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Title: Kate Vernon, Vol. 3 (of 3) - A tale. In three volumes
Author: Alexander, Mrs.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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KATE VERNON.

A Tale.

_IN THREE VOLUMES._

VOL. III.

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



KATE VERNON.



CHAPTER I.

NEW SCENES.


Kate stood a moment transfixed, as nurse's awful words met her ear, her
eyes riveted on her grandfather, but the repose of his face, almost
reassured her, and, stepping back from Mrs. O'Toole's encircling arms,
she exclaimed, hurriedly, angrily, but in carefully subdued tones--

"Be silent, nurse! do not terrify me with such strange words--see, he
is asleep!"

Nurse's only reply was a burst of tears, as she laid her hand upon that
of the Colonel, the fingers of which gently grasped the arm of the
chair. Kate now bent down to kiss his cheek--but shrunk back from the
icy touch.

"He has fainted," she exclaimed, looking wildly round at nurse. "Bring
water, and wine--send for Doctor S----."

"I will, I will, my own child, only don't look at me that away."

Mrs. O'Toole's violent ringing, soon brought Mrs. Crooks, and the
servant.

"Go," said Miss Vernon, who, though pale as death, was calm and stern,
"send for Doctor S----, instantly, Colonel Vernon is taken very ill,
he has fainted! see! Nurse thought he was dead, but I forbid any one
uttering that word--until--until--go," she exclaimed, again with the
same suppressed vehemence, with which she had before spoken, "Why do
you stand gazing at me? life or death depends on your speed."

Both the frightened landlady and servant rushed from the room; and Kate
never stirred from her rigid position beside her grandfather's chair,
never moved a muscle of her face, until the Doctor, who was fortunately
at home, entered, and found them apparently fixed in their several
positions.

A hasty glance, showed the experienced physician, that it was indeed
but the lifeless clay, round which poor Kate strove to preserve the
quiet, prescribed for a suffering spirit, and turning to Mrs. O'Toole,
he whispered--

"Try and get Miss Vernon out of the room."

Her quick ear caught his words.

"Why should I go? I can assist you to revive him."

"But--but--" stammered the doctor, fairly terror struck, at the thought
of all the wild grief implied by her incredulity, "If I do not succeed?"

"Oh! hush, hush, it is not two hours since he blessed me, and said
he was happy! Grandpapa, do not you hear? it is I--your own Kate! Why
do you make no effort to recover him?" she exclaimed, turning almost
fiercely to the doctor--"Where is your skill? Where is your science?"

"If you will leave the room," he returned, recovering himself. "I will
do my best, but the consciousness that you, in your extreme anxiety,
are watching me, will paralyse my best efforts."

"I will go then, and return in a few minutes," said Kate, retiring.

But these few minutes were employed in stretching the lifeless form on
its bed; and then nurse met her child, in an agony of tears, that told
her better than words could, that she was alone in the world!

Then, at last she was convinced, she did not faint or weep, but stood
quite still, regardless of the well meant words of those around her,
a sudden tremour passing at intervals through her frame; at last,
turning to those, who pressed near her, she said, in strangely quiet
tones, almost a whisper, but terribly earnest--

"Leave me, I wish to be alone." Then seeing they hesitated to leave
her, she repeated with a sudden sharpness of voice and gesture of
dismissal, which long remained in the memories of those who witnessed
it, so expressively did it seem to reject all human aid, or sympathy:
"I wish to be alone!"

They left her; and sinking on her knees, by the bed, on which lay the
form of him she loved so well, she gave herself up to the first burst
of real grief, that had ever rent her heart, with its wild energy;
before, though there was fear, there was hope, though every nerve
in her delicate frame trembled and shrunk from the expectation of
trials, the nobler spirit dared to contemplate--there was an object
for which to bear them all--an end to be attained. Now she was alone!
with none to live for--none to whom, and for whom she was a world!
He was gone--the kind, the gentle, loving friend; and there lay the
lifeless image of him, whom she had lost, the stately prison-house,
not unworthy its immortal captive, now free, and amid eternal bliss,
perhaps near her, compassionating the sorrow which his already Heaven
taught prescience showed was for her good! and should her life be
henceforth alone? what was to become of her! No longer any reason to
hush regret, lest it might cloud her brow, to catch gladly at hope, the
most uncertain, that she might reflect something of its glad beam! "Yet
I would not recall him, if I could, Oh, God!" was the only ejaculation
that escaped her lips, as her soul lay prostrate beneath the heavy
weight thus laid upon it. The past, the present, all mingled in one
strange chaos, by the pressure of a mighty grief. And the moment that
her grandfather blessed her (scarce four hours ago) was already fixed
amid the great events of the heart, ages back; for sometimes, when
thoroughly roused, and freed an instant from its fetters, the soul
becomes in capacity a reflex of its great original, and in its sight,
also, one day is as a thousand years.

But with the exhaustion of spirit natural to excitement so strong, came
the wish for human sympathy, without which none can exist; and groping
her way to the door, through the darkness, perceived for the first
time, she opened it, and was caught in the arms of Mrs. O'Toole, who,
with a silent, watchful love, equalled only by Cormac's, waited, humbly
ready, until that love was wanted.

"You are all that is left me," sobbed the poor girl, as nurse held her
in her arms; and they were the only words that escaped her lips, for
the long hours through which she wept, in unutterable grief.

       *       *       *       *       *

She obeyed all nurse's suggestions with the simplicity of a child,
incapable of thinking for itself; and, at last, that faithful friend
had the satisfaction of seeing her gradually sink into a sleep, still
and heavy, but interrupted with deep sighs, which, at intervals,
unclosed the lovely lips that seemed only formed for joyous smiles.

Then came the terrible awaking, the first unconscious
exclamation--"Dear nurse, I have had such dreadful dreams!" The sober
sense of waking grief--the struggle to think calmly and resignedly of
all--the partial success--the sudden fresh outburst of sorrow.

So the day dragged on; and at the same hour at which Kate had last
heard that voice, which had ever spoken fondly to her, a heavy
travelling carriage, drawn by four posters, laden with numerous trunks
and imperials, dashed in hot haste down the quiet little street. It
stopped at the house of mourning; and the next moment, a tall lady,
wrapped in a travelling cloak of velvet and costly furs, throwing back
her veil, grasped Mrs. O'Toole's hand; and, after a piercing glance at
the honest, troubled face before her, exclaimed--

"I am too late!"

"Not to comfort mee darlint, glory be to God! Yer come at last, me
lady! He said you would be here this day."

"Kate, Miss Vernon, where is she?" said Lady Desmond, in clear, firm
tones, that sounded as if command was natural to them; and passing on
to the stairs.

"No, no! me sweet child is here."

And Mrs. O'Toole opened the parlour door, Kate, at the moment, entering
from the inner room. She stopped, for an instant, while Lady Desmond
advanced rapidly, and clasped her to her heart, straining her closely
in her arms.

"Oh! Georgy," cried Kate, amid her sobs, "you will never hear his voice
again--he is gone! gone before a gleam of hope or prosperity brightened
the sad evening of his life; before I could see him as he was, before
the bitter dregs of the cup of adversity had lost their bitterness by
use. And I could do nothing for him, nothing! Oh, when we parted last,
who, who could have thought, that it would have ended thus?"

And she pointed expressively to the small, mean room, now dimly
lighted, by the candles, which Mrs. O'Toole scrupulously kept burning
after evening closed.

Lady Desmond, grasping Kate's hand nervously, walked to the bed-side,
and holding back the folds of her veil, bent reverently over the dead,
for a moment, in silence, then drawing back, broke into an agony of
hysterical tears, that startled Kate, by its vehemence, and brought
nurse rapidly to her side.

"I feel as if guilty of his death," she repeated. "Why, why, did I
delay my return?"

"Oh, hush, dearest Georgy, hush," whispered Kate, somewhat calmed, by
witnessing the remorseful emotion of her cousin. "I was wrong to speak
as I did; it was the sharpness of sorrow made me utter such words; God
forgive them, for in my inmost heart I feel that He never punishes,
He only sends messengers after us to keep us in the right path; the
poverty was nothing; and even this! we shall yet understand it all!"

They stood there in silence, nurse supporting Lady Desmond, who leant
against her, her bonnet thrown aside, her luxuriant black hair drawn
back from her lofty forehead, her large dark eyes dilated, as if her
soul gazed through them far away. Kate, a smile struggling through
the tears streaming from hers, and one hand slightly raised towards
Heaven. The three figures symbolising well, homely humanity, with
its quiet necessary fortitude. Intellect and refinement, with their
larger capacity, for joy or for suffering, and faith, so often almost
extinguished, amid sorrow and doubt, yet still preserving a ray of
everlasting hope.

But Lady Desmond was overpowered by the fatigue of a rapid and
frequently obstructed journey, performed in a fever of anxiety; and
Kate's attention was beneficially attracted from her all engrossing
subject of thought to her cousin's evident exhaustion. She wished much
to remove Kate at once from what she considered her wretched lodging,
to her hotel, but this Kate resolutely refused to comply with.

"It is the last sad duty I can pay him," she said, "not to quit his
remains until they are carried to their last home!"

Lady Desmond, therefore, determined to stay with her; and Mrs. Crook's
establishment were put to their wits' end by the mingled excitement of
a death, and a ladyship in a carriage-and-four.

Recovered from her fatigue, by a night's rest, Lady Desmond devoted
herself to the care of her young cousin, with all the eagerness of a
passionate nature, remorseful for the past; but though she hushed
Kate to sleep each night in her arms, she performed every task that
could by possibility devolve on Miss Vernon, such as attending to the
details of the funeral, &c., with a diligence and tact that spared
Kate many a pang; it was the latter who, amid her own absorbing grief,
found time and gentle wisdom, wherewith to calm the sudden bursts of
sorrow which often welled up from the heart of that proud, but generous
and impulsive woman, who ever rushing into extremes, found food for
self-reproach in every little incident which either nurse or Kate
betrayed, of their life, for the last year.

"It was so obstinate, so unkindly obstinate of you not to join me at
Florence; God only knows how much it might have spared; yet that was
no excuse for my selfish negligence; though, Kate, I had powerful
inducements not to return to England, I will--perhaps I may yet tell
you them, and you will then understand me."

The day after the funeral, that renewal of death and sorrow, Kate
readily acceded to her cousin's wish to leave the spot, no longer
sanctified by the inanimate presence of him they had lost. And it was
with a dull feeling of weariness, as if even the capacity of suffering
had been worn out, that she threw herself into the carriage that was to
take her away from the scene of her late bereavement. All was now over,
nothing more to be done; and all she longed for was silence, solitude,
and sleep.

"Come to the hotel as soon as you possibly can. Miss Vernon looks
terribly cut up; she will want you to comfort her," was Lady Desmond's
last injunction to Mrs. O'Toole, who remained behind to settle all the
final affairs of packing and payment.

"I will, me lady," returned Mrs. O'Toole, who had found some
consolation in the handsome appointments of the hearse and mourning
coaches, which the day before had carried the remains of her beloved
master to the grave; and re-entering the house, she immediately applied
herself to her task. "How'll I iver get the dog away?" she asked, when
about to depart.

"I'm sure I don't know," replied Mrs. Crook; "he's done nothing but
wander about the house all day, and whine so piteous-like every time he
went into the poor old gentleman's room!"

"Faith, I thought he'd have ate up the undertaker's min whin they kem
into the room. Ah, God help us, is it any wondher me sweet young lady's
heart is broke, whin the dumb baste itself knows what we have lost;
where is he now?"

"I don't know, I'm sure; I've not seen him these two hours."

Mrs. O'Toole went in search of him to what had been the Colonel's
bed-room; and there, stretched by the bed he had so long watched, lay
the old hound, his limbs quivering in the agonies of death.

"Och! Cormac! you're not dyin'?"

The noble dog strove to raise his head in answer to her voice, but it
fell back, and he was dead.

"Och, Cormac! me poor Cormac!" cried Mrs. O'Toole, her scarce dried
tears flowing afresh; "but you wur the thrue hearted dog! Sure, there
was somethin' inside iv ye far betther than many a man's heart. Och,
how'll I iver tell Miss Kate that ye couldn't stop afther yer ould
masther was gone?"

But Lady Desmond wisely determined that Kate should not hear of
Cormac's death until she made enquiries for him; and Kate lay in
perfect quiet for several days, rarely speaking, and never alluding to
the sad scenes she had so lately gone through, though often the large
tears would pour unconsciously down her cheeks, and when, at last,
the intelligence of poor Cormac's death was communicated to her, she
received it with a burst of grief, seemingly disproportioned to the
occasion. All her sorrow was revived by the death of this faithful
follower, so closely associated in her mind, not only with her lamented
grandfather, but with her own earliest and happiest days.

One morning, as Lady Desmond and nurse were standing in silent concern,
by her bed-side, noticing sadly the deep traces of grief on her young
face, she suddenly roused herself from the species of lethargy into
which she had fallen, and stretching out her hand to Lady Desmond,
said--

"Forgive me, Georgina, forgive me, nurse, I am very selfish and wrong
to lie here so indolently; I will endeavour to do better, to be
resigned. I will get up and go out in the carriage with you, Georgy, if
you wish."

From that day, Kate strove diligently to keep her self-imposed promise,
and gradually time, the healer, accustomed her to think, with calm,
though unutterably tender sadness, of the dear and venerated relative
she had lost.

But she almost loathed the state and luxury amid which she now lived,
remembering the petty privations which had depressed and mortified the
last weary hours of his life. Often the erring child of earth, groping
in the dim twilight of imperfect faith, would raise her heart to Heaven
in silent supplication for forgiveness, at these half involuntary
murmurs; it is so hard to believe that the sorrows laid upon a beloved
and revered object, are not "too heavy." We all know the deep-rooted
sin and error of our _own_ hearts, which lie hidden from mortal eye,
how much they require chastisement and guidance, but the life that to
us seems blameless, the kindly nature, to our eyes, a model for us to
follow! Oh, how inscrutable seem the trials we could comprehend if
directed to our own discipline.

It was with a stronger sensation of pleasure than she had known for
many days, that Kate heard her cousin propose their removal from the
mighty capital, now rapidly gathering together its beauty and its
strength, its fashion and its political hosts.

"Is there any place you would prefer, dear Kate," she asked, one
evening as they sat together, after their quickly despatched dinner,
(Lady Desmond had, after much solicitation, consented to accompany an
old Neapolitan acquaintance to the opera, and was now waiting for her
friend's carriage.)

"No, none," replied Kate, indolently, "all I care for is to leave
London; though, dearest Georgy, it is by no means insupportable to me,
if you wish to stay."

"It has no attraction for me," said Lady Desmond, "Ireland would be
painful to you now, and though I long to take you abroad, you will
enjoy a visit to France or Germany much more a few months hence;
besides, I would rather not leave England at present.

"Lady Elizabeth Macdonnell was sitting with me this morning," she
resumed, after a pause, during which she played thoughtfully with
the tassels of her Cashmere cloak. "You don't know her, she was
related to poor Sir Thomas, and beside that, her husband was an old
brother-in-arms of his. When General Macdonnell died, his widow was
left almost penniless, and so they gave her apartments at Hampton Court
Palace; she tells me it is a pleasant, quiet place for a month or two;
pretty rides and drives near town if you want to see any one, or any
thing--out of the way if you are misanthropically inclined. In short,
she is very anxious to get me down there; she is in wretched health,
and if it is practicable, I should like to gratify her; she was most
kind to me, poor thing, in her palmy days, when I was an inexperienced
bride. Would you like the locale, Kate?"

"Who, I?" said Kate, absently, "yes, very much."

"Well then, I will go down there to-morrow, and see the place, and
Lady Elizabeth; to tell the truth, for I must not take credit for more
philanthropy than I possess, though I do not wish to remain in London,
I feel a reluctance to leave its neighbourhood--it is strange," and
Lady Desmond relapsed into silence and thought, a look of impatience
slightly contracting her brow, and changing the expression of her
resolute mouth to one of dissatisfaction and unrest.

Kate gazed at her in the indolent speculation of a mind too depressed
for activity of thought, as to what cause of vexation could possibly
ruffle the prosperous current of her cousin's life.

"Mr. ----'s carriage," announced a spruce waiter.

And kissing her fair god-child, and bidding her an affectionate
good-night, Lady Desmond swept out of the room, leaving Kate to the
care of Mrs. O'Toole.

In less than a fortnight after this conversation, the cousins were
settled in a large old fashioned house, adjoining the Palace of Hampton
Court, Lady Desmond's well filled purse, and her major domo's tact
and intelligence, supplying all the deficiencies of a ready-furnished
mansion, with the celerity of modern magic. The above mentioned
functionary, an old attendant of the late Sir Thomas, was, as Lady
Desmond termed him, her steward, rather than her servant; he arranged
her household, paid her bills, and tyrannised over her in a thousand
ways, to which, in full consciousness of her weakness, she languidly
submitted.

April was well advanced when they took possession of their new abode,
and most gladly did Kate exchange her daily lifeless airing in the
Park, for walks amid the thousand blossoms which adorned the Palace
Gardens, with all the freshness and perfume of early spring.

The stately parterres, the mossy grass, and the first delicate
exquisite green of the trees, the lovely avenue of horse chesnuts in
the neighbouring park, all were new to her, all unlike any scene
she was accustomed to, and unconnected in her mind with suffering;
passionately enjoying the sights and sounds, and scent of a garden,
at this, its loveliest season, she felt drawn out of herself by the
contemplation of so much beauty; grief was softened to sadness, by this
evidence of Almighty love! the past engrossed her less completely, it
was so uncongenial with the smiles and tears of April, the anticipative
joyousness of all nature, and no longer apprehensive of losing
self-command by approaching the subject uppermost in her thoughts, she
found a quiet pleasure in constant talk of her grandfather, of his
opinions and sayings, and even of his death with a composure that might
have misled a superficial observer as to her real feelings.

She now gathered courage to write a long descriptive letter to Mr.
and Mrs. Winter, in return for the truly affectionate missives they
had written, on hearing, through Langley, of the Colonel's death.
Some other writing, also, devolved upon her, replies to _relations_,
cognisant of her existence, since she had become the inmate of the
prosperous Lady Desmond. These were soon despatched, and she felt
somewhat of a blank from the absence of all necessary employment.
She still claimed immunity from the little ceremonious, scandalous
re-unions of the palace; and Lady Desmond, far too impatient by nature
to endure restraint, made her gentle cousin's mourning an excuse for
rejecting the distasteful invitations. Indeed Kate could not help
observing, that, for an invalid, Lady Elizabeth took a wonderful
interest in mundane affairs; and, although she had recommended Hampton
Court to Lady Desmond, as a quiet retired place, she was perpetually
suggesting a little society, as a panacea for every ill, and she felt
an instinctive dislike to her cousin's noble relative, who always
addressed her with the same carressing condescension, she might have
shown to a pet terrier, belonging to her respected _wealthy_ kinswoman.

"A thousand apologies, dear Kate," cried Lady Desmond, as she made
her appearance one lovely May evening, half an hour after their usual
time for dinner, "I fear I have kept you waiting, but I could not
tear myself from Mrs Fordyce and her lovely flowers; you must go with
me on my next visit, her villa is so perfect, and Richmond looked
so bright." Kate smiled, pleased to see her cousin so animated, and
secretly wondering what could be the reason of the joy that sparkled
in her large, dark eyes, and lent so much of soul and brilliancy to
her generally proud, calm countenance. "And," continued Lady Desmond,
"as the carriage turned out of the gate, it was stopped by almost the
last person I expected to meet on the banks of the Thames, an Italian
acquaintance, the Wentworths and myself used to see a great deal of,
at Naples. You have heard of Lord Effingham?"

Kate shook her head.

"He was universally known in Italy, and here too; he seemed quite as
much astonished to meet me, and promised, he would ride over some
morning--he said, he had a villa on the Thames, I think, but I was in
too great a hurry to attend."

Lady Desmond was more than usually affectionate to Kate that evening,
stroking her glossy hair, with the fondness of an elder sister,
and exerting all her powers of persuasion to induce her to join a
tea-party, at Lady Elizabeth Macdonnell's; and Kate, fearful of being a
check upon her cousin's amusements, and conscious that she had no right
to exclusive self-indulgence, consented; nor could she regret having
done so, as Lady Desmond appeared to be much gratified.

The day after this unwonted exertion she had taken a long walk with
Lady Desmond, who, in her happiest mood, had entered into a charming
description of her life in Italy, of Rome, and her impression of it--of
the high opinion entertained by various Englishmen (whom she had
met abroad), of rank and reputation, for Colonel Vernon; and Kate's
heart and intellect alike gratified, submitted with reluctance to her
cousin's decision, that she had walked enough, and must rest at home,
while she paid a promised visit at the palace.

Lady Desmond, after opening a box of new books and periodicals, just
arrived, stepped through the window, to a balcony, communicating by
a flight of steps with the garden, and passed through a side gate
directly into the palace grounds.

Kate took up Dickens's last number, and was soon wrapt in the perusal
of it. Slightly fatigued by exercise, she leaned back in her fauteuil,
one hand buried in the rich masses of her hair, on which the light
threw a thousand golden gleams--the other holding the book, she
read against the arm of the chair, on which her right elbow rested;
one fairy foot stretched out upon a tiny ottoman; an air of profound
repose, and perfect quiet pervading the slight figure and sweet face,
always grave in silence, and now more so than ever; while the soft
liquid eyes, with their thoughtful depth of expression, rivetted on the
page before them, were brightened by the faint tinge of rose called up
by her animating walk.

Lady Desmond might have been gone about half an hour, when a gentleman,
mounted on a dark brown horse, of great beauty, rode up to the hall
door, and dismounting, wound the reins round some of the spiral
ornaments of the old fashioned iron railing.

"Is Lady Desmond at home?"

"Yes, sir." And the stranger followed the servant up the broad stairs.
"Who shall I say, sir?"

"Lord Effingham."

But the large, low drawing-room, was unoccupied, and placing a chair,
the footman retired to announce the visitor. He stood a moment after
he was thus left, then strolled to the window, which looked towards
the green; but finding little to interest him in the prospect, after a
careless glance at one or two pictures, and some exquisite miniatures,
which lay on the tables, he walked through the open door, leading
into a smaller room within, which opened on the park; and here he
stood, as if rooted to the ground--his every faculty absorbed in the
contemplation of the living picture before him--till Kate, with that
instinct which whispers to us, when a fellow mortal is near, slowly
raised her fringed lids, and looked at him a moment, bewildered;
then rising, her natural, well-bred, self-possession, heightened by
the calmness and indifference consequent on pre-occupation, and the
stillness that follows deep emotion--

"I fear I kept you too long waiting; my cousin, Lady Desmond has
unfortunately just left me, to pay a visit at the Palace. I will send
for her." And she laid her hand on the bell-pull.

The stranger stood a moment, in silence, an unwonted look of
irresolution, on his haughty countenance; then, bowing with profound
respect, he begged pardon for his intrusion, in soft and refined tones,
which, as also his face, grew strangely familiar to Kate's memory, as
she looked and listened.

"Pray do not give Lady Desmond the trouble of returning," he said, with
a degree of hesitation, marvellously at variance with his air of _un
grand seigneur_.

Here a servant entered.

"Her ladyship is not at home, my lord, I did not know she had gone out
again."

"I see her returning across the garden," said Miss Vernon, "she will be
here immediately," and pointing to a chair, she bent her head gravely
to the visitor, and left the room.

He remained gazing after her, then muttering to himself, "most
surpassingly novel-like, by Minerva," turned to greet Lady Desmond as
she entered, with an easy grace and quiet firmness of manner, very
different from the demeanour he had exhibited to her gentle, unassuming
cousin.



CHAPTER II

LADY DESMOND.


A sketch of the life and character of the lady, whose name stands at
the head of this chapter, is necessary for the right understanding
of what follows; so while she talks of Italian skies, and her
reminiscences of Naples with her reserved visitor, whose well timed
observations and profound attention drew forth her most brilliant
conversational powers, we will draw upon the reader's imagination, and
transport her or him, to the West of Ireland, twenty years back from
the period of which we write. Dungar was then at its highest point of
gaiety and apparent prosperity, when intelligence reached Colonel
Vernon of the death, at sea, of a certain Lieutenant O'Brien, of whom
he had an indistinct recollection, as having incurred the displeasure
and disapprobation of a large circle of relatives, amongst whom the
Colonel himself was numbered, by eloping, and consequent marriage, with
a very beautiful but low-born and penniless girl.

Of course the hundred cousins, never having done anything, "worthy
of death or bonds," themselves, were unanimous as to their right of
casting, not only the first, but the last stone at the imprudent
couple, who were left to expiate in unpitied and unmitigated poverty
the unpardonable error they had committed.

Colonel Vernon's knowledge of O'Brien's circumstances was very
limited; he knew he had lost his wife when their only child was still
a mere baby, and he had, more than once, unsought, sent handsome
presents to the improvident father; but the news of his decease was
soon forgotten, in the terrible affliction which threw a shadow over
Dungar, for many months. The Colonel's eldest son, the only survivor
of three children, a wild, extravagant young scapegrace, of whom
none, save his wife and his father, prophesied good, was drowned in
some fishing expedition, a sudden squall having capsized his boat.
Kate was born a few weeks after her unfortunate father was lost, and,
although Mrs. Vernon for her child's sake, strove to drag on a saddened
and debilitated existence, she died while Kate was yet too young to
remember a mother's caresses.

The Colonel was just beginning to rally from the severe trial which
had robbed him of a son, who, though often a source of anxiety and
mortification, was still very dear to him, when some gossiping guest
mentioned having seen "that unfortunate O'Brien's little daughter"
at the house of an aunt, whose close connection with the deceased
Lieutenant, could not permit her to ignore the demand of a much
enduring school-mistress, that Miss O'Brien should be removed, as she
could not afford to encumber herself with a young lady who had no
claims on her charity. "You may imagine the sort of life the unhappy
little devil leads," concluded the Colonel's informant, "snubbed, by
her aunt, cuffed by her cousins, a perfect _souffre douleur_ for the
whole family."

Colonel Vernon made no remark at the time, but the picture of the
little orphan, thus carelessly drawn, sank deep into his kindly heart,
already softened by his recent bereavement.

A hospitable invitation was despatched for the friendless girl, and
Georgina O'Brien was soon established in what proved to be her happy
home. The Colonel's natural kindness, first attracted to her because
she stood in need of it, was confirmed by the little girl's winning
ways and dauntless spirit. She was about twelve years old when she
first made her appearance at Dungar; tall, thin, sallow, her pale face
looked all eyes, and strangers were almost startled at the wild, shy,
proud, restlessness of those large, dark orbs that appeared constantly
on the alert to resent insult or fly from injury. Gradually all this
softened in the balmy atmosphere of gentleness and good breeding, which
was soon imbibed by the young stranger, whose bearing, from the first,
though hers had been a childhood of galling poverty, bespoke an innate
grandeur and dignity, inexpressibly attractive to her patrician host.

Soon it became a pleasing divertissement to the Colonel's sombre
thoughts, to teach Georgy her lessons, and undo much that had been done
at Fogarty's "select establishment," Mellefort View, Kingstown. He
found an apt pupil, though scarcely so diligent as she proved to Pat
Costello, the huntsman, who, in rapturous admiration of her firm seat,
steady hand, and intuitive comprehension of his instructions, exclaimed
to the whipper. "Faith, Miss Georgy's the raal ould stock; sure enough,
it comes quite nathral to her to ride, there's nothin', good nor bad,
would stop her; if any one would take Craig na Dhioul, be the powers
she'd rise her horse at Croagh Pathrick!"

To the Colonel, the huntsman, nurse, and little Kate, the whole stream
of her affections flowed; but though, she would willingly send the
greater part of all that she possessed as gifts to her cousins, who
had tyrannized over and insulted her; the air of supreme indifference,
of quiet civility with which she treated them, on those rare occasions
when they met, was much more calculated to impress them with the idea,
that they were far too insignificant for their misconduct to occupy her
memory than that they were forgiven. Indeed Mrs. O'Toole used often to
say that, "though she would lay down her life for a friend, the devil
himself could not be more scornful to an inemy."

After young Mrs. Vernon's death, the Colonel engaged a governess of
higher acquirements than could have been necessary for his baby
grand-child, in order that the Lieutenant's orphan might have the
advantages of a good education; but amid the irregularity of a
household, without a female head, Georgy's imperious ways, and resolute
will, enabled her to gain a degree of authority, marvellous in one so
young, and displeasing to many of the old retainers, who, nevertheless,
bore this assumption of authority, on the part of a dependent, far
more unmurmuringly than a similar class in England, would have done.
The rigid maxim of working for oneself, however incontrovertible,
and admirably suited to national independence, and advancement, is
capable of some cruel and unjust applications; and if the sense of
independence may be somewhat wanting, in Ireland, there is, at all
events, more indulgence--more tolerance--more kindliness for those,
with whom fortune has dealt hardly; and it was seldom--very seldom,
even Miss O'Brien's keen glance, rendered by early experience morbidly
quick at discovering an insult, could perceive even covert disrespect.
And so she progressed into luxuriantly beautiful girlhood, unpruned,
almost unchecked; already ambitious, she knew not for what--already
pining to leave the happy valley, where she had found so tranquil a
haven, from the rude storms that shook her infancy--the recollection
of the sufferings, and mortifications of her early youth; had sunk
deep into her proud heart, and longed to obtain some vantage ground,
secured and self-acquired, from which she might look down upon the
past--some social eminence, independent even of her kind, beloved,
self-constituted guardian. Nor did she long revolve these wishes, in
silent, wistful reverie, amongst the bold cliffs, or in the deep, shady
glens, with which the country about Dungar abounded, and which might
have taught her truer and purer aspirations.

Kate was a mere plaything--confidante, she had none--she was too young
to find in books, sufficient companionship; when just as the dearth
of excitement, and occupation was most oppressive, Major General Sir
Thomas Desmond, K.C.B., arrived on a visit to Colonel Vernon.

There was a scarcity of ladies at Dungar, when Sir Thomas Desmond made
his appearance; and the Colonel, banishing Georgina, as too young to
take any part in society, to Kate's particular region, the nursery and
school-room, collected a shooting party for the General's entertainment.

It was therefore more than probable, that he would leave, without ever
encountering the "concealed jewel," of the old mansion, but it was
otherwise fated.

Wearied of her unusual seclusion, Miss O'Brien, one fine autumn
morning, having watched the departure of the whole party, to shoot
or fish, summoned her faithful squire, Pat Costello, and mounting a
favourite hunter of the Colonel's, started on a long ride over the
wildest part of the wild country round. Occupied by her own thoughts,
she forgot time and distance, nor was it till honest Pat ventured to
hint, that "maybe, Miss Kate would be cryin' for her," that she thought
of returning.

"It must be getting late, Pat--see, the sun is behind Craughmore."

"It is so, miss."

"Let us cross the Priest's field, and get into the lawn that way, the
mare will take any of those fences--eh, Pat?"

"Is it the mare? God bless ye, she'd walk over them without knowing it,
miss."

Miss O'Brien turned her horse's head without reply, and gradually
quickening her pace, from a trot to a canter, from a canter to a
gallop, finding a wild pleasure, in the rapid and easy movement of the
beautiful animal, on which she was mounted, cleared the last fence
which separated the priest's domains, from her guardian's, just as Sir
Thomas Desmond, and two or three other gentlemen, the latest of the
party were hastening their return to dinner, after a capital day's
sport.

"Ha! Colonel," exclaimed Sir Thomas, who narrowly escaped being
overturned. "The race of Amazons is not yet extinct in the west, I
perceive."

"Georgina!" cried the Colonel. "I had no idea you were out, and on
Brown Bess too! She will pull your arms off, my dear girl. Pat, I'm
surprised you would let Miss O'Brien ride so fiery an animal."

"Do not blame Pat, dearest Colonel--of course he did as I liked;
besides, I can ride every horse in your stable."

"And Pat would be more than mortal if he could refuse your commands,"
quoth the gallant General, with the gay manner, so often assumed by
gentlemen of a certain age, to very young girls.

"Sir Thomas Desmond, my dear Georgy, is returning thanks that his life
was spared, in that desperate leap of yours."

"I fear I nearly rode over you," said she, addressing the veteran, who
stood gazing with admiration at her beautiful face, glowing with the
rich color, imparted by her gallop--her luxuriant black hair falling
in masses from under her hat, and her large dark eyes beaming with the
excitement of her own thoughts, though little shown by the careless
ease of her manner. "I fear I almost rode over you."

"Pray do not mention it; what is an old general more or less, compared
to the gratification of so charming a young lady's taste for crossing
the country?"

"You will forgive me?" said she smiling.

"Georgy, you know Mr. ----, and Lord Arthur," said the Colonel, waving
his hand towards the other gentlemen of the party, and Miss O'Brien
acknowledged them with a careless grace, a certain, wild, natural
dignity, that did not escape the observant Sir Thomas.

From this time, the General constantly, and avowedly sought the
society of his host's _protégée_; and she, pleased by his kindly
admiration, and flattered by the notice of an individual in his
distinguished position, found a new charm in the rides and walks she
was beginning to tire of.

But never, in her dreams of the future, had she an instant thought of
using matrimony as a stepping stone to position; and the pleasant,
polite _Chevalier Bayard_, but elderly General, whom she looked
upon as a second Colonel Vernon, and of whom, in a short time she
made a confidant, was the last person she would have dreamt of
espousing--meantime Sir Thomas prolonged his visit, and when at length
he departed, leaving Georgina, inconsolable for his loss--it was only
for a short period.

His return was heralded by the announcement in Saunders' Newspaper of
the death of the Dowager Countess of C----, "who has, we understand
bequeathed large estates, both here and in England, to her ladyship's
nephew, Sir Thomas Desmond, K.C.B., who served with great distinction
at----, &c., &c."

Miss O'Brien, overjoyed as she was to see him again, could not help
being struck by an indefinable change of manner in her faithful
ally. He seemed more deferential and less gaily cordial; still she
was unspeakably astonished, when, after a few words of, to her,
unintelligible preamble, Colonel Vernon, in a private and solemn
interview, informed her that Sir Thomas Desmond had made proposals to
him for her hand, as her guardian and next friend.

"I confess I was a good deal startled when he broached the subject,"
continued the Colonel; "nevertheless, Georgy, I would have you
weigh the proposition; there are few men who would show such
disinterestedness as to fly back to lay his newly-acquired fortune at
the feet of an obscure though very charming girl; and although the
disparity--"

"I have made up my mind," said Miss O'Brien, deliberately, as if of
her own thoughts, and deaf to the Colonel--"I will accept him."

"But," returned the Colonel, not quite satisfied with this hasty
decision, "have you thought of the consequences of a marriage with a
man old enough to be your father? can you give him your whole heart?
Take a little time, dear Georgy. You have, I trust, a comfortable home
here, where you will be always welcome; do not rush on anything that
may hereafter prove repugnant; are your affections your own? is--"

"Dear, kind, considerate guardian, yes. Who could I have lost them to?
The young lordlings, the county squires, who assiduously avoid the
penniless girl, too well protected to be trifled with? no, I never yet
thought of loving Sir Thomas; but I will love him heartily; he has the
soul of a man, and dares to consult his heart in his choice of a wife.
I have something in common with such a soul; I will make him happy,
ay, and proud too, though his lot may be cast amongst the nobles of the
land."

And drawing her splendid form to its full height, she glanced proudly
at the opposite mirror.

"Then I may tell Sir Thomas you accept him? With your proper
appreciation of his worth you will be a happy woman; I congratulate
you, my dear love."

And they were married; and Kate was bridesmaid; the tenantry were
feasted; bonfires blazed, &c., &c.

But did the young and beautiful bride find her heart thus obedient
to her will? Heaven alone knows. During the eight or nine years of
their union, however, Sir Thomas and Lady Desmond led a halcyon life;
and if she ever felt a void in her brilliant existence, she scarce
had time, amid her varied pleasures or occupations, to note it. True
and deep was the sorrow with which she mourned for the kind husband,
the considerate friend, for whom alone she seemed to live; but these
long years of unbroken prosperity had not softened the imperious will
which distinguished her girlhood; while they somewhat tainted, with
their hardening influence, the warmth of heart formerly so true and
so unselfish. Meantime, the full leisure of an unoccupied spirit was
devoted to the cultivation of intellect, more brilliant than profound,
and accustomed to scorn, as interested, the motives of the other sex,
her fancy was still unawakened, her strong, deep passions still slept,
when the fated current of her life led her to Naples.

At this time, Lord Effingham was the engrossing subject of scandal and
gossip at Naples; his luxurious villa, rarely opened to any, save a
few select companions, his unrivalled yacht, his strange and almost
lawless doings, indicative of a character half cynic, half epicurean,
but wholly English in its energy and profusion, each furnished an
inexhaustible theme of wonder and exaggeration, to the opera boxes
and conversaziones. Rarely he honoured the _beau-monde_ of Naples
with his presence; but shortly after Lady Desmond's arrival, some
national anniversary dinner, at the English Ambassador's, drew him
from his seclusion; and whether he found society more agreeable,
after this interval of retirement, or that the proud indifference
of Lady Desmond's manner interested a fancy cloyed by adulation, is
problematical; but from that period he was more frequently to be met in
the brilliant circles adorned by the presence of the beautiful widow,
but whether the slumber of her heart, had been broken by the eccentric
Englishman, before whose commanding spirit her own involuntarily bent,
none could tell, though Mrs. Wentworth surmised.

"But even Italy one tires of," said Lord Effingham, rising to depart
after a lengthened visit; "and I confess I am ready to try England, at
least, while summer and the novelty of my late revered uncle's villa
last; besides, had I been undecided, your presence would have fixed me."

Lady Desmond smiled.

"I fear I frightened away a very studious young lady, whom I found deep
in the perusal of some trash--Dickens, I believe," taking up the number
Kate had been reading.

"My cousin, Miss Vernon--poor Kate is not in the mood for any profound
literature; she has had great sorrows. But I trust you will sometimes
look in on us, it will do us both good."

"I shall certainly make my _début_ in the, to me, new character of
consoler."

And he bowed ironically.

"My sweet god-daughter will teach you not to be satirical--she is so
good."

"Your god-daughter! why you could not have learned your own catechism
when she was christened."

"I was very young, and was only a proxy; but I have called her my
god-child ever since."

"Well, _addio_ Lady Desmond, I will bring you some flowers to-morrow; I
see you have no conservatory."

And he departed.

Kate was rather startled by the expression, half fright, half
exultation in Mrs. O'Toole's countenance, as she entered her room
before dinner, to assist her in dressing.

"Och thin, Miss Kate, agrah; who do you think has just rode off, on a
horse fit for a prence?"

"I am sure I cannot imagine. Oh, Lord Effingham, I suppose."

"Didn't I tell ye, he was a lord? faith, I niver was mistaken in wan
yet; and fur all I spoke up so bould, ses I to meself, he's a lord, no
less."

"But, nurse, what do you mean? who did you speak up bold to?"

"To the earl there, him that has jist rode off."

"Where?" demanded Kate, fearful of some strange outbreak on the part of
Mrs. O'Toole.

"There, in that banishmint we wor in, at that onlooky Bayswather, whin
he wanted me to take the note to ye."

"Why, dear nurse, you do not mean to--Oh, yes, now I recollect, I
thought his face and voice were familiar to me. I was dull, very dull,
not to notice it before; he is the same person who spoke to me in
Kensington Gardens."

"An' did he spake to ye to-day, jewil?"

"Yes; and now I remember, he seemed embarrassed; it is curious; perhaps
I ought to mention it to Georgina; yet, no, it would be useless; he
amuses her now; and she is just the person who would resent such
conduct, warmly. No, I am but a sorry companion as it is; but I will
interfere with her amusement as little as I can."

"Faith, ye'r in the right iv it, Miss Kate; for all Lady Desmond loves
ye, she loves her own way betther nor all the world itself."

"Hush, hush, you must not speak in that way of our kind, good friend,
nurse."

"Well, well, it's thruth I'm tellin' ye; an' see, jewil, ye'll think it
quare to be spakin' cool an' asy to that thief iv the world, though he
looks like a prence, an' rides like a king."

"Queer! Oh, no, I feel as if that adventure happened years ago; that
I have grown old and dispassionate since. Then he will never notice
me, when Georgy is there; at least, not much; and, I confess, I feel
pleased that he should meet me, in my natural position; but his
presence, and the memories it calls up, will never be very welcome to
me, now especially."

"Well, we'll see, there's the divil's own timper in thim fiery eyes iv
his. I'll go bail he's a dead shot with the pistils."

"Very likely; but there is the dinner bell."

Lady Desmond was thoughtful and _distrait_; that evening; she spoke
little of Lord Effingham, and only conversed by an effort. After tea,
she entreated Kate, who had already recommenced her practising, to sing
some of the airs she had been arranging previous to her grandfather's
death; and Kate, anxious to conquer the repugnance she had felt of late
to her favourite occupation, complied, till the tears pouring down her
cheeks interrupted her.

"Dearest, forgive me," cried Lady Desmond, roused from her thoughts
by the sudden cessation of the music, and flying to her side, "how
selfish, how thoughtless I am," and winding her arm round Kate's waist,
drew her to the window, through which the moonlight streamed, and the
breeze wafted a thousand perfumes.

They stood there a few moments in silence, till Kate, recovering her
composure, pressed a kiss upon her cousin's cheek. Lady Desmond
started, and a sudden tremor ran through her frame.

"You are cold, dear Georgy? come from the window."

"Oh, no, no! I wish I was cold and calm! Ah, Kate, I am not happy! I
would fain change with you!"

"With me! surely not with one so lonely and----."

"Lonely! Who can be more lonely than I am? You have been so much loved;
I would give any thing for even the memory of such affection, as the
dear Colonel had, for you; some one to live for, some one to die for,
who would understand your every glance!"

"But, dearest Georgy, you had all this in your husband!"

"Yes! Oh, heaven forgive my forgetfulness, but now I feel so wearied
with this vain struggle! If I had been blessed with children I should
have something to live for." She paused and pressed her hand against
her eyes. "Come, I will give myself rest and freedom, I will live for
you, and you only, my Kate, you shall be my daughter."

And she held her with a wild firm pressure to her heart.

And Kate, puzzled by this unaccountable outbreak, returned her embrace,
silently praying to God to direct her beautiful but wayward kinswoman
aright.



CHAPTER III.

OLD ACQUAINTANCE.


Lord Effingham's visits were constant and apparently welcome, for Kate
soon began to observe a restlessness in her cousin, when the hour at
which he usually made his appearance passed without his arrival. At
first, Kate had taken her work or book to her own room or to the Palace
Garden, when his name was announced, but Lady Desmond had soon cut off
her retreat by observing--

"You must act chaperone for me, dear Kate, but if strangers are so
repugnant to you, I will tell Lord Effingham, and he shall not come
here any more."

And Miss Vernon knew very well, whatever her inclination might be, what
was expected. Yet there was much in their visitor's conversation that
drew her out of herself, and interested her by force of contrast to her
own views, although the indolence of depression rendered her averse to
the exertion of argument. Besides, Lord Effingham was often apparently
unconscious of her presence, and scarcely ever addressed himself to
her, so much so, that Lady Desmond had thought herself called upon to
make a sort of apology for him.

Yet Kate more than once caught his eyes fixed upon herself, and
felt that her few occasional observations were listened to with an
attention all the deeper for its unobtrusiveness; in short, she felt
certain he remembered her, and watched for some indication, either of
consciousness or resentment on her part, while each day rendered her
more at ease, as she observed his attentions to her cousin.

The quiet routine of their lives was seldom interrupted.

Lady Desmond sometimes went to town, and generally Lord Effingham's
name figured in the same list of distinguished fashionables present
at balls, dinners, &c., with her own. Kate began to think that their
present intercourse had fallen into a natural channel of indifference,
and that the bold stranger of Kensington Gardens, was totally merged in
the high-bred reserved earl; but she was mistaken.

One morning a feverish cold confined Lady Desmond to her bed, and the
Hampton Court doctor threatened her with every ill "that flesh is heir
to," if she did not, by care and submission to a few days seclusion,
nip the growing disorder in the bud. Kate was anxious and uneasy about
her, the very thought of a sick room made her heart ache.

"Do not look so unhappy about me, love," said her cousin, "it is my
will to remain here; I want solitude, I want freedom from external
influences; you shall read to me good books."

"Milord, his compliments, is very unhappy to hear your ladyship is ill,
and begs to know particularly how you are."

"Oh! Kate, run down to him, will you, dearest, say I am too unwell to
see him, for a week to come, at least; you will--observe--there go,
darling."

Kate obeyed, neither with alacrity or reluctance, Lord Effingham had
almost ceased to be connected in her mind with the audacious stranger
who had addressed her, and although this was the first time she had met
him alone, since that occurrence, it was with perfect composure she
returned his salute, and met his eager scrutinising glance without a
shade more of colour tinging her pale cheek.

"I am inconsolable at hearing of Lady Desmond's indisposition," said
Lord Effingham, before Kate could address a word to him. "How did she
catch cold? Has she good advice!"

"I do not think her very ill," replied Miss Vernon, "a little care and
quiet is all she requires; but she desires me to say, she fears she
will not be able to see you for some days; next week, if you should be
in this neighbourhood, probably you will find her reinstated in our
usual morning room."

"Of course I shall make enquiries every day for the health of my
charming friend."

And as Kate could not avoid thinking there was something of a sneer in
the smile and tone with which these words were spoken, they revived all
her antipathy to the dark browed peer. Anxious to dismiss him, yet not
wishing to show it, she stood a moment, undecided, when Lord Effingham,
with a sudden change of voice and expression, from the measured tone
and listless look, with which he usually spoke, to one of animation and
earnestness, exclaimed--

"No, Miss Vernon, I cannot go yet, though you indicate your desire that
I should, by standing. I cannot let the opportunity, I have so long
sought, pass, without ascertaining whether your memory is as imperfect
as mine is vivid."

"If you mean," returned Miss Vernon, raising her eyes to his with the
calmness now so habitual to her, "if you mean that you met me before,
and that I forget it, you are mistaken; I remember that very unpleasant
circumstance perfectly."

He was evidently annoyed by her candour and tranquillity.

"I regret to find you still resent my conduct, you at least might
excuse it."

Kate smiled.

"I do not resent it now; since that," she continued, "I have gone
through much affliction, I have experienced real grief and sorrow,
such as reduce all petty annoyances to their proper level; but why
revert to what is past."

"To ask you to--not exactly to forgive, but to acknowledge that my bold
attempt to grasp the inexpressible pleasure of your acquaintance was
not so heinous."

"Really, Lord Effingham, I should be obliged to you not to continue
this conversation any further; I do not suppose it possible for you to
comprehend the effect produced on my mind by your audacity; pardon me,
but it is the only word that sufficiently expresses my impression of
your conduct on the occasion to which you allude. Let it be forgotten,
I would not for worlds disturb my cousin with any revelation so
likely----"

"Yes," interrupted Lord Effingham, absently, "I perceived, at a glance,
that the fair widow was ignorant of the affair, but be it as you
choose, for the future, only, if you are to continue her inmate, take
my advice, and withhold the disclosure altogether."

And he smiled with an expression of insolent power, that made Kate's
heart thrill with indignation.

"My Lord, I do not require a stranger's advice, what to confide to, or
what to withhold from my earliest and dearest friend; you must excuse
me, I have left Lady Desmond alone."

"One moment," cried Lord Effingham, springing to the door, "we meet
again as friends? You must not refuse to give me bulletins of your
cousin's health in person."

"I have no wish to embroil the even tenor of my life, about what can
concern me no more, I wish you a good morning, my Lord."

He held the door open, and bowed low, as she passed out, then returning
to the place where she had stood, remained a moment in silent thought,
gnawing his under lip.

"By----," he at length muttered, "I would hate her if I could; if she
was less lovely; her supreme disdain of my admiration was so real,
and her indifference! Yet her cousin is more beautiful, and would have
_acted_ the part perfectly, but all the time I should have felt it was
only the graceful acting of my slave; this is real, this girl is free
as air, and I feel as if afloat in some new and unexplored ocean, where
my compasses are at fault, and the stars no longer those I used to
steer by."

He looked absently through the window till the animated fiery glance
faded into a cold, sneering smile, then slowly descending to the hall
door, mounted his horse, and gallopped across the park at full speed.

Kate's heart was beating faster when she returned to Lady Desmond's
room than when she left it; there was something of insolence and
conscious power in Lord Effingham's manner, that was totally strange
and repugnant to her; this short interview with him had recalled all
the sore feeling of resentful indignation and wounded pride, that had
so galled her on their first meeting, and though she felt, rather than
reasoned, that it would be most unwise to disclose the _rencontre_ to
Lady Desmond, she was indescribably provoked to think there was any
thing like a secret between her and the proud, bold Earl.

"Well, dear Kate, how did Lord Effingham take his sentence of
banishment?"

"He did not take it at all; he said he would ride over every day, to
make enquiries in person."

"And did he tell you any news?"

"No."

"He never tells news! How unlike the present race of babblings into
which our aristocracy has degenerated."

"Why, what does he do?"

"Ah, Kate, he is no favourite with you; I see his foreign indifference
to unmarried women has prejudiced you."

"No, indeed, I neither like nor dislike him, but there is something in
his face, and voice, and manner, I could never trust."

"Lord Effingham does not pretend to be a pattern man, and certainly he
is, when he likes it, a most agreeable member of society," returned
Lady Desmond, rather coldly. "But will you answer that note of Lady
Elizabeth's, I cannot, of course, dine with her."

And Kate perceived, by this sudden change, that her cousin did not like
to pursue the subject.

True to his word, Lord Effingham rode over every day to make his
enquiries for Lady Desmond, in person, and Kate resolutely secluded
herself during the few moments of his stay, in her cousin's or her own
chamber.

One morning the invalid was sufficiently well to receive two or three
dear (fine lady) friends. Kate stole away from their gossip, to her an
unknown tongue, and established herself on a shady seat, commanding a
view of the park, her book lay idly in her hand, and lulled by the
hum of the insects, and the gentle rush of the water from one pond to
another, she gave herself up to the past.

"How poor dear grandpapa would have delighted in this place; how Georgy
would have cheered him, and now it is too late!"

And the bitterness of sorrow softened for a while in new scenes, and
the increased occupation of the last few days, came back all freshly to
her mind; every look, every tone of her beloved parent, was recalled
with a distinctness that made her heart ache, and the emptiness and
aimlessness of her present life stood out vividly before her.

"Ah, forgive me great Father, if I cannot yet, with perfect submission,
say, 'Thy will be done, help me, strengthen me.' She involuntarily
raised her eyes as she murmured these last words, half aloud; and they
met those of Lord Effingham, which wore a grave and more earnest look
than usual, as if Kate's slight form, with its mourning garb, and her
pale calm face, its expression, spiritualised by the thoughts that
occupied her mind, had struck his hard nature with some new sense of
truth and beauty.

"Forgive my intrusion," said he, advancing with his usual easy
self-assured air, "they told me Miss Vernon was out, and as you have
hitherto allowed me to languish, on such meagre reports of your
cousin's health, as I could gain from Mademoiselle Louise, I ventured
to seek a personal interview with you, _al fresco_."

"Lady Desmond will probably see you on Monday, my Lord. Mrs. Cranbourne
and her sister were admitted to-day," returned Kate, with quiet
politeness.

"Yes," said Lord Effingham, absently, "pray Miss Vernon, can you, and
will you give me, _le mot de l'enigme_."

"I do not understand you."

"What was the cause of Lady Desmond's illness, or rather her sudden
fancy for the retirement of her own chamber?"

"My cousin, unfortunately, caught cold on Thursday; she sat near an
open window, at one of the Ancient Concerts, and----."

"My dear Miss Vernon, that is the official report, but I want to know
why she chooses to submit to the martyrdom, which confinement and
inaction is to her, rather than receive me?"

"You imagine then, that her illness is pretended to avoid you? if
your curiosity lasts over to-morrow, I will ask her, and give you her
solution of the enigma."

Lord Effingham laughed scornfully.

"I do not jest," continued Kate, simply. "I shall repeat to her, both
what you have said, and any thing you may add, in the same tone."

"Then you are great friends," said Lord Effingham, seating himself on
the bench beside her, "you are angry that I should doubt the illness
of one of the fairest daughters of Erin, whose cheek was ever tinged by
the roses of health; but, seriously, you will not make mischief between
us? I would never forgive you; do you not see I am very fond of Lady
Desmond?"

He leant forward as he spoke these words, with much earnestness, to see
what effect they produced on Kate, and at the same time two officers
in undress cavalry uniform lounged past; both glanced quickly at Miss
Vernon and her companion, but withdrew their eyes immediately, as if
conscious of having intruded on an interesting _tete-à-tete_.

Kate's heart almost stood still with a spasm of memory, as she
recognised Colonel Dashwood; she could not refrain from exclaiming
his name aloud, he turned immediately, and bowing, with a profound
and grave respect, which showed Kate he had heard of the loss she had
sustained, took her hand and made some general enquiries, with an air
of kindly interest.

"I am staying with Lady Desmond," she said, her eyes filling with
tears, "and you----."

"Oh, some of us are quartered here, the rest scattered in small
detachments; I like the place, and am here as much as possible, if
you will allow me, I shall do myself the pleasure of calling on you
to-morrow."

"I shall be very happy to see you," she replied; and with another low
bow, Colonel Dashwood joined his companion and walked away.

"So," exclaimed Lord Effingham, "you cultivate dragoons, do you, Miss
Vernon? Well, has not the promise of that very "rear rank take open
order," looking individual to call upon you, softened your intention of
making mischief between me and _La Vedova ammalata_?"

"Lord Effingham," said Miss Vernon, quietly, rising from her seat,
"I do not know why you choose to adopt a sneering tone towards people
in general, but this I do know, that to me, such confidences, as are
implied by questions, about Lady Desmond, are peculiarly distasteful; I
have no wish to say anything in the least uncivil, but I should prefer
remaining on terms of the most distant acquaintance with you." She
bowed slightly, and walked away, but he followed her in an instant,
looking dark and haughty.

"I thank you for so clear an exposition of your sentiments; perhaps it
was scarcely required; but you have not yet answered my question; will
you repeat my observations to Lady Desmond?"

"I shall--may I beg you to leave me."

"Ha," said Lord Effingham, "you have not your canine ally to compel me
doing so."

At this moment, all Kate's pride and decision melted before the
memories thus called up; and, with a sudden gesture, indicative of her
incapability to endure his presence another moment, she pressed her
hands to her eyes, in the vain effort to stem the torrent of grief,
that swelled her heart.

Lord Effingham retired at this silent, but unmistakeable expression of
her feelings, with a look of half startled, half sullen, yet not wholly
uncompassionate; and Kate, stealing quickly through the open window of
the morning-room, reached her own unnoticed.

Lady Desmond was in remarkably good spirits at dinner, and Kate was
struck by the air of joyous exultation, that seemed as it were to
illuminate her grand style of beauty.

"I am right glad to be well again, cousin mine," she exclaimed. "Glad
to be in the world, though, alas! all the mental revolution I intended
to make is unaccomplished."

"I do not know what it was, dearest," returned Miss Vernon, "so I
cannot tell whether I ought to mourn over another block being added to
that pavement of which we have heard so often."

"Well, perhaps it was needless, but now we are free from the servants,
tell me all that news over again."

"Lord Effingham," began Kate.

"Nay, dear girl, your own friends first."

"Well then, Colonel Dashwood said he would call here to-morrow."

"I shall be very glad to know him. I had left Dungar long before he was
there; and I have a grudge against him, Kate, for I fancy it was the
remembrance connected with his appearance, that caused those tears, of
which I can still detect the traces on your face."

"No, Georgy, no, indeed" replied Miss Vernon, earnestly. "Now," she
continued, "let me return to Lord Effingham, he heard, it seemed, that
I was in the Palace-gardens, and came after me, to ask me what was the
real cause of your indisposition, and to laugh at my _story_ of "a
cold!""

"Indeed!" said Lady Desmond, with a slight start. "What other reason
could he imagine?"

"I do not know, but--" she paused.

"Pray go on," said Lady Desmond, impatiently, "I hate to have things
cut short."

"Really," returned Miss Vernon, "I only hesitate, because it seemed so
impertinent, what I am about to tell you."

"Never mind--go on--dispense with preface."

"Lord Effingham said, or rather by what he said, seemed to think, it
was to avoid him, you feigned illness!"

"He does," exclaimed Lady Desmond, with interest; then an instant
after, with haughty indifference, she continued--"He gives me credit
for more ingenuity, than I possess! yet--" and she leant back, resting
one cheek on her hand, the expression of disdain, she had called
up, fading into a look of pensive thought, almost sad. "How strange
he is--how impenetrable; but these things are so much altered by
repetition."

Lady Desmond thought long and gravely, at length her brow cleared--a
smile parted her lips--

"Perhaps I have disentangled this mystery," she said; "time will
tell, at all events, _bella mia_, I know the world--Lord Effingham's
world--better than you do. I shall not notice 'the impertinence,' as
you deem it."

"Indeed you do know best, Georgy dear, at least, in general, for you
have experience, which I have not; but as to Lord Effingham, I have an
instinct, worth whole a life-time of experience, that he is false and
selfish--he admires you, indeed he said he was fond of you; but, oh, do
not regard him with anything except the--"

"Ah, Lord Effingham appears to have been making quite a confidante
of you, Kate! a rare compliment let me tell you," interrupted Lady
Desmond, laughingly, "of course he begged of you not to repeat his
confidence?"

"Yes, and I told I would."

"Well, dearest, it is a strange intimacy that has sprung up between
you, and this very Giaour-like peer," returned Lady Desmond, in her
sweetest manner, and quite regardless of Kate's warning. "I know not
where it--"

"Lady Elizabeth Macdonnell," announced the footman; and the privy
council was ended.

Colonel Dashwood made his appearance, at the proper hour for visiting,
the next morning, and very much rejoiced was Kate to welcome him; he
reminded her of much that was sad, 'tis true, but of sadness untinged
by any bitter; and then, she had, since the day before, been haunted
by the image of Fred Egerton, as he lay, pale and helpless, on a blue
chintz sofa, in Mr. Winter's drawing-room, which was the latest, and
clearest memory connected with Colonel Dashwood.

The conversation was, at first, rather constrained, the mind of
both the visitor and visited being full of thoughts they feared to
broach--Kate dreaded, yet longed to speak of her grandfather--she
feared a rush of tears, that might embarrass her kind and pleasant
acquaintance, but her candid, real nature, soon helped her out of the
difficulty. Dashwood spoke in terms of cordial and judicious praise
of the kind old man; Kate listened with delight, and told him of her
happiness with her cousin, to whom she longed to present him, and felt
more intimate with the gay, high-bred dragoon, than she had ever felt
before.

"You remember Egerton, at A----, Miss Vernon?"

"Oh, yes, I wished to ask you about him."

"He has just been Gazetted Lieutenant Colonel of the --th Lancers, you
have heard, of course, he distinguished himself greatly, at ----."

"Yes, he wrote to dear grandpapa; we got the letter scarcely a week
before--" she turned aside to hide the tears that would roll down her
cheek, in spite of all her efforts to restrain them. "If you should
write to Captain--Colonel Egerton, I mean, pray tell him, stern was the
summons that prevented a reply to his kind letter, he will be sorry to
hear of my irreparable loss."

"Colonel Vernon had not a warmer admirer in the world, than Fred
Egerton," cried Dashwood. "Indeed Fred was just the sort of fellow to
appreciate him. Well, good morning, Miss Vernon, I am most happy to
have seen you, and hope you will allow me to call occasionally, while I
am here."

The Monday specified by Lady Desmond, as the day on which she would
receive Lord Effingham, was anticipated by Kate with some anxiety,
and no small degree of curiosity. She wished to see on what terms her
cousin and her admirer would meet, if any quarrel had been at the
bottom of Lady Desmond's indisposition; and if the Earl was really
apprehensive of one arising out of her report of his conversation in
the Palace-garden.

Lady Desmond had certainly, not resented her information, for never had
Kate seen her so gentle, so loving, and so considerate. They took long
drives together, in the balmy summer evenings, sometimes enjoying the
exquisite, dewy, perfumed air, and rich cultivated scenery in sympathic
silence, sometimes recalling past summer evenings, to each other, and
talking at intervals of the past.

At this time a letter reached her from Winter. He had been a much
better correspondent since the poor Colonel's death, and his letters
were a source of inexpressible comfort to Kate; they cheered, while
they sympathized in her deep sorrow--she wrote to him in the fullest
confidence, and detailed all matters of personal interest, with a
minuteness that showed how welcome was the task of correspondence to
her.

The present despatch, after some slight sketch of his plans, which
included an excursion of some months into Spain, and a few rapturous
exclamations at the scenery, continued thus--"You say, 'now I have
room enough in my heart to think of it, I begin to feel, in spite
of Georgy's excessive kindness and generosity, a strangely, painful
sensation, at times, that not even the clothes I wear, are, properly
speaking, my own--shelter, food, all are hers; and though she never,
I am certain, gives this a thought, I feel that it mars the equality,
which is the soul of friendship--I feel strongly, though indistinctly
that this must not, and cannot last; but I am, as yet, incapable of
forming any future plan.'

"All this is very natural, and exactly what I advised you and our
dear departed friend against, when your cousin invited you to join
her at Florence, last year. Dependency is a thing repugnant to human
nature; but for the present it is right for you to stay where you
are; so be patient, it will be time enough to talk of plans when we
return, which will be soon, certainly before Christmas. I want to have
you quietly to ourselves, away from finery and fashion, then we will
settle everything. Meantime, as I consider you my adopted daughter,
if you will allow me, you must just put the enclosed cheque in your
dressing-box, as a sort of reserve, in case of foul weather--this is a
mere sop to my fidgetty conscience, as I am too selfish to return home
at once, to take care of you, which I believe it is my duty to do, and
I shall have but small comfort if you refuse; pooh! my dear, it is only
to oblige your old _maestro_!

"I see our former acquaintance, Fred Egerton has been performing
prodigies of valour against those wretched Sikhs--what deplorable
insanity war is! I have no patience with such courage. Well, good
night, I wish you could have a peep at the moon-lit mountain range,
opposite my window. Ah! dear child, you have known much sorrow, but who
can look on the exquisite loveliness, which earth, though cursed for
our sins, still possesses, and doubt that boundless beneficence and
wisdom alike framed our dwelling place, and directs the current of our
lives, God bless you, Kate; my wife greets you, write soon.

                                                     "Your true friend,

                                                           "J. WINTER."

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be derogatory to a heroine's character; but the truth must
be confessed, that the consciousness of having fifty pounds in her
dressing-box, was a great source of repose and security to ours;
her own slender means were nearly exhausted, and the alternative of
being literally penniless, though surrounded with every luxury, or
mentioning the exhausted state of her purse to her open handed cousin,
were most insupportable to her--then she could not bear that nurse
should feel a want of any kind, and she not able to supply it. It was
therefore with no small thankfulness, she penned a reply to her kind
friend. Mr. Winter was one of those calm, rational, unselfish people, a
compound seldom to be met with, from whom a favour may be safely taken.

"See what Mr. Winter has sent me; a sort of birthday present before
hand," said Kate, holding up the cheque to nurse.

"Ah, how much, alanah?"

"Fifty pounds, nurse."

"Och, good christhians! think iv that now, athen, is'nt Misther Winther
mighty like that little scrap iv paper himself, a thrifle to look
at--but worth a power!"

"Worth so much, that I for one, can never look upon the outward and
visible sign of so much goodness, without respect and affection."

"Thrue for ye, Miss Kate, an' so lock it up jewil, there's no sayin'
the minnit ye may want it, I've sometimes a ton weight here, so I have,
that's mighty quare, an' us in the haigth of grandeur, may be; but
where's the use iv makin' ye down-hearted, darlint, wid me dhreams be
day or night."

"No, dear nurse," sighed Kate, "I do not wish to hear them."

Monday morning dawned bright, but before noon, dark clouds rolled up
from the horizon, Lady Desmond was looking royally beautiful, as she
reclined in her bergère, her luxuriant, glossy black hair, braided
under a small cap of exquisite lace; she was paler than usual, but
there was a delicacy in her complexion, that contrasted favourably with
her large, dark eyes, which looked up, at intervals, through their
long, black lashes, with languid calmness, reminding Kate of the
unnatural lull that preceeds a thunder storm.

Kate was utterly dissimilar to the fair widow; her golden brown hair
had a light in its waves--her high, calm brow, beneath which her soft
eyes beamed with a glance, so earnest, and so pure--her girlish figure
so graceful, and pliant, in its drapery of black--the air of deep
repose, of unconscious harmony that pervaded every attitude and tone,
all framed a totally different picture from the queen-like woman, who,
sometimes arranging a few flowers she held in her hand, sometimes
dropping them in her lap, heard, without attending to it, her cousin's
voice, as she read aloud.

The day was sultry; heavy, brassy-looking clouds obscured the sun, and
the birds chirped in that low, sleepy tone, which always indicates a
lowering sky, or a coming storm; and now and then a sudden warm breeze
swept back the muslin curtains, and filled the atmosphere of the room
with the rich perfume of the garden.

"How oppressive! I can hardly breathe," said Kate, laying down the book
which she found could not engage her cousin's attention, and walking
towards the window.

"Yes," said Lady Desmond, languidly, "draw up the blinds, Kate, to the
top; let us have all the light and air we can."

"If Lord Effingham is not here very soon he will get a wetting; I am
sure we are on the edge of a thunder storm," observed Miss Vernon,
after a pause.

"Then you fancy he will come."

"I do not think about it; but I find I anticipate his arrival as
something quite certain; I confess I feel anxious to see how he will
meet you, for he knows I repeated his--"

"I will tell you," interrupted Lady Desmond, with a tinge of bitterness
in her tone, "as if it could not be the slightest consequence to him,
what my opinion, or that of any one upon earth may be."

"What a character! but this must be acting!"

"No, I believe his manner to be a true index of his mind; I have
now known Lord Effingham for nearly two years; and I pronounce him
incomprehensible, impenetrable; and yet," continued Lady Desmond,
passionately, "as mystery has always proved the strongest attraction
to man's mind, so I feel irresistibly impelled to gaze into an abyss,
I cannot fathom, where everything seems uncertain and obscure; I
am undecided whether he is the coldest of egotists, or a man of
the strongest, deepest, most passionate feeling. Do you believe in
mesmerism, Kate? I begin to do so; how otherwise can I account for
the influence that unaccountable man exercises over me; I do not know
whether I love or hate him. I must speak out to you, my own, dear one;
let me tell you all that I have suffered!"

"Dearest Georgy, though I hear you with pain, yes, a thousand times;
but not now; every moment may bring the earl here, and he must not see
you thus agitated; do not let him see any emotion; you must not let
him think he has so much power; I dread his influence over you. _He is
not good._ I always think of Milton's Satan, when I hear him speak."

"And what a grand creature Milton's Satan is," cried Lady Desmond;
"but, Kate, let me speak now."

"Hush, hush," said Miss Vernon, again, and more eagerly stopping her.
"I hear some one coming; and the door into the next room is open."

Lady Desmond looked towards it, her dark eyes flashing eagerly;
but her countenance rapidly assuming its usual expression of proud
reserve; it was thrown open to its fullest extent, and the footman
announced--"Colonel Dashwood;" and Kate, as she went forward to receive
him, could not restrain a smile at the unexpected finale to their
anticipations.

Lady Desmond received the gallant Colonel with more than her usual
suavity and grace; and he, notwithstanding his good nature, seemed
more at ease than when alone with Kate, whose pale cheeks and tearful
eyes forbade the gay badinage, which, truth to tell, formed Colonel
Dashwood's principal stock in conversational trade, when Melton Mowbray
and the moors, were not congenial topics.

Lady Desmond, after the first moment of disappointment, felt the
Colonel's visit to be a relief from her own stormy thoughts; and she
entered fully into his light and lively conversation; while Kate,
though silent, felt soothed and pleased, to have an old acquaintance
thus restored to her, a sort of link with by-gone days, ever present
to her. She sat near the window copying some manuscript music, for her
cousin, to which she had taken a fancy, but oftener resting her head on
her hand, half listening, half thinking.

They were laughing at Colonel Dashwood's description of some adventure
of his in Dublin; and he was looking very much at home, when Lord
Effingham entered, unannounced; and, at the same moment, a vivid flash
of lightning illuminated the apartment, which was gloomy as night.

"I found your doors most hospitably open, Lady Desmond," said the Earl,
advancing with his cool self-possession, "and meeting no one to oppose
my progress, entered, with a flash of lightning, like the devil in Der
Freyschutz."

"I am glad you escaped the shower which is sure to follow," returned
Lady Desmond, endeavouring to recover the double agitation, occasioned
by the lightning and Lord Effingham's _entré_.

"And now," he resumed, quite regardless of the thunder, which almost
drowned his voice, and holding her hand, perhaps a moment longer than
was strictly _selon les regles_, "now that you have, at last, permitted
me to enter your presence, I must say, I see but little sign of the
indisposition that banished your friends. Miss Vernon has been in
league with you against us--I told her as much the other day--and she
bristled up most indignantly; you must tell her I was right, and you
were only fanciful, or--"

"You hear Lord Effingham, Kate?" said Lady Desmond, gently.

He turned and bowed to her, as if he now observed her for the first
time, since his entrance; but his keen eye had noted each individual in
the room, from the moment he crossed its threshold.

Kate returned his salutation; and as she observed the transformation
of Lady Desmond, from an unembarrassed talker, to a silent listener,
absorbed in self-watchfulness and intense attention to every syllable
that dropped from Lord Effingham's lips, she longed for Sabrina's power
to free her from his unholy influence.

"Lord Effingham, Colonel Dashwood," said Lady Desmond.

The gentlemen bowed, and subsided into their respective seats.

"I feel completely exhausted by the heat," said Lord Effingham, sinking
back in his chair, "the heat and the cold of England are equally
unendurable. We have enjoyed a thunder-storm in the Appenines, Lady
Desmond; and you did not start then, as you did just now, when I
entered; it is this heavy atmosphere."

"Yes; yet the storm you mention was awfully grand--and at night, too."

                "'Oh, night,
    And storm and darkness, ye are wondrous strong,
    Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light
    Of a dark eye, in woman!'"

said Lord Effingham, as if to himself; but, with a glance at Lady
Desmond, while Colonel Dashwood was playing with Kate's pen-wiper, and
talking of the band of the --th.

Lady Desmond sighed, and looked away towards Kate, Lord Effingham
following the direction of her eyes with his, smiled.

"Miss Kate, agrah," said Mrs. O'Toole's voice, from the verandah,
at that moment, "don't be sitting wid the winda wide open, an' the
lightnin' strikin' right an' lift--sure it'll be powerin' cats and dogs
in a minit;" and nurse's good-humoured face, though not quite so bright
as in former days, beamed in on them. "The Lord save us! I beg yer
pardon, me lady; sure I thought Miss Kate was all alone be herself, an'
I niver thought to find--"

"No apology, nurse," said Lady Desmond, good-humouredly.

"Mrs. O'Toole," cried Colonel Dashwood, "I hope I am not quite
forgotten;" and he stepped forward to greet her.

"Faith, ye'r not, sir; sure, a dog that I remimbered at Dungar, would
be light to me eyes, let alone a grand lookin' gintleman like yer
honor!"

"It is raining heavily already, nurse," said Lady Desmond, with whom
Mrs. O'Toole was a great favourite; "come in, at once, and you can
speak to Colonel Dashwood."

"Och, Kurnel, what's the Captin doin'? an' where is he?"

"Which Captain?" he returned; "I know so many."

"Och, mee own Captin--him that I nursed through the faver!"

"Oh, Captain Egerton; he is in India, and is a Colonel now; he has been
doing wonders. I will tell him you were asking for him; he will be
delighted."

"Me blessin' on him, wherever he goes. Och, it's a weary sore world;"
and she glanced at Kate, and wiped a tear from her eyes with the corner
of her apron; then curtseying profoundly, retired, saying--"I'll niver
forget the Captin, an' him that's gone. How happy they wer togather!"

"Pray," said Lord Effingham, as she passed, "is your memory always
equally good for every one and everything?"

"I always had a wondherful memory, mee lord," said Mrs. O'Toole, with
another low curtsey; "for it can remimber an' disremimber, mee lord!
just what's convanient betimes!"

"Very convenient," replied his lordship, with a laugh; "good morning."

The storm of rain and thunder growing every moment fiercer and more
loud, Lady Desmond ordered the windows to be fastened; and the party
drew naturally closer together, while the vivid flashes of lightning,
at intervals, displayed their countenances to each other; and Kate, her
nerves not yet braced back to their former strength, almost blushed
for her own cowardice, as she, sometimes, covered her face with her
hands, and scarce could refrain from seizing the arm nearest her; but
that arm was Lord Effingham's. At last, one fearful crash, and blinding
blaze of light, the climax of the storm, startled her out of every
consideration, save the momentary terror; covering her eyes with one
hand, she stretched out the other blindly, catching Lord Effingham's
arm in the involuntary grasp of alarm and leaning towards him; it was
but for a moment, and she drew back.

"By Jove, a thunder-bolt must have fallen," cried Colonel Dashwood,
springing to the window, as if to look for it.

Lady Desmond followed him.

"It was of no use," said Lord Effingham, rapidly, in a low voice, to
Kate; "you see my position is not the least shaken! why interfere
between your cousin and myself?"

"Would it give you pain if I succeeded?" she asked, in the same tone.

"Yes."

"Do you answer me in all sincerity?"

"In all sincerity, I do."

"Then I am satisfied."

"Then we are friends--at least, not foes."

Kate bent her head, and said, frankly--

"I wish to _know_ you."

Lord Effingham could only reply by a look of surprise, when Colonel
Dashwood approached to take his leave. The Earl bowed formally to him.

"I suppose I must not ask you to stay for dinner," said Lady Desmond.
"It would not be _comme il faut_ for recluses such as Kate and myself
to have so gay a guest as Lord Effingham!"

"That is as you think," he returned; "I would, however, certainly stay,
even on that faint shadow of an invitation, were I not unfortunately
engaged to dine with a grand-aunt of mine, just arrived at the Palace.
By the way, would you like to know her? she has two daughters. Miss
Vernon might find them acceptable; young ladies are, you know,
gregarious."

"We shall be most happy to make your aunt's acquaintance," returned
Lady Desmond.

The Earl bowed, and departed.

"I am weary, Kate--my head aches--I cannot speak to you to-day--some
other time--I will go and lie down."

"As you like, dear Georgy."



CHAPTER IV.

REVELATIONS.


Not many days elapsed before the cards of the Honourable Mrs. J. E.
Meredyth, and the Misses Meredyth were laid on Lady Desmond's table;
but it was some time before Kate saw them; for, feeling totally unequal
to the society of strangers, she declined accompanying her cousin to
return their visit, or to an evening party, which quickly followed the
first interchange of formalities.

She regretted, while she was too just to blame, her cousin's rapid
oblivion of the sad scene so deeply engraven on her own memory,
though she steadily endeavoured to cultivate a cheerful resignation,
and sometimes was grateful for any interruption that drew her from
the oppressive sadness and sense of loneliness, that often weighed
on her spirits. Grief is something so repugnant to the young, that
they involuntarily endeavour to throw it off. The morning sun gilds
all things with its life-giving, beautifying light, it is only the
lengthening shadows of evening to which tender sadness and lingering
regret seem natural.

And Kate's true-hearted efforts to submit unmurmuringly to her bitter
loss, were seconded by her happy age; and again peace, like a dove,
still fluttering its wings before settling in its nest, was slowly and
surely returning to her.

Lord Effingham's visits were not quite so frequent as before Lady
Desmond's illness; but they were more agreeable to Kate; his manner
was more real; he noticed her more--with the air of an elder relative,
'tis true--yet with a quiet, unremitting attention, obvious enough to
herself, though scarcely noticeable, save to a very keen observer.

The terms on which he had placed himself with Lady Desmond rather
puzzled her; he devoted much of his time to her, was evidently an
admirer of her beauty and agreeability; yet Kate could not help
thinking there was more of the old friend, of the _habitué_ of the
house, than the lover, in his tone and manner. Lady Desmond seemed, on
the whole, happy enough, and met the warm advances of Mrs. Meredyth
very cordially.

"How do you like your new acquaintance?" asked Kate, the morning after
Mrs. Meredyth's _soirée_.

"Oh, well enough; they are abundantly civil; but not at all the sort of
people you would fancy Lord Effingham's relatives to be. Madame Mere
is fat and fair, and wonderfully preserved; she looks like his aunt,
not grand-aunt; she is grave and quiet; the daughters are _very_ young
ladies, of about thirty, I should think; they are scarcely good style;
and I thought they would positively devour Colonel Dashwood and a Mr.
Burton, and some other dragoons, who embellished the entertainment."

"Burton!" repeated Kate; "I remember--"

"And so does he," interrupted Lady Desmond; "Colonel Dashwood
introduced him to me, and asked permission to bring him here to-day;
he enquired for you very particularly, and said he had heard a great
deal of you from a Captain or Colonel Egerton, a great ally of yours, I
suspect."

Kate sighed.

"Was Lord Effingham there?"

"Yes, rather to my astonishment; he seemed horridly bored, I could
see that; for the species of worship offered to him, both by aunt and
cousins, is exactly the sort of thing to disgust him."

"If the Miss Meredyths are constantly engaged in devouring dragoons,
and worshipping Lord Effingham, they must be busy indeed," said Kate.

"From what I could gather, Lord Effingham's presence was rather an
unusual favour; however, we are to be great friends; I must have
them to dine here some day, or to a strawberry and cream supper, or
something of that sort; only I am afraid you do not feel up to it, dear
Kate; but if you do not mind--"

"Oh, pray do not think of me, Georgy, I am always glad to see you
amused; I can steal away if I find myself unequal to be agreeable--or--"

"No, no," interrupted Lady Desmond, in her turn. "Dear love, you shall
not be teased, only I think it would do you good."

And Kate saw the point was decided against her.

"I wish very much, Georgy, you would allow me to invite Mrs. Storey to
spend a day here; I ought to go and see her; but I feel I cannot go
there yet; if you have no engagement next week."

"Oh, ask her, by all means; she was very civil, I remember; stay, I
will write the note; you can enclose it; and, while we are about it,
let us ask the husband; he is something terrific, is he not?"

"Yes, indeed, he is."

"Do not look so grave about it," said Lady Desmond, laughing; "let us
go to the drawing-room--my desk is there."

As Kate usually chose those hours, when the gardens were free from
the band and mob to wander there, she did not meet Lady Desmond's new
friends until the evening of her _soirée_, which was a very agreeable
little impromptu meeting--the guests verbally invited in the morning
of the same day, when the band had assembled the few inhabitants of
Hampton Court in one focus. Yet Kate shrank from this unwonted gaiety
as from a desecration.

Nurse strove to cheer her up.

"Sure, it'll do ye good, jewil, an' plaise mee lady, so come now,
smile, for yer poor ould nurse."

The Meredyths arrived rather late; and Miss Vernon was obliged to
remain near Lady Desmond until introduced to them, before she retreated
to the small drawing-room, away from the noise and excitement of the
bagatelle board, round which Lady Elizabeth Macdonnell and some young
ladies, who came under her chaperonage, were gathered, all eagerly
exercising their skill against divers and sundry dragoons, contributed
by Colonel Dashwood, at Lady Desmond's request, to assist her in
entertaining her guests.

Mrs. and the Miss Meredyths were rather over dressed for so small a
party. Their noisy entry, and loud laughter, repelled Kate, though she
endeavoured to second her cousin's evident wish that she should know
them better; so suppressing her inclination to retreat, she listened
patiently to the reiterated assurances of their desire to make her
acquaintance.

But Kate's calm, gentle manner, and polite replies, proved faint
counter-attractions to the invitations from the bagatelle party; and
the high-spirited Miss Meredyths were soon immersed in all the interest
of that scientific game.

Kate, at Lady Desmond's request, led Mrs. Meredyth into the inner
drawing-room, to show her some beautiful water-color drawings, of
scenes in the Appenines, which Lady Desmond had purchased at Florence.

They had the room to themselves, and Kate soon perceived that it a was
very interesting work to her companion, who never failed to ask some
well put, leading query during the replacing of each drawing, as to
the duration of her nephew's acquaintance with Lady Desmond, or her
connections, estates, &c., at which Kate, unworldly as she was, could
not avoid smiling.

It was with evident relief that she heard Lady Desmond enter, saying--

"If you will accept me as a partner, _faute de mieux_, my dear Mrs.
Meredyth, Lady Elizabeth will manage to have her rubber; I expected Dr.
----, the veteran physician before alluded to; but if you will bear
with my errors till he comes--"

"You are very good, Lady Desmond; only it is too bad to ask you to play
whist at your age."

And Mrs. Meredyth rose gladly. Kate stayed to look over some of the
drawings that remained, and to replace them in their portfolio, wishing
she could escape from a collection of strangers, all of whom were
uninteresting to her.

Burton had not yet made his appearance, and she hoped to have some
conversation with him; for the morning he had called, she was out. So
she stood gazing at a drawing, resting her arm on the top of a _prie
dieu_ chair, and thinking of Fred Egerton, when Lord Effingham said,
gently, and close to her--

"I thought I should find you here."

She started slightly, but turned to him with a smile, for, seeing how
much her cousin's feelings were interested in his behalf, she was,
as she had told him, anxious to know him better; and, her mind fully
occupied with the impression of his admiration of Lady Desmond, the
possibility of his ever bestowing a thought upon herself, save as a
friend and relative of hers, never crossed it. She was, therefore,
rather glad to have a little _tete-à-tete causerie_ with him.

"I have been showing these drawings to Mrs. Meredyth, but she has gone
to play whist with Georgy, who detests cards. We must endeavour to
rescue her."

"Not yet, if you please, Miss Vernon," returned Lord Effingham, looking
fixedly at her, "I so seldom have an opportunity of saying a word
to you, uninterrupted by some one or other, that you must forgive me
if I rush abruptly into the apology I have been so anxious to make
for the last fortnight. The day in the Palace Garden," he continued,
rapidly--"when you scornfully informed me that you disdained any
friendship with so forward and ill-bred a fellow as myself--I reminded
you of that dog. It was in total ignorance of----. But I see I am only
paining you. Lady Desmond told me, and I have been burning to assure
you of my deep regret. I trust you will believe my assurance that no
irritation would ever have tempted me, knowingly, to revive any memory
distressing to you."

He uttered these with an earnest softness that surprised Miss Vernon,
so complete was the transformation it created in his look and manner.

"I never accused you, even in thought, of such cruelty," she returned,
anxious to relieve his evident anxiety, "so say no more about it, I
entreat."

"But the gesture of repugnance, with which you turned from me, I cannot
forget it."

"Did I," said Kate, blushing at the idea of having wounded the feelings
of any one; "I was unaware, but, if you reflect for a moment, you will
acknowledge it was natural, just then, you know I felt sick at heart."

Lord Effingham's dark cheek flushed for an instant, he bit his lips.

"Yet you say you forgive me."

"And I do," she returned, "I could not resent an unintentional offence."

He smiled, a very different smile from those that usually darkened
rather than illuminated his countenance, and Kate, thought, "perhaps
that might have been the expression of it in childhood."

He held out his thin, nervous, resolute looking hand, with a look of
entreaty and an expressive--

"Then if----."

Kate, who had not an atom of prudery, and was anxious to make up for
the gesture of repugnance, he had so forcibly described, put her own
frankly into it; he raised it for a moment, to his lips, and said,
lightly, half in jest, half earnest--

"And on this hand I renounce my evil ways."

She withdrew her hand quickly, but before she could make any reply,
Lord Effingham said--

"Let us look at these exquisite views; Lady Desmond, the Wentworths,
and myself, made many expeditions among the Appenines. Where were you
then, Miss Vernon?"

He asked this in a tone as if he remembered, with amazement, having
enjoyed any thing where she was not; but Kate did not notice it, for,
transported back to former scenes, by his question, she answered, with
a sigh--

"Ah, I was then very happy!"

Lord Effingham looked up at her, and as her eyes were bent down,
quite regardless of him, he permitted a slight smile to mingle in the
admiring glance that rested on her.

"Have you seen Lady Desmond?" she enquired, raising her eyes to his
with a vague sort of notion that she ought not to remain there in
that quiet room, with its books and pictures, _tête-à-tête_, with her
cousin's lover.

"No, I came here to ask you where she was, _remember_!"

"Why, am I to remember? do you wish me to tell her?"

"As you like," said Lord Effingham, carelessly, and turning to the
drawings, began to speak of their merits, and of the artist who took
the views, in a clear, simple, forcible manner which interested
Miss Vernon greatly. She had always felt that her companion was
possessed of talent, though his indolence seldom permitted him to
display it in conversation; and she now listened with pleasure to his
unwonted agreeability. Lady Desmond was frequently the subject of
his comments, which were always flattering, but expressed with an air
of calm, deliberate approbation, equally unlike his usually sneering
indifference, or a lover's warmth; yet his memory appeared to be
wonderfully distinct as to her doings; in one place, she had ordered
her picture from a distressed artist, and retrieved his fortunes by her
liberal payment and patronage.

"It was in Italy, you know, where the necessaries of life are not
worth double their weight in gold," added Lord Effingham. Or it was
her courage and self-possession in a thunder-storm, or her taste in
an _al-fresco_ entertainment; but though thus constantly referred to,
there was an occasional glimpse shown of her pride, her imperiousness,
or her impatience, never condemned, but hinted at more by a tone, a
glance, a smile than by words.

Kate listened intently, fancying she had got the clue to his strange
indecision as regarded her cousin, and gradually determining that he
only hesitated to declare the love, she was sure he felt, because he
feared that the existence of such qualities were not calculated to make
a home happy.

"He does not know her noble nature or her value, and she always appears
to greater disadvantage with him than with any one else. Perhaps I may
be able to clear this up," she thought. "And, after all, he may be
a better man than I imagined," so she listened, resting her clasped
hands on the top of the chair by which she stood, her head inclined
gently to one side, a slight pleased smile curving her lip, and
showing the pearly teeth, while he, compelling himself to speak of the
drawing he held, instead of indulging his natural indolence in silent
contemplation of the sweet face before him, his back to the door, was
first conscious that their solitude was broken in upon by her change of
countenance and position. He turned just as Colonel Dashwood, entering
said--

"I have been looking for you, Miss Vernon, to present Mr. Burton,"
waving his hand to that gentleman who accompanied him, inwardly
consigning his Colonel to the inferno of busy bodies, for having so
pertinaciously sought Miss Vernon, and interrupted a second interesting
_tête-à-tête_.

Miss Vernon's cordial and unembarrassed manner set him at ease,
however, and Lord Effingham, in an unusually amiable mood, exerted
himself to cultivate Dashwood, so the _partie quarré_ progressed into a
sociable exchange of trivialities, when their number was encreased by
the approach of Lady Desmond, who entered with a look of restlessness,
Kate knew well how to interpret.

"Some one said you had arrived, Lord Effingham," she said.

"I could not see you in the next room, and came here to look for you,"
he replied, smiling. "But the awful intelligence that you were playing
whist with my aunt rendered me incapable of further exertion. Is that
sacrifice accomplished?"

"Yes, I have done my duty."

"And I have been living over some very pleasant days again," he
returned, glancing at the drawings, "and prosing to Miss Vernon on the
same subject; but I must pay my respects to Mrs. Meredyth," and he
offered his arm to Lady Desmond.

Miss Vernon continued to converse a little longer with Colonel Dashwood
and Mr. Burton; but neither mentioned Fred Egerton, till Kate,
apprehending she might be asked to contribute towards the music, now
superseding the bagatelle, complained of fatigue, and wished them "good
night."

"I am glad I shall be able to tell my friend Fred Egerton I met you,
Miss Vernon," said Burton, "I kept my letter open for the purpose, as
he always asks me for some intelligence of his old friends, though I
do not think he seems inclined to return to them."

"Quite right," said Colonel Dashwood, "he has made an excellent start
in India; good night, Miss Vernon; I will tell Lady Desmond you have
beat a retreat."

"Good night," and soon after the party broke up.

Lord Effingham drove home by moonlight; but his thoughts were too
darkly chaotic for us to fathom.

The Miss Meredyths, in council over their "_toilettes de nuit_,"
decided that whether "Eff" married Lady Desmond or not, it was well
worth their while to cultivate her acquaintance, and Burton, throwing
off his uniform, and drawing his writing-table to an open window,
proceeded to add a P.S. to his letter.

 "I have just returned from a tranquil little Arcadian evening party
 at Lady Desmond's, where I was introduced to your old acquaintance,
 Miss Vernon, and I am half inclined to forgive you all the nonsense
 you used to talk about her; though she looks pale and pensive, I think
 she is still more lovely than she was at that ball, where we saw her,
 two years ago. I fancy I can account for the present quietism and
 irreproachable life of the rather notorious Lord Effingham. He came
 in for old St. L's beautiful villa near Richmond, some time ago, and
 is nominally living there; but, in reality, is here every day, and
 all day, and the gossips are puzzled; because if Lady Desmond is the
 attraction, they could have married any time these two years; but,
 from what I have seen, I am certain it is your friend Miss Vernon who
 will be Countess of Effingham. In short, I am pretty sure they are
 engaged; I hope he may make a tolerable husband, for she deserves well
 I am certain. This is my latest intelligence--so, good night, old
 fellow, and do not keep me six months waiting for a reply to this."

Kate was sitting, near the window, in her room, waiting until the
household had sunk into silence before she laid down to sleep, when the
door was softly opened by Lady Desmond, who entered, saying--

"Are you awake? Oh! you have not gone to bed."

"Dear Georgy!" exclaimed Miss Vernon, rising to meet her, "I hope you
did not think me rude for running away so selfishly, but--"

"Not a word more," interrupted her cousin, passing her arm caressingly
round her, "you were right to do as you felt inclined--indeed I fear I
was inconsiderate in asking you to join us, nor was there anything very
attractive in our guests."

There was a pause for some moments; and then, Lady Desmond, drawing
Kate closer to the window, asked--

"Are you sleepy, love?"

"No, dear Georgy, not in the least."

"Then I will resume my revelations. I have not felt in the mood to do
so before, and you were wise and kind not to urge me."

"Go on then, dearest," said Kate, "I long to hear your story."

"When first I met Lord Effingham at Naples," began Lady Desmond,
withdrawing her arm from Kate, and resting the other against the
window-frame, "I had been rather bored by the perpetual gossip about
him always floating in the society there, and, at the same time, I was
intensely fatigued by the utter absence of anything like interest in
the world at large. I had no particular object--I was so perfectly my
own mistress--I had not even the excitement of imagining what I would
do if I could, for I had the power of accomplishing every rational
wish. I was wearied of the excessive attentions and admiration of a
dozen needy adorers, and, in short, _ennuye'd_. In this happy and
commendable frame of mind, I dragged myself listlessly to a birthday
dinner at the English Ambassador's; and accident placed me next a
gentleman, so quietly _distingué_, that nine out of ten observers,
would not have noticed him; my attention was attracted by his being a
stranger in a circle where each was known to each, and I was rather
surprised when Lady W---- introduced him to me as Lord Effingham.
He handed me down to dinner; but if I give you all these frivolous
particulars, I shall not come to the end of my story until morning.
There was an indescribable fascination for me in his manner. You must
have observed the sense of power it conveys--the impression that there
is something ever to be revealed, which you can never fathom, while
he reads all your thoughts; the constant air of cool indifference you
have seen; but the occasional softness, so exquisite in its flattering
suggestions, you have not. Ah, Kate, I little thought as I drove
home that night, feeling life had still something left to wish for,
something still to excite, that the time would come when I as ardently
desired to have that passage wiped away from my existence.

"I met Lord Effingham in society frequently, and he was the only man,
amongst those of our circle, who did not enter himself as an aspirant
for my smiles--to use the wretched _jargon_ of those idlers--I will
not say this piqued me. Pique is too weak, too French a term, to
express the scorn of myself, with which his neglect filled me; he
only considered me a fitting object of admiration for the vulgar
mob. Yet there was a sympathy between us, that, though we seldom
spoke, linked us strangely. Gradually--I cannot tell how it was--we
became more intimate, and my very soul was absorbed in the intense
longing to make him feel that I was not powerless. At length, I saw
I was admired--I read it in his eyes a thousand times, and no longer
unoccupied and listless, every faculty at its fullest stretch, both
to feel and to conceal what I felt; for I dreaded either the world,
or Lord Effingham, obtaining even the slightest clue to the state of
my mind; then, Kate, then, for the first time, I tasted all the wild
excitement--all the concentrated vitality of which life is capable."

Lady Desmond's eyes dilated, and Kate felt her own veins thrill with
the contagious passion that inspired her cousin's words.

"Still," resumed Lady Desmond, "I was unconscious that, in my
efforts to rivet chains on so untamable a captive, I had only twined
them closely round myself. This did not last long; his excessive
variability opened my eyes; though the tenderest accents had breathed
the well-adapted line from my favorite poet in tones that rendered its
application unmistakeable, though the interruption of our slightest
conversation was avoided as unendurable in the evening, the next
morning would find him so utterly cold, indifferent, almost forgetful,
that I shrunk from the power so remorselessly displayed, and fled.

"Whether the novelty of my seeming indifference--for so far, I acted
bravely, Kate--was not yet '_fletri_,' or whether he was sick of
Naples, I do not know, but he followed me to Florence, and told me,
with the calm gravity of seeming truth, that Naples was insupportable
without me. I believed him--nay, I think he spoke what he then felt.
I was again lapped in Elysium; he was less variable--I did not care
to think of the future, I was no longer strong enough to preserve the
guard I had hitherto kept. His haughty iron-spirit mastered mine--he
saw it, and left Florence for England.

"I will not dwell on that miserable year--I cannot--for I only remember
a dark chaos of black misery and despair--an eternal effort to seem
what I was not. All this is incomprehensible to you, Kate--may it ever
be so. I despise myself; at this moment I hate Lord Effingham; but yet
I would give every hope here, almost every hope hereafter, to see him
at my feet--to hear him say, 'I love you,'--this wild longing to touch
his heart; the conviction that no effort of mine can do so; the glimpse
of his love; the long cold night of his indifference; and, worse than
all, the irritating sense of slavery to his will, is death to me. Yet
I have striven against it; I vowed I would not return to England while
it contained him, and you know how I kept my vow--aye, in despite of
duty. And when I did come, I believed he was in Paris. And must I live
through all this again? Why does he seek me to torture me? I scarcely
gave him the civil encouragement to call on me, required by the usages
of society. And yet, I fear, he sees too well how vainly I struggle
against his influence.

"His questions to you, when I endeavored to gain a few days' quiet
reflection, uninterrupted by his disturbing presence, they were
strange, yet they showed interest. Oh, Kate, Kate, can you read this
riddle for me? my experience is all at fault; what say the instincts
of your fresh heart?"

"He loves you," cried Kate, much moved by her cousin's recital; and she
spoke her true conviction, "he must love you, and we do not know what
motives he may have. Yet, I fear he must be selfish, and cold-hearted,
to think so little of your feelings. Oh, dear Georgy, try not to love
him; how can you love where you do not trust? pray to God to help you,
and make up your mind to endure a little present pain, in the hope of
future peace; let us leave this place, and go away from him--he has no
right to make you wretched--let us go."

"No--impossible," said Lady Desmond, faintly, as if wearied by her own
emotions. "Never was the spell so strong on me as now. I cannot--nay
more, Kate, I _will_ not break it; do not look so sadly, so shocked.
I will be reasonable; you said just now we could not know his
motives--fate seems to have thrown us together again--for God knows I
came down here to get out of London, lest he might suddenly re-appear,
to make me writhe under the consciousness of my thraldom. Let us see
what another month may disclose. I feel that, before long, all doubt
will be at an end, though now, at times, I think he loves me."

"Yes, he loves you--he must," cried Kate, gazing on Lady Desmond's
beautiful face, as, glowing with the animation her reminiscences had
called up, "but he loves himself better."

"Then I am free," returned her cousin, "he is too grand a creature to
be selfish--no there is none like him. Whatever his faults may be, they
are not petty--he can love. We will remain here another month. What do
you advise?"

"Whatever I advise, dear Georgy, you will stay; and perhaps it is
better to give Lord Effingham a fair trial, though he might follow us;
at all events, you do not quite disapprove my counsel, I would fain
have you go."

"Do not ask me, I cannot; but is not that two o'clock--to bed--to bed,
Kate, how could I have kept you up so late. Good night."

"God bless you, and give you peace, dear Georgy--good night."



CHAPTER V.

AN ECLAIRCISSEMENT.


The note of invitation, which Lady Desmond had despatched to Mrs.
Storey, was quickly answered in the affirmative; that worthy woman
having a strongly marked preference for fashion and the aristocracy,
though if the truth must be told, it was an act of heroic accordance,
with her principles to spend an entire day with Lady Desmond, who had
impressed her with a sincere feeling of awe.

"Mrs. Storey has much pleasure in accepting my polite invitation. _Cela
va sans dire_; write, Kate dear, and say I will send the carriage to
meet her at Kingston. Mr. Storey is engaged till six o'clock, but will
come down for her, _tant mieux_."

Kate felt her cousin's civility to her friend as the most delicate
kindness, and thanked her with an eloquent glance.

Lady Desmond seemed to cling more to Miss Vernon since she had made the
confession detailed in the last chapter; she had seemed more cheerful,
and hopeful too, as if relieved by her confidence in another--her
manner with Lord Effingham, had more of frankness and courage, and he,
ever keen and quick, was evidently aware of some change in the mind,
or heart, he knew so well; and for the moment seemed roused from his
habitual indifference to a deeper and more palpable interest. Kate
watched all this anxiously. "Is he afraid of losing her," she thought.
"Ah, if she would try to _be_, and not merely to _seem_, careless of
him, she would bind him to her--there is something so irresistible in
the evidence of truth. But how foolish--how worthless it all is--they
are both too prosperous to love in earnest!"

    "In climes full of sunshine, though splendid their dyes,
      But faint are the odours, the flowers shed about,
    'Tis the mist, and the clouds of our own weeping skies,
      That draw their full spirit of fragrancy out.
    So the wild glow of passion, may kindle from mirth;
      But 'tis only in grief, true affection appears--
    To the magic of smiles, it may first owe its birth,
      But the soul of its sweetness is drawn out by tears."

Kate no longer avoided Lord Effingham, she readily accepted every
opportunity of conversing with him, though each day showed her how
vain were her attempts to penetrate his real sentiments; all things,
however, wore a smiling aspect the morning she drove to Kingston, to
meet Mrs. Storey.

"I am sure, Miss Vernon, this is most polite and attentive, and I am
truly rejoiced to see you looking so much better, but the hair at
'Ampton Court is the best in world; and how is Lady Desmond, &c., &c."

Kate was really glad to see the good-natured garrulous little woman,
and the sincere, kindly tone of her enquiries for Mr. Storey, and the
children touched her guest's heart.

"Indeed, I always tell Mr. S. that you are not one of your forgetful
people, that never remember a former friend, when you have got grand,
new ones."

"I should indeed be sorry to be so worthless as to forget all your
kindness to me and mine," returned Kate, warmly. "I would have gone
to see you before this, but I cannot yet bring myself to go to that
neighbourhood; before we leave this part of the world, however I
certainly will."

"Oh dear, yes, Miss Vernon, remember I count on a week or fortnight, or
as long as your cousin will spare you. I suppose you will never leave
her now, until you go to a house of your own?"

"That I cannot tell," returned Kate; "at present, at all events,
probably until this terrible lawsuit of mine, which is still dragging
on, is decided, I shall remain with her."

"Well you must come to me for a few days soon, at all events, though I
cannot offer you the same grandeur and elegance, you are accustomed to
here."

"My dear Mrs. Storey, you know what I was accustomed to when you
first showed me kindness and attention; but tell me something of your
brother."

The meridian sun streamed fully on them, for the last part of their
drive, and Mrs. Storey, who was an eager talker, and was excited by
the meeting with Kate, looked painfully red and heated, by the time
the carriage stopped at the old fashioned, iron gates, leading into
the garden, before Lady Desmond's house; and as they were ushered into
the cool, fragrant drawing-room, with its open windows, darkened by
Venetian blinds, and breathing an atmosphere of simple refinement,
Kate could hardly refrain from a smile, at the contrast between Lady
Desmond's calm courteous manner, and fresh, undisturbed appearance, and
the flushed, fussy guest--she rose to receive so graciously.

Lady Elizabeth Macdonnell, and Colonel Dashwood came in, during
luncheon, much to Mrs. Storey's edification, though she sat listening,
rather silently, to their animated talk of people and things all
unknown to her.

"I am sorry," said Kate, turning to her, "this is not one of the days
on which the band performs; it is a very good one, though I have only
heard it from a distance."

"If you like I will order them to play this afternoon," said Colonel
Dashwood. "Say the word, and they shall be ready by the time you have
expended your admiration on the Vandykes, &c., which you are going to
see."

"By all means, Colonel Dashwood," cried Lady Desmond, who dreaded the
unoccupied afternoon, "Mrs. Storey would, I am sure, like it."

"Really," replied that lady, rather confused at the idea of so much
power being exerted for her amusement, "Colonel Dashwood, you are very
good, if it is not too much trouble."

"Trouble; oh, none whatever," he said, smiling and bowing to Mrs.
Storey. "Lady Desmond, perhaps you will send one of your people with
Colonel Dashwood's compliments, to Mr. Clark, the band master, and say
he wishes the band should play on the terrace-walk, in about an hour
and a half."

When they had prepared for their proposed lounge (and Mrs. Storey
felt almost ashamed of Lady Desmond's coarse straw bonnet, with its
simple black ribbon), they found that Lord Effingham had added himself
to their party, and stood talking to Colonel Dashwood in one of the
windows. His quick eye rested for a moment on Mrs. Storey's finery,
with an expression of calm curiosity, as one might notice some unusual
specimen in the Zoological Gardens.

Lady Desmond immediately presented him to her, with the same easy
politeness she would have shown towards a duchess, and he, bowing
profoundly, observed--

"You are going picture gazing! allow me to join your party, I have not
seen the paintings here since my raspberry jam, and peg-top days."

Lady Desmond, and Mrs. Storey, escorted by Colonel Dashwood, walked
first, Lady Elizabeth took Kate's arm, and Lord Effingham sauntered by
her side.

"This is too much for me," panted Lady Elizabeth, "I cannot pass my own
door, and, I am only delaying you from your friend; tell Lady Desmond I
broke down on the road--pray ring that bell for me, my lord; thank you,
good-bye."

"Pray," said Lord Effingham, as he and Kate continued to walk, side by
side, "where did Lady Desmond pick up that curious specimen of the
genus woman?"

"She did not pick her up, I did--or rather she picked me up, and
showed me kind and respectful attention, when less curious specimens
of the human race had the taste and discernment to class me, with the
children's maids, and nurses, frequenting Kensington Gardens."

"Fairly hit, and deserved, I confess; yet I had hoped you were
magnanimous enough to have buried that egregious mistake in oblivion."

"So I do in general, and only remember it when your contempt for
something I know to be good, though, perhaps unprepossessing in
appearance, recalls to my mind the unfairness of judging the Lord
Effingham to-day by the uncourteous stranger of last winter."

He bit his lips in silence for a moment, and then, with a smile of
unusual frankness, said--

"A retort from Miss Vernon is like a hair trigger in the hands of an
angel with shining wings and snowy drapery; leave such carnal weapons
to your imperial cousin; truth, simple and earnest, is at once your
shield and spear; better say at once what is now in your mind, without
circumlocution. 'You despise a good and a useful woman, who is worth a
whole nation of '_vaut riens_,' like yourself.' Eh, Miss Vernon?"

"That is rather too strong," said Kate, laughing.

"Nevertheless, I have read your thoughts--I often do--I can read your
cousin's; what a different book! Yet she is a splendid creature--how
desperately--"

And Kate, listening with all her soul, was almost startled into a
scream by a sudden hand laid on her arm, and a breathless voice
exclaiming--

"I have just seen Lady Elizabeth, Miss Vernon, and I ran after you to
hear what all this arrangement about the band is. Ah, how do you do,
Effingham?"

And the two Miss Meredyths were incorporated in their party.

The rest of the day passed over pleasantly enough; the pictures, the
band, and the gardens kept them free from those "awful pauses" which so
often desolate a day spent with country friends; while Lord Effingham's
unwonted exertions to please and amuse Lady Desmond, _pro tem._ hushed
every doubt, and enabled her to bear up heroically under the rampant
agreeability of poor Mr. Storey at dinner.

"Well, my dear," cried his wife, as she was putting on her bonnet,
previous to her departure, "I am sure I have had the most delightful
day, and, what is the best of all, is the prospect of such happiness
and success before you--a more elegant man I never met, and so taken up
with you--"

"What are you talking about?" asked Kate.

"Lord Effingham to be sure; and--"

"How can you imagine such nonsense, dear Mrs. Storey," cried Kate, "it
is too absurd, for--"

But Lady Desmond's entrance cut short their conversation; a
profusion of farewell speeches followed--promises from Kate to visit
them--assurances from the visitors of their content--a large bouquet
from Lady Desmond--and they were gone.

Time rolled on with a pleasant sameness for the remainder of the month
of trial agreed on by the cousins. Kate entered more into the little
society which assembled two or three times a week at Lady Desmond's
house, and the fair widow herself began a line of conduct to which, as
she felt Kate would be much opposed, she always endeavoured to avoid
any allusion when they were alone. Colonel Dashwood was unmistakeably
"_epris_" with the beautiful widow; and she, though scarcely
encouraging him, certainly showed a preference for his society,
intended to pique Lord Effingham. Once only did Kate venture to hint at
the imprudence of such a proceeding.

"It can never be successful, for it is untrue; Lord Effingham does not
appear to notice it, and it is a cruel injustice to a kind-hearted,
honourable man, who loves you. I am afraid. Dear Georgy, this is
miserable work, it will destroy your better nature--let us leave this
place. Forgive me for asking, but how can you prefer the uncertain
selfishness of the Earl, clever and polished as he is, to that frank,
manly, high-bred, Colonel Dashwood? I wish you would love him instead."

"Kate," cried Lady Desmond, almost angrily, "how can you accuse me of
such deceitful conduct? Colonel Dashwood is a man of the world and
can take care of himself. I beg you will not misunderstand me so much
again. I shall leave this in a few weeks--till then, have patience
before you condemn me."

"I do not condemn you, dearest; I only wish to see you happy," said
Kate, anxiously.

"Indeed I believe you, _cara miâ_," said Lady Desmond, relaxing from
the air of hauteur with which she had last spoken. "Let us, however,
drop the disagreeable subject."

And Kate felt she had been treading on forbidden ground.

She retired to her own room after this conversation, and seating
herself on the window-seat, thought long though vaguely of the species
of unhappy cloud thus thrown over her cousin's life, by the tenacious
grasp she had permitted an absorbing passion to take of her heart,
hiding from her the beauties and the pleasures which might have colored
her life.

"How terrible to be thus dependent for happiness on the smiles or
frowns of a cold-hearted man. Ah! if my own beloved grandpapa was
alive, she would listen to him."

And at that remembrance, her thoughts took a different direction, and
dwelt long and sadly on the kind and venerated old man.

Then again the restlessness which ever seized her when she reflected on
her utter dependence, returned with startling force, and she felt as if
she could, at that moment, set out to seek her fortune alone.

"I will do so, ere long," she thought, "I cannot live always thus; but,
for the present, I must wait. Until Mr. Winter's return--he is so wise,
so practical--and I must consider poor nurse before myself. Oh, what
an utter change since the day when I walked into the dear old priory
drawing-room with my poor Cormac, and found Colonel Egerton there."

And his face, and figure, and voice returned to her memory at her
spirits' call, and she longed, with that intensity with which the
prisoner in the body's cage strains itself against its bounds in
unutterable pining to devour space--the wish to see him once more,
to tell him all about her grandfather's death--her own deep sorrows,
absorbed her fancy, and the hours rolled on while she listened in
imagination to his rich, full, frank voice--

    "Memory may mock thee with the tones
      So well-known and so dear--
    'Tis but an echo of the past,
      That cheats the longing ear;
    And thou must strive, and think, and hope,
      And hush each trembling sigh,
    And struggle onward in the way
      Thy destined course doth lie."

"Och! are ye all alone be yerself, asthore?" asked nurse, entering,
"an' the big salt tears rowlin' down yer face. What was it vexed
ye--tell yer own nurse?"

"Nothing, dear nurse. I was only thinking," returned Kate, drying her
eyes, and endeavoring to smile; "is it time to dress?"

"Nearly, asthore!"

"I wonder Mr. Winter has not written; my last letter remains
unanswered," observed Kate, after a silence of some minutes.

"Ye'll have one to-morrow, acushla," said Mrs. O'Toole, who was always
ready to promise herself, and those she loved every possible good, in
prospect. "An faith ye hav'nt ten minutes left to dress, an' all thim
grand officers an' ladies to be here to-night; sure I'm as plaised as
if I was made Lady Liftinant, to see ye among yer own sort again; not
goin to thim shopkeepin gintry, at Bayswather, me heavy hatred to it.
Thim Miss Merrydeaths, are mighty agreeable young ladies, I see thim
walkin the other day, laughin like grigs they wor; what a quare name
they have, sure it's no wondher they're wishin to change it."

"Are they?" asked Kate, smiling.

"To be sure they are, it's not natral for thim to be sich playful
kittins at their time in life, but may be if they wer quite, they'd be
mistakin for full grown cats."

"Really, nurse, you are so severe this evening, I must run away from
you."

"The blessin iv heaven go with ye, where-ever ye go; an jist let me
fasten this top hook; there now, here's yer gloves, an' there's not the
like iv ye in the Queen's Coort, let alone Hampton Coort," murmured
Mrs. O'Toole, as Kate kissed her hand to her, and descended to the
drawing-room.

The weather had been rather broken for the last few days, and a dinner
at Richmond had carried away the greater part of Lady Desmond's usual
guests. Lady Elizabeth Macdonnell, Colonel Dashwood, Lord Effingham,
the doctor, and one or two venerable specimens of whist-players, male
and female, completed the party. The evening was cold for July, and a
small bright wood fire was most acceptable.

The whist players were soon absorbed in their rubber, while Kate,
Lady Desmond, Lord Effingham and Colonel Dashwood, gathered round the
fire. Kate was seated on a low ottoman, Lady Desmond opposite her in
an arm chair. Lord Effingham leaning back amongst the cushions of a
sofa close to her, with that air of profound quiet and repose, which
formed, at times, so admirable a mask to his real sentiments and
impressions. Colonel Dashwood stood on the hearth-rug, leaning against
the mantel-piece, and occasionally indulging himself in a study of Lady
Desmond's profile, when she turned to speak to the Earl. The group was
interesting; it bespoke refinement, cultivation, and civilisation in
their best form, yet was each member of that little party inflicting or
about to inflict suffering on the rest.

Little dreaming of such forebodings, Kate sat listening to a
discussion between Colonel Dashwood and her cousin, on Kean's acting
in Sheridan Knowles's play, of "Love," sometimes losing the thread
of the argument in her own thoughts, when she was roused by Lady
Desmond's pronouncing her name; she looked up suddenly, ashamed of her
inattention, and met Lord Effingham's eyes, which wore an expression
that puzzled her, as if they had been fixed on her for a long time.

"I beg your pardon Georgy," she said, quickly, "I really did not hear
what you said."

"It was only to get you to side with me against Colonel Dashwood; but
if you were dreaming instead of listening to me, I do not wish for such
an ally," said Lady Desmond, laughing.

"But," pursued Colonel Dashwood, in continuation of some previous
remark, "Love," in real life, is so different from the strange
masquerade it wears on the stage."

"The most perfect description of love is that which Byron gives in
his Corsair. 'None are all evil,' you know the passage," said Lord
Effingham, rousing himself.

"Oh, yes," cried Kate, eagerly, "it is indeed exquisite, but, 'John
Anderson, my Joe John,' conveys the idea of true love a great deal more
forcibly to my mind."

"Burns," said Lord Effingham, "oh, his detestable jargon is too much
for me, and I cannot see the poetry of a ballad, about some stupid
old woman, who had been drinking 'usquebaugh,' till she was maudlin,
and then proceeds to make love to her 'gude mon,' whose eyes she had
probably been scratching out an hour before."

"Oh, shame, shame, to sully the real beauty of the fancy by so base a
construction!" returned Kate.

"Kate worships Burns," said Lady Desmond, "she has a print of 'John
Anderson,' opposite her bed, that her eyes may light upon it on their
first opening in the morning."

"It is a sweet ballad, I think, and has an honesty about it, I like;"
observed Dashwood.

"You are right, Colonel Dashwood," said Kate.

"Ah," said Lady Desmond, "you have ruined yourself with Kate, Lord
Effingham."

"I hope not; but Miss Vernon must grant Byron's description to be
perfect," he replied.

"Yes, but his is the description of 'Woman's Love,' added Lady Desmond,
"no man ever felt the tenderness--

    'Unmoved by absence, firm in every clime,
    And still, oh, more than all, untired by time.'

which he ascribes to the Corsair."

"And very few women either, Lady Desmond," said the Colonel.

"Certainly not a man so pre-occupied by himself, that personal injury
or disappointment, could drive him into warfare with his kind, as
Conrad is described to have been," cried Kate, "it is not such a
character that could experience affection so exquisitely self-forgetful.

    'Which, nor defeated hope, nor baffled wile,
    Could render sullen, were she near to smile,
    Nor anger fire, nor sickness fret to vent,
    On her, one murmur of his discontent,
    Which still with joy could meet, with calmness part,
    Lest that his look of grief, should reach her heart.'"

Her listeners were silent for a few moments, after the tones of her
sweet voice, which had breathed these lines with so true, so tender an
emphasis, had ceased.

Lord Effingham raised himself from his recumbent position, with a
sudden gleam of light in his deep-set eyes.

"Then what description of man do you think likely to feel such love?"
asked Lady Desmond.

"One whom we both knew and loved, might have felt thus, Georgy, and he,
indeed, _was_ a good man."

"The contradictions of human nature are incomprehensible, even to
profounder philosophers than you are, Miss Vernon," said the Earl, "and
it is not always the most irreproachable characters who have loved most
devotedly. But do you not think Conrad justified by the injuries hinted
at, in bidding defiance to a world to which he felt himself superior?"

"Yes, I admire Conrad, I confess," replied Lady Desmond.

"I do not think hatred is ever grand," said Kate, rather timidly.

"But it is very natural, sometimes, Miss Vernon," observed Dashwood.

"Miss Vernon would have us turn first one cheek and then the other to
be smitten," said Lord Effingham.

"Yes," said Miss Vernon, colouring, but composed, "I would in that
sense in which we were recommended to do so. If Conrad could have
loved, as Byron describes, his sense of wrong would have led him to
feel a noble pity for his injurers; revenge would have been merged in
an effort to teach them truth by forgiveness; and which is the grandest
creature, the man who, freed from the petty dominion of self, can look
down on his own passions from a real eminence, or he who is their
willing slave; before whose frown

    'Hope withering fled, and mercy sighed farewell!'"

"Bravo, Miss Vernon, you have converted me," cried the Colonel.

"Yes," said Lady Desmond, "I believe you are right, Kate."

"You demand perfection," observed the Earl, gloomily.

"I fear," said Miss Vernon, half ashamed of her enthusiasm, "I have
talked a great deal too much."

"But the modern school of poets, who draw their inspiration from a
mushroom, or pig-sty, or an old man afflicted with the rheumatism, are,
I confess, too transcendental for me; I cannot interest myself in such
anti-poetical subjects," remarked Lord Effingham.

"I rather like Longfellow; and Kate, I believe, considers him the first
of poets," said Lady Desmond.

"Not exactly," replied Miss Vernon.

"Explain then, why it is that such a school has become so prevalent;
and in painting too! The Royal Academy is filled with 'Dames' schools,'
markets and kitchen scenery, and seems to endeavour in every way to
make the modern and ancient style as unlike as the nature of the art
will admit," rejoined the Earl.

"It is the confoundedly democratic tone of society; none but mechanics
have money to buy pictures now," said Colonel Dashwood.

"It is the craving for novelty so prevalent in the present day," said
Lady Desmond.

"Mr. Winter," said Miss Vernon, "used to say, that it was the gradual
development of truth, that people began to see; it was absurd to
consider that Oriental life had greater elements of poetry than our
own, because it was farther off; or that princes or dukes, kings and
queens, were the only subjects fit for poetry and painting, but that we
began to feel that life, high or low, wherever sentient beings existed,
loved, hated, or struggled, was matter enough for poetry or pictures."

"Mr. Winter is Miss Vernon's mentor, you must know," observed Lady
Desmond.

"A capital fellow, he was most kind to Fred Egerton, so hospitable and
droll," said the Colonel.

Further conversation was interrupted by the breaking up of the whist
tables, and the subsequent departure of the guests.

"Can you take me into town with you to-morrow?" asked Lady Elizabeth of
Lady Desmond.

"Do you know whether Mrs. Meredyth returns from ---- to-morrow?"

"They do not come back till next week."

"I am sorry for it; I wished to ask one of the girls to stay with Miss
Vernon, she will be all alone."

"How long do you remain in town?" asked Lord Effingham, carelessly.

"Until Friday; I cannot get off a dinner at Mrs. ----'s; and when I am
in town, I may as well stay and hear Sir Robert Peel speak on the ----
Bill; they say it will come before the House on Thursday night. But I
am uneasy about leaving Kate."

"Well, Miss Vernon, if you are inconsolable for the want of my cousin's
society, I will send an express to recall them."

"Oh, I do not mind in the least," said Kate, hastily, "that is, of
course--"

"Do not finish, Miss Vernon; you have deeply wounded my feelings for
those young ladies," returned Lord Effingham, smiling, then turning
to Lady Desmond; "I shall probably see you at the House on Thursday
evening; I should like to hear Sir Robert."

And after a few more remarks the party separated.

The next day was Wednesday; and Lady Desmond delayed her departure
for the dinner party at Mrs. ----'s, as late as she prudently could,
leaving Kate with evident reluctance, and even twice returning from
the door to give her some parting injunction, and another last kiss.
Kate felt in unusually good spirits; she was unspeakably grateful for
her cousin's affection. And nurse had proved a true prophetess; for
she had received a letter from Winter that morning, thanking her for
accepting his gift, and giving her his address at a little frontier
town, "where," he added, "if you write at once, I can receive a letter,
but after that, you must wait till you hear from me." Mrs. Winter,
he said, was beginning to get more reconciled to foreign ways. The
little artist was evidently enjoying himself; and the kind, cordial,
interested tone of her letter, short though it was, gave Kate a
sensation of light-heartedness to which she had been long a stranger.
She took a pleasant walk with nurse in Bushy Park, and made that worthy
individual join her at tea.

Her first act, the next day, was to write a long and cheerful letter
in reply to Winter's. She dilated much upon the kindness she received
from Lady Desmond, on her contentment under her roof; yet she also
dwelt on her anxiety to embrace her tried and true friends once more;
and closed her letter with an exhortation as to their return before
the winter set in; this missive despatched, she determined to take
advantage of her unusually good spirits, and turning to the piano,
practised delightedly for nearly an hour. She fancied, as exercise
gradually restored flexibility to her voice, that it had acquired
more richness and power from its long rest; hitherto she had only
contributed instrumental music as her quota to the entertainment of her
cousin's guests, and she proceeded to try an air of Gilpin's, to which
she had adapted some lines of his sister's, thinking she would surprise
and please Lady Desmond on her return. The music, which was simple, but
most expressive, and very _sostenuto_, suited both her taste and her
powers; she lingered over it with a sense of keen enjoyment; and when,
at length, the last notes died away, she heaved a light sigh, partly
the effect of fatigue; it was echoed, and turning with a sudden start,
she beheld Lord Effingham standing near the window.

"Can you forgive my ill-bred intrusion?" he said, advancing towards
her. "I have been calling on Colonel Dashwood; and walking round here,
before mounting my horse, saw the garden-gate open, heard music,
yielded to the temptation, and entered through the window."

"But my cousin is not yet returned," said Kate, with a smile.

"No, she does not return till to-morrow. I was aware of that; but I was
not aware that you sang, and sang as you do. Why have I never heard you
before?"

"I have not felt inclined to hear my own voice."

"And I," interrupted Lord Effingham, "would never desire to hear any
other! speaking or singing, it is ever music to me!"

Kate stepped back in amazement at this address, incapable of reply; and
Lord Effingham, after a short pause, as if expecting her to speak, went
on rapidly--

"The words, 'I love you,' are too miserably weak to express what I
feel. I have waited long to discover what your feelings are; you have
not afforded me the slightest clue to them. I can endure your strange
unconsciousness no longer, and am determined to lay mine bare before
you in unmistakeable array. Kate! Miss Vernon, I know our natures are
wide apart as heaven and earth, but still I can feel, in my inmost
heart, that you have attained to a better and purer atmosphere than I
have ever breathed. I know, that in your hands, I should be different
from what I am. I tell you, that every shadow of good in me clings
round you; and if you do not love me now, at least think before you--"

"Lord Effingham," cried Kate, covering her face with one hand, and
extending the other before her, "give me a moment's thought to
distinguish if this be not some horrid dream!"

"No, it is no dream, Miss Vernon," said Lord Effingham, recalled, by
her evident alarm, from his passionate outburst.

She uncovered her eyes, and looking steadily at him, exclaimed--

"How could you act with such dissimulation? Why have you so deceived
us?"

"I have not deceived you; nor am I answerable for the self-deception of
others; but this is no answer."

"But my cousin, Lady Desmond," resumed Kate, still too bewildered to
think of, or choose her words, "you love her. What, what is the meaning
of this extraordinary address to me?"

Lord Effingham's pale, dark cheek did not change its colour by a shade;
his firm, resolute mouth assumed even a sterner expression than usual,
as he replied--

"Think over the past few months, and say honestly has there been a
trace of the lover discoverable in my manner towards your cousin;
except by eyes prompted to find out what did not exist."

"But," said Kate, anxious to screen her cousin, and not to admit too
much, though ill able to cope with the far-seeing accomplished man of
the world, "people said you were engaged to her, you must have loved
her."

"Never," cried Lord Effingham. "Why talk of Lady Desmond? I never
loved her--I may have admired her. I may have liked to feel my power
over a proud spirit; but you, and you only, have I ever loved--loved
with all the energy of my better nature; hear me, Kate!" and he threw
himself at her feet; "do not turn from me with such repugnance--I
will wait patiently till you think differently of me. I have
overcome difficulties for far lesser objects; for you I will conquer
myself--speak to me. I have borne suspense long, in silence--can you
love me?"

"No," said Kate, deliberately drawing the hand he had seized, quickly
from his grasp, "I cannot love you, for I cannot trust you; you think
you love _me_, because you see you have no influence over my heart;
Lord Effingham, you do not know what love is, you must change your
nature first."

"Ha," said he, quickly, and sullenly, "but you do, you love another."

"I entreat of you to leave me, and end this distressing scene, I feel
too shocked, too agitated to speak more to you; go, Lord Effingham, and
let us not meet again."

"I _will_ see you again, however," replied Lord Effingham. "Think,
Miss Vernon, think, before you utterly reject me; I love you, I did
not know I was capable of the love with which you have inspired me; I
am cold and indifferent to the world, the warmth and tenderness of my
inmost heart shall be lavished on you; you like to help those who are
in distress; think what ample means of good would be at the disposal of
the Countess of Effingham! What is there in me so repellant to you?"

"This is useless my Lord, I have never thought of you even as a friend;
yet I do not wish to speak harshly. You do not know the injury this
unfortunate disclosure will prove to me--I--."

"There can be no necessity to inform your cousin of what has passed.
Let me come here as before, and endeavour to----."

"No!" cried Kate, indignantly, "I have been too long, unconsciously,
aiding deception that I abhor, and my first act, when we meet, shall be
to inform my cousin most fully. Now go! I beg you will leave me, Lord
Effingham," she added, with an air of decision and _hauteur_.

"I obey you, but I do not, and will not consider the subject ended
here." He drew nearer, looked at her a moment, and exclaimed, "No, I
will not easily relinquish the brightest hope my life ever held out."
Then turning away quickly, stepped through the window, descended from
the verandah, and was out of sight before Kate could draw the long
breath of relief with which she hailed his departure.

She little knew the trial yet awaiting her, though she looked forward
with no small dread to the task of disclosing this strange interview to
her cousin.

Wrapt in mingling emotions of amazement and alarm, Kate had not heard
a light step in the adjoining room; and Lord Effingham, too much
engrossed by the passion of the moment, was equally regardless. Both
had been standing near the window by which he had entered, while
an unseen witness gazed with the fascination of dismay and bitter
mortification, through the opposite door, which was partly open.

Something had occurred to postpone the debate which Lady Desmond had
wished to hear; and scarcely regretting the disappointment in her
anxiety to return to Kate, had left town early, and on her arrival at
home, having asked if Miss Vernon was at home, and being answered
in the affirmative, walked at once to the morning-room they usually
occupied; as she crossed the drawing-room communicating with it, she
heard, to her astonishment, Lord Effingham's well-known voice, at the
moment he raised it exclaiming--"Why talk of Lady Desmond? I never
loved her, &c."--and reached the door in time to see him at Kate's
feet, as she had longed to see him at her own. Every syllable of
that torturing sentence seemed burning into her heart, as retaining
sufficient self-command to retire, unseen, she rushed to her own
chamber to hide from every eye, but that of the All-seeing, the awful
agonies of a desolated spirit.

With agonised distinctness, she reviewed the last three months, and in
the new and sudden light thus forced upon her, was compelled to own,
that, had not previous impressions blinded her judgment, she might have
seen she was not Lord Effingham's sole attraction in his frequent
visits. Then again came the recollection of a thousand allusions to
former scenes and passages in their intercourse, capable of a double
signification, on which she had put but one; a thousand looks and
tones, slight in themselves, but now irrefragable proofs that she had
been duped; and Kate, could she have been a party in the deception,
she to whom all the weakness, so carefully hidden from others, had
been fully displayed, she on whom Lady Desmond had ever looked as the
very personation of truth. Impossible! yet why was Lord Effingham
admitted secretly? Why did Kate seem so ready and willing to be left
alone? Why did she so pertinaciously endeavour to turn her from her
unfortunate attachment; and Lady Desmond groaned aloud as these, to
her tempest-tossed mind, incontrovertible proofs of treachery rose
up before it. "But his influence is irresistible, and how was she to
be wiser than I was. Why am I called beautiful?" And she flew to
the glass: it flung back the image of a countenance so darkened and
disturbed by the storm within, that she shrank from it. "Ah, she has
the lovely freshness of youth, and I, why have I outlived it?" Then
she remembered the evident joy of Lord Effingham, the first day he met
her at Richmond; she recalled the rapture with, which she had hailed
that joy, "and but for her all might have been well; if she had been
candid with me, how much I might have been spared; but such deliberate
treachery." And again and again did her troubled thoughts work round
the painful circle of unanticipated mortification which had so suddenly
risen up around her; each time returning with redoubled rage and
bitterness to Kate's supposed duplicity, for it never occurred to her
to doubt that Lord Effingham's love was reciprocated.

How long she had lain, her head buried in the cushions of the sofa,
striving to find some loop-hole through which her wounded self-love
might creep from the storm that beat it to the ground she could not
tell. Ages seemed to have passed since she left the carriage, which had
conveyed her to so much misery; but at last the door was opened, and
Kate entered, she looked pale and agitated, and exclaimed--

"I had no idea you had returned, dear Georgy."

Lady Desmond raised her eyes with such a look of dark resentment, of
concentrated indignation, that, innocent as she was, Kate recoiled
before it with the confusion of guilt.

"Ay, shrink back from my presence," said her cousin, in low, deep
tones, as if she dared not lose control of her voice. "Traitress! long
practice might have taught you more art than to quail at my first
glance. Lord Effingham can place full faith in a wife, who, for months,
deliberately deceived and duped her friend, leading her to pour forth
the last secrets she would have confided to a rival. False, false
heart, I loved you, I trusted you; I heaped benefits upon you; I cared
for my wealth only because it might be of use to you; and, in return,
you have crept into the very sanctuary of my soul to rob and desecrate
it; is this the truth, the honor of D'Arcy Vernon's grand-child?"

She had risen in her wrath, and stood--her long black hair thrown
wildly back--nervously grasping the back of the sofa, on which she had
lain, and gazing with pitiless eyes on the slight shrinking figure
before her.

"Georgy, hear me, I implore you," cried Kate, trembling in every limb,
and feeling, in spite of her conscious rectitude, as though she was
guilty, before her cousin's impassioned reproaches.

"Hush," returned Lady Desmond, with a wild gesture of command and
horror, "let me hear no well-arranged tissue of falsehoods. Your very
voice is pregnant with dissimulation; go--relieve me of the sight of so
much treachery."

"Not till you have heard me," said Kate, with firmness, recalled, by
Lady Desmond's unjust reproaches, from the excessive commiseration
which at first had unnerved her. "Why do you suppose I am a
participator in Lord Effingham's deception? Why do you imagine that
an acquaintance of but three months' standing could so influence me,
as to change my entire previous principles? You are excited. You are
wretched. And God knows how deeply I feel for you; but, Georgy, do not
be unjust."

"Oh I have the boon of your pity," returned Lady Desmond, between her
clenched teeth. "But I am not yet reduced to accept it. Lord Effingham
shall know how his future wife was trusted, and how she betrayed. Go--I
desire you to leave me; I can support your presence no longer."

"I will leave you," said Kate, with mournful sweetness, "but I leave
you this solemn assurance, that however you may misjudge me, I would
rather die than wed a man I dread so much, and love so little, as Lord
Effingham."

"Ha," said Lady Desmond, drawing a long breath, her wild indignant rage
stilled for a moment by the unmistakeable truth which spoke in Kate's
voice and manner. "I must think. But go, guilty or innocent, we can
never be the same to each other again."



CHAPTER VI.

ARRANGEMENTS.


With every pulse tumultuously throbbing, Kate closed her door, and
sat down to attempt the disentanglement of the wild agitation and
confusion into which all her thoughts and anticipations had been thrown
by this dreadful outburst from her cousin. Never since the day that
Winter had first intimated to her his opinion of the state of their
affairs, had she experienced the same sudden sense of insecurity and
desolation. Then she had had a full and sufficient object, round which
to rally her energies and her courage; then she had had clear-headed
and warm-hearted friends to advise and to uphold her. Now the one only
friend, who was all that was left to her of the past, seemed suddenly
rent from her by the most cruel and injurious suspicions, and a great
gulf fixed between them. For Lady Desmond's last words--"Guilty or
innocent, we can never be the same to each other again"--rung in her
ears like an ill omened prophecy. Yet her own immediate suffering was
almost lost sight of in her deep compassion for, and sympathy with, her
cousin.

She had anticipated a wild outbreak of indignant sorrow when Lady
Desmond should first hear the terrible solution of his mysterious
conduct, with which Lord Effingham had astonished the real object of
his affections. But that she should be accused of deliberate treachery,
of such complete and constant dissimulation, had never entered into her
heart to conceive. A warm flush of indignant color rose to her brow as
she thought of the injustice, and she murmured, almost aloud--

"She should have known me better. She who knew my childhood; how dare
she think me so inferior to herself? She must, when she is calmer,
acknowledge her error."

Then Kate recalled to her memory the whole scene, and wondered, in
vain, how her cousin had been informed of Lord Effingham's presence,
and the purpose of his strange visit. Continued thought suggested that
she must have overheard what had taken place. Yet, if so, she must
have heard Kate's utter rejection of him--this was a painful enigma.
How--how was she to clear herself? She knew not from what source Lady
Desmond's impression arose, and she was utterly ignorant in what way
she should proceed to free her cousin's mind from the injurious doubts
which had taken possession of it; for her indignation was soon merged
in tender pity and compassion for her wretched relative.

"Unhappy Georgy," she exclaimed, "not content with the real injury
and mortification you have sustained, you torture yourself doubly by
believing me--me, to whom you acted more than a sister's--a mother's
part--so false, so worthless; but how am I to justify myself? to
convince you?"

Then rose up, in formidable array, the gossip of servants, and worse,
_dear friends_, to be met and silenced, and the anxious desire to
save her cousin's name from the flattering comments of the rather
unmerciful, though well-bred _coterie_, amongst whom they were placed.
Above all the predominant idea in poor Kate's mind was that her
interval of repose was at an end--that the only home to which she had
a shadow of claim was rent from her--that to remain the recipient of
benefits from an estranged benefactress, was impossible--that she
was indeed desolate. Mingling with all this, was the memory of her
grandfather's implicit trust, his unwearied tenderness--that it had
gone from her life _for ever_.

Yes, she must go--she must seek some other home--she must earn one. And
nurse--her curiosity must be baffled. And time was stealing fast away
while she thought so painfully and ineffectually; something must be
done; and at once, she rose with a fervent ejaculation--"God guide me
for the best," and sat down to write to Lady Desmond.

As she opened her desk, the recollection of the happy letter she had
that morning despatched to Winter flashed across her mind.

"And when shall I hear from him again?" she thought--a glance at her
watch. "Ah, post-hour is long past; and what else could I write without
betraying Georgy? and she must be my first consideration. Would to
Heaven Mr. Winter was in England; but it is in vain to wish."

And overpowered by her complete isolation, she threw herself on her
knees beside her bed, and, hiding her face in the clothes, gave way to
the thick coming sobs that shook her frame, and ceased only when they
had exhausted the power to express such emotion.

At length she arose, calmed by this outburst, and restored to more
faith than she had hitherto felt by the unspoken prayer, in which she
had silently laid the grief she was incapable of uttering before the
All-seeing and Mighty Spirit, who alone witnessed her sorrow, pressing
her hand against her forehead, as if to condense her thoughts, she
wrote:

 "I must see and speak to you. Have you not thought, in the silence
 of the last few hours, of a thousand indications that I am not the
 base wretch you fancied me. Remember, we have shared the same home,
 where the very soul of honour presided. Look into your own heart, see
 how far that has impressed you, and judge me by yourself. I never
 overcame, although I tried, the secret repugnance with which Lord
 Effingham inspired me--an instinct which his conduct this day has
 justified; and until this day, I had not the remotest idea of his
 preference for me. Be just, Georgina, my own dear cousin. Oh, with
 what true, what unbroken affection I write these words. You cannot
 doubt me.

 "I must see you--there is much for us to arrange--and at once; we must
 guard ourselves from the animadversions of the people about us; let me
 see you; tell me why--tell me what suggested the terrible reproaches
 with which you overwhelmed me? I have ever loved you--ever linked you
 with all that is dearest and most sacred in my memory. Oh, judge me by
 your own heart, and say could a stranger, a man known but yesterday,
 of whose previous conduct, selfish, petty, unmanly, as it was, I was
 fully aware; could he make me so utterly forget my holiest memories,
 my deepest obligations, my loyalty to my sex, my faith to you! in much
 you are my superior; but I am as true to you as you are to yourself."

She read this over, felt dissatisfied with it, yet despairing of
writing anything that could please her more, hastily added--"I wait
your reply," signed her name, and, unlocking her door, stole lightly
to Lady Desmond's, she knocked, and, after a short delay, Lady Desmond
asked, in a constrained voice--

"Is that Louise? I have a dreadful headache, and am lying down--I
cannot be disturbed."

"It is not Louise--I have a note for you." Another pause, and the door
was unlocked. Lady Desmond, still in her carriage dress, put out her
hand, silently took the note, and closed the door.

Kate again returned to her own room and to her troubled thoughts,
thankful for nurse's absence, unusual at that hour, and feeling
somewhat relieved by having put things _en train_ for an interview with
her cousin; her natural fortitude, of which she possessed so much,
began to rise out of the terrible wreck of pleasant things which had
weighed it down, and to consider the future with greater clearness,
when Louise entered about an hour after the delivery of the note to
Lady Desmond, and close upon their usual dinner hour.

"Miladi's love, and she is not at all well; she wish to see
_Mademoiselle sur l'instant_."

Kate would have faced the most deadly peril with far less tremor than
her really much-loved cousin; she felt, however, that the message
sounded friendly, little imagining that "Miladi's love" was an addition
of Louise's, who never could conceive one to Miss Vernon unprefaced by
some such sugary prefix. Kate found Lady Desmond lying on the sofa,
looking deadly pale and exhausted; she held the note in her hand.

"You are right," she exclaimed abruptly, as Kate shut the door and
stood before her; "we have much to arrange, for inaction is torture."
Her voice sounded deep and broken, different from its usual harmonious
refinement. She rose and paced the room. "Your note has raised a
thousand recollections which range themselves on your side, Kate. I
must, I dare not doubt you; there would be no confidence left to me on
earth if I did!--let us mention it no more. No!" motioning Kate back,
as she sprang to throw her arms round her at these words--"I am in no
mood for tenderness. Whether intentionally or not you have inflicted
terrible sufferings upon me. I repeat, I cannot doubt you--it would
be too revolting--I could not endure such a double trial. I may be
very wrong, but I cannot look upon you as I did, not yet at least; and
your question, how I acquired the accursed knowledge, I will never
answer, and you must never ask again: he need not have enhanced his
love for you by his triumph over me!" She muttered these words between
her teeth, glancing darkly at Kate. "I sent for you," she resumed
hurriedly, "for your note reminded me of what was due to myself. We
must subdue ourselves, and act our part for the audience of Hampton
Court. I have thought of a plausible tale; attend to me; learn your
part, and remember you owe me the reparation of performing it well. I
am not well. God knows that is true! I have received news that compels
me to leave for Ireland as soon as I can. We will endure each other
for a week, Kate. I little thought I could ever speak so to you. My
own dear Kate, come--yet, no, no! I cannot embrace you. Oh! I am most
miserable, to be debarred in this wretchedness from the only sympathy
that could have soothed me."

"But you have it," answered Kate, in accents of the softest, deepest
tenderness.

"I will not have your pity," resuming her troubled walk. "I will not
have that Devil sneer at my credulity. I will wait and see before I
take you to my arms again. Yes, we must part for a time. I could not
bear the alternate affection for, and doubt of you, which sweep across
my mind. I will see if he cannot yet prevail on you to overcome that
repugnance which--pah! repugnance to _him_! Well, Kate, do not mind me;
I cannot speak coherently; remember we have a part to play for a while
together, then separately; and where--where can you go? I am selfish--I
hate myself; but for a short time we will separate; and Kate, you will
not disdain--you will not forget it is my duty to provide for you. I
promised your grandfather!--and, oh! heavens, how am I fulfilling the
guardianship I undertook! But you will command all that your lightest
fancy may prompt. I am rich, and after a while we will be together."

"Georgy," said Kate, with calmness inexpressibly sad, "I see you do not
yet believe me, but in time you must; till then we need not embitter
each other's lives. When you leave this for Ireland, I will go to
Mrs. Storey; she has often invited me; from that I can write to you.
The Winters will be home ere long, and when, in God's good time, you
_know_ that I never deceived or betrayed you, we will meet again. I
have enough for every present want, and you must not think me so much
beneath yourself that I would accept the charity of her who thinks me
unworthy. There is only one favour I must ask--it is to help me in
keeping nurse--my poor dear nurse--(the only one who still loves and
trusts Kate Vernon)--in the dark as regards this unhappy breach; it
would break her heart if she knew of it--"

"I will do as you desire; but, Kate, you must allow me----"

"Hush!" said Kate, with a slight but inexpressibly dignified gesture of
rejection, that compelled Lady Desmond to silence. "I am most anxious
about nurse; I cannot take her with me, and I feel her to be a friend
too dear, too closely associated with all I love, to part from as I
would a common servant;" and the swelling of Kate's heart at the idea
of breaking this last link choked her utterance.

"She shall come with me--she shall stay with me," said Lady Desmond
eagerly, "until you join me again; it is natural that you should accept
Mrs. Storey's invitation, still more so that you should not crowd
her establishment unnecessarily. Nurse will surely not object to a
separation for a few weeks, she will not think it strange."

"Leave nurse to me," said Kate, anxious to relieve her cousin's mind of
the slight uneasiness which inflected her voice; "she will be difficult
to manage, but you may trust me with _her_."

"There is nothing to be managed," said Lady Desmond, with cold hauteur.
"But we have agreed to endeavour to avoid any gossip that might arise
from ----; though why should I fear any. You will write to Mrs.
Storey, and see nurse, and to-morrow----." Lady Desmond paused, gazed
stedfastly at vacancy, and then drawing a long breath, continued, in a
tone of intense resolution, "To-morrow I shall receive those people as
usual."

"Oh, impossible," cried Kate, in genuine anxiety that her cousin should
not overtask her strength.

"Why impossible, Miss Vernon?" asked Lady Desmond, in a constrained
voice. "Does your 'instinctive repugnance' to Lord Effingham permit
so high an estimate of his fascinating powers, that you imagine
self-esteem and self-respect rendered incapable of acting under his
indifference; you little know me. I tell you, if he presents himself
here to-morrow evening, neither of you shall see the slightest change
in my manner--neither of you shall see a trace of the torture--"

"Georgy, dear Georgy," cried Kate, whose candid mind revolted from
the strange constraint forced on it by her cousin, "be just to me, be
merciful to yourself, I know it is agony to doubt me."

"God knows it is," she returned, "but at present I cannot trust you or
any one, my soul is embittered; time only can show me the truth; and
restore me to myself--to you. Kate, if you have deceived me; no! you
could not! there is no falsehood in that face! Oh that I could read
your heart; _if_ you have deceived me, God forgive you, if not, bear
with me, pardon me."

Her voice sank to the softest, tenderest accents, "Remember, I never
had the holy love for father or mother to fill and soften my heart; to
teach it true affection; to plant in it a pure unselfish principle,
a sacrificing spirit whereby to test the seeming passion offered
to me. _You_ have known this, you have this invaluable touchstone,
this unerring balance wherewith to weigh the false jewels which
hollow-hearted men of the world offer, in exchange for real gems, fresh
truth and warm devotion. Yes you may have weighed his and found them
wanting; but you could never love him, as I do, as I did; we are alike,
as substance and shadow, there is not a change of his countenance, an
inflection of his voice that I cannot read; shame shame to speak so!
and I have known so little happiness, I have sought my whole life for
some unknown treasure to catch the first glimpse of it as it was lost
to me for ever."

And at last the dark, burning eyes were suffused with the blessed
refreshment of tears; but Lady Desmond's were always stormy tears; and
Kate stole nearer to her in the tenderest most loving sympathy for that
poor, proud, wounded heart--yet silently, for she feared the sound of
her voice might recall her cousin's suspicions, and she would spurn her
from her--kneeling at her feet and kissing the hand that hung down in
inactivity bespeaking the language of despair.

At last Lady Desmond pressed the hand that held hers so lovingly, and
drawing Kate slightly to her, muttered in tones more like her own than
Kate had yet heard, "leave me now, while I feel I have wronged you, ask
me no more at present," and grateful even for these words Kate slowly
retired.

The next evening did indeed display the wonderful strength which pride
can lend a mortified spirit, never had Lady Desmond played the part of
a gracious graceful hostess to greater perfection; the only difference
which Kate's watchful eye could detect, was a slight increase of
animation in her manner, and of brilliancy in her conversation; just
enough to lead careless observers to imagine that she enjoyed the
prospect of her intended visit to Ireland, which with many politely
expressed regrets she announced to her company.

The evening glided on with more than usual agreeability, to the
guests at least; the only grave faces present were Miss Vernon's and
Colonel Dashwood's, he seemed quite upset by the intelligence of
their approaching departure, and joined but little in the noisy and
probably sincere regrets of the rest. Burton was there, he had not
been a frequent guest, having been generally quartered with another
detachment. "I regret to find that you are going to leave this place,
Miss Vernon, just as I am about to take up my abode in it," said Burton
during the loudest notes of a bravura sung by Miss Meredyth, "I have
heard so much, yet I seem doomed to see so little of you."

"I did not know I was so famous," replied Kate, absently.

"Nor am I the only one, 'left lamenting,' by this sudden flight; look
at Dashwood! then we all fear that Miss Vernon will not return from
Ireland," said Burton.

Kate, whose attention was fixed upon the opening door answered by a
smile so palpably _distrait_, that Burton, fancying he guessed the
secret of her watchfulness, smiled too as he thought of the sincere
affection with which she had inspired his absent friend, and said
to himself, "She would be a happier woman following Fred. on a
baggage waggon, than riding over the world in that _roué_ Effingham's
coronetted carriage. She does not think so at present however, _ainsi
va le monde_."

Here the song ended, and Miss Vernon was called on to play; she thought
sadly of her yesterday's practice and its unhappy termination, and
it required no small effort of self command to take her place at the
piano; she played mechanically, and without her usual soul-touching
expression.

"Pray Lady Desmond," she heard Mrs. Meredyth ask, "can you give me any
account of my nephew Effingham; will he be here this evening?"

"I really do not know," replied Lady Desmond in wonderfully natural,
unconstrained tones, "Miss Vernon, I fancy, saw him last; did Lord
Effingham say he would come here this evening, Kate?"

"He said nothing, that is, I do not remember," replied Kate, confused
and astonished at the coolness of this appeal. Lady Desmond glanced
at her one speaking look that roused her to instant self-possession,
though it made her heart beat.

"I am told, Lord Effingham started this morning for the Isle of Wight,"
said Colonel Dashwood with a gravity unusual for him. "Hauton was
over at Richmond and heard it there, something about his new yacht I
believe, they said he will return next week."

"_Figurez vous_," cried the second Miss Meredyth whose style was
foreign and fantastic, "my cousin's dismay when he returns and finds
Lady Desmond flown."

"Perhaps it will be no great surprise to him," said Colonel Dashwood in
a low voice to Kate.

"Yes, I am sure it will," she replied.

Lady Desmond invited the whole party, then assembled, to meet again,
on the Wednesday evening following at her house; her last evening she
said, as she intended starting on Thursday for London to Ireland.

"Kate," she observed carelessly to one or two of her latest guests
"is not half so true an Irishwoman as I am; she will not, I believe,
accompany me at once, but lingers for a few weeks with some friends in
town."

Kate felt the tears rise to her eyes at hearing the separation so
deplored, so dreaded by her, thus indifferently announced by her
cousin, and she stood silent and dejected by the piano.

After they were left alone, Lady Desmond threw herself into an arm
chair and covering her face with her hands groaned aloud, then looking
up, after a moment's silence, she showed a countenance so changed, so
haggard, now that the strong curb of her will over her secret emotions
was relaxed, that Miss Vernon absolutely started with surprise.

"Have you written to Mrs. Storey?"

"Yes."

"Have you spoken to nurse?"

"No; I thought it best to defer that until I got an answer."

"As you choose."

She rose slowly, and walked to the door, then turning, said--

"I have accepted every invitation offered to me--we have not an evening
disengaged; but if you feel bored by them, or wish, for any reason, to
remain at home, do not think yourself obliged to accompany me." She
bowed, then again pausing. "You look wearied, Kate, would you like
nurse to sleep in your room?"

"No."

"Solitude is best for both, I believe."

And she left the room gloomily, darkly.

Kate felt relieved when she was gone, and retired quickly. To pray to
God, to think long and painfully, to count the night-watches, and, at
last, to sink into a sound, sweet sleep, and charming but indistinct
dreams of her cousin clasping her to her heart, and entreating
forgiveness for the wrong she had done her.

"Is it very late, nurse?" she asked, on opening her eyes the following
morning, and seeing her faithful friend standing by the bed-side.

"No, agrah, not to say late; but me lady is aitin' her breakfast up in
her own room, an' I wanted to rouse ye up to have a word wid ye, afore
she was callin' fur ye. Will ye have a little taste iv toast an' a cup
iv tay quite an' aisy up here?"

"Yes, thank you, nurse, I should like it very much. I will ring
presently."

Mrs. O'Toole re-appeared with a most tempting round of buttered toast,
a tiny tea-pot, and a capacious cup, and placed them before her
nurseling.

"There, ait a bit, jewil; an' tell me what's the manin' iv this
scrimmige iv movin' all iv a suddin'?"

"I thought you were aware that Lady Desmond intended going to Ireland
when we left this?"

"To be sure, I did--but sure, isn't it mighty suddint? an' are we to be
off body an' bones on Thursday next?"

"Yes, nurse, I believe so."

"An' now, Miss Kate, agrah, will ye tell me, is it a weddin' we're
goin' to have, or what, fur I feel that somethin' quare's goin' on!"

"Oh, there is nothing the matter, nurse. I believe," she continued,
after a short pause, during which she summoned all her resolution to
speak easily and unconstrained, "that is, I think I must stay for a few
weeks with Mrs. Storey."

"What, not go wid us at wanst to Ireland!" ejaculated Mrs. O'Toole,
holding the tea-pot, from which she was in the act of replenishing her
nurseling's cup, still suspended, in sheer amazement. "What's that for?
sure, yer not goin' to send me off wid me lady! if yer not comin' wid
us now, sure. I'll have to come for ye; ye can't travel be yerself; an'
I'd betther stay wid ye."

"But Mrs. Storey has not room, I fear," said Kate, falteringly.

"I don't want to be behoulden to her fur her room; sure, I could get a
place convanient for meself; there's lashins iv poor places good enough
for the likes iv me about Bayswather to stop in; what would ye do
widout me?"

"What indeed!" echoed Kate, throwing herself into nurse's arms; and
worn out by the long constraint she had laboured under, she burst into
an irrepressible flood of tears, while Mrs. O'Toole hushed and soothed
her, as in her childish days.

"There now, hush, darlint; tell me what it vexes ye?"

"I am so afraid you will think me ungrateful and selfish, dear nurse,"
began Kate, in broken accents, interrupted by sobs. "You see I am
particularly anxious to stay in London for a while; and if--if I was
richer, and could pay for your lodgings, and all that, do you think I
could ever part with you, even for a short season, dearest, kindest
friend; but I am not; and I will not let you waste the little you have
on my account. No, you will go with Lady Desmond to Ireland, as she
wishes, till I join her."

Mrs. O'Toole seemed plunged in thought, and rolled her arms in her
apron, a favourite attitude with her, indicative of deep reflection.

"But will ye come back?" she asked, at last, with a keen glance, "an'
whin? there's somethin's throublin' ye, jewil, though ye'll not spake
out, an' me heart's oneasy; sure, ye wouldn't let me go from ye, if ye
wern't manin' to come back to me; sure, ye wouldn't thrate me that a
way, me own child?"

"God knows," cried Kate, "it is hard enough to part with you, although
I most firmly purpose to be with you ere long; but to say good bye in
earnest would be death to me."

"An' why need ye stay wid thim Storeys that arn't yer aiquils at all?
Ah! where's the use of sthrivin' to decave me. Have you an' me lady
fell out, asthore?"

This question was put with a concentration of anxiety and curiosity
which might have raised a smile to the lips of a casual observer, but
which only served to fill up the measure of Kate's perplexities--her
equally balanced cares--not to betray her cousin, and not to wound
nurse, placing her in a double difficulty.

"No, no! quarrel with my dear, kind Georgy! Never, I trust; but, in
short, dearest nurse," she continued, with great earnestness, "it
would be a source of the greatest comfort to me, to know that you were
safe and free from every want, in an establishment such as hers. I am
powerless to afford any aid or protection to my oldest, truest friend,"
pursued Kate, large tears weighing down her eyelashes. "And after years
of faithful, constant, self-devoted service, I must owe to another the
shelter I cannot give you. Ah! it is a hard fate!"

She hid her face on nurse's shoulder.

"Och! don't be talking that away, jewil!" ejaculated Mrs. O'Toole.
"Sure, haven't I a power iv money I got in yer sarvice that Misther
Winter put into the bank fur me? I'll do what iver mee sweet child
likes; but faith! I don't want shelther from any one. I'm not past mee
work yet, And if ye will have me go from ye, I'll just stop wid me lady
fur three weeks or a month; an' at the ind of that time, if yer not
comin' to us, I'll come fur ye. Sure, yer in the right iv it not to let
Lady Desmond get too accustomed to ye; faith, it's sick she'd be if an
angel from Heaven afther a bit; it's well fur her the masther (the Lord
rest his sowl,) wasn't that sort."

"Dear nurse," said Kate, raising her tearful face, and speaking in
broken accents, "why will you distress me by assuming a severe tone
towards my kind cousin; she is all that the most exacting could wish.
Oh! I have many difficulties before me. How! how! can I part with you?"

"An' why do ye ask me to lave ye?"

"It must be so," she returned, with more decision than she had yet
shown. "And, I will not deceive you, my own, dear nurse--it may be some
months before we meet again."

"Och! where are ye goin' to stop bee yerself, Miss Kate? What
mischief's brewin' at all? An' what would the masther say if he could
look down on us to see me goin' off in pace and plinty, and you
wandherin' through the world alone? Sure, I'd see his sperrit, it
couldn't rest in Heaven itself, if you wasn't rightly attended to."

"God forbid he should feel distress about me," sighed Kate. "He is at
last free from sin and sorrow--that is my great consolation! But my
plans are very simple. After being with Mrs. Storey for a while, I
shall probably go to some other friends, and move about; so you see you
could not exactly come with me. Then, when Mr. and Mrs. Winter return,
which, I trust, they will do before October, they know and value you,
and will gladly let me have you; or, probably, before I go to stay
with them, I may join my cousin; in either event, we shall be together;
and so far as a weak mortal can purpose, I resolve to separate from you
no more. Can you consent to this?"

Nurse, resting her elbows on her knees, and covering her face in her
hands, rocked herself in silence for a few moments, then with a deep
sigh, almost a groan, said--

"I see it's no use talkin', I must go from you--and I'll nivir hear the
thruth if what's goin' on! Och, I little thought I'd iver be parted
from mee own child--the core iv mee heart ye wor--ye nivir slept a
night from ondher the same roof wid me but wan, and that was the time
ye met the Captin, and I'll nivir believe but that'll turn out luck
yet! so I'll do yer biddin', agra! and sure the masther 'ill see it's
only yez own word would part us; an' look here, avourneen, I'll always
keep the price if mee journey by me, and the wind iv a word will bring
me to ye any day--remimber that!"

"I will remember, nurse. Ah! dearest, kindest, hold me to your
heart--close--there is none other beats so truly for your Kate--none
loves her so well, now grandpapa is gone."

"Faith, there is'nt wan thruer to ye on airth, than mine, as sure
as yer lyin' on it. There was wan more loved ye well, besides the
masther and me--if iver man loved mortial, the Captin loved the sight
iv ye--an' well he might, many's the time I watched his face brighten
up when he heard yer voice, an' wancest I seen him take the glove ye
dropped an' kiss it, as I would the cross! and mark my words--ye'll
see him yet--och, sure there's some brightness fur us ondher all this
sorra! an' don't sob that away, jewil--if you don't come to me, faith
I'll come to you."

This last week at Hampton Court was one of unmixed suffering to Kate.
Lady Desmond was cruelly capricious in her tone and manner to her
innocent cousin. At one moment Kate fancied she could perceive rapidly
returning confidence and affection--the next, some stern look, or
icy word, implied suspicion and dislike; nothing wounded Miss Vernon
so much as the assumption of her old tenderness before any third
party, and the instant return to coldness and estrangement, when that
restraint was removed.

Sometimes Kate's gentle but high spirit was roused to indignation,
which lent her a momentary strength; but this was soon dissolved by the
compassion with which she viewed the intense and unremitting struggle,
which thus clouded Lady Desmond's better judgment.

Miss Vernon was thoroughly convinced before the day of their departure
arrived, that to live with Lady Desmond in her present mood, was indeed
impossible; and that her only chance for preserving a hold on her
cousin's heart, was absence. The approaching separation from nurse was
ever present with her--from Lady Desmond, she felt, that for a while it
would be a relief to part.

Meantime, Mrs. Storey wrote in most cordial terms, to express the
pleasure she felt in expecting Miss Vernon as a guest; and all things
progressed smoothly for the cousins' plans.

The last evening, Kate felt real alarm, at the strange brilliancy of
her cousin's eyes, and the unwonted animation of her manner. She had
passed the greater part of the day alone; and had once sent for Kate,
who found her terribly agitated, and evidently endeavouring to make up
her mind to something; after a few vague words, however, she begged
Kate to leave her--that she would defer all further arrangements till
they were in London; and as Miss Vernon was leaving the room, begged
her to keep guard over herself, in case any unexpected arrival should
startle her. "Do not betray me, Kate." Miss Vernon knew she alluded
to Lord Effingham--but since the fatal day she had overheard his
declaration, she had never breathed his name to her; but the evening
wore on, and to Kate's infinite relief, he did not make his appearance.

Kate never quitted any place with so little regret, as Hampton Court;
though, at first, she had liked it much--difficulties soon gathered
round her--difficulties, such as she had never before encountered; but
she was wofully depressed--Lady Desmond had put a finishing stroke to
her low spirits, by enquiring if she would like to drive directly to
Mrs. Storey's, or go with her to Mivart's in the first place. This
readiness to get rid of her on the part of her natural protectress,
threw a sad feeling of gloom and loneliness over poor Kate's heart,
and it was some moments before she could reply. Her first impulse was
to accede at once to the proposition, which would have relieved her
cousin of her irksome presence; but an instant's thought, showed her
two potent reasons for a different line of conduct--first, she must
cling as long as she possibly could to nurse--secondly, she knew Mrs.
Storey did not expect her till the next day, so having glanced at these
motives, and swallowed a rising inclination to sob, she answered, with
a certain degree of reproachful sadness--

"I do not think Mrs. Storey expects me till to-morrow; and if you can
bear my presence a little longer, I should prefer waiting till then.
Dear cousin, though you are weary of me, I think of our parting with
grief, and regret."

"Oh, Kate, Kate," cried Lady Desmond, pressing her handkerchief to
her eyes "would to God, I could blot out the last few months--I feel
I am utterly neglecting my bounden duty in thus leaving you--but
it is better for both of us, at least for awhile! Do you forgive
me? you would if you knew the wretched sea of doubt and difficulty
and suspicion in which my weary spirit is tossed! I should make you
miserable if you stayed with me."

"I am most fully determined, even if you were not so inclined, to leave
you; at present it is quite as much my choice, as yours--do not grieve
about that--but--but, dear Georgy, do not seem so anxious to get rid of
me!"

"What a selfish, worthless wretch I have become," said Lady Desmond,
with sudden remorse, "I am not the same for an hour--at this moment I
would fain keep you with me to the last! but Saturday, the day after
to-morrow, I leave for Ireland; till then, you shall stay with me--you
would like to stay with nurse, at all events--how could I forget, ah!
Kate forgive me! you may, you ought; God knows how much misery you have
caused me," she ended bitterly.

Kate sighed to see how implacable were the suspicions entertained
by Lady Desmond; and the rest of the journey was performed in almost
unbroken and melancholy silence.

Miss Vernon wrote a line, to announce her arrival in town, to Mrs.
Storey; and then, leaving her cousin to receive the thousand and one
visitors, who flocked to remonstrate with, and exclaim at her strange
whim of performing a personal, and purgatorial progress to her estates
in Ireland, she sought the society of poor nurse, who was plunged into
the deepest affliction--

"I'll never forgive mee Lady Desmond, fur lettin' ye stay behind this
away. There's no use in talkin' but I know there's been some ruction
betune yez--any ways, I'll do yer biddin', an' stay out the four weeks
wid her; but afther that, don't lay a vow upon me, avourneen! an' ye'll
write me long letthers."

"Write! Ah, yes, it will be my only comfort until we meet--for we
must--we shall meet soon again."

And Miss Vernon threw herself on nurse's bosom, overpowered by the
feelings she had so long suppressed. Long and passionately did she
weep--and nurse, nobly hushing her own grief, strove to cheer her
child, whose unwonted emotion absolutely frightened the honest,
warm-hearted woman. Gradually Kate listened to her words, rallied
herself from the flood of bitterness which had swept over her spirit,
and after some desultory and mournful conversation, obeyed nurse's
kindly command.

"There's no use talking any more darlin, you must go to yer bed."

Kate, fatigued by the tears and sorrow of the day, was soon wrapped in
sleep; and nurse bent over her long and tenderly as she lay, one long
wavy tress escaping from the deep lace of her cap, her hands crossed
upon her bosom, which heaved slightly with each regular softly drawn
breath, the rosy lips apart, while

    "On her snowy lids, whose texture fine
    Scarce hides the dark blue orbs beneath,
    The baby sleep--lies pillowed."

As nurse gazed at this picture of profound and innocent repose, lovely
as sleeping youth must be, to every eye capable of acknowledging
beauty, all her own grief at the separation of to-morrow pressed quick
and stern upon her.

"Ah, who'll watch over ye, pulse iv me heart? Who'll ye go spake to
when yer in throuble? Where will ye turn when yer sperrit scorns the
ways iv them that's about ye. Ah, where indeed! Oh, Mary, sweet queen
of heaven, look on ye. Sure ye niver had a purer heart than hers.
Blessed Jasus shield ye. Ah, Captin, agra, it's here ye ought to be,
with the warm heart an' the strong arm to hold her up through this
weary world."

And sinking on her knees, nurse devoutly told her beads, often wiping
away the fast-falling tears, yet, with the peculiarity of her race,
fervently hoping through it all.

    "There is a prescience given to grief,
    Which joy may never know,
    A hope of future good, to cheer,
    The ruggedness of woe!
    It is the soul's deep whisper heard
    When earth's rude tumult sleeps,
    A moment hushed, when pain or grief,
    Across the spirit sweeps.
    Then through the gloom of doubt and dread,
    An angel voice we hear,
    Which speaks its inborn happiness,
    Undimmed by grief or fear."



CHAPTER VII.

TERRA INCOGNITA.


"There is one thing more I wish to say to you, dearest nurse," said
Miss Vernon, as she was dressing to go to Mrs. Storey the morning after
the conversation above recorded; all her trunks and packages were lying
about the room in desolate disorder, and she was hurrying to join her
cousin at luncheon.

"What is it, agra?"

"Why, that cheque Mr. Winter sent me--Roberts got me the money for it."

"Misther Roberts is a knowledgeable man."

"But, nurse, this portion of it is for you."

"Oh, blessed Vargin! look at this. Now, Miss Kate, do you think I'd be
afther robbin ye iv twenty pounds--and I wid a pile iv notes in the
savin's bank, if I could only get at them."

"That is it, exactly," interrupted Miss Vernon, hastily, "you must have
money, and though you and I are on those terms, that we do not keep
debtor and creditor accounts, you know very well, I consider it not
only a pleasure, but a duty, to share with you whatever I possess, only
in this case, I have kept the lion's share--no more, nurse--you must
take it--I shall think you do not love me if you refuse."

There was something so urgent in Miss Vernon's tones, that nurse felt
herself compelled to obey, _malgré lui_.

"Sure I'll keep them fur ye."

"Do what you will, nurse; but, remember, though I can, and may have to
bear much, I could not support the idea of your wanting any thing. One
kiss before I go down. How I wish Georgy would let you come with me to
Bayswater, and stay at home herself."

"She hasn't so much sinse--though I'm sorry for her, she's in grate
throuble entirely about you going away--faith I begin to make it out."

Lady Desmond was, as Mrs. O'Toole said, in great trouble, restless,
miserable, capricious; at one moment pressing Kate to change her plans,
and accompany her to Ireland, at another, evidently ready to facilitate
her departure, while she hurried her own preparations, yet showed a
disposition to linger within the charmed precincts where echo sometimes
conveyed a rumour of Lord Effingham's proceedings.

He was still at Cowes, and the _Morning Post_ of that day gave an
account of a dinner given by him on board his new yacht, "The Meteor,"
to all the celebrities of the R. Y. C.

"That does not look like disappointment," thought Lady Desmond, as she
read, "time, and time only can satisfy me of the truth."

She was silent during the repast, of which Kate strove to partake, and
rose at once, on Miss Vernon suggesting that she had promised to be
with Mrs. Storey at two.

Nurse made her appearance as the cousins descended to the carriage.

"Once more good-bye, kindest and best," said Kate, embracing her, and
trying to speak steadily. "Georgy," she continued, laying her hand
impressively on Lady Desmond's arm, "I know you love nurse for her own
sake. But, remember, I feel every kindness shown to her as intended for
myself."

"You may trust nurse safely to me," replied her cousin; and they
entered the carriage.

Kate leaned from it as long as nurse remained in sight, and often,
in after days, declared that the long earnest gaze, with which she
followed the retreating form so dear to her, impressed itself for ever
on her heart, and that nurse's figure, in her black dress and white
cap, as she stood shading her eyes with her hand, formed one of those
indelible pictures ever vivid, let unnumbered years roll by, with which
memory is at rare intervals stamped.

Lady Desmond preserved an almost unbroken silence until they neared
their destination, and had reached the comparatively quiet region of
the parks, then turning to Kate, said--

"I suppose Mrs. Storey will not expect me to go in. I am in no humour
for her gossip."

"Of course you need not if you do not like it; but--"

"Oh, then I see I ought--yes, it will be more gracious. I would do
anything to serve or please you, my Kate," and she looked at her
mournfully and tenderly.

Miss Vernon's eyes filled with tears; yet they were not unhappy tears.
She was thankful to bid her cousin adieu in this mood--for Kate set a
great value on last impressions.

The sound of the carriage-wheels brought a rosy-cheeked, smiling
parlor-maid to the hall-door, while a row of small heads appeared
above the parlor blinds. Then ensued the lively bustle of lifting down
trunks, and carrying in carpet-bags; and the rosy parlor-maid ran
backwards and forwards, her little airy cap blown about by the light
breeze, quite in a twitter at being assisted, with much gallantry, by
so distinguished an individual as Lady Desmond's footman.

"I am sure this is so kind of you, Lady Desmond; I did not expect the
pleasure of seeing of you. Miss Vernon, my dear, you are most heartily
welcome; the children have been looking out for you all day--my little
Willie has not forgotten you. You'll take some cake and wine--do?"

"Thank you, no," said Lady Desmond. "We have lunched; and I only gave
myself a few moments, in which to say, how do you do, and good-bye.
I start to-morrow for Ireland, and have much to accomplish before
dinner-time."

"Well, but you will sit down, and let me thank you for leaving Miss
Vernon with us awhile. My dear," to Kate, "you are not looking so
well--paler and thinner than when I saw you last--I am sure the air at
Hampton Court is beautiful and healthy. I never enjoyed anything so
much as the day I spent with your ladyship. I see my Lord Effingham is
in the Isle of Wight. I never met so nice a man as he is, and as simple
as a common person. I thought," again turning to Kate, "you would not
like to leave England somehow or other," and she laughed a significant
laugh that raised the blood in quick nervous blushes to Kate's cheek;
she glanced at Lady Desmond; but her brow was not more overcast than
before, and the entrance of the children prevented any further remark.

The eldest boy--a fair-haired, bright-eyed child, just old enough to
be shy--stood awhile, his finger in his mouth, half hiding behind his
nurse-maid's apron, till Kate stretched out her arms. When, after a
moment's hesitation, he bounded into them, and they were as great
friends as ever.

"Now that I have installed Kate in the bosom of your family, Mrs.
Storey, I must say good-bye," said Lady Desmond, rising.

Kate put down little Willie, and stood up with a beating heart.

"You will let me know immediately how you get over, and make nurse
write--give her my fond love, Georgy."

"I will," said her cousin, who had taken a very gracious leave of Mrs.
Storey. She paused a moment, and, then folding her arms round Kate,
kissed her with all her old accustomed warmth, whispering--"Trust me
still!" and rapidly descending the stairs, was out of sight before
Kate could realise that she was really going.

Miss Vernon turned from the window with a choking sensation in her
throat; the time was indeed come when she must struggle on alone.

"So you are very glad to see Miss Vernon again, Willie?" asked the
proud mama, stroking his curls.

"Yes," lisped Willie, pressing his little round cheek against Kate's
hand, and looking up in her face with such a bright loving glance, that
she felt irresistibly cheered by it.

"Not more glad than I am to see Willie."

She sat down, and took him into her lap.

"We do not dine till six to-day," said Mrs. Storey; "you are accustomed
to late hours, and my brother said he would join us--you are such a
favorite with him."

"You must not change your hours for me," returned Kate, "I know you
generally dine with the children, and I like dining early."

"You are very good and obliging, I am sure. You see, Mr. Storey is so
late generally--but to-day he said he would make it a point to be home
early; he is so pleased you are to be with us."

"I am very glad to hear it," said Kate, gratified at this cordiality.

"And I expect to hear lots of news," resumed Mrs. Storey, significantly.

"Indeed, I have none to tell," said Kate.

"Well, well, we shall see. And how do you think the children looking?
Willie has had a sore throat--we were afraid it might end in
scarletina, &c., &c."

And the good-natured gossip was merged in the anxious mother, who,
encouraged by Kate's ready attention, poured forth a string of
anecdotes, maternal and domestic, touching "baby's last tooth," and
"Maria's shameful neglect of her plate and glass."

And Miss Vernon felt a sense of relief in hearing these natural, simple
details, which she usually voted extremely tiresome; but now, after
the agitations she had passed through, and the stormy passions she had
witnessed, anything indicative of home, with its calm atmosphere of
repose, and quiet duty, was refreshing to her.

So instinctively conscious of more than usual sympathy in her listener,
Mrs. Storey chattered on uninterruptedly until it was almost time to
dress for dinner.

Miss Vernon missed her affectionate motherly attendant as she arranged
her unpretending toilette for dinner. Not that she was incapable of
waiting on herself; but her dressing-room had always been the scene
of those confidential conversations in which Mrs. O'Toole's soul
delighted. She pictured to herself her loving and beloved nurse sitting
alone in some room of the busy, crowded hotel, her arms folded in her
apron, rocking herself to and fro, with no one near to whom she could
speak in the genuine accents of real sorrow.

"My poor dear nurse, may God comfort you," murmured Kate; and then,
feeling her fortitude melting away before the picture she had conjured
up, she resolutely turned from it. "I have no right to damp the spirits
of these friendly people with my melancholy looks."

So she braided her bright hair, and smiled at her pale cheeks, which
had lost the few roses they began to gather at Hampton Court: and
hearing some one trying to turn the handle of the door, opened it, and
admitted little Willie, with whom she descended to the drawing-room.

"Well, indeed, my dear, you do not look so rosy or so bright as I would
wish to see you," said Mrs. Storey, "not but that you look pretty
always."

"_Cela va sans dire_," interrupted Kate, smiling.

"But," resumed Mrs. Storey, "what is the reason his lordship is gone to
the Isle of Wight?"

"Will you believe me," replied Kate, gravely and impressively, "when I
assure you that I am equally ignorant of, and unaccountable for, Lord
Effingham's movements."

The gravity of her manner silenced her loquacious hostess, and
immediately after Mr. Storey entered, accompanied by Langley. The
former greeted Kate with boisterous cordiality, the latter with sincere
though quiet pleasure. It was an additional trial to her, this meeting
with Langley, whom she had not seen since her grandfather's death; and
the contending memories which his presence recalled kept her silent,
while he expressed, in his usual shy, embarrassed manner, his happiness
in meeting her again. He was very taciturn at dinner, but this passed
unnoticed, as the host and hostess were really a host in themselves, at
least in the talking line.

"I have to thank you for sending me Mr. Winter's letters so promptly,"
said Kate, as they sat near each other at tea. "I am very anxious for
another, but do not know where to write;--and, Mr. Langley, why did you
never come to see me all the time I was at Hampton Court?"

Langley coloured.

"I do not know Lady Desmond," he said, "and you were all too fine and
gay for an obscure artist."

"Gay," repeated Kate, looking at him reproachfully.

"Well, too fine; I should not have felt at home there."

"I should have been much pleased had you taken the trouble to pay me a
visit, and Hampton Court would have delighted you; but, of course, you
know it already."

"Yes, I----" began Langley, again reddening, then interrupting himself
abruptly--"If I really thought you remembered, I was--that is, I did
not think you would notice it."

"Ah! Mr. Langley," said Kate, with a pensive smile, "you feel guilty,
or you would not hesitate so much."

"Had you there, Bill," cried Mr. Storey, with an agreeable wink; "the
ladies are never merciful when they catch us tripping." But Langley
deigned no reply.

"I do not think Winter is inclined to come back," said he to Kate;
"he wrote me a few lines enclosing his last letter to you, in which
he says he should like to remain where he is until he had drawn the
whole country, natural and architectural, but that Mrs. Winter's absurd
prejudices against grease and fleas would, he feared, cut short his
enjoyment."

"My dear William," cried his sister, raising her hands and eyes to
heaven, "what _will_ Miss Vernon think of you mentioning such dreadful
low vulgar words. I am sure I am thankful Lady Desmond's not here--what
would she say?"

"I dare say her ladyship is aware that such an entomological variety
exists," returned Langley, drily.

"Have you been very busy this summer," asked Kate, changing the subject
in compassion to her hostess.

"Yes, no--that is, I have been busily idle."

"Sketching, and not finishing," suggested Miss Vernon. "That was what
Mr. Winter used to call busy idleness."

"You and Miss Vernon must look at my studio some day," said Langley to
his sister; "I have one or two pretty subjects in progress."

"I shall be delighted," cried Kate. "I am always happy in a studio,
more so than even in a perfect gallery; besides, a studio always
reminds me of Mr. Winter," she added with such enthusiasm that her
listeners smiled.

"I suppose you used to visit the pictures at Hampton Court frequently?"

"Yes, yet not as often as I intended--something always happened to
interfere with our visits--and I am so fond of Vandyke: his men and
women are so noble-looking, one can hardly associate them with the
wretched period in which they lived; but I suppose his paintings
picture his own mind rather than the individuals he meant to depict."

"Well, I would rather pay for my own portrait than another person's,"
said Mr. Storey; "and I think Smith has hit off both myself and Mrs. S.
right well."

"Your pictures are certainly very like," said Miss Vernon politely.

"But the most unmitigated daubs," remarked Langley.

"I never enjoyed any pictures so much as those at Hampton Court,"
remarked Mrs. Storey. "But then Lord Effingham told me about them so
nicely; he knew them all."

"Lord Effingham--a distinguished cicerone, Charlotte," remarked her
brother. "He was very well known in the London world some five or six
years ago, though one never heard much good of him--has he not been
abroad for a long time?"

This question was addressed to Miss Vernon, in total disregard of Mrs.
Storey's energetic hems and warning frowns when he spoke disparagingly
of the earl.

"He was for some time in Italy--my cousin knew him there," replied Kate.

"I'm sure he seemed the quietest and most obliging man I ever met,"
said Mrs. Storey eagerly; "and it is just envy because he is richer and
grander than themselves, that makes people tell ill-natured stories of
him."

"I do not fancy Lord Effingham is an amiable man," said Kate, quietly;
"I do not think I ever saw him do the agreeable so readily as the day
you were with us."

"Hum," said Langley, gravely. "Then it was you, Charlotte, that kept
his lordship on his P's and Q's.

"Now, Miss Vernon, may we ask you for a little music?"

"Not this evening, dear Mrs. Storey," said Kate, deprecatingly, and
shaking her head. "To-morrow as much as you like, but to-night I feel
quite unmusical."

"Well, I dare say you feel low at parting with Lady Desmond," said Mrs.
Storey.

"And nurse," added Kate.

So the evening wore away, and at last Kate was free to retire to the
grateful solitude of her own room, to gather comfort and support from
"communing with her own heart," and finally to rest.

The day at Mrs. Storey's was very tranquil and rather monotonous. The
eight o'clock breakfast was quickly followed by the departure of Mr.
Storey for the city, and the eldest girl to school. Kate volunteered
the task of inspecting Masters Willie and Bobby at their studies,
thereby affording another hour to their mamma for the dear delight of
the kitchen and the store-room. Kate saw little of her hostess before
the one o'clock dinner, until which time she pursued her practising or
her reading, her work or her thoughts uninterruptedly.

Mr. Storey never returned to tea until seven o'clock, when he was
usually ravenous and inaudible until after the consumption of divers
viands. He often brought home some dapper city friend, with an evident
wish to make his house agreeable to Miss Vernon, and under the usual
impression entertained by men of his stamp, that beaux are a necessary
of life to young ladies. This was the only real drawback in Kate's
estimation to her _séjour_ at "Raby Villas"--the euphonious appellation
of Mr. Storey's abode.

Mrs. Storey too meditated a party--for, with all her good nature, Kate
was a much more important personage in her estimation, fresh from the
society of earls and countesses--the _crême de la crême_--than when she
walked almost daily over to Brompton, with no attendant save a great
dog, and received three and sixpence a lesson for music.

The letters for which Kate had looked so anxiously were as usual in
cases of anticipation, disappointing and perplexing; they did not
arrive till the day after that on which they might have reached; Lady
Desmond's ran thus:--

 "DEAR KATE,

 "Though peculiarly averse to writing, I feel I must keep my promise
 to you. We had a tiresome journey and a rough passage, but except
 fatigue, I am well enough; nurse who has had red eyes ever since she
 bid you good bye, desires her love and duty, and says she will not
 write this time; she has just been sitting with me; I was consoling
 her, at least trying to do so. This place looks wretched and deserted,
 worse than when I was last here. They say every one is ruined; I
 wonder I am not; but I can write no more, my head and heart are both
 aching. You shall hear from me when I reach Castle Desmond,"

                                                      "Yours miserably,

                                                                "G. D."

At the bottom were some words across which a few had been hastily drawn
once or twice. Kate easily perceived they were the commencement of a
sentence, "your readiness to," but some interruption mental or physical
had cut short the fair scribe, and she had changed her intentions.

To Kate's infinite surprise, for Mrs. O'Toole was in general a
remarkably straightforward person, a second letter reached her by the
midday mail, directed in a blotted irregular hand written apparently
with a wooden skewer.

  "_To Miss Vernon at Mr. Storey's,
       Bayswater._

 "Mee own blessed child," it began, "do'nt let on a word of this to
 mortial man; you will be angry with me for decavin me lady, but I
 wanted to write unknown'st, and I'm quite and snug for the night
 now, so I thought I'd sthrive to pen ye a line without a word to any
 one; the morning we left London, Saturday, Miss Lewis hears tell how
 me Lord Effingham was coming to take the rooms we wor in next week,
 and she ups and tould me lady, and me lady sends for me. 'Nurse,'
 says she, lookin like a ghost and her two eyes blazin mad, 'Wor you
 aware' says she spakin low, 'that Lord Effingham was commin,' 'To be
 sure I was;' says I, 'I heerd it as well as Miss Lewis,' says I, and
 then she turned and bit her lips, and looked like tunther, 'I thought
 you might have heard it at Hampton Coort,' ses she. 'Divil a haporth
 good nor bad I heard tell of him at the Coort,' says I; with that she
 gave a sort of a groan, 'Very well,' says she, 'of course, what could
 you know about him! What's delayin us,' ses she mighty sharp, 'the
 carriage immediately Roberts,' ses she, and there was no mistake she
 was in airnest. Now she's been quere since then, mighty fond of me,
 an always talkin of you, me darlint, but some how there's no truth in
 her eyes, so jist mind how ye write, an sure me eyes an me hands is
 tired, an if ye can read it, do'nt be angry if I write too free; sure
 I'd brave even the cross word from yourself, if I could do ye good, me
 own darlin child, there's not an hour of the day your poor old nurse
 does'nt be prayin for you, so God shield ye, and send me the light of
 me eyes again safe and sound.

                                 "Your own loving and respectful nurse,

                                                       "NELLY O'TOOLE."

Miss Vernon sat for some time lost in perplexed thought, she was truly
glad to get nurse's affectionate letter, yet wished she had not told
her that Lord Effingham was in town.

"I must not betray nurse, and yet I should very much like to write
openly to Georgy, her suspicions are once more all alive," and the
indignant colour rose to Kate's cheek at the idea of such pertinacious
injustice. "I must write as if regardless of any change in her tone
since we last met, I wish dear nurse had not mentioned Lord Effingham,
I wish I never had heard his name."

Rousing herself from these fruitless reflections she called Willie,
and knowing of old what potent consolers fresh air and sunshine always
proved, asked Mrs. Storey's leave to take him with her to Kensall-green
Cemetery where her grandfather's remains had been interred. She had not
yet visited his grave, and choose the child's companionship during that
visit of tender duty, as more congenial than any other. Willie, dancing
with joy at the delight in prospect of a walk with Miss Vernon, was
soon equipped, and the two friends started lovingly hand in hand.

Their way lay through pleasant fields with a pretty back-ground of
wooded country towards Harrow, all glowing in the rich light of an
Autumn sun. Kate was quite inattentive to the pretty talk of her
little squire. She was traversing these fields again with a far
different companion, she was living over again many autumns all
distinctly marked in her faithful memory; it had always been the gayest
time at Dungar, it had been the brightest period of her sojourn at
A----, dear A, which she found usurping the place Dungar had formerly
held in her heart. And last autumn though clouded, was not all gloom;
she had then that beloved grandfather, the nucleus round which, all
her deepest affections, her noblest energies, her most unfaltering
fortitude had ever rallied, rich in their undying truth. She recalled
with the distinctness of unchanging affection, the incidents, trifling
though they were, which marked the last days of his life; the gradual
progress of a dejection she could not cheer; the quiet resignation of
earthly hopes; the silent, the gentleness, the child-like simplicity
of the noble spirit with which she had intimately communed during her
whole life. Oh how vividly it all came back to her; the placid smile
so sad in its sweetness; the thoughtfulness for others so marked in
his last illness; and it was all over; never more on earth should she
behold him.

Roused at length from her thoughts by the unwonted silence of poor
little Willie who was discouraged by receiving no answer to his many
questions, she pressed the hand she held kindly and asked--"does Willie
know the way to my dear grandfather's grave?"

"Oh yes" cried the child eagerly, proud to be her guide, "Maria used
often to take us there in the summer evenings, and mama sometimes, we
used to see that the flowers were taken care of, it is such a pleasant
walk."

"Do you remember grandpapa" oppressed with the silent anguish of her
own heart.

"I think I do" returned Willie, "He had such beautiful white hair, and
sugar plums always in his pocket."

Kate smiled, though her tears fell upon the little hand that lay in
hers, as she recognised this picture.

"Why do you cry, dear Kate?" asked Willie who was a loving creature,
"you are never naughty."

"I cry," returned Kate, "because I have not that dear grandpapa to walk
with me or to love me any more." The child seemed baffled by misfortune
so far beyond his comprehension, but soon renewed the conversation by
one of those innocent questions of the state of the souls after death,
which children propound almost as soon as they are capable of observing.

"There it is--there it is"--he at length cried bounding forward to the
head of a grave, separated from the turf around, by a couple of iron
bars supported by small pillars of the same metal; some heartsease and
laurels adorned the little enclosure; and at the head a block of marble
carved to represent a gothic niche, and surmounted by the armorial
bearings of the deceased, bore the following inscription:--

                                SACRED
                           TO THE MEMORY OF
                        COLONEL D'ARCY VERNON,
                              OF DUNGAR,
                   JUST, GENEROUS, BRAVE, AND TRUE.
             THIS STONE IS ERECTED BY A MOURNING RELATIVE,
                    ONE OF THE MANY WHO OWE HIM AN
                    UNREQUITABLE DEBT OF GRATITUDE.

This simple, noble epitaph touched and gratified Miss Vernon's
inmost soul. Simply and fervently she raised her soul to Heaven in
silent prayer; and, at last, soothed and calmed by the just tribute
so gracefully paid to the departed, she called to Willie, who (soon
wearied of her motionless attitude) had wandered away.

"I can never feel a shadow of anger against Georgy again for anything,"
she thought, as her eye took in all the advantages of the well-chosen
site--it was in the highest part of the cemetery; far below, lay the
mighty town, looming indistinct through the cloud and smoke that
shrouded it, like life with its trials, mean and great all hidden, in
their tendencies, by the mist of human vision--while around and beyond
was the clear blue sky, the balmy air, and the song of the birds, like
the region of pure joy, and undimmed faith, to which the wearied spirit
had escaped.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Please 'm, there's a gentleman waiting to see you in the
drawing-room," said the spruce Maria, one evening about a week after,
when Kate and Mrs. Storey returned from a round of visits, into which
the former had been entrapped.

"Indeed," said Kate, then suddenly recollecting herself, "I dare say it
is Colonel Dashwood."

"Well, my dear, I will go and take off my bonnet, and, by that time,
you will have finished your secrets."

"I am sure Colonel Dashwood never had a secret in his life," said Kate,
laughing.

She ran hastily up stairs, and found, as she had anticipated, that
gallant officer engaged in contemplating sundry long ringletted ladies
in a book of beauty, having reduced the geometrical arrangement of the
round table albums and annuals to great confusion.

"I was just about to give you up in despair," cried Colonel Dashwood,
advancing to meet her with great cordiality. "Any commands for Dublin?
I start to-morrow."

"For Dublin!" said Kate. "You astonish me. How--what is it takes you
away so suddenly?" And she looked earnestly at his countenance, which
wore a bright, hopeful expression, far different from the last she had
seen there.

"Hampton Court has been insupportable since your departure," said the
Colonel, gaily, "so I have got three weeks' leave; and, after some
uncertainty how to dispose of myself, decided on visiting my old haunts
in Ireland."

"I am sorry you will just miss Georgina," observed Miss Vernon. "She
has either left Dublin for Castle Desmond, or will to-morrow."

"Indeed," cried Colonel Dashwood, evidently pulled up by this piece of
information. "I was speaking to Effingham, who put me down here, and he
seemed to think she would remain there some short time."

"It was pure fancy on Lord Effingham's part," returned Kate, "he is
quite ignorant of her movements."

"So it appears; yet they said at Hampton Court that this sudden move
was merely a preparatory step to changing Lady Desmond into the
Countess of Effingham."

"How absurd," cried Kate, coloring, "there never was the least
probability of such a _finale_ to their acquaintance."

"I discovered as much from Effingham's conversation this morning," said
the Colonel, significantly, "though," he added, laughingly, "I confess,
notwithstanding some experience on these points, my observation was
quite at fault as to his object in--but," interrupting himself, "I am
growing terribly indiscreet, Miss Vernon. Effingham was sorry some
engagement, I do not know what, prevented him from calling upon you
to-day--and I strongly advised him to defer that pleasure."

"I do not wish to see Lord Effingham," said Kate, gravely.

The Colonel raised his eye-brows, and smiled.

"Tell me, if I miss Lady Desmond in Dublin, how shall I get on her
track? Is there any shooting or fishing in the neighbourhood--is Castle
Desmond beyond the reach of Bianconi's cars?--for, if I remember
rightly, they are the most extended ramifications of civilisation in
your splendid country."

The entrance of Mrs. Storey cut short his enquiries.

"Colonel Dashwood, Mrs. Storey," said Kate, "you remember Colonel
Dashwood perhaps."

"Oh, quite well," replied Mrs. Storey, with one or two little bobbing
curtseys, as she took the chair handed her by that polite individual.
"I am very sorry Mr. Storey is not at home, and we might, perhaps,
induce the Colonel to stop dinner with us."

"A thousand thanks, my dear madam; but I must dine with the Guards
to-day, and only ran down here to ask Miss Vernon's commands for
Ireland."

"Oh, indeed! I did not know you were Irish."

"Nor am I; but I like good fishing, and plenty of fun, and both are to
be had in Paddy's land."

"I fear you will not find much of the last now," said Kate.

"What a pity the Colonel is running away before the 30th," said Mrs.
Storey. "We have a few friends and a little music, and, perhaps, you
would have joined us," continued the hospitable little woman who
thought how much Colonel's Dashwood's fine figure and _air distingué_
would astonish the Bayswater world.

"You had better stay," suggested Kate.

"Ah! unfortunately, it is not in my power."

"Were you at the Countess of B----'s grand ball on Friday night,
Colonel Dashwood?" asked Mrs. Storey, anxious to get up a little
fashionable talk, and to show her knowledge of the great world.

"Lady B----, no! did she give a ball? I remember her--she is an awful
old woman. I never go to balls in London--they are such tame correct
things--country quarters spoil one for your regular dazzling scenes."

Kate could not refrain from a smile at the amazement depicted on Mrs.
Storey's countenance at this sally.

"Talking of balls," resumed Colonel Dashwood, "reminds me of an
indefatigable dancer, at least, in former years: Fred Egerton; I
had a letter the other day, from him; he does not seem to have got
mine, when he wrote. The mail is extremely irregular, during all this
skirmishing--he appears to be suffering from some neglected wound,
and is fretting at his inactivity--he used to be the easiest going
fellow on earth; but Sir John M---- was telling me the other day,
that they hold him to be one of the smartest officers on our Indian
establishment, at present--he is a capital fellow, at all events.
By-the-bye, he asks where you and the--." Dashwood stopped short;
"I mean my late friend, Colonel Vernon, are which shows he had not
received any letters or papers for an immense time."

Kate silently reclined her head, and after exchanging a few more
remarks with Mrs. Storey, Colonel Dashwood took his leave, promising,
with great earnestness, that should anything occur to delay his
departure, he would, without fail, make his appearance among the
"expected few friends," on the 30th.

"Good-bye, Miss Vernon," said he, pressing her hand kindly; "thanks
for your _carte du pays_; take care of yourself, for I cannot give a
very flourishing account of you to Lady Desmond; there is more of the
_beauté fragile_ in your appearance, than I like to see. When do you
join your cousin?"

"Oh do not talk of that, Colonel Dashwood," interrupted Mrs. Storey.
"We cannot part with Miss Vernon for a long time to come."

Kate only smiled.

"I wish you all success in your fishing; only remember the grand
characteristic of your craft is patience."

The Colonel bowed, and was gone.

"What a nice man he is to be sure," cried Mrs. Storey, as soon as
they were _tête-à-tête_, "so full of life, but quite different from
Lord Effingham. Those gentleman in the army have such a gay, off-hand
manner."

"Yes, Colonel Dashwood is very much to be liked--I am very fond of him."

"Lord, my dear, that is a confession."

"Is it," said Kate, laughing.

"What would my lord say to that?" asked Mrs. Storey.

"Nothing, I should think."

"Two strings to one's bow, are sometimes as bad as none," remarked Mrs.
Storey, oracularly.

"Between two stools, etc., is that your meaning?" asked Kate,
carelessly. "I must take off my bonnet and shawl and finish the
discussion at tea."

Miss Vernon was glad to have seen Colonel Dashwood, and heard from
him, of Lord Effingham's presence in London; she could now, if
necessary, mention it to Lady Desmond, without betraying nurse--but she
trusted it would not be necessary, for his disinclination to accompany
Colonel Dashwood in his visit, had led her to hope he had accepted
her dismissal as final, and already begun to forget his _engouement_.
She was glad too, that Colonel Dashwood was about to follow her
cousin--such a mark of decided preference from a man, so deservedly
esteemed as the Colonel, might, she thought, soothe her cousin's
mortified spirit; and, perhaps, supply her with a real and substantial
object of affection, as she woke from the vain dream, that had proved
so bitterly deceitful. "I have heard dear grandpapa say, hearts were
sometimes caught in the rebound."

And Fred Egerton--she had of late thought it strange that he had taken
no notice whatever of her sad bereavement--she thought he would have
written, at least, to Winter, for some particulars of the event; but,
resolutely turning from these thoughts, she fixed her mind on the
probable reasons, why she had not received a second letter from Lady
Desmond; and finding her imagination less inclined to traverse the
narrow breadth of the Irish channel, than to devour the wide space of
the Overland route to India--she quitted the "phantom-peopled" solitude
of her chamber, and joined the children in a game of "blind-man's
buff." Mrs. Storey was grievously disappointed when, day after day
rolled by, and Miss Vernon, not only never poured any tender revelation
into her sympathising bosom, but never hinted that there was one
to make. Mrs. Storey was accustomed to give advice in a number of
difficult engagements, and a young lady, who was not provided with a
lover, or on the look out for one, was a phenomenon uninteresting to
her. Kate was so unmistakeably true, that she could not accuse her of
the "depth," to which discreet, and sympathising matrons peculiarly
object--so she had nothing for it, but to conclude Miss Vernon was too
Blue to fall in love. This compulsory forbearance was, however, amply
rewarded.

The day but one after Colonel Dashwood's visit, Kate received a letter
from Lady Desmond--she wrote in rather better spirits, still dated from
Dublin--she said she had postponed her departure another week, and that
she feared very much the state of things about the Castle, was very
deplorable, as the famine was most severe in that part of the world.
The tone of the letter was more affectionate, yet there was something
of constraint in it, that jarred upon Kate's feelings painfully; "But,"
she thought, "I will be patient--poor Georgy! she has suffered so much."

After their early dinner, Miss Vernon sat down to reply to her
cousin's letter, and tell her of Colonel Dashwood's visit, intending
to mention that Lord Effingham was in town Mrs. Storey was busy
over a large work-basket filled with small garments, of various
sizes; and both the children, Charlotte, and William, were playing
about the room, often interrupting the progress of Kate's pen, while
occasional communications from the scene of action up stairs, where
the drawing-room was undergoing its weekly purification, disturbed the
labours of Mrs. Storey's needle. They were all assembled in a small,
plainly furnished parlour, used as a common sitting-room.

"Go and look out of the window, like good children, and let Miss Vernon
write in peace," said mama, at last, and Kate continued to write for
some moments uninterrupted.

"What a beautiful horse," cried Willie, after looking over the blinds
for a while in silence.

"How he holds up his head," said his sister; "and the boy in the pretty
little boots is look-at all the houses."

"They are coming here," shouted Willie, clapping his hands.

Mrs. Storey rose to look, and reached the window, just as the
diminutive tiger knocked at the door.

"Law, my dear Miss Vernon, this is some friend of yours; what a
stylish cab," exclaimed Mrs. Storey, now quite as much absorbed in
contemplating the new arrival, as her children. "The boy has taken the
reins, and--my gracious, if it is'nt Lord Effingham himself, and all
the furniture out of the drawing-room; and my work basket! was there
ever anything half so unlucky," and she rushed in helpless perplexity
to hide, at least, the unsightly work-basket from view, when the door
was thrown open, and the spruce maid, looking unusually dusty, hastily
announced--

"A gentleman for Miss Vernon."

Kate, whose sense of the ridiculous, was too genuine to be
extinguished, even by sincere vexation at so unwelcome a visit, rose to
receive him with an irrepressible smile, at the contrast between Mrs.
Storey's despairing fuss, and his calm, unconscious, high-bred _entré_.

Lord Effingham evidently mistook the source of that smile, for he
responded to it with a sudden clearing of his clouded brow, and
brightening of the eye.

"I began to fear I should never see you again, Miss Vernon," was his
opening address. "I drove Dashwood down here a couple of days ago; but,
in compassion to his evident wish to get rid of me, with praiseworthy
self-denial, I left him to his own devices; and to-day I find he went
to the wrong house; and I have been some time looking for the right
one--all's well that end's well, however;" and he bowed, a bow of
recognition to Mrs. Storey.

Kate felt singularly puzzled how to treat him; it was impossible not
to accept his easy polished manner, and matter-of-course address, in
the same unembarrassed style; yet it provoked her to find him thus
establishing himself on precisely his former footing, while she felt
herself powerless to prevent it. She strove by monosyllabic answers,
and the utmost coldness, to convey her distaste for his visits; but
if repulsed by Miss Vernon, he was eminently successful in charming
her hostess. He alluded once or twice to their pictorial expedition
at Hampton Court, and asked if the famous painter, Langley, was not
a relative of hers. Mrs. Storey eagerly explained the degree of
consanguinity; and Kate heard, with no small astonishment, a visit to
his studio, speedily arranged.

"What an amount of annoyance Lord Effingham must be enduring," she
thought; for poor Mrs. Storey exactly represented a class of persons,
held in devout horror by the fastidious Earl; it only required a few
caresses to the children to complete Miss Vernon's amazement; but he
did not get quite so far.

"You have not told me anything of Lady Desmond," said Lord Effingham,
turning to her with consummate assurance. "She is in Dublin, is she
not?"

Kate bowed.

"And Miss Vernon had a letter from her to-day," added Mrs. Storey,
rather scandalised by Kate's coldness. "I believe she is quite well."

"So nurse says," replied Miss Vernon.

"That is one of the most remarkable women I have ever met," observed
Lord Effingham, in precisely the same tone of dignified approbation he
would have used towards a crowned head.

Mrs. Storey laughed, and said, "she was quite a character."

The conversation lagged after this; and the impatient Earl began
to weary of the unwonted exercise of so much self-control; he was,
however, determined to make Miss Vernon speak.

"You cannot imagine my astonishment, on my return from Cowes, to find
you had flown," he said; "Lady Desmond's movements are as sudden and as
well masked as Napoleon's."

"It can hardly be called a masked movement, considering it had been
discussed a fortnight before _en cour pleniere_," returned Miss Vernon;
"some intelligence, unexpectedly, received, induced my cousin to make
the journey more suddenly than she had anticipated."

"I expected as much," said Lord Effingham, with quiet significance,
the insolence of which, perceptible to her only, called the indignant
blood into Kate's cheek. "But," he continued, looking steadily at her,
"some fairy, or angel whispered to me that you would not accompany her,
although I am not in the habit of receiving angelic communications."

"There are two descriptions of angels," said Kate, simply.

The remark was irresistible; but it was hardly uttered before she
regretted it; for Lord Effingham smiled, gaily, as if gratified that
she had deigned to retort. He was now satisfied he had accomplished
as much as one visit would permit, and rising to depart, thanked Mrs.
Storey for her permission to accompany them to Langley's studio, and
made his adieux with the same ease that marked his _entré_.

"Well, my dear," cried Mrs. Storey, triumphantly, "you will believe me
again! I think there is no mistake about that. And how you could treat
such an elegant man with the greatest coldness, I cannot understand.
Had you any quarrel with him? for you were friendly enough at Hampton
Court."

"I have no quarrel with Lord Effingham, Mrs. Storey," replied Kate,
gravely; "but I dislike him extremely; and I must ask you, as a favour,
that you will not encourage him to come here. It is very natural that
you should think well of him. I know him better."

"Law! my dear girl," said Mrs. Storey, eagerly. "Don't be foolish!
Earls are not to be found on every bush. And what is it to you if he
has been a little wild; young men will be young men; and when he is
married, he will turn over a new leaf. See, how independent and grand
you would be as Countess of Effingham, going down to dinner before Lady
Desmond herself."

"I know, my dear Mrs. Storey, how well-meant is your advice; and,
believe me, I am grateful for the interest you take in my prospects;
but do not refuse my request; help me to avoid Lord Effingham."

"But what shall we do about to-morrow?" said poor Mrs. Storey,
ruefully. She could not relinquish an Earl without a pang.

"I am sure Mr. Langley will raise some obstacle. At all events, I will
remain in my own room, and you can act as his _cicerone_. If this
continues," added Kate, resolutely, "I will leave London. Indeed, I
have wished to speak to you on this subject before."

"I am sure I shall never forgive Lord Effingham if he frightens
you away, my dear," said Mrs. Storey, kindly; and then added,
reflectively--"goodness me! how strange high-life is!"

This visit of Lord Effingham's was a great shock to Kate; how was
she to clear herself in Lady Desmond's eyes from the suspicion that
she had consented so readily to remain in London in order to see her
accepted lover more frequently. Yes! the only remedy was to mature her
crude plans for endeavouring to obtain employment of some kind out of
London--to dependance she would never return.

Kate's anticipations as to Langley's raising obstacles to that visit
proved correct; he made his appearance, according to his usual custom,
at tea time.

"Lord Effingham was here this morning, William--he is very anxious to
see your studio; and I promised to take him with me to-morrow."

"He does me infinite honour," said Langley. "But it happens I am going
to Windsor to-morrow, and cannot leave my studio unlocked even to
gratify his lordship."

Kate thought he said this with unusual acerbity.

"Well, that _is_ unfortunate," cried Mrs. Storey.

"What a _grandee_ you are growing all at once, Charlotte," said her
husband, facetiously; "patronising Earls and Colonels--they will want
you at Almacks next. Talking of finery," continued Mr. Storey, "I was
introduced to Tom Jorrocks' wife to-day, and promised you would call
upon her--they are in town, for a few weeks, at ----; here's his card,
Cambridge Terrace."

And Mr. and Mrs. Storey immediately plunged into the history of Tom
Jorrocks and his wife, and of how rich his mother was, and what a large
fortune he was making, &c., &c. While Langley and Kate conversed
quietly apart.

"Is Lord Effingham a great lover of painting?"

"I believe so; he certainly understands it."

"It is curious enough; I was walking this evening with Gailliard, (who,
by the way, was making many enquiries for you,) when Lord Effingham
drove past us in Regent Street. Gailliard seems to have known a good
deal of him abroad; he gave a curious character of him." Langley
thought for some moments, and then resumed--"You remember Gailliard?"

"Oh, quite well--I should like to see him again."

"He has just returned from France, with a perfect budget of anecdotes,
touching the late Revolution; he is a strange fellow," concluded
Langley, musingly.

"I always wonder that M. Gailliard is not a man of greater eminence
than he is."

"Yes--he has all the ingredients to be a great writer, a good artist, a
leading character, and yet he seems to have missed everything."

"Perhaps," said Kate, smiling, "he requires the predominance of some
one of these qualities to decide his character, as the slightly
superior strength of the right hand prevents the awkwardness of not
knowing which to use."

"Very likely. Do you know, Miss Vernon, you think a good deal for a
young lady!"

"I cannot accept so insulting a compliment," said Kate, laughing; and
rising, at Mrs. Storey's request, she went to the piano. "I want your
opinion of this air--it came back to me in a dream some nights ago. A
poor silly boy at Dungar used to sing it so sweetly, and I have never
heard it since. I rather think it is a very old air that escaped Moore
and Sir John Stevenson--the Irish words I never knew; but these I found
among poor Mr. Gilpin's papers--they seem to have been written not
long before his sister's death."

And, after a few arpeggio chords, she sung as follows:--

    "Look afar thro' the gloom, weary heart,
    To yon dim and faint revealing,
        The glim'ring ray
        Of distant day
    O'er life's troubled ocean stealing.

    It comes with endless joy, sad heart,
    A glorious sunburst beaming,
        With peace and love
        From heaven above,
    O'er sin and sorrow streaming.

    Soon the dark waters past, sad heart,
    Thou'lt rest in thy spirit home,
        Where we part no more
        From those gone before
    Across life's billowy foam.

    There no falsehood shall oppress thee,
    Nor sorrow's dark'ning gloom,
        For free is the soul
        That has reached its goal,
    In the world beyond the tomb."

"Well, Miss Vernon," remarked Mr. Storey, "that's quite too melancholy
a song for me--the dismals never suit my book."

"My dear! it is beautiful, and made me cry, I could not help it!"
exclaimed his wife.

"You say the words are original," observed Langley.

"Yes, I am almost sure they were written by Mr. Gilpin's sister, who
died of consumption shortly before we went to A----."

"They suit the air remarkably--the song makes an impression I shall not
easily forget nor your singing of it," added Langley, more to himself
than to Kate.

"Now, Miss Vernon, may I ask for that march we liked so much,
yesterday?" said Mrs. Storey, and soon afterwards they separated for
the night.

The next morning was most perseveringly wet, and both Mrs. Storey
and Kate agreed that the most determined picture-maniac would hardly
venture out in such weather.

"But you will see, he will come for all that," concluded Mrs. Storey.

"Then _you_ must receive him," said Kate, "I will not appear."

"Gracious goodness," cried her hostess. "What shall I say about you?"

"Do not trouble yourself to think--send for me, and the message I shall
return will relieve you of all responsibility."

"But if he insists on seeing you?"

"He dare not!" said Kate, with a sudden lighting of the eye, and proud
drawing up of the head that seemed to her good easy friend like the
revelation of some unknown world. "Well my dear, whatever you like,"
she said, meekly.

Mrs. Storey's conjectures proved true, for, notwithstanding the
weather, Lord Effingham arrived punctually at the time specified.

Kate felt her heart beat a little nervously, as she watched him walking
across the garden, from the window of the nursery where she had
ensconced herself.

In due course of time, Mrs. Storey's message reached her.

"Please'm, my missis says, would you be so good as to step down."

"My compliments, I am particularly engaged," said Miss Vernon, quietly.

And soon after, she heard the hall door open and shut, and the sound of
retreating wheels informed her the enemy was in retreat. She found Mrs.
Storey looking rather crest-fallen.

"Well, my dear, he is gone--in a very bad humour, I can tell you--he
came in so politely, and asked if we still intended to go. So I told
him about my brother being from home, he did not seem to mind it much;
but said he hoped another time we should be more successful; then he
asked for you, and if you were at home, so I sent for you, and I assure
my dear, I was beginning to feel quite nervous, for though he smiled
and talked, he was looking very black, as if he was vexed at not seeing
you. When Maria brought back your message, he turned and looked out of
the window for a minute, then he said, with a very different kind of
smile from what I saw before--'I should be sorry to interfere with Miss
Vernon's particular engagements, and as I am very likely interrupting
your avocations, I shall bid you good morning.' I told him I had
nothing in the world to do at that hour of the day--but he did not seem
to hear me speak, and with a sort of proud bow, he walked off; and, my
dear girl, I am sure you have mortally offended him; but, for all that,
I think he might have listened when I spoke to him."

"Yes," said Kate, "he was very rude, and we must both be out if he
comes again, though I do hope and believe that was a mere threat."

All remembrance of his Lordship's impertinence was quickly obliterated
from Mrs. Storey's mind, by the rapidly increasing toils of preparation
for "the thirtieth;" it was to be a quiet musical party--in
consideration of Miss Vernon's mourning--but very _recherché_. Mrs.
Storey determined the supper should be what her husband termed a "chief
endeavour," the facetious translation of "_chef d'oeuvre_."

Kate waited till that all-absorbing event was over, and Mrs. Storey's
attention free, before she took her into her confidence, as regarded
her future plans. She was now most anxious to do so. Employment, either
as a resident governess, or a companion, was absolutely necessary. She
could not remain much longer with Mrs. Storey, and to accept money or
protection from Lady Desmond, while her suspicions remained as keenly
alive as they then were, was impossible. Her cousin's letters, though
expressing a formal wish that she was happy and comfortable, had not,
as yet, hinted at the future. And, however firmly Kate might trust to
the mercy and guidance of an over-ruling Providence, the uncertainty
of her prospects kept her in cruel suspense. If she could but only
hear from Winter, and learn where to direct to him, all would be
well. Then she would turn to Winter's last letter, and dwell upon the
reality of its tone; for, strange though it be, there is something so
unerring in the instinct of truth, that mere written expressions, in
all the barrenness of ink and paper, convey the real, or the unreal
unmistakeably. Kate was always comforted by the perusal of the good
little artist's characteristic epistles; they placed him before her, in
all the uncompromising sincerity she had tried, and never found wanting.

The day but one after her party, Mrs. Storey disappointed Kate's
intention of asking for a quiet confidential walk after dinner, by
desiring the parlour maid at breakfast, to--

"Tell cook to have dinner at one precisely, I must go into town on
particular business to-day."

Kate declined her invitation to accompany her, observing--

"I want a long talk with you, dear Mrs. Storey, the first time you are
at leisure."

She received a ready assent to her proposition, from her curious
hostess, who anticipated a clearing up of all the mysteries connected
with Lord Effingham.

Kate had not long enjoyed the unwonted stillness of the house, after
Mrs. Storey had departed for town, and the children for their afternoon
walk, when her attention was aroused by the sound of voices in the
hall, and the next moment Lord Effingham walked into the room. Miss
Vernon started, and with difficulty suppressed the exclamation of
surprise which sprang to her lips. She rose from her seat, and stood
silent, while her unwelcome visitor, advancing towards her, said, with
the species of enforced quiet, which always indicated that emotion of
some kind was struggling in his breast--

"I do not apologise for this intrusion, Miss Vernon, for you will, I
know, forgive it, when I tell you how unconquerable is my desire to
speak with you, alone. I have watched your amiable and intelligent
hostess set out for town, and so made sure of some uninterrupted
conversation--you must not refuse to hear me."

"No, Lord Effingham," said Miss Vernon, recovering her self-possession,
"I, too, am almost glad, since you will not accept the tacit expression
of my wishes, to have a decisive interview, we cannot continue on our
present footing."

"The extraordinary fact of your being domesticated with such people,"
exclaimed Lord Effingham, abruptly, "is sufficiently eloquent of the
terms on which you and your cousin parted--and I must know something
more decisive from your own lips, before I resign all hopes of you.
Speak! Have you and your cousin separated in consequence of her insane
pride--her absurd fancy about myself?"

"If I could convey the least idea to your mind," answered Kate, holding
down her indignation, in order to speak with greater force, "of the
repugnance with which I shrink from such expressions, you would not,
I am sure, offend me by repeating them, Good Heavens," she continued,
"what effect can you imagine must be produced upon one woman by such
bold, such dishonorable assertions of another."

"Dishonorable!" cried the Earl, his sallow cheek flushing for an
instant. "You use strong terms, Miss Vernon."

"Not more strong than just," returned Kate. "I call it dishonorable,
if, rightly or not, you conceive you have won a place in a woman's
heart, to glance at the secret, even to your most intimate associate,
much more to make it the subject of scornful remark to that woman's--"

She stopped, fearful of betraying herself or her cousin. Lord Effingham
supplied the word--

"Rival you would have said, and you are right. I can well imagine the
scorn, the bitterness with which she reproached you for all the crimes
of art and dissimulation, of which _you_ are so incapable. I can fancy
the passionate, unappeaseable suspicions which drove you--here," he
added, after a moment's pause to glance, with unutterable contempt,
round the homely room in which they sat.

Kate felt that she quailed before the true picture he had sketched.

"Your eyes are less faithful to your cousin's cause than your
lips--_they_ admit much," continued Lord Effingham.

"Then what I look I will speak," returned Kate, with sudden boldness.
"Georgina, if she does care for you, is not a woman to give away her
heart unasked. I have known and loved her all my life--that she is
not indifferent to you, is, in my eyes, incontrovertible proof that
you endeavoured to win her affections. It is no disgrace to a woman,"
continued Kate, with encreasing boldness, "to give the heart that seems
so ardently sought. No; the truer the purer--the nobler it is--the
more incapable it is of conceiving the gratuitous treason that betrays
it. I do not see why I should attempt to conceal the fact that I fear
my cousin once loved you--with you rests the reproach; but do you
suppose that I am so unreal as to trust you--to believe that a passing
admiration could so change your spirit, as to teach it sympathy with
mine? that your treachery to one woman would be a guarantee of good
faith to another? No, my Lord! I am made of different stuff. Do not,
for a moment, imagine it is in your power to cause disunion between
two such tried friends as my cousin and myself--we know each other's
truth--we know it is worth too much to be lightly cast aside."

She paused; and Lord Effingham, whose varied colour had settled into
deadly paleness, rose, and paced the room in silence, before replying--

"You are a stern judge, Miss Vernon," he said, at length, in the deep
tone of concentrated anger. "I little thought the indulgence of a
harmless whim would have been so severely visited upon me. Listen,
fair and rigid exposer of my follies," he continued, sneeringly. "The
secret of your just severity may be summed up thus--you do not love
me; therefore, the conduct you so eloquently denounce, is unextenuated
by the softening consideration that it was you--your own irresistible
attractions--that made me a traitor. Your indifference, perhaps your
pre-occupation, lends a magnifying power to your moral sense, and I
am condemned; where--circumstances slightly changed--I might have been
cherished. Enough; I am satisfied there is no chance of my winning your
affections. I will not, therefore, degrade myself or weary you with
vain efforts." He stopped opposite to her, silently for a minute, his
arms folded, his eyes fixed on her face. "I wish to God I had known you
long ago, Kate--that I had met you first. How is it, that with rank,
and riches, and power here--" and he touched his forehead, "all rare
gifts--I have so often missed the road to happiness."

Kate, moved by the tone of despondency with which this was asked,
replied hesitatingly--

"Perhaps--because you never knew where to look for it."

"And will you not direct me?" said the Earl, with intense earnestness.

Kate shook her head in silent refusal.

He gazed at her still for an instant, and then, taking her hand, said--

"In all probability, we shall never meet again. You have acted in
accordance with your character--I, with mine."

And, turning away, he left the house.

Kate remained lost in thought without moving from the position in
which she had heard Lord Effingham's parting words; she could hardly
believe that he was really gone--that he would return no more; but
stranger still, was the impression of regret and compassion he had
left upon her mind. Surely there were the scattered elements of much
good in his character. What was it that had so fatally disunited them?
The repellent power of selfishness. He had, as he said, goodly gifts,
rank, and riches, and intellectual power; but the heart, wherein is
the balance which harmonises the whole, was corrupt and false; but her
sensation was that of relief. One difficulty was removed; her cousin
could not long remain in ignorance of his final rejection--nay, in
justice to herself, she determined to mention having seen the Earl for
the last time.

"My way is becoming clear," was the most distinct idea, as she
endeavoured to refix her thoughts upon her book. It was in vain she
read and re-read each page, the words might be traced by the eye; but
the mind was far too full to admit the sense; and in the struggle
between reverie and attention, Mrs. Storey returned.

"I am sure I have a thousand apologies to make, my dear, leaving you
all the afternoon by yourself."

"Indeed, Mrs. Storey, you need not apologise; besides I have not been
alone. Lord Effingham has been here."

"Oh, indeed," cried Mrs. Storey, eagerly.

"Yes; and I do not think we shall be troubled with him any more."

"Well, my dear, you know best; but--" and Mrs. Storey shook her head.

In truth, the kind-hearted little woman was much attached to Kate,
especially since she had been domesticated with her. She would gladly
have witnessed her "_entrée_" at court in the character of the Countess
of Effingham, and still more gladly shone in the reflected lustre of
so brilliant a friend; but if Miss Vernon did not like him it was very
unfortunate.

The next morning brought Kate a letter from Lady Desmond, and another
from nurse. The former, after commenting on Colonel Dashwood's sudden
appearance in Dublin, and expressing, more constrainedly and coldly
than usual, her hopes that Kate was happy, &c., &c., went on to say,
"I am annoyed by a strange whim of nurse's; she will no doubt tell you
all about it; she is determined on leaving me 'to see her people;' and
as the only solution for such an amount of family affection, I must
conclude that she is unhappy or uncomfortable in my establishment--I
wish she would condescend to mention in what particular; but this is
too candid a line of conduct for persons of her class." Kate felt
deeply the acerbity with which her cousin wrote, and turned anxiously
to nurse's letter for an explanation of the affair.

"My own blessed darlin'," it began, "I've a power to tell you; but,
first of all, avourneen, there's yer letter that warmed yer own ould
nurse's heart--my hearty thanks for it, jewil. You see, there's three
weeks of the four I promised to stay with my lady gone, and I'm
wearyin' to see my sisther's daughter and her childre that's doin' well
in Killeesh; and an unfortunate vagabone of a boy, my cousin, they tell
me is gone to the bad--so I'm sure, Miss Kate, jewil, ye'll give me
lave to step over, and if I get a thrifle of work, sure I'll be better
plaised nor to be here doin' nothin', but in everybody's way, an' my
lady different to what she used to be--not but that she's good; but,
asthore, I don't know how she and you parted, an' I never feel asy like
with her, so just tell me you'll let me off stoppin' here any longer."

Kate hardly felt surprise at this intelligence. She had instinctively
expected that nurse would not remain long with Lady Desmond; yet
this was an increase of anxiety. "I trust she will not give away all
her money," thought Kate, as she sat down to reply to Lady Desmond's
letter. She expressed her regret at nurse's determination, urging,
however, in extenuation, that her desire to revisit the scenes of her
youth, and the few relations she had left, was natural and pardonable.
After touching on all the points in her cousin's letter, she found
herself concluding her own before she had courage to mention Lord
Effingham's name; she therefore added a short postscript--"I have seen
Lord Effingham for the last time." She next wrote her assent to nurse's
project, recommending her, however, merely to go on furlough, and not
to break altogether with Lady Desmond. These letters despatched, she
joined her hostess.

"You remember, I told you yesterday, I wanted a good long talk with
you, Mrs. Storey."

"Yes, dear, and here I am ready for it."

"You are very kind to me, Mrs. Storey."

"La, my love, it's a pleasure to me."

"You know I am very poor," said Kate, not exactly sure how to get into
her subject. "I told you at Hampton Court that terrible lawsuit was not
concluded, and now it seems it has died a natural death; so I must try
and do something for myself."

A thundering knock here startled and interrupted her.

"Goodness, gracious me," cried Mrs. Storey, "who can that be? A very
smart brougham, my dear, and--let me see--yes--no--it _is_ young Mrs.
Tom Jorrocks. Well, she is very agreeable, but I wish she had not
interrupted us. Delighted to see you, Mrs. Jorrocks--this is so kind
and friendly," &c., &c.

By Mrs. Tom Jorrocks greetings were exchanged, and much was said of
the delightful evening she had passed at Raby Villa, of Miss Vernon's
charming music, and the beauty of the children; then the excitement
of town was discussed, and young Mrs. Tom Jorrocks admitted that,
notwithstanding its pleasures, she should be glad to be once more
quietly settled at Leeds. "And besides all my own engagements," she
continued, "I am busily employed looking out for a young lady to be a
sort of companion to my mother-in-law, who is growing rather blind.
She wants some one who will be a cheerful associate, and read aloud
nicely, and be like a daughter to her; she lives with her daughter,
Mrs. Wilson, but _she_ is so much engaged with her house and servants
and sons, Mrs. Jorrocks is often lonely."

"I think I know a lady who might suit you," said Kate, suddenly
captivated with the imaginary picture of a gentle, lonely old lady who
wanted a daughter's companionship.

"Indeed it would be a great comfort if I could acquit myself well in
the search," said young Mrs. Jorrocks, with a laugh. "My mother-in-law
is very wealthy, and would not object to a salary of thirty or forty
pounds; she is rather particular, but very kind."

"If you will allow me to call upon you to-morrow, I will let you know
more particulars."

"I cannot tell the obligation you would confer upon me should you
enable me to get rid of the affair. Might I ask you to call upon me
to-morrow at twelve? If not too early, I shall be enchanted to see you."

"At twelve, then, I will be with you," said Kate, with a smile.

"And now, Mrs. Storey, I must bid you good morning. My compliments to
Mr. Storey. Good morning Miss Vernon."

"You were surprised. I dare say, at my sudden interest in Mrs.
Jorrocks' researches," said Kate to Mrs. Storey, when they were once
more alone.

"Yes--no--that is, do go on and tell me--surely it can't be yourself?"

"It is indeed for myself I wish to secure the engagement," returned
Miss Vernon. "I must resume the thread of my discourse, which Mrs.
Jorrocks' _entré_ interrupted. I am sure you are too thoroughly
English not to sympathise in my wish to _earn_ a livelihood, be it
ever so humble, rather than live in dependence, even on a generous
and affectionate relative like my cousin; I do not want a large
salary, but a home is indispensable--at least," she added with a sigh,
"a respectable protection--for a _home_ can never be found among
strangers--and this appears to promise fairly enough."

"Well, my dear, you really take away my breath! I thought you were
never to leave Lady Desmond! She told me so herself. I really think you
are very foolish. Who would be so fit a person for you to be companion
to as your own cousin? What does she think? My goodness! Who would have
thought it!"

"Lady Desmond will, no doubt, be very averse to my plan, but at present
I see no other open to me. I particularly wish not to join her while
she is in Ireland--elsewhere I may. Indeed, I should at once have
offered myself to Mrs. Jorrocks, but that I thought it right to consult
you first--you might not like me to do so."

"La, my dear, I only wish you to do what you think will be for the
best; but, dear me, how astonished Mrs. Tom will be, to be sure! I
always told her how fashionable and rich all your friends and relations
were," said Mrs. Storey, in a slightly vexed tone.

"If it annoys you in the least, pray tell me, and I will not say
anything more about it--I should be grieved to vex you," said Kate,
with so much sweetness of tone and manner, that Mrs. Storey gave her a
hearty kiss, and wished her all success.

"Indeed, dear, you have the right spirit; and, after all, I dare say
you have your own reasons for leaving Lady Desmond!"

"She is always kind and good," said Kate.

Miss Vernon was truly glad to have this explanation so well over; and
though anxious as to her future, most thankful for the opening which so
unexpectedly offered.

"I can stay there, at all events, till the Winters' return. Oh, when
will they write!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, she started early on her visit to Mrs. Tom Jorrocks,
and pondered, as she went, on the difference of her feelings now from
those with which she used to seek employment; formerly, she was full of
anxious, palpitating hope and fear. Hoping to have good news wherewith
to return to grandpapa and nurse--fearing that she might not succeed;
but both sensations invigorated and spurred her on. Now it was for
herself alone, she was interested; and she walked calmly, undisturbed
by either hope or fear; she was almost surprised at the fearless,
careless indifference with which she viewed the future.

"Can it be that I am so much alone! Oh, if I could but live with nurse!
I wonder will Mr. Winter renew his proposal to take her as housekeeper
when he returns."

These thoughts brought her to Mrs. Jorrocks's door. She was most
cordially received. The bride was alone; and the first surprise and
exclamations over, matters were speedily arranged.

"I am really ashamed to offer you what my mother-in-law has limited me
to," said young Mrs. Jorrocks, with some embarrassment.

"You need not mind that," returned Kate; "I want more a--" she could
not desecrate the word "home," and substituted, "a respectable
residence."

"Well then, I consider you engaged; and I am sure I shall win golden
opinions for sending down such a companion as yourself," returned Mrs.
Tom, who had become marvellously familiar and agreeable.

"I had nearly forgotten to ask you where Mrs. Jorrocks lives--a very
necessary question."

"Oh, at Carrington--her son-in-law, Mr. Wilson, is a cotton broker
there."

"Carrington," repeated Kate, colouring with surprise and emotion.

"Not a very nice place, I grant," said the bride. "But the Wilsons live
in the New Park, quite away from the town. Have you ever been there?"

"Yes, once. We used to live at A----, which is only an hour's drive
from Carrington."

"I know; we went over there to look at the Cathedral, when I was at
Carrington. Then, Miss Vernon, you will be ready to go down next week?
My mother-in-law is very anxious for some one who will read to her."

"Yes," said Kate, confused by the flood of memories which welled up
from the depths of her heart, at the sound of these familiar names.

"Old Mrs. Jorrocks will write and say what day she expects you. I am
sure, I am delighted to have concluded this business so satisfactorily."

"Then I will wish you good morning."

"Good morning, Miss Vernon, good morning!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Dear Mrs. Storey! it is all settled!" cried Kate, on finding that lady
alone. "I am going to Carrington--where--where--"

A burst of irrepressible tears choked her voice.

"My dear girl! don't now--there's a love! here, smell to the salts,"
exclaimed Mrs. Storey, in great perplexity; she did not understand the
grateful sympathy of silence on such occasions.

"I was so happy there--so unutterably light-hearted! the world was all
joy to me--existence in itself a blessing! And to go back there now,
when some strange spell seems to have doomed me to utter loneliness!
Grandpapa gone, nurse gone, Georgy, Mr. Winter, his kind wife, all I
was ever linked with in happy days, far away."

"My love, don't go there; stay a bit longer with us; you know, if the
house was only a little larger, I would not let you go away for ever so
long; but--"

"Dear friend," said Kate, recovering herself--"I was surprised into
this outburst--do not mind it--I am quite resolved to go to Mrs.
Jorrocks. Nay, when I have conquered my foolish weakness, I shall be
pleased to be near my old haunts. I will go to my room and think--I am
always better when I think by myself."

"Very well, dear, whatever you like."

Long and earnestly did Kate think, and her thoughts were prayers.
She looked steadily at the past; and, from its trials and blessings,
gathered strength for the future.

And fancy, which is ever so strangely at variance with the exterior
atmosphere of prosperity or depression, held up a bright picture of
Egerton, standing between her and all future loneliness, of his manly
tenderness, and simple truth, till she almost fancied she heard his
well known voice speaking to her, those lovely words of Longfellow's--

    "Oh, let thy weary heart rest upon mine,
    And it shall faint no more, nor thirst, nor hunger,
    But be satisfied and filled with my affection,"

"I am wrong, I am too bold, to let such thoughts glance across my mind.
I will not let them come again, how weak, how vain they are! but I can
never think of dear grandpapa, without seeing Colonel Egerton, as it
were, beside him, they are so closely linked in my heart."

And with sudden decision she rose, bathed her eyes, and joined Mrs.
Storey on a journey to Bond Street.

As young Mrs. Jorrocks had prophesied, Kate received a speedy summons
from _La Belle Mère_. The letter was written in much the same style
of caligraphy, in which a small "dress-maker" notes down her little
account; the orthography was tolerably correct; but the composition was
rather confused.

"Poor thing," said Miss Vernon, mentally; "she is probably too blind to
write with ease--perhaps her maid acted as amanuensis. I hope she is a
loveable person. What wonderful changes I have seen;" and turning to
her desk, she wrote to Mrs. Jorrocks, promising to be with her on the
specified Thursday.

"Dear nurse used to say Thursday was a lucky day," she said, as she
closed the letter. After some consideration, she determined on
informing nurse and her cousin that she was tired of London, and going
to stay with some acquaintances she had made through Mrs. Storey.
"There can be no use in unnecessarily fretting them," she thought. "I
am determined not to go to Georgy till I can trace a very different
tone in her letters; she cannot help her suspicions, I believe; but I
need not make her more unhappy than she is. How I wish I could see some
newspaper announcement of Lord Effingham's departure for the continent!"

But her wish was in vain, Lord Effingham continued to revolve between
London and Cowes; and Lady Desmond's reply was strangely commingled
with petulance and affection.



CHAPTER VIII.

CARRINGTON.


It was a cold, gloomy, blustering evening, in the beginning of
September, when the increase of houses, and appearance of hissing and
tranquil engines along the line of rail-road, announced to Kate that
she was approaching the termination of her journey; she wondered she
did not feel more of that sinking of heart, and thrilling of nerves,
with which she used to regard any important crisis or event. She felt
so terribly depressed, that anything like the hope, implied by fear or
anxiety, was quite out of the question; yet there occasionally glanced
across her mind the thought, "have I not come to the worst; perhaps the
next change may be for the better."

"Half-past six--nearly an hour behind time," said a fat, rosy old
gentleman, who sat opposite to Miss Vernon, "and another quarter
of an hour will be lost taking the tickets--very bad, very bad,"
and he looked at Kate for sympathy; but to her it was a matter of
indifference: the train was rather too fast for her wishes.

"They will be fancying all sorts of accidents and concussions at
home," resumed the old gentleman, with a smile of such security in the
affection and sympathy to which he was hastening, that the tears sprang
to Kate's eyes, even while she smiled upon him, and said--

"Then I do wish they would go faster--suspense is such a terrible
thing."

The old gentleman seemed struck by the sudden warmth evinced by his
hitherto taciturn companion.

"I suppose you have friends to meet you?" he said; "but if I can be of
any use in getting your luggage, &c., I shall be very happy."

"I suppose they will send some one to meet me," said Kate, carelessly;
"but," she added, a doubt on the point glancing across her mind for the
first time, "if not, I will gladly avail myself of your kind offer."

"What part of the town, may I ask, are you going to?"

"Carleton Terrace, New Park."

"Oh, indeed. I live near that myself."

A little more desultory talk brought them to the platform; and stepping
from the carriage, Miss Vernon looked round in hopes of discovering the
promised person to meet her; but none appeared; therefore, accepting
the old gentleman's proffered aid, she proceeded to disentangle her
luggage from the miscellaneous and momentarily encreasing pile, which
the porters were pitching, with their usual dexterity and disregard of
consequences, out of the van.

Kate had but few packages; some undefined feeling had induced her to
leave much of her belongings under Mrs. Storey's care--she could not
bear to think of Carrington as anything but a temporary abode.

"Another small black box--the same name--Miss Vernon," she said to
the porter who was collecting her luggage; her words attracted the
notice of an awkward boy of about fifteen, who had been examining
the second-class passengers, as if in search of some one; he was
heavy-looking, without being large, his movements slow and uncouth, and
his face of a leaden bilious complexion, wore an expression of stupid
surprise.

"Are you Miss Vernon?" he asked, in an abrupt, harsh voice, which was
at its harshest epoch.

"Yes," said Kate, looking at him doubtfully, uncertain what rank in
society to assign him; his face would not have been misplaced under a
basket of oranges, nor his clothes on the heir apparent of an earldom.

"All right," said the interesting youth. "gran'ma sent me to meet you.
I'm Pembridge Wilson; shall I call a cab? Busses don't go near the
Park."

"If you please, a cab," said Kate; and, turning to her friendly
_companion de voyage_, thanked him for his kind attention.

"Holloa, Pem., is that you?" he cried, as his eyes fell on Kate's new
acquaintance. "I did not know I was travelling with a friend of yours.
I shall have the pleasure of seeing you again," he said to Kate, "as
you are going to the Wilsons'."

"I shall be very happy," she returned, bowing, and walked towards the
cab.

"Stop," whispered Master Pembridge, "make a bargain with the man before
they put up the luggage; you, go--I'll stay here."

"No," said Kate, "I am afraid he would not mind me much. I dare say, he
will not charge more than he ought."

Master Pem's usual state of amazement seemed to receive a slight
addition at these words, and as he followed Miss Vernon into the
vehicle, a keen ear might have overheard a muttered "my eye!"

The noise of the streets was a good excuse for silence. Kate gazed
through the windows, recognising the various localities which she
faintly remembered from her short visit there, partly from Egerton's
anathematising descriptions, while Pem. gazed, with unremitting
assiduity and still surprised, at her.

"Well, here we are, and I expect I am ready for my tea. You were
so late, I'm regularly cold waiting for you," and he blew his nose
audibly--a perpetual cold in the head characterised this specimen of
young Carrington.

The door was opened by a melancholy-looking woman, who made no offer to
assist the cabman in removing the trunks, &c., from the vehicle.

"There--I told you," said Pem., in triumph, as Jehu demanded four and
sixpence, and sixpence for the luggage; but Miss Vernon hastily paid
him, and entered the house, anxious to see the kind, gentle old lady
who wanted a daughter's companionship.

"Come in, do, and shut that door," cried a hard, shrill voice from some
inner sanctum. "The wind is going right through my head."

"This way, mem," said the melancholy female, and Kate entered a small
and very hot front parlor. A tall, large, slightly-bent old woman, with
a face as hard as her voice, was standing, her hands crossed behind
her back, on the hearth-rug. The broad expanse of her countenance was
spanned by a pair of capacious spectacles, depressed towards the left
eye, as if to give her spying propensities all the advantages of double
and single vision.

"Miss Vernon. How do you do? how late you be," said she, giving Kate a
cold, stiff hand, guiltless of closing on the fair soft fingers which
took it.

"Yes; the train was very often delayed," replied Kate, letting go,
with a sensation of repugnance, the unrelaxed collection of bone and
sinews proffered to her, and gazing with surprise at the huge cap,
which looked large enough for the mother of Anak's sons, though not at
all disproportioned to the head it covered; the old lady was richly
and substantially dressed, and had the unmistakeable air of well-lined
pockets.

"Go, Pembridge, and look for your mama; you must be nigh starved, and
Miss Vernon too, I dare say; get the keys, will you, we are all ready
for tea. Will you come near the fire?"

With these mingled directions and remarks, Mrs. Jorrocks, sen.,
subsided into an arm chair of considerable dimensions, and stared at
Kate, who puzzled and confused by so terrible an awaking from her
dream of an interesting old lady, sat for a few minutes in unbroken
silence.

"How did you leave Mrs. Tom," was at length asked by Miss Vernon's new
acquaintance.

"Quite well. I saw her the day before yesterday; she desired many kind
messages to you."

"They have been very gay up in London; time she settled at home."

"Mrs. Jorrocks seems anxious to do so," replied Kate.

"So she tells you; she be sharp enough; you were coming to me. Had you
a quiet journey?"

"Very, thank you. I met a most polite old gentleman--a neighbour of
yours, at least, he knew your grandson."

"Who can that be? what was he like?"

Kate described him.

"That will be Mr. Davis. I wonder what took him to London? we--"

She was interrupted by the entrance of her daughter.

Mrs. Wilson was a much more prepossessing person; she was rather an
exaggerated edition of Mrs. Storey--fatter, louder, more gossipping,
and less kind-hearted. She was older too; but still, rather pretty and
very well dressed. She welcomed Kate cordially enough, and proposed
shewing her her room before tea. It was a tiny chamber, but all her
own, and Kate was glad of its solitude for a few moments before joining
the party below.

When she descended to the dining-room, she found an addition to the
circle in the person of the eldest son--a lad about a year older than
Pem., thin and fair; his countenance shewed a much higher degree of
intelligence than his brother's. He was reading when Kate came in, and
looked up to bow, (not to rise) for exactly the space of time necessary
for that operation. Pem. was also reading--a newspaper was his
study--he seemed to get on with difficulty, constantly snuffling, and
elevating his eye-brows, as if vainly attempting to open his small eyes
wider than nature intended.

"Now then, Miss Vernon, I am sure you are ready for tea," said Mrs.
Wilson. "I ordered you a couple of eggs; you will want something more
substantial than a bit of toast after your journey."

Kate silently agreed, longing for a glass of wine after her fatigue
of body and mind. However, she took a cup of tea very readily, albeit
washy enough.

"Who do you think Miss Vernon travelled down with?"

"Why how should I know, mother?"

"Mr. Davis!"

"Nev-er! I did not know he was up in town."

"It's very strange," said Mrs. Jorrocks with a significant nod of
the head, "That patent he have paid so much money on, is not going
straight I dare say."

"Mr. Davis, if he is the gentleman, did not get in till we reached
Wolverton," said Kate.

"Wolverton," repeated Mrs. Wilson, "Whatever was he doing at
Wolverton?" Mrs. Jorrocks incapable of solving this problem shook her
head with awful significance, as she munched her buttered toast. The
young gentlemen read sociably all through the meal. "Here James," said
Mrs. Wilson to her eldest son, "Put this sugar basin away do, I am so
hot and tired pouring out tea; I dare say" (pronounced "dessay,") "Miss
Vernon will make tea for us now."

The evening appeared very interminable to Kate; the boys were set to
their lessons immediately after tea, with an injunction from their
mother not to leave any for the morning, it made them so late at their
"breakfastses," and then mother and daughter in a species of duet
expatiated on the wonderful talents and acquirements of the eldest
son, until having exhausted their subject they commenced a severe cross
examination of herself, when a loud ring disturbed the enquiry, and
Mrs. Wilson started from her seat exclaiming "Law! how Wilson do ring."
Mr. Wilson was a short, thick man of even a more dingy, leaden-yellow
hue than his son; small piggish eyes, thick hearth-brush looking hair,
and a voice of unredeemed harshness, such as one might expect from a
slave driver, were his most striking characteristics. He was however
civil enough, made due enquiries after his brother-in-law, asked if
town was full, and the opera well attended, (oblivious in his anxiety
to put these fashionable queries, that it was September), and finally
betook himself to devour some chops, the bones of which he polished
with surprising dexterity, first however sending the boys to bed with
a sudden imperious sternness that absolutely startled Kate; she soon
pleaded fatigue and bid them good night. "We have prayers at half-past
eight, Miss Vernon," said Mrs. Wilson.

"Indeed, well I shall be ready."

The dreariness of those hours when Kate had extinguished her candle,
and in the darkness of night gave herself up to grief, we will not
attempt to describe--the exaggeration of distance between her and
all she had ever known--the agonised longing for some escape,--the
sense of utter estrangement from every familiar style of thought and
feeling--the inexpressible loathing of all around her; are not these
things written in the chronicles of many a memory? "Oh for a sound
of nurse's voice! she is so true, so loving, and Georgy, why are you
so far away. Will Mr. Winter never, never return! Is my life to pass
away thus with these terrible people. Oh grandpapa! I am so alone."
And ever with the thought of him Egerton's image rose before her; she
was too miserable to curb her thoughts as she was wont, and from the
silent depths of her heart, her spirit called to him agonisingly; with
unutterable longing, thirsting for a sound of his voice, as though it
were a spell to conjure away the gloom and the difficulties round her,
striving, panting in a death struggle fer happiness. Who dare limit the
power lent to the divine essence by the force of a mighty wish, when we
feel the intense longings of the imprisoned spirit darting in electric
streams towards the object so ardently desired. There are momentary
glimpses granted to the imagination, when purified by the agony of
suffering, of grandeur, power and liberty, so far beyond our mortal
state, that the first return to a commoner and calmer frame of mind, is
usually indicated by a shudder or a smile at our own "strange fancies."

Yet what may not the spirit anticipate in its future? and what power
may not be momentarily lent it? even here a foretaste of that future.
The very depth of her emotion soothed Kate; she felt a gradual calm
stealing over her--was it that her wild yearning had accomplished its
end?

About the same time, it might be the same night, far away, a deep blue,
star-lit eastern sky was shining in still beauty over the cantonments
of an English regiment, and Colonel Egerton was sleeping the restless
disturbed sleep of a low fever. He wakes suddenly--fully roused--with
a sense that he was wanted--that he was called. Yet he had not dreamt,
at least, distinctly; nor was it till after some moments' thought, he
connected that sudden impression with Miss Vernon--for Egerton was too
full of rational energy to have his mind perpetually filled with one
image. He had loved Kate, and still, at times, thought of her with
deep tenderness; but a life of activity pleased and occupied him.
Parting with her had swept away the light-hearted, buoyant gaiety of
his early days; but left enough of cheerfulness to make life still very
enjoyable. Time, absence, silence, above all, Burton's report, not long
received, were gradually doing their work--ere long, his heart would
have been free to cherish another, well and truly; yet never, oh,
never, with the same exquisitely tender, pure unselfish love which she
had breathed over the chaotic surface of his life; he still might taste
the sweetness of the grape; but the unspeakable loveliness of its first
fresh bloom was breathed upon--and vanished.

Colonel Egerton was worse the next morning; the regimental surgeon
shook his head, and, at length, obtained a hearing, when, for the
fourth time, he suggested native air.

       *       *       *       *       *

Life at Carrington, with its innumerable small trials, is too
monotonous to be carefully recorded.

Kate had much to suffer; yet it was not all suffering. She soon
perceived the various _rôles_ enacted by the family. Mr. Wilson was a
thorough domestic tyrant, intense selfishness pervaded the whole party,
except, perhaps, Mrs. Wilson. The eldest son was a pedant, a dry, cold
calculating machine, who seemed chiefly to value his own unblemished
character, because it gave him a right to be implacable to the failings
of others. It is strange to write thus of the character of a boy not
seventeen; but none could connect him with the faintest outline of that
lovely, erring thing called "youth."

He was, however, an unceasing source of pride to his family; and even
Pem., if he had an idea beyond his dinner, looked upon his brother as
something quite extraordinary.

The day began with a severe trial, at least to Kate, in the shape of
morning prayers. She shrank from Mr. Wilson's harsh tones, doling forth
the gracious words of the gospel; and her rebellious thoughts refused
to follow the long discursive address they all knelt down to hear read
aloud, in accents of self-satisfied conscientiousness. Mr. Wilson
dwelt, with unction, on the petition for the health and safety of his
sovereign lady the Queen, and at the proper place even mentioned the
servants, who, with demure and downcast looks occupied three chairs at
the furthest possible distance permissible by the limits of the room.
Then followed breakfast, at which he generally took the worth of his
prayers out of them, in short, savage fault finding.

The morning meal over, Mrs. Jorrocks took her knitting, and Kate's duty
was to read aloud, to her, till dinner time--one o'clock. But the books
in which Mrs. Jorrock's soul delighted, were, unfortunately, of a class
by no means suited to Miss Vernon. They were chiefly remarkable for the
distinguished rank and general hard-heartedness of their characters,
excepting only the heroine and her lover, whose sufferings, mental and
physical, were rather supernatural; and usually drew tears from Kate's
listener, who would have turned unmoved from the most affecting case
of real distress; to be sure the novel only asked her tears, reality
might have had some pretensions to touch her pocket.

Kate, however, read on perseveringly, she had made some attempts to
recommend the style of book more suited to her own taste, and the
age of her new protectress; but they were not well received, and she
was compelled to return to the "dungeon and subterranean passage,"
revengeful, mysterious-stranger class of literature; still this was
nothing to the task of reading aloud the newspapers. The police reports
formed Mrs. Jorrocks' chief delight, and she expected Kate to read
aloud, unhesitatingly the awful and revolting disclosures which the
liberty of the press demands should disgrace its columns. This duty
Kate gently and firmly refused, and she received unexpected support
from Mrs. Wilson, who offered to read them herself. Nothing surprised
Miss Vernon more than the untiring assiduity with which Mrs. Jorrocks
devoted herself to the elucidation of her neighbours' affairs; none
were too humble, none too exalted for her universal curiosity. The
house-maid's lover, and the mayor's wife, the charwoman, and the
duchess--she had scandalous stories of them all! Kate sometimes
wondered if she thought well of her own children; she was never
actively cross, nor could you ever discern that she was pleased,
save on those rare occasions when a couple of aggravated failures
amongst her acquaintances--a murder, a suicide, and the elopement
of somebody's husband or wife, by their united excitement enabled
her to pass a cheerful and satisfactory morning. Kate was almost
surprised to perceive she was actually gaining favour in the eyes of
this uncongenial old woman. She did not know the effect which her own
grace and refinement produced upon the stiff, rugged, clayey nature
she was thus brought in contact with. Each member of the family felt
instinctively her superiority to themselves, while her unassuming
gentleness prevented any of that soreness of feeling with which
superiority is usually acknowledged; and although at first Kate was
often disagreeably surprised to find that her presence was unnoticed
when visitors came in, and no conversation was addressed to her who had
been ever accustomed to find herself an object in society; yet all this
wore off soon, and both Mrs. Jorrocks and her daughter learned to be
proud of their elegant-looking inmate.

The greatest relief Miss Vernon experienced during this _triste sejour_
was from the kind attentions of Mr. Davis's family, who were their near
neighbours, and presented Kate with what she considered a beau ideal of
an English merchant's family--hospitable, intellectual, well educated;
respecting their own middle-class position, without a trace of that
envious malignity towards rank which so often distinguishes _les
nouveaux riches_. They might, perhaps, lack that extreme outward grace
of manner and bearing, which nothing but an infancy and childhood
passed among the refining influences of aristocratic accessories can
bestow; but in every essential point they were ladies and gentlemen. A
few hours passed with them was an inexpressible refreshment to Kate's
spirit, and warmly was she received: they delighted in her music, and
she willingly sang, even her most sacred songs, for them. Another--the
only other comfort in Kate's life, was that Mrs. Jorrocks always
retired early, and then she used to lock her door, and, if she felt her
heart strong enough, indulge herself in a long study of the sketches
Egerton had given her of Dungar and of the Priory.

Meantime Lady Desmond's letters were pretty constant, she repeatedly
pressed Kate to return, sometimes with an earnestness that bespoke
truth--sometimes with a certain coldness; but Miss Vernon's invariable
reply was--that she would not join her, at all events, until after
Christmas.

Nurse's letters always filled Kate's heart with a curious mixture
of pleasure and pain--she forced herself to write to that faithful
friend, with unreal cheerfulness; and nurse, who was totally ignorant
of Carrington, and its inhabitants, was happy in believing "Miss Kate
was stoppin' in some grand place, away from thim shop-keeping Storeys."
She had persisted in her intention of leaving Lady Desmond; and the
following is the account she gave of herself, in a letter received by
Kate, about a fortnight after she had reached Carrington:--

 "You'll be surprised to see where I write from, but afther mee goin'
 hot foot to Killeesh, there was'nt the sign of wan belongin' to me in
 the place, an' nothing but the hoigth of misery and starvation. The
 Priest's housekeeper, a dacent woman, took me in the chapel-house; an'
 the next day, I walked the whole eight miles over to Dungar. Oh, Miss
 Kate, agra! It was the sore sight to me! Like the corpse of wan ye
 loved, it was--there was the dear ould place, and the house that was
 iver open, an' the wood, an' the stones, an' the say--but the life an'
 the heart was gone out of it, an' glory be to God! the divils that
 tuck it never had luck nor grace, but has been tearin' each other, at
 law, iver since; an yez might have lived in pace for all they got out
 of it. I said mee prayers on the hall door steps, where the masther
 (the heaven's be his bed!) used to stan' an' hear all the poor people
 had to say. I thought the life would lave me when I rus meesilf to
 go back--I had no strength; but be the hoight of luck, who come upon
 a low back car, but ould Paddy Byrne--'twas he was glad to see me,
 an' quite moidhered to find me there without yerself--so he give me a
 cast to Killeesh; but I was so sick of the sorra, I could do nothin'
 for--that I come away afther mee sisther's daughther here--they'e
 doing very well, an' have a nice little shop, with soap an' candles;
 an' tay an' kid gloves; an' all to that in it. An' I'm tired of bein'
 idle, so take in a thrifle iv work, an' clear-starchin'--I get plinty
 from the officers' ladies, an' it amuses me till ye send for me, ah!
 whin 'ill that be, avourneen?

 Mee lady and me parted great frinds, an' she put five goulden guineas
 in mee hand, an' tauld me to come back whin iver I like, so I've not
 touched yer money agra! but I must stop, for I'm tired intirely with
 the writin'."

This long letter was written from Fermoy, and passionately did Kate
weep over the picture it drew of her deserted home.

       *       *       *       *       *

Time rolled on rapidly, for little occurred to mark it, and Kate had
almost ceased to battle with the dull despondency that was creeping
over her. The perpetual reading aloud of insipid romances, which
alone found favour in the eyes of Mrs. Jorrocks; the efforts to keep
awake in the close atmosphere of the stifling parlour, the occasional
outburst of tyrannic rage from Mr. Wilson, savage as they were in
all the rude reality of a rugged nature, excited into forgetfulness
of its efforts to be "genteel;" and, which though never addressed
to Kate, seemed to insult her by their unrestrained violence; these
various petty annoyances, daily, hourly, repeated, made up a terrible
sum--occasionally the wild wish to escape to nurse, even if it were to
join her in plain work, and clear-starching--would swell her heart to
bursting, and then would come the reaction! Where in truth could she
go? Her cousin's alternations of coldness and affection, she could not
brave--no; it was due to herself to keep aloof, until some more cordial
acknowledgment of her error and injustice was made by Lady Desmond.

Mrs. Storey wrote seldom, and did not make any renewal of her
invitation--of other friends or relatives, she had none, at least, in
the true meaning of these words. So the passionate yearning with which
her thoughts ever sprang to seek the means of escape, after treading
the same circle over and over, returned like a bird, weary of beating
the wires of its cage, to their last hope--a letter from Winter, on his
return.

But it is weary work to dwell upon the sameness of such suffering; none
can fully appreciate it, save those enlightened by experience--though
many might have found companionship to Mrs. Jorrocks a severer
probation. The world must become older, and purer, and more
christianised, before the exercise of power can be resisted, or the
charm of torturing those who are weak, foregone.

Sunday was a day of great eating at Carleton-terrace--in short, Mrs.
Wilson, on that day, indulged the household in a dinner, the usual
week-day meals not deserving the name. On these occasions Master Pem.
eat till he could eat no more, and paused in silent regret, that
nature had provided such insufficient stowage. The scholar, James, was
less eager, but more select, and ever sent up his plate, accompanied
with some especial direction, as to the particular dainties he desired.
Mr. Wilson's efforts did not fall far short of those of his offspring;
and if vexed by any errors in elegance, on the part of his wife,
regaled the party over a bottle of port, with some choice anecdotes of
various celebrities, fashionable and political, which smacked strongly
of the commercial-room--frequent repetition might have robbed them of
their first freshness, but his family were well trained, and always
laughed at the right place.

Sunday morning, at church, was perhaps the proudest moment of Mr.
Wilson's life, when he stood erect and spruce in his pew; and,
condescendingly, classed himself in audible tones with the other
"miserable sinners" of the congregation. No part of the service did
he neglect--he even joined in the singing, with a voice so utterly
discordant, that Kate absolutely started, and turned to look from
whence the horrid sounds proceeded, the first time she heard them.
Church was the grand theatre of display to Mesdames Jorrocks and Wilson
and the great proportion of their acquaintances; and a lively topic of
conversation on their return home.

"Did you see what a velvet mantle Mrs. B----, have on? asks the mother."

"Yes; it cost ten guineas, if it cost a penny," returns the daughter.

"And her husband be deep in the "great Midland;" maybe, next year
she'll have to wear Linsey-woolsey."

"You never see such lace as Miss F. had, trimming her bonnet--that
depth," cried Mrs. Wilson, with eager rapidity, and holding out a
finger, &c.

Then came a few words on the sermon, which was quickly despatched;
and thus was the interval between church and dinner whiled away;
and though it may place Miss Vernon very far back on the list of any
sanctified reader, it must be confessed she never looked forward with
much pleasure to the day of rest. Mr. Wilson's anecdotical powers were
rather too much to endure for an entire sabbath day.

The third month of Kate's purgatorial sojourn, was opening gloomily
enough, when one Sunday morning, as they were assembled at breakfast,
in more than usually gorgeous array--as a popular preacher was expected
to draw "a full house--" a loud ring announced the post.

"I'll engage it's for Miss Vernon," said Mrs. Jorrocks, "I never see
such a many letters as you do get."

But Kate did not heed her, her eyes were fastened on the letter handed
across the table by Master Pem. who detained it to read the direction,
observing--"It's a gentleman's hand," and eliciting a stern--"Hold
your tongue, sir," from his father. A mist swam before Kate's eyes,
and a spasm of hope and fear shook her heart as she recognised
Langley's hand, "it must be a letter from Mr. Winter," she murmured,
"will you allow me?" and with trembling fingers broke the seal--but no,
it was from Langley himself. Oh, Heavens! had any thing happened.

                         "MY DEAR MISS VERNON,

 "I lose no time in informing you that I had a letter this morning from
 Winter, dated the 20th, nearly three weeks ago; he writes in good
 health and spirits, and talks of returning immediately; he is anxious
 to know where you are; uncertainty on this point, from some passage in
 your last letter, having kept him silent. I should not be surprised at
 his arrival any day.

 "Hoping this letter may find you well, and in haste to catch the post.

                                                    "Your's faithfully,

                                                      "WILLM. LANGLEY."

The first movement of her mind was disappointment, that Winter had not
written to herself.

"I thought I told him to direct as usual, to Mr. Langley; there must
have been some mistake; I forget what I wrote, but he may be back very
soon, perhaps next week--and then--"

What a bright indistinct feeling of hope and freedom expanded her
heart--yet she felt strangely nervous and trembling, as if the shadow
of some coming crisis had fallen upon her, and she hastily swallowed a
glass of cold water to refresh her parched mouth, before performing the
inevitable journey to church.

Mr. Wilson's pew was irreproachable in point of size and position, it
was not however faultless, for a large pillar, supporting the gallery,
reduced one corner to an invisible nook, where the most splendid
bonnet, and richest brocade might be for ever hidden from the eyes of
an admiring congregation. Here Kate had established her position,
and was permitted to retain it unmolested, and in most profound and
grateful thanksgiving she knelt that morning.

The church was crowded to excess--strangers stood in the aisle--under
the pulpit--in the door-ways--pew-openers waxed curt and imperious
in the exercise of unusual powers. Several well-dressed individuals
had been accommodated with seats in Mr. Wilson's pew, when Kate's eye
was involuntarily attracted by the distinguished air of a gentleman,
who had been shown into a seat, two or three rows in front of her,
during the second lesson; his back was towards her, of course, and she
felt vexed with herself for the pertinacity with which her eyes and
thoughts returned to him; his tall figure seemed familiar to her, as
she contrasted its easy grace with the forms around; so did the wavy
dark brown hair, the proud turn of the head, and as she gazed, her
heart throbbed, and the colour mounted to her cheeks. Surely it was a
waking dream, yet she could not be mistaken. No! it must be him--that
bow, as he returned a book, she had dropped, to the lady next him, none
but Egerton could have made it. Oh, that he would turn his face; but he
still stood or sat in the same position, and Kate, every pulse beating,
now pale, now flushing, striving vainly to think of the service--her
thoughts, now darting away into the past, now crying from the depths of
her soul to God for strength for the future, tried to still the wild
glowing anticipations which swept in sudden rapture over her spirit, as
the aurora borealis streams across the northern gloom. It was too bold,
too far-fetched a thought that he still remembered her, why should she
expect it.

At last, Doctor M---- mounted the pulpit, the hymn was finished, and
with a rustle of expectation the audience settled themselves in their
seats then--then the individual who engrossed Kate's every thought,
turned to face the preacher, and leaning his arm on the back of the
pew, revealed his well-known profile, and ended her uncertainty.

Doctor M---- preached well, and Egerton listened attentively, but the
sound of his voice scarce reached Kate's ears. In her quiet nook,
she gazed uninterruptedly on the face so often seen in her sleeping
and waking visions, at last, after so much of trial and suffering,
restored to her--the vague unacknowledged hope that had woven one
golden thread through her dreams of the future, where they, in sober
earnest, about to be accomplished? How she longed to hear his voice,
as if at its first sound the past would return to her, as it was
when they had parted. It was strange how he had twined himself round
her heart--he from whom she had parted without much of pain; but now
indissolubly linked with all that was brightest and best in her life,
all that she had loved and lost. Sorrow had revealed his heart to
hers, and the light of memory had shown her the true meaning of those
silent indications of bitter regret with which he had left her. And
now he looked older, darker, graver--calm thought had deepened the
expression of his eyes, and imparted a certain dignity to his brow,
and Kate felt he was no longer the gay, careless soldier she had
dared to lecture. There was a repose that bespoke strength even in
his attitude, and she longed to meet his eye, yet shrank from it with
fevered anticipation. Still he listened with grave, quiet, attention
to the eloquent reasoning of the preacher--and Kate grew restless,
and fearful that he would not see her; she calculated the chances of
their meeting, when the congregation was dispersing, and thought it
could not possibly fail to occur; but the very doubt filled her with
terror; if they did not meet now, months, years might pass over before
their dissimilar roads in life would again cross! and even if he should
remember, or enquire for her, who was there who could give him a clue
to her whereabouts; but the congregation was bending to receive the
benediction, and the decisive moment arrived. Colonel Egerton, with a
bow of acknowledgment to the owner of the seat, in which he had been
placed, rose, and gazing abstractedly over the crowd, above which his
tall figure rose proudly--moved down the aisle; the pressure compelled
him to stop a moment by the door of Mr. Wilson's pew, but the large
pillar interposed itself between Kate and the recognising glance,
for which she so yearned. Mrs. Jorrocks never was so slow in her
movements--she never leant so heavily before on Kate's slight arm, all
quivering with the wild beating of her heart; still they were but a few
steps behind him--if he would only turn his head! but no; he dreamt not
of the imprisoned spirit, so passionately yearning to catch one glance
from eyes, through which he gazed so listlessly! They were in the
door-way, and freed from the crowd, Colonel Egerton paused a moment,
as if to decide on his movements--put on his hat, and turning to the
right, walked away with a quick, firm, soldierly step--away--out of
sight--gone!

There was talk of Doctor M----'s wonderful sermon, as they wended
their way home--of how he had finally and utterly annihilated
the Pope; but Kate heard no sound, save a sad echo in her heart
repeating--"gone--gone."

Vain would it be to describe the anguish with which she threw herself
on her bed, when free and alone, and gave herself up to an agony of
hysteric sobs. Was it a dark fate hanging over her, ever to catch
glimpses of happiness, and there to lose them? Why need she hope or
struggle any more--all she longed for, was darkness and silence--never,
never again might she be as she was; when such a trifle had debarred
her from so bright a meeting, dare she hope the insuperable barrier of
distance would ever be removed? She could not rouse herself from this
paroxysm--the buoyancy of her spirit seemed, at last, worn out; and
head and heart alike aching, she lay in the stillness of exhaustion,
across her bed, when the servant came to summon her to dinner.

"I think Mrs. Tom have sent me a bad bargain after all," was Mrs.
Jorrocks's observation, on receiving an account of Miss Vernon's
indisposition. "I see I'll have to pay my forty pounds a year for the
nursetending of her--she looked like a ghost this week, and didn't mind
a word she was reading of--but it's always the way--new brooms."

"Well I'm sure, mother, it's only the heat at church--she will be
better to-morrow."

"She need'nt go to church, if she don't like to."

Kate only asked for quiet, and her own room, unmolested, for a few
days--this was permitted her; and there she lay, through the long,
weary, dark hours, brooding over the past, sometimes struggling with
nature's repugnance to depression; but for awhile careless and
indifferent to all without; then she strove to rally her scattered
forces, to remember that Winter was soon to return.

"And until that hope too is gone, I will not despair--God is so good,
and wise--He sees I have had so much sorrow--He will send me joy,
sooner or later--yes; I will hope still."



CHAPTER IX.

THE LAST.


The Saturday after the event last recorded, Kate was bending sadly
enough over her daily task, reading the _Court Circular_ to Mrs.
Jorrocks--her thoughts wandering to some letters from Lady Desmond, and
from nurse, which she had not had the heart to answer.

"The Countess of P----, is entertaining a large party at P----
Castle--the Prince di ----, and Count Alphonso di ----, are among the
distinguished visitors.

"The Earl of Effingham left Cowes, on Tuesday last, in his yacht,
the 'Meteor,' for St. Petersburgh, where we understand it is his
lordship's intention to winter."

"He be a shocking man," observed Mrs. Jorrocks, _en parenthése_, "such
stories as Mr. Wilson have heard of him up in London. Go on please--I
think you be half asleep this morning."

But Kate was now wide awake--so he was gone at last--Lady Desmond must
hear it--all would be clear to her--she could no longer doubt! Miss
Vernon took fresh courage, and began again:--

"A matrimonial alliance between the Marquis of ----, and the beautiful
----."

A loud ring.

"Whoever can ring so loud!--they'll bring down the bell! one would
think they wished to--stay till I ask Eliza," exclaimed Mrs. Jorrocks.

In another moment, Eliza put in her head--

"Please, Miss Vernon, you're wanted."

Kate rose, and left the room, carelessly, thinking Mrs. Wilson
required her presence; but the instant she passed the door, her
eyes fell upon a stout, dumpy figure, which, hat in hand, stood on
the door-mat--an unmistakeable figure, for a sight of which she had
so pined. What she said, or did, she could not tell; some vague
remembrance of throwing her arms round his neck, and sobbing there--she
did preserve; but Winter has often said--that the way in which she
clung to him, as if she could never grasp so blessed a reality close
enough--her eager caresses--her broken exclamations of joy, affected
him deeply, and revealed her past sufferings, more eloquently, than the
most elaborate description.

"Well; but, _figlia mia_" said Winter, as she grew a little calmer,
and they sat together in the fireless dining-room; "you look pale and
thin," and he held her from him, and gazed at her till the moisture
stood in his keen, black eyes. "My dear child, I am much to blame--I
have neglected you; but I will atone for it--your last letter misled
me completely; yet I ought to have returned home before."

"Oh! no, no! you are always good. Thank God--thank God, you are come at
last."

"Yes! We arrived on Wednesday, and the next day I called on Langley;
he gave me a sketch of your proceedings that thoroughly perplexed
me. I had matters to arrange on Friday morning which could not be
postponed, but my wife gave me no peace till I started by the mail
train at nine o'clock last evening--so here I am!" Kate listened in
rapt attention--was she really sitting once more beside the kind good
artist? "My child, I fear you have suffered much, but we will try to
cheer you up; if you prefer doing the thing independently, Mrs. Winter
has grown a great lady, and requires a companion quite as much as Mrs.
Rollocks, or Jollocks, or whatever her name is--and her husband too,"
continued Winter, more thickly than ever. "In a few weeks I shall have
my house in A---- back on my hands--what say you, Kate, to making the
old couple happy till you go to a home of your own? We may not be gay;
but--"

"Oh! hush, hush! You do not know how overpoweringly delightful such a
vision seems to me."

"Vision!--_Corpo di Bacco_, it shall be reality; and Mrs. O'Toole! my
adopted daughter must have her own maid--_che gloria_--I have been
expecting to see her broad, honest face every minute. My Kate--it must
have gone hard with you to part with her."

But Kate could not speak--she could only clasp Winter's hand in both
of hers, and murmur a broken thanksgiving, her eyes rivetted on her
companion in speechless gratitude.

"But this is all waste of time," resumed Winter, "and you will
have enough to do to be ready to return with me by the two o'clock
train--Mrs. Winter expects us to tea this evening."

"This evening!--Oh! I can be ready in a moment," cried Kate
rapturously. "But,"--her countenance fell--"I must not, I fear--I could
not be rude to these people; they have been civil to me in their way."

"_Poter del mondo! cospetta!_" cried Winter thickly and stoutly; "I
will lose sight of you no more, and I have no time to stay in this
confounded cotton-spinning metropolis. Let me see these dragons of
yours. I am he that will bell the cat."

So they went into the front parlour, Kate still clinging to his arm.

"My friend, Mr. Winter, Mrs. Jorrocks," said Kate.

"Please to sit down, sir," returned that lady.

"I am come to take Miss Vernon away with me," began Winter, in abrupt
and decided tones.

"Oh! you be----But I think it is rather sudden. What am I to do--and
where will you be if I say no?"

"My dear madam, I shall still be in Carrington. It is quite natural you
should not like to part with Miss Vernon; in short, she expressed to me
her reluctance to leave you, abruptly, and all that sort of thing; but
I want her, and my wife wants her, and I am sure you will not stand in
her way."

Here Mrs. Wilson entered in a new cap, and Winter was duly presented.

"This gentleman is for taking Miss Vernon away to-day. I declare he has
quite took away my breath," said Mrs. Jorrocks.

"_Never_," returned her daughter. "Well, if that isn't the strangest
thing."

"Oh! as Miss Vernon is in such a hurry I'll not stop her, only since
she has broken her engagement she must take the consequences."

"That is not of the least importance," said Mr. Winter.

"It would distress me to seem rude where I have received courtesy,"
said Kate; "but surely you must sympathise in my anxiety to be once
more domesticated with such kind and valued friends. Mr. Winter must
return to town; I should much like to accompany him."

And thereupon Mesdames Jorrocks and Wilson burst forth into a
vociferous and vituperative duet--

"There was gratitude for you! She had been treated more like a daughter
than a dependent; and what was she but a companion after all. There
was no end to the favours she had received, but it was the way with
the Irish always. It would be a lesson to them how to treat the next
companion they got! And now, when this gentleman, whom they had never
heard of before, appears, as if from the clouds, Miss Vernon is ready
to walk off with him. It was very odd his wife (if he _had_ a wife)
could not wait a day or two--people who had to earn their bread should
be very careful--and what would Mr. Wilson say," &c., &c.

"Kate, my dear," said Winter, coolly, "go and put up your things--I see
this is no place for you--I will wait here."

She left the room, much annoyed to be obliged to part with Mrs.
Jorrocks on such terms, yet to stay behind Winter was an impossibility;
so, resolutely determining, she hastily packed up her worldly effects,
remembering, thankfully, the different mood in which she had last
stowed them away.

Winter meantime exerted himself to converse with the amiable mother and
daughter, and not without effect. He talked in his most eccentric and
abrupt manner, and finally impressed them with the notion that he was
a whimsical but wealthy millionaire, to whose fancies it was Kate's
interest to accommodate herself. Matters, consequently, wore a less
stormy aspect on Kate's return to the sitting-room; both ladies were
cool, and Winter very lively.

"So you are off, Miss Vernon," said Mrs. Wilson; "I did not think we
should part so sudden."

"I offer Miss Vernon the alternative to return with me, and be my
daughter and heiress, or to remain here and be neither," broke in
Winter conclusively.

"Well, I suppose you had better go--you acknowledge I owe you nothing,"
put in Mrs. Jorrocks.

"I do indeed! Will you give this note, with my kindest regards, to Mrs.
Davis?" returned Kate.

"And," observed Winter, "permit your servant to call a cab."

A few more awkward moments, and the cab drove up.

"Well, good bye, Mrs. Jorrocks--you forgive my abrupt departure?"

"I suppose I must--good bye;" and again the rigid hand was held out
stiff and cold.

"Good bye, Miss Vernon--I wish you 'appy," said Mrs. Wilson, and she
was free!

It was a gloomy, drizzling November day, yet she thought there was
something cheery in the sensation of safety from wet conveyed by the
substantial look of the carriages drawn up beside the platform, where
Winter's impatience hurried them nearly an hour too soon. He had tried
to persuade Kate to eat something during this interval, and though
excitement left her little appetite, she swallowed a sandwich and a
glass of wine to please him.

At last, the arrival of luggage and passengers became more frequent
and hurried--first and second bells were rung--places taken--doors
banged--a jerk forward--another back--and they were off--not at full
speed at once, but slowly through the tunnel--leaving Kate time to
look at the spot where she felt so desolate, the day she arrived; and,
contrasting her present feelings with that terrible period, she knew,
for the first time, perhaps, how much she had suffered. It was better
for her that the disappointment at Egerton's not recognising her had
come before, not after Winter's return--it was something to keep the
balance of her heart amid so much delight. The recollection of it had
never left her mind for a single instant since the Sunday before, till
Winter's presence had, for a moment, overpowered it with a flood of
light. Already, however, it was beginning to return, yet less gloomily,
less hopelessly, mingling with some more clearly acknowledged sense
of duty to herself--that it was too bold, too unmaidenly to think
so much of one who perhaps thought but little of her! Yes--she was
strong enough to be proud again. Oh! the enjoyment of that journey!
everything looked so pleasant--even the drenched country through
which they flew--and the stiff, old-maidish-looking woman opposite,
who read "vestiges of the Natural History of the Creation" the whole
way--munching biscuits till the carriage was strewn with the vestiges
of modern crumbs; and the two gentlemen, one from Hampshire, and the
other from North of the Tweed, who discussed Free Trade so warmly with
Mr. Winter--and dear Mr. Winter himself, his rosy, round, well-shaven
face, with its twinkling eyes, sparkling over a dark brown Spanish
cloak, of melo-dramatic dimensions, majestically folded round him,
while his head was cosily tied up in a templar cap, with flaps over the
ears! How radiant is each object viewed through the medium of a happy
heart!

Then as evening closed in, and after rushing by many a quiet little
station with its red flag, and signal-man's outstretched arms, how
joyous was Winter's look, as he drew out his watch.

"Half-past four! we shall be at Euston Square not long after eight."

A few minutes pause at Wolverton, while the porters trampling heavily
overhead put in the lighted lamps--and jerk, clash--they were off
again. The Hampshire gentleman drew up a window that had been slightly
open, and renewed his argument.

"And though the legislature leaves the farmer no protection, the
legislators will not lower their rents a fraction. Why, down in my
county, Lord Egerton, of Allerton, took off two and a half per cent
last year; and to read the address, and hear the speeches he made about
it, you would think he had made each tenant a present of his holding.
Thanking Heaven for putting so christian an act into his heart, &c.,
&c.; and now they say he will never recover; and his brother will be
putting the screw on again, I suppose."

"Is Lord Egerton ill then?" asked Winter, with some interest.

"He had a paralytic seizure about four or five months ago, and has been
in a very bad state ever since; his brother, Colonel Egerton, was sent
for to India; he was down at Allerton a short time since, not very well
himself, I believe."

Kate's soul was in her ears during this communication; and while she
chided herself for thinking of him, her thoughts dwelt on Egerton,
till, at last, wearied by the excitement, she had gone through, her
slight, graceful form lent more and more against the side of the
carriage, and she slept. Winter carefully drew her cloak round her, and
fastened it closer to her throat; and, as she opened her eyes, slightly
roused by his movement, she silently thanked God that she was no more
uncared for and alone.

"Tickets if you please," were the next sounds that met her ear--"Great
time! only just eight," from Winter, as she looked up bewildered after
the disturbed sleep in which she had indulged.

"Where are we?"

"Near home," said Winter, while his bead-like eyes twinkled with more
than usual vivacity.

"Sure you have left no indispensable carpet-bag behind? got your
parasol? all right--in with you--14, Orchard Street--drive fast."

And away through dull, dark streets, now whisk round a corner into a
blaze of light and flaring gas jets over butchers' stalls--now winding
through omnibusses--anon dashing past the brilliantly lit up _entré_ to
some concert room--again into darkness undiminished save by the street
lamps and hall lights--then a rumble over the side stones.

"Here we are," from Winter--as the door flew open before their
charioteer could knock.

Mrs. Winter, standing under the lamp, in a cap that looked as if it had
been made at A----, herself neat, as though she never had encountered a
Spanish flea.

"Dearest Kate! I thought you would never come!"

A sobbing, joyous embrace, and she was swept up-stairs, where even the
London lodging looked homelike under Mrs. Winter's benign influence.
Then came the plentiful tea--hot cakes, and broiled ham and eggs, with
mulled port for the lady, and brandy-and-water for the gentleman--and
the delicious confusion of cross questions, and most irrelevant
answers--and the mingling of tears and smiles!

"Now you must go to bed," said Winter; "see, it is long past one--and
that poor child has been in constant agitation all day--she has not a
vestige of color in her cheeks."

"Indeed, my dear, you look ill--yes--you must go to bed," observed his
wife, with her usual kindly precision, which nothing but the actual
excitement of the moment of meeting could break through, and which Kate
recognized joyfully as an old friend.

"The sober certainty of waking bliss," may well be weighed against the
agony of first waking after grief. And Kate lay for some time, the next
morning, comparing this Sunday with the last; then her thoughts flew
to nurse, and she sprang up to communicate to her the joyful news of
her emancipation.

"Ah! I have heart to write now."

Winter and his wife soon asked for a fuller and more connected account
than she had yet given them of her life since they had last met; and
though it cost her many tears, the recital did her good. How clearly
through it all could she trace the guiding of Almighty love, ever
hovering near to interpose its aid when the bowed spirit failed beneath
its burden. No, they were not bitter tears she shed that morning.
And, sometimes, her eyes would sparkle brightly through them, as she
recounted nurse's undeviating self-devotion and unfailing truth. She
thought little of herself during the narration, nor dreamt it was the
quiet, undaunted heroism her words involuntarily displayed--the heroism
of exhaustless love, careless of its own wealth, that drew such quick
sobs from Mrs. Winter, and made her good little husband wink his eyes,
and blow his nose, so furtively, and so often.

Both the artist and his wife perceived there was some mystery attached
to Kate's separation from Lady Desmond, into which they must not pry;
and so, with praiseworthy self-denial, accepted, unquestioned, the
account she chose to give of her wish to be independent, &c., &c., &c.

"I feel I neglected you, my dear Kate," said Winter, as she paused,
wearied by her long recital, "but the perfect content of your last
letter induced me, without any fixed plan, to ramble on and on,
like some butterfly attracted from flower to flower, lost in a rich
profusion of magnificent subjects. Madame bore it all wonderfully;
I owe her much for her patience; and I intended every day, for the
last six weeks, to write and tell you what time we had fixed on for
our return, though I fancied, from what you last said, that you and
Lady Desmond intended to leave England, and ramble God knows where;
therefore, I always thought it better to wait; as you were in good
hands, a few weeks, one way or the other, would make no difference--so
I loitered on, scarcely hoping to find you in England on my return;
at last we found ourselves at Gibralter, so late in the year, and so
tired of knocking about, that we took the Peninsular and Oriental
steamer, and, after a tedious passage, arrived here, as I told you,
last Wednesday. In three weeks, I trust, the house in the Abbey-gardens
will be free, and then, with God's blessing, we will keep Christmas
thankfully in the old place--would you like this?"

"If you had read my most inmost wish for the coming season, which I so
dreaded, it would be to spend it where I was so happy, and grandpapa so
respected."

"But, my dear," said Mrs. Winter to her husband, "don't you think
Kate ought to have advice? She changes color so, and her pulse is very
irregular."

"My kind friend, no," said Kate, leaning her head on Mrs. Winter's
shoulder, "_you_ have brought me all I want--the sense of home. I will
rest during the three weeks we are to be here--rest profoundly--and, at
the end of that time, you shall have, please God, a rosy, cheerful--"
she paused, and added, enquiringly, "daughter."

Winter took her hand, and pressed it gravely and affectionately, as if
accepting her; his wife kissed her cheek, and there was a silence of
deep feeling.

"Now I must write."

"Who to?" asked Winter.

"Georgy and nurse."

"Very well; tell the latter (may she not, Sue?) that the moment we are
settled at A----, We will summon her to wait on our daughter."

"Yes--I shall be proud to have her about you, she is excellent,"
returned his wife.

And Kate wrote. Oh, how vain all language to depict the gratitude
with which she wrote; yet she would fain have despatched an order
for nurse's immediate return to her; but she was pleased, right well
pleased, to have so near a prospect of re-union before her.

And peacefully did the days glide over, and pleasant too, though London
wore its November gloom--without might be fog and damp, cold winds and
muddy streets--within were bright fires and calm, full hearts. Kate,
in spite of herself, felt, at times, restless to know more of Egerton,
though she could not bring herself to speak of him; but then she had
so much to hear from Winter; so many exquisite sketches to examine;
so much to discuss, relative to a picture he intended exhibiting next
Spring; new books, reviews, and music, amongst which to revel, so that
her mind was well filled.

Langley and Mrs. Storey soon made their way to see her; the latter
was, undoubtedly, of great use to Mrs. Winter, and an unimpeachable
authority on all matters connected with shopping; they made endless
excursions together, while Kate remained quietly at home, for a slight
pain in the chest made Winter a little uneasy, and repose seemed now to
her the greatest pleasure.

She had enjoyed nearly a week of this welcome rest, when the following
letter from Lady Desmond was put into her hand--

 "Perhaps the only intelligence which could have gladdened my heart,
 was that conveyed by your letter, dearest Kate. At last, my eyes
 are opened, fully opened, to the culpable folly and injustice of my
 conduct. Now, when it is too late to spare you the suffering I have
 inflicted. If you could see how I loathe myself, you would weep for
 me. God gave me health, and riches, an unspotted name, and a fair
 position; I paid back no tithe of gratitude or duty--and after a life
 of self-indulgence--He gave me the gracious task to guard and cherish
 my benefactor's child--see how I have performed the one incumbent but
 pleasant duty placed so clearly before me--discarded it--rejected it,
 for an unholy phantom. Oh, Kate, Kate! you are so patient, so good, so
 forgiving; and I, as I write each excellence, seem to myself so base,
 and implacable, and imperious, I am not worthy that you should come
 under my roof. But, thank God, your true, kind friends are restored
 to you--I see you are happy, and now I understand but too well why
 you remained so long at Carrington. Good Heavens! to what have I not
 driven you--persuading myself that your own guilty conscience would
 not permit you to accept the invitations I compelled myself to make.
 I do not ask you to forgive me--I know you do; but, oh, write to
 me--reconcile me to myself--I cannot rest. I wear myself out among
 these wretched people whom I half envy for their absorption in mere
 physical suffering, and still I do not sleep. I want to see you, to
 hear your voice. Oh, I am wretched.

 "Write to me again--say you are happy--it is all that can console me.

                                            "Yours, as in our old days,

                                                          "G. DESMOND."

Kate did not lose an hour in replying to this letter, she wrote with
all the simple wisdom of a true, pure, loving heart. True, deep,
unchanging sympathy, and judicious respect, breathed through every
line, and at the conclusion she declared her readiness to join her
cousin as soon as Christmas, (which she had faithfully promised to
spend with the Winters) was over.

"Or you might visit A----," she continued, "you would, I know, like
my kind friends so much--you would enjoy Mr. Winter's artistic
enthusiasm, and his wife's excellent quaintness. We shall have many
pleasant days together yet, dearest Georgy, and leaving our faulty past
in the hands of a merciful judge--help each other to live a better and
a higher life for future."

Miss Vernon was here interrupted by the servant of the house, who came
to say Mr. Winter was in the drawing-room, with a gentleman, and wanted
her.

"Very well, I will be down in a moment," replied Miss Vernon, "I
suppose it is Mr. Langley," she thought, as she hastily finished her
letter, sealed and directed it, before descending to the drawing-room;
the door was slightly open, and she heard a very clear quiet voice,
which seemed familiar to her, say--

"No, I should not have given it up," she stopped a moment, then,
without giving herself time for further cowardice, entered the room,
and met an earnest, enquiring glance from Egerton's dark brown eyes.
Kate had a good deal of self-command, but it had been much tried of
late; she felt her heart stand still for a second, and then throb
violently; instinctively covering her eyes with one hand, she held out
the other, silently, and it was quickly, warmly, yet gently, clasped in
both of Egerton's.

"I fear we have startled you," said he, calmly, with a certain tone
of deep feeling in his voice, which acted on Kate's nerves like a
restorative.

"Yes," she replied, tremulously; but recovering herself, and
withdrawing her hand--"I had no idea who the gentleman was, they told
me had come in with Mr. Winter--I am very glad to see you." And she sat
down feeling quite incapable of standing any longer. Egerton placed
himself beside her, and Winter stood opposite, in a state of fume,
against the stupidity of lodging-house servants.

"I told the thick-headed girl, as plainly as possible, Colonel Egerton,
on purpose to prepare you. I knew the memories--humph pooh," and
Winter stopped abruptly, for Egerton, whose eyes were fixed on Kate's
face, raised his hand significantly as he observed her changing colour.

And this was their first meeting--not very demonstrative, yet Kate was
satisfied. Winter rattled on, apparently well pleased, but Egerton and
Kate were very silent, the latter particularly so.

"I was hurrying down Pall Mall, in hopes of catching Mrs. Winter before
she started on any shopping expedition, when suddenly, an iron grasp
on my shoulder arrested my progress. I just looked round, previous to
calling the police, and saw Egerton's face considerably browner than
when last I beheld it--he was not very connected at first."

"No," interrupted Egerton, "I was breathless--I had just issued from my
club, when I caught a glimpse of your well-remembered figure--to give
chase was my first impulse--better get into a scrape than miss the man
I had been so long looking for, so here I am; and are you quite well,
Miss Vernon? You look--"

"You must not tell me I am looking ill," said Kate, with something of
her old archness, a soft smile playing round her lips, and dimpling her
cheek, as a sudden gleam of sunshine calls forth a thousand diamond
sparkles from the bosom of a sleeping lake.

"You do not look well," persisted Egerton, too earnest to be
complimentary; and then, strange to say, there was an awkward
pause--their hearts were too full to speak on any common-place topic,
and they dared not touch upon anything deeper.

Winter did good service, however, and at last Kate ventured to ask--

"Have you been long in England, Captain--I mean Colonel Egerton."

He smiled, his own bright smile--lip and eyes in unhesitating harmony.

"Yes--call me Captain Egerton, it reminds me of old times and pleasant
days. I arrived here nearly a month ago--I had been ordered home by
the doctor, at the same time Mary, (my sister, Mrs. Wentworth), wrote
requesting I would return, on account of Egerton's health; besides," he
added, with another smile, "I was home-sick, and restless to learn more
than letters could tell me. I was almost a fortnight at Allerton."

"So we heard on the rail-road," interrupted Winter; "I mean, that you
had been at Allerton. And so your brother is very ill?"

Colonel Egerton shook his head.

"Very painfully affected; and, I fear, will never be much better. They
want me to stay in England; but I can really be of no use to him; and
as soon as I have refreshed myself, I mean to return to India, unless
something very unforeseen occurs."

"Being his next heir," began Winter.

"Is no reason why I should waste my life, waiting to step into
my brother's shoes. As soon as I could get away from Allerton, I
started for A----, hoping to find you and Mrs. Winter there. I knew,"
turning to Kate, and insensibly softening his tones, "that the Priory
existed no more--at least, for me--but I knew Winter would always be
in communication with you. Imagine my dismay, to find a stranger in
possession of the hospitable house where I had been so well cared
for. Do you know I felt confoundedly cut up. I could learn nothing
satisfactory there, so I came on to Carrington, and put up for a night
with the ---- Hussars--old friends of mine. It was curious, Miss
Vernon, how vividly the place reminded me of that ball. I felt a sort
of certainty that you were near, and that I should meet you somehow. By
the way, I went to hear the famous Doctor M---- preach before starting
for town."

"I know," said Kate, quietly--"you sat three rows before me."

Egerton almost started from his seat in profound amazement.

"How! what! do you mean to say you were in the church, and I did not
see you?"

"How extraordinary you did not mention this to me," exclaimed Winter.

"I did not think--that is, I intended--and was always interrupted,"
faltered Kate.

"And why! why did you not speak to me?" cried Egerton, eagerly.

"I could not, indeed! though I wished it much," said Kate, with a
simple earnestness, at which Egerton's dark, embrowned cheek flushed
with sudden pleasure. He did not pursue the subject then; but said,
abruptly--

"I have felt bewildered at finding myself so suddenly talking to my old
friends, or I could not have been so long without enquiring for Mrs.
O'Toole. May I not see my good nurse? You know she is mine, as well as
yours, Miss Vernon."

"She is quite well; but alas! not with me; she joins us, however, when
we return to A----. Oh! how glad she would be to see you again! she was
so fond of you."

"Not with you!"

Colonel Egerton was beginning in tones of no small surprise, when the
door opened, and Mesdames Storey and Winter entered.

The greeting between Mrs. Winter and Egerton was considerably more
demonstrative than any that had yet occurred; the kind little woman
was evidently touched by the genuine delight evinced by her quondam
patient at seeing her; and Winter smiled to see Colonel Egerton's more
deep happiness take this method of expression; Mrs. Storey simpered and
curtsied and nodded to Kate, and was altogether, as she said, "quite
taken with Colonel Egerton;" and sat on till her friends wished her
far away. The conversation was, therefore, general; and Miss Vernon
unusually silent.

Egerton felt he could make no enquiries then, so rose to leave, having
paid an unconscionably long visit.

"I have a letter for nurse," said he to Kate, "which my ignorance of
her whereabouts has prevented my forwarding; if you will allow me,
I will bring it here to-morrow morning, and hear all about her, and
everything. I have so many questions to ask; but I promised to see Sir
J. M---- at the Horse Guards to-day, and must go. I presume you are
visible early?"

"Can't you join us at dinner, a lodging-house scramble? but, I suppose,
an old campaigner as you are, can rough it," said Winter, with eager
hospitality, that startled his precise wife.

"With the greatest pleasure," cried Egerton, in his old, gay, frank
manner. "I was just wishing you would ask me."

Winter and Kate smiled; and Mrs. Storey opened her eyes, astonished at
so cool an admission.

"_Au revoir_, then," continued Colonel Egerton, taking his hat, and
bowing. "I will bring you the letter, Miss Vernon."

"Is five o'clock too early?" shouted Winter, after him, as he ran down
stairs.

"No, not the least."

"Sharp, five then."

"Humph, ha," said Winter, rubbing his hands together, as he returned
to the room; "that's a fine fellow--no nonsense about him--though
he nearly knocked me over this morning. I am glad his brother never
married. Fred will make a first-rate member of the Upper House yet."

"But, my dear John, how you could be so thoughtless as to ask such a
fine gentleman--accustomed to the style he is--to a scrambling dinner
with us, in a couple of hours. I'm sure I do not know where to turn."

Mrs. Storey looked truly sympathising.

"Pooh, pooh, my dear, give him a chop and a jam tart; anything--he will
be satisfied, I'll engage; surely you must remember how easily pleased
he was at A----."

"Easily pleased, Mr. Winter! I am not so sure of that! a much more
fastidious man might be pleased with the table we kept at A----."

Winter pulled a long face, expressive of contrition for his fault; and
Kate interposed her soothing influence.

"Colonel Egerton was too glad to see you, and to come to you, to be
_difficile_."

"Well, Mr. Winter, I must go home before it is quite dark," said Mrs.
Storey.

"And I will escort you, my dear madam, to the omnibus--where can I
catch Langley?" asked Winter.

"Oh, at his house; he goes out very little."

So Mrs. Storey and her cavalier departed, while Mrs. Winter disappeared
to hold deep council with the landlady, and Kate was left alone to
revel in her own thoughts; gaily they careered away over the far
future, yet vaguely and indistinctly. Nurse and Georgy--the Winters
and herself, and Egerton, were to be always happy together in some
universal bond of fellowship; but she did not arrive at probabilities,
they half startled her; she almost shrunk from the whisper of her
heart--"He loves me, he always loved me." There was something too
positive, too bold in such thoughts! And so a thousand, bright,
kaleidoscope visions kept forming themselves round a delightful nucleus
presented by the simple sentence--

"Colonel Egerton is to dine here to-day!"

Long, very long it was, since she had dared to indulge thus in reverie;
and even while she raised her heart in unspoken gratitude to the Giver
of good for her great deliverance, the thought rose to her lips--

"If dear grandpapa had but lived, to see a return of so much happiness!
Ah, why was he taken in the midst of such heavy times?"

These reflections calmed the agitation which made each nerve
tremulous, and she anticipated Egerton's return less anxiously.

"I long to talk to him of grandpapa; but I am afraid of crying so very
much, it would distress him."

Here Mrs. Winter entered, quite restored to good humour, as Kate dimly
perceived by the fire-light.

"The woman of the house was so obliging; and it was so fortunate, the
gentleman in the front parlour had gone out of town for a few days, and
they could dine there; and an excellent pastry-cook at the corner of
the street would supply all deficiencies. And, my dear, it is almost
five o'clock, if you are going to smooth your hair, and wash your hands
before dinner."

If--of course she intended to do so.

It was many a long day since she looked in the glass and brushed her
glossy hair so carefully. She was not satisfied--no, she looked so
pale, so unlike her old bright self. She little thought how amply the
brightness was compensated by the pensive sweetness that deepened and
softened the gentle gravity of her face, and the species of languor
that lent such tender grace to her slight form. Never had Egerton
admired her so much--he had left a bright, saucy girl, and found a
lovely woman.

Winter returned with Langley, whom he had caught, for dinner; and
the little party had scarcely assembled, when Colonel Egerton was
announced; they were sitting by the light of a bright fire, and Miss
Vernon, leaning back quietly on the cushions of the sofa, was amused
by the contrast between Egerton's fine figure and air noble, Winter's
stumpy form, and Langley's awkward length; nor did Fred refrain from
stealing glances at the graceful outline of Kate's black dress, which
threw into strong relief the pure fairness of her throat and hands, a
delicate colour tinged her cheek, and a certain holy look of happiness
deepened the expression of her liquid eyes.

Egerton handed Mrs. Winter down to dinner, and Kate followed with
Winter. The repast was unimpeachable; but no one took any notice of
its arrangements. Much was said by the gentlemen; but the ladies
were rather silent. Egerton was all polished cordiality. A look of
frank joy, which he cared little to disguise, lighted up his bronzed
countenance and dark brown eyes; there was a degree of decision and
authority in his manner and opinions, that they perhaps wanted before,
as if he had read, and thought, and acted much since last he had
dined with them; and Kate observed that Winter insensibly treated
him with greater respect and less startling abruptness. Langley was
never much impressed with any man; and the trio discussed Spain and
India most agreeably, Colonel Egerton described simply and forcibly
his visit to the cave Temples of Elora; and this led to the Hindoo
Trinity, and the strange, rude, imperfect shadowing of the Christian
doctrines contained in it; and then they rambled on to the universal
ideas prevalent in all Pagan lands, and the German theories on this
subject, and on languages; of the traces of the moors in Spain, and the
Alhambra, &c. And on all these topics Egerton led instead of listening,
as in former times.

"If I could only persuade Mrs. Winter," said her husband, as she and
Kate rose to leave the room, "to write and publish her experiences
of Spain, the world would learn some startling facts. She used to
endeavour to teach the girls to work, while I was sketching for my
individual gratification. And as she picked up some colloquial Spanish,
she heard strange revelations, beating Borrow's Bible in Spain all to
nothing."

"My dear, how can you talk so! it was only the Muleteer's sister, poor
girl! and she knew a little English, near Gibraltar, you know."

"With all the roughing she bore so well abroad," resumed Winter, "the
moment she returned to England, heigh presto! the spell of nicety was
on her. Man may be free the moment his foot touches British ground;
but, Carambo! woman is trammelled forthwith by particularity and
regularity, and no end of arities; she was afraid she should not be
able to give you a sufficiently _recherché_ dinner, Colonel, on so
short--"

"My dear John, how can you--"

"Mrs. Winter knew I could not forget all the dainties with which she
used to tempt me, when I was such a troublesome invalid under her care,
and wished to surprise me with them here," said Egerton, with a smile
full of kindly recollection.

"Never mind, Sue," cried Winter, as she retired; "Spain is a country
too full of splendid colouring to be clean; nor is it necessary
there--_Dormire coi cani per levarsi colle pulci_."

"Well, my love, I think everything went on very smoothly," said Mrs.
Winter, as she settled herself for her nap before the gentlemen made
their appearance.

"Very well indeed," returned Kate, vaguely, her eyes gazing far away
into dreamland.

The gentlemen soon followed them; and once more Kate handed a cup of
tea to Egerton, their eyes met as he took it, and a tear started to
Kate's, as the familiar action brought the memory of her grandfather
vividly before her.

"I have so much to say to you--so much to enquire of you," said
Egerton, in a low tone, placing himself beside her; "but I must see
you alone; I dare not agitate you with reminiscences so sad before a
stranger, or indeed any third person."

"Yes, I have much to tell you," returned Miss Vernon, tremulously.

"It is a great mystery to me, the absence of nurse; I do not half like
it," resumed Egerton. "I have brought you the letter from her son."

"Thank you; I will forward it to-morrow. She will join me at A----. We
return there in about a fortnight."

"It was a most extraordinary occurrence," said Egerton, slowly stirring
his cup round and round, "that I should have been in the same church
with you at Carrington, and not know it. Why did you not speak to
me--call to me--shy a prayer-book at my head! anything, rather than let
me miss the good of which I was in search?"

Kate smiled, and shook her head.

"What a stupid numskull I was not to translate the instinctive feeling
of your presence correctly, instead of pooh-poohing it away, after
our friend Winter's fashion; however, all's well now. Give my kindest
remembrance to Mrs. O'Toole when you write."

"Certainly," said Kate, "I shall not fail."

"Your cousin, Lady Desmond, is in Ireland, so Burton told me; he is a
capital fellow; but Dashwood was away, God knows where; and he was the
only person it appears who had any trace of you. Do you know where he
is?"

"No, he told me he was going to fish in Ireland when I saw him last."

"So Lord Effingham is off to St. Petersburgh, Miss Vernon," said
Langley, at this juncture.

Kate felt that Fred's eye was on her, and coloured deeply, as she
merely bowed in assent.

"Curious place to winter in," he continued.

Then Winter made some observations about the freezing of the Neva, and
the Russian costume; and he and Langley talked on for a good while
standing on the hearth-rug, and sipping their tea; but Egerton was
silent, for some time; and Kate did not like to look at him; at last he
asked--

"Do you ever sing now?"

"Oh yes," answered Mrs. Winter for her. "Sing that pretty new song you
got yesterday, my love."

"No, no," cried Egerton, eagerly, "an old one for me--dare I ask for
'The Serenade,' if it would not distress you. I have so often longed to
hear it again."

"I will try," said Kate; "but--"

She went to the piano, and struck the well-remembered arpeggio chords
so long unheard; she strove to steady her voice, as it rose tremulous
with its rich sweetness and deep expression; Egerton leant on the
piano, wrapt in memory and contemplation. Kate proceeded very well to
the end of the first verse; but there, at the sustained note to which
her grandfather had so loved to listen, she faltered, paused, and
covering her face with both her hands, for an instant, hastily left the
room.

She was thoroughly overcome; and, exhausted by the excitement of the
day, returned no more that evening.

Colonel Egerton came the next day, and the next, and the next. Mr. and
Mrs. Winter, or Mrs. Storey, or some snuffy picture dealer was always
there, and he was reduced, _malgré lui_, to talk of generalities, this
constraint gave something of coolness and gravity to his manner; he was
often _distrait_; and Kate felt less calm.

Meanwhile Mrs. O'Toole's letters were filled with the rapturous
expectation of a reunion with her _Darlint_, and could scarce be
induced to wait until the time specified for her return by Winter.

Kate was re-reading one of her characteristic epistles one morning
after Mr. and Mrs. Winter had departed on some common errand. She had
a slight cold, and was ordered by her kind authoritative _maestro_ to
keep in doors; they had not been gone many minutes when Egerton came
in, carrying a large bouquet of hot-house flowers.

"I have just met Winter, and his _cara sposa_; they told me you were
on the sick list. How is that?"

"A cold--oh, nothing; but what beautiful flowers. I have suffered much
from a dearth of flowers."

"I wrote to my sister, who is at present at Allerton, to send me a
basket full, they have tolerable conservatories there."

"You are very kind; I will ring for a vase or bowl, or something to put
them in. Mrs. Winter will be delighted with them."

"Yes, but they are for you."

The little bustle of arranging the graceful gift proceeded pleasantly.
Egerton lounged on the sofa. Kate stood by the table, now consulting
him as to their arrangement, and touching them with a tender, admiring
care, that showed their appreciation of their rare beauty; gradually,
as the task was accomplished, they glided into talk of former
times; and Egerton spoke with such feeling of the sudden shock her
grandfather's death had been to him, that Kate, unspeakably gratified
by the reverent affection he expressed, was drawn on to give some
account of his last moments, and how the old hound died when relieved
from his watch. She spoke tremblingly, yet with wonderful composure;
Egerton listened in motionless attention.

"I shall never, never forget the night he died," she continued,
unconsciously playing with a leaf, and still standing by the table.
Egerton had risen, and was leaning against the mantel-piece. "He had
seemed better, that day, and happier, and I sat watching him by the
fire-light as he lay, asleep, as I thought, in his chair, long after
he was gone from me." She shuddered slightly. "I had been dreaming of
better times for him, perhaps a return to the Priory; but it was soon
broken, my dream! and then Georgy was away, and the Winters, and I was,
so alone! I had none, no, not one near me, that I loved, except poor
nurse."

She stopped to recover herself; Egerton, springing to her side, took
her hand in both his,

"Kate! long-loved, dearest, you have indeed been sad and weary; give me
the right to be beside you, come sorrow or joy; I cannot bear to think
of your being grieved and alone, while I, who so pined for a glimpse of
you, was far away. Let me hold you to my heart, and shelter you from
the roughness of life, or share its burdens with you. My beautiful one!
be my wife, and come what may, we will bear it with the strength of two
hearts."

He drew her to him, close, close, and she leaned her hand upon his
shoulder, murmuring,

"I always wished you to be there, _he_ loved you so much."

Where was sorrow, or fear, or doubt? "Where the evil that could touch
her now that she had reached the haven where she would be?" vanished
before the genial sunshine of Egerton's love.

One long, fond, gentle kiss, before she extricated herself from his
embrace, no longer her own, but pledged to be his while God granted
them life, though she had scarce breathed an articulate syllable.

The daylight was beginning to fade before Winter and his wife returned,
and still they talked of the past, and planned for the future, and
opened their inmost souls to each other; and Kate, the first strange,
bewildering, emotion of finding every shadow of reserve swept from
between herself and Egerton was gradually growing calmer; his voice
stilling her heart to the deep tranquillity of perfect contempt.

A glance on his entrance told Winter the state of affairs better,
indeed, than Egerton's incoherent explanation.

We have reached the climax of our story, not much remains to be
told, already its simple annals have spread themselves out too far;
patience, but little remains.

                  _To Mrs. O'Toole, Fermoy, Ireland._

 "The day-dawn has indeed come at last, brightly and softly, dearest
 nurse, true friend! Soon, soon we shall meet, and you will have two
 nurselings. Oh, I am so strangely happy. The good God has sent us such
 joy; for you and I always were joyful or sad together. Ah, I can no
 longer speak of myself alone; I have another self, a better, nobler,
 stronger self. A true heart to lean upon. The wish you have never
 openly expressed will be accomplished, my own nurse. I have promised
 to be his wife. Colonel Egerton's, of whom grandpapa was so fond;
 he would be proud and glad if he knew it; and dare we say he does
 not? I yearn to hear your voice, and that you too should bask in the
 sunshine, after such a long sad winter; for he is so fond of you, and
 always calls you his nurse. But in a very few days you will be with
 me again. We go to A---- on the 30th; be there to meet us. Everything
 is as yet very unsettled; but I write to you first, before any one. I
 cannot tell you anything clearly now, only you are to be always with
 me, and I do not think we shall leave England.

 "Dear nurse, how wildly I have written, my hand is so unsteady, and my
 heart beats; but, nurse, you must bend your knees before God, and pray
 to Him to be with us now in this great trial of prosperity, even as He
 stayed us in our time of adversity.

                                                Ever your loving child,

                                                                 KATE."

"Who are you writing to, Kate?" asked Egarton, jealously watching her
endeavouring to hide a tear that fell upon the paper as he entered the
room.

"To nurse, but you must not see it."

"_Cativa_--I have no such wild ambition, but keep it till to-morrow, I
want to add a postscript."

"Yes but no later, she will be so proud to hear from you."

Egerton's talk over pounds shillings and pence with Winter gave that
worthy great satisfaction. "I am not rich," said the young colonel,
"but I have a moderate competence with the prize money that has fallen
to my share, my military appointments and the certainty as to the
future, although it springs, unfortunately, from my poor brother's
state of health; besides, Kate is so differently situated now compared
to what she was when I tore myself away from England. I can never
forget your fatherly kindness to my bride elect."

"I trust you will not think of taking her to India."

"I should prefer staying at home now; I dread the climate for her; yes,
in all probability I shall remain at home; it would be a hard trial to
part from you and her cousin; by the way I cannot quite make out that
Lady Desmond," and the two friends proceeded to discuss and elucidate
very near the truth of Kate's well preserved secret.

"Now then my Kate" said Egerton, looking up from his writing the
next morning and holding out his hand. "Come here, I have a clearer
conscience than you, you may read my postscript; to be sure as it is to
a lady you have a right."

She took the paper from his hand, and standing by him read as follows,
while he leant his arm on the table and gazed in her face.

 "My dear nurse, Miss Kate will not let me see what she has written, so
 I must write for myself."

 "I have felt deeply your truth and fidelity to one very dear to me,
 and I can assure you, as long as I have a home to offer you, none
 after my wife will be more welcome there than yourself, but as ladies
 are changeable, (at least they tell me so), and you might possibly at
 some future day choose a house of your own, the enclosed is a rough
 draft of a deed now in preparation, securing to you an annuity, which
 will I trust, render you tolerably independent for the remainder of
 your days. I consider that in doing this I merely act as the executor
 of your late lamented master, think that you owe it to him and look
 upon me as still your debtor for unlimited care and kindness when I
 require it.

                                             Yours with sincere regard,

                                                      FRED. B. EGERTON.

We dare not tell how Kate expressed her entire approbation of this
letter; severe ladies may be shocked, and we have a great respect for
them. She was no prude, and Egerton had strong nerves, so no one need
trouble themselves further on the subject.

All arrangements and projects were however broken up, shortly before
the Winters and their now blooming adopted daughter, left town for
A----. A telegraphic despatch from Allerton announced the sudden return
of Lord Egerton's paralytic seizure, and summoned his brother to
what soon proved to be a death-bed scene. The peer showed symptoms of
satisfaction when his discarded brother took his place by his bed side,
but he was speechless, and after a week's suffering breathed his last.

Meantime Kate and her kind friends reached their old home, the sense
of happiness tempered the solemn tidings of Lord Egerton's death which
reached them as they left London.

Kate could not repress a shudder as the shout of "Carrington,
Carrington, change here for Batten Wiggem, Manchester," met her
ear; she looked at Winter and silently raised her eyes to Heaven.

Mrs. O'Toole had been some days installed at Abbey Gardens previous to
their return, and as Kate caught the first glimpse of her, the white
apron, and the snowy cap, the black gown and the eager, straining look,
the attitude all the same, exactly the same, as the sad day she had bid
her good bye, her heart bounded within her at the contrast. How she
clung to her and kissed her, and smothered her wrinkled cheeks with her
fair soft hands, and would not let her out of her sight for a moment,
and pleased herself by waiting on her.

"Sure, I could'nt answer yer letther, the way I'd like, core iv my
heart," said Mrs. O'Toole to Kate, when they were alone; "nor the
Captin's, (me Lord's I mane) will ye write wan fur me asthore; he'll
think I have'nt a screed iv gratitude in me afther him settlin a fortin
on me."

"I will, dear nurse, but he will be here soon, and then you can speak
to him yourself; he must be at Allerton now on account of his poor
brother's death, it was so sudden at last."

"Well, the Lord, rest his soul! sure it's better for him to be in
happiness in heaven than down here, standin' in the captin's way,"
returned nurse, cheerfully.

"For shame, nurse, you must not speak so."

"Och, thin, core iv my heart, but ye look well; there's the light iv
joy in your eyes, an' on yer lips again. See what a power if happiness
the Blessed Saviour was storin' up for us, all the time we wor in
sorra. An' many's the time I grumbled becaise things didn't go my way.
Sure, if I'd the pick iv the world, I'd choose the captin (I mane me
Lord) fur a husband fur ye; it's he that has the warm heart, an' the
open hand!--an' what'll ye be, asthore?--a duchess or a countess!

"Only a viscountess, and even then that seems very strange."

"A vi-countess; that's something betune thim, anyways." Kate laughed.
"An' whin will me Lord be here?"

"Not till after his brother's funeral, of course."

"They'll have a grand berrin," concluded Mrs. O'Toole, meditatively.

The new peer, as may be anticipated, joined them as soon as it was
possible, and a joyful sight it was to see his greeting with Mrs.
O'Toole, who was the same with the viscount as she had been with
the captain. He stopped to shake hands with her most cordially and
energetically at the foot of the stairs, even though Kate was waiting
for him at the top.

"Och! many's the time me ould eyes wur wearyin' to see you when we wur
in throuble; many's the time me sweet child wanted ye; but, glory be
to God, you'll be beside her for ever from this out, captin, agra! Me
lord, I mane."

"I'll never forgive you if you change the title, nurse. I was not
perfectly content till I saw your honest face; but now, indeed, I feel
I am amongst my old friends again."

"An' sure aint I a brute not to thank you fur the fortin; it's
bewildhered I am entirely; yer a prence, so ye are."

"Well nurse, never mind; I can't stop now, for you see there's Miss
Kate waiting for me; we'll have a long talk to-morrow," cried Egerton,
springing up the stairs.

The news of Kate's approaching happiness did more to comfort Lady
Desmond, and soothe her vexed spirit, than whole libraries of sound
reasoning and good advice could have done; nor was it difficult to
prevail on her to join them; and so the interval demanded by business
and etiquette sped away, and long before winter had yielded to the
coming spring, a quiet, happy wedding party assembled at the old
church. Mr. Winter was there, for the first time in his life, perhaps,
in white gloves; Lady Desmond; and the Wentworths, gay, polished,
kind-hearted triflers, all charmed with their new sister; and Burton,
gravely observant, looked on contentedly; and Mrs. Winter rather
nervous at the thoughts of entertaining so goodly a company.

And Mrs. O'Toole, though the wedding was peculiarly quiet, was
satisfied, perfectly, as she removed the long, graceful veil from her
child's head, and replaced it with a travelling bonnet, ejaculating,
"If mee blessed masther could look down from heaven, it's he that would
be proud an' happy. Sure he sees us this blessed minnit!"

Our tale is ended, and Kate Vernon merged in "The Viscountess Egerton."

We may not promise that her future will be all unclouded, but, at
least, she has a true, strong heart--a bold, clear spirit to aid her
through the rugged paths of life; to stand beside her in the storm, and
finally, to glide with her into the calm, still evening of time.

Lady Desmond is still a widow; she passes much of her time amongst her
hitherto uncared-for tenantry, and her happiest hours are spent in the
pleasant circle collected at Allerton.

Colonel Dashwood is married to a fair, bright girl, younger by a good
many years than himself, who looks up to him as a perfect Chevalier
Bayard.

Bruton remains a determined old bachelor.

The Winters are well, happy, and prosperous, as they deserve to be.

It was in the height of the high season of 1851, as we endeavoured to
"move round," in obedience to the imperious mandate of the policeman on
duty, at the case containing the celebrated Kooh-i-noor, in the Crystal
Palace, that our attention was attracted by the consequential air of an
elderly female, decidedly _embonpoint_, and well to do in the world,
as evidenced by her substantial black silk dress and bonnet, and rich
scarlet shawl.

"An', so that's the Kooh-i-noor, is it?" remarked the old lady in
audible accents, whether addressed to an individual companion or to the
crowd generally, we do not pretend to decide.

"Athen, it's mighty like a lump iv glass hangin' to a lusthre; faith
the ould masther had a dimint he used to wear an his breast at Dungar,
in the good ould times, that this wan, for all it's so big, couldn't
hould a candle to; but it's not every one ud know the differ. It's
kilt entirely I am with the haite; an' mee lady"--and we gradually lost
the words, though we struggled after the retreating figure, till we
saw her respectfully handed, by a tall footman in a handsome livery,
into a coronetted chariot, from whence beamed a lovely, happy face we
remembered well.

The thread is spun, the web is woven--a parting quotation, and we have
done:--

_Saunders's News-Letter_ (we omit the precise date) lately contained
the following paragraph:--

"We understand the Dungar property, in the county of ----, so long
the subject of litigation, has been purchased by Viscount Egerton, of
Allerton, under the Incumbered Estates' Court. Lady Egerton is, we
believe, the grand-daughter and heiress-at-law of the late owner, the
well-known and universally respected Colonel D'Arcy Vernon."

"Ay," said a thick little artist, who had withdrawn his thumb from
his palette to open a newspaper directed to him in a delicate female
hand, as he read this paragraph--"So the wheel goes round, but it is
not every day it brings up, sparkling over the dull surface of life, so
bright and pure a gem as Kate Vernon."


THE END.


T. C. Newby, Printer, 30, Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.


Minor punctuation and printer errors repaired.


Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully
as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other
inconsistencies.





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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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