice too good for me!" she
adds, with a dry sob that startles him and makes him drift into a more
cheerful channel as quickly as he can, into which she follows him with
evident relief.

"And so, Tom," she asks, presently, "you have no relatives that you
know of, except that old Mrs. Murphy who sent me that lovely patchwork
quilt as a wedding present? And she is--"

"Only a third or fourth cousin on my mother's side."

"And have you lived all your life at Kelvick?"

"No, dear. I have been half over the world, knocking about east and
west since I was twelve years old."

"Fancy that! I never knew. Your life must have been an interesting one."

"Hardly. It was not exactly commonplace; but it certainly wasn't
picturesque in any of its phases. I went to Australia when I was
quite a lad--worked my way before the mast, and made a little money
out there. I came home, and the demon of invention got hold of me. I
conceived some wondrous piece of agricultural mechanism which was to
make my name and my fortune, over which I spent every farthing I had
scraped together. Well, it proved to be a mere worthless abortion, and
the discovery was a smart blow to my conceit and my energy. I lost
heart for a time, went to the States, where I joined the Confederate
Army, fought for two years--it was the time of the struggle for
emancipation--and, when it was over, I steered further west, to
California, where I did fairly at mining."

"Why, you have been a Jack-of-all-trades, Tom--sailor, soldier,
inventor, miner, manufacturer--what else?"

"That's the whole list. I found at last that liquid-manufacturing paid
the best; so I stuck to it. Vitriol gave me my decisive lift. Now,
Addie, I will not allow that disdainful little sniff, for vitriol lies
very close to my bosom just now. Vitriol bought me Nutsgrove, and
Nutsgrove bought me you, and you bought--"

"Armstrong of Kelvick, is that you in the flesh? What can have
tempted you into the giddy haunts of fashion, so far from your savory
chimney-pots, my dear fellow?"

"Like the man in the Scriptures, 'I married a wife.' Addie"--to his
wife, who stands rather shyly in the background--"let me introduce you
to my friend, Mr. Henderson."

They leave the pier and walk to the hotel, remaining for a few minutes
talking under the porch; then the two men return to the pier for a
smoke. Addie watches them disappear, hatching a little moonlit scamper
on her own account to a solitary part of the shore, where she can
plunge her free hands and hot face into the rippling water. Alas, woman
proposes, but man disposes! She has just cleared the last step of the
terrace, when she meets her husband face to face.

"Addie, I just ran back to see that you did not remain standing in that
draught. Where are you going, child?"--and in an accent of intense
surprise.

"Oh, nowhere in particular--at least, only to the edge of the sea for a
moment!" she answers, a little hurriedly.

"To the shore at eleven o'clock at night, alone! You must have lost
your senses, my dear. You must learn to understand that things of that
sort cannot be done, and particularly in a place of this kind. Go up to
your room at once, please, or you will grieve me very much."

For an instant she stands irresolute, trying to repress a wild instinct
of rebellion, for there is a ring of authority in his voice which stirs
the haughty Lefroy blood.

"I do not see what harm there is; I have been out at all hours of the
night at home, and nobody said anything," she persists sullenly.

"It is of no use," he says almost sternly--at least it sounds so to
her--"drawing parallels between your past life and your present; they
are meaningless. If you wish to return to the shore, I will accompany
you, and tell my friend not to wait for me."

"It is not necessary," she answers, in a low voice. "I am going in."

He follows her a few steps and lays his heavy hand on her shoulder.

"Addie darling, forgive me; I do not make allowance for your youth and
the habits of your past life, and--and--I'm so accustomed to be obeyed,
to command inferiors, that I--I forgot I was speaking to a lady, to one
dearer to me than my life. Forgive me, sweetheart, forgive me!"

"Yes--oh, yes!" she says, slowly withdrawing herself from his detaining
hand.

She walks listlessly up the stairs, stands panting heavily in her
flower-scented room, looking to right and left with the quick, restless
movement of an animal newly caged. She takes off her hat and cumbrous
wrapping, removes the diamonds from her ears, the heavy gold bands from
her fingers, and throws them from her; her arms drop to her sides.
She remains thus, erect, motionless, rigid, for nearly half an hour,
fighting against the sultry storm that sways her young soul; then
she sinks quivering into a chair by the table, her head falls on her
outstretched hands, and her passion finds vent in a storm of sobs and
wild complaints.

At last she is alone; the long _tête-à-tête_ is broken. A stranger's
voice had broken the spell; she can be herself again--can wake Addie
Lefroy from her maiden grave for a few short moments, and bid her live
and suffer; she can throw the suffocating mask aside, let the hot tears
rain from her weary eyes; the quick word, petulant, peevish, fall from
her quivering lips--can be herself again, can seek to find the problem
of her troubled life, can ask herself if it was a lie, a fraud, a
base sequence of hypocrisy, or a glorious martyrdom, an heroic act of
self-sacrifice. But nothing answers her, the problem remains unsolved,
all before her is blurred with passion, misty with thunderous clouds
that veil the transient gleams of a sunshine sweet and tender which
she has dimly felt struggling to reach her path during the most trying
fortnight of her life. But they do not touch her now; black night
shrouds her everywhere.

"He is too good, too generous, too kind, too--too fond of me!" she
wails, not conscious that her grief has found articulate sound. "His
care, his affection, his watchfulness stifle me. I am not accustomed
to them. It is like being transplanted to a hothouse after living all
one's life on the top of a breezy hill. I feel I cannot breathe--that
is it; I want breath, I want air. Only a fortnight, only a fortnight,
and it must go on--I must keep it up to the end! Oh, it is too
much--too much! I cannot bear it--I cannot bear it; it will kill me!"

Her voice sinks into a dry sob; there is a faint sound in the room,
as if a door was being softly closed, a sound which rouses her with a
start from her absorbed passion. She looks up quickly, and glances at
the closed door leading into her husband's dressing-room. A horrible
suspicion flashes across her mind, changing the heat of her blood to an
icy chill. She passes noiselessly into the dressing-room; but there is
no one there.

"An unnecessary alarm, a trick of the imagination!" she breathes with a
sigh of relief.

The distraction has the effect of quieting her excited nerves, soothing
the storm of her mind. She wipes her eyes briskly, tidies her hair,
replaces her wedding-ring.

"I have been a fool! I wonder what set me off like that so suddenly!
Such a strange feeling it was--as if I were choking; but I think it has
done me good. I feel quite cool, light, and refreshed now, ready for a
cup of tea."

She passes into her bedroom to replace her hat and wrap; then, drawing
aside the blind, she peers out of the window, which is in the front of
the hotel, facing the station.

"What a lovely night! No wonder one is tempted to remain out. Still he
ought to be soon in now; it's past eleven some time, and I should like
a cup--Oh, great Heaven!"

With a cry she falls back from the window, cowering, for at that
moment forth from the gloom of the porch underneath, his brave head
hanging low on his breast, her husband moves into the moonlight, where
he stands motionless for a moment, then lifts his arms with a weary,
bewildered gesture, and stumbles forward heavily toward the sleeping
sea.

She knows that her sacrifice has been in vain, that she has blighted
the prime of him who has enriched her and hers with his best, who has
loved her more than his own life.



CHAPTER X.


With bursting brain, stunned with unanalyzed pain and bewilderment, as
yet but half comprehending the wild words he has unwittingly heard,
Armstrong strides blindly onward, trying to fly, to escape from the
fever of his heart, from the sound of the wailing childish voice that
has tolled the death-knell of his peace.

He does not care, does not know whither he goes, for the path before
him is misty and blurred in the gleaming moonlight, his eyes are dim
with fury and anguish. He rolls heavily against an old seaman tottering
home from the public-house, and with an oath closes on him; they
struggle for a moment, until Armstrong, staggering backward, loses
his footing, and falls from the elevated edge of the esplanade to the
soft sand skirting the sea, some ten feet below. The physical shock
sobers him; he remains where he has fallen, crouching on the shore,
his haggard face buried in his hands. Presently he bursts into a low
discordant laugh and homely disjointed soliloquy:

"Tom Armstrong, Tom Armstrong, my man, you've made a mess of it at
last! It has been pretty plain sailing with you all your life; but now
you must take in your canvas, for you've come to grief at last--you've
come to grief--to grief--to grief! Oh, fool--fool--fool that I have
been! Pip-headed idiot, I deserve my fate!"

And then he falls into silence again, and goes over, day by day, hour
by hour, the short sunny spell of his one love-dream. Every look, every
word, every smile, every kiss he lives through again with the lurid
lamp of truth and disillusion hanging overhead. A fierce brute-like
passion seizes him, he springs to his feet with flaming eyes and
distorted face.

"Confusion seize her for a hypocrite," he shouts--"a consummate, lying
hypocrite! How dare she blind me as she has done? How dare she debase
me in my own eyes, and make my life unbearable? What had I done to
her, the jade? Only loved her--only loved her better than my life! Oh,
how can such women be? Have they no soul, no heart, no conscience? How
could she look me in the face with those clear pure eyes, black perjury
lodging in her breast all the time, as she has done every day since I
married her? How she has lied to me--how she has lied with her lips,
with her eyes, with her smile, with every motion of her body, morning,
noon, and night! Confusion seize her!"

He dashes on again for miles and miles along the sleeping coast,
muttering and gasping, trying to stanch the gaping wound of his love
and pride, until the fading moonlight meets the rosy glow of dawn
and dies in her embrace; and then, at last thoroughly worn out, he
sinks again to rest, his face white and set, the storm of his passion
stilled forever, all wrath and bitterness gone from his breast, only
pity, remorse, and infinite melancholy dwellers therein. Reason has
reasserted her sway, and many dark things are light to him now.

The problem which Addie weakly tried to solve some hours before is
clear as day to him she has wronged, and he pities her as sincerely as
he pities himself.

"Poor little soul!" he thinks drearily. "Heaven help her, how she must
have suffered! And what pluck she must have! Poor little Addie! What
chance had she against us all--against my brutish obstinacy and desire,
against her greedy, selfish kindred, her miserable surroundings--what
chance had she? Not one to stand by her, to save her from me--not
even the memory of a lover, I feel sure--not even that! And I called
her a hypocrite, a liar, instead of a martyr, a heroine! I have wished
her ill because she made her sacrifice without a murmur, nobly,
unselfishly; because she sought to build my happiness on the wreck
of her own; because she smiled in my face when her heart was perhaps
breaking! Oh, forgive me, forgive me, dear; and Heaven teach me how to
deal with you gently, unselfishly, tenderly to the end!"

He sits for a full hour without moving, buried in deep thought, mapping
out his life and hers, which, alas, is still bound to his till death!
And then he rises, undresses, takes a plunge off the rock against which
he has been leaning, swims out half a mile to sea, returns, and, much
refreshed and quite composed, dresses and walks back to the town, from
which he has wandered many miles due west.

He finds his wife, who has evidently not been to bed all night, in
her sitting-room, with pale wan face and eyes strained with tears and
frightened watching.

"Oh, here you are!" she sobs hysterically, when he enters at last.
"Where have you been? I thought you were never coming home again.
You--you should not have frightened me so!"

"I am sorry I frightened you, Addie," he says gently. "I walked on to
Sandyfort last night, had a swim there, and then came back; the morning
was so lovely, I couldn't take to the train. Why did you sit up? That
was wrong."

She makes no reply, but presently creeps up to him and lays her hand on
his shoulder, stammering out--

"You--you came to the door of the dressing-room? You--you heard me last
night?"

He assents mutely.

"Then, Tom," she cries, clinging to him feverishly, "you must forget
every word I said; they meant nothing--nothing! I don't know what came
over me. I was not myself; I think I was mad. You--you--"

"Don't, dear, don't," he says, with a still cold gentleness, putting
her from him; "it is of no use. You can never deceive me again,
Addie--never! Give up the effort; it would be only useless pain to me
and to you."

"I can not--I can not!" she answers, with a quiver in her voice; for
something in his face, in his tone, chills her to the heart and tells
her, even more powerfully than his words have done, that he will never
believe her again; that smiles or tears, protest or prayer, will
fall on his ear in vain meaningless sound. "I can not," she repeats,
"because you are mistaken. You must--oh, you must listen to me! I tell
you it is not fair to judge; I was not myself at the moment, I was--"

"You were not the 'self' who sacrificed your youth and your liberty so
loyally to me at the moment. No; you had cast your chains aside and
were inhaling a breath of freedom--unhallowed freedom, you poor little
bird," he says with dreary sadness--"and I scared you, Addie. You must
let your wings grow again, you must go back to your careless happy
maidenhood, get clear of the shadow I brought on your path."

"I can not do that--I can not do that; it is too late now!"

"You can, you can," he says. "Youth has strong recuperative power; you
will be the same again, Addie, soon. It will all come back; the boys
will bring it, the old home, the old associations will bring it to you.
This short time of trial will fade from your memory; like a thunderous
cloud, it will pass from your sky; you will find, behind, the clear
light of spring. Believe me, it will be so."

She comes over to him, slowly, hesitatingly, and, dropping upon her
knees by his side, seizes his hands.

"Don't, Tom; don't talk like that! What is the use? You married me, and
nothing can divide us now. I am your wife, and I don't want anything
back but your faith in me."

"That you can never recover--at least not in the sense you mean," he
says, freeing his hands gently from her detaining clasp and walking
away from her side. "Do not ask it, please."

"No," she answers, in a low voice, "I will not again."

She rises slowly to her feet, and stands looking blankly out on the
sunny waves. "I will not again," she thinks bitterly, "because anything
I have to give is of no value to him now; even if I had the love of
Juliet to give--which I haven't nor ever could have for any man--even
if I had that, he would not care for it now. I have killed that feeling
in him; I can read it in the weary bitterness of his face. His fancy
for me was sudden, violent, unaccountable even to himself, and it has
died a death as sudden as was its birth--a few wild unmeaning words,
and it is no more. So much for man's constancy! It is well for me that
I did not love him, that he was not the husband of my choice, or this
might have been a bitterer, crueler day than it is. Poor Ariadne! I
wonder did she make much of a fuss when she was left on the rock,
and for how long did she feel it before the other man--I forget his
name--came up and rescued her--eh? Were you speaking?"--aloud, sharply.

"Yes, Addie: I want to know if you will discuss this matter sensibly
with me, and help me to arrive at the most satisfactory arrangement for
our future lives."

"Certainly, if you wish it; I am quite ready. Had we not better take
seats? You must be tired after your long walk."

Her tone is as steady and as matter-of-fact as his own; they sit at the
table facing each other.

"We must begin by accepting the fact--"

"That you have had no breakfast as yet. Am I right?"

"Breakfast?" he repeats absently. "Yes, no--I--I don't remember. No;
now that I come to think, I have had none as yet."

"Will you allow me to ring and order some for you now?"

"Thank you, you are very kind."

When the servant has retired, he resumes quietly--

"By accepting the fact boldly and clearly that we have made a mistake,
you and I, in casting our lots together--You follow me?"

She nods, without speaking.

"But, having done so, it is our duty to look our position steadily,
cheerfully, even, if possible, hopefully in the face, and without
useless repining or mutual recrimination. We are husband and wife
still, in name at least, in the eyes of the law and the world at
large, and nothing but death can free us from that self-imposed
bondage."

"Nothing," she echoes absently.

"Nothing but a contingency which is not likely to occur, and which
therefore I need not discuss with you. The question which now must
occupy us is how to make our future lives as bearable as we can in the
circumstances. If you wish it, we can manage to live apart without
much--"

"No no," she breaks in vehemently, "not that--not that! If you mean
that I am to live at Nutsgrove without you, I will consent to no such
arrangement. I will never return there without you; you can not move me
in that."

"I do not wish to do so. The plan I would propose is that you and
I return there together, as we had originally intended, and, for a
couple of years at least, keep up before the world in general, and
your brothers and sisters in particular"--here he winces for the first
time--"the semblance, the form of union. Do you feel equal to such an
undertaking? Would it be too much for you?"

"No," she answers, almost cheerfully; "it would not. I could do my part
easily."

"Yes," he says, with a melancholy smile, "I suppose you could. You--you
are a capital actress, Addie."

She flushes quickly.

"Not as good as you think--oh, Tom, not as good--"

But he goes on, heedless of the interruption--

"The task will not be so difficult as it may appear to you now. Life
at Nutsgrove will be very different from what it has been here. I,
of course, shall be away at my business all day, and shall have many
interests to occupy me which will not touch your life. You will have
the boys and the girls to look after, your household affairs, and, I
suppose, social engagements which will fill your days pleasantly, I
hope. Then it is decided we return together? You have no other plan you
would like better to suggest?"

"No; let us go home," she says, shortly.

"So be it. We agree to take up the burden of our separate existences
as bravely and as cheerfully as we can, having one tie in common--the
secret of our mistake to hide between us. At the same time, if you
think it necessary or advisable to confide in your brother Robert and
your sister Pauline, I will raise no objection. You have never had, I
heard you say one day, any secret from them as yet."

"No; I don't think I have--at least, not of any importance," she
interrupts hurriedly; "but--but I would rather have this now. I would
rather--oh, much rather they did not even suspect!"

"I think you are right. I think, after mature deliberation, that
the more jealously we guard our unfortunate secret--for a time at
least--the better it will be. For you must know, my dear, that in cases
of this kind--in fact, in almost all cases of family disagreements
and domestic ruptures--no matter how much the man be in fault--and he
is generally the leading culprit--the burden of blame of trouble, of
disgrace even, always falls heaviest on the weakest shoulders. And you
are very young yet, Addie, and you have not many friends; that is why I
have taken it upon myself to advise you as I have done, to advise you
to bear for the present the shelter of my name and protection."

"How good you are--how very good!"

"Hush! You know nothing of me--nothing. Do not criticise, but help me
to render you justice, to repair the wrong I have done you in my--"

"Wrong--wrong? What wrong have you done me?" she asks wildly.

"You are unnerved and excited from want of food and of rest. Here comes
breakfast at last. Afterward you must go and lie down and have a good
sleep; you look as if you wanted it badly."

In constrained silence they finish their meal; then he rises wearily.

"I am going down to the club for an hour or two, and then I shall
have a few letters to write. I hope to see you quite refreshed by
dinner-time. Ugh, how dark and cold the morning has become, hasn't it?
Coming along, I noticed the storm-warning up at the coastguard station.
I'm afraid we're in for bad weather."

"Yes; it looks like a change."

"Would you like to be moving, Addie? Have you had enough of the sea?
We've had a pleasant fortnight here, and splendid weather for the
season. If you'd like to begin moving slowly homeward, I'm quite ready."

"Very well; let us move before the storm then."

"I'll write to-day to Nutsgrove to prepare them for our arrival at the
end of the week."

"Thank you. That will be very nice."

He walks slowly to the door, hesitates for a moment, then returns to
where she sits toying with her spoon.

"You--you bear me no ill-will, Addie? We--we are friends still, are we
not?"

"Oh, yes, I suppose so--whatever you like!" she answers coldly. "You
have taken upon yourself the definition of our relationship; let us be
friends certainly, if you think it judicious."

He looks at her for a moment with frowning brow, then says shortly--

"That is all I have to say. We understand each other, I think, at last."

"Do we?"

"And this subject need never be reopened between us; do you hear me,
Addie?"--a little sternly, for she is humming the refrain of a flippant
little song that the band had played on the night before. "I wish the
discussion of this subject not to be renewed. I have said all I want
to say, and I have heard all I want to hear from you. Until this day
twelvemonth I refuse to listen to another word on the subject; on
that day we can compare notes and give each other suggestions for the
improvement of our programme of life. Are you listening? Do you hear
me?"

"Oh, yes, I hear you! Good-morning!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Later on in the day Addie sits on the rocks where she stood on the
night before muffled in her woolly wrap, her life almost as free from
restraint and vexatious watchfulness as if she still bore her maiden
name. Yes, her days are her own again in all that minor detail of
movement that makes the sum of existence; she can cast aside every
cumbersome article of her _trousseau_, take off her hat, her cloak,
even her shoes and stockings, and paddle in the cool waves, unheeded,
unadmonished. But, such is the inconsistency of woman's nature, with
the power of this freedom for which she has so lately panted, all
desire to exercise it has passed away; she sits very still and subdued,
wrapped up in her cloak, shivering a little, her gray eyes fixed in
troubled perplexity on the tumbling waters.

"Yes," she thinks, with a dreary sigh, "I suppose he is right; there
is no use in crying over spilled milk; it is better to accept the
inevitable, and make the best of it. Fretting and worrying won't mend
matters for him or for me. And, after all, have I not the best things
in life left to me still--my own darling brothers and sisters and the
home I love? They ought to be enough, surely, surely! Oh, yes, yes, I
will do as he wishes! I will put the past from me, forget it, and enjoy
the good things left to me. Is it my fault? I never meant to hurt or
harm him--Heaven knows that--he knows it too--therefore why can't I
be happy by and by? Oh, I must, I must"--with a burst of protesting
passion--"and I will!" Then after a long wistful pause--"If I were
not so heavily weighted! If I had any hope of paying him back, of
lightening the debt! But I have none--none! I got my chance. I've had
my day, and lost it--lost it forever!"



CHAPTER XI.


So Mrs. Armstrong's honeymoon is cut short. Four days later she is
again driving up the well-worn avenue of Nutsgrove.

It is a lovely afternoon, and, as Addie peers out of the window, a
great gladness fills her heart, for every flower seems to bow its head
to her in fragrant welcome, and standing on the doorstep are Pauline
and Lottie waving their handkerchiefs, surrounded by half a dozen dogs
giving joyous tongue, while the Widow, at a discreet distance inside
the porch, is purring melodiously.

"How lovely it all looks!" she cries, hugging the girls rapturously.
"How jolly it is to get home again! It seems ages and ages since I left
you all. Oh, Tom"--turning to her husband, who is trying to silence the
dogs--"don't stop them! They're only telling me how glad they are to
have me back--their bark is music."

"You look a little tired," says Pauline, critically.

"We've been traveling since eleven. Oh, how I should like a--"

"Cup of tea. Addie, Addie, I see you retain your old habits!" laughs
Pauline. "Come inside; it's all ready in the drawing-room."

"You thoughtful child! Well, Polly, I think this is as near heaven
to me as any spot on earth could be," she says a little tremulously,
sinking upon the sofa beside the tray. "No let me, dear; I'm not too
tired for that. Where's Tom? Where's my husband?"

"Oh, he has disappeared, as any well-behaved husband would in the
circumstances! I see you have him in training already, Addie."

"But he might like a cup of tea; he has not had anything since
breakfast."

"He'll have a glass of wine or something in the dining-room," Pauline
declares lightly. "Don't bother about him, now, but tell us about
everything. You've had a real good time of it, haven't you, Addie?"

"It was very nice," she answers, with cautious guardedness--"weather
lovely, delicious bathing in the morning, drives in the afternoon, and
then the band on the pier at night. I think I told you all about it in
my letters."

"Addie," asks Lottie, her great staring eyes fixed on her sister's
uneasy face, "what's a honeymoon like? Is it very nice? Do you think I
shall enjoy my honeymoon?"

"Oh, Lottie, how can I tell. It depends."

"Depends entirely whether you spend it with Mr. Right, I should say, my
dear," puts in Pauline.

"With Mr. Right? I don't understand. Who is Mr. Right, Pauline? I don't
know him."

"Well, I suppose Mr. Right is not Mr. Wrong, Lottie. That's all I can
tell you about him at present."

"Oh, I see, I see! What a good way of putting it! Addie, is your
husband Mr. Ri--"

"Lottie, if you ask me another question until I have finished my tea, a
certain brown-paper parcel at the bottom of my trunk addressed to you
will go to-morrow to the Children's Hospital at Kelvick," answers Addie
desperately.

Lottie's voice is not heard for twenty minutes.

"Now is your time, girls, to tell me everything about every one," Addie
says presently, her spirits reviving--"dear Aunt Jo, and the boys?"

"All flourishing. I had a letter this morning from Aunt Jo, inclosing
her grandmother's--Lady Susan Something's--famous recipe for catchup
promised to you as a wedding-dower, Addie. And Hal likes his school,
for a wonder, immensely; he is full of football, and cricket, and the
rest of it. It seems to me that the paths to knowledge are made as
flowery as possible at Dr. Jellett's."

"And Bob, dear Bob?"

"Oh, Bob's coming on too! But he has to begin at the beginning, you
know!"

"Of course, naturally; he couldn't be expected to turn out at once a
full-blown clerk."

"No," allows Pauline, with a light laugh, "he couldn't. He is learning
to write now--not a soul in the office could read his drafts at
first--and after that he'll have to turn his attention to spelling, and
then, I believe, to the multiplication table."

"Oh, dear," exclaims Addie, very much taken aback, "is it as bad
as that? I'm afraid he'll be rather a nuisance in the office than
otherwise."

"Yes, I expect so, for the present. But he'll tell you all about it
himself on Sunday."

"Is he coming on Sunday?"--eagerly.

"Of course! Why, you seem to forget that Kelvick is only seven miles
off and they shut up shop--I mean, the office closes early on Saturday.
I expect we shall have him over here every week--won't it be jolly,
Addie?--and Hal too."

"And Hal too?"

"Yes. Jellett's boys are free to return to the bosom of their
families, if they like, from Saturday to Monday; and I believe Mr.
Armstrong wrote himself to tell him to be sure to come and welcome you
home. Didn't he tell you?"

"No."

"Then he meant it as a surprise, I suppose."

"And--and, Addie," puts in Lottie, cautiously recovering voice, "Sunday
is my birthday, you know, and I'm going to ask Mr. Armstrong if we may
all have tea in the woods as usual. Do you think he'll let us? He is
not a strict Sunday-man, is he, Addie? I hope not."

"Sabbatarian, you mean. I don't know. You can tap his theology
yourself, Lottie."

"I will the moment he comes in. I'm not a bit afraid of him, Addie. I
don't think he's at all the bugbear the boys used to make him out long
ago. Don't you remember, before you were mar--"

"Come along, come along," cries Pauline, springing to her feet, "and
see everything! Your room has been done up beautifully, Addie, and
there are new carpets everywhere. And who d'ye think you have got for
your housekeeper, my dear? Why, old Sally herself!"

"Old Sally--mother's old nurse?"

"The same. It seems Aunt Jo recommended her to your husband's patronage
on the score of her serf-like fidelity to the family and her many
other virtues, her bargaining powers, _et cætera_; and so he appointed
her housekeeper. She was in the hall when you came in; but you didn't
notice her; and no wonder--I doubt if you'll recognize her even after
introduction--she's so grand in her black silk dress and lace cap, with
manners, my dear, quite _en suite_. You can see she means to live up to
the tone of your restored establishment, Addie. You could never imagine
her skirmishing at the back-door now, with abusive butchers and bakers,
or trying to wheedle a pound of tea out of the grocer--oh, no!"

"Addie, Addie, look at the new piano; isn't it grand? 'Annie Laurie,'
even without the variations, sounds lovely on it, and when you put down
the pedal it's quite like a band."

"Oh, don't bother about the piano, Goggles--plenty of time to see that.
Come out and look at your ponies, Addie--such a delightful pair!--and
the phaeton to match. Oh, won't it be grand, us three bowling along in
it all over the country! The groom says they go at such a pace. Come
on, come on; you look half asleep, Addie! What's the matter?"

"Joy," answers Addie, with rather a shrill laugh--"joy tempered by a
touch of indigestion. How can I swallow all these good things at a
gulp? Let me dispose of the piano before I attack the ponies and old
Sally in _poult de soie_. Give me breathing-time, sisters, I pray you."

       *       *       *       *       *

Saturday brings the boys, boisterous and jubilant. The five young
people spend the balmy September noon poking about all the haunts of
the past, paying pilgrimages to the shrine of their childish pleasures
and mishaps, hunting up scraps of personal property, moldy relics in
outhouses and farm-sheds; and Addie, all the troubles of her short
matronhood laid aside, in a plain unflounced skirt--the simplest in
her _trousseau_--thickly booted, trips by their side and enters into
all their pleasures with a heart, for the time being, as light as their
own.

It is after six o'clock when they return, stained, dusty, disheveled,
to prepare for dinner and a decorous greeting of their host.

"I say, Addie," asked Bob incidentally, "isn't it time your skipper was
due? Does he stick to the shop all Saturday too?"

"I don't know," she answers, suddenly, sobered by this the first
allusion to her absent lord. "This is the first Saturday I've spent
here since--since I was married. But he always comes home on other
days at six; he ought to be in now. Ah, here is a note from him on the
table! I--I wonder what's it about?"

She reads it through quietly, and then says, in a low voice--

"Mr. Armstrong is not returning to dinner this evening. He has business
detaining him in Kelvick."

"Not coming back this evening! Good man, good man!"

"More power to you, Tom!"

"Hurrah!" shout the boys in a breath.

Addie colors to the roots of her hair, and walks away slowly without a
word.

"You shouldn't, boys," interposes Pauline, with a sage nod of her
tumbled head. "Remember, she is his wife now, and may not like
your--your expressing yourselves so freely."

"Oh, stuff, Polly! She does not mind a bit--why should she? She'll be
one of ourselves to the end of the chapter. I don't see a bit of change
in her."

"Don't you?" retorts Pauline. "Well, I do--a great change; and you'll
agree with me before long, I think."

"You mean to insinuate that she'd take Armstrong's part against us? Not
she! Addie's grit to the backbone."

"Time will reveal who is right."

"There goes the first dinner-bell!" shouts Lottie, rising. "I hope
you're in splendid appetite, boys, because we've famous dinners now, I
can tell you--regular young dinner-parties every day--soup, entries,
joints, such sweets, and such desert!"

"My!" exclaims Hal, smacking his lips and rubbing the middle of his
waistcoat vulgarly. "'Times is changed,' as the dogs'-meat man said."

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime Addie, with lowering face and trembling hands, was divesting
herself of her soiled dress, pained and indignant.

"I won't stand it--I won't! The house is his, not ours; and, if he
won't enjoy his own home, we must clear out of it--that's all. Business
indeed! I don't believe a word of it; he hadn't more business in
Kelvick after hours than I had. He just remained there shut up in that
dingy parlor all alone because he thought we should be happier without
him--because he felt he'd be in the way in his own house, one too many
at his own dinner-table. It's simply carrying things too far, and I
won't stand it. I'll tell him so to-morrow, whether he snubs me or not.
He can't silence me for a year, he'll find--I'll tell him so to-morrow."

But the morrow does not bring Mr. Armstrong to Nutsgrove. After a
long drowsy morning spent shut up in the family-pew, Addie proclaims
herself invalided with a racking headache, and unable to take part in
the celebration of her sister's birthday. So the family, among whom
sympathy with the sick and afflicted is not a distinguishing trait,
after vaguely suggesting tea, soda-water, eau-de-Cologne, and the rest,
depart grove-ward with a goodly hamper, leaving her alone on a couch in
the drawing-room window, limp and feverish with pain.

It is dark before they return in boisterous spirits, full of their
adventures, and with countenances smeared with blackberry-juice.

"Oh, Hal, I wish you would not shout so!" pleads Addie. "If you could
feel how your voice goes through my head!"

"Beg pardon, I'm sure, Addie; I quite forgot all about your head--at
least I thought it was all right by this," Hal answers, in a voice that
plainly says, "What a fuss to make about a bit of a headache!"

"Perhaps it would be better for you to go to bed, Addie," Pauline
suggests briskly.

So Addie retires and sits by her open window, with wide dry eyes and
burning cheeks.

"How selfish they are!" she mutters petulantly. "They never even asked
if I was better. Oh, they have fallen off somehow--all of them! They're
not quite the same--there's something changed. I--I wonder is the
change in them, or in me, or in both? I wish I knew. The last time I
had a headache it was so different--so different! I remember it was on
the day after that long drive in the sun to the Lover's Leap; and, when
I came home, he had the room all darkened, and my head bandaged with a
handkerchief steeped in iced eau-de-Cologne, and the band stopped in
the hotel garden all the afternoon, and--and everything I could want
by my side. And I never even thanked you, Tom; I don't think I felt
grateful. What a wretch I was--what a wretch!"



CHAPTER XII.


Mr. Armstrong does not return home until after office-hours on Monday.
His wife, hearing him in the hall, hurries out to meet him as he is
about to enter the room, and stands with her back against the door,
blocking the way. She looks up into his face and begins impetuously
before she has time to lose courage.

"Where have you been? Why did you not return home on Saturday? What do
you mean by--"

"Did you not receive my note?" he asks in surprise. "I wrote explaining
to you the cause of my absence. Was not my note delivered?"

She feels her courage oozing out, and makes a desperate rally.

"What if I refused to accept your explanation--to believe in your
excuses?"

He shrugs his shoulders faintly.

"I have no remedy to suggest; I think the reason given was a credible
and acceptable one. Business detained me until it was too late to
return, and the next day I rode over to Crokestown to see my cousin,
Ellen Murphy, and she made me remain to dinner. I can not improve that
statement of affairs, I fear, so will not try. Your sisters are in the
drawing-room. Will you not let me enter, my dear?"

She draws back, and follows in, mute and cowed.

"Well," he says pleasantly, "let me hear how my precious household got
on in my absence. The boys came over of course? That's right. I am sure
you enjoyed yourselves all together famously; yesterday was such a
lovely day, too!"

"I didn't," says Addie shortly, "for I had a villainous headache all
day."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Then you did not celebrate Lottie's birthday
in the grove, as you had intended?"

"Oh, yes! They all went and enjoyed themselves very much, I believe. I
stayed at home, my head was too bad."

Armstrong making no reply, the subject drops.

After dinner, Pauline, who has left her tennis-racket lying on the
grass, runs out to fetch it, and is immediately followed by her younger
sister, who begins eagerly--

"Oh, Polly, did you hear her about the tea in the grove and that stupid
old headache, making such a ridiculous fuss? You were right about her,
after all, you see. I must say I never could have believed Addie would
become such a tell-tale! Perhaps, now that we're gone, she'll tell a
lot more--tell that we treated her unkindly, made her head worse with
the noise. Perhaps Mr. Armstrong will never let the dear boys come here
again. Oh, Polly, let us go back and stop her telling more!"

"No, it is not necessary; she's not telling any more. I don't fancy,"
continues Miss Pauline, in a tone more of musing analysis than for the
information of her eager companion, "that Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong have
quite as much to say to each other when they're alone as when we're
keeping them company."

"No, Polly? Why? What makes you think that?"

"Several things make me think it," Pauline replies, shaking her head.
"Addie has not seen fit to confide any of her secrets to me, though in
the old days we never had a thought apart; but, all the same, she can't
take me in--can't bandage my eyes as easily as that. No, no, my young
lady, no!"

"I should think not indeed," says Lottie, with wily emphasis. "If she
tries to deceive you, Poll, she'll find she's mistaken--pretty soon, I
fancy. And so you think, Poll, you think--"

"I think," resumes Pauline, swallowing the bait, "that all is not quite
on the square between Addie and her vitriol husband."

"But, Polly, they seem so attached to each other. How do you make
that out? They are always anxious to please each other. He gives her
everything she can possibly want, and she never contradicts him, or
answers him sharply, or loses her temper, or anything."

"That's just where the main hitch is, you little simpleton! Don't you
see they're much too polite, too ceremonious, too anxious, as you put
it, to please each other to be a happy couple? Don't you see that their
attitude of studied care, of smiling deference, is just assumed to hide
something they don't want the world to see?"

"How sharp you are, Polly! How did you guess all that?"

"Instinct, I suppose--I have no experience to go by. And instinct
tells me that it argues an extremely unwholesome state of domestic
affairs to see a husband as polite, as courteously attentive to his
wife, as Tom is to Addie."

"Yes, yes; you are right; he is very polite to her."

"He is treacherously so--smolderingly so, if there is such a word. To
see that man walk across the room to relieve her of her cup, stand
up to open the door for her when she passes out, hand her cushions,
footstools, newspapers, in the way he does, with that sort of heavy
mechanical gallantry, is simply unnatural, unwholesome, volcanic.
Something will come of it sooner or later, mark my words, Charlotte
Lefroy!"

Charlotte draws a quick excited breath, and clutches the sibyl's slim
young arm.

"Oh, Pauline, it's like a picture out of a novel! Go on, go on!
Something will come of it--eh?"

"For instance, now, you, in your ignorance and childish inexperience,
imagine that Addie is at this moment pouring all her grievances into
the marital ear, cooing perhaps at his feet, like the honeymoon pairs
in 'Punch,' telling him how brutally we and the boys behaved to her
while he was away."

"Yes, yes; say I imagine all that. Now what do you imagine, Pauline?"

"I imagine quite the contrary. We can easily see who is right by
peeping through the Venetian blinds into the drawing-room. I don't
think the shutters are closed yet."

The two girls step lightly back and peep. They see Addie seated at her
end of the table, cracking nuts, with absorbed downcast face, a little
red with the exertion, and Mr. Armstrong, at his end of the table,
sipping his wine silently, apparently occupied with manufacturing
thoughts, the evening edition of the "Kelvick Mercury" resting on his
knee.

"There," hisses Pauline triumphantly--"there! Did I not tell you?
There's the attentive, courteous husband, returning after a three-days'
absence to the bosom of his family! There's a picture after Hogarth for
you with a vengeance, and they not a month married yet! Oh, fie!"

"Pauline, Pauline, how clever you are!" breathes Lottie ecstatically.
"I wish I could see things like you."

"Well, Lottie, that's a picture I'd rather not see anyhow. It inspires
me with no feeling of elation, I can tell you; on the contrary--"

"But, Pauline, I heard you say twenty times that Addie's marriage was
not like any one else's, that she could not be expected to care for Mr.
Armstrong as if he were one of her own class, young and a gentleman,
and all that, you know!"

"I know. The marriage was one of convenience on his side--of necessity
almost on hers; but, all the same, it's rather too soon for them to
have found out their mistake--rather too soon. I suppose it's all
Addie's fault. She's so awfully hot-blooded and impulsive. Bob and I
are the only two with heads in any way steady on our shoulders. What
a little fool she will be if she quarrels with her bread-and-butter
before the honeymoon is out--such good bread-and-butter too!"

"And you think she may, seriously?"

"I don't know. I can't tell. I'm almost afraid to turn my thoughts to
the third volume"--with a quick impatient sigh. "I hope it will not
end as it did with the Greenes of Green Park. If it does that will
be a precious bad look-out, Lottchen, for you, for me, and for the
boys--precious bad!"

"The Greenes of Green Park--the people in that pew near us in church,
who used to be near us--the tall good-looking man with the glasses, and
the pretty lady with the golden hair? Oh, I know! Tell me about them,
Polly; how did they end?"

"Sir James Hannen," says Polly shortly; "that's how they ended. And
nobody knew anything, even suspected anything, until the very last.
They were the model couple of the whole country. Grandison Greene he
used to be called, though his real name was Adolphus; but he was named
Grandison, after a very courteous old swell in some book or other,
on account of the fascinating elegance of his manners to the world
at large and to his wife in particular. You never saw anything like
their picturesque devotion to each other; they seemed to walk through
matrimony in a sort of courtly minuet; and I've heard Lady Crawford
tell auntie that it would just bring tears to your eyes to see that man
shawl his wife in the cloak-room after a concert or dance. And this, my
dear, went on for years and years, until one morning Mrs. Greene ran
home to her mamma--she was a Miss Pakenham of Clare Abbey--and said she
couldn't stand it any longer. And then it all came out in the Courts,
for she refused to return to him, and he sued her publicly to make her
do so, for a restitution of something or other--I forget the legal
way of putting it. Any way, it came out that they simply loathed each
other, and that Grandison had led the unfortunate woman the life of a
fiend behind the scenes."

"Oh, Pauline, how truly thrilling!"

"It came out that, when he was wrapping her up so tenderly before every
one, he used to pinch her poor arm until she was ready to scream with
pain, but daren't; that he used to stealthily crunch her poor little
foot when he was bending lovingly over her or bowing her out of the
room; that he used to run pins into her flesh when he was adjusting
a flower or knot of ribbons on her shoulder. You never heard such
revelations. Aunt Jo hid all the papers at the time; but Bob and I
found them, and read everything. He was a regular Bluebeard; and the
very first evening I saw Armstrong offer his arm to Addie to bring her
in to dinner, and the sort of shy shivery way she took it, made me
think on the instant of Grandison Greene and his--"

"Polly, Polly," breaks in Lottie excitedly, "do you think Mr. Armstrong
and Addie have come to that? Do you think he runs pins into her,
pinches her when we're not looking? Oh"--after a pause, with a burst of
relief--"I don't believe it! Because, if he did, she'd pinch him back;
I know she would. She is not like Mrs. Greene; she has a spirit of her
own, has Addie. She'd pinch him back just as hard, and then we should
find out."

"Lottie, don't argue like a fool! I never said Armstrong ill-used her
actively, never said he was a born brute like Adolphus Greene, though
he is not the style of a man I should care to call husband. I give
him his due, and honestly believe he would not touch a hair of her
head unkindly, no matter what provocation he got. No; what I mean is
that they have simply found out that they are utterly unsuited to each
other--had a bit of difference, perhaps. I dare say he taxed her with
marrying him for his money, and she answered back something of the
kind; and the upshot was, they determined to hide their discovery from
every one, even from us, which was a vain and foolish resolve so far as
I am concerned."

"I should like to know, I should like to find out," murmurs Lottie
fervently. "I'll watch them closely, I'll ask Addie questions when
she's off her guard, I'll--"

"Lottie," cries Pauline sharply, facing her sister, "if you attempt to
do anything of that kind, if you ever by word, look, or act, betray
what I have so foolishly confided to you, you will rue the day to the
end of your life! Do you hear me? You don't know what mischief you'll
do. You are an unfortunate child at the best of times, Lottie; you
seldom come into a room without making some one uncomfortable with your
luckless remarks and questions."

"I don't mean to make them uncomfortable," she answers tearfully.

"I don't say you do; but the effect is the same. And, in this case, if
you thrust yourself into the fray, you will simply ruin us all."

"Oh, how, Pauline?"

"You will just spring the mine on which our present prosperity
flourishes, and bring us to the wall again. We're very well off just
at present. Though it is not necessary to proclaim the fact from the
house-tops--Bob may grumble as he likes about the desecrating breath
of vitriol and all that--I maintain--and am not ashamed to do so--that
the new state of affairs suits my constitution and my tastes better
than the old. It is far pleasanter to be well fed, well clothed, well
housed, than not; pleasanter any day to partake of stalled ox than a
dish of herbs; to lie on patent spring beds than on mattresses teased
in the reign of James the First; pleasanter to tread the earth in satin
shoes than in cobblers' clogs. To bring the case nearer to your heart
and understanding, Goggles, it is pleasanter to nibble plum-cake than
dry bread, isn't it?"

"It is--it is," murmurs the little maid pathetically. "Who's--"

"'A denigin' of it?' Not I, indeed! Very well, then; as we both agree
on that point, let us combine to agree on the other, which is more
important--namely, to do everything to keep our position among the
flesh-pots, which is anything but a stronghold, I greatly fear, just at
present. Do you agree?"

"I do--I do!"

"Then let me impress on you, my child, a piece of advice which you
will find invaluable, not only at this crisis, but at many another
of your life. Never interfere between man and wife; let them keep
their secrets, hide their troubles, fight their battles unmolested,
unobserved. Do not seem to see, feel, or understand what is going
on. Be deaf, dumb, blind to all that does not concern your immediate
person, or else you may just find yourself in Queer Street, before you
know where you are."

"Queer Street? Where is that, Pauline? I never heard of it."

"Queer Street is not a nice street to live in, my dear. Almost every
town has a street of that name. Queer Street in your case would
probably mean Miss Swishtale's Collegiate Academy for Young Ladies,
Minerva House, Kelvick, where the little Douglases were sent to school
by their step-mother, you know. You wouldn't like to be there?"

"No--oh, no!"

"Then keep my advice in your heart."



CHAPTER XIII.


Certainly Miss Pauline Lefroy is right. Life at Nutsgrove under the new
_régime_, so far as creature-comforts go, is a vast improvement on the
old. Its contrast was at first too great to be entirely satisfactory
to the nerves of Colonel Lefroy's unsophisticated daughters; but this
feeling soon wore away, and they dropped naturally and contentedly into
the reign of order and methodical respectability inaugurated by Mr.
Armstrong's well-trained servants. They learned to answer to the chime
of bell and gong, to enter a room quietly, and, above all, to dress, as
ladies are supposed to dress, neatly and becomingly. The dogs followed
the example of their mistresses, and no longer dragged their muddy paws
across fresh carpets and waxed boards, or rested their dusty bodies on
the drawing-room couches.

"How changed it all is!" thinks Addie. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm
myself at all, if I haven't been changed with the carpets and curtains."

With a sort of rueful satisfaction, of struggling content, she looks
at herself, at the elegant young person in rustling _broché_ which the
swivel pier-glasses so importunately reflect whenever she crosses her
luxurious bedroom. Can she be the same light-hearted girl who stood in
a ragged cotton dress and patched boots but a short year ago before a
cracked fly-stained old mirror?

"In those days," she thinks, with a laugh, "why, the prospect of a
new dress would keep me awake for a week! And now!--now that I have
as many as I like, now that I could have a ruche of bank-notes at
the bottom of each skirt if I wished--I don't seem to care about it
or anything else in particular. I suppose it is always the way. They
say a confectioner feels as little inclination to eat one of the buns
crowding his counter as an apothecary to swallow a box of his pills.
It's a pity that possession should bring satiety so soon. I have all
I once longed for in plenteous measure, and yet I want something
else--something else I once had and did not value in the least. How
foolish of me to want it now, just because it's out of my reach! I
suppose that's the reason--because it's out of my reach. Oh, why can't
I take the good things in my way like Pauline and the others? Pauline!
What a wonderful girl she is, and how little I knew her before! I
thought she would be a regular whirlwind in this model establishment,
would be always kicking over the traces; on the contrary, she has toned
down quicker than any of us, though indeed, for the matter of that,
we've behaved as a family very creditably on the whole--we, a flock of
hungry sheep turned suddenly from a region of bare sun-dried rocks
into a rich clover-valley. Yes, we have behaved well; we have not
betrayed our jubilation in uncouth gambols or childish caperings, and
credit is due to us, I think. I suppose it's the race-horse strain, as
Bob calls it, that has supported us under the ordeal--the race horse
strain, the Bourbon blood, the Lefroy breeding," she goes on, a little
impatiently. "I wish Bob did not talk quite so much about them. I
know we come of a good old stock--we're descended from Charlemagne's
sister, and all that; but I do think he makes too much of it. Not that
Tom minds it a bit, but I fancy sometimes that he laughs at Bob--yes,
I feel sure of it--and despises him a little too for his incapacity
and what he, I suppose, calls 'bragging.' And yet how handsome Bob is,
how noble-looking even! What an air of _grand monarque_ there is about
his lightest movement! For all that, I suppose some people would call
him 'a conceited young prig.' I wonder would there be any truth in
it if they did? Oh, dear, I feel awfully at sea lately about things,
everything getting topsy-turvy, and no one to set me straight--no one!"

The master of Nutsgrove intrudes but very little on the lives of his
womenfolk. Every morning at nine o'clock, after a hasty preoccupied
breakfast, he either drives or rides to Kelvick, scarcely ever
returning before the dinner-hour, when he always appears, clothed
in broadcloth and courtesy, to lead his sister-in-law in to dinner;
after which he generally bears them company for an hour or so in the
drawing-room, occasionally taking a hand at _bésique_ or go-bang,
sometimes standing by the piano like a gentleman at an evening party,
turning over music and expressing polite satisfaction at the extremely
mild entertainment, both vocal and instrumental, provided by Addie
and Pauline; though the former has a sweet little voice enough, but
perfectly untrained and husky from want of use. After ten o'clock, when
he retires to his study for a couple of hours' reading, they see him no
more until the morning.

The hours of his absence between breakfast and dinner are pleasantly
filled, the mornings being devoted to study, under the superintendence
of an experienced finishing-governess, who keeps Pauline and Lottie
hard at work until twelve; after which, three times a week, masters for
music and drawing, from whom Mrs. Armstrong also condescends to take
lessons, attend from Kelvick.

The afternoons are spent in driving or riding, in returning or
receiving calls; for the county people, who had by degrees dropped the
neglected children of Colonel Lefroy, are suddenly and unanimously
inspired with feelings of civility toward the wife of the wealthy
manufacturer, and day after day the trim well-weeded avenue is marked
with the track of some county equipage _en route_ for Nutsgrove, a
state of things which affords much satisfaction to Pauline and her
elder brother.

"By Jove, Addie," exclaims that young gentleman one Saturday afternoon,
while turning over the contents of her card-tray, "you are in the
swim, and no mistake--Lady Crawford, Mr. and the Misses Pelham-Browne,
General Hawksley, Sir Alfred and Lady Portrann, the Dean of St.
Margaret's, and Mrs. Vavasour, the Dowager Countess of Deenmore
and--do my eyes deceive me?--no--Admiral and Mrs. Beecher of the Abbey,
Greystones. I'll trouble you for a half-glass of sherry, Goggles.
Thanks. I feel reasonably convalescent now. Admiral and Mrs. Beecher of
the Abbey, Greystones! After that, I feel equal to anything!"

"We weren't at home on the day they called," laughs Pauline. "I was so
sorry, for I meant to have faced them gallantly."

"Well, Addie, well," exclaims Robert triumphantly, "wasn't I a good
prophet? Didn't I tell you how it would be? Didn't I tell you you'd
open the gates for him and give him the run of the county--eh? I expect
he's precious glad now he didn't let you slip through his fingers,
Addie!"

"He doesn't care a straw," she answers contemptuously--"I know he
doesn't. He wouldn't care if he had the run of twenty counties unless
he liked the people personally--unless they were clever, or amusing, or
took an interest in his affairs."

"Stuff, Addie, stuff; you don't know what you are talking about.
Armstrong is just as pleased as Punch that the neighbors are looking
you up. I saw it in his face at once. Why else did he give up three
afternoons in the last fortnight to return those calls with Pauline and
you, I should like to know?"

"He did that because it would not have been the thing for me, a bride,
to return the first time without my--my husband; it would have been bad
form, but it bored him awfully--I saw it did," she persists; "and he
did not care for the people either. He was awfully disgusted with Lady
Crawford--at the way she talked and the questions she asked me. He said
afterward that he would not allow his wife to be patronized by such a
meddlesome ill-bred woman as that."

Robert flushes angrily.

"That's because he does not understand. People of his class are always
hunting up affronts, imagining they're being snubbed and patronized,
when nothing of the kind is intended. I am perfectly certain that Lady
Crawford meant only to act kindly in offering advice to you, a young
girl unaccustomed to the etiquette of matronhood, without a mother to
put you in the way of doing things."

"No," declares Addie, "she meant nothing of the kind. The way she
looked at me through her gold-rimmed glasses, turned me round,
commented on my dress, my appearance, my appointments altogether, and
then informed me calmly that she thought I should do, was, to say the
least of it, extremely impertinent and underbred; and I quite agree
with my husband in the matter."

Robert and Pauline exchange a rapid glance: there is a storm-signal in
the latter's eyes. So Robert wisely lets the matter drop, and busies
himself with the card-basket.

"By the bye, Addie," he resumes, half an hour later, when the "breeze"
has passed, "about this contemplated return of your husband to
Parliament at the next election--I hope you will use your influence to
make him fall in with the views of the electors; they are most anxious
he should stand--"

"My husband returned for Parliament!" she interrupts quickly. "I--I did
not know, have not heard anything about it. They want him to stand for
Kelvick?"

"Yes, when old Hubbard retires at the end of the next session; he's
been past his work for years. Fancy Armstrong not telling you anything
about it! Why, every one is--"

"He does not talk much of his business affairs at home. I suppose he
does not think they would interest me," she says hastily.

"Well, but this is not business exactly; and let me tell you, Addie,
it's a subject in which you ought to take an interest. The position of
the wife of a member of Parliament is always one to command respect,
though it is a great pity Armstrong should go to the wrong shop for his
politics. However, I suppose, having risen from the ranks, he could
scarcely at the eleventh hour go over to Toryism--"

"Because he married a Lefroy? Well, scarcely! And I'd rather not ask
him to do so, if that is what you mean, Robert," says Addie, with a
slight sneer, which she finds it difficult at times to repress when
discussing her husband with Robert. Then, after a pause--"Fancy his
going into Parliament! I never thought he had any inclination for a
political career."

"Oh, but, my dear," says Robert, with lofty indulgence, "you must not
judge Armstrong by what you see of him here! He's not the sort of man
to shine in society, not a carpet-ornament by any means; but he's
just the man to prose away in the House by the hour anent artisans'
rights and working-men's wrongs, and the rest of it! Why, he's one of
the tallest talkers at mechanics' institute meeting, union _soirées_,
corporate gatherings in Kelvick! You should just hear him in the chair!
Why, he has a flow of steady municipal oratory that would simply
surprise you! I must smuggle you into the gallery some evening, Addie,
and you can hear your lord spout."

"And me too, Bob," pleads Lottie, who is listening most attentively. "I
should like to hear Tom in the chair too; I'm sure he has very little
to say in any of our chairs. Polly and I have to do all the talk of an
evening; he's generally as quiet as a mouse. And, as for toning him
down, polishing him up--you remember, Bob, what you said we should have
to do when he married Addie? Why, I really don't see there's any need
for it all! Tom is quite as polite and as well behaved as any one else
who comes here."

"Lottie, Lottie, what are you talking about?" breaks in Bob, his face
reddening unpleasantly. "I never said anything of the kind!"

"But Bob, you did--you know you did--and so did Polly, too; but you
forget. You said we should have to teach him how to enter a room, to
sit at table, eat his dinner, and behave like a gentleman. You said
he'd put his knife in his mouth instead of his fork, drink his soup
like an alderman, sop up his gravy with bread, and so on. And he does
nothing of the kind; he just eats his dinner like you, or me, or any
one. I watched him carefully from the very first night. Polly, Polly,
you're kicking my shins! Oh, oh! What's the matter? What have I--"

"The matter!" cried Polly, in a low angry voice. "The matter is that
I strongly suspect you'll end the year at Miss Swishtale's; and I
sincerely hope it may be so."

"Oh, Polly, I'm so sorry!" whines Lottie, looking at her eldest sister
walking away quickly with very bright cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes
as of unshed tears. "But I never can remember she's married to him;
they're not a bit like husband and wife--you know they're not--and
she's always Addie Lefroy to me."

"Then let me once more impress on you the fact that she's not Addie
Lefroy, and never will be again," says Pauline, with impressive
impatience. "And you, Bob, ought to be more guarded in what you say,
and not criticise her husband as freely as you do. I can see she does
not like it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Addie walks slowly down the hall, seeing her husband--the door of his
study standing ajar--writing at his desk. She pauses for a moment,
moves on hesitatingly, and then hurries forward and knocks briskly.

"It is you! Pray come in, Addie," he said politely, rising to meet her.
"Won't you sit down?"

"No, I won't detain you; I see you are busy. I--I only came to tell you
that Bob has just informed me that you have some idea of standing for
Kelvick at the next election, and he--he seemed to think it strange I
had heard nothing about it from you."

"But I have no denned idea of standing for Kelvick, and the election
is many months off yet. I should certainly have spoken to you on the
matter, had I begun to think seriously of it myself. It is not too
late now. What are your views? Are you as anxious as your brother
Robert that I should go in for senatorial honors?" Then, with a quick
cold smile, seeing she does not answer--"Would you care for the mystic
initials 'W. M. P.' after your name, my dear?"

"'W. M .P.'! What do they stand for?"

"'Wife of member of Parliament.' Haven't you read 'Our Mutual Friend'?
No? Then you ought to do so; it's a capital book."

"If you went into Parliament," she says slowly, "you would have to
spend a couple of months in town, would you not--would have to tear
yourself away from the bosom of your family for nearly a quarter of
a year at a time? That would be a--a trial you ought to consider, I
think."

"I will consider all the drawbacks and advantages of the position
carefully, before I commit myself, you may be sure. I will not--"

"Do anything in a hurry again," she puts in quickly, her eyes
smoldering. "You are right. It would be a mistake."

He takes not the slightest notice of the taunt; she, looking defiantly,
wistfully into his strong swarthy face, lit up with that smile of
genial indifference it always wears when by rare chance they find
themselves alone together, acknowledges to herself with a pang that she
is bruising herself in vain, that no movement of her restless, petulant
little hand will move him from the position he has taken, that no
frown, no laugh, no tear, no sigh, will soften the granite of his face
or nature, or bring his life nearer to hers again.

"What is your programme for the afternoon?" he asks, in a tone of
polite interest. "It is a pity not to avail yourselves of this pleasant
weather, with bleak November within a week of our heels."

"We were thinking of riding over to Beeton Hall--Robert, Polly, and
I--to see Mrs. Morgan's apiary, I think she called it; it ought to be
amusing. I know I always enjoyed the monkey-house at the Zoo better
than anything else."

Armstrong's shield is lowered for a minute; he looks up into his wife's
childish face with a smile that brings back to her the short warm
fortnight by the sea, and makes her mutter to herself:

"How almost nice-looking he would be if he always smiled in that way! I
suppose I must have said something startlingly idiotic to make him look
natural all of a moment like that."

"'Apiary'?" he repeats. "Did you expect to see monkeys in Mrs. Morgan's
apiary, Addie?"

"Apes?" she answers stoutly. "Of course we did--Polly, Robert, all of
us. We expected to see monkeys, apes, chimpanzees, gorillas even; she
said it was a splendid one. What are we to see, Tom?"

"Bees, Addie."

"Bees," she echoes blankly--"only bees! I do call that a 'sell,' and
no mistake! Going to ride nine miles to see a lot of stupid old bees!
Oh, won't the others be just mad! And Polly and I after stuffing our
saddles with sugar and nuts and eau-de-Cologne--oh, dear!"

"I sympathize with you, my dear; and I think Robert might have
remembered enough of his Latin to know that _apis_ means 'bee.'"

"Such a long uninteresting ride too along the quarry road!" she
grumbles. "I--I suppose you wouldn't be tempted to join our festive
party, would you?"

"Unfortunately I have to return to Kelvick. I'm engaged to dine with
Challice the banker."

"At his club?"

"No; at his private residence."

"Oh, I see! I suppose you'll have a very pleasant evening?"

"I hope so. By the bye, I think I'll remain at the factory all night.
They generally keep it up rather late at the bank-house. Challice is an
indefatigable whist-player."

"Miss Challice, is she a good player?"

"Very fair; she plays a steady hand."

"I--I suppose now she'd know that an apiary wasn't an ape-house?"

"I never had occasion to sound her knowledge in the matter; but I
should say she would."

Addie draws a quick resentful breath, leans over her husband as he is
placidly stamping his letters, and whispers in his ear:

"What a pity you didn't marry her, Tom, instead of me!"

With this parting shot she flies from the room.



CHAPTER XIV.


"Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong and Miss Lefroy. Lady Portrann at home Tuesday,
the 16th of January, 10 P.M. Dancing."

"Addie, that means a ball, doesn't it? How delightful! You're going, of
course?"

"I suppose so. Mr. Armstrong wishes it."

"And you'll wear your white _broché_ and pearls. Oh, isn't it well for
you?" groans Pauline wistfully. "Miss Lefroy--that's me, of course. It
was nice of them to ask me, wasn't it, Addie?"

"Yes. I suppose they did not know you were still in the school-room,
Polly."

"I'm past seventeen, and eldest daughter now that you're married and
done for, Addie, and I do think it's hard lines keeping me down."

"If Mr. Armstrong wishes to give you the advantage of education, no
matter how late, I think you ought to be extremely grateful to him,
instead of grumbling as you continually do," says Mrs. Armstrong
severely.

"You're so remarkably well educated yourself, Addie," retorts Pauline,
"you can well afford to preach. Didn't you see how Tom stared the other
night when you asked him which would take longest, to go to New York or
Calcutta? I'm sure, if he keeps me in the school-room, he ought to keep
you too. 'Lady Portrann at home, 10 P.M. Dancing.' How lovely
it sounds! How I wish I could go, just to see what it would be like!
I wouldn't dance, you know, Addie, or wear a silk dress, or anything
in that way, but just sit in a corner and look on quietly; and--and
don't you think, if you put it to your husband mildly like, that he
might--might--"

"I think nothing in the matter, my dear," answers Addie decisively;
"and I'll put nothing to my husband, mildly or otherwise; so it's of no
use asking me."

"Don't then!"

"I won't."

The sisters glare at each other; then Addie moves away, humming a tune,
and the vexed question is not alluded to again that day.

The next morning, when she is seated at her desk, composing her
acceptance, Pauline bounces in with dancing eyes and leans over her.

"'Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong have much pleasure in accepting--' It won't
do--it won't do! You'll have to begin again, my dear, though this is
the third sheet I see you've spoiled. Begin again, Addie, begin: I'll
dictate to you--

"'Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong and Miss Lefroy have much pleasure in
accepting Lady Portrann's kind invitation for Tuesday, the 16th
proximo.' Yes, you may stare; but I'm going to the ball. Tom says
I may, if I can get your consent; and I know I shall get that--you
couldn't be such a--a--fiend, Addie, as to refuse when he has
consented?"

"I suppose I couldn't," she answers meekly, attacking her fourth sheet.
"If I did, you'd lead me such a life that--"

"I should, dear," admits Miss Lefroy briskly--"I certainly should. Now
give me the note; I'll put it into the post-bag myself."

"Wait a moment, Polly! About your dress? As you don't mean to dance,
I suppose one of your ordinary evening grenadines, with a little
furbishing up, will do very well?"

"But, as I do happen to mean to dance if I'm asked, one of my ordinary
evening grenadines won't do for the occasion at all."

"But I thought you said--"

"I said nothing to Tom, but just asked if I might go, and he answered
'Yes,' without conditions or qualifications of any kind. So I'll go now
in regular _tenue_."

"Then you can have one of my _trousseau_ dresses--that pretty blue
silk, if you like; our figures are not very unlike, and a little
altering--"

"Thanks, dear--you are very kind; but, as this is my first ball, I
must appear in virgin white, and I could not exactly wear your wedding
dress, could I?"

"I shall wear it myself."

"Exactly. So I think we had better order the carriage this morning, and
we'll drive to Kelvick and interview Armine at once on the subject. I
know what I'll have to a flounce--the exact copy of a dress described
in the 'Queen' last week--it was worn at a Sandringham ball--all white
satin and gauze with clustering bunches of white lilac and maiden-hair,
and a corsage of that lovely pearl _passementerie_."

"Pearl _passementerie_, satin, gauze! Pauline, are you aware that those
are about three of the most expensive materials you could hit upon?
Where is the money to come from?"

"The money is here; don't trouble your head about that!" breaks in
Pauline, triumphantly displaying a bundle of crisp notes. "He gave me
it at once, and said besides that anything over and above was to be
entered to your account at Madame Armine's. Now are you satisfied?"

"Satisfied!" she echoes passionately. "Satisfied! Oh, Polly, Polly,
dear sister, I wish you wouldn't--wouldn't take money like that! And
you know I have no account at Madame Armine's--you know I haven't!"

"Stuff!"

"Our hands are always outstretched--always; we give nothing and take
everything. How can you bear it--how?"

"Oh, Addie, I have no patience with you! You talk of your husband as if
he were a stranger, a complete outsider--as if we had no interest in
him or he in us; it is a shame! I protest I understand him better than
you. I saw at once that it was a pleasure to him to give me a dress;
and I foresee too that it will give him pleasure to see me fashionably
and becomingly got up on the 16th. I'm determined not to balk him. I
think your feeling in the matter is both unnatural and absurd--absurd
in the extreme!"

Miss Lefroy has her way, and that same afternoon is fingering gauzes,
satins, and laces at Madame Armine's. Her sister, seeing that it would
be of no use venturing on delicate ground again, with a feeling of
impotence to wrestle against her will in particular, and the tide of
events in general, gives in with a weary sigh.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the night of the 16th Armstrong is standing under the drawing-room
chandelier, anxiously working his large bony hands into a pair of
evening gloves of treacherous texture and about half a size too small
for him, when his womenfolk rustle in, fully equipped for conquest.

"Do you like me, Tom?"

He looks down at his wife standing before him in the bridal finery
which she refused to wear at the altar, her fair white shoulders
shining through folds of delicate lace, a necklet of pearls--his
wedding-gift--encircling her pretty throat, a bunch of pale pink roses
loosely hanging from her rough brown hair.

"How fair, how bright, how young you look, my love, my love!" he
thinks, with a sort of hungry pain; while her gray eyes meet his
with the strange expression they always wear now, half wistful, half
defiant, and a little scared as well--an expression which he sometimes
feels, with a pang of impotent remorse, that no act, or word, or wish
of his can ever chase thence again, even if he labored as manfully as
he is now doing to the end of his days.

"Do I like you," he repeats softly--"like you, Addie!" Then,
with a quick return to his usual self-possessed, matter-of-fact
manner--"Certainly, my dear; your dress is very nice indeed."

"Rapturous commendation!" she answers, with a light vexed laugh.

"Now, Addie, clear away; it is my turn, please. What have you to say to
me, Mr. Armstrong?"

"You?" he cries, staggering back, and shading his eyes as if overcome
by the vision. "Who are you, pray--the Queen of Sheba?--Cleopatra?"

"Miss Pauline Lefroy, at your service, exemplifying the old proverb of
'Fine feathers make fine birds.' Now, honestly, what do you think of my
feathers, Tom?"

Pauline steps forward, giving her train a brisk twitch, and poses under
the chandelier, her lithe stately figure draped in clouds of silky
gauze, her masses of dusky hair piled high on her head, interwoven with
chains of pearls, her lovely gypsy face sparkling with the glow of
excitement and anticipated pleasure.

    "'Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
    Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of Night
    As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear,'"

quotes Armstrong dramatically. "Will that homage to your plumage do
fair sister-in-law?"

"Yes, it sounds like Shakespeare or Milton. Shakespeare, is it? 'Her
beauty hangs upon the cheek of Night like a--' What?"

"'Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.'"

"It is a fine idea, strongly put--better than being told flatly that I
was nice, like a bit of well-fried beefsteak. And so you think I shall
do?"

"By Jove, yes," thinks he, in startled admiration. "I rather think you
will, Miss Polly! What a splendid specimen of womanhood you are, to be
sure! Strange I never seemed to take in the power of your comeliness
until to-night!"

He glances at the two sisters standing side by side--at the girl,
lastly, who, in a ragged cotton dress, without even the ornament of
ladylike neatness, without one word or smile of attractive intent,
chained his senses in one luckless moment and robbed him of his peace
forever. He shakes his head; it is of no use going over the old story
again; the mischief is done, and there is an end of it.

"She is not beautiful, my little Addie, she is but a pallid
spring-blossom beside the tropical coloring of her sister," he thinks
bitterly. "Few men, I suppose, would waste a glance on her when they
could feed on the other's beauty; and yet she is all I want--all. My
life would be full if I had her. Oh, the irony of fate to think that
what is by law my own, my very own, what no man covets, I can not
grasp--to think that she, the delight of my eyes, the one love of my
life, must live under the same roof with me, and yet be as far apart as
if the poles sundered us! And we are drifting further day by day; we
can not even be friends. I have more in common now with her sisters,
even with her cub of a brother, than with her. A wall of constraint
is rising hourly between us. We can not talk together five minutes
without falling into an uncomfortable silence, or tripping over matter
we had agreed to bury. I wonder how it will all end! By Jove, I should
like to have a peep at our position, say, this day ten years! Please
Providence, the boys will have struck out lines for themselves ere
then, and some fellows will have induced the girls to quit my fireside
too, if--if I see fit to make it worth their while. Miss Pauline, with
five or six thousand pounds, would be a prize many men would like to
secure. Lottie too would have a chance under the same conditions; there
would be only Addie and I left to drift into autumn together. By Jove,
I should like to know how it will end! Hang it, my glove is gone at
last!" he exclaims aloud, in dismay.

"I thought as much, Tom. I hope you have another pair, because the most
skillful needle-and-thread in the world wouldn't bridge that chasm. Oh,
I see you have another pair! Now, will you concentrate your powerful
intellect on my train for a minute? I'm going to walk slowly from the
piano to the window, and I want you to tell me it you can detect the
faintest outline of steel or wire, the merest suggestion of string or
tape anywhere."

"No, Pauline, on my honor as a British merchant!" he answers solemnly.
"I can detect not one trace of the inward mechanism of your dress. It
is veiled to me in darkest art. You are inflated in a manner wonderful
and fearful to behold."

"I believe you! That is what I call the perfection of a fan-tail;
Armine is the only dress-maker in Kelvick who can work them like that,"
remarks Pauline complacently. "I flatter myself there won't be another
train surpassing mine in the room. And fancy, Tom--Addie wanted me to
appear in a home-made muslin or grenadine, with a blue silk sash and
blue ribbons in my hair, like a school-girl going out to a suburban
tea-party! Wasn't I right to resist? Haven't I your entire approbation?"

"Certainly, I think the most extreme measure would justify the end you
have achieved, Miss Lefroy," he answers, laughing.

"Well, one end you have certainly achieved, my dear sister," says Addie
ruefully. "You have certainly crushed my poor dress, put me out of the
field altogether, which is rather hard lines, considering I'm a--a
bride and all that. Nobody will look at me when you are near."

"Then I must keep well out of your way, dear," she answers sweetly.
"Ah, here comes the carriage at last! Where's my fan, bouquet,
handkerchief? Oh, dear, if I should get myself crushed or squeezed
before I arrive! Tom, I engage the front of the brougham; you and
Addie must sit together at the back. It's wrong to separate those whom
Heaven has joined together, you know."

"Pauline," cries Addie sharply, "I wish you would not make those
flippant remarks; they're extremely unbecoming!"

Pauline raises her saucy eyes to her brother-in-law's disturbed face,
and asks innocently--

"Am I flippant, Tom? Have I said anything wrong? Tell me--do you want
the back all to yourself?"

"I want neither the back nor the front, my dear," he answers placidly.
"I'd rather not be brought into close contact with the mysteries of
your dress. I'm going to enjoy my cigar on the box-seat."

"Are you? I dare say you'll like it better than being squashed between
us," assents Pauline lightly.

"You are going to do nothing of the kind," interposes Addie, with
flaming face. "I will not allow it. Going to sit outside for a seven
miles' drive on a snowy night in January, just to save a few wretched
flowers from being crushed! Pauline, I'm ashamed of you!"

"My dear Addie, don't get so hot about it, it was my own suggestion,
not your sister's. I do not mind the weather in the least. It's not
a bad kind of night for the season of the year, and I have a famous
overcoat lined with fur, and my cigar."

They are all three standing in the porch. Addie suddenly walks back
into the hall, and begins undoing her wraps; they follow her in quickly.

"What are you doing? What is the matter?"

"I am not going to the ball, Pauline; I should not like to crush your
flounces, dear," she answers, with sparkling eyes.

Pauline crimsons.

"Addie, how--how spiteful you are!" she cries, angrily. "You know I did
not want your husband to sit on the box-seat; he suggested it himself.
There is plenty of room for us all inside. Oh, come along, Addie; don't
be so nasty and spiteful!"

But she is not to be propitiated; she shakes off her sister's
protesting hands, and moves away upstairs.

"I am not nasty or spiteful, Pauline; but I do not feel inclined for
this ball. I feel a headache coming on. Mr. Armstrong will take you
there without me."

Pauline remains motionless, and casts an appealing look at her
brother-in-law.

"Tom, go after her--see what you can do. I should only make matters
worse."

After a second's hesitation, he follows Addie up the stairs, and lays
his hand gently on her shoulder.

"Addie, come back; I won't go to the ball without you. Come back!"

"What nonsense! You can go very well without me. I do not care for it,
I tell you."

She speaks sharply and sullenly enough; but a few hot tears trickle
down her cheeks as she turns away her face from his scrutiny.

Before he knows what he is about, he takes her handkerchief, and wipes
them away softly, whispering, beseechingly--

"I will do what you like, sit where you like. Come, my own dear little
girl--come!"

She puts her hand on his arm.

"You will sit inside with us?"

"Of course, if you wish it. I would not have proposed the box-seat if I
had known you would not like it, Addie. I never thought of the weather.
Why, I have slept out of doors in Canadian backwoods in three times as
severe weather as this, and I'm alive to tell the tale--ah, scores of
times!"

The drive is an uncomfortable one for all three, though Pauline,
anxious to remove the impression of the scene, rattles "nineteen to the
dozen." Her sister speaks not a word, and Armstrong is too wrapped up
in somber, anxious thought to respond.

Clearly as one would read an open book, he can now read the page of his
little wife's troubled life--can read the meaning of flushing cheek,
quivering lip, tearful eye--can see the passion of revolt that stirs
her sensitive being--can feel how her pride, her delicacy is daily,
hourly, outraged by the condition of their lives--and his heart yearns
over her.

"If," he thinks, with an impotent sigh, "I had chosen the other sister,
it would have been different; her coarser, more selfish nature would
have adapted itself to the circumstances without a pang. She would
have accepted without murmur or protest the best I had to give, would
have put her hands into my pocket and spent my money with the freedom
and _insouciance_ of esteemed wifehood, would never have disturbed my
equanimity by one of those piteous pleading looks, half pain, half
defiance, that thrill through me with a foreboding of coming tragedy.
I wonder how it will all end! Why will she not accept the inevitable,
and give me peace at least? Peace is all I ask from her. If she would
take things as her sisters and her brothers do, I should in time become
reconciled to my fate, should learn to feel toward her as I feel toward
them; but she will not--she will not. She will go her own way, and keep
my heart in a ferment, watching her every movement, straining my ears
to catch every tone of her ever-changeful voice."

He looks with a sort of admiring impatience at her, as she sits by his
side, her eyes closed, the trace of tears staining her flushed cheeks,
and something tells him that it will always be so between them, that
she will never harden, never learn to eat his bread with the easy
unconsciousness of her kindred, never suffer him to despise her, and
thus emancipate himself.

Armstrong is an epicure in sexual sentiment. He can love no woman
whom he cannot esteem. The loveliest face shielding a venal soul has
no attraction for him; and women for the possession of whose frail
fairness men in his rank of life have bartered the hard-earned wages of
years, have abandoned home, wife, and children, to him are as innocuous
as the homeliest-featured crone. Having always been a comparatively
successful man, in his many wanderings he has been waylaid by harpies
of various nationalities, experienced in attack; but honeyed speech
or melting glance has never charmed a guinea from his pocket or a
responsive smile from his granite lips--and this through no sense of
moral or religious rectitude, but simply because he can not value the
favoring of any woman in whom self-respect does not govern every other
feeling, sway every action of her life. The woman he loves shall be a
lady to the core, pure-minded, dainty, sensitive, and proud. In his
wife he recognizes these qualities, and worships them accordingly; and
yet, with the perverse selfishness innate even in the best of mankind,
he would fain see her stripped of them all in order to shake himself
free from her thralldom and heal up the wound she has unwittingly dealt
his pride and self-esteem.

He knows, if she can but lower herself in his eyes by some act of
meanness, folly, or ingratitude, her downfall will be permanent, and he
will regain the even tenor of his life, and be his own master again.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Here we are at last, Addie; wake up--wake up! How lovely the house
looks blazing with light! Listen to the music; they must have begun
dancing. Oh, Tom, get out quick!"

However, when they appear on the gay and crowded scene, Miss Pauline's
effervescence somewhat subsides. A feeling of diffidence, of timidity
almost, seizes her. She half shrinks behind her brother-in-law's broad
shoulders when one of their hostess's sons appears, a smiling partner
in tow. However, it is Mrs. Armstrong who is borne off first; and then
Pauline steps a little forward and sends her roving eye round the
room with success. A little later Addie returns breathless, with eyes
sparkling with excitement and pleasure.

"I've had such a lovely dance, Tom; I never thought I should like it so
much or keep in step as I did! Where's Polly? How is she getting on?"

Armstrong points across the room, where Miss Lefroy, with her deer-like
head erect, stands surrounded by a group of young men eagerly seeking
to inscribe her name on their cards.

"She's getting on fairly for a beginner, isn't she? I don't fancy
she'll trouble us much more with her society to-night."

He is right. Miss Pauline, whether ignorant of or regardless of the
etiquette of ball-room proprieties, returns no more to the corner she
left in maiden trepidation at the request of a dapper little squire,
fair-haired and blue-eyed, whose heart she stormed the first moment she
entered the room.

"Tom," says Addie, two hours later, when she returns again, a little
exhausted with the unusual exercise, to the spot where he stands so
patiently propped up against the wall watching the _élite_ of Nutshire
taking their pleasure, "look at Pauline; she is dancing again with
that blue-eyed boy--the fourth time, I think. I tried to attract her
attention two or three times; but she either did not or would not see
me. I don't know much about the proprieties; but don't you think--"

"I know even less about them than you, my dear. I think I have not been
to half a dozen balls in my life, and never before as the guardian of a
young lady's morals; so I won't presume to advise you. It seems to me
she is enjoying herself in a very innocent and above-board manner. I
wouldn't try to stop her."

"Do you know her partner, Tom?"

"Oh, yes. Jack Everard of Broom Hill, a thorough little gentleman and
a general favorite in the county, I believe, but not much of a lady's
man. I'm surprised to see him here."

"Horsy?"

"Yes, and doggy; he keeps a famous breed of greyhounds. Pauline seems
to have made quite a conquest."

"I wonder what they are talking about so earnestly? Dogs, I suppose;
Pauline loves dogs, you know, better almost than human beings."

"Hem!"

"You think she is flirting? Oh, there you make a mistake! There is
nothing Pauline despises so much as flirting and love-making and
nonsense. I wouldn't be the man to make a soft speech to her, I know!"

"Everard is a plucky little fellow."

"Pauline's snubs are hard to get over."

"I say, Addie--look! There's an engagement going on now; the tall
cavalryman seems to be getting the worst of it. I suppose it's about a
disputed dance; they're referring to their cards. How red Everard is!
the quiver of his nostrils indicates bloodshed, nothing else."

"He just looks like an angry turkey-cock."

"And, by Jove, look at your sister, Addie! Look at the supreme
indifference of her attitude, the queenly wave of her fan! Wouldn't you
say she was the heroine of half a dozen London seasons at the least?
Bravo, Polly, bravo! You'll get on, my dear."

Miss Lefroy is the acknowledged belle of the evening; every man in the
room seeks to be introduced to her, and people who for the last twelve
years have sat in the pew next to hers at church, who have never taken
the trouble of noticing her presence during her long Cinderellahood,
now load her with fulsome compliments and attentions when they see the
tide of popular favor turning her way; and she receives it all with the
dignity and gracious indifference of one bred in the purple and fed
on adulations from her cradle. Poor Jack Everard never suspects that
the few hot words so gravely yet soothingly suppressed by his lovely
partner, that escaped him after supper, are the first whispers of love
that have ever tickled her cold ear, that this is the first night any
one has told her she is fair in the eyes of men.

"Miss Lefroy," exclaims that young gentleman in a stealthy whisper when
the night is far advanced and the ball-room thinning visibly, "there's
a plot against you; they want to take you home. Your brother-in-law is
skirmishing for you briskly in all the passages. Unless you deliver
yourself into my hands at once, you can not fail to be caught."

"They want to go? Oh, impossible," she cried in dismay, "when I'm
engaged for half a dozen dances yet! It's quite early; they couldn't be
so selfish!"

"Couldn't they! Your sister says that Mr. Armstrong is very tired and
has to be up early in the morning to go to his business, and that she
won't wait another minute. She commissioned me to bring you to her at
once; allow me."

She puts her hand mechanically on his arm, and he leads her off in
the opposite direction to that where Addie, sleepy and impatient, sits
waiting, knowing that her husband's thoroughbreds have been pawing the
gravel for the last half hour in the frosty night, and that he himself,
somewhat weary, is longing for a few hours' rest before the busy day
begins.

The culprits are passing through a distant conservatory, when a tall
handsome girl with masses of golden hair stops them, unceremoniously
and holds up her card for Everard's inspection.

"Yes, Jack; indeed you may blush! To three dances you scribbled your
name, and never came up for one. If we moved in a different sphere of
life I think my feelings would find rather strong expression."

Pauline crimsons to the roots of her hair, and, scenting an insult,
draws away haughtily; but her suspicions are speedily allayed.

The young lady cuts Everard's excuses short.

"There, there! I'll forgive you, on condition that you present me to
your partner, whom I am anxious to know. Our mothers were friends long
ago, before either of us was born."

He speedily complies with her request.

"Miss Lefroy, will you allow me to introduce you to my cousin, Miss
Wynyard, who is anxious to make your acquaintance?"

The girls bow. Miss Wynyard puts out her hand and says, with a frank
laugh--

"Miss Lefroy, do you know that this is a very generous overture on my
part, considering the attitude that you and I must henceforth assume
toward each other?"

"I don't understand. What attitude?" asks Pauline, puzzled, yet
interested.

"That of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth; of Mrs. Clive and Mrs.
Oldfield--the rival queens, in fact. You've deposed me to-night; for
three years since I came out I have been the undisputed belle of
Nutshire society--haven't I, Jack, haven't I? You know you can't deny
it, sir!"--impatiently to her cousin, who receives her bold statement
with a contemptuous chuckle.

"I don't deny that you have been pretty popular, Flo," he answers
quietly; "but let me tell you, my dear, that you did not go down with
lots of fellows I know. They thought you a good deal too free and fast.
They may have liked to talk with you and have enjoyed your society for
the time; but afterward--afterward--I've heard them--heard them--"

Miss Wynyard's face flushes; her bold eyes droop for a second.

"Isn't a cousin a detestable institution, Miss Lefroy?" she says,
with a vexed laugh. "Don't you believe a word he says; you can get
my character from any one you like but him, and you'll hear there is
nothing very reprehensible in me."

"I'll take your character from yourself," answers Pauline, who finds
herself taking a sudden fancy to this outspoken young person.

"Thank you. Then you must learn that my bark is worse than my bite,
and that, though I'm fast and speak out plainly, I'm not a bad person
at bottom, and not a bit of a sneak. What I have to say I say to your
face, and you know the worst of me at once. Will you take me as you
find me and strike up a friendship with me? Half the men and all the
old women of the place will swear that I shall hate you like poison
for being younger and handsomer and fresher than myself. Suppose you
and I strike up a defensive alliance in the cause of common womanhood,
and refute their slanders with an eternal friendship?"

"Don't, Miss Lefroy, don't!" puts in Everard aggravatingly. "You don't
know what her bark is when she's in full cry. Her style is as bad--"

"Be quiet, Jack, do! I'm not speaking to you."

"And I'm not listening to him in the least, Miss Wynyard," says Pauline
quickly; "and I'm quite ready to enter an alliance with you on the
spot."

"Done! We'll never let a man or the pattern of a frock come between
us--never."

"Certainly not."

"The last friend I had--for whom I'd have sacrificed my very
life--broke from me because I happened to copy her Ascot dress and look
better in it than she did."

"You may copy every article of clothing I wear," says Pauline warmly.

"Thank you; you are thorough. I'll send over my maid to-morrow to take
off the cut of that train--it was the best-setting one in the room. And
now nearest and dearest must part. You'll see me soon--before the end
of the week. By the bye, what's your name?"

"Pauline. And yours?"

"Florence."

"Good-night, Florence."

"Good-night, Pauline."

Thus Miss Pauline cements the first friendship outside her erst all
sufficing family-circle, a friendship which, as the months go by, takes
her further and further from the sister with whom she has hitherto
shared every thought, every hope of her life, and who has sacrificed
herself irretrievably to give her a home.



CHAPTER XV.


"There, Bob--there was my bill of fare for the night"--throwing a
glossy pink card across the table--"two lords, three baronets--at
least, eldest sons of baronets--a colonel, a couple of majors, no end
of smaller fry, captains, lieutenants, militia and regulars, for whom
of course I hadn't dances, though they kept buzzing about me half the
night, all the same."

"Bravo, Polly--you have been going it, and no mistake! I thought you'd
have been a wall-flower, knowing so few, being fresh 'on the flure,'
and all that."

Pauline tosses her pretty head.

"Me a wall-flower? Small fear of that, sir, I can tell you! Why,
several of my partners told me I was the belle of the room!"

They are all at dinner on the day after the ball, Robert having been
driven over with his brother-in-law to get a full account of his
sister's first appearance in society.

"Well, I'm glad you weren't fated to blush unseen, Polly. Have you any
other festivity in prospect?"

"No," she answers lugubriously, "not a thing. The Chomley Arkwrights
have cards out for a dance on the thirty-first, but you know Mrs.
Arkwright never called on Addie--I can't imagine why--and so I suppose
we shall not be asked. It's really too bad--though they may relent at
the eleventh hour. If they don't you will have to give a ball for me,
Tom, instead. I feel I can't exist without another soon."

"Let us hope they will relent, my dear."

"I can't imagine why they didn't ask us, for the whole county is to be
there; several of my partners said that it was a shame to leave us out,
and that they wouldn't go there if I didn't get an invite."

"Your partners seem to have been very pronounced in their remarks for
so short an acquaintance, Pauline," says Armstrong, a little gravely.

"They were, Tom, rather," she answers, giggling and blushing somewhat.
"I had hard work to suppress some of them after supper, I can tell you."

    "O Mary Ann, O Mary Ann,
      I'll tell your mar!
    I never thought, when you went out,
      You'd go so far,"

hums Robert, with music-hall jocularity.

A faint expression of disgust crosses Armstrong's dark face, which his
wife notes with a wondering start. What does it mean? Is it possible
that he, Armstrong of Kelvick, the plebeian bred, who never, according
to his own admission, had familiar intercourse with gentlewomen until
he married her, thinks her blue-blooded sister, Pauline Lefroy, the
offspring of Bourbon chivalry, a little vulgar now and then? Is it
possible that her manner, so boastfully elated, her unabashed account
of her conquests, jars on him, as it does on her--Addie? If so, how
much they have in common, this husband and wife, severed by nearly a
score of years, by position, education, and mode of life, estranged by
fate from communion of thought, from interchange of sympathy--how much
in common still!

"I wish Pauline would not talk like that," she thinks, with shamefaced
irritation. "I wonder she does not feel that it is unladylike,
indelicate. I wonder Robert, who has such keen perception, does not try
to check her, instead of backing her up."

"Yes, it is most aggravating, I must say," continues Pauline, harping
on her grievance. "I can't imagine what those Arkwrights mean by it,
and they such near neighbors too! I wish you, Tom, or Addie, would do
something in the matter."

"I can't see what we could do, Pauline," he answers, smiling,
"unless you would have us follow Thackeray's advice--go straight to
head-quarters and 'ask to be asked.' It would be rather an extreme
measure, but I believe it has been successful in many cases."

"Polly," says Goggles, nodding her head mysteriously, "I think I know
why you weren't asked, only--only--perhaps you wouldn't like me to
tell."

Pauline laughs contemptuously.

"You know, Goggles? A very likely story indeed!"

"I just do know!" answers Goggles, stung into retort. "They don't ask
you, Pauline, because papa owes Major Arkwright a lot of money, which
he never paid--a debt of honor, I think they call it, and--"

"What nonsense you are talking!" breaks in Robert sharply. "I never met
such a senseless chatterbox as you are, Lottie--always chattering of
things you know nothing about, taking the wrong end of every story."

"I am doing nothing of the kind, Bob, and I know perfectly well what
I am talking about. I heard Aunt Jo tell her Cousin Jenny Bruce the
whole story. Major Arkwright and papa were in the same regiment, and
they had an awful row together over cards, and the major called papa a
black something or other--black-foot was it? No, not black-foot, but
black-leg--I remember now I thought it such a funny word--black-leg!"

Before the end of this unfortunate speech, Armstrong, with innate
delicacy, rises to his feet and begins addressing his wife in a loud
voice; but it is of no use--he can not drown his sister-in-law's shrill
triumphant tone, and so he hurries from the room, and leaves the family
to fight it out among themselves.

Robert's handsome face is scarlet; he turns to his eldest sister
fiercely.

"Addie, what in the world do you mean by letting that child loose
as you do? If you have not sufficient authority to keep her in the
school-room, where she ought to be, you ought at least to be able to
muzzle her in society; she is getting perfectly intolerable!"

"What can I do?" answers Mrs. Armstrong, with quivering voice. "Nobody
minds what I say, nobody pays the least attention to my wishes. I am a
cipher in my own house."

"That's because you don't assert yourself properly," strikes in Pauline
trenchantly. "You are all fire and fury for the moment, Addie, and
then you subside and let things go. There is nothing solid in your
character, and there is a want of dignity and repose in your manner
that you really ought to supply now that you are a married woman. Don't
you agree with me, Robert?"

"Perfectly, my child. What you want is backbone, Addie--backbone."

"It seems to me that I want a good many things to content you all,"
she says bitterly. "I sometimes wonder, if I had gone to Birmingham as
a nursery-governess, instead of doing as I did, whether I shouldn't
have given you all, myself included, more satisfaction in the long run,
and--"

"Now, Addie, now why will you fly off at a tangent like that, and drag
in matter that has nothing to do with the question? You know you did
everything for the best; and I'm sure your marriage so far has turned
out most satisfactory, and--"

"Suppose you leave my marriage and its result out of the question,
Robert!" she interrupts quickly. "It is a subject I would rather not
discuss with you, if you do not mind."

"Whew--what a little spitfire she has become!" exclaims Bob, somewhat
discomfited, when Addie has left the room. "She must be hard to get on
with, Polly, if she often pulls like that."

"Oh, I don't mind her in the least!" answers Polly lightly. "As you
say, Bob, she has no backbone; so I let her calm down, stick quietly
to my point all the time, and get what I want in the end. The
brother-in-law is harder to manage; but I think I have discovered the
way to work him too."

"Have you?" he asks eagerly. "D'ye know, it strikes me you're a pretty
sharp customer to deal with, sister mine; there's more in you than
appears on the surface."

"I don't want to boast; but I think I shall get on," she answers, with
becoming modesty.

"But the discovery, Polly, the discovery? You'll share it with your
beloved brother, won't you?"

"I will, if you promise not to overwork it."

"I promise!"

"Well, then, when you want to coax anything out of him, want to
go anywhere, or get him to do anything for you, just hint to him
judiciously that you think Addie would like it, or is anxious on the
subject, and you'll find somehow that the thing will work as you want."

"Oh!" says Robert, with a sigh of enlightenment; and then he falls
into a "brown-study," in which he seeks the most diplomatic way of
introducing his sister's name into a certain personal project that
lies very near his heart, and which he is half afraid to broach to his
indulgent brother-in-law.

"I managed the ball on that principle," says Pauline, with a low laugh.
"I hinted to him that it had been the dream of Addie's life that we two
should go to our first ball together, and he took the bait at once.
It was only a partial falsehood, Bob, you know, because long ago she
and I used occasionally to build castles in the air; we always entered
fairyland in a double pair of glass slippers, Addie and I--we always
met our prince at the same magic ball. Hers, I remember, poor dear, was
a tall slim youth, fair-haired, blue-eyed, and scarlet-coated; mine was
dark and fierce, mysteriously wicked."

"You didn't see his shadow last night, Polly?"

"No," she answers, with a gay heart-whole laugh--"no, he wasn't there.
I doubt if I shall ever meet him in the flesh. Besides, I don't think
my ideal would make what you call a comfortable every-day husband--an
article I mean to go in for one day or another."

"Yes," says Bob, oracularly, "I suppose that is your game,
Polly--matrimony. You must act like the sensible prudent girl I take
you to be, and give the family a good lift in that way."

"I mean to do so."

"You must have position--good unassailable county position--as well as
money, remember, to make up for poor Addie's _mesalliance_."

"I certainly ought to do better than Addie, for I'm much handsomer than
she, and my manners are more taking--and--and dignified. Oh, yes, I
hope I shall do better than she!"



CHAPTER XVI.


On the following day Lady Crawford calls to congratulate Mrs. Armstrong
and her sister on the success of their first appearance. She is the
prime busy-body, scandal-monger, matrimonial agent of Nutshire,
who, having most successfully secured partners for three sons, five
daughters, and innumerable nephews and nieces, has turned her energies
and interests to the manipulating of her neighbors' affairs, and is
quite eager to take the "new people" in hand, seeing a promising figure
in Miss Lefroy.

"You did very well, very well indeed, my dears," she says, in a tone
of friendly encouragement. "That dress of yours, Miss Lefroy, was
particularly well made--Armine, wasn't it? Yes, so I thought. Just
a leetle too much trimming to my mind; but then I believe I'm very
antiquated in my tastes, and do not care to see a young girl at her
first ball dressed like a bride. _Autres temps, autres modes_, you will
say; and I dare say you are right. Girls nowadays would rather overdo a
thing ten times than run the risk of looking a little dowdy."

"I hope, Lady Crawford," says Addie meekly, though with twinkling eyes,
"that you do not think we overdid it?"

"Oh, no, no, my dear young lady!" protests the dowager, with gracious
_empressement_. "Pray do not imagine such a thing. I thought you both
looked and behaved charmingly, I am sure."

"You are very kind indeed."

"Not at all, not at all. I would not say so if I did not think it.
And I must say"--turning quickly to Pauline, who is quite unprepared
for the attack--"that I was especially struck with the judgment and
discernment you showed, Miss Lefroy, in your marked encouragement of
young Everard of Broom Hill."

"Lady Crawford!"

"You danced with him four times, wasn't it?--and let him take you down
to supper," she says emphatically, her eyes fixed on Pauline's blushing
face.

"I--I don't remember; I believe so," she stammers, too taken aback to
defend herself.

"And my daughter, Mrs. Stanley Roberts, overheard him offering you a
mount for the meet next week. I hope you accepted. Let me tell you, my
dear, that I consider there is not a more eligible young fellow in the
county for a girl circumstanced as you are than Jack Everard of Broom
Hill."

"Lady Crawford," breaks in Addie, with spirit, "let me thank you in my
sister's name for the kind interest you take in her welfare; but I'm
greatly afraid she does not deserve your encomiums on her judgment. She
is very young--not eighteen yet--and is not up to the point of looking
at her partners in the light of future husband, I fancy."

"Isn't she?" returns her ladyship, no whit taken aback. "Then she'll
soon learn sense. At any rate, she cannot do better than encourage
young Everard. She couldn't get a husband to suit her better; and for
a girl circumstanced--I mean that he is a right good-hearted little
fellow, and Broom Hill is a nice sunny spot, the house in perfect
order, fit for a bride any day. He paid off the last charge on the
property last Christmas, when his sister married Fred Oldham--wretched
match it was too for her; and now he has a clear rent-roll of two
thousand five hundred, and not an acre mortgaged. I have it on the best
authority. You may trust me, Miss Lefroy; I never make a mistake in
these matters."

"You are very kind, Lady Crawford, but I have no intention--"

"Of course not, of course not, my child!"--tapping Pauline's shoulder
good-humoredly as she rises to depart. "No girl has the slightest
intention of getting married until she is asked point-blank; we all
know that. However, don't snub poor Jack, for he has been badly used
already. He was, you must know, devotedly attached to my daughter
Alice, now Lady Frampton; but she preferred Sir Charles, and of course
I couldn't interfere; besides, he was the better match. Still poor
Jack felt the blow keenly, gave up society for a time, and all that;
but now I am happy to see he is getting cured by degrees, and you must
not throw him on the sick-list again--ha, ha! Good-by, Mrs. Armstrong,
good-by; I'll soon give you a friendly call again. By the bye, you're
not going to the Arkwrights on Friday? No, of course not--I forgot.
Foolish woman that Susan Arkwright, keeping up--Well, well, I must be
off. _Au revoir_, don't forget my advice, either of you."

"There, Addie," laughs Pauline--"your snub did not have the least
effect! I wouldn't try it again, if I were you. After all, she means
well, and I'm sure is a most good-natured old soul on the whole.
Oh!"--drawing back suddenly from the window.

"What is the matter?"

"Nothing--I mean only a dog-cart driving up the avenue, with two men in
it. I--I--think they are Mr. Everard and a cousin who is stopping with
him."

"They are coming here!" exclaims Addie. "Send down word at once to say
'Not at home,' Pauline."

"Not at home! Why should we say that?"

"Oh--well--because neither of the boys nor my husband is in! I--I don't
care about receiving young men I scarcely know in their absence."

"What absurd nonsense! Why, you are a married woman, Addie; you can
receive as many men as you like! Fancy saying 'Not at home' after their
driving such a distance to see you! Absurd!"

So the young men enter, warm their frozen hands at a cozy fire, are fed
on hot tea and "cushiony" muffins, and, what they relish most, bask in
the welcoming smile of Miss Lefroy's beautiful face.

"Do you know, Mrs. Armstrong," says Everard presently, when the
stiffness due to their first appearance has worn off, "you were very
near not having the pleasure of our society this afternoon. It was
touch and go with you, I can tell you, five minutes ago."

"How was that, Mr. Everard?"

"Why, just outside your gate we came full tilt against Lady Crawford's
equipage, coming out, and I turned to Cecil and said, 'My boy, if
we're wise, we shall beat a retreat, for I expect we've not a shred
of character left;' but he, fearless in his innocence, callous to
the breath of calumny, urged me onward. What are you laughing at?
Mrs. Armstrong, Miss Lefroy, I was right; she did backbite me--said
something about me--eh?"

"'Conscience makes cowards of us all,' Mr. Everard," says Addie. "I do
not say Lady Crawford mentioned your name."

"Oh, but she did!" he persists, in an anguish of apprehension. "I can
see it in both your faces; I know she did. Miss Lefroy"--turning a
crimson face and pair of imploring blue eyes to that young lady--"say
you don't believe a word she said. Don't judge me on her report; every
one knows that she's the most infer--I mean outrageous gossipmonger,
the most extravagant--"

"Mr. Everard, Mr. Everard," laughs Pauline, "you are putting your foot
deeper and deeper into the mire with every word! If you go on longer in
that strain, I shall be inclined to believe that you are a villain of
the deepest stage-dye."

"Turn your eyes my way, Miss Lefroy," pleads Mr. Cecil Dawson, a
handsome saucy Oxonian. "I challenge your closest scrutiny. Gaze into
my limpid countenance, and tell me can you detect therein the faintest
trace of uneasiness or apprehension? Could anything be more calm, more
effulgent with the glow of seraphic virtue and--and--"

"Inordinate conceit! No, Mr. Dawson. I think not."

He draws himself up in mock indignation, and then, deeming it wiser to
leave the field to his more eligible cousin, strolls languidly over
to Addie, whom he seeks, with but scant success, to entice into a
light flirtation, that young person being quite unversed in the art of
_persiflage_ or delicately-flavored "chaff" in which he excels.

"You'll tell me what she said, won't you, Miss Lefroy?" implores
Everard, hanging ardently over the low chair where Pauline sits
diligently working in the breast of a crewel-stork. "You'll give a
fellow a chance, won't you? In common fairness you must. Just an idea,
a hint--that's all I want--and I'll make her eat her own words--by
Jove, I will! Tell me, tell me!"

"But, Mr. Everard, what am I to tell you? I never said that Lady
Crawford even--"

"No, no; but you looked it, and you can't deny that she mentioned my
name. You can't look me in the face now, and say she didn't. No; I
thought not. By Jove, it's an awful fate to be at the mercy of a woman
of that kind, to be taunted with--with sins you don't even know the
name of, with crimes you never--"

"Mr. Everard, am I taunting you?"

"Yes, you are, Miss Lefroy--you know you are," he answers bitterly.
"Your eyes are taunting me, your laugh is taunting me; you--you are
making me utterly miserable."

"Am I really?" answers Pauline, jumping up and moving across the room.
"Then I had better leave you at once."

He makes no effort to follow her, but sits staring blankly out at the
chill winter landscape, for the poor young fellow is wofully in love
and full of despondent diffidence.

"Don't look so sad," says a small mysterious voice at his side. "I
heard what she said, and it was not very bad, after all."

"You did, you jolly little girl?" he exclaims eagerly. "You'll tell me
what it was, won't you?"

"Oh, I daren't! I'm forbidden to open my lips when there are visitors.
I always say the wrong thing, you know. They'd be mad if they knew I
was talking to you now. I've been hiding behind the curtain for the
last hour, and heard everything."

"You'll tell me? I'll swear, if you like, that they shall never know.
Do, do, you dear little girl! I will promise to bring you the biggest
box of sweets you ever had in your life, if you do."

"When?" asks Lottie skeptically.

"To-morrow."

"Will there be 'chocolate-cream' and 'Turkish delight' in it?"

"There will--pounds of both!"

"Then she only said that you were a very nice eligible young man, that
your property was worth two thousand five hundred pounds, and that you
had been frightfully in love with her daughter Alice, Lady Something or
Other, but that you were beginning to get over it now."

"It's a lie--a shameless, impudent lie, a most confounded lie!" cries
the faithless Everard, striding quickly to Pauline's side, his face
crimson with wrath. "Don't believe a word of it, Miss Lefroy--don't. I
never cared a straw for Alice Crawford--never! A little, pale-faced,
snub-nosed chit--she's the last girl in Nutshire I'd wish to marry! Say
you don't believe it!"

"Who--who told you?" stammers Pauline, with flaming face, suddenly
guessing the truth. "I know it was my sister."

She darts across to the curtains, seizes the culprit in a vicious grip,
and leads her to the door, where she pauses to take breath and review
her position.

Having come to the conclusion that she has tried her lover
sufficiently, Miss Pauline takes another course, which is so soothing
and satisfactory that in a very short space of time the clouds have
disappeared from Everard's ruddy brow and he is in Paradise again.

The short afternoon wanes, twilight advances, then dusk; still Mrs.
Armstrong's guests linger.

"I wish they'd go!" she thinks a little uneasily. "This is not a visit,
but a visitation; and we look so--so familiar grouped round the fire
in this easy way. I wish Pauline would sit on a chair, and not loll
on the rug playing with the kitten; I wish that ridiculous boy would
not sprawl at my feet in that affected high-art attitude--it looks too
idiotic. What will Tom say when he comes in? Dear me, six o'clock, and
not a move between them yet! Will they never go?"

When Tom comes in, he seems startled for a moment by the strange
invasion of his hearth; but what he says is courteous and hospitable in
the extreme. When the dressing-bell sounds, and the young men rise at
last to their feet, full of confused apologies, he begs them to remain
to dinner, which they do unhesitatingly.

It is midnight before they leave; Armstrong, who has been seeing them
off, meets his sister-in-law going to bed. She stops him, and lays her
hand coaxingly upon his arm.

"What a jolly little evening we've had, haven't we, Tom? Do you know,
I think I enjoy a little family gathering like this quite as much as
a big ball; and so does Addie. What spirits she was in this evening,
wasn't she?"

"Yes," he says, in half soliloquy, "I think she enjoyed herself;
society suits her."

"Of course it does; it suits all healthy-minded young people. It's
the best tonic she could have. You must remember, Tom, she's very
young--only two years older than me."

"Why do you say that to me?" he asks, fixing his somber eyes on her
face. "Do you think my years weigh on her life? Do I--oppress her?"

"Oh, no, no! I only meant that, though she is married, she still can
enjoy fun and--and society just as well as any of us; and, as for
dancing, I know she delights in it."

"You think so?"--eagerly.

"I am sure of it. I am sure, too, that though she sometimes tries to
put on heavy matronly airs before you and others, she has the same
wild fund of spirits in reserve as ever, and is at heart, as I've said
before, just as fond of fun and society as any of us."

"Thank Heaven for that!" he mutters to himself. "Patience! A few
years--nay, a few months more, and all these shadows will have passed
away. I must give her society." Then, aloud--"You think she enjoyed
herself this evening, Pauline, and, if I proposed giving a few dinner
parties, and perhaps a dance occasionally, she would not think it a
trouble, a bore--eh?"

"I am certain there is nothing would give her greater pleasure; but
at the same time, Tom," says Miss Pauline, with wily impressiveness,
"if she thought, suspected even, that you were doing it solely for
her sake, she would be the first to oppose it, to say she hated
entertaining, thought it a bother, and so on."

"I see."

"So, Tom, you must not pay the least attention to her if she pretends
to dislike gayety, for I, who have known her all her life, can
assure you that there is nothing she is so fond of, or that agrees
so well with her. And, as for the trouble of writing invitations and
entertaining guests, why, there are always Bob and I at hand to take
our share of the labor and make ourselves as useful to you and Addie as
we can, Tom."

"What a good girl you are, Pauline," says Armstrong, patting
her shoulder approvingly, with a smile which she does not quite
understand--"quite a fireside treasure!"



CHAPTER XVII.


"And so you like her, Bob?"

"Rather, Polly; she's an A 1 specimen, and no mistake! I suspect I
should soon be her slave if I saw too much of her," says Mr. Lefroy,
smoothing his budding mustache.

The subject of this encomium is Miss Florence Wynyard, who has run over
on a tricycle to luncheon, and who has laid herself out to fascinate
the whole family, deeming Nutsgrove extremely comfortable quarters in
which to establish herself when affairs are uncomfortable at home.

Florence is the only unmarried daughter of the house of Wynyard. Her
mother is a weak-minded peevish old lady, entirely under the dominion
of her husband, a gentleman of convivial nature, but extremely
uncertain temper, whose periodical attacks of mingled rage and gout
render him for the time being fit for a menagerie or a lunatic asylum;
hence life at head-quarters is not always very pleasant, and Florence
has established for herself a firm _pied à terre_ in some half dozen
neighboring houses, whither she can fly at the first paternal growl and
remain until the storm has blown over. Within ten minutes after her
arrival she determined that Nutsgrove shall ere long be included among
her harbors of refuge.

"Yes," she thinks, "I should decidedly like the run of this house."

At a glance she takes in the luxury, the comfort, the freedom, the
festive atmosphere that reigns throughout, and easily sees that with
judicious management she could twist the simple family round her
fingers.

Her demeanor under the critical eyes of her host and hostess is
admirable. She is lively, amusing, unaffected, almost ladylike, in
fact, the faint ring of "loudness" she can not shake off passing for
merely the effervescence of youth, robust health, and good temper.
When alone with Pauline and Robert she casts off the mask at once,
thus thoroughly fascinating those inexperienced young persons with
the full flavor of her "fastness" and the quality and compass of her
_camaraderie_ and good-fellowship.

Miss Wynyard is a debonair and not unkindly type of the girl of the
period, eminently selfish, but not ill-natured. She is not beyond
making a friend of one of her own sex if the conquest is an easy
one, but her great object in life is to be "all things to all men,"
to charm all men of all ages, all classes, all conditions of nature,
from the schoolboy to the veteran, from the lord of the soil to the
serf. She is successful in an unusual degree, her weapon of attack
being one which, when skillfully used, seldom fails, for it tickles
the most vital part of male human nature--its vanity. Her list of
conquests is inexhaustible, varied, and not altogether creditable to
her reputation, if the whispers of the county clubs are to be accepted,
which fortunately they are not--very generally at least. For instance,
the version of her rupture with Lord Northmouth a week before her
marriage--which, rumor said, was owing to that infatuated nobleman's
discovering the existence of a correspondence with a good-looking
railway-guard at Kelvick Junction--was entirely discredited in the
county; and, though Miss Wynyard was certainly left lamenting with
seventeen trousseau dresses on hand, not even the most exclusive doors
were closed to her on that account, and she wore her brilliant weeds so
gallantly, alluding to her recreant _fiancé_ so easily, lightly, and
kindly, that in time it came to be pretty generally accepted that she
had thrown him over, not he her.

"And you mean to tell me you are not going to the Arkwrights' on
Friday, Polly?" she asks incredulously, when the two girls are
exchanging confidences, and examining dresses in the seclusion of
Pauline's bedroom. "What a shame. I'll soon make that right for you.
Susan Arkwright is a connection of mine, you--"

"You are very kind," interrupts Pauline a little confusedly; "but on
the whole perhaps it would be better, Flo, not to--to say anything
about it. You see, I--I believe there was some misunderstanding or
other between our family and theirs in days gone by, and--"

"Misunderstanding? Ha, ha!" breaks in Miss Wynyard, with her frank
bold laugh. "That's a good way of putting it, and no mistake! Don't
you know, my dear, that Robert the Dev--I mean your father--nearly
drove Syd Arkwright to the wall in their soldiering days, and then
invited his wife to elope with him? Susan was a very pretty woman a
dozen years ago. Misunderstanding indeed! But that's all past and gone
now, and it's ridiculous of them to visit it on you--very bad policy
indeed. Just as if scores of others in the county hadn't as deep a
grudge against your name as they! Polly, what's the matter? Why do you
turn away? You absurd child, to mind my chatter! You can't be such an
utter baby as not to know what your father was! Why should you mind
talking about him with me, your dearest friend, your own Florrie? It it
comes to that, you may discuss my old _pater's_ youthful peccadilloes
as freely as you like. I dare say they were not more edifying than
yours, only he did not wear such a bold front. Your father, my dear,
was one of the handsomest, most reckless, and fascinating scamps
of his generation. I was just thinking this afternoon if that very
good-looking son of his takes to his ways, the husbands, fathers,
brothers of Nutshire ought to rise in crusade and drive him from the
soil--ha, ha!"

"Bob is not like that. Bob is a well-minded boy," murmurs the sister,
in a rather stifled voice.

"The boy is father to the man, you would say. Well, time will reveal.
Now hold up your head and give me a kiss, you absurd little goose!
I must soon knock that nonsense out of you; and you'll come to the
Arkwrights' if I work the invite? That's right. Jack would never
forgive me, he said, if I didn't make you promise to come; and I can't
afford to fall out with Jack; he's useful to me in many ways--though I
do loathe cousins."

Miss Wynyard "worked the invite" in time. On the very morning of the
ball cards came for Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong and Miss Lefroy.

"The eleventh hour in every sense of the word; they hadn't a post to
spare. Addie, have you your dress ready? Do you care to go?"

"No, Tom, no," she answers, with downcast eyes, "I would rather not go
if you don't mind."

"Certainly not, my dear. Do exactly as you like in the matter. I quite
agree with you. I think the invitation rather too unconventional in its
delivery. Mrs. Arkwright ought at least to have called on you if she
wished you to go to her ball."

"I'll refuse at once, politely of course."

"You needn't refuse for me, Addie," says Pauline lightly, when
Armstrong has left. "I mean to go to the ball."

"What--alone, Pauline?"

"No--the Wynyards have offered to take me. I had a note from Flo,
telling me to come over early and put up with her for the night--that
is in case you refused to go."

"You are wise in your generation, Pauline!" says Addie, with a
contemptuous smile.

"Wiser than you in yours, Addie," she retorts angrily. "I think it
shows a churlish and ill-bred--yes, ill-bred spirit to refuse the hand
of good-fellowship when it is so frankly offered. The Arkwrights and
the Lefroys have been at feud for the last generation; for all we know,
we may be the parties in fault, and yet they are the first to make an
advance which you--you--"

"That is enough, Pauline," says her sister coldly; "we need not discuss
the matter further. You evidently mean to accept these people's tardy
hospitality, whether I wish it or not; so go--go to this ball and
enjoy it, if you can. I dare say your enjoyment won't be much marred by
the fact that I am both hurt and deeply disappointed by your conduct."

"It takes very little to hurt and disappoint you nowadays, Addie."

"I don't know that, Pauline," she says wearily. "It seems to me that I
have food daily for disappointment, pain, and remorse."

"In other words, Addie, you mean that you are tired of us, tired of
your brothers and sisters, who once were all to you! You would like to
be rid of us!" says Pauline bitterly.

"Tired of you?" she echoes drearily. "I don't know; I think I'm most
tired of myself, of my life, of my fate, of everything."

Pauline is moved, deeply moved for the moment, by the blank hopeless
sorrow of the young face. She opens her arms, draws her sister's head
on her bosom, and whispers, half crying herself--

"What is it--what is it, Addie, my darling? Are you very unhappy?
If--if--you like we will go away all of us somewhere--somewhere where
he shall never find you again. Tell me, sister darling--is he unkind to
you?"

"Oh, no, no," she answers back, in a torrent of tears, her hot face
buried in her sister's neck--"not that--not that! I can not tell
you--you would not understand; it is only sometimes I feel so miserable
that I should like to die. You must make allowance for me, Polly love,
when I'm like that. You must try to bear with my peevishness, my
ill-temper, my nastiness, for I can not help it, dear--indeed I can
not. I feel so sore, so miserable, so nerveless, that I long to make
every one as wretched as myself. I don't know what comes over me, what
is the matter with me. I have no cause, no reason--oh, no, no! He is
good to me, Polly, good--the best husband any woman could have; never
believe anything but that--never! Look into my eyes if you doubt my
word. You will read the truth there."

"Then what does it mean? What makes you so miserable and uneasy?"

"I don't know--I can not tell you--I have not an idea. I think I'm
possessed!" she answers wildly; then, after a pause, throwing her arms
round Pauline's neck in feverish appeal--"But it makes no difference to
you, Polly; you love me just the same, don't you, dear sister? You have
not changed, or grown cold, or ceased to care for me; you love me just
the same? Oh, Polly, Polly darling, say you do!"

Pauline's answer is soothing, tender, and reassuring enough to calm
the sudden storm; and the two sisters spend the morning together in
loving amity; then, at Lottie's suggestion, they all three adjourn to
the kitchen, to make a big plum-cake for Hal's Easter hamper, to the
astonishment and dismay of Mrs. Armstrong's accomplished cook, who
strongly objects to the "messin' and mashin' and worritin'" of amateurs
in her domain.

The woolly snow-clouds clear away in the afternoon, and the leafless
branches of the grove are bright with crisp frosty sunlight.

"Lottie, Lottie," calls out Addie from the drawing-room, where she has
been finishing letters for the post, a ring of the coming spring in her
fresh young voice, "tell Poll to put on her hat and cloak quickly,
and we'll all three have a scamper through the grove. The pond behind
Sallymount farm ought to be frozen now; we might have a grand slide on
the sly."

"Oh, but, Addie, don't you know Poll's gone? She ordered the carriage
after luncheon, packed up her ball-dress, and went off to the Wynyards'
for the ball. Didn't she tell you?"



CHAPTER XVIII.


The snow has gone from the ground, the frost from the air, blustering
March is paving the way for tearful April. Miss Pauline Lefroy,
luxuriously basking in an easy-chair by the fire, a limp manuscript
resting on her knee, is murmuring words of sweetest love in a
low, monotonous voice to Mr. Everard, stretched on the rug at her
feet--words which reach Mrs. Armstrong in detached sentences, as she
sits by the window, sewing, a sufficiently listless and preoccupied
chaperone to satisfy even the most exacting lover.

"'And what a beautiful ring!'"

"'And you like this ring? Ah, it has indeed a luster since your eyes
have shone on it! Henceforth hold me, sweet enchantress, the Slave of
the Ring!'" he answers, in impassioned accents.

"Oh, dear," muses Addie, "what high-flown rubbish! I don't think such
wooing would win me. Pauline must be of different metal--rather soft
metal, I should say. 'Sweet enchantress,' 'slave of the ring!' I'm glad
Tom didn't make such a fool of himself when--when we were courting.
Heigh-ho, what a long afternoon it is! I wonder will the boys turn up
early? Robert has not been here for two Saturdays running. I--"

"'There is something glorious in the heritage of command. A man who
has ancestors is like a representative of the past,'" says Pauline, in
haughty melodramatic accents.

"Stuff, Pauline, stuff!" mutters her sister, impatiently tugging at her
knotted thread. "Precious heritage of command our ancestors have given
us! Nice representatives some of our forefathers were! If Bob or Hal
took to representing them, I wonder what--"

"'Ah, Pauline, not to the past, but to the future looks true nobility,
and finds its blazon in posterity.'"

"Come, that sounds like nonsense, as well as I can make out. Why, Jack
Everard, will you always speak to Pauline as if your windpipe were
padded with cotton-wool; it can't make her love you, and it is so
exasperating when you want to hear--"

"'No, no, I would not, were I fifty times a prince, be a pensioner on
the dead. I honor birth and ancestry when they are regarded as the
incentives to exertion, not the title-deeds to sloth!'"

"'Not the title-deeds to sloth!'" repeats Addie, leaning forward
eagerly to catch the falling cadence of his voice as it approaches a
period.

"'It is our fathers I emulate when I desire that beneath the evergreen
I myself have planted my own ashes may repose. Dearest, couldst thou
see with my eyes!'"

Addie, looking up, sees her husband standing inside the door, smiling
at the fireside duet. She beckons him to her, noiselessly makes room
for him on the couch, and with her finger pressed to her lips motions
him to listen.

                    "'Margined by fruits of gold
    And whispering myrtles, glassing softest skies
    As cloudless, save with rare and roseate shadows,
    As I would have thy fate!'"

Armstrong's face is a study of ludicrous amazement as the words fall in
musical sequence from Everard's lips, and, when Pauline, leaning over
him, murmurs ardently, "'My own dear love!'" he half rises to his feet;
but Addie's hand detains him.

"'A palace lifting to eternal summer,'" continues the lover bleatingly;
and then a ray of enlightenment crosses Armstrong's perplexed face, his
restlessness subsides, he leans back and watches wistfully the mobile
flushing face of his young wife, as she, bending forward eagerly with
hands clasped, drinks in the luscious picture of wedded bliss that the
gardener-poet paints for her he loves so cruelly. As he continues,
Everard's delivery improves; the wooliness leaves his voice, and a ring
of true passion which no art could ever teach him vibrates through
his every tone and finds an echo in Addie's heart, thrilling through
her like an electric current in which pain and pleasure are so subtly
blended that she can not tell which predominates.

                                "'We'd read no books
    That were not tales of love, that we might smile
    To think how poorly eloquence of words
    Translates the poetry of hearts like ours!
    And, when night came, amidst the breathless heavens
    We'd guess what star should be our home when love
    Becomes immortal; while the perfumed light
    Stole through the mists of alabaster lamps,
    And every air was heavy with the sighs
    Of orange-groves and music from sweet lutes
    And murmurs of low fountains that gush forth
    I' the midst of roses! Dost thou like the picture?'"

Addie turns to her husband with dewy eyes, and lays her hand timidly
on his breast, echoing the last eager words--"'Dost thou like the
picture?'"--in a soft whisper.

"I don't know--I did not listen," he answers dreamily. "I never could
thrill to Melnotte's lyre. It is too measured, too smooth, too flowery
to breathe the fire of earth-born passion."

"Then you do not believe in the eloquence of love?"

"No. I believe that the voice of love--the love man feels but once in
a life--finds no polished utterance. It is most times dumb, strangled
by the impotence, the poverty of words, or else finds vent in harsh,
uncouth, halting measure. It never pleads in flowing rhythm; if it
could, more lovers would be successful. You could be won, Addie, by
honeyed words. I read it in your face as you sat listening."

"You gave me no honeyed words, no measured music, and yet--and yet--"
Her whisper is drowned by Pauline's "stagey" metallic voice--

    "'Oh, as the bee upon the flower I hang
    Upon the honey of thy eloquent tongue!
    Am I not blest? And, if I love too wildly,
    Who would not love thee like Pauline?'

"There--that will do for to-day, Melnotte. Go back to your spade and
wheelbarrow. We know our parts to perfection. I'm sick of rehearsing."

"That last scene, Pauline--we're not up in it yet--"

"Pauline! Mr. Everard, what do you mean?"

"I mean Pauline Deschappelles, of course."

"I see, I see. The last scene? Oh, I'm up in it thoroughly; and,
besides, I have not time now! I must write a line to Florrie before
post-time."

She turns away lightly, and Everard's eyes, following her despondently,
rest on the husband and wife sitting side by side.

"I did not know you were there," he says, strolling moodily toward
them. "What did you think of it?"

"We thought it capital," answers Armstrong encouragingly. "That last
bit was most touchingly delivered--quite up to Barry Sullivan."

"Oh, I feel I shall do my part right enough; but your sister, Mrs.
Armstrong, is not up to the mark! Don't you feel it--eh? She's very
well--perfection, in fact--in the light, frivolous parts; but where the
ring of passion comes in she is hard, stagey, unfeeling. She is not
Bulwer's Pauline, she's herself--Pauline Lefroy--and no coaching, no
training, will make her anything else."

"Why not suggest her giving the part to a more competent person? I
am sure she would fall in with your wish at once," says Addie, a
little hurt at the young man's plain and truthful speaking. He does
not answer, does not even seem to hear; then, suddenly, after an
uncomfortable pause, he bursts out in doleful appeal--

"Mrs. Armstrong, tell me--do you think I have a ghost of a chance?"

"A ghost of a chance of what?"

"Of winning your sister, of getting her to like me?"

Mr. Everard is a young gentleman of limited reserve, and from the
first has made no effort to disguise his devotion to Pauline, yet this
point-blank attack takes Addie somewhat aback.

"I--I really don't know, Mr. Everard," she stammers. "I can not tell.
Why not ask her yourself?"

"Ask her myself! Why, I have asked her myself at least fourteen times
in the last month."

"Fourteen times, by Jove!" exclaims Armstrong--"fourteen times! I did
not know till now that Jacob was of British breed."

"And what does she say?" asks Addie, eagerly.

"Oh, she says the same thing always--she's over-young to marry yet! She
says that she won't be able to make up her mind for ever so long, that
she has not the faintest idea whether she likes me or dislikes me, that
it would be of no use trying to find out until she is older, and all
that sort of thing. You see, Mrs. Armstrong, she doesn't encourage, and
yet she doesn't discourage, and--and--there I am!"

"And there I wouldn't stay!" says Addie, impetuously. "I'd make her say
'Yes' or 'No,' and have done with it at once."

"If I did so, it would be 'No' at once, and--and--" with a quiver in
his voice--"I don't think I could bear that. I love your sister, Mrs.
Armstrong, better than my life; so I would rather go on clinging to a
straw, hang on to her patiently, and perhaps in the end work her into
liking me. They say love begets love, don't they? If so, she must in
time take a spark from me."

"And how long do you intend going on burning?"

"Until she is twenty. She says that she won't make up her mind to marry
any one until she has seen a little of the world, that many girls
sacrifice their life's happiness by taking the first man that asks
them, that she, even herself, in her limited experience, has seen too
much of the misery of hasty and incongruous marriages to risk a mistake
herself--Eh--what's the matter? Dropped your scissors, Mrs. Armstrong?
Why, here they are beside you! So she won't accept any one until she
is twenty; however, I'll wait and watch, and nag and worry her for two
years more, and you'll put in a word for me now and then, won't you,
both of you? She'll never get any one to love her as well as I do; and
I'm not badly off, Mrs. Armstrong. Your husband here can look into my
affairs, prod my property as much as he likes; he'll find it in paying
order, swept and garnished for matrimony, drained and fenced, and--"

"I do not doubt it, Mr. Everard," breaks in Addie, earnestly; "and
I do not mind admitting that both my husband and I--is it not so,
Tom?--quite approve your suit and wish you good speed; but I do not
approve of your resolution to hang on to Pauline by the careless thread
of hope she offers. You may only reap much misery and disappointment in
the future. She knows you love her--you have told her so. I would leave
her, let her go her own way during the time she specifies; and then,
if you are of the same mind still, renew your offer, propose for the
fifteenth and last time."

"Mrs. Armstrong, were you ever in love?"

"In--in--love!" she stammers with crimson face. "In love!" She makes a
mighty effort to give a light evasive answer; but a lump in her throat
stifles her utterance.

Her husband comes to the rescue with cheerful tact.

"My dear Everard," he says, in mock indignation, "will you please
remember that I am a man and a husband? If you press the question home,
allow me time to vanish at least from--"

"Beg pardon, I'm sure," the young man mutters, in some confusion. "I
did not know what I was saying. What a duffer I am, to be sure, always
blurting out the wrong thing at the wrong moment. Forgive me, Mrs.
Armstrong, I assure you I never--"

"Look, Addie--there are some visitors coming up the avenue! Who are
they?" asks Armstrong hastily, with much apparent interest.

"By Jove," exclaims Everard, his ruddy face turning green with
jealousy, "if it's not Stanhope Peckham again! Every time I come to
this house I find that sprawling bru--fellow, tracking my footsteps.
By Heaven, it would be too monotonous if it were not so exasperating!
How any woman can stand a man who wears such trousers and such collars
beats my comprehension! Of all the howling Bond Street cads I ever--I
say, Mrs. Armstrong, do you know what little Loo Hawker christened him?
Sharp girl, that little Loo! Collared Head--ha, ha! Collared Head!"

"Collared Head! How?"

"Don't you see? Because his face is so mottled and spotty, and his
collars throttle him up to the ears, Collared Head--by Jove, it's
about the best thing I ever heard! If 'Punch' could only get hold of
it! Collared Head--ha, ha!"

"Addie," says Armstrong, in a low voice, "I want to say something to
you. Will you come into my study for a few minutes?"

"Yes. What is it?"

"I am going away--"

"Going away! Where--when--how long?"



CHAPTER XIX.


"I am going away," repeats Armstrong to his wife, "at once, on
business. I must leave in ten minutes. I am going up to town first,
then on to Dublin and Cork."

"How long will you be away?"

"Ten days--a fortnight at the longest. I have brought over Bob to stay
with you during my absence, and have given him all directions which I
have not had time to give you. I hope he'll take good care of you."

"I'm sure he will enjoy the change and the responsibility; and I'll
see that he leaves in time for business every morning," says Addie
mechanically.

"Oh, that is not necessary! He need not go to Kelvick. The fact is--I
meant to have told you before, but other things put it out of my
head--Robert is no longer in the office--has resigned his appointment,
in fact," announces Armstrong.

"You could not keep him? I'm not surprised."

"No; it was his own wish to leave. He was totally unsuited to the work."

"And what is he going to do now?"

"Going to try soldiering."

"Soldiering? You mean he is going to--enlist!"

"Dear me, no, child! What an idea! He means to start with his
commission, of course."

"But that is absurd! He has nothing; it is impossible for him to live
in the army without money. I--I know--a cousin of mine who has three
hundred a year besides his pay, and he is always in debt. It is absurd!
I wonder at you, Tom, to encourage him in such an idea!" Her eyes flash
on him defiantly.

"He is fit for nothing else, and it has been the dream of the boy's
life. I think he will do well in the army; and he is not in the least
extravagant. You must admit that, Addie."

She sighs wearily. Suddenly her face clears.

"He'll never get in; he won't have a chance. The examination is
competitive, and getting worse and worse every year. The Hawksby and
the Wilmott boys have been plucked twice, and have given it up as a bad
job. Robert will never pass!"

"He is not going up for the direct Sandhurst exam. He has applied for a
commission in the county militia, and, after serving two trainings, he
can enter the cavalry with a merely nominal exam., I believe."

She is silent for a moment; a few hot tears steal down her face, her
hands drop to her sides with a gesture of tired bitterness.

"So--so he will be a pensioner on you all his life," she says slowly;
"he will eat the bread of dependence until he dies. And I can do
nothing--nothing; my hands are tied--tied"--twisting her wedding-ring
feverishly round and round, as if she would fain wrench it off.

He takes her hand and holds it for a moment in his firm clasp.

"Not yet, Addie, not yet. You promised me a year, remember."

"Such a long year--such a long year!" she sobs.

"I tried to make it as short for you as I could," he says, with almost
pathetic humbleness.

"You did, you did; but you went the wrong way to work, Tom, the wrong
way."

"So I fear, poor child; but I did it for the best."

"Will you tell Robert you have changed your mind, and do not wish him
to enter the army?"

"I could not do that," he says reluctantly. "I have given him my word,
his heart is set on it; besides, I conscientiously think it is the only
career in which he has any chance of succeeding. You will agree with me
when you have had time to think it over."

"You are robbing him of his manhood, his self-respect; you--you have
no right to do it. He does not feel--understand now; but he will one
day, when it will perhaps be too late. Oh, why do you do it--why? Is it
to punish me, to avenge the wrong I did you, to heal the wound I dealt
your pride, by humbling mine to the dust? I believe it is--I believe
it is; I do not clearly know--I can not fathom you yet. Sometimes I
place you on a pedestal high above others, of stuff too noble, too
generous, too strong to seek to sting a thing as small, as pitiful,
as helpless as myself. Then at other times, as now, you stand among
your fellow-men, of common clay like them, vain, small, revengeful,
unforgiving, cruel even!"

His eyes sink, a dusky glow creeps over his face, as he asks himself
if there is not a little truth in her judgment of him. Does he not
find an acknowledged sneaking satisfaction in thus watching her
writhing under his kindness, in loading her shrinking shoulders with
the weight of his benefits? After all, is there any necessity for him
to mount that swaggering brainless boy on the charger his father rode
so disreputably--Robert's wish is to join the --th Hussars, a regiment
in which both his father and two uncles served, which his grandfather
commanded during the Peninsular campaign with much gallantry and
distinction--any necessity to pander to the sister's daily increasing
vanity and greed of admiration, to feed them all on the fat of the
land, as he is doing?

"Ah, you cannot look me in the face!" she continues, with a sad
laugh. "My estimate was right; you do not stand on the pedestal,
after all. Well, well, husband, you are getting full value for your
outlay; your coals of fire reach me, scorch me, every one; my heart is
scarred--sore--"

"As Heaven is my witness," he says hurriedly, "I would not willfully
hurt a hair of your head! I would not--"

"Then tell Bob you refuse to help him with his commission," she puts in
quickly. "He is paralyzed if he can not reach your pockets. Tell him,
Tom--tell him that you have changed your mind, that you can't make him
an allowance."

"It is too late, I fear, Addie; his militia commission arrived to-day;
but--but--we can talk it over when I return, if you like."

"Train-time just up, sir; the trap is at the door!"

She walks away to the window to hide her face as her sisters come
dancing in, having only just heard of Armstrong's intended departure.

"You'll be sure to be back before the theatricals, Tom? You know I'm to
act in both pieces; and the Hawksbys will be disappointed if you don't
put in an appearance," says Pauline effusively. "The third of May,
remember!"

"You'll see me long before that."

"And, Tom dear," puts in Lottie, rubbing her cheek affectionately
against his coat-sleeve, "you're going to London, aren't you? If you
should any day happen to be passing before that big sweetshop in Regent
Street--"

"I'll not forget you, little woman."

"You dear! And, Tom, listen! Above all things, see they give you plenty
of 'Turkish delight.'"

"'Turkish delight'? I'll make a note of it."

"You'll know it easily. Don't let them put you off with cocoanut-paste;
it's not the same. The 'delight' is flat and pink and sticky, powdered
in sugar--you'll remember? Burnt almonds, chocolate-creams, and dragées
are also very good at that shop; but I leave it all to yourself."

"And, Tom, if you should chance, in the course of your travels, to
come across a pair of twelve-buttoned palest eau-de-Nil gloves,
six-and-a-quarter, and an aigrette, Tom, of the same color, with one
of those golden humming-birds posed in the center, you'll remember
your poor little sister-in-law wants both articles--they are not to
be had in Kelvick--to make her new ball-dress just the sweetest thing
out. You'll not forget--twelve-buttoned, six-and-a-quarter, foamy
green? Good by, Tom, good-by! We'll be as good as gold while you are
away--you'll see!"

He kisses them hurriedly, and then approaches his wife at the window.

"Good-by, dear," he says gently, almost entreatingly, bending over her.
"Won't you say a word to me, Addie?"

She turns away with a pettish gesture; then, after a lingering moment,
he leaves her.

However, just when he is stepping into the dog cart, she runs out, and
seizes him almost viciously by the arm.

"You're coming back? You're coming back?" she asks fiercely. "This
is not a trick, a ruse, to get away and make me stay on here--is
it--is it? Because--because--it won't do, I tell you; I won't stand
it--nothing on earth would make me!"

"My dear child," he answers, in a tone of such genuine amazement that
she is disarmed at once and a little ashamed of her impetuosity, "what
an idea to take into your head! Fancy a man of my age and standing
abandoning my wife, family, home--my beloved chimney-pots--at a
moment's notice like this!"

"I--I believe you, and--I'll say good-by to you now, if you like," she
says, laughing, and awkwardly raising her face to his.

As his mustache lightly brushes her cheek, she whispers eagerly--

"I'm sorry you're going, Tom--I'm awfully sorry. It--it would take
very little to make me cry. How horrid of you to laugh like that! I
shall miss you, I know, every day. Oh, can't you believe me--can't you
believe me a little sometimes?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Twelve buttons, eau-de-Nil, six-and-a-quarter!" "Turkish delight, pink
and sticky, chocolate-cream!" are the last words borne on the breeze as
Armstrong drives down the avenue.

Turning suddenly to nod in acquiescence, with a throb of joy he sees a
handkerchief applied to his wife's eyes.

"Could she have known--have guessed I should look round?" he thinks, in
happy doubt. "In any case she might have been ready for the emergency.
Bah! I believe her eyes are as dry and as bright as her precious
sister's this minute. I wish--I wish I had given in about that wretched
commission, though. Confound that boy! He's a desperate nuisance.
Suppose I turn back and do so now? But no; if I did, her life wouldn't
be worth living with him in the house. It will be time enough when I
come back. I won't be more than a week away, if I can help it."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the dog-cart has disappeared, Addie faces her brother.

"Well, Robert, I have to congratulate you on your improved prospects.
I heard of them only a few minutes ago. It's a big jump from a junior
clerk in a merchant's office to a lieutenancy in a cavalry regiment."

"Oh, ah, yes--Armstrong told you!" the young gentleman replies, with
affected nonchalance, to hide his inward perturbation. "Yes, we have
been working the thing for some time; but I did not like to tell you
anything about it until it was finally settled."

"I knew all along," says Pauline triumphantly. "Isn't it grand news,
Addie? Fancy, his commission arrived this morning, and you have now
the honor of addressing a full-blown lieutenant in the Royal Nutshire
Fusiliers. Wouldn't you almost guess it by the extra vitality of his
mustache?"

"Yes," simpers Robert, "I am now a member of that gallant corps; and
a rare lot of fellows some of them are. You know most of them, Polly,
don't you?"

"All those worth knowing, Bob. I had an invitation, you must know, to
command the regiment last Thursday."

"No! Had you, though? Fancy old Freeman turning spooney at his time of
life! Well, I never! You would have been his third wife, wouldn't you,
Poll?"

"I should have started with two sons and a daughter older than myself,"
says Pauline.

"Well, I hope he'll let me off easily during the training, for your
sake, my dear."

"When did you leave Mr. Armstrong's office?" asks Addie, in a chilly
voice.

"Oh, I cut the shop nearly three weeks ago! Couldn't stand it any
longer, you know. It is all very well for a man brought up to that sort
of thing, with mercantile parents, _et cætera_, but with me it was
different. Then the society I had to mix in, to rub against officially
all day--very good fellows in their way, respectable and all that,
but not--not the class I could stand. I saw that from the beginning,
and Armstrong himself came to acknowledge it in the end. Clear-sighted
fellow, your husband, Addie. He quite understood and sympathized with
my inclination for soldiering--in fact, as I learned rather to my
surprise, he had done a little in that line in his early days."

"A little!" exclaimed Addie. "He served in a two-year campaign, fought
in nine pitched battles, and was wounded several times, very severely
indeed at Vicksburg!"

"Ah, indeed!" says Robert patronizingly. "Strange he never mentioned
the fact to me until the other day, when I was quite astonished at
the--ah--technical knowledge he seemed to have of military affairs, and
then he casually mentioned his early experience."

"He served in the ranks, Robert--what you would do if you had any real
sense of manliness and honor," remarks Addie quickly.

"What do you mean, Adelaide? How dare you address such words to me?"

"I mean what I say. I mean that lots of gentlemen's sons nowadays, who
have no means of getting commissions, enlist in the ranks and work
their way bravely up the tree, as you ought to do."

"You mean me--me--Robert Lefroy--to enlist as a common soldier--me to
herd for years with the most degraded class of society in the kingdom!
I think you are losing your senses, Adelaide," he says contemptuously.

"No, I am not, Robert; and I maintain it would be infinitely less
degrading to do so than to go on sponging for years on the almost
unparalleled generosity of a man with whom you are connected by no ties
of kindred, and to whom we already owe a weight of obligation we can
never hope to repay. Why should it be derogatory to you, if your heart
is really set on soldiering, to begin in the ranks and work your way
manfully, bravely up to a commission, as my husband did?"

"You cannot compare me and my estate in life," he retorts angrily,
"with that of your husband, a man who never owned a grandfather,
who had no prestige to support, no family to consider. It is simply
senseless comparing me to him."

"It is, it is!" she answers, with kindling eyes. "My husband did not
own a grandfather; but he owns an upright, proud, self respecting
spirit, and he would rather, yes--I know it--a hundred times starve in
the streets from which he sprung than live on another man's alms as you
do, Robert Lefroy!"

"Stow that, Addie, stow that!" he cries, roughly advancing to her,
glaring with anger. "I have taken a good deal from you; but I'll not
stand any more. For the future, mind your own affairs and let me mind
mine, and never again presume to address me on this subject. If I
liked, I could retort on you, and tell you to do your duty as a wife
more effectively than you do, to make your husband's life happier,
instead of preaching to others; but--but, degraded and unmanly as I
am, I make it a rule never to strike a woman, no matter how much she
deserves it; and I'll leave you now with the warning, which I'll take
measures to make you respect, that I am doing duty in this house by
your husband's orders."

"I think--I think I almost hate you, Robert!" she mutters between her
teeth, as he strides away. "I wish I had let you go to Calcutta a year
ago with the salt--I wish I had!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Addie, Addie," cries Pauline, dancing in, "aren't you dressed for
dinner yet? Two of our fellows--I mean the Royal Nutshire--are dining
with us, you know. The dressing bell has rung."

"Two men dining here to-night! Who asked them?"

"Robert, of course. Haven't you heard the convivial orders that Tom
gave before he left--that, above all things, we weren't to wear the
willow for him, that we were to ask our neighbors in to spend the
evening just as if he were at home, and have everything the same?
Bob is in a great state about the _menu_, as it seems we have the
reputation at the club of having the best-flavored _entrées_ and
the subtlest Burgundy in the county, and he naturally feels the
responsibility of his position."

"Do you mean to tell me," Addie says slowly, "that my husband gave
Robert the permission to ask in any guests he likes, and as often as he
likes, during his absence?"

"I believe so--at least, all those whom he himself saw fit to
entertain, with the exception of one or two naughty boys, the Dean's
sailor-son, young Vavasour, among the number--which is rather a pity,
for I like young Vavasour's roving black eyes. I must confess however
that he's left us a good wide margin; so I--"

"Pauline, do you know how often we have dined absolutely _en famille_
during the last two months? I have kept an account. Exactly fourteen
times--fourteen times in sixty days! And we have given five large
dinner-parties and three small dances."

"Well, what of that? I think we have done very nicely. Besides, you
must remember we dined out on an average once a week, and two of your
dinner-parties were for Tom's Kelvick friends, whom you insisted on
entertaining. Ye gods, what entertainments they were! Never shall Bob
or I get over the last bunch--Alderman Gudgeon and his lady, and the
Methodist vessel, with his two ruby-nosed daughters, and the brewer's
son, who sung 'In the Gloaming' and 'Nancy Lee'--never shall I forget!"

"And never shall I forget Bob's rudeness and yours that evening,
Pauline, and the way you and he sat in a corner and sniggered; it was
the most unladylike thing I ever saw in my life. I can tell you my
husband thought so too."

"Oh, well, don't bother about that now, but go and dress for dinner! I
daresay it was unladylike; but I know I couldn't help it. I have a much
keener sense of the ridiculous than you, Addie, you know. Oh, by the
bye, I forgot to tell you that Flo Wynyard and a cousin, a very jolly
girl who is staying on a visit with her, are coming over to-morrow to
remain until Tom returns; they'll keep us alive at any rate, and it
will be very convenient for the rehearsals, our being together."

"More convenient still if we put the whole company up until he returns;
they are only seventeen, I believe, including the supers. Better
consult Robert!"

But this bit of sarcasm is quite lost on Miss Pauline, who only laughs
and admits that it would be very jolly; she fears, however, that the
whole company would not agree under one roof, particularly as four or
five of the leading men are awfully spooney on her and unpleasantly
jealous of one another.

Here the gracious voice of Robert receiving "our fellows" in the hall
recalls Addie to her duty. She goes upstairs, puts on her dinner-dress,
and re-appears, as sulky and uninviting a little hostess as one would
care to see; but Pauline's smile and Robert's cordiality, flavored with
the renowned Burgundy, fully make up for her lack of courtesy; and her
guests pay no more attention to her, give no more heed to her somber
looks than if she were a marble effigy of "Gloom."



CHAPTER XX.


"No, no, Mrs. Armstrong--impossible. We can't let you in. Manager's
orders can't be questioned. No admittance except on business. And you
have none, Addie; so be off!"

It is the last dress rehearsal before the final performance; and the
company have unanimously elected that it shall take place at Nutsgrove,
being a more central position, they argue, and there being more fun
to be had there than under the superintendence of old General and
Mrs. Hawksby, who have got up the theatricals for the amusement of
their eldest son and daughter. So the school-room is converted into
a green-room and the drawing-room turned topsy-turvy to represent as
nearly as possible the stage-arrangement at New Hall, the Hawksby's
place.

"You might very well let me in," grumbles Addie. "What harm will it do
for me to see you dressed? It's nonsense!"

"No admittance except on business; critics and reporters rigidly
excluded."

The door is shut in her face, she moves away listlessly, then pauses
for a moment, looking out at the dappled glory of the spring sky.

"What am I to do with myself all the afternoon?" she mutters languidly.
"I feel too lazy for a walk. I'll get Lottie to come for a drive with
me! She'll be glad to get off her lessons for once."

But Addie finds that Miss Lottie has taken it upon herself to dispense
with her governess for the afternoon, and is busy preparing for a
rat-hunt in the grove with Hal and two of his school-friends who are
spending the day with him.

"Very sorry, Addie, I can't go for a drive with you; but I wouldn't
miss the hunt for anything. Hal said at first that I wasn't to
come--wasn't it nasty of him? But Burton Major stood up for me,
and they had to give in. I like Burton Major awfully--don't you,
Addie?--much better than Wilkins Minor; he's such a nice boy. I hope
he'll come over every Saturday."

"He has been over three Saturdays running, Lottie; you can't complain,"
says Addie.

"No. He says he likes this place awfully, Addie; he'd much rather spend
his holidays here than at home. Now I must be off. I wish you were
coming with us, too, Addie--'twould be much jollier than driving about
by yourself; but I don't think the boys would like it, you know."

"I suppose not, Lottchen. I must only put up with my own society, which
is not very exhilarating at the best of times."

How is she to kill the afternoon? Echo answers, "How?" She goes
up to her bedroom yawning wearily, and looking around vaguely for
inspiration, but none comes.

"Miss Addie, Miss Addie, what are you doing sitting moping there? Why
don't you go out for a good brisk walk this lovely afternoon, and
get up a bit of an appetite for your dinner, which you want badly
enough, I've been noticing for the last week?" says Mrs. Turner,
unceremoniously, entering the room about half an hour later, and
laying her hand with a motherly gesture on the girl's shoulder, as she
reclines in an arm-chair by the open window.

"A walk, Sally? I don't feel equal to it somehow; and I have no one to
walk with me; besides, they're all otherwise engaged."

The old woman grunts, and then says abruptly--

"When is your husband coming home, Miss Addie? He's a long time away."

"Yes," she answers, a little sadly, "more than six weeks; and he meant
at first, to remain only ten days; then he got that telegram, you know,
which obliged him to go to New York. But in his last letter he says he
hopes to be home soon now--next week probably."

"I hope he will. To my mind, Miss Addie, there's been a sight too much
junketing and racketing going on in this house, and it's time some of
it should be put a stop to. It's not agreeing with you, my dear, let me
tell you--far from it."

"Sally," says Addie, after a short pause, "I am very like my mother, am
I not?"

The question startles the old woman; she looks quickly at her young
mistress, and then answers lightly--

"You are and you aren't, my dear. Of course there's a certain
likeness--for you're not a bit of a Lefroy; but she was a far prettier
woman than you, Miss Addie, far prettier."

"I know that; but the other day I was looking at that picture of
her painted ten months before she died, and I thought her very like
me--only prettier, of course, as you say."

"I don't agree with you a bit--not a bit," says Mrs. Turner, rising
abruptly. "I don't see the least likeness. She was pale and faded and
worn like before she died, as why shouldn't she be, after all the
troubles she'd gone through, and bearing six children, and all that,
poor darling? And you, Miss Addie, are fresh and rosy and young, and
all your troubles to come--"

    "'Fresh and rosy and young,
    And all my troubles to come!'"

laughs Addie, "Why, Sally, that's pretty! Are you aware of it?"

"The first bit of poetry I ever made in my life, Miss Addie, I give you
my word. And now get up, like a dear young lady, and take a turn in the
garden, and forget--forget--"

"Forget my mother died of decline before she was thirty! Yes, I will,
Sally," she says, with a careless laugh. "I don't think of it often, I
assure you."

"What makes you think of it at all?" asks the other sharply.

Addie, for answer, holds up her handkerchief, on which there is a
bright red stain.

"That," cries Mrs. Turner, with a loud shrill laugh--"that? Musha, it's
little need it takes to put it into your head! That? Why, before I was
your age, Miss Addie, when I was a slip of a girl of eighteen, I was
mortal bad in that way, and was never a bit the worse of it afterward;
and my brother's child--I often told you about Kate McCarthy that
married the miller's son--why, she was that bad with blood-spitting
that all the doctors said she couldn't live a year; and now she's as
strong and as healthy a woman as ye'd find in the County Westmeath, and
the mother of twelve children, every one of them as strong as herself!
That indeed!"

    "'Fresh and rosy and young,
    And all my troubles to come,'

"--a cheerful little verse, Sally. I must set it to music and sing it
to myself whenever I feel in exuberant spirits like now. 'Fresh and
rosy and young'"--looking at herself critically in the glass. "Yes, I'm
afraid I don't look like dropping into a picturesque decline yet a bit;
but then, Sally, if all my troubles are to come, wouldn't it be as well
for me to give them the slip--"

"Tut, tut, Miss Addie! Much ye know about it! When you've got your
troubles, you won't be anxious to give them the slip; you'll stick to
them fast enough, I'll be bound!"

"Stick to my troubles, Sally? You're not talking poetry now, but blank
verse, a thing I never could understand."

"Never mind; are ye going out? You understand that, I hope?"

"Oh, yes, you old bother!"

She walks languidly round the old garden, picks herself a bunch of pale
May blossoms, and then re-enters the house, and tries the handle of the
drawing-room door, hearing sounds of inviting merriment within, but the
key is still obdurately turned.

After some minutes of irresolution, she goes into her husband's study
opposite, and sinks into a chair at his desk, on which her head droops
wearily.

"I do miss you, Tom--I do, I do! I wish you'd come home--I wish you'd
come home! I wonder what you would say if I showed you that little red
stain on my handkerchief? Would you be startled as Sally was? Would you
be sorry or glad, frightened or relieved? It may mean nothing--I dare
say it does mean nothing; but still, if it did mean liberty to you,
would you take it gladly or painfully? Would you miss me at all as I
miss you now? Would you sometimes come here of an evening, when your
busy day was done, and think a little of the foolish hot-headed girl
you once loved and tried to make happy, but couldn't? Would you think
of her kindly, pitifully, tenderly even, and forgive her at last?"

    "'Fresh and rosy and young,
    And all my troubles to come.'

"Bother that idiotic little distich--I can't get it out of my head!
'All my troubles to come'--'all my troubles to come.' A pretty
prospect! As if I have not had enough of them already. Much Sally
knows! 'All my troubles to come,' and I only twenty-one--twenty-one
to-day; and nobody wished me a happy birthday--nobody. It is the
first time in twenty-one years that I have been forgotten, wholly,
completely forgotten! Sally might have remembered; she helped to bring
me into the world. Aunt Jo might have remembered; she was my godmother.
Pauline, Bob, Hal--ah, well, they were full of other things! Perhaps it
won't be so hard to forget me if I--I go altogether. The first time in
twenty-one years! It's an evil augury; it means--means perhaps"--with
a shuddering sigh--"I may never see another birthday. Oh, if some one
would break the spell! I don't want to die--I don't want to die! I'm
too young yet, I'm too young. No matter what my troubles may be, I
don't want to die. Mother had a longer time; she was twenty-nine, and I
am only twenty-one--twenty-one--"

A loud burst of laughter from the drawing-room comes through the
half-open door, and then a few bars of rollicking life stirring music
that changes into a rhythmic mournful waltz.

Addie's eyes close, and presently her spirit wanders back to a certain
day of sunny girlhood, when they all drank her health in bumpers of
raspberry vinegar, and Teddy--bright Teddy Lefroy--knotted a silk
handkerchief round her young throat, and, with his lips to her blushing
ear, murmured fondly--

"Many happy returns, sweet Cousin Addie!"

She feels the clasp of his warm fingers on her neck, feels his lips
brushing her cheek, and slowly opens her eyes to see her husband's
swarthy face bending over hers. She does not start or speak a word, but
just remains for a moment as she is, looking straight into his grave
inquiring eyes, smiling faintly, rosy with sleep.

"Am I welcome?" he asks softly.

"I have missed you," she says--"missed you every day. You are welcome."

She rises heavily, rubs the sleep from her eyes, and puts her hands in
his.

"What brings you here alone? Where are the others? Why are you not with
them?" he asks, frowningly scrutinizing her face.

"The others are all rehearsing for the theatricals to-morrow night--a
dress rehearsal--and they would not let me into the drawing-room. I--I
felt sad in my own room, and there was such a smell of roast mutton in
the dining room that I came here to rest after my walk. I did not know
you would arrive, or I would not have intruded. I will go if I am in
the way."

He looks at her again, sharply, earnestly, and notices a glazy
brightness about her eyes and a quiver almost of pain about her mouth
that tells him his absence has not brought the rest and peace he hoped
it would.

"In the way?" he repeats lightly. "Well, well, perhaps you are. Still,
if you'd make me a nice hot cup of tea at once, I think I could bear
with your company, and condone the intrusion even, for I'm very hungry
and thirsty, my dear."

"You would like it really, Tom?" she cries, her eyes sparkling,
her cheeks dimpling. "You would not rather have a brandy-and-soda,
a sherry-and-seltzer--eh? The Royal Nutshire go in for no other
refreshment 'tween meals."

"No, only a cup of tea made by your own hands, Addie. I have tasted no
tea like yours in my wanderings."

"You want to put me into a good humor. Well, I have been in a precious
temper all the afternoon; I feel better now. Let me look at you. Yes,
you have a hungry look somehow, as if you hadn't eaten anything since
you left America. You come straight from there, don't you?"

"Yes, I landed at Liverpool five hours ago. So I look hungry? Is it a
becoming expression?"

But she is already in quest of the tea-pot.

"I look hungry, hungry," he repeats, with a laugh of pitiful
self-contempt; "and well I may, for I have hungered for you, love,
love, night and day since I left you--hungered for a glimpse of your
fair sweet face, for the sound of your voice--hungered for that
careless note of welcome, that frosty smile you gave me just now. You
have missed me, you say--ay, missed me as a callous child might miss
a--"

"Tom, will you clear that end of the table, please? My arms are so
tired."

"And no wonder, my dear girl! Why did you carry that heavy tray? Where
are the servants?"

"I did not want any of them to know you had arrived--they would only be
fussing and bothering--so I stole everything from the pantry--kettle,
spirit-lamp, and all. You have a match--that's right!"

While she busies herself cutting the bread and making the tea, he opens
a portmanteau, takes out a letter, and begins writing hurriedly.

"Only a line," he explains apologetically, "in answer to a business
letter I found at my office. There--it is dispatched; I'll drop it into
the post-bag outside the door. And now to our stealthy tea, my dear."

"Just turn the key in the door, Tom, will you? For, if Pauline, who has
the nostrils of a hound, gets the fragrant aroma, she and the whole
company will be in on us before you know where you are."

"Which the heavens forbid! There is the sound of as many voices--"

"The sound of seventeen voices--the whole company. They came early this
morning, and are remaining to dance to-night. They were here the night
before last too; they are here always."

"You have not had opportunity to miss me much then. Robert kept you
alive, as I thought he would."

"Oh, yes, he did his best, and the Royal Nutshire helped him! He has
four bosom-friends of his own age who are rather heavy in hand, and who
belong to the leech tribe. When once they get into the house, you can't
get them out. I'm rather sick of 'our fellows,' Tom, 'our training,'
'our mess,' 'our uniform,' _et cætera_. I wonder, if I went in and told
them you had just returned from America very bad with yellow-fever,
would it rout them before dinner, do you think?"

"I'm afraid not. The quarantine laws would not fit with my appearance
here. That's Lottie's voice in the hall now."

"Yes; she has been out rat-hunting with Burton Major and Wilkins
Minor--two school friends who are spending the day with Hal."

"By-the-bye, I was nearly forgetting her commission. In fact, at the
eleventh hour, even at the Liverpool station, I purchased the 'Turkish
delight,' _et cætera_. Here it is. I had to put it in with my letters.
Pauline's gloves I nearly made a mess of too. Couldn't remember whether
it was six-and-a-quarter or six-and-three-quarters. However, I chose
the six and a quarter. Right, eh? That's fortunate. You gave me no
message, Addie," he says hesitatingly, taking a case from the breast of
his overcoat; "and so--so I was thrown on my own resources to choose
you a _souvenir_ of my travels. I hope you will like it; it's Yankee
manufacture."

She opens the case, and is unable to repress a cry of keen admiration
when her eyes rest on a band of massive gold incrusted with diamonds,
her initials sparkling in the center--a bracelet which, to her dazzled
eyes, might grace the wrist of a Rothschild.

She looks at it for a moment in silence, and then pushes it back to him
sullenly.

"No; I do not like it. Why do you bring me these things? You know I
hate jewelry of all kinds; I have told you so often enough."

He takes the ornament from her, closes the case, and pushes it aside,
saying quietly:

"I am unfortunate in my selection, after all. I do not ask you to
accept the bracelet if you do not like it; only I think you--"

"You are angry with me?"

"No, not exactly angry, but I am a little hurt, I think. I wonder if
you received any other birthday-gift quite as ungraciously as you did
mine to-day, Adelaide?"

"Any other birthday-gift?" she repeats quickly, jumping to her
feet, her face flushing suddenly. "Did you mean that bracelet as a
birthday-gift? Tell me--tell me--quick!"

"It matters little what I meant it for now."

"You did then, you did?" she cries impetuously, stammering a little
with emotion. "Who--who told you this was my birthday? How did you find
out? When did you remember? You--you did not even know my name this
time last year. How--how did you know this was my birthday?"

He stares at her in unspeakable surprise for a moment, and then says:

"My dear girl, what is the matter--what has excited you so? Is not this
your twenty-first birthday? Yes? What mystery surrounds it? Why do you
think it strange I should be aware of the fact?"

"I will tell you," she says hotly, "I will tell you. It startles--it
surprises me, because you--you are the only person in the world who
has remembered the fact--you, who, as I say, did not know my name was
'Addie' this time last year. I--I was crying here twenty minutes ago
because every one had forgotten me for the first time in twenty years;
my brothers, my sisters, my old nurse, who always met me on my birthday
morning with warm kisses, glad wishes, even little worthless presents
manufactured in stealth, did not give me one kind word this year--not
one."

"My dear child, why should you mind that? It was only through
inadvertence; they were so occupied with these theatricals and other
things--"

"I know--I know the omission was not willful; why should it be? But
it pained me all the same; it made me feel so sad and blank, that
and--and other things, that I--I took it into my head I should never
see another birthday unless some one broke the spell. I never thought
of you. Give me back my present--quick! It is the loveliest, the
sweetest thing I ever saw. I'd rather have a bracelet than anything you
could give me. How did you guess my taste--how? How did you know I was
dying for a bracelet just like this? Fasten it on my arm, Tom"--baring
her pretty wrist eagerly--"so. How it sparkles! Now wish me a happy
birthday, please."

He does so, smiling a little sadly.

"Not one, not one, Tom, but ten, twenty, thirty birthdays. Wish them
to me with all your heart, your whole heart, Tom, for I feel I do not
want to die for ever so long. I do not look like a person likely to die
young, do I--do I?"--peering into his face with wistful pathos, her
eyes swimming in unshed tears.

"Addie, what has put death into your thoughts to-day, you silly little
girl? To-day of all days, when you are supposed to cast aside the fears
and frivolities of girlhood and cut your wisdom-teeth."

"Then you do not think I look like a girl who would die young?" she
persists, clinging to him.

"I do not know," he answers, banteringly, smoothing away the hair
from her hot face. "If a blushing Hebe, for instance, be considered
a candidate for the tomb, I may have a prospect of widowhood; but
otherwise, Addie, otherwise, no--I cannot say you look or feel like a
person who would die young"--touching the white shapely arm that rests
on his knee.

She laughs complacently.

"It has not a ghostly feel, has it? Tom, do you think I have a pretty
arm? One day I was picking a rose well above my head, and somebody told
me I had."

"Who told you?"--sharply.

"Oh, a--well, how can I remember? Some one or other--it was long
ago"--rather hurriedly. "What is your opinion? Have I a pretty arm?"

"I have not studied arms. It is a prettier arm than mine."

"You wretch! You will give diamonds and gold, but not one miserable
little compliment. By the bye, I have not even thanked you for your
diamonds or your good wishes."

"I do not want thanks. Spare me them."

"No, I must make some amends for my ungraciousness. I will not use
many words--great gratitude, like great love, is sometimes dumb, I
feel. May I thank you as graciously as I can, Tom--may I?"--raising her
white arms to his neck, her parted lips to within a few inches of his
half-averted face.

He tries to resist, to break the spell; he mutters to himself the words
he heard her utter as an incantation, but they sound meaningless,
impotent; he puts up his hand mechanically to remove her clasp, but
only grasps hers to retain it more firmly there.

"May I?" she says again, her breath fanning his flushed face.

She sees his eyes deepening, smoldering, taking reluctant fire under
her glance; she feels his chest heave with a restless struggling sigh,
sees his proud head droop an inch nearer hers; in another second she
knows victory will be hers; she will have Samson, shorn, at her feet
again.

"Addie, Addie, open the door, open the door! What's the matter? The
rehearsal's over, and we're going to dance! Open the door--quick!"

With a cry, half of wrath, half of relief, he frees himself and
confronts the astonished company--unthanked.



CHAPTER XXI.


"Wonderful--charming! A polished actress!" "Would make her fortune on
the London boards, by Jove!" "Talk of Mrs. Langtry--she's a stick to
Miss Lefroy!" "As to looks, who would compare them?" "Who indeed?"

"Your sister was charming--perfect, Mrs. Armstrong. I congratulate you
most sincerely on her success. She is the feature of the evening, the
center of all attraction. By Jove, I never thought I could sit out an
hour and a half of amateuring until now--she chained me to my seat! A
perfect Pauline!"

Addie listens to it all with a triumphant smile, and her eyes follow
her beautiful sister, sailing through the ball-room in her gay
theatrical feathers, with glowing eyes, her hair piled high over her
forehead, powdered to perfection, blazing in diamonds.

"She is lovely, isn't she, Tom? You liked her acting, didn't you?"

"Her looks and her graces would carry almost any acting through," he
answers temperately; "and we Nutshire notabilities are not subtle
dramatic critics. It is a case of _Venus Victrix_ with Pauline
to-night. Yes, Addie, yes; I do think her lovely."

"Lovely?" echoes a harsh voice in Addie's ear which makes her start
uncomfortably. "Yes, Armstrong, a good few share your opinion."

"Mr. Everard, I never saw you coming up. Allow me to congratulate
you. Your Melnotte was so affecting; there were two old ladies near
me almost in hysterics during the cottage scene. The comedy too was
capital! What is the matter with you? Do you intend to play the
tragedian all night, or have you come to ask me to dance at last?" she
says gayly, her heart sinking at the sight of the lad's woe-begone face
and the cold fire of his blue eyes.

"No, Mrs. Armstrong, I haven't come to ask you to dance, but to say
good-by to you; I am going home."

"Going home, and the ball only beginning? Oh, nonsense, Jack!" she
says, unconsciously using the familiar name, and laying her hand on his
arm with a sisterly gesture.

"Yes," he says, a quiver in his voice, "I am going to follow your
advice at last, Mrs. Armstrong. I am throwing up the game; she gave me
the last straw five minutes ago."

"What did she do?"

"She would promise me only one dance; and, when I went up for it
a minute ago, that fellow she is dancing with now--that hulking
Guardsman--"

"Sir Arthur Saunderson?"

"Yes--claimed it too. She decided in his favor. She met him only a week
ago, and I--I have followed her like a dog for the last five months,
have anticipated her slightest wish, have obeyed her every wanton whim,
have put my neck under her foot, let her trample me as she would!"

"Oh, why, why did you not do as I told you, Jack? I warned you in time.
I told you Pauline was too young, too careless, too high-spirited to be
touched by love as yet; she told you so herself."

"Oh, yes!" he laughs bitterly. "She told me, she gave me a few yards
to gambol in; but, when she saw me two or three times at the end of my
tether, jibbing to get away, to be free, she gave me a little chuck
that brought me back to her side in double-quick time. Oh, she did not
use me well--your sister! I know I was warned; I don't mean to reproach
any one or anything but my own besotted infatuation. I didn't expect
her to fall in love with me. Oh, no, no! And I don't want any quarter
now; I wouldn't take it, in fact. What chance should I have competing
against Saunderson's sodden face, his fine leaden eye, his baronetcy,
his twelve thousand a year? What chance indeed! I'm not going to
try--not I! I'm off the day after to-morrow. Any commission for Norway,
Mrs. Armstrong?"

"Norway? Are you going there?"

"Yes, in my cousin Archie Cleveland's yacht. We sail from Cowes next
week--a jolly bachelor party."

"I wish you _bon voyage_, and a speedy cure," she says earnestly,
pressing his hot hand.

"Thanks; awfully--Oh, yes. I'm sure I shall get over it fast enough!
I feel I shall, in fact; I've a strong constitution. Good-by, Mrs.
Armstrong, good-by, Armstrong! Thanks, old fellow, for all your good
wishes, your kindness to me, _et cætera_. I'll not forget them, though
I will her--ay, fast enough, Heaven helping me!"

He takes a long hungry look at the girl whom he loves flying past him
in his rival's arms, his heavy tow-colored mustache almost brushing her
lovely glowing face, upturned to his.

The poor boy turns aside to hide the unmanly moisture clouding his
bright eyes, and finds Addie's pitying little palm still imprisoned in
his grasp.

"Oh, Ad--Mrs. Armstrong," he cries with a sob in his voice, "if--if
Heaven had only given her your tender heart, your sweet nature--"

"And her own face and figure," puts in Addie quickly, with a soft
laugh. "But, Jack, what would my poor husband have left then? Not a
very promising patchwork--eh?"

"Your husband? Oh, he is a lucky fellow!"

"Is he?" says Addie, wheeling round and looking up into her husband's
face with a bright, eager, questioning look. "Is he, Tom?"

Years after Everard remembered the look, the attitude of husband, of
wife, as they stood thus gazing at each other under the big magnolia
shrub--remembered the tune of the waltz that pursued him as he walked
down the avenue, his brain on fire, his heart bursting with wrath,
love, and despair.

       *       *       *       *       *

"There, Tom--look! What a disgraceful state your table is in! All the
letters that arrived while you were in New York higgledy-piggledy all
over the place! When are you going to settle them?"

"When I have time; they are not of much importance--only bills,
prospectuses, begging-letters, receipts--"

"May I settle them for you? Do let me; I'll do it so nicely. All the
receipts in one drawer, bills in another, prospectuses in another, and
begging-letters in the waste-paper basket--"

"Bravo, Addie, bravo! I see you know how to set to work."

"Then I may do it? You do not mind my opening them? You have no
secrets?"--running her hand lightly through the pile. "What is this
large square envelope, crested and monogrammed, addressed in a lady's
writing, kissing the face of the income-tax? You look guilty, Tom! Am I
touching pitch?"

"You are touching an invite to a dinner-party--a gentleman's
dinner-party at the Challice's on Friday week," he says, laughing.

"Would you like it answered? I'll answer it for you. You can not go,
Tom, for I've written to Aunt Jo to come next week; and the chances are
ten to one she'll arrive on that very day, and it would look very bad
if you were absent, wouldn't it? You were always such a favorite of
hers, you know."

"I won't be absent then. I'm not sorry for the excuse; those aldermanic
feasts are becoming rather too much for my digestion of late. I'm
afraid I'm getting old, Addie, and feeble--"

"Old and feeble!" she retorts. "I never saw a stronger-looking man than
you; you have a grasp of iron. Taunt me with being like Hebe indeed!
You are a mixture of Vulcan and Samson."

"Samson's days were short on earth; you may be a widow before you are
thirty, Addie."

She looks at him with startled eyes; but his face is careless and
unconscious. She moves away hurriedly.

"I may be a widow before I am thirty! The very words they used a year
ago; and I--I--actually laughed--yes, I remember, I laughed. What a
wretch I was! And now--now I can not bear to hear them, even in jest,
not even in jest, my dear, my dear!"

It is a week after the theatricals. An unusual spell of quiet and
peace has followed the excitement and racket of the preceding month,
for Robert and the "Royal Nutshire" have left the soil for their
annual month's picnicking in the Long Valley, and Miss Wynyard, not
able to bear the reaction of dullness, has taken flight likewise, and
is enjoying herself in town, while Pauline, in deserted Nutsgrove,
pores greedily over the accounts of her gay doings, and valiantly
determines that her sister shall have a comfortable _pied-à-terre_ in
the neighborhood of Eaton Square or Park Lane next season.

Meanwhile Addie is working briskly at clearing the study-table. The
waste-paper bag is filling rapidly with the fluent literature of
professional beggary, when suddenly a long sheet of paper bearing
Madame Armine's address on the top, closely covered with scratchy
French writing, drops in dismay from her hands. It is Miss Lefroy's
account for goods supplied from the sixteenth of January to the first
of May, and three figures represent the total. Poor Addie stares at
them stupidly, rubs her eyes, even goes to the window for a moment to
take breath and clear the cobwebs from her brain; but when she comes
back they confront her still. One hundred and eighty-four pounds!
Pounds--not pence, not shillings even, but pounds, sterling pounds!

"What do they mean?" she asks aloud. "It must--it must be a stupendous
mistake. How could any girl wear or order one hundred and eighty-four
pounds' worth of clothes in less than six months? Impossible! She
has been remarkably well-dressed of late, I have noticed, and--and
I remember Lady Crawford telling me that she is considered one of
the best got-up girls in Nutshire. Her last ball-dress was very
handsome; but--but, all the same, this bill is simply incredible. It's
a mistake--of course it's a mistake! It's an account of some large
family--the Douglases or the Hawksbys probably--and they have got hers;
that's it, of course. I'll just run my eyes down the items to make
sure. How hard they are to make out! Let me see--let me see. Costume
of white satin _merveilleuse_, and gauze and flounces of Cluny lace,
sixteenth of January--forty-five pounds. That sounds like the dress
she got for the Arkwrights'--satin gauze and Cluny lace; but--but
forty-five pounds! I thought it would be ten at the outside. To be
sure, I never ordered a dress for myself, so--so I don't know; but
forty-five pounds! It's awful, awful!"

With head down-bent she goes slowly and laboriously through each
item; when she reaches the total, her face is crimson with shame and
bewilderment. She pushes the document from her, walks feverishly up and
down the room, then takes up the account again.

"_Sortie du bal_ of silver plush trimmed in blue fox-fur--twenty-eight
pounds ten shillings. That can't--can't mean that simple little dolman
she wore going to the theatricals the other night? Impossible! I'll go
and ask her about this at once."

She rushes off, scared and excited, calling her sister's name loudly.
No answer comes to her in the house. She passes out, the ominous
document trembling in her hands.

"Here I am, under the ash in the tennis-ground! What's the matter? What
has happened? Any one hurt?"

"No," pants Addie, "no; it's a bill of yours, an awful bill, from
Armine--since last January. I can't make it out; it must be wrong. I
got such a shock when I saw the total."

She parts the drooping boughs of the ash, and finds herself confronted
by her sister, crimson with confusion and anger, and Sir Arthur
Saunderson, caressing his tawny mustache, an amused smile stealing over
his insolent dissipated face.

"Oh, is that you, Sir Arthur?" she exclaims, with scant courtesy,
knowing that her husband has a strong personal objection to that
gentleman. "I did not know you were here."

"Came half-hour 'go. Pleasure a-finding Miss Lefroy in the grounds; did
not go the house," he answers languidly. "Lovely aft'noon, ain't it?"

"Lovely," she answers shortly, sitting down beside Pauline, with an
irritated gesture that says as plainly as words could say, "You're in
the way, sir; your departure would be acceptable."

But he takes not the slightest notice; and presently, after a few half
whispered sentences, he and Pauline rise together for the ostensible
purpose of examining some early rose-blooms in the pleasure-ground,
leaving her alone.

"Horrid man!" she mutters indignantly. "How can Pauline stand him? She
knows perfectly well too that Tom objects to his coming here. If his
morals are as bad as his manners, I don't wonder he does, I'm sure!
And, oh dear me, I remember the days when I used to imagine a Guardsman
an angel of fascination and manly grace, something every girl must fall
down before and worship at the first glance, not an insolent goat-faced
clown like--Well, I am getting bitter! I hope he'll go soon, in time
for me to go over that bill with Pauline before Tom returns. I wonder
has he seen it yet? If he has, I shall not be able to look him in the
face. One hundred and eighty-four pounds! More than the whole six of us
had to live on for two years! One hundred and eighty-four pounds! It
grows bigger every time I think of it. One--"

"Addie, Addie, my love!"

She starts, and then leans forward in an attitude of breathless,
puzzled expectancy, her hands clasped. Was she dreaming? Did her senses
deceive her? Surely a voice whispered her name, a voice that takes her
back with a thrill of reluctant pain to a summer night four years ago.

She turns and finds herself clasped in a man's arms, feels a shower of
kisses falling on her scared and shrinking face.



CHAPTER XXII.


Armstrong is detained at his office until late this evening. Feeling
inclined for exercise after his long sedentary day, he gets out of
the trap near the place where he found Addie lying under the tree,
and, walking across the grove, enters the shrubbery path bordering the
tennis-ground, where the sound of voices at the further end attracts
his attention. Dusk has already fallen, but he can clearly distinguish
the figures of a man and woman walking arm-in-arm in front of him. His
face darkens.

"Miss Pauline and one of her admirers," he mutters contemptuously.
"She is carrying matters a little too far. I will let her know that
these twilight rambles are not to my taste, and that as long as she
remains an inmate of my house she must restrict her flirtations to more
decorous hours--at least, out of doors."

He walks quickly after the pair along the mossy sward, then suddenly,
when within thirty yards of them, he stops short and shrinks
instinctively behind the sheltering ash-boughs, for he sees that the
girl is not Pauline, but his own wife, and that her hands are clasped
with an appearance of affectionate _abandon_ on the arms of a man who,
as well as he can make out in the gloom, is a perfect stranger.

Too astonished either to advance or recede, he stands motionless,
thinking painfully and confusedly, then comes to the conclusion that he
has made a mistake, that his fancy has tricked him. He is on the point
of starting forward, when Addie's voice, low, troubled, eager, yet with
a ring of unrestraint, of familiarity even, that makes his pulse throb
with jealous pain, reaches him distinctly on the breathless night-air.

"Oh, no, no--not that--not that! You do not know what you ask--what it
would cost me. He is good, generous, kind, unselfish even--not that,
not that!"

There is a slight pause before the answer comes, in a voice so pure,
sweet, and infinitely sad as to strike musically on the listener's
tortured ear--a voice that Armstrong has never heard before, and yet
that thrills through him with a strange vague sense of familiarity.

"Be it so--be it so. I will not ask what would cost you so much. Why
should I, why should I, my dear, my dear? What hold have I on your
life? Ah, none--none! You belong to another now, to another who you say
is good, generous, kind, unselfish even, which I am not. Go back to
your husband, your home, my girl, and forget that I darkened your path
again--go back; I want nothing from you."

"And you," she asks wistfully--"you? What will you do? Where will you
go?"

"I?" he questions drearily, passing his hand over her downcast head.
"Do not ask, _ma mie_, do not ask."

"Yes, yes, you must tell me; I must know."

He stoops and puts his lips close to her ear. With a shrill cry she
pushes him from her.

"You are trying to frighten me--to win me over. How cruel you are! You
do not mean that?"

"No, no," he answers soothingly, "of course I don't. I can't imagine
what made me blurt out such nonsense. Give me a kiss, a little one, a
last kiss, and let me go."

"And let you go!" she echoes wildly. "How can I do that with such a
threat ringing in my ears? Do you think I have no heart, no feeling
left, because I am married--no memory?"

"You have a husband, good, kind, and--what is it?--generous and
unselfish. Keep your heart, your feelings for him; cast out the memory
of me from your life, for I will never cross your path again; forget me
from this hour--let my fate not trouble you henceforth; do you hear?
This is my last, my only request. Forget me; go back to your husband,
Adelaide, and sleep out your life in peace and--and happiness by his
side."

"Sleep out my life in peace and happiness," she echoes bitterly. "Vain
request! You have murdered sleep for me to-night--destroyed happiness.
Why did you come? Could you not have let me be? Oh, I have suffered
since I saw you last--suffered, suffered! And now--now, when a glimpse
of rest, of happiness even, was coming to me with the summer, you step
in and take it from me. Heaven pity me, Heaven pity me!"

"Hush, hush!" he cries, his voice tremulous with pathos. "I will not
have you say that. I want nothing from you--nothing, I tell you, but
forgetfulness--nothing; blot out the memory of this hour, the memory of
that cowardly unmeaning whisper--forget it--forget, my Adelaide!"

"I can not, I can not, for something tells me that it was not without
meaning. And I loved you once--oh, yes, I loved you once! I was only
a child, I know; but I loved you. Can I now live and feel myself your
murderess? I can not."

Crying bitterly, she buries her face on his breast. He leans over her,
murmuring tender, soothing words; while Armstrong, whose presence they
are too absorbed, too agitated to notice, stands beside them, his hot
breath almost fanning their averted faces, beads of perspiration
standing out on his forehead at the mighty effort he is making to
restrain the instinct that urges him to hurl them asunder, trample
to death the shapely sweet-voiced lover, and overwhelm her with the
discovery of her treachery and deceit. But he restrains himself. After
all, what is she to him, or he to her, his wife in name only? Her past
he entered not into--their future will be spent apart. What have they
in common? Nothing but the memory of two short weeks of union, which
to him and her alike were clouded with bitterness, repulsion, and
torturing recollection. Why then should he make himself ridiculous,
pose as an outraged husband? He does not value her compassionate
appreciation of his worth, does not want her tears, her kisses, her
love. Why, then, in Heaven's name, should he interfere with her lover's
enjoyment of them, the lover whom she jilted for his gold?

"Let her and him go to the dogs!" he mutters, striding away
contemptuously. "Let the chapter of my married bliss close as it may, I
care not a jot!"

He goes without one backward glance, and thus seals the fate of his
life and hers.

The echo of his footsteps startles them; they move apart, look
apprehensively around, but no further movement is to be heard.

Addie's face is white and still; she stands erect before her companion,
and says slowly--

"You have conquered; I will do what you want. Let me go now."

He opens his arms rapturously, with an exclamation of delight, while
she flies away, wringing her hands, and muttering piteously--"Heaven
help me, Heaven help me!"

"And so," thinks Armstrong, as he walks blindly round and round the
silent park, "it has ended like every commonplace three-volume novel,
after all! My fate is in no wise different from that of the ponderous
middle-aged husband of domestic drama. The lover has turned up at last;
Jamie has come back from sea, as I might have guessed he would sooner
or later, and his sweetheart tells him, almost in the words of the old
song, that 'Auld Robin Gray's been a good man to me.' Generous, kind,
unselfish I have been, she tells him. Well, so I have, I think; but
the _rôle_ of Auld Gray begins to pall. I'll throw it up soon. I'll
just give her a week clear from to-day to make what reparation she can,
to confess all; and, if she does not, I will tell her what I know,
what she hid from me so artlessly, then shut up Nutsgrove, take up my
quartets in Kelvick--which I ought never to have left--and pack off my
incumbrances--my precious wife and family--to old Jo at Leamington.
Old Jo! I wonder was she in the plot, too? But of course she was; she
did the 'pressin' sair' with a firm motherly hand! By Heaven, how
cleverly they hid it all between them! How well Jamie was kept in the
background--not the faintest suggestion of his existence! Even now I
have not the least idea who he is; but I'll soon find out. As well as
I could see in the gloaming, my rival is an uncommonly good-looking
shapely fellow, and his voice--ah, well, his voice could win its way to
any woman's heart! I wonder are they sighing out their sweet farewells
still! It was a touching interview; but my poor little wife was not
quite as temperate in her caresses as the young lady in the ballad.
Jamie got more than one kiss to-night. Not that it matters to me
whether it was one or a hundred--not a jot!"

    "'If she be not fair to me,
    What care I how fair she be?'

"Not a jot--not a jot now!"



CHAPTER XXIII.


When Armstrong enters the drawing-room, half an hour later, there is
small evidence of any volcanic element in the cheerful family group
that meets his glance.

Pauline is lying in an easy-chair reading a novel, Addie and Lottie are
engaged with _bésique_, the Widow Malone purring on the latter's lap.

"How late you are!" is Pauline's languid greeting. "We waited dinner
fifteen minutes."

"I was detained at the office," he answers, throwing himself into
a chair which commands a good view of the players, full face,
three-quarters, and profile.

"Yes," he thinks after a few minutes' scrutiny, after intercepting a
frightened, questioning, furtive glance--"yes, I think I am to be told
of Jamie and his unexpected return from sea; she is evidently mustering
courage to unburden her conscience. I wonder how long will she be
getting up sufficient steam? I must give her a helping hand."

"What is it? You want to speak to me?" he says, as gently as he can,
meeting a second imploring look, as they both stand at the foot of the
stairs, when the party in the drawing-room has broken up for the night.

But she shrinks back in evident dismay.

"No, no! What--what made you think that? I--I don't want to say
anything in particular, only, 'Good-night.'"

"I beg your pardon. Good-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days go by, and no confession comes; the third brings Robert on a
hurried visit from Aldershot to consult his brother-in-law, about some
hitch in his qualification for the cavalry.

At dinner Armstrong learns what he wants to know--the identity of his
wife's lover.

"I say, girls," blurts out Robert, suddenly, "you'd never guess whom I
met at Kelvick station this morning, not if I gave you twenty chances."

"We'll not try," retorts Pauline. "The weather is too hot for
conundrums. Who was it, Robert?"

"Teddy Lefroy."

"No! You don't mean it! How was he looking? Did you know him at once?
When is he coming to see us?" exclaim the two younger girls together.

Addie says not a word.

"Looking? Well, not A 1, I must say. I'm greatly afraid poor Ted is
going down the tree, at a smart pace too. I scarcely knew him at first,
he had so run to seed both in looks and clothing. You remember what a
dapper fellow he was four years ago."

"Poor Ted--I am sorry! He was too nice to last, I always thought," said
Pauline, lightly. "Where is he now--with his regiment?"

"No; he has left his regiment, I regret to say, and is now thrown on
society without resource or occupation. Punchestown finished him up,
and the Beechers won't have anything more to say to him. He talks of
going to the Colonies."

"Well, I hope he'll come to see us before he leaves this neighborhood.
Did you ask him to, Bob?"

"I did, of course; but somehow he seemed strangely disinclined to
come--gave a lot of patched-up excuses; however, he said he'd do his
best. You'll find him greatly altered."

"Addie," says Lottie, joining in the conversation for the first time,
"I'm sure it's on account of you he won't come--because you're married,
you know."

There is a brief silence, broken by Addie asking confusedly, her cheeks
flushing--

"What do you mean, Lottie? Why should my marriage prevent Teddy from
coming here?"

"Oh, well, you know what I mean!" replies Lottie, giggling foolishly.
"You may open your eyes as wide as you like, Addie; but you know
perfectly well what I mean--you know that Teddy and you were awful
spoons long ago. Don't you remember the night Hal and I hid up in the
cherry-tree and saw you and him walking up and down the orchard with
his arm round your waist, and how angry and red you got when Hal gave a
big crow and called out, 'I see you--yah!' Don't you remember? And the
photo we found in your desk wrapped up in--"

Here, with a suppressed cry, Lottie stops, the toe of Robert's boot
having just met a tender part of her shin.

Armstrong rises to open the door for his wife, who passes out with
flaming cheeks and downcast head, then resumes his seat by his
brother-in-law's side, and they sit together smoking and talking
business far into the night.

Four days more go by, and the week of grace is nearly spent, when one
evening a knock comes at Armstrong's study-door, and his wife enters,
pale and wild-looking, her hair blown about, and the skirt of her dress
wet, as if she has just been trailing it through damp grass.

"She has had another interview with Jamie, and now for the upshot!" he
thinks grimly. "I must try to tune my nerves for hysterics, I suppose.
My wife's emotions are always dished up hot."

"You wish to speak to me?" he asks gravely. "Won't you sit down?"

"I want to know if you can give me five hundred pounds," she says, in a
clear mechanical voice, as if she were repeating a lesson.

"Five hundred pounds?" he echoes blankly.

"Yes, five hundred pounds, can you give it to me to-night? That is all
I want to say to you."

"I can give you a check for that amount, which you can cash, in any of
the banks in Kelvick to-morrow. Will that do?"

"Yes, that will do."

He fills in the check, signs it, and hands it to her without a word.

"Thank you," she says, huskily. "It is a big sum. I--I may be able to
repay it; but I don't know when."

"Pray don't mention it. I consider the money well laid out," he says
shortly.

"I understand you--oh, I understand you! The money has bought you your
freedom--that is what you mean," she says, fixing her wild eyes on his
face. "Any lingering spark of--of affection, of esteem, of pity you
still had for me is gone now. Yes? I thought so--I thought so; but I
could not help it; the pressure brought to bear on me was too strong. I
could not help it! Oh, if you knew--if I could only tell you--"

"Pray don't offer any explanation. I assure you I seek none. I am
quite satisfied that you wanted the money badly, or you would not have
applied to me."

He busies himself stamping some letters for the post; while she stands
by staring at him helplessly, the check lying under her nerveless hand.

He looks up at her after a moment, a grim elation flooding his
soul--looks at her standing mute in her utter abasement before him,
cowering, shrinking, a thing too mean for pity, too despicable for
wrath.

"And to think that I wasted the best wealth of my life on such a woman
as she," he mutters, turning away in burning self-contempt--"to think
that I lay awake at night thirsting for her love, treasuring her every
wanton smile, gloating over every kind word she gave me--to think that
in this very room scarce ten days ago, she almost tricked me into
believing in her again, a woman who could stoop to sponge on me, her
much-enduring husband, to sponge for the lover who comes cringing round
my gates, his craven hand outstretched to rob me of my substance as
well as my honor! They are a noble race, these Lefroys! It was a lift
in the world for me, Tom Armstrong, the foundling, to take one of them
to my bosom! Faugh!"

"What do you want? Can I do anything more for you?" he says, sternly,
turning round, to find her standing by his side.

"No, nothing--nothing," she pants, dry-eyed. "I only want you to say
something to me--it does not matter what--to abuse me and mine, to give
voice to your contempt, to tell me what you feel."

"What good would it do you or me?" he asks roughly. "You can guess
pretty well what I feel; my emotions are not very complex at this
moment, I can tell you."

She wrings her hands, and tries to speak; but only a gurgling sound
comes. He looks on, smiling lightly.

"Oh, if it could only turn out a dream--all a dream!" she whispers
hoarsely. "If this year could be blotted out, and you could find
yourself coming home one May evening, and see me lying in the wood, you
would drive on and leave me there, would you not, Tom?"

"No," he says, after a short pause. "On consideration, I think I should
stop and send you home to your aunt in my trap."

"You would not bring me here?"

"Certainly not--that is, presuming the panorama of this happy year had
been foreshadowed to me in sleep. And you--you surely would not have me
do so, eh? Your present feelings tally with mine, do they not?"

"My present feelings! Will you let me tell you what they are? If--if
I had this year to spend over again, if we had, as we so futilely
presume, lived through it in a painful sleep, its every pang, its every
troubled experience--"

"Yes, I follow you."

"And you were to bring me here and ask me to be your wife again, my
answer would be 'Yes.' I would marry you, Tom, if you had not a penny
in the world to tempt me with--marry you if I knew you to be a vagrant,
a homeless vagrant, as they say you once were, wandering through the
streets of Kelvick, and that I had to share a garret with you until the
day I died! You don't believe me--ah, you don't believe me?"

She approaches, and lays a shaking hand on his arm. He turns with
a fierce oath, his face blazing with scorn, repulsion, contempt
unutterable, and, hurling her from him, strides from the room.

"Believe you? Believe you? By Heaven, I don't!" are his hot parting
words.

Her head strikes rather sharply against the woodwork of the window; she
remains for a few moments with eyes closed, struggling against nausea,
then lifts her handkerchief to her mouth, from which a thin red stream
is issuing slowly.



CHAPTER XXIV.


"Get up, Miss Pauline, get up quick!"

"What is the matter, Sally?" cries Pauline, rubbing her eyes. "How
funny you look! Has anything happened?"

"Hush! Yes; your sister--Miss Addie--is--is missing! She is not in her
room, and her bed has not been slept in all night."

"Addie--Addie missing? I--I don't understand! What do you mean, Sally?
Missing--where?"

"Heaven knows--Heaven knows!" cries the old woman, wringing her hands.
"I believe she had words with her husband after dinner last night. She
went to her room, saying she had a headache, and--and no one has seen
or heard anything of her since."

Pauline, now thoroughly awake and startled, springs out of bed.

"But her husband, Sally! He--he knows where she is? What does he say?"

"I told him, and he said nothing--absolutely nothing; he didn't seem
surprised or startled, but just went into his study, locked the door
after him, and has been there ever since."

"I--I don't think there is anything to be alarmed about," says Pauline,
her teeth chattering nevertheless; "it is a sudden quarrel, I suppose.
She--she is very hot tempered, you know, and has gone off in a huff
for a couple of days to Aunt Jo. Give me a bit of paper, Sally. I'll
scribble a telegram to Leamington, and we'll have an answer in half an
hour, and--wait--wait--I'll send another to Bob--he'll be wanted on the
spot to patch up matters. Now, Sally, I'll depend on you to keep it as
dark as possible. Don't let Lottie know on any account, or the other
servants, if possible. We'll have it all right before the evening,
never fear!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Three hours later Robert Lefroy, warm, dusty, and excited from
suspense--for the telegram has told him nothing but that he is wanted
immediately--arrives at Nutsgrove, and is received by Pauline with
scared white face in the dining-room.

"What is it? What has happened? Any one ill--hurt?" he asks
breathlessly.

"No, no! Speak lower, and keep--keep composed as I am. It's
Addie--she's missing! Since last night nobody knows what--what has
become of her. Listen, listen--don't speak yet! She had a row with her
husband after dinner, and must have gone away soon after, and--"

"Yes--Aunt Jo? Have you tele--"

"I have, and she's not there, and has not been there. I've made
cautious inquiries at the farm; but no one saw her there either;
and--and I don't know what to do, I'm so frightened!"

"Her husband--Tom--what does he say? What is he doing?"

"He has been locked up in his study all the morning, and I--I was
afraid to go in to him. I thought that I would wait until you came,
that you would--would manage better than I should."

"I will go to him at once. Give me a glass of wine, sister."

"But, Bob darling, listen--listen to what they say! Oh, it's
dreadful--dreadful to have such--such vile suspicions afloat!"

"What suspicions? What d'ye mean?"

"Sally heard in the kitchen, half an hour ago, that one of the maids,
seeing off a friend by the 10.30 up-train last night, is sure--sure she
saw Addie at the station, going off in the train with--with a stranger,
who--who took her ticket for her!"

"A stranger! What stranger? What the deuce do you mean, Pauline?" cries
the boy fiercely, shaking off her clinging arms.

"Oh, I don't mean anything! It's only what they say, the wretches!
And that is not all; they say she--she was heard two or three times
out in the grounds last week talking to some man and crying bitterly.
The cook's little sister and brother heard her one night, and saw her
distinctly."

"Pauline! How could you degrade yourself by listening to such low, vile
slanders? It is infamous!"

"It was Sally who told me--told me in order that her husband might know
at once and take some measures to stop these scandalous lies. He has
not stirred from his study to-day."

"I will go to him at once. I'll stir him pretty quick, I can tell you!
My poor little sister! I'll see you avenged," says Robert fiercely.
He knocks at the door boldly. After a few seconds he is admitted; and
stands facing his brother-in-law, who greets him gravely.

"Tom, Tom," he bursts out at once, "what--what is the meaning of all
this? What is there between you and Addie? Where has she gone to? What
does it mean?"

"Your sister has left me, Robert. I know nothing more about her
movements than this note will tell you. I found it this morning on my
table, her wedding-ring inclosed."

Robert takes up the note and reads slowly the following--

 "This is to tell you I am going. I see it is all over at last. I could
 not live with you again after your words to me this evening. You have
 done your best, but you have failed. Heaven reward you and keep you
 all the same! Do not ever think of me again; I am going to him who has
 brought this ruin on me; it is his duty to bear with me now for the
 few short years I may yet have to drag on my wretched life.

  "ADELAIDE."

Robert raises a bloodless face and stares stupidly at his
brother-in-law.

"I--I don't understand. What can she mean? For Heaven's sake,
Armstrong, can't you speak? 'I am going to him who has brought
this--this ruin on me.' She--she must be mad--stark staring mad!
Whom--whom does she mean? Tom, Tom, for Heaven's sake, tell me!"

"She means that she has gone to the man," says Armstrong, with
contemptuous sternness, "whom you forced her to jilt in order to marry
me."

The boy's expression of bewilderment is so genuine as to impress him
for a moment.

"The man we forced her to jilt to marry you! The mystery thickens. She
jilted no man to marry you, Armstrong; I'll swear it on the Bible, if
you like. You were the only man who ever asked her in marriage; there
was no one else--we knew no one, she went nowhere. You must be mad
yourself to say such a thing!"

"There was not this cousin--Edward Lefroy--the casual mention of whose
name disturbed her so much a few evenings ago that she had to leave the
room in your very presence?"

"Edward Lefroy--Teddy Lefroy!" he retorts impatiently. "Why, he was
only a boy, a schoolboy, whom we looked on as a brother, whom--whom
Addie has not met since she was a child! Teddy Lefroy? Your suspicion
is absurd, below contempt, Armstrong! I--I am ashamed of you!"

Armstrong only smiles very bitterly.

"You will not think my suspicions below contempt when I tell you,
my boy, that I myself saw your sister a few evenings ago crying in
this man's arms, bemoaning her fate, struggling weakly against the
temptation into which she has now fallen, urging--"

"You saw her--you saw her, you heard her! Armstrong, I don't believe
you!" he bursts out impulsively. "I don't believe you! You were
dreaming, drunk--"

"No, Robert, no," he answers drearily. "I was quite sober, and I was
standing within a few yards of them both. There was no mistake--I heard
and saw them distinctly."

"And--and you did not interfere?"

"No. Why should I? Your sister and I had lived for many months in
a mere semblance of union, her actions were quite free. Besides, I
thought that worldly consideration, her affection for you, would
prevent her from taking the extreme step she did."

"I don't believe it, I don't believe it!" cries Robert, his voice
struggling with rising sobs. "I don't care what you saw or what you
heard, Thomas Armstrong! I have known my sister for twenty years, and
you for one, and I'll stake her honor, her virtue, her truth against
your word any day, and maintain it before the world too! How dare you
say such things of her, you--you cowardly low-bred upstart! Oh, Tom,
Tom," pleads the poor lad, hot tears raining down his cheeks unchecked,
"look me in the face and tell me you don't believe it! You don't, you
can't, you dare not believe it! Think of her as you saw her daily
amongst us here--so light-hearted, careless, impulsive, so quick to
resent injustice, so tender with suffering, so anxious to please you,
to entice you into her innocent girlish pleasures, so dainty in her
speech, in her actions--dainty even to prudishness! You--you have seen
her in society among men; but you have never detected a light word, a
flirting glance. No, no! She was voted slow, heavy in hand, full of
airs among our fellows. Men never dared try to flirt with her as they
do with other young married women, I tell you. Tom, Tom, think of all
this, and say--say you don't believe it--say you will put your shoulder
to the wheel and help me to clear up the mystery, find her, and bring
her home to us again! Addie, Addie, the best of us all, the sweetest,
the most unselfish, the truest-hearted! She would go through fire and
water for any one she loved. You don't know her as I do. Listen, Tom,
listen! A few years ago, when I had scarlet fever, and they said I
could not recover, she ran away from the farm to which they had all
been sent, climbed into my room through the window, hid under the bed
when the doctor came, and remained to nurse me until I was well. And
you think--you think that she--"

He stops and looks imploringly into Armstrong's sad stern face; but he
answers only by laying a pitying hand on the boy's shoulder.

"I tell you, I tell you," he continues passionately, shaking off
his hand, "that she was nearer heaven than any of us, all her life
through--the best of us all, whom every one loved, whom every one
turned to for help, for pity, for affection--the best of us all--the
best of us all! You know that yourself--you, her husband. I have seen
it in your face--ay, twenty times. And you believe that Heaven would
let such as she become a--"

The harsh word dies on his lips, his head falls forward on his
outstretched arms.

"Robert," answers Armstrong, after a short pause, "you plead well.
There is much truth in what you urge; but I, alas, can convince you in
your own words! Your sister was hot, impulsive, warm-hearted, and--and
would go through fire and water for any one she loved. She is doing so
now, Heaven help her!"

"I don't believe it, I don't believe it! Give me proofs!"

"Proofs!" he repeats impatiently. "Great Heaven, boy, what surer
proof could I give you than her own words? Read her confession again.
You--you don't suppose it's a fraud? What motive could I have in
forging the record of my dishonor?"

"I can't understand it, I can't understand it!"

"I can, and you will also, when I tell you that the villain, in my
hearing, threatened to take his own life if she refused to listen to
him. Judge the effect of such a threat on any one of her impulsive
nature."

"I--I wish I had killed him that day I met him! Oh if I had only
known, only guessed! Even now, Armstrong, I tell you I can not realize
it--I can not! He was utterly penniless too; he asked me to lend him a
five-pound note, and told me, if he could manage his passage-money, he
would sail in the 'Chimborazo' for Melbourne on the seventeenth."

"He has managed his passage-money. Your sister got five hundred pounds
from me last evening."

The words seemed to have slipped out unconsciously, for the deep flush
of shame that spreads over Robert's face is reflected as warmly in the
speaker's the same moment.

There is a pause, broken only by Robert's hot panting breath; then
Armstrong speaks again.

"The 'Chimborazo,' you say? She sailed from Gravesend on the
seventeenth, and takes in passengers at Plymouth two days later. To-day
is--let me see--the nineteenth. Yes, they would be just in time,
leaving here last night, to sail in her."

"Tom," says Robert, rising to his feet, "will you grant me a last
request? Come with me now at once, and see if--if your suspicion is
correct, if we can find any trace of them on board--I--I mean at the
shipping-agents, among the list of cabin-passengers. Will you, will
you?"

"Yes, my boy, if you like," he answers wearily. "But, if my suspicion
is verified to-day, you must never allude to this subject again before
me. I do not object to let you and yours continue to look on me as
a friend, but you must forget henceforth that you ever called me
brother-in-law."

"Yes," Robert answers, his handsome head downcast, his burning eyes
painfully averted--"yes, I--I can easily do that, because--because,
I shall forget I ever had a sister. Armstrong, Armstrong, you--you
understand what I feel, if--if this should prove true. I--I may not be
able to speak to you again; but you understand, don't you, that the
pain, the disgrace, the wrong that we--that she has brought on your
life can never, if I live to be an old man, be entirely wiped from
mine? You understand," he continues, with flashing eyes, the veins in
his neck swelling with suppressed emotion, "that, if--if either of them
crossed my path at this moment, I should have as little compunction in
striking them dead at my feet as I should have in crushing out the life
of the meanest, most harmless insect that crawls on earth? You--you
believe me, don't you?"

"Yes, Robert, I do," he answers, grasping Robert's outstretched hand,
feeling for the first time in his life a sense of respect, of esteem
almost, for the unfortunate boy.



CHAPTER XXV.


The next morning, when, ill with crying, Pauline opens her swollen
eyes, she finds a letter from Robert lying on the table by her bedside.
Its contents bring on a fresh outburst of grief that lasts far into the
day.

"You are to forget," he writes, "that you ever had an elder sister;
you are to blot her out from your life as if she had never been, to
remove all traces of her existence from your sight, never to sully your
lips by uttering her name, if you wish still to call me brother."

Then he tells her that among the list of passengers that have sailed
that morning for Melbourne in the "Chimborazo" they have seen the names
of "Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lefroy."

       *       *       *       *       *

When, late in the afternoon, Pauline creeps down-stairs, she finds the
stillness of the grave shrouding the house.

Armstrong has not returned; he does not cross the threshold of
Nutsgrove. Lottie has been sent up to Sallymount Farm to spend the
day, and most of the servants, with Mrs. Turner's approval, have
leave granted during the absence of the master and mistress, who, she
elaborately explains, have gone to the seaside for a few weeks' change
of air. A futile explanation. They all know, as well as if the news
were published in that morning's "Times," that the establishment is
broken up for good, and that they will never gather again in cheerful
circle round the roomy hearth of the servants' hall, discussing the
goings on of the folk upstairs, laying jocular bets as to which of Miss
Pauline's lovers will win the day, and as to how long the master will
stand Mr. Lefroy's imperious ways, _et cætera_, and other topics of a
like personal but highly interesting nature.

When the long spring day is coming at last to a close, Pauline dries
her eyes, rings for a cup of tea, and then, drawing her desk to the
couch on which she is lying, after some troubled deliberation writes a
note, which early next morning is put into the hands of Mr. Everard,
then smoking a cigar on the deck of the "Sea-Gull," lying at anchor
between Southsea and Ryde.

  "NUTSGROVE, Thursday.

 "I am alone, and in deep distress. All day long I have sighed for the
 sound of a true friend's voice, for the clasp of a comforting hand on
 mine. I thought of you--I don't know why. Can you come to

  PAULINE?"

"No, Pauline, I can't come! Sorry to disoblige a young lady; but I
can't come to you. Certainly not!" he mutters stoutly, pacing the
deck with hurried step, the letter fluttering in his hand. "Certainly
not, Miss Pauline! You've signaled too late--too late, young lady;
you must get some other hand than mine to clasp you in your distress.
Saunderson's paw ought to do the business; it's big enough, at any
rate. 'Alone and in deep distress.' By Jove, I wonder what it means?
She must have quarreled with her sister, or with Armstrong. Well, well,
it's no business of mine; I won't bother any more about it. Ah, here's
the morning paper! I wonder if Carleton has won his race? Hang it, I've
thrown away my cigar! Let me see--Cambridgeshire meeting. Ah, here it
is!"

But, alas, Everard can extract no information from the sporting-column
this morning, for all up and down the page the words are dancing in
letters of fire--

"Can you come--can you come--can you come to Pauline?"

He throws down the newspaper in disgust, and exclaims irritably--

"I can't, I can't, I tell you--I can't!"

Half an hour later two sailors are pulling him as hard as they can to
Portsmouth Harbor, whence an express bears him northward to Pauline in
her distress.

Long before he arrives, the first half hour after he enters Nutshire,
he knows the reason of her hurried appeal, and the news of the
scandal--with which the whole of Kelvick is ringing--stupefies the
young man almost as much as it did poor Robert. He sits staring blindly
at the flying landscape, trying to realize the startling truth; but he
can only picture Addie as he last saw her but one week before, standing
under the big magnolia, her hand clasped in his smiling up into her
husband's placid face.

"They're a bad lot--a bad lot!" he mutters weakly. "What's bred in
the bone comes out in the flesh! A bad lot, those Lefroys! Thank
Providence, I've had nothing to say to them. Poor Armstrong, what an--"

"Jack--Mr. Everard--won't you say good morning to me? My hand has been
outstretched for the last two minutes."

He turns quickly, to find a young lady seated opposite to him, a young
lady with whom he has been on terms of almost brotherly intimacy since
he was a long-legged youth in knickerbockers and she a chubby-faced
child in stiff-tucked shirts--Miss Cicely Deane, his rector's model
daughter.

She is a small, prim little person, with pretty brown eyes and a soft
drawling voice that makes very sweet music in her father's church, and
draws many wandering spirits from things of earth, from contemplation
of their neighbors' bonnets, to thoughts of Him whom they have met to
praise in concert.

"Saint Cecilia, you here?" he exclaims in surprise. "You must have got
in at Kelvick. I was looking out of the window, and never heard you."

"Yes, Jack, you were wrapped up in a 'referee,' as Mr. Weller would
call it--I hope it was a pleasant one. I went over to Kelvick early
this morning to consult Miss Challice about the children's school-feast
on Thursday; it is to be a great affair this year."

"Ah, indeed! And how are you all doing since I saw you last, Cicely?
Father, mother well? Sisters and brothers ditto? That's right, I
needn't ask about the rest--the sick, the old, the maimed, the
grumbler, the impostor; they--"

"We always have them among us. Yes, Jack, I thank you on their
behalf for kind inquiries, and also for the check you sent me before
leaving; it is that which has enabled me to invite four hundred little
Kelvickites to enjoy the green fields and woods of Broom Hill on
Thursday with our own flock. But tell me--what has brought you to this
part of the country again? I thought you intended spending the summer
yachting with your--"

"And so I do. I only ran up to-day on a matter of--of urgent business.
I'm returning to the 'Gull' in the morning, and we sail for Norway at
the end of the week."

"You will dine with us this evening, won't you, Jack? I dare say
you won't find things very comfortable at Broom Hill, returning so
unexpectedly."

"Thank you, Cicely; I'll dine with you with much pleasure. Seven
o'clock, isn't it?"

"Yes--here is our station. Hand me those parcels--tenderly, please.
What--are you not getting out too?"

"Ah, yes--no--yes! By Jove, I'm too late! Returning by next train!" he
shouts.

The carriage door is banged, there is a shrill whistle, and the train
is moving smoothly to the next station, Nutsford.

"I--I meant to have got out," he mutters blankly--"of course I did.
Hanged if I know what came over me. However, I suppose I had better go
on now, after having come so far. Who's afraid? I'll pretty soon let
her understand the light I view her distress in, let her know she can't
make a cat's-paw of me to get back to respectability, comfort, and
position! Who's afraid? Not I!"

Thus plumed with self-confidence, his doughty arm braced to meet Miss
Lefroy's hand in the cool platonic grasp of friendship and vague
sympathy, Mr. Everard reaches Nutsgrove. There is not a sound of life
about the place; the blinds are all down, and old Sally Turner, the
erst dignified housekeeper, opens the hall door for him and bids him
enter.

"You wish to see Miss Lefroy, sir? Yes, she is at home. To the left, in
school-room, sir, she will receive you."

He finds himself standing in a darkened room, and for a few moments,
after the glare of unshadowed day, can distinguish nothing; then he
sees a tall willowy figure dressed in black advancing toward him.
Pauline, pale as a ghost, her starry eyes full of unshed tears, her
mouth quivering and uplifted, looking more beautiful in her abashed woe
than she looked crowned with diamonds, flushed with triumph, as he saw
her last, lays her hand timidly on his shrinking shoulder.

"You have come, my friend, my friend!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Some six hours later Everard is seated in the Rectory garden, helping
Miss Deane to pin small bits of numbered paper on a miscellaneous
collection of articles that are to delight four hundred smoky little
souls on Thursday; but his thick lazy fingers do but little work
compared with those of his companion, who watches his movements with
some anxiety.

"Jack," she exclaims at last, in temperate expostulation,
"please--please don't put a pin through her nose! That doll is a
special prize, and the number will be found quite as easily on any part
of her skirt. Perhaps you had better let me finish--"

"Cicely," he says hurriedly, his face flushing, "I want to tell you
something. I--I thought I should like to tell you first. You remember
when we were children I always came to you--"

"Yes, I remember. What is your news, Jack? Something nice--and
important I can see by your face."

"I am going to be married, Cicely, to the dearest, sweetest, loveliest
girl in England!"

"To Miss Lefroy?"

"Yes, yes--to whom else?"

"I--I congratulate you, Jack, most sincerely," says Cicely, in her
little prim measured accents, putting her hand in his, first waiting
to adjust the position of the pin in the doll's polonaise. "I saw you
admired her very much all last winter; she is very beautiful. You have
not been long engaged?"

"Only since this afternoon, and--and I don't want to make any secret
of my great happiness and--luck," he says warmly, almost pugnaciously,
looking her in the face.

"Of course not," she answers; but, under his steady questioning gaze a
faint pink stains her cheek, and he knows that the story of the fallen
sister has reached even this sheltered little vestal.

"Well, Cicely, I think I'll take myself off and tell your parents of my
happiness. I'm not of much use to you, I fear."

"Not much in your present state of mind certainly," she says, with a
bright cold smile.

"And, besides, there are two sons of Leviticus prowling outside, gazing
at me, their eyes glowing with most unholy fire. I hope their fists
will prove steadier than mine, though I doubt it. Oh, Saint Cecilia,
Saint Cecilia, I wonder how many slaughtered curates lie on your soul!
Who would be your father's henchman in the cloth?"

He goes, humming a rollicking love-song of old Tom Moore's, and the
curates come in and bravely stick, stitch, plaster, and sort the
charitable chattels, and make discreet but eager love to their rector's
daughter--a young lady who, besides her many moral and personal
attractions, inherits a snug little fortune of fifteen thousand pounds
from a maternal aunt, and is the granddaughter of a mighty earl with
two fat livings in his gift. But their vows and smiles are all in vain,
for Cicely bestowed that otherwise well-ordered piece of mechanism, her
heart, one January noon, some three years before, on a fresh-faced Eton
lad who, at the imminent risk of his life, unaided, rescued her and
a school-friend of her own age from a cruel death on the day the ice
broke so unexpectedly on the lake in Saunderson Park--and this young
gentleman was, alas, the lucky lover of Miss Lefroy!



CHAPTER XXVI.


The summer goes by drowsily. Before the brambles are tinted a purplish
red, before the leaves of the spotted sycamore and tawny beech strew
the crisp carpet of the grove, the name, almost the memory, of Adelaide
Lefroy has passed from Nutshire. Fresher scandals have cropped up.
A certain great lady, mature in years, has seen fit to elope one
morning with her brother's stud-groom, a good-looking lad of twenty,
and so the more commonplace misdemeanor of the younger woman has to
make way for this startling event. Then the races come on, followed
by a big fancy-ball and a lawn-tennis tournament--the first held in
the county. Altogether the people have enough to busy their minds and
their tongues about besides those unfortunate and disreputable Lefroys,
who, moreover, have had the grace to retire from the scene at once and
supply no further food for popular comment for the time being.

Pauline and her sister go to Aunt Jo, under whose protection the former
intends to remain until the new year, when she is to return to her
native soil as Mrs. Everard of Broom Hill.

Robert has established himself in London, and is reading steadily for
his "exam." He refused at first to continue preparing for the army,
and offered to take his young brother with him and emigrate to some
fever-haunted colony on the coast of Brazil; but Armstrong vehemently
interposed, and pointed out to him that his only chance of success
lay in sticking to the profession that he had chosen. And so Master
Robert, after some demur, gave in, and Hal remained a pupil at Dr.
Jellett's, where, in the course of the summer, having worked himself
into the first cricket eleven, he speedily forgets the fate, bitterer
than death, that divides him forever from her who was more of mother
than sister to him during his boyhood. He forgets her more easily and
naturally than his elder brother, who, in the early vehemence of his
indignation, thrust the slippers her fingers worked for him into the
fire, mutilated half a dozen handkerchiefs marked with her hair, his
last birthday-gift from her just before he joined the militia, tore to
shreds the picture of a grinning chubby baby seated on Aunt Jo's _moire
antique_ knee which he found in an album on that lady's table, besides
other acts of theatrical repudiation, which called forth a murmur of
remonstrance from Pauline--Pauline, too scared and cowed at first to
realize as she does later the full measure, the heartless selfishness
of her sister's conduct.

The first month after the catastrophe is a very trying one to poor
Miss Darcy, whose grief is almost dumb, paralyzed by the shock that
has come to her without a word or sign of preparation, but which
is none the less bitter for all that. Pauline makes no effort to
lighten her burden, but sits all day long, when she is not writing to
her betrothed, in gloomy apathy, brooding over her wrongs, over the
comforts, the luxury she has lost, the position as wife of a wealthy
baronet she almost grasped, now out of her reach forever, _et cætera_.
And Lottie--poor, foolish Lottie--the child's tearful questions and
piteous pertinent inquiries for her dearest Addie, so painful to parry,
make the hours of day so unbearable that Miss Darcy at last packs her
off to a day-school in the neighborhood, where soon the variety of her
new life and the excitement of making friends have the desired effect.
Addie's name comes day by day less often to her lips, and at last is
heard no more.

Nutsgrove is closed; every window is heavily barred, carpets and
curtains are rolled up in cumbrous bundles, the pieces of furniture
in their holland blouses looking like ungainly ghosts in the deadened
light to poor Sally Turner, as she wanders weekly through the house,
incensing her master's property with red pepper to keep away the moths,
laying the dust with her fruitless tears.

Armstrong is re-established in his old quarters at Kelvick, both in
appearance and manner so little affected by his domestic calamity that
even his nearest friends forbear to sympathize with him, and come in
time to believe that Mrs. Armstrong's elopement has, after the first
sting, been accepted by the husband as an unqualified blessing rather
than a painful bereavement. But he steadfastly refuses the suggestion
of Robert Lefroy and of others to seek redress and freedom through the
arm of the law, grimly stating that divorce to him would be a useless
instrument, as he has had quite enough of matrimony to last him his
life.

In July the election comes on; and, after a most exciting and energetic
contest with a skillful and popular opponent, whose father is one of
the Government leaders, Armstrong is returned as Liberal member for his
native town, which for many years he represents, to the unqualified
satisfaction of his constituents.

The county sees little of him; he courteously but persistently refuses
all invitations to return to the society to which his marriage
introduced him, but, _en revanche_, seeks distraction in unlimited
aldermanic feasts, sober supper and card parties, and all kinds of
corporate festivities, and entertains also very successfully in his own
house--only gentlemen, of course. Young ladies no longer look on him
with eyes of interest or speculation, and Miss Challice never beckons
him to her tea-table now; but, when, toward the end of the year, that
young lady marries one of the curates who has vainly sighed at Miss
Deane's feet, his wedding-gift to her is viewed both by her mother and
her female friends as a fitting act of compensation for the unmeaning
and deceptive attention he paid her in the old days, before his own
most disastrous connection with that wretched young woman who inveigled
him so disastrously.

One evening in late December he sits in his office frowning
discontentedly at the contents of a letter lying on his desk in Aunt
Jo's old-fashioned spider-web handwriting. The note is affectionate and
mournful in tone, and contains a request--it is almost an appeal--that
he will be present at Pauline's marriage on the 14th proximo.

"I suppose I shall have to go; but it will be an awful nuisance," he
thinks fretfully. "From the way she puts it, I don't see how I can well
refuse; and, poor old soul, she has had so much to contend against, so
much trouble in her old age, that it would be churlish of--By Jove,
here comes the bridegroom-elect to enforce the invitation. No quarter
for me now! Well, Everard, how are you? Come in, come in--I'm quite
alone."

Mr. Everard enters with a rather rakish swagger, his face very red, his
blue eyes sparkling with what Armstrong thinks a jovial vinous glow. He
throws himself into a chair, stretches his legs well before him, and
says huskily--

"Seen the morning's paper, Armstrong?"

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

"Births, deaths, and marriages?"

"No."

"No? Then there's something among them will interest you. See here, old
man."

He takes a crumpled newspaper from his breast, and lays it on the desk,
pointing with moist shaking finger to the following announcement, which
Armstrong reads aloud--

"On the 27th instant, by special license, Sir Arthur Saunderson, Bart.,
of Saunderson Park, Nutshire, Captain, Grenadier Guards, to Pauline
Rose, daughter of the late Colonel Lefroy of Nutsgrove."

"Hoax?" asks Armstrong breathlessly.

"Not a bit of it," Everard answers spasmodically--_bonâ fide_.
"Bolted three days ago; letter from the aunt last night, another from
her ladyship this morning announcing the fact, asking forgiveness,
explaining all most satisfactorily. Saunderson's been on her track for
the last month, dogging her everywhere. Found in the end she loved him
better than me; wouldn't wreck my happiness, and so bolted. Beautiful
letter; I'll show it to you."

Armstrong springs from his desk with a loud harsh laugh that echoes
weirdly through the silent room; then, going up to his flushed,
scowling visitor, seizes his hand with a grip that makes him wince:

"I congratulate you--I congratulate you, Everard, my boy: you're in
luck, and no mistake! I don't know when I heard a bit of news that gave
me greater pleasure. You're an honest lad; I liked you from the first,
and would have saved you if I could; but I saw it would have been of
no use. And now the baronet has done the job for you! Long life to
him--long life to him! Stay and dine with me, Jack, and we'll drink his
health and her ladyship's in the best bumper in my cellar. More power
to the pair of them--more power to them, I say!"

Everard frees his hand sullenly, and says, with an awkward impatience--

"All right, all right, Armstrong; you mean well, but--but--that will
do. Stay and dine with you--eh? Don't mind if I do; we ought to be good
company, by Jove, for we're both knocking about in much the same boat,
you and I."

"In much the same boat," Armstrong interrupts, with another grating
laugh--"in much the same boat, you call it--ha, ha! Not so, not so, my
boy; for you have gallantly drifted into port, your keel just a trifle
scratched, while I--I have been buffeted among the rocks and quicksands
of holy matrimony, and had the waters pitching into my raked sides.
In--in much the same boat, you call it! By Jove, that is a good one,
you know!"

"Oh, Armstrong, Armstrong, shut up! You mean well, I know," cries the
young man bitterly, his head dropping upon his breast; "but you can't
understand what I feel, or how I loved that girl almost from the first
day I saw her, how I would have crawled to the end of the world to give
her an hour's pleasure. To think--to think she'd treat me so, cast me
aside for that yellow-faced hound!"

"With his title and his twelve thousand a year. Come, Everard, come; do
her at least the justice to admit that she never tried to deceive you
as to her character, never tried to hide from you that she was vain,
worldly, ambitious, and candidly selfish, that her aim in life was to
marry as high up the tree as she could reach. You must admit that you
saw through her almost from the start, that you walked with unbandaged
eyes into the pitfall she prepared for you. Why, man alive, I've heard
you scores of times railing against her heartlessness, her selfish--"

"Oh, what does all that signify? Nothing--nothing; I loved her--I loved
her!" he reiterates irritably. "And, if you had ever loved any one
when you were my age, Armstrong, you'd find such considerations afford
precious little comfort to you in--in a crisis like this. I loved her,
her selfishness, her ambition, her worldliness, the queenly calm with
which she requited my slavish worship, her indifference--everything
about her I loved! Oh, Pauline, Pauline!"

Armstrong smiles and does not again try to pour oil on the troubled
waters, foreseeing, with a sense of relief, that the worldly violence
of his friend's woe will soon wear itself out, the scratch be healed
with the gracious aid of time.

Everard stays to dinner. During that trying repast and for many hours
afterward, far into the dismal night, he treats his patient host to the
full flavor of his bereavement in its many hysterical phases. He is by
turns morose, wrathful, fiendishly sarcastic, buoyant, bloodthirsty,
and maudlin; but, when he rises at last to depart, Armstrong has
successfully dissuaded him from his purpose of seeking death at once,
and has almost induced him to stick to his colors at Broom Hill, and
not show the white feather when the Saundersons return to Nutshire from
the honeymoon.

"Be a man, be a man, Everard!" he urges vehemently. "Show her and
him of what stuff you are made. Why in the world should you go and
leave your place in the middle of the hunting-season and wander over
the world, bellowing your woes and labeling yourself a jilted man,
an object of pity and derision to the whole county? Stay and face
them--stay and face them, my boy."

"I'll try--I'll try, by Jove, I will!" he answers, fervently wringing
his friend's hand. "I say, Armstrong, do you know, you're a thundering
good fellow, you are. And you'll come and look me up sometimes at Broom
Hill if I screw up my courage to stay, won't you? There's a bond of
union between us, you know. I'm in as bad a boat as you, any day, say
what you like. But--but there's justice and mercy somewhere, isn't
there, old fellow--if we believe what the parsons tell us--eh?"

"I hope so," says Armstrong, a little wearily. "Good-night!"



CHAPTER XXVII.


Everard does not go abroad. He hears the cheers of the tenantry
assembled to greet the bride and bridegroom as they sweep past his gate
to the park, and scarcely winces. He hunts almost daily, and appears in
society just as usual; but he does not meet Lady Saunderson, half to
his relief, half to his disappointment, for the county has decreed that
for some time at least her ladyship is to reside in Coventry.

Her escapade has followed that of her sister too quickly for even the
most forward sycophant to overlook it; and so day after day the bride
sits waiting in her beautiful drawing-room for the visitors that do not
come, vowing vengeance silently, determined to give back slight for
slight, snub for snub, while her husband, scowling, wanders through
the still stately house to which he is for a few weeks confined with a
sharp attack of rheumatism.

The officers of the Kelvick garrison give a large ball toward the
middle of February, to which every one is invited. Everard dutifully
puts in an appearance, though he is half dead with fatigue after a
heavy day's hunting. He throws himself into an easy-chair in a cool
corner behind a curtain, and is just dropping into a pleasant slumber,
when one of his hosts, who has but lately joined the garrison, awakes
him with a vehement nudge.

"I say, Everard, you know every one here; tell me who is that girl
coming in at the door with the big yellow man? By Jove, she is a
stunner! Who is she--eh, eh?"

Everard turns languidly, and then the blood rushes to his face, for
within half a dozen yards of him stands Pauline, her dusky head erect,
looking at him with eyes lustrous, calm, superbly indifferent--a look
that seems to say, "Forgive me, if you like. Come to my side again. I
do not want you; but I will not repel you. Come!"

He stands rooted to the spot as she passes him by, her dress brushing
his knees. Her lovely face softens for a moment; she smiles half sadly,
half contemptuously, as she whispers--

"Not a word, Jack? Well, perhaps you are right. Do not wear the willow,
though; I am not worth it."

"Who is she--eh, Everard? Can't you speak?"

"Oh, she is a--a Lady Saunderson! I say, Archer, introduce me to that
girl in pink over there, will you? Jolly-looking girl!"

His fatigue forgotten, unfelt, Everard is soon whirling quickly round
the room, whispering nonsense into his partner's ear, but feeling
everywhere, though he looks not directly at her again, the cold
beautiful face of the woman he loves, watching him, reading the tempest
of his mind.

"Very good--very good indeed, Jack; but take care not to overdo it.
Take your pleasure a little more languidly; it will be much more
effective," says Miss Wynyard, laying her hand encouragingly on her
cousin's shoulder.

"Have you spoken to her, Florry?" he asks eagerly.

"No, I have only bowed and half smiled; but in a month or two," says
Miss Wynyard frankly, "I guess our hands will meet in amity. You won't
mind, will you, Jack? But you know the principle of my life has always
been to make friends with the mammon of iniquity; and it is a principle
that I have found to pay in the long run. How well she is looking, and
how grandly she carries it off, doesn't she? I always knew there was a
spice of the fiend in Pauline Lefroy. Do you know, Jack, I rather pity
Sir Arthur, ill-conditioned animal that he is. He must have loved her
to--"

"Loved her! Pshaw! He never meant to marry her from the beginning; he
actually said so one day at the club to a fellow I know; and it was
only when he found I was in possession that he appeared on the scene
and took to dogging her again."

"Well, never mind, Jack; you have come out of the business capitally,
with a dignity and a reserve that quite astonished me."

"Oh," says Everard candidly, "I wear well before the world! But I don't
mind telling you, Flo, that I was pretty well bowled over at first,
raved like the victim of a melodrama, wanted to pursue the guilty pair,
brain the bridegroom, _et cætera_. Fortunately a friend of sterner
stuff than I am, who had also been tried by the fire, steadied me in
time, and made me acknowledge that there is not a woman living worth
the sigh of an honest man; and so I dried up."

"Not a woman living?" repeats Miss Wynyard, with an earnestness very
foreign to that young person's tone in a ball-room or elsewhere.
"Stuff, Jack, stuff! Loose statements of that kind do not patent your
good sense or your cure, let me tell you. You were born of a woman,
were you not--a woman whom, as well as I can remember, you loved,
reverenced, and mourned--"

"Shut up, Flo," he says roughly, his face flushing; "I won't stand
preaching from you! As if--as if I would compare my mother--"

"That's just the point, dear boy, I wish to lead you to. The memory
of your mother ought to save you from falling into the deep cant, the
twopenny cynicism of the jilted man who labels every woman worthless
because he happens to be ill-used by an ambitious flirt. No, all women
are not worthless; and there are many in the world too good for you,
Jack--ay, too good for men ten times better than you. I know of one who
once loved a man--Jack, are you listening? I am going to tell you a
most interesting story."

He turns listlessly.

"Ay, Flo? A woman you once knew of, who loved a man. And what was her
history?"

    "'A blank, my lord; she never told her love,
    But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud.
    Feed on her damask cheek.'"

"More fool she! Was he well off?"

"But, being a little lady," continues Flo, needless of the
interruption, "as proud, shy, sensitive, as she was loving, she did
not, Viola-wise, sit, like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief,
but moved among her fellow-men with placid unconcern and a heart-whole
surface, did her duties bravely, took her pleasures as gayly as any
other girl of her age, and even trained herself to smile in the face
of the man she loved when the dolt was chanting the praises of another
woman. Her mother even did not know her secret."

"And yet she confided in you! You must have a fund of sympathy in
reserve somewhere, Flo, that I could never reach."

"She never confided in me. I found it out in an unguarded moment, when
she believed herself alone. The man had been twisting a bit of scented
weed around his finger, and, when he left her, carelessly threw it into
her lap; then she--"

"Glued it to her quivering lips, watered its limpness with her tears,
_et cætera_. A very piteous tale! Flo, the question is, Was the man
worth such a Spartan struggle? What was he like? Had he twelve thousand
a year?"

"The man?" she repeats carelessly. "Oh, well, he wouldn't have caused
me a heart-ache! He was much like other men, commonplace, selfish, yet
good-natured in the main, young, fairly good-looking, and worth about
three thousand a year. You know him better than I."

"Do I?"--stifling a yawn.

"Yes, for that man's father is your father's son."

"Let me see. Sisters and brother I have none, but that man's father
is my father's son. That's a disputed problem, Flo; it disturbed the
intellects of the Royal Nutshire for three hours at mess. The real
answer is 'My son,' you know."

"You have no son, I believe."

"Then the solution is myself--eh? You mean to intimate that I am the
hero of this touching minor tale. Who is Viola, pray?

"Find out."

"Not I," he says, with a short laugh. "I don't believe in her
existence. Come along, Flo; we're missing a capital waltz."

They revolve in silence. When the music ceases, he leads her to a
retired corner of the refreshment-room, and, while they are sipping
ices, he says, with a sneaky tone of would-be indifference--

"Well, you might as well tell me who she is, Flo."

"Who is who?" she asks, turning her head aside to hide her triumphant
smile. "Oh, Viola! What is the good of telling you anything about her
if you believe she is a myth?"

"I should have the opportunity of proving the truth of your flattering
tale."

"But why should I betray the secret she has guarded so gallantly? It is
very mean and unmanly of you to try to worm it out of me, Jack."

"Why did you tell me anything about it? I gave you no opening for the
anecdote," he says rather warmly.

"I told you, old boy," Miss Flo replies, laying her hand with a
sisterly gesture on his shoulder, "because I like you and--and
wish to do you good. I fancied that the contemplation of another's
disappointment might alleviate yours, and perhaps distract your mind
from--from other people," she winds up rather lamely.

"I see--I see. You're a good girl, Flo--thanks, thanks, my dear--but
you must have thought me a precious fool to accept a legend of the
kind as gospel, to fancy any woman nourishing a hopeless passion for
a commonplace, selfish, soft-headed simpleton with an income of only
three thousand a year!"

"Believe it or not as you like," she answers hotly. "What I tell you is
true and the girl is here in this room--not a dozen yards from us."

He looks eagerly to right and left, and shrugs his shoulder impatiently.

"There are about forty smiling virgins within a dozen yards of me. How
am I to pick out the stricken one? As you have gone so far, Florrie,"
he whispers coaxingly, "you might as well commit yourself altogether."

"Well, Jack," she answers, with well-feigned reluctance, "whatever your
faults may be, you are a gentleman, and--and, if I do you'll take no
advantage, or betray--"

"Of course not. What do you take me for?"

"The girl is Cicely Deane."

"Cicely Deane!" he echoes, with an incredulous laugh. "Well, Flo, I
think you might have made a better shot than that. Cicely Deane! Why,
she looks on me as a sort of elder brother! I've known her since she
was a baby. It's too preposterous, you know. Why, I should rather
suspect you, _ma belle_, of falling in love with--with me than that
self-possessed, cold-blooded little saint, the legitimate prey of the
Church!"

"The Church has not had much success as yet. Last week she refused the
Honorable and Reverend Basil Wendrop, Lord Hareford's second son, a
divine with the profile of an Antoninus and the tongue of a Chrysostom;
her parents are in despair about it. Ah, there is my partner at the
door looking for me--Major Newton! I want you to look at him rather
particularly, Jack, because I'm half contemplating matrimony with that
lucky individual."

"Newton? O, I know him well! He's a very good fellow--just returned
from India, has he not?"

"Yes; he has been away six years. He turned up the other day and calmly
informed me that I had solemnly promised long ago to marry him if he
could make a certain competence--a most ridiculous sum! I don't think
I could have mentioned it, even in the school-room. Seven thousand
pounds--absurd, you know! I don't remember the circumstance--in fact, I
could scarcely recall the poor man's existence when he first appeared;
but it seems he has been living on that promise for the last six years
in one of the most unhealthy holes in India, starving and screwing to
make up that wretched sum; and--now--now--if you please, he wants me to
marry him and share it with him. He fell in love with me when I was a
great fat-faced tomboy in the school-room, and has never thought of any
one since--ridiculous man!"

"And you think of rewarding his fidelity? Do you like him, Flo?"

"Yes," she answers, with a faint blush, "I--I think I rather like him.
He--he is nothing much to look at, of no particular position, not well
off, and--and I suppose--in fact, I know--I could do better; but--"

"Yes?"

"Six years! A long time, wasn't it, Jack?" she says a little wistfully.
"Six years--and--and I scarcely thought of him once after he left--poor
Claud! All the others whom I jilted, or who jilted me, were on their
legs a month or two afterward. I don't think, Jack, I have a very
bounteous store of affection to bestow on any man, I don't think I have
it in me to care for any one as I care for myself; still six years, you
know--"

"Is a good spell. I would marry him if I were you. You have knocked
about long enough now, Flo. I shouldn't be surprised if you found
matrimony a pleasant change. Anyhow, you'll have my best wishes," says
Everard heartily.

"Don't congratulate me yet," she answers flurriedly. "I--I haven't made
up my mind in the least. After all, matrimony is a desperate plunge;
once you're in, you can never get out again; and--and I could do so
much better--so much better. There's Pelham Windsor. I had a great case
with him at Brighton before Christmas, and he has asked mother and
me down to his place in Hampshire next month--the Towers--a regular
show-place--stabling for forty horses--"

"Pelham Windsor! He's a most insufferable little snob, Flo--scarcely up
to your shoulder--and was divorced from his first wife."

"I know, I know," she answers petulantly. "But it was all her fault;
she--"

"Of course, of course--it always is!"

"Flor--Miss Wynyard, I have been looking for you everywhere. This is
our dance, I believe."

Major Newton stands before them, a man of about thirty-six, with a
lean yellow face, sad brown eyes, and a long gaunt body emaciated by
fever--a most incongruous cavalier for the lively florid Miss Wynyard,
who however rises at once and lays her hand a little nervously on his
arm, whispering to her cousin before she goes--

"Remember, Jack, I have your promise; not a word, a look, a sign to
betray--"

"Oh, stuff, Florrie!" he answers impatiently. "Do you fancy I gave your
nonsense a second thought? Absurd!"

Nevertheless, absurd as it seems, the nonsense does occupy his thoughts
a good deal during the remainder of the evening, and, instead of
following Lady Saunderson's conquering movements with stealthy feverish
glance, as he has been doing hitherto, he finds himself watching little
Cicely taking her pleasure, with an interest and a curiosity she has
never roused in him before.

But, watch as closely as he may, he can detect no confirmatory sign,
not even when he is bending over her, whispering pretty compliments in
her ear. When his arm encircles her waist, her face within a few inches
of his own, whirling round the room, her breath comes none the faster,
her color does not change, her eye does not sink under his puzzled
animated scrutiny.

"Flo," he whispers to his cousin, when he is cloaking her on her
departure about two hours later, "you were out, my dear--quite out.
You are either grossly mistaken, or were willfully misleading me. I've
watched her, and there's not a sign of truth in your revelation--not a
sign. I've watched her."

"Oh, if you have, Jack, of course that settles the question! I was
grossly mistaken. Who could deceive your gimlet-eyes?"

"Not you, _ma belle_, not you, at any rate!" he retorts quickly,
smiling into the girl's handsome sparkling face. "You've taken the
plunge, Florrie! I thought you would. Come behind the curtain until I
congratulate you on the spot."

Just as their lips are meeting in frank cousinly good-will, the drapery
parts, and Major Newton, with no very pleasant expression, glares in on
them.

Miss Wynyard, with the experience of many past misconceptions, hastens
to explain the position of affairs, which her _fiancé_ accepts
amicably; and for the first time in the annals of her checkered career
the course of Miss Wynyard's love runs smooth into the sea of matrimony
about two months later.

She makes the major an excellent wife; and, though, as the years roll
on, their means do not increase in proportion to their family, Mrs.
Newton is never heard to complain or taunt her sober husband with the
fact that she might have done better--not even when Madame Armine loses
her custom altogether, and necessity has trained her hitherto idle
fingers to turn her dresses and darn her children's stockings. The
friendship between her and Lady Saunderson does not prosper, for their
paths naturally diverge somewhat widely, and, when they meet again,
after the lapse of some years, those erst kindred spirits find they
have scarce a thought, a wish, a pleasure in common.

Pauline looks upon Florrie with contempt, as having degenerated into a
dowdy, baby-ridden drudge, and Florrie pities Lady Saunderson's unloved
and childless lot, chained to a man whom she despises and dislikes,
with no light ahead to relieve the gray dreariness of coming age, when
her beauty and her social triumphs will be things of the past.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


For three months Mr. Everard puzzles over the flattering yet almost
incredible revelation of Miss Cicely's attachment to him, during which
time he leaves no stone unturned, no device unburied to lure the wily
damsel into some sign of self-betrayal. He haunts the Rectory night
and day, dropping in at most inopportune moments, until Lady Emily
Deane, a most energetic and methodical housewife, declares him a worse
infliction than half a dozen school-boys home for the holidays, and
sighs for the racing season that will take him away from Nutshire for a
time.

But all Jack's watchings, spyings, ruses, and maiden traps are of no
avail. Cicely shows him neither more nor less favor than she has done
all her life, treats him with the same careless sisterly regard, smiles
when she welcomes him, but does not sigh when she bids him good-by,
and betrays no annoyance, pain, or pettishness when he flirts in her
presence, any more than when his love for Pauline was at its fever
height. So at the end of the three months he has to acknowledge himself
just as puzzled and as excited as he was the first evening.

In the meantime, rather to his dismay, he begins to find many charms
and attractions in the demure brown-eyed little lady which were hidden
to him before. He finds a strange soothing pleasure in watching her,
as he lies stretched on the old fashioned school-room sofa, busy over
her endless household work, stitching, painting, making up accounts,
cutting out clothes for the poor, overlooking her young sister's
school-tasks, _et cætera_, as seemingly undisturbed, callously
unconscious of his presence, as if he had been a stone effigy of
idleness.

Her voice "grows" on him likewise; its music, which he has listened to
carelessly, mechanically for so many years, stirs his heart at last, as
it has stirred many men before him, who have been chilled by the cold
graciousness of the girl's face and manner--for, when Cicely sings, she
pours forth her whole soul, and speaks of love human and divine with an
unrestrained, an _entraînant_ passion which no art could have taught
her.

Many a time during the sweet chill nights of early spring, when Everard
hangs over her as she sits at the piano, her voice quivering through
the still room with harmonious pain, her eyes glowing, her whole sober
being startled into spiritual life, the young man thinks that the
supreme moment has come, that his presence has helped to awake the
sentimental tumult, only to be cruelly undeceived, when the last note
has vibrated, by some commonplace disenchanting remark that makes him
long to shake her.

"A pretty song, is it not, Jack?" she asks one night, while his every
nerve is thrilling with responsive fervor. "Do you like it in the
higher or lower key best? May Bennet sings it in sharps; but I like
flats best--don't you?"

"You sing of love almost as if you felt it, Cicely," he whispers
tentatively. "Sappho could not have put more expression into her dying
lay than you did just now into that 'Adieu.'"

"I like mournful music," she says, her fingers wandering silently over
the keys.

"Yes; your songs always tell of death and parting and broken
faith--blighted blossoms."

"'Our sweetest songs are those which tell of saddest thought.' So says
the poet, Jack; and, you see, my life is so full of bright and pleasant
things, so happy and commonplace, that, when I sing, I like to wander
in soul among the royally afflicted."

"You are happy, Cicely?" he asks wistfully, laying his hot hand with
a timid appealing touch on her straying fingers. "You want nothing in
your life?"

"Nothing, Jack--nothing. What could I want more than I have?" she
answers, in a mild Sunday-school tone of reproof. "Heaven has laden me
with benefits; I have had few crosses."

"Well, I have not the same complaint, goodness knows!" he says, moving
away sullenly.

Occasionally he meets Lady Saunderson in society, where she is now
beginning to take a prominent lead, the term of her sojourn in Coventry
having been summarily curtailed by the rumor that she is going to give
a big ball, which brings young ladies to their senses and fills the
dowagers' bosoms with Christian feelings toward the beautiful culprit;
but Jack and she do not speak to each other again until one evening,
riding home, his horse dead-beat after two hard runs, he hears a gay
clear voice address him in the gloom--a voice that brings the blood to
his face and sets his pulses throbbing.

"Is the road wide enough for you and me to walk abreast, Jack Everard?"

He looks up and sees that she has reined in at a cross-road, and is
waiting to join him.

"May I ride by your side as far as the Park gates? I am quite alone--my
husband is dining with the Hussars at Kelvick."

"I shall be happy to escort you, Lady Saunderson," he answers stiffly.

"Dear, dear!" cries Pauline, with a free careless laugh. "So we are
riding the high horse still! Get down, Jack, get down; the animal does
not suit you in the least. Get down, and let us be friends again. I
always liked you, Jack--always."

"We need not try to analyze the nature of your attachment, Lady
Saunderson. I think I ought to understand it perfectly now."

"I doubt if you do," she says, with a slight break in her voice, her
small gloved hand caressing his horse's steaming shoulder. "You never
judged me fairly, Everard. With you I was always either an angel or an
offspring of Jezebel, whereas I am but just something of an ambitious,
selfish, yet not wholly heartless woman. It--it cost me a pang, I can
tell you, to treat you as I did. But something told me I should not
make you happy, or you me; and I am more sure of it even now than I
was then. And you, dear boy, is it not so with you?" she asks, leaning
forward until her breath fans his face, her great dark eyes, half
wistful, half contemptuous, lifted to his averted ones. "Have you not
learned to thank Providence for your escape?"

"Yes, Pauline," he answers gravely, "I have indeed--and from my heart."

"Good boy, good boy. So we can cry quits. Give me your hand. What? Are
you afraid to touch me? What harm can I do you, Jack? You have sowed
your wild oats, and I am a respectable British matron; we--we couldn't
flirt now even if we tried, could we? But we could be friends and
comforting neighbors, and sometimes, in the long winter evenings ahead,
if you should feel the sanctity of your fireside a little overpowering,
if the flannel petticoats, the soup-societies, the cardinal virtues,
should prove a little oppressive, why, you could steal up to me and
distend your lungs with the breath of frivolity, freedom, and--"

"Lady Saunderson," he says huskily, struggling to resist the spell she
is weaving about him, "I--I do not understand what you mean."

"No? Then come up to the Park and dine with me to-night, and I'll tell
you. We--we can't flirt, you know; but we can sit and watch the young
moon rise from behind Broom Hill while we talk over the giddy days of
our youth. My husband will be so glad to see you; he is most anxious
that we should be friends, and would even go the length of offering you
an apology for past unpleasantness, only he does not know how you would
receive it. Come, Jack--come!"

They are just outside the Rectory gates, from which a party are issuing
for a late practice--Cicely, with a roll of music, two or three of
her sisters, and a tall curate carrying a lantern, which he suddenly
lifts, hearing the horses hoofs, thus revealing to the astonished group
Everard's disturbed face within a foot of Lady Saunderson's, cool and
undaunted, her hand still resting familiarly on the pommel of his
saddle. The curate looks away hastily from the evil tableau, but Cicely
bows gravely, and then moves on up the winding hill at the top of which
her father's church is picturesquely situated.

Everard reins in, and looks after them with frowning brow; his
companion also turns round in her saddle, laughing tantalizingly.

"Which is it to be, Jack? The broad smooth road that leads to
destruction and the Park, or the narrow briery path--"

"I'll follow the light. Good-night, Lady Saunderson," he says quickly,
wheeling his horse round.

"The light!"--her voice comes back to him mockingly through the gloom.
"Take care, _mon cher_; the curate is swinging it rather knowingly
to-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following morning, when Everard appears at the Rectory, he finds
the household in a state of anxious commotion. The bishop is coming the
next day, and Lady Emily has been called upon to provide an elaborate
breakfast for thirty guests at desperately short notice.

Jack is in every one's way, of course--in the way of the rector,
receiving a deputation of church-wardens in his study, in the way
of the servants' brooms and dusters, in the way of his hostess,
sorting out her best glass and china, superintending _soufflés_, and
_mayonnaises_.

"You are not hunting to-day, are you, Jack?" she says, with a sigh
of irritation which she cannot repress, when a handsome cut-glass
decanter slips from his meddlesome fingers to the floor. "What a pity!
The day is perfect, is it not?"

"I dare say you wish I were, Lady Emily," he answers, with an awkward
laugh; "but, unfortunately for you, it's a blind day. I wonder where
Cicely is; I have been looking for her everywhere. She asked me to get
her some ferns a few days ago; and I don't know if they're the right
sort."

"Cicely?"--briskly. "I think she's gone down to the church to practice
the new _Te Deum_. I have not seen her for some time; you'll surely
find her there, or up at the school-house."

"No; I've tried both unsuccessfully. Old Crofts said she had returned
home. I can't imagine where she has hidden herself."

However, some five minutes later he runs her to earth in the old
day-nursery, where she has taken refuge from the prevailing bustle to
copy some music.

"May I come in?" he asks wistfully. "Shall I be as much in the way here
as I seem to be everywhere else, Cicely?"

"Not it you sit quite still and do not expect to be entertained," she
answers composedly. "I have to make out five copies of this wretched
_Te Deum_ before afternoon practice. Oh, dear, I do wish amateur
organists would be content with Mozart, Haydn, and Co., and not force
their compositions on the public! It is weary work."

"How neatly you do it! What clever fingers you have, Miss Deane!" he
says, throwing himself into a chair, and leaning his arms on the table.

She puts a slim finger to her lips in warning reply.

Twenty minutes pass by in profound silence. Everard takes up a pen, for
which he finds swift employment. To his horror, the young man becomes
aware that he has been illustrating the margin of one of Miss Deane's
finished copies with skeleton hunting-sketches, adding arms and legs to
the crotchets and quavers, giving features to the open notes.

"What are you trying to do, Jack?" she asks, leaning across the table
to reach a book, and steadying herself with the help of his bent
shoulder.

"Trying to do?" he repeats, one hand quickly veiling the work of
desecration, the other imprisoning his companion's. "I am trying to
make love to you, Cicely. Is it any good?"

For an instant she remains motionless; then she snatches her hand from
his shoulder as if it had been stung, crimsons to the roots of her
hair, and says, her voice quivering with pain and anger--

"Jack Everard, how--how dare you make me an answer like that? You know
how I dislike flippant speeches of the kind."

"Flippant!" he answers hotly. "I did not mean it to be so. Nobody as
much in earnest as I am could be flippant. I love you, Cicely Deane,
and, though I know I am not worthy of you, I ask you to be my wife on
my knees, if you like. Do you think I am in earnest now?"

"Yes," she says, panting a little, and raising her eyes, gleaming,
wrathful, defiant, to his eager face. "I believe you are in earnest;
and I wish you to understand that I am in earnest too, thoroughly in
earnest, when I beg of you, Jack Everard, if you value my esteem, my
friendship, never to speak to me on such a subject or in that tone.
It--it is eminently painful and distasteful to me."

"Thank you, Miss Deane; you--you speak to the point. I will not incur
the risk of losing your esteem and friendship ever again, you may be
sure. Good-morning."

He walks from the room without another word, down the stairs and out
of the house, forgetting to take his hat and stick from the hall. He
stands for a moment leaning against the garden gate, his blue eyes
moist, his lips quivering with pain and cruel disappointment, a heavy
shower falling on his uncovered head.

At that moment Lady Saunderson's brougham flashes past. She looks out
and gives him a brilliant smile, half questioning, half pitying, a
smile that goads him to a feeling of impotent desperation.

"I am a lucky fellow--by the powers I am!" he mutters fiercely, with
clinched fists.

"Jack, Jack, where are you going? Where's your hat? What's the matter?"

Little Emily Deane's astonished voice recalls him to his senses. He
puts up his hand to his sleek dripping head and retraces his steps
mechanically, Emily trotting by his side.

"Is there anything the matter with you, Jack? You look so hot and
funny! Have you been fighting with Cissy?--for she looks so funny too.
Her face is like fire, she would scarcely speak to me, and, when I
leaned over her, I saw she was crying like anything."

"Crying?" he says quickly. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. She didn't want me to notice, and pushed me away quite crossly;
but I saw great fat tears splashing down on the music she was copying,
and swelling out the notes. Did you say anything to annoy her? Cissy
never cries, you know--not even when she had two big teeth pulled out,
or when she was reading the death of Little Nell. Bill says she's the
dryest girl he ever met."

Everard stands for a moment hesitating, hat in hand; then he walks back
quickly and stealthily to the room where Cicely sits, her face hidden
on her outstretched arms, shedding the bitterest, most shamefaced tears
of her life. The poor child does not doubt but that she betrayed her
secret to him from whom she would have guarded it at the cost of her
life, and that he, actuated by a sense of pitiful kindness, resolved to
assure her happiness at the expense of his own.

She feels sore, wounded, insulted, all the sunshine gone from her sky.
She knows that she can never again look with anything but shame and
pain into the bright face she loves so well, never again listen in
peace to the only voice that can ever reach her heart. She knows she
has lost her lover, her friend, her self-respect, at one blow; and the
cross she is called upon thus suddenly to bear seems too heavy for her
slight shoulders.

At this crisis Everard steals in softly, closing the door, drops upon
his knees by her side, put his arms round her neck, his face close
to hers, and whispers eagerly, before she can repulse him--

"Don't cry, don't cry, Cissy darling! I was a fool, a presumptuous
fool, to think you could ever learn to--to care for me. What woman
could love me, I should like to know? Forget my presumption, dear,
and, when I am gone, remember me only as the friend of your childhood,
the boy whom you loved as a brother--nothing more."

"You are--are going--where?" she asks, weakly trying to free herself
from his clasp.

"I do not know yet--anywhere--anywhere far away from you. Will you
give me a kiss, Cissy, to let me know you bear me no ill-will--a
farewell kiss, dear? 'It may be for years, and it may be forever,' _et
cætera_--you can not grudge me that."

He gently lifts the shielding arm and puts his lips to her shrinking
face. She shivers slightly, and raises her heavy eyes with a sort of
piteous protest to his. He kisses away the tears from her eyelashes,
whispering mournfully the single word--

"Farewell."

They remain for a few moments locked in each other's arms.

"Love," he says, at last, "won't you say farewell?"

Her lips part, her breath comes quickly, she tries to speak, but all
sound dies in her throat.

"Cissy, Cissy, can't you speak? I am waiting. Is it so hard to say the
word 'Farewell,' little friend?"

"Yes, yes," she stammers, "it is hard. Let me go, Jack--let me go! I--I
will say it presently--presently--presently."

"I am in no great hurry to hear it, dear; it is such a wailing sort of
word--it has the ring of death. Yet I can not go until you say it."

"You are stifling me!" she says passionately. "Let me go, let me go; I
can not breathe!"

"Say 'Farewell!'"

He waits, waits on patiently; but she never says it.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Six for me--all Christmas-cards--hurrah, hurrah! Three for you, Aunt
Jo; two for you, Robert; none for you, Mr. Armstrong; none for you,
Hal."

It is Christmas-time, nearly two years since the Lefroys have left
Nutsgrove. The boys are spending the festive season at Leamington.
Mr. Armstrong has also reluctantly accepted Miles Darcy's pressing
invitation, for these meetings are painful to him. Although his lost
wife's name is never mentioned, yet there is always a suggestion of
her existence in the old lady's depressed flurried manner, and in her
anxiety to propitiate him and seem at ease in his presence; moreover,
Lottie, who has cast aside all her delicacy and is growing up a plump
rosy-cheeked lass, at times is so like her unfortunate sister that he
turns away his eyes from her with a sense of sore repugnance.

"Two letters for me, Goggles? Then hand them over at once."

"Here they are, Bob. One of them is a bill, and the other is from
foreign parts. What a lot of postmarks it has, to be sure! Whom is it
from, Bob?"

He takes up the letter carelessly, then drops it with a quick
exclamation.

Miss Darcy, who is seated beside him at the breakfast-table, turns
suddenly. Her eyes fall on the upturned address; she springs to her
feet with a cry.

"At last--at last! Quick, Robert, quick--open it, my boy!"

But Robert rises deliberately, his face white and set, walks over to
the fire, and thrusts the unopened letter into the blazing coal. His
aunt stares for a second paralyzed, then rushes forward to snatch it
out; but she is stopped by Robert, whose strong young arms pinion hers
powerless to her side. She struggles fiercely, and then appeals to
Armstrong, who is staring in much astonishment at the extraordinary
scene.

"Tom--Tom Armstrong, save it, save it! For the love of Heaven, save it!
It's from her--from your unfortunate wife! Oh, save it!"

Without a moment's hesitation he thrusts his hand into the fire,
burning himself smartly; but he is too late--all that he rescues is a
quivering sheet that crumbles to ashes in his grasp. Miss Darcy bursts
into tears; she turns to Robert, her voice husky with bitterness and
anger.

"Heaven will punish you--oh, Heaven will punish you, you wicked,
heartless boy, for this morning's deed! Christmas morning, the morning
of peace on earth and love and forgiveness, when that poor wandering
sinner, probably weary of the ways of sin, thought she might reach your
heart of stone--she, Robert Lefroy, who crept to your bedside, when you
were thought to be dying of an infectious fever, and nursed you night
and day! Oh, Heaven will punish you for this!"

"I can not help it," Robert sullenly replies. "I have done this before,
and so has my sister Pauline, and I will do it again and again."

"Leave my house, leave my house, all of you! I will have no feasting
here. This to me is a day of mourning, not of rejoicing. Thomas
Armstrong, you came to me to-day against your will, I know. I thank you
for your goodness in so humoring an old woman; but you may go now. I
will not ask you to come here again. Good-by, good by! You are a just,
generous, and honest man, and have treated me and mine well; but I
wish I had never seen your face. I do not want to see it any more. The
object of my life is taken from me to-day. I have no further motive in
dragging out my weary life, or in struggling to--"

"My dear lady," breaks in Armstrong gently. "There is no reason for
you to take so hopeless a view of the case; the disaster is not
irretrievable. You will probably hear from--from your niece again."

But Miss Darcy, heedless of the interruption, goes on, in whining
soliloquy--

"I loved her, I loved her! She was to me as my own child; her first cry
was uttered in my arms, and I wanted to save her from eternal death,
to bring her here and on her knees to receive your pardon, Thomas
Armstrong, and then to take her away with me to some quiet corner
of the world, where she could live down the memory of her sin and
spend her days in preparation to meet her Judge. But my hope is gone.
Something tells me that we shall never hear of her again, that she will
sink too low for even a voice from heaven to reach her in the mist of
coming death. We shall never hear of her again--never! Go from me now,
all of you; you can say nothing, do nothing, to comfort me. Go and
leave me to my grief!"

They obey her silently. Robert takes his brother back with him to town,
where they dine with some military acquaintances. Lottie spends a merry
evening at the house of a neighboring school-friend, winding up with
snap-dragon and an impromptu dance. Armstrong, returning home to a
solitary dinner, is met at the station by Everard, who carries him off
to Broom Hill, where he is most heartily welcomed by its new mistress,
the late Miss Cicely Deane, who makes a most charming hostess, and
her husband the happiest man in the parish. The whole party from the
rectory spend the day with the bride and bridegroom; and late in the
evening, when the young people are tired of romping and laughing,
Cicely sings some sweet old-fashioned carols breathing of love and
fireside peace, and the music of her rare voice brings to Armstrong's
hardened heart a softening touch; he thinks with gentleness, almost
with pity, of her who has wronged him past retrieval.

But Miss Darcy's forebodings prove true; no other letter comes from
across the sea, and Adelaide's name is not mentioned again.



CHAPTER XXIX.


Two years more go by. The Lefroys, though enjoying both health and
prosperity, are no longer banded together in family union as in days of
yore. Lady Saunderson, whose social engagements are increasing day by
day, is spending the winter and early spring in Rome; Robert is with
his regiment at Sheffield, Hal on board a training-ship at Portsmouth,
and Lottie finishing her education in an advanced collegiate academy in
South Kensington. They are all doing well in the world, and growing out
of the passionate attachment they once had for their old home, which
still remains desolate and untenanted.

One night, Armstrong takes Lottie and a school-friend to the theater.

"You have enjoyed yourself, my dear?" he asks, when he is taking them
home.

"Oh, I don't think I ever enjoyed anything so much in my life before!
Feel my handkerchief, Mr. Armstrong. Wouldn't you think I had soaked
it in a tub of water? And I'm sure Susie Arthur's sobs were quite
heartrending. Oh, we've enjoyed ourselves tremendously."

"It was quite too awfully touching. Thank you so much, Mr. Armstrong,
for bringing us," chimes in the sensitive Miss Arthur.

"I'm so glad we decided on 'Jo,' instead of 'Hamlet.' Shakespeare is
such a grind sometimes; isn't he, Susie? And now, if we knew some kind
friend who would take us to see the Kendals, I think we should die
happy, shouldn't we Susie?"

And Lottie lifts her round bonny face, framed in a white hood,
appealingly to Armstrong, who smiles negatively and turns away his
head. The brougham stops, and with a sigh the two blooming school-girls
descend, and Armstrong drives back to his hotel in Piccadilly, where,
after knocking about a few billiard-balls, he lights a cigar and
strolls out again. This time he unconsciously wends his way eastward,
his mind absorbed in a semi-political, semi-commercial speculation
in which he is much interested, having invested a large sum of money
and allowed his name to appear at the head of the list of directors.
Heedless of time or distance, he walks on, with knitted brow and
absorbed senses, until he is vigorously recalled to reality by a grimy
hand making a snatch at his watch-chain, which, however, he is expert
enough to rescue; but the would-be thief wriggles himself out of his
grasp. On looking round he finds that he has strayed into the back
slums of Shoreditch, into a regular labyrinth of reeking streets, dark
lanes, and courts, from which egress seems almost impossible. He seeks
in vain for a policeman to direct him, makes inquiries right and left,
but receives only slangy, insulting, and sometimes almost threatening
answers. At last he turns to a weather-beaten motherly-looking old lady
presiding over a sugar-stick stall at a corner of a lane, who responds
by throwing her arms protectingly around him, and murmuring words
soothing but tipsy toned.

"Losh yer way, did shye, me love? Mile-En' Road, to b'shure; bring
ye there insh jiffy. Come 'long, come 'long, me lamb! Mile-En'
Road--insh jiffy"--leading him at the same moment to the open door of a
public-house opposite.

He tries laughingly to shake her off; but she clings to him with a
grasp of iron. Being unwilling to use her roughly, he is about to put
his hand into his pocket to purchase freedom, when a sudden drunken
sortie from the house in question hurls them both off the footpath
and effects his purpose. The row soon looks rather alarming, people
crowding from all parts, and the night becomes hideous with shrieks
and imprecations. Armstrong stands by, watching a scene to which he
was well accustomed in his earlier days, until he notices that two
policemen, pluckily trying to restore order, are getting rather badly
handled; then he begins pushing his way to give them help, when an
unexpected backward movement of the crowd obliges him to retreat, and
a woman, who has been feebly struggling to get away, is thrown heavily
against his shoulder, where she lies without movement. He throws his
strong arm around her and plows his way to an open hall door a few
yards further down, where he leans panting for a moment against the
wall.

"Are you hurt?" he asks gently; but, as she makes no answer, he raises
the hanging head, and the dismal yellow light of a gas-jet in the
street outside falls on the face of Adelaide Armstrong--a face livid,
worn, ghastly, from which the bloom and life of youth have fled.

Armstrong does not recognize her in the least; nevertheless he remains
gazing with a startled fascination into the unconscious face until she
opens her heavy eyes and looks straight into his.

"Thomas Armstrong!" she says dreamily.

"Great Heaven," he cries, "is it you?"

He starts back, shaking her from him; she sways, tries to save herself,
and is on the point of falling when he puts out his hand, and she
grasps it feverishly.

"I--I think I must have been crushed a little in the crowd; I feel
faint," she says gaspingly. "Will you--help me up to my room? It is in
the next house to this." Then, seeing that he hesitates, she adds,
with a hard laugh, "You can take a bath--wash off my touch--afterward,
you know."

Gravely he puts out his arm, and they toil slowly and silently up the
rotting evil-smelling stairway to a garret furnished with one chair, a
table, and a litter in one corner, dimly suggesting a bed. She sinks
upon the chair exhausted.

"There is a bit of candle on the table. If you have a match, will you
strike it?"

He obeys her mechanically. When the dismal tallow light reveals the
bare hideousness of the room she leans her arms on the table and looks
full into his stern face with unabashed, and, to him, crime-hardened
glance.

"How well you wear, Thomas Armstrong! How strong and big and full of
life you are! It gives me breath to look at you."

"You are ill?" he says abruptly.

"Ill! Well, I am not exactly in what you call robust health; I haven't
been for many a day. I wish I could get into the consumptive hospital.
A woman on the landing below me, a French-polisher, said she'd try to
get me in when she came back from a job in the country; she has been a
long time away."

"You are alone?"

"Yes; he left me three weeks ago to attend some Newmarket meeting,
and he has not returned since. I suspect he doesn't mean to do so
either, though he has left an old portmanteau in my charge. I--I am not
what you call a cheerful or fascinating companion for any man--am I?
You--you would not like to escort me down Regent Street, would you, Mr.
Armstrong?"

He answers not a word.

"Do you know, I passed my brother Robert Lefroy in the Strand a week
ago. When I uttered his name he sprung off the footpath to avoid my
touch, and jumped into a passing hansom, as if to get out of the very
air I was breathing; he looked almost ill when he saw me. You bore the
shock better; but then you are made of stronger stuff than he, and,
besides, you sprung from the depths into which I have sunk. You are
acclimatized. Won't you sit down? I haven't a second chair; but the
corner of the table near the door will bear your weight."

"Have you no one to help you? Are you destitute?" he asks, bringing out
his words with a jerk.

"He left me seven-and-sixpence when he went away, saying he would be
back in a few days. I have had nothing since; and yet he knew I was
dying and friendless. I wrote to my sister Lady Saunderson when I first
landed, and asked her, for the love of Heaven, for the sake of the same
mother who bore us, to give me help, to let me die somewhere out of
this hole of pestilence and crime; but she never answered my letter."
She stops, then says, with a peevish querulous gesture, "Thomas
Armstrong, why don't you say something to me, instead of staring as if
I were a ghost, a ghoul?"

"What can I say, woman?" he answers roughly. "What words are needed to
emphasize the retribution of your sin to me? If you want money I will
give it to you as freely as I would to any needy sufferer, as freely as
I will give you pity and pardon; but why should I seek to moralize on
your pitiful fate, to reproach you when Heaven has so terribly avenged
my wrongs?"

"Heaven?" she interrupted, with a touch of the old fire in her thin
wailing voice. "Where is Heaven? Heaven exists only when one is young
and happy and healthy, free from care and sorrow when the sun is
shining and the blood warm with hope and youth and love; with a body
worn with disease, gnawed with want, and a soul sick with the sight
of pain and misery and sin that never can be relieved, who can feel
that there is a heaven? Ah, who can believe in heaven then, I ask?
Come to my bedside every day Thomas Armstrong, with Bible, bell, and
candle, whisper words of hope, of promise in my dying ears, and yet,
if you speak with the tongue of an angel, and not of a man, you will
not be able to lift the shroud from my soul, nor kindle one spark of
heaven-born fire in my breaking heart. I defy you--I defy you!"

"Yet I will try."

"Too late, too late--you come too late!" she murmurs, her voice dying
away in a dry choking sob.

He tries to utter some hackneyed refutation, but the commonplace words
die on his lips, and a heavy silence follows as his eyes, in which all
wrath and repugnance have now made way for pain and pity infinite, rest
on the cowering wreck of womanhood whom he has loved with a love that
comes to men of his metal only once in a life.

An angry curse, followed by a woman's coarse laugh, breaks the
stillness. There is the sound of stumbling footsteps on the stairs, and
the next moment the door is burst open, and a tall, gaunt-looking man,
past the prime life, with dark gleaming eyes, and a thin chiseled face
scarred with the ravages of fast living and squalid dissipation, stands
on the threshold.

"Adelaide"--he speaks in a sweet thrilling voice that sounds so
incongruous coming from the hard sensual mouth--"are you here? Quick,
my girl--give me those deeds I left behind. I'm off to Antwerp in half
an hour. Infernal run of luck throughout! I'll write for you when--Eh,
whom have you here? Who is this?"--starting back with lowering brow
when he catches sight of Armstrong's flaming face.

"I'll introduce you," says Addie rising quickly and turning to her
husband. "This is, I believe, the only member of our estimable
family whose acquaintance you have not yet made. My father, Colonel
Lefroy--Mr. Armstrong of Kelvick."

But, before the words have left her mouth, Colonel Lefroy, with an
angry oath, has disappeared, and is stumbling frantically down the
stairs.

For fully two minutes Armstrong, with dazed face, remains staring at
the spot where he stood; then he turns slowly to Addie.

"Is that--that man your father?" he asks.

She nods bitterly.

"You have been living with him lately?"

"I have lived with him ever since I left you--four years ago."

"Since you left me--since you left me!" he repeats stupidly. "And--and
your lover--where is he? What did you do with him?

"My lover?"--a faint flush stealing into her own cheek. "What do you
mean, Thomas Armstrong? Something insulting, I--I suppose. Well, I do
not care; I have not much feeling left now--not enough blood in my
veins to resent a sting, a blow from you as I once did. My lover!"

"Yes, I repeat, your lover--the man you loved before you knew me, with
whom you sailed to Melbourne in the 'Chimborazo' four years ago--your
cousin, Teddy Lefroy."

To this statement she makes no reply whatever; her head sinks forward
on her outstretched arm. After waiting a moment, his blood on fire, his
every nerve quivering, he leans over her, thinking she has fainted; but
he sees that her eyes are wide open and tearless, and that there is a
strange smile on her pinched mouth.

"Go away, go away!" she cries querulously. "Can't you let me die in
peace? I am so tired--so tired of you all--of husbands, lovers, father,
brothers, sisters. Oh, go away--go away, all of you! I want peace."

"Adelaide," he says sharply, using her name for the first time, "you
must answer me--you must speak. Did you sail to Melbourne with your
cousin as his wife?"

"How--how dare you ask me such a question?"

"I have dared, and I will dare again and again, until you answer me."

"No," she says fiercely, "I did not! How could I do such a thing when
I was your wife? I have not seen my Cousin Teddy Lefroy since I was a
girl of sixteen. I heard he married, four years ago, a barmaid of some
theater-restaurant, and went to Australia with her--that is all I know
about him. And now--now will you go? You have done your worst, have
offered me the grossest insult a husband could offer a wife. Will you
follow my father?"

Armstrong draws a mighty breath, and passes his hand over his brow with
a scared helpless gesture. He walks to the window, which he pulls open,
thrusts his hot head out into the night, and then comes back to the
table, and, leaning over the sick girl, asks, in a choking whisper:

"Why did you do it--why did you do it, Adelaide, my wife? Why did
you make me, your brothers and sisters, believe that you--you were
worthless--oh, why--in Heaven's name, why?"

"I don't know--I can't remember; it was so long ago! What does it
matter now?" she answers wearily, her eyes closing. "I feel so ill, so
tired. I can't talk any more."

He drops upon his knees by her side, and brings his head on a level
with hers.

"Adelaide, Adelaide, by the love I once bore you, by all the pain, the
trouble you brought into my life, I implore you to answer me!"

The quivering earnestness of the appeal rouses her. She rubs her eyes
and struggles into an upright position.

"Let me think--let me think--it is so long ago. I did not let them
believe anything but the truth. I wrote almost at once--before I went
to America--and told them whom I was with and why I was going. I wrote
many times to Robert and to Pauline, with letters inclosed for Aunt Jo
and the others; but they never answered me."

"They burned them unread. Oh, Heaven forgive them, Heaven forgive them,
for I can not!" he mutters hoarsely.

But Addie betrays no indignation, no surprise, no regret.

"Did they?" she murmurs indifferently. "That would explain."

"Addie, Addie, why did you leave me--my love, my love?"

A flush spreads over her face and a sparkle comes to her eye which
almost brings back her youth again.

"Why did I leave you? Because you had learned to hate, to despise me,
because I--we were all making your life unbearable, and I saw no other
means by which I could free your home, give you back peace; and I left
you because I loved you--loved you, oh, a thousand times better than
you ever loved me!"

"Oh, child, child!"

"I saw you had learned to hate, to loathe me--I saw it in your eyes
when--when--I asked you for that wretched money."

"The money--the money," he says eagerly, "you wanted for your father?"

"Yes; he had forged a check for that amount, hoping to be able to
refund the money before his crime should be discovered; but, finding
he could not, and seeing ruin staring him in the face, he came to me,
having heard that I had married a rich man, and asked me to get it
from you. I promised, and for a whole week I tried--tried to ask you;
but I found I couldn't; and when at the end of the week I told him
so, he held a loaded revolver to his temple and was about to blow his
brains out on the spot. But I wrenched the weapon from his hand, ran
straight into the house, and got the money from you. I got the money;
but--but it cost me home--home, happiness, youth and life. I knew that
we two could carry on the farce no longer, that the same roof could not
shelter us again. I told my father that you had discarded me forever
and that he must keep me with him. We sailed for America, and lived
a hand-to-mouth existence there in the lowest haunts of Bohemianism
among gamblers, sharpers, reprobates of all nations and classes until
two months ago when we came home. What a life--what a life! I--I tried
to get away many times, to support myself free from him; but my health
was against me from the start, so I had to stay with him or starve,
though he tried to shake me off often enough. I--I could have taken
a--a husband before my looks went; but I didn't--I didn't because I
thought the husband I had left would come to rescue me. I lived on this
hope for two years; every morning when I woke I said, 'He will come
to-day; he must come to-day!' I longed for you, Tom, I hungered for
you, and I hoped--always hoped--for every night you used to whisper
to me in my sleep that you were coming to take me home again. But you
never came--ah, you never came! And then the great longing for you died
in me; disease was wasting me. I became torpid, callous, and I thought
no more of you or--Tom, Tom, what is the matter? Why, you are crying!
How funny to see a man cry! You are sorry for me? Don't, please,
don't--I--I don't like it."

He is kneeling on the ground before her, sobbing wildly, kissing her
feet, the hem of her dress, moaning forth inarticulate cries of love,
remorse, pain, and pity infinite.

She leans forward, and looks at him for a few moments with cold
sparkling eyes; then her better nature reasserts itself, and, after
making several unsuccessful efforts to rouse him, she lays her hot thin
fingers on his swelling neck and whispers in his ear--

"Tom, listen! I--I am hungry, dear. I have not eaten anything to-day."

He rises to his feet, stares at her with filmy eyes, then seizes her
in his arms, with her pale face strained to his breast, and carries
her down the rotting stairway, away from darkness, pain, and want, to
warmth, peace, care, and love unsleeping, that are to be her lot while
her days are yet of earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Armstrong wants at first to carry off his wife to Madeira, Nice,
Algiers; but the doctors are of unanimous opinion that her strength is
not sufficient to bear the fatigue of such a journey, but that later on
in the season, after a few months' rest and care, she may be moved to a
warmer climate.

"Then tell me--tell me," he asks feverishly, "what I am to do for her
in the meantime. I--I want to cure her quickly; what am I to do?"

"Take her where she wishes to go, within moderate distance; give her
whatever she fancies, keep up her spirits, keep her mind undisturbed,
and do not leave her much alone."

"But medicine--what medicine is she to get? Surely you will give her
something to strengthen her?" pleads Armstrong, an icy chill creeping
over him at the vagueness of the prescription.

"Certainly, certainly," says Dr. Gibson, one of the greatest
authorities on lung disease in the United Kingdom, seizing a sheet of
paper and writing hurriedly; "but remember, Mr. Armstrong, that good
nutriment, complete rest of mind and body, and cheerful companionship
will do more to restore your wife's health than all the medicine in an
apothecary's shop."

With despair in his heart and a smile on his lips Armstrong kneels by
his wife's chair, tells her that he has medical leave to take her away
from the close crowded city, and asks whither she would like to go--to
Brighton, Bournemouth, Cheltenham, the Isle of Wight?

Addie shakes her listless head--she has no wish, no fancy in the
matter--wherever Tom wishes; she does not mind--it is all the same to
her. He sighs noiselessly; everything is the same to her now, all the
life, the vivacity, the eager pretty willfulness that charmed him, are
gone. She lies all day with half-closed eyes, silent, torpid, enjoying
the good things he heaps upon her with a dumb animal appreciation,
taking no interest in any earthly matter, asking no questions or
explanations, unmoved by--seemingly unaware of--the yearning anguished
eyes that never leave her face, the hot and restless hands that always
hover round her, anticipating her lightest want, holding to her lips
food and medicine, from which she turns aside with childish distaste.

"But you used to like the sea, don't you remember, Addie?" he pleads
wistfully. "Bournemouth is, I believe, a lovely place. I think we'll
decide on it."

"Yes," she answers indifferently. "But I hope it is not too far away;
I feel so tired still. Are there not primroses in the room? Hold them
to my face, Tom. How sweet they are--primroses! Why, it must be spring
again, and the grove all yellow with them! And the white lilac too must
be coming into bloom outside the school-room window."

"Addie," he says quickly, "would you like me to take you home, my
darling?"

"Yes," she answers slowly, drawing a long breath; "I think I should
like to spend another spring at home. Yes, take me home."

Home! Is she going home only to die? is the question ever present to
the penitent and remorseful husband.



CHAPTER XXX.


Mr. Armstrong telegraphs to Mrs. Turner, who is still in occupation at
Nutsgrove, and the old place is dusted, swept, aired, and garnished.
One soft April day Addie comes home again, and walks heavily through
the familiar rooms, leaning on her husband's arm. Almost from the first
day he notices a change for the better in her appearance and manner;
her step gains firmness, her appetite improves; and one night, about a
week after their return, when she stands by the drawing-room window,
her face buried in a bunch of lilac-blossoms, there comes a radiance
to her eyes, an eager softness to her voice that thrills him with wild
hope.

"I'm glad we came home; aren't you, Tom?" she whispers, nestling close
to him. "Let us never go away again. I'm tired of wandering; and I
shall get well here, I know, without going to Madeira or Algiers. I
feel to-night that I should like to live. Things are coming back to me
again that I once loved--you amongst them, Tom. I am growing fond of
you again--oh, yes, life is coming to me with the summer, and even good
looks also! Look!" she cries gayly, pulling him to a glass and putting
her face close to his swarthy one. "Am I not almost pretty to-night?
You'd know me if you met me in the streets now, wouldn't you, Tom? Why,
I want only a little red in my cheeks, a few freckles on the bridge of
my nose, and some curliness in my fringe to be myself again--quite my
old self again!"

"You can do without the fringe, young lady," says Armstrong, who has
the old-fashioned male distaste for the modern style of hairdressing,
pushing back two or three lank locks from her forehead.

"No, no; I must have a fringe, a regular Skye-terrier one too; my face
looks so bald and hard without it. It's all that horrible cod-liver
oil that's coming out in my hair and making it so thin and straight! I
won't take any more of it, Tom; it's of no use trying to force me," she
adds, with a low soft laugh that comes to him like a strain of sweetest
music. "I'm going to get well without it--you'll see."

Later on that evening she startles him by alluding for the first time
to her sisters and brothers, quite casually too, as if the thought
of them had just struck her incidentally. She has been looking
over an old photographic album, and, stopping before one of her
sisters--Pauline--she says lightly--

"The others, Tom? They are doing well, aren't they--dear old Jo and
Polly and Bob and Hal and Lottchen?"

"Yes, yes, love," he answers eagerly. "They are all doing well, every
one of them."

"I should like to see them again," she says, after a pause--"to see
them all together sitting here around me as in the old days. Will you
ask them to come, Tom?"

"Yes, if you think you feel quite--quite rested enough, dear, after
your journey," he answers reluctantly.

So they all come in haste and trembling, Lady Saunderson giving up two
important appointments with Worth, traveling up from London with her
elder brother, who seems paralyzed by the news that he had heard so
unexpectedly.

Armstrong interviews them first, and in a few stern impressive words
gives them the outline of their sister's story, and warns them against
exciting her with ill-timed emotion in her critical state.

So with smiling faces and cheerful words they welcome her back as
if she has been on a pleasant trip. There are no passionate tears,
no hysterical kisses, no entreaties for forgiveness, no remorseful
appeals. The meeting which Armstrong has been dreading opens and closes
in sunshine, and Addie, propped up with cushions, greets them with
glistening unresentful glance and gentle loving words.

"How well they look! Don't they, Tom?" she cries, turning a beaming
face to her husband, against whose shoulder she is resting. "And, take
them all in all, what a good-looking family they are to be sure! Why,
Lottie, what an immense girl you have grown! And you've got all the
doubtful bloom of my teens, roses, flesh, and freckles--all. I don't
suppose it would become me to call you pretty, would it? Polly, what
a swell you are--just like pictures from _Le Follet_. But your face
hasn't changed much. Bob, I won't believe that mustache is genuine
until I pull it. Come over here, sir, and face the light at once! What!
You are afraid? I thought so," she adds with a gay laugh, as the boy
turns away swiftly to hide the burning tears he can not keep from his
eyes.

They sit together all the afternoon, chatting merrily, recalling old
family jokes, making plans for the future; and, when tea is brought
in, Addie insists on pouring it out, her husband's large hand covering
hers and guiding the spout to the tea-pot. She makes them all drink
her health, declares she has never felt so well and happy in her
life, and sends a loving message to poor Aunt Jo, who is laid up with
rheumatic fever, which Lottie promises to deliver without fail. Then
she makes engagements to spend a week with Bob at Aldershot during the
maneuvers, to visit Hal at the Naval College, to stop a month at the
Park with Pauline, and to take Lottie for a trip abroad during the
holidays. Toward evening she seems a little tired; so, at a signal from
Armstrong, the family withdraw by degrees, and she sinks into a light
doze, from which she awakes with an uneasy start.

"Tom, Tom, where are you?"

"Here, here, where I always am--by your--side, sweetheart."

"They have all gone?"

"Yes, for the present."

She raises herself up, puts her warm arms round his neck, and whispers--

"And now only you--only you to the end!"

Seeing the spasm of pain that crosses his dark face, she turns the sob
into a laugh, and, taking a pink anemone from a glass on the table,
begins to fray it childishly.

"'Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, gentleman, plowboy, apothecary--'
Apothecary! Oh, you stupid, empty-headed flower--much you know about
it! I wish I had a daisy--a big milky-petaled daisy; they always tell
the truth--always."

"What did they tell you, love?"

"That I was to marry a gentleman, Tom--a gentleman. I consulted them
every day nearly for three weeks before I married you, and they always
gave me the same answer. If--if I were going to die--which I have not
the slightest intention of doing--I should ask you, Tom, to plant only
daisies on my grave."

"I think it would be more to the point," he answers lightly, "if I made
the request of you, considering that I am almost twenty years your
senior, and that I, not you, my dear, was the object of the pointed and
persistent compliment."

"Very well then," she says, laughing; "I'll plant your grave all with
big daisies, Tom Armstrong, gentleman, and I'll come and water them
every evening--when you're dead."

    "'Ah, if you did, my own, my sweet,
      Were it ever so airy a tread,
    My dust would hear you and beat
      Had I lain for a century dead--
    Would start and tremble under your feet,
      And blossom in purple and red!'"

"'My dust would hear you and beat had I lain for a century dead,'" she
repeats softly. "There is fiber as well as music in that idea; I like
it. 'Had I lain for a century dead'--the old tune of the immortality
of love, Tom, sung by poets and psalters since the world began. And so
you think your dusty old heart would feel me, your drumless ear would
hear me a century hence?" Then, after a pause, looking up into his face
with a twitching mouth that brings a dead dimple to life--"But suppose,
Tom--suppose my second husband carried the watering-pot--would your
dust blossom into purple and red then?"

"You little Goth! You soulless barbarian!" he exclaims, in mock
indignation. "Catch me ever dropping out of prose for your edification
again!"

"There--don't be cross; I'll always leave him at home when I come to
call on your poor ghost. Now are you satisfied?"

The stars come out, faintly studding the purple vault of heaven; a tiny
breeze sweeps the budding world, bringing to the sick girl the perfume
of a thousand flowers, telling her of the sweets and the joys, the
bloom of the coming summer, which she may never know.

    "'Were it ever so airy a tread,
      My dust would hear you and beat
    Had I lain for a century dead,'"

she repeats softly; then, suddenly starting to her feet with a peevish
wailing cry--"Why do you talk to me of death--death, only death?
Oh, I don't want to die, I don't want to die, I tell you! I can not
die now--it would be double death! I am so young, I have suffered
so"--sinking upon her knees and clasping her hands piteously--"not
yet, dear Heaven, ah, not yet! Give me this summer--this one summer;
it is all I ask! Tom, why don't you speak--why don't you look at me?
Ah, you have no hope--no hope! I saw it in their faces to-day; I see it
in yours every time you look at me. You know I'm doomed--you know I'm
doomed!"

"I know nothing, nothing," he answers, in a smothered voice, clasping
her to his breast and kissing the tears from her gray scared face,
"but that they say that the Almighty's power is great and His mercy
infinite."

"And I have one lung left, you know; I have one lung left!" she pleads
peevishly. "The doctors at the hospital told me that; and people have
been known to live for years with one lung, with great care and love.
And I have both--I have both! I ought to last the summer; it is so near
now; the roses are budding outside the window, the apple trees are
white with blossom--it is so near! Oh, Tom, my love, my life, keep me
with you this one summer, this one summer, please!"

       *       *       *       *       *

She lives to see the summer, to see the tall daisies and sleepy
cowslips bow their scorched heads to the dust, and the roses drop leaf
by leaf from their thorny stem--lives to welcome the golden sheaves of
autumn; and, when the first bud shrivels in the grove, she is carried,
not to that quiet garden behind the church to lie beside her mother,
but to the balmy shores of Algiers, where summer meets her again and
lingers with her so kindly and helpfully that three years go by before
Tom Armstrong sets eyes on the tall chimneys of his native town again.

       *       *       *       *       *

One bright July day two ladies are seated at the window of the old
drawing-room at Nutsgrove. One, old and massively spectacled, is busy
knitting a diminutive jersey; the other, with a pretty air of chronic
invalidism that Mrs. Wittiterly might have copied with effect, is lying
in an easy-chair, her white hands idle on her lap, watching a baby,
unwieldy and almost shapeless with the quantity of flesh his tender
age has to carry, playing with a kitten at her feet, pulling its tail,
turning back its ears, clasping it ecstatically to a fat heaving chest,
until at last, with one frantic wriggle and a smart little tap on the
chubby arm torturing it, the unfortunate brute gets free, and, with a
spring, clears the open window.

"Well done, puss, well done!" says Addie, laughing. "For the last ten
minutes I've been trying to summon up energy to come to your rescue,
but couldn't. Well done!"

For a moment the baby looks in utter silence from the thin red streak
on his arm to his mother's callous face; then, having taken in the
full measure of his grievance, he stiffens out his limbs, clinches his
fists, closes his eyes, opens his mouth until the corners almost reach
his ears, and gives vent to the most soul-piercing, stupendous roar
that has ever echoed through the walls of Nutsgrove within the memory
of a Lefroy.

The mighty volume electrifies the household, and brings servants and
friends from all quarters--brings Armstrong from his study, his face
pale with apprehension.

"What is it? He is killed--my boy?"

"No," pants Addie, "not quite. There is, I think, a little life left in
him still."

"But he has frightened, he has excited you, my love; you look quite
flushed. You must drink this glass of wine at once, Addie."

"He is gone?" asks Miss Darcy, cautiously withdrawing her fingers from
her tortured ears, and, turning to her host and hostess, exclaims
contemptuously--

"And that--that is the child you would have me believe is the offspring
of a woman with one lung! Adelaide, my niece, excuse plain speaking;
but it's my impression you're nothing more nor less than a humbug--an
arrant humbug!"

     THE END.



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  [CONTINUED FROM FOURTH PAGE.]


  NO.                                     PRICE.

  255 The Mystery. By Mrs. Henry Wood         15

  256 Mr. Smith: A Part of His Life. By
      L. B. Walford                           15

  257 Beyond Recall. By Adeline Sergeant      10

  258 Cousins. By L. B. Walford               20

  259 The Bride of Monte-Cristo. A Sequel
      to "The Count of Monte-Cristo,"
      By Alexander Dumas                      10

  260 Proper Pride. By B. M. Croker           10

  261 A Fair Maid. By F. W. Robinson          20

  262 The Count of Monte-Cristo. Part I.
      By Alexander Dumas                      20

  262 The Count of Monte-Cristo. Part II.
      By Alexander Dumas                      20

  263 An Ishmaelite. By Miss M.E. Braddon     15

  264 Piédouche. A French Detective. By
      Fortuné Du Boisgobey                    10

  265 Judith Shakespeare: Her Love Affairs
      and Other Adventures. By
      William Black                           15

  266 The Water-Babies. A Fairy Tale for
      a Land-Baby. By the Rev. Charles
      Kingsley                                10

  267 Laurel Vane; or, The Girls'
      Conspiracy. By Mrs. Alex. McVeigh
      Miller                                  20

  268 Lady Gay's Pride; or, The Miser's
      Treasure. By Mrs. Alex. McVeigh
      Miller                                  20

  269 Lancaster's Choice. By Mrs. Alex.
      McVeigh Miller                          20

  270 The Wandering Jew. Part I. By Eugene
      Sue                                     20

  270 The Wandering Jew. Part II. By
      Eugene Sue                              20

  271 The Mysteries of Paris. Part I. By
      Eugene Sue                              20

  271 The Mysteries of Paris. Part II. By
      Eugene Sue                              20

  272 The Little Savage. Captain Marryat      10

  273 Love and Mirage: or, The Waiting on
      an Island. By M. Betham Edwards         10

  274 Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse,
      Princess of Great Britain and Ireland.
      Biographical Sketch and Letters         10

  275 The Three Brides. Charlotte M. Yonge    10

  276 Under the Lilies and Roses. By
      Florence Marryat (Mrs. Francis Lean)    10

  277 The Surgeon's Daughters. By Mrs.
      Henry Wood. A Man of His Word.
      By W. E. Norris                         10

  278 For Life and Love. By Alison            10

  279 Little Goldie. Mrs. Sumner Hayden       20

  280 Omnia Vanitas. A Tale of Society.
      By Mrs. Forrester                       10

  281 The Squire's Legacy. By Mary Cecil
      Hay                                     15

  282 Donal Grant. By George MacDonald        15

  283 The Sin of a Lifetime. By the author
      of "Dora Thorne"                        10

  284 Doris. By "The Duchess"                 10

  285 The Gambler's Wife                      20

  286 Deldee; or, The Iron Hand. F. Warden    20

  287 At War With Herself. By the author
      of "Dora Thorne"                        10

  288 From Gloom to Sunlight. By the author
      of "Dora Thorne"                        10

  289 John Bull's Neighbor in Her True
      Light. By a "Brutal Saxon"              10

  290 Nora's Love Test. By Mary Cecil Hay     20

  291 Love's Warfare. By the author of
      "Dora Thorne"                           10

  292 A Golden Heart. By the author of
      "Dora Thorne"                           10

  293 The Shadow of a Sin. By the author
      of "Dora Thorne"                        10

  294 Hilda. By the author of "Dora
      Thorne"                                 10

  295 A Woman's War. By the author of
      "Dora Thorne"                           10

  296 A Rose in Thorns. By the author
      of "Dora Thorne"                        10

  297 Hilary's Folly. By the author of
      "Dora Thorne"                           10

  298 Mitchelhurst Place.  By Margaret
      Veley                                   10

  299 The Fatal Lilies, and A Bride from
      the Sea. By the author of "Dora
      Thorne"                                 10

  300 A Gilded Sin, and A Bridge of Love.
      By the author of "Dora Thorne"          10

  301 Dark Days. By Hugh Conway               10

  302 The Blatchford Bequest. By Hugh
      Conway                                  10

  303 Ingledew House, and More Bitter than
      Death. By the author of "Dora
      Thorne"                                 10

  304 In Cupid's Net. By the author of
      "Dora Thorne"                           10

  305 A Dead Heart, and Lady Gwendoline's
      Dream. By the author of
      "Dora Thorne"                           10

  306 A Golden Dawn, and Love for a Day.
      By the author of "Dora Thorne"          10

  307 Two Kisses, and Like No Other Love.
      By the author of "Dora Thorne"          10

  308 Beyond Pardon                           20

  309 The Pathfinder. By J. Fenimore
      Cooper                                  20

  310 The Prairie. By J. Fenimore Cooper      20

  311 Two Years Before the Mast. By R.
      H. Dana Jr.                             20

  312 A Week in Killarney. By "The
      Duchess"                                10

  313 The Lover's Creed. By Mrs. Cashel
      Hoey                                    15

  314 Peril. By Jessie Fothergill             20

  315 The Mistletoe Bough. Edited by
      Miss M. E. Braddon                      20

  316 Sworn to Silence; or, Aline Rodney's
      Secret. By Mrs. Alex. McVeigh
      Miller                                  20

  317 By Mead and Stream. By Charles
      Gibbon                                  20

  [CONTINUED ON LAST PAGE OF COVER.]



  THE CELEBRATED
  SOHMER
  GRAND, SQUARE AND UPRIGHT _PIANOS_.

  FIRST PRIZE
  DIPLOMA.

  Centennial Exhibition,
  1876; Montreal,
  1881 and 1882.

  The enviable position
  Sohmer &
  Co. hold among
  American Piano
  Manufacturers is
  solely due to the
  merits of their instruments.

  [Illustration]

  They are used
  in Conservatories,
  Schools and
  Seminaries, on account
  of their superior
  tone and
  unequaled durability.

  The SOHMER
  Piano is a special
  favorite with the
  leading musicians
  and critics.

  ARE AT PRESENT THE MOST POPULAR
  AND PREFERRED BY THE LEADING ARTISTS.

  SOHMER & CO., Manufacturers, No. 149 to 155 E. 14th Street, N. Y.


  MUNRO'S PUBLICATIONS.

  THE SEASIDE LIBRARY.--POCKET EDITION.

  LATEST ISSUES:


  372 Phyllis' Probation. By the author of
      "His Wedded Wife"                          10

  373 Wing and Wing. J. Fenimore Cooper          20

  374 The Dead Man's Secret; or, The Adventures
      of a Medical Student. By
      Dr. Jupiter Paeon                          20

  375 A Ride to Khiva. By Capt. Fred
      Burnaby, of the Royal Horse Guards         20

  376 The Crime of Christmas-Day. By the
      author of "My Ducats and My Daughter"      10

  377 Magdalen Hepburn: A Story of the
      Scottish Reformation. By Mrs. Oliphant     20

  378 Homeward Bound; or, The Chase. A
      Tale of the Sea. By J. Fenimore Cooper     20

  379 Home as Found. (Sequel to "Homeward
      Bound.") By J. Fenimore
      Cooper                                     20

  380 Wyandotte; or, The Hutted Knoll.
      By J. Fenimore Cooper                      20

  381 The Red Cardinal. By Frances Elliot        10

  382 Three Sisters; or, Sketches of a
      Highly Original Family. By Elsa
      D'Esterre-Keeling                          10

  383 Introduced to Society. By Hamilton
      Aïdé                                       10

  384 On Horseback Through Asia Minor.
      By Capt. Fred Burnaby                      20

  385 The Headsman; or, The Abbaye des
      Vignerons. By J. Fenimore Cooper           20

  386 Led Astray; or, "La Petite Comtesse."
      By Octave Feuillet                         10

  387 The Secret of the Cliffs. By Charlotte
      French                                     20

  388 Addie's Husband; or, Through Clouds
      to Sunshine. By the author of
      "Love or Lands?"                           10

  389 Ichabod. A Portrait. By Bertha
      Thomas                                     10

  The above books are for sale by all newsdealers, or will be sent to
  any address, postage prepaid, by the publisher, on receipt of 12
  cents for single numbers, 17 cents for special numbers, and 25 cents
  for double numbers. Parties wishing the Pocket Edition of THE SEASIDE
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  the Ordinary Edition will be sent. Address,

  GEORGE MUNRO, Publisher,
  P. O. Box 3751.                 17 to 27 Vandewater Street, New York.



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Otherwise, the author's
original spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been left intact.





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