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´╗┐Title: Phyllis
Author: Hungerford, Margaret Hamilton
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Phyllis" ***

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[Transcriber's Note: spelling and punctuation are eccentric.
Exclamation marks and dashes are copious inside sentences.
Occasional British and archaic spellings are used
(ploughboys, dulness).
Some words are invented or unusual ('decenter' to mean more
decent; 'irrevelantly'). Thanks to
https://babel.hathitrust.org for original scan and OCR.]


PHYLLIS

THE DUCHESS

CHICAGO, NEW YORK, AND SAN FRANCISCO;

BELFORD, CLARKE & CO.,
PUBLISHERS.

TROW'S
PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY,
NEW YORK.


PHYLLIS.

BY THE DUCHESS.

Author of "_Molly Bawn,_" "_The Baby,_" "_Airy Fairy Lilian,_"
etc., etc.

 "Ah! Love was never without
 The pang, the agony, the doubt."--BYRON.

---

CHAPTER I.

"Billy, Billy!" I call, eagerly, and at the top of my healthy
lungs; but there is no reply. "Where can that boy be?"

"Billy, Billy!" I shout again, more lustily this time, and with
my neck craned half-way down the kitchen-stair-case, but with a
like result. There is a sudden movement on the upper landing, and
Dora, appearing above, waves her hand frantically towards me to
insure attention, while she murmurs, "Hush! Hush!" with hurried
emphasis. I look up, and see she is robed in her best French
muslin, the faint blue and white of which contrasts so favorably
with her delicate skin.

"Hush! There is some one in the drawing-room," says my lovely
sister, with the slightest possible show of irritation.

"Who?" I ask, in my loudest whisper, feeling somewhat interested.
"Not--not Mr. Carrington--surely?"

'Yes,' returns Dora, under her breath; "and really, Phyllis, I
wish you would not give yourself the habit of---"

"What? Already!" I interrupt, with a gasp of surprise. "Well,
certainly he has lost no time. Now, Dora, mind you make a
conquest of him, whatever you do, as, being our landlord, he may
prove formidable."

Dora blushes--it is a common trick of hers, and she does it very
successfully--nods, smiles and goes on to victory. The
drawing-room door opens and shuts; I can hear a subdued murmur of
voices; some one laughs. It is a man's laugh, and I feel the
growth of curiosity strong within my breast. Oh, for some
congenial soul to share my thoughts! "Where on earth is Billy?"

I am about to prosecute my search for him in person, when he
suddenly appears, coming towards me from a totally unexpected
direction.

"What's up?" he asks, in his usual neat style.

"Oh, Billy, he is here--Mr. Carrington I mean," I exclaim,
eagerly. "Dora and mamma are with him. I wonder will they ask him
about the wood?"

"He'd be sure to refuse if they did," says Billy, gloomily. "From
all I hear, he must be a regular Tartar. Brewster says he is the
hardest landlord in the county turns all the tenants out of doors
at a moment's notice, and counts every rabbit in the place. I'm
certain he is a mean beast, and I hope Dora won't ask any favor
of him." I shift the conversation.

"Did you see him come? Where have you been all this time?"

"Outside. There's a grand trap at the door, and two horses.
Brewster says he is awfully rich, and of course he's a screw. If
there's one thing I hate it's a miser."

"Oh, he is too young to be a miser," say I, in the innocence of
my heart. "Papa says he cannot be more than eight-and-twenty. Is
he dark or fair, Billy?"

"I didn't see him, but I'm sure he's dark and squat, and probably
he squints," says Billy, viciously. "Any one that could turn poor
old Mother Haggard out of her house in the frost and snow _must_
have a squint."

"But he was in Italy then: perhaps he didn't know anything about
it," I put in, as one giving the benefit of a bare doubt.

"Oh, didn't he?" says Billy, with withering contempt. "He didn't
send his orders, I suppose? Oh, no!" Once fairly started in his
Billingsgate strain, it is impossible to say where my brother
will choose to draw a line, but fortunately for Mr. Carrington's
character, Martha, our parlor servant, makes her appearance at
this moment and comes up to us with an all-important expression
upon her jovial face.

"Miss Phyllis, your ma wants you in the drawing-room at once,"
she says. "The strange gentleman is there, and---"

"Wants _me_?" I ask, in astonishment, not being usually regarded
as a drawing-room ornament. "Martha, is my hair tidy?"

"'Tis lovely!" returns Martha. And, thus encouraged, I give my
dress one or two hasty pulls and follow in Dora's footsteps.

A quarter of an hour later I rush back to Billy, and discover him
standing, with bent head and shoulders, in a tiny closet that
opens off the hall, and is only divided from the drawing-room by
the very frailest of partitions. His attitude is crumpled, but
his face betrays the liveliest interest as he listens assiduously
to all that is going on inside.

"Well, what is he like?" he asks in a stage whisper,
straightening himself slightly as he sees me, and pointing in the
direction of the closet.

"Very nice," I answer with decision, "and not dark at all--quite
fair. I asked him about the wood when I got the chance, and he
said we might go there whenever we chose, and that it would give
him great pleasure if we would consider it as our own. There! And
it was not he turned out old Nancy Haggard: it was the wretch
Simmons, the steward, without any orders; and Mr. Carrington has
dismissed him, and---"

Here Billy slips off a jam-pot, on which he has been standing,
with a view to raising himself, stumbles heavily, and creates an
appalling row; after which, mindful of consequences, he picks
himself up silently, and together we turn and flee.



CHAPTER II.

I am seventeen--not sweet seventeen; there is nothing sweet about
_me_. I am neither fair nor dark, nor tall nor short, nor indeed
anything in particular that might distinguish me from the common
herd. This is rather hard upon me, as all the rest of us can lay
claim to beauty in one form or another. Thus, Roland, my eldest
brother, is tall, very aristocratic in appearance, and extremely
good to look at; Dora, who comes next, is small and exquisitely
pretty, in a fresh fairy-like style; while Billy, the youngest
born, has one of the handsomest faces imaginable, with liquid
brown eyes of a gentle, pleading expression, that smile
continually, and utterly belie the character of their owner.

Why I was born at all, or why, my creation being a settled
matter, I was not given to the world as a boy, has puzzled and
vexed me for many years. I am entirely without any of the little
graceful kittenish blandishments of manner that go far to make
Dora the charming creature she is; I have too much of Billy's
recklessness, mixed up with a natural carelessness of my own, to
make me a success in the family circle. To quote papa in his
mildest form, I am a "sad mistake," and one not easy to be
rectified, while mother, who is the gentlest soul alive, reproves
and comforts me from morning until night, without any result to
speak of.

I am something over five feet two, with brown hair and a brown
skin, and eyes that might be blue or gray, according to fancy. My
feet are small and well shaped, and so are my hands; but as for
seventeen years I have borne an undying hatred towards gloves,
these latter cannot be regarded with admiration. My mouth is of
goodly size, and rather determined in expression; while as to my
figure, if Roland is to be believed, it resembles nothing so much
as a fishing-rod. But my nose--that at least is presentable and
worthy of a better resting-place; it is indeed a most desirable
nose in every way, and, being my only redeeming point, is one of
which I am justly proud.

Nevertheless, as one swallow makes no summer, so one feature will
not beautify a plain face; and in spite of my Grecian treasure I
still remain obscure. If not ornamental, however, I manage to be
useful; I am an excellent foil to my sister Dora. She is beyond
dispute our bright particular star, and revels in that knowledge.
To be admired is sun and air and life to Dora, who resembles
nothing in the world so much as an exquisite little Dresden
figure, so delicate, so pink and white, so yellow-haired, and
always so bewitchingly attired. She never gets into a passion, is
never unduly excited. She is too pretty and too fragile for the
idea, else I might be tempted to say that on rare occasions she
sulks. Still, she is notably good-tempered, and has a positive
talent for evading all unpleasant topics that may affect her own
peace of mind.

Papa is a person to be feared; mother is not; consequently, we
all love mother best. In appearance the head of our family is
tall, lean, and unspeakably severe. With him a spade is always a
spade, and his _nay_ is indeed nay. According to a tradition
among us, that has grown with our growth, in his nose--which is
singularly large and obtrusive--lies all the harshness that
characterizes his every action. Indeed, many a time and oft have
Billy and I speculated as to whether, were he suddenly shorn of
his proboscis, he would also find himself deprived of his
strength of mind. He is calm, and decidedly well-bred, both in
manner and expression--two charms we do not appreciate, as, on
such frequent occasions as when disgrace falls upon one or all of
the household, the calmness and breeding become so terrible that,
without so much as a frown, he can wither us beyond recognition.

I am his particular _bete noire_; my hoydenish ways jar every
hour of the day upon his sensitive nerves. He never tires of
contrasting me unfavorably with his gentle elegant Dora. He
detests gushing people, and I, unhappily for myself, am naturally
very affectionate. I feel not only a desire to love, but at times
an unconquerable longing to openly declare my love; and as Roland
is generally with his regiment, and Dora is a sort of person who
would die if violently embraced, I am perforce obliged to expend
all my superfluous affection upon our darling mother and Billy.

Strict economy prevails among us; more through necessity, indeed,
than from any unholy desire to save. Our annual income of eight
hundred pounds goes but a short way under any circumstances, and
the hundred pounds a year out of this we allow Roland (who is
always in a state of insolvency) leaves us "poor indeed." A new
dress is, therefore, a rarity--not perhaps so strange a thing to
Dora as it is to me--and any amusement that costs money would be
an unheard of luxury. Out-door conveyances we have none, unless
one is compelled to mention a startling vehicle that lies in the
coach-house, and was bought no one remembers when and where. It
is probably an heirloom, and is popularly supposed to have cost a
fabulous sum in the days of its youth and beauty, but it is now
ancient and sadly disreputable, and not one of us but feels low
and dejected when, tucked into it on Sunday mornings, we are
driven by papa to attend the parish church. I even remember Dora
shedding tears now and then as this ordeal drew nigh; but that
was when the Desmonds or the Cuppaidges had a young man staying
with them, who might reasonably be expected to put in an
appearance during the service, and who would be sure to linger
and witness our disgraceful retreat afterwards.

Of course papa has his two hunters. We have been taught that no
gentleman could possibly get on without them in a stupid country
place, and that it is more from a noble desire to sustain the
respectability of the family than from any pleasure that may be
derived from them, that they are kept. We try to believe
this--but we don't.

We see very few neighbors, for the simple reason that there are
very few to see. This limits dinner parties, and saves expense in
many ways, but rather throws us younger fry upon our own
resources. No outsiders come to disturb our uninteresting calm;
we have no companions, no friends beyond our hearthstone. No
alarming incidents occur to season our deadened existence; no one
ever elopes with the wife of his bosom friend. All is flat, stale
and unprofitable.

It is, then, with mingled feelings of fear and delight that we
hear of Strangemore being put in readiness to receive its master.
Mr. Carrington, our new landlord--our old one died about five
years ago--has at length wearied of a foreign sojourn, and is
hastening to the land of his fathers. So ran report three weeks
before my story opens, and for once truly. He came, he saw,
he--No, we have all arranged ages ago--it is Dora who is to
conquer.

"He is exceedingly to be liked," says mamma that night at dinner,
addressing papa, and alluding to our landlord, "and so very
distinguished-looking. I rather think he admired Dora; he never
removed his eyes from her face the entire time he stayed." And
mother nods and smiles approvingly at my sister.

"That must have been rather embarrassing," says papa, in his even
way; but I know by his tone he too is secretly pleased at Mr.
Carrington's rudeness.

Dora blushes, utters a faint disclaimer, and then laughs--her own
low cooing laugh, that is such a wonderful piece of performance.
I have spent hours in my bedroom endeavoring patiently to copy
that laugh of Dora's, with failure as the only result.

"And he is so good-natured!" I break in, eagerly. "The very
moment I mentioned the subject, he gave us permission to go to
Brinsley Wood as often as ever we choose, and seemed quite
pleased at my asking him if we might; didn't he, mother?"

"Yes, dear."

"Could you find no more interesting topic to discuss with him
than that?" asked papa with contemptuous displeasure. "Was his
first visit a fitting opportunity to demand a favor of him? It is
a pity, Phyllis, you cannot put yourself and your own amusements
out of sight, even on an occasion. There is no vice so detestable
as selfishness."

I think of the two hunters, and of how long mother's last black
silk has been her best gown, and feel rebellious; but, long and
early training having taught me to subdue my emotions, I accept
the snub dutifully and relapse into taciturnity.

"It was not he turned out poor old Mother Haggard after all,
papa," puts in Billy; "It was Simmons; and he is to be dismissed
immediately."

"I am glad of that," says papa, viciously. "A more thorough going
rascal never disgraced a neighborhood. He will be doing a really
sensible thing if he sends that fellow adrift. I am gratified to
find Carrington capable of acting with such sound common sense.
None of the absurd worn-out prejudices in favor of old servants
about him. I have no doubt he will prove an acquisition to the
county."

Altogether, it is plainly to be seen, we every one of us intend
approving of our new neighbor.

"Yes, indeed," says mother, "it is quite delightful to think of a
young man being anywhere near. We are sadly in want of cheerful
society. What a pity he did not come home directly his uncle died
and left him the property, instead of wasting these last five
years abroad!"

"I think he was right," returns papa, gracefully "there is
nothing like seeing life. When hampered with a wife and children,
he will regret he did not enjoy more of it before tying himself
down irretrievably."

An uncomfortable silence follows this speech. We all feel
guiltily conscious that we are hampering our father--that but for
our unwelcome existence he might at the present hour be enjoying
all the goods and gayeties of life: all that is, except Billy,
who is insensible to innuendoes, and never sees or feels anything
that is not put before him in the plainest terms. He cheerfully
puts an end now to the awkward silence.

"I can tell you, if you marry Mr. Carrington, you will be on the
pig's back," he says, knowingly addressing Dora. Billy is not
choice in his expressions. "He has no end of tin, and the gamest
lot of horses in his stables to be seen anywhere. Brewster was
telling me about it."

Nobody says anything.

"You will be on the pig's back, I can tell you," repeats Billy,
with emphasis. Now, this is more than rashness, it is madness on
Billy's part; he is ignorantly offering himself to the knife. The
fact that his vulgarity has been passed by unnoticed once is no
reason why leniency should be shown towards him a second time.
Papa looks up blandly.

"May I ask what you mean by being 'on the pig's back'?" he asks,
with a suspicious thirst for information.

"Oh, it means being in luck, I suppose," returns Billy, only
slightly taken aback.

"I do not think I should consider it a lucky thing if I found
myself on a pig's back," says papa, still apparently abroad,
still desirous of having his ignorance enlightened.

"I don't suppose you would," responds Billy, gruffly; and, being
an English boy, abhorrent of irony, he makes a most unnecessary
clatter with his fork and spoon.

"_I_ know what papa means," says Dora, sweetly, coming prettily
to the rescue. One of Dora's favorite _roles_ is to act as
peacemaker on such public occasions as the present, when the
innate goodness of her disposition can be successfully paraded.
"It is that he wishes you to see how unmeaning are your words,
and how vulgar are all hackneyed expressions. Besides"--running
back to Billy's former speech--"you should not believe all
Brewster tells you; he is only a groom, and probably says a good
deal more than--than he ought."

"There!" cries Billy, with wrathful triumph, "you were just going
to say 'more than his prayers,' and if _that_ isn't a 'hackneyed
expression,' I don't know what's what. You ought to correct
yourself, Miss Dora, before you begin correcting other people."

"I was _not_ going to say that," declares Dora, in a rather
sharper tone.

"Yes, you were, though. It was on the very tip of your tongue."

"I was _not_," reiterates Dora, her pretty oval cheeks growing
pink as the heart of a rose, while her liquid blue eyes changed
to steel gray.

"That's a---"

"William, be silent," interrupts papa, with authority, and so for
a time puts a stop to the family feud.



CHAPTER III.

THE next day Mr. Carrington calls again--this time ostensibly on
business matters--and papa and he discuss turnips and other farm
produce in the study, until the interview becomes so extended
that it occurs to the rest of us they must be faint. Mamma sends
in sherry as a restorative, which tranquillizes our fears and
enables us to look with more cheerfulness towards the end.

Before leaving, however, Mr. Carrington finds his way to the
drawing-room, where Dora and I are seated alone, and, having
greeted us, drags a chair lazily after him, until he gets within
a few feet of Dora. Here he seats himself.

Dora is tatting. Dora is always tatting; she never does anything
else; and surely there is no work so pretty, so becoming to white
fingers, as that in which the swift little shuttle is brought to
bear. Nevertheless, though he is beside my sister, I never raise
my head without encountering his blue eyes fixed upon me.

His eyes are very handsome, large and dark, and wonderfully kind,
eyes that let one see into the true heart beyond, indeed, his
whole face is full of beauty. He makes no unwise attempt to hide
it, beyond the cultivation of a fair brown mustache that does not
altogether conceal the delicately-formed mouth beneath, the lips
of which are fine and almost sensitive enough to be womanish, but
for a certain touch of quiet determination about them and the
lower jaw. He is tall and rather slightly molded, and has a very
clean-shaped head. His hands are white and thin, but large, his
feet very passable.

"Do you know," he is saying to sympathetic Dora, while I take the
above inventory of his charms, "I have quite an affection for
this house? I was born here, and lived in it until my father
died."

"Yes, I knew that," said Dora softly, with a liquid glance. "And
all yesterday, after you had left, I kept wondering whether you
felt it very strange and sad, seeing new faces in your old home."

"Did you really bestow a thought upon me when I was out of
sight?" with mild surprise. "Are you in earnest? Do you know,
Miss Vernon, I begin to believe it is a foolish thing to stay too
long away from one's native land--away from the society of one's
own countrymen; a man feels so dangerously pleased with any
little stray kind word that may be said to him on his return. I
have been living a rather up-and-down sort of life, not quite so
civilized as might have been, I fear, and it now seems absolutely
strange that anyone should take the trouble to think about me."
He says all this in a slow, rather effective tone, looking
pensively at Dora the while.

Here is an opportunity not to be wasted, and Dora instantly
blushes her very best blush; then becoming charmingly confused,
lets her glance once more fall on her tatting.

"That is awfully pretty work you are doing," says Mr. Carrington,
taking up the extreme edge of it and examining it with grave
interest. "I like to see women working, when their hands are soft
and white. But this looks a difficult task: it must have taken
you a long time to master the intricacies."

"Oh, no. It is quite simple--just in and out, you see like this.
Any one could learn it, if they just put their mind to it."

"Do you think you could teach me, if I put my mind to it?" asks
Mr. Carrington. And then their eyes meet; their heads are close
together over the work; they smile, and continue the gaze until
Dora's lids droop bashfully.

I am disgusted. Evidently they regard me in the light of a babe
or a puppy, so little do they allow my presence to interfere with
the ripple of their inane conversation. I am more nettled by
their indifference than I care to confess even to myself, and
come to the uncharitable conclusion that Mr. Carrington is an
odious flirt, and my sister Dora a fool.

"When you left this house, where did you go then?" asks Dora
presently, returning to the charge.

"To Strangemore--to my uncle. Then Ada--that is my sister, Lady
Handcock--married, and I went into the Guards. You see I am
determined to make friends with you," he says pleasantly, "so I
begin by telling you all I know about myself."

"I am glad you wish us to be your friends," murmured Dora
innocently. "But I am afraid you will find us very stupid. You,
who have seen so much of the world, will hardly content yourself
in country quarters, with only country neighbors." Another glance
from the large childish eyes.

"Judging by what I have already seen," says Mr. Carrington,
returning the glance with interest, "I believe I shall feel not
only content, but thoroughly happy in my new home."

"Why did you leave your regiment?" I break in, irrelevantly,
tired of being left out in the cold, and anxious to hear my own
voice again, after the longest silence I have ever kept.

Dora sighs gently and goes back to the tatting. Mr. Carrington
turns quickly to me.

"Because I am tired of the life; the ceaseless monotony was more
than I could endure. So when my uncle died and I came in for the
property, five years ago, I cut it, and took to foreign
travelling instead."

"I think if I were a man I would rather be a soldier than
anything," I say, with effusion. "I cannot imagine any one
disliking the life; it seems to me such a gay one, so good in
every respect. And surely anything would be preferable to being
an idler."

I am unravelling a quantity of scarlet wool that has been
cleverly tangled by Cheekie, my fox-terrier, and so between
weariness and the fidgets--brought on by the execution of a task
that is utterly foreign to my tastes--I feel and have pointed my
last remark. Dora looks up in mild horror, and casts a
deprecating glance at our visitor. Mr. Carrington laughs--a
short, thoroughly amused laugh.

"But I am not an idler," he says; "one may find something to do
in life besides taking the Queen's money. Pray Miss Phyllis, do
not add to my many vices one of which I am innocent. I cannot
accuse myself of having wasted even five minutes since my return
home. Do you believe me?"

I hasten to apologize.

"Oh, I did not mean it, indeed," I say earnestly; "I assure you I
do not. Of course you have plenty to do. You must think me very
rude."

I am covered with confusion. Had he taken my words in an
unfriendly spirit I might have rallied and rather enjoyed my
triumph; but his laugh has upset me. I feel odiously, horribly
young, both in manner and appearance. Unaccustomed to the society
of men, I have not had opportunities of cultivating the well-bred
_insouciance_ that distinguishes the woman of the world, and
therefore betray hopelessly the shyness that is consuming me. He
appears cruelly cognizant of the fact, and is evidently highly
delighted with my embarrassment.

"Thank you," he says; "I am glad you exonerate me. I felt sure
you did not wish to crush me utterly. If you entertained a bad
opinion of me, Miss Phyllis, it would hurt me more than I can
say."

A faint pause, during which I know his eyes are still fixed with
open amusement upon my crimson countenance. I begin to hate him.

"Have you seen the gardens?" asks Dora musically. "Perhaps to
walk through them would give you pleasure, as they cannot fail to
recall old days, and the remembrance of a past that has been
happy is so sweet.'' Dora sighs, as though she were in the habit
of remembering perpetual happy pasts.

"I shall be glad to visit them again," answers Mr. Carrington,
rising, as my sister lays down the ivory shuttle. He glances
wistfully at me, but I have not yet recovered my equanimity, and
rivet my gaze upon my wool relentlessly as he passes through the
open window.



CHAPTER IV

It is four o'clock. There is a delicious hush all over the house
and grounds, a hush that betrays the absence of the male bird
from his nest, and bespeaks security. Billy and I, hat in hand,
stand upon the door-step and look with caution round us,
preparatory to taking flight to Brinsley Wood. Ever since my
unlucky confession of having asked Mr. Carrington's permission to
wander through the grounds--thereby betraying the pleasure I feel
in such wanderings--we have found it strangely difficult to get
beyond the precincts of our home. Obstacles the most unforeseen
crop up to stay our steps, some supernatural agency being
apparently at work, by which papa becomes cognizant of even our
most secret intentions.

To-day, however, brings us such a chance of freedom as we may not
have again, business having called our father to an adjoining
village, from which he cannot possibly return until the shades of
evening have well fallen. Our evil genius, too, has for once been
kind, having forgotten to suggest to him before starting the
advisability of regulating our movements during the hours he will
be absent. We are, therefore, unfettered, and with a glow of
pleasure not unmixed with triumph we sally off towards the deep
green woods.

It is that sweetest month of the twelve, September--a glorious
ripe September, that has never yet appeared so sweet and
golden-brown as on this afternoon, that brings us so near the
close of it. High in the trees hang clusters of filberts, that
have tempted our imagination for some time, and now, with a
basket slung between us, that links us as we walk, we meditate a
raid.

As with light, exultant footsteps we hurry onwards, snatches of
song fall from my lips--a low, soft contralto voice being my one
charm. We are utterly, carelessly, recklessly happy, with that
joyous forgetfulness of all that has gone before, and may yet
follow, that belongs alone to youth. Now and then Billy's high,
boyish notes join mine, making the woods ring, until the song
comes to sudden grief through lack of memory when gay laughter
changes the echo's tone. Here a bunch of late and luscious
blackberries claim our attention. And once we have a mad race
after a small brown squirrel that evades us cleverly, and
presently revenges itself for its enforced haste by grinning at
us provokingly from an inaccessible branch.

At last the wood we want is reached; the nuts are in full view;
our object is attained.

"Now," asks Billy, with a sigh of delight, "at which tree shall
we begin?" It is a mere matter of form his asking me this
question, as he would think it derogatory to his manly dignity to
follow any suggestion I might make.

All the trees are laden: they more than answer our expectations.
Each one appears so much better than the other it is difficult to
choose between them.

"At this," I say, at length, pointing to one richly clothed that
stands before us.

"Not at all," returns Billy, contemptuously: "It isn't half as
good as this one," naming the companion tree to mine; and, his
being the master-mind, he carries the day.

"Very good: don't miss your footing," I say, anxiously, as he
begins to climb. There are no lower branches, no projections of
any kind to assist his ascent: the task is far from easy.

"Here, give me a shove," calls out Billy, impatiently, when he
had slipped back to mother earth the fourth time, after severely
barking his shins. I give him a vigorous push that raises him
successfully to an overhanging limb, after which, being merely
hand-over-hand work, he rises rapidly, and soon the spoiler
reaches his prey.

Down come the little bumping showers; if on my head or arms so
much the greater fun. I dodge; Billy aims; the birds grow nervous
at our unrestrained laughter. Already our basket is more than
half full, and Billy is almost out of sight among the thick
foliage, so high has he mounted.

Slower, and with more uncertain aim come the nuts. I begin to
grow restless. It is not so amusing as it was ten minutes ago,
and I look vaguely around me in search of newer joys.

At no great distance from me I spy another nut-tree equally laden
with treasure and far easier of access. Low, almost to the
ground, some of the branches grow. My eyes fasten upon it; a keen
desire to climb and be myself a spoiler seizes upon me. I lay my
basket on the ground, and, thought and action being one with me,
I steal off without a word to Billy and gain the wished-for spot.

Being very little inferior to Billy in the art of climbing--long
and dearly-bought experience having made me nimble, it is at very
little risk and with small difficulty I soon find myself at the
top of the tree, comfortably seated on a thick arm of wood,
plucking my nuts in safety. I feel immensely elated, both at the
eminence of my situation and the successful secrecy with which I
have carried out my plan. What fun it will be presently to see
Billy looking for me everywhere! He will at first think I have
gone roaming through the woods; then he will imagine me lost, and
be a good deal frightened; it will be some time before he will
suspect the truth.

I fairly laugh to myself as these ideas flit through my idle
brain--more, perhaps, through real gayety of heart than from any
excellence the joke contains--when, suddenly raising my head, I
see what makes my mischievous smile freeze upon my lip.

From my exalted position I can see a long way before me, and
there in the distance, coming with fatal certainty in my
direction, I espy Mr. Carrington! At the same moment Billy's legs
push themselves in a dangling fashion through the branches of his
tree, and are followed by the remainder of his person a little
later. Forgetful of my original design, forgetful of everything
but the eternal disgrace that will cling to me through life if
found by our landlord in my present unenviable plight, I call to
him, in tones suppressed indeed, but audible enough to betray my
hiding-place.

"Billy, here is Mr. Carrington--he is coming towards us. Catch
these nuts quickly, while I get down."

"Why where on earth---" begins Billy, and then grasping the
exigencies of the case, refrains from further vituperation, and
comes to the rescue.

The foe steadily advances. I fling all my collected treasure into
Billy's upturned face, and seizing a branch begin frantically to
beat a retreat. I am half-way down, but still very, _very_ far
from the ground--at least, so far, that Billy can render me no
assistance--when I miss my footing, slip a little way down
against my will, and then sustain a check. Some outlying bough,
with vicious and spiteful intent, has laid hold on my gown in
such way that I can not reach to undo it.

"Come down, can't you?" says Billy, with impatience "you are
showing a yard and a half of your leg."

"I can't!" I groan; "I'm caught somewhere. Oh, _what_ shall I
do?"

Meantime, Mr. Carrington is coming nearer and nearer. As I peer
at him through the unlucky branches I can see he is looking if
anything rather handsomer than usual, with his gun on his
shoulder and a pipe between his lips. As he meets my eyes riveted
upon him from my airy perch he takes out the pipe and consigns it
to his pocket. If he gets round to the other side of the tree,
from which point the horrors of my position are even more
forcibly depicted, I feel I shall drop dead.

"Why don't you get that lazy boy to do the troublesome part of
the business for you?" calls out our welcome friend, while yet at
some distance. Then, becoming suddenly aware of my dilemma, "Are
you in any difficulty? Can I help you down?"

He has become preternaturally grave--so grave that it occurs to
me he may possibly be repressing a smile. Billy, I can see, is
inwardly convulsed. I begin to feel very wrathful.

"I don't want any help" I say, with determination. "But for my
dress I could manage---"

"Better let me assist you," says Mr. Carrington, making a step
forward. In another moment he will have gained the other side,
and then all will be indeed lost.

"No, _no!_" I cry, desperately; "I _won't_ be helped. Stay where
you are."

"Very good," returns he, and, immediately presenting his back to
me, makes a kind pretense of studying the landscape.

Now, although this is exactly the thing of all others I most wish
him to do, still the voluntary doing of it on his part induces me
to believe my situation a degree more indecent than before. I
feel I shall presently be dissolved in tears. I tug madly at my
unfortunate dress without making the faintest impression upon it.
Oh, why is it that my cotton--that up to this has been so prone
to reduce itself to rags--to-day should prove so tough? My
despair forces from me a heavy sigh.

"Not down yet?" says Mr. Carrington, turning to me once more.
"You will never manage it by yourself. Be sensible, and let me
put you on your feet."

"No," I answer, in an agony; "it _must_ give way soon. I shall do
it, if--if--you will only turn your back to me again." It is
death to my pride to have to make this request. I nerve myself to
try one more heroic effort. The branch I am clinging to gives way
with a crash. "Oh!" I shriek frantically, and in another moment
fall headlong into Mr. Carrington's outstretched arms.

"Are you hurt?" he asks, gazing at me with anxious eyes, and
still retaining his hold of me.

"Yes, I am," I answered, tearfully. "Look at my arm." I pull up
my sleeve cautiously and disclose an arm that looks indeed
wonderfully white next the blood that trickles slowly from it.

"Oh, horrible!" says our rich neighbor, with real and intense
concern, and, taking out his handkerchief, proceeds to bind up my
wound with the extremest tenderness.

"Why didn't you let him take you down?" says Bill, reproachfully,
who is rather struck by the blood. "It would have been better
after all."

"Of, course it would," says Mr. Carrington, raising his head for
a moment from the contemplation of his surgical task to smile
into my eyes. "But some little children are very foolish."

"I was seventeen last May," I answered promptly. It is
insufferable to be regarded as a child when one is almost
eighteen. There is a touch of asperity in my tone.

"Indeed! _So_ old?" says our friend, still smiling.

"Mr. Carrington," I begin, presently, in a rather whimpering
tone, "you won't say anything about this at home--_will_ you? You
see, they--they might not like the idea of my climbing, and they
would be angry. Of course I know it was very unladylike of me,
and _indeed_"--very earnestly this--"I had no more intention of
doing such a thing when I left home than I had of flying. Had I,
Billy?"

"You had not," says Billy. "I don't know what put the thought
into your head. Why, it is two years since last you climbed a
tree."

This is a fearful lie; but the dear boy means well.

"You won't betray me?" I say again to my kind doctor.

"I would endure the tortures of the rack first," returns he,
giving his bandage a final touch. "Be assured they shall never
hear of it from me. You must not suspect me of being a
tale-bearer, Miss Phyllis. Does your arm pain you still? have I
made it more comfortable?"

"I hardly feel it at all now," I answer, gratefully. "I don't
know what I should have done but for you--first catching me as
you did, and then dressing my hurt. But how shall I return you
your handkerchief?"

"May I not call to-morrow to see you are none the worse for your
accident? It is a long week since last I was at Summerleas. Would
I bore you all very much if I allowed myself there again soon?"

"Not at all," I answered warmly, thinking of Dora; "the oftener
you come the more we shall be pleased."

"Would it please _you_ to see me often?" He watches me keenly as
he asks this question.

"Yes, of course it would," I answer, politely, feeling slightly
surprised at his tone--_very_ slightly.

"How long have you known me?"

"Exactly a month yesterday," I exclaim, promptly; "it was on the
25th of August you first came to see us. I remember the date
perfectly."

"Do you?" with pleased surprise. "What impressed that
uninteresting date upon your memory?"

"Because it was on that day that Billy got home the new
pigeons--such little beauties, all pure white. They were unlucky,
however, as two of them died since. That is how I recollect its
being a month," I continue, recurring to his former words.

"Oh! I suppose you would hardly care to remember anything in
which Billy was not concerned. Sometimes--not always--I envy
Billy. And so it is really only a month since first I saw you?
To_ me_ it seems a year--more than a year."

"Ah! what did I tell you," I say, speaking in the eager tone one
adopts when triumphantly proving the correctness of an early
opinion. "I knew you would soon grow tired of us. I said so from
the beginning."

"Did you?" in a curious tone.

"Yes. It was not a clever guess to make, was it? Why, there is
literally nothing to be done down here, unless one farms, or
talks scandal of one's neighbor, or---"

"Or goes nutting, and puts one's neck in danger," with a smile.
"Surely there can be nothing tame about a place where such
glorious exploits can be performed?" Then, changing his manner,
"You have described Puxley very accurately, I must confess; and
yet, strange as it may appear to you, your opinion was rashly
formed, because as yet I am not tired of either it or--you."

"And yet you find the time drag heavily?"

"When spent at Strangemore--yes. Never when spent at Summerleas."

I begin to think Dora has a decided chance. I search my brain
eagerly for some more leading question that shall still further
satisfy me on this point, but find nothing. Billy, who has been
absent from us for some time, comes leisurely up to us. His
presence recalls the hour.

"We must be going now," I say, extending my hand; "it is getting
late. Good-bye, Mr. Carrington--and thank you again very much," I
added, somewhat shyly.

"If you persist in thinking there is anything to be grateful for,
give me my reward," he says, quickly, "by letting me walk with
you to the boundary of the wood."

"Yes, do," says Billy, effusively. Still Mr. Carrington looks at
me, as though determined to take permission from my eyes alone.

"Come, if you wish it," I say, answering the unspoken look in his
eyes, and feeling thoroughly surprised to hear a man so
altogether grown up express a desire for our graceless society.
Thus sanctioned, he turns and walks by my side, conversing in the
pleasant, light, easy style peculiar to him, until the boundary
he named is reached. Here we pause to bid each other once more
good-bye.

"And I may come to-morrow?" he asks, holding my hand closely.

"Yes--but--but--I cannot give you the handkerchief before mother
and Dora," I murmur, blushing hotly.

"True, I had forgotten that important handkerchief. But perhaps
you could manage to walk with me as far as she entrance-gate,
could you?"

"I don't know," I return doubtfully, "If not, I can give it to
you some other day."

"So you can. Keep it until I am fortunate enough to meet you
again. I shall probably get on without it until then."

So with a smile and a backward nod and glance, we part.

For some time after he has left us, Billy and I move on together
without speaking, a most unusual thing, when I break the silence
by my faltering tones.

"Billy," I say, trembling with hope and fear, "Billy tell me the
truth. That time, you know, did I show very much of my leg?"

"Not more than an inch or two above the garter," he answers, in
an encouraging tone, and for a full minute I feel that with
cheerfulness I could attend the funeral of my brother Billy.

I am mortified to the last degree. Unbidden tears rise to my
eyes. Even though I might have known a more soothing answer to be
false, still with rapture I would have hailed it. There is a
brutal enjoyment of the scene in his whole demeanor that stings
me sorely. I begin to compare dear Roly with my younger brother
in a manner highly unflattering to the latter. If Roland had been
here in Billy's place to day, instead of being as he always is
with that tiresome regiment in some forgotten corner, all might
have been different. _He_ at least being a _man_, would have felt
for me. How could I have been mad enough to look for sympathy
from a _boy_?

_Dear_ Roland! The only fault_ he_ has is his extreme and
palpable selfishness. But what of that? Are not_ all_ men so
afflicted? Why should he be condemned for what is only to be
expected and looked for in the grander sex? What I detest more
than anything else is a person who, while professing to be
friends with one, only---

I grow morose, and decline all further conversation, until we
come so near our home that but one turn more hides it from our
view.

Here Billy remonstrates.

"Of course you can sulk if you like," he says in an injured tone,
"and not speak to a fellow, all for nothing; but you can't go
into the house with your arm like that, unless you wish them to
discover the battle in which you have been engaged."

I hesitate and look ruefully at my arm. The sleeve of my dress is
rolled up above the elbow, having refused obstinately to come
down over the bandage, and consequently I present a dishevelled,
not to say startling appearance.

"I must undo it, I suppose," I return, disinclination in my tone,
and Billy says, "Of course," with hideous briskness. Therewith he
removes the guarding-pin and proceeds to unfold the handkerchief
with an air that savors strongly of pleasurable curiosity, while
I stand shrinking beside him, and vowing mentally never again to
trust myself at an undue distance from mother earth.

At length the last fold is undone, and, to my unspeakable relief,
I see that the wound, though crimson round the edges, has ceased
to bleed. Hastily and carefully drawing the sleeve of my dress
over it, I thrust the stained handkerchief into my pocket and
make for the house.

When I have exchanged a word or two with Dora (who is always in
the way when not wanted--that being the hall at the present
moment), I escape upstairs without being taken to task for my
damaged garments, and carefully lock my door. Nevertheless,
though now, comparatively speaking, in safety, there is still a
weight upon my mind. If to-morrow I am to return the handkerchief
to its owner, it must in the meantime be washed, and who is to
wash it?

Try as I will, I cannot bring myself to make a confidante of
Martha: therefore nothing remains for me but to undertake the
purifying of it myself. I have still half an hour clear before
the dinner-bell will ring: so, plunging my landlord's cambric
into the basin, I boldly commence my work.  Five minutes later. I
am getting on: it really begins to look almost white again; the
stains have nearly vanished, and only a general pinkiness
remains. But what is to be done with the water?--if left, it will
surely betray me, and betrayal means punishment.

I begin to feel like a murderess. In every murder case I have
ever read (and they have a particular fascination for me), the
miserable perpetrator of the crime finds a terrible difficulty in
getting rid of the water in which he has washed off the traces of
his victim's blood. I now find a similar difficulty in disposing
of the water reddened by my own. I open the window, look
carefully out, and, seeing no one, fling the contents of my basin
into the air. "It falls to earth I know not where," as I
hurriedly draw in my head and get through the remainder of my
self-imposed duty.

After that my dressing for dinner is a scramble; but I get
through it in time, and come down serene and innocent, to take my
accustomed place at the table.

All goes well until towards the close of the festivities, when
papa, fixing a piercing eye on me, says, generally,---

"May I inquire which of you is in the habit of throwing water
from your bedroom windows upon chance passers by?"

A ghastly silence follows. Dora looks up in meek surprise. Billy
glances anxiously at me. My knees knock together. Did it fall
upon _him_? Has he discovered all?

"Well, why do I receive no answer? _Who_ did it?" demands papa,
in a voice of suppressed thunder, still with his eye on me.

"I threw some out this evening," I acknowledge, in a faint tone,
"but never before--I---"

"Oh! it was_ you_, was it?" says papa, with a glare. "I need
scarcely have inquired; I might have known the one most likely to
commit a disreputable action. Is that an established habit of
yours? Are there no servants to do your bidding? It was the most
monstrous proceeding I ever in my life witnessed."

"It was only---" I begin timidly.

"'It was only' that it is an utterly impossible thing for you
ever to be a lady," interrupted papa, bitterly. "You are a
downright disgrace to your family. At times I find it a difficult
matter to believe you a Vernon."

Having delivered this withering speech, he leans back in his
chair, with a snort that would not have done discredit to a
war-horse, which signifies that the scene is at an end. Two large
tears gather in my eyes and roll heavily down my cheeks. They_
look_ like tears of penitence, but in reality are tears of
relief. Oh, if that tell-tale water had but fallen on the breast
of his shirt, or on his stainless cuffs, where would the
inquiries have terminated?

Billy--who, I feel instinctively, has been suffering tortures
during the past five minutes--now, through the intensity of his
joy at my escape, so far forgets himself as to commence a
brilliant fantasia on the tablecloth with a dessert-fork. It
lasts a full minute without interruption: I am too depressed to
give him a warning glance. At length,---

"Billy, when you have quite done making that horrid noise,
perhaps you will ring the bell," says Dora, smoothly, with a view
to comfort. Certainly the tattoo _is_ irritating.

"When I have quite done I will," returns Billy, calmly, and
continues his odious occupation, with now an addition to it in
the form of an unearthly scraping noise, caused by his nails,
that makes one's flesh creep.

Papa, deep in the perusal of the _Times_, hears and sees nothing.
Mother is absent.

"Papa," cries Dora, whose delicate nerves are all unstrung, "will
you send Billy out of the room, or else induce him to stop his
present employment?"

"William," says papa, severely, "cease that noise directly." And
William, casting a vindictive glance at Dora, lays down the
dessert-fork and succumbs.



CHAPTER V.

I have wandered down to the river side and under the shady trees.
As yet, October is so young and mild the leaves refuse to offer
tribute, and still quiver and rustle gayly on their branches.

It is a week since my adventure in the wood--five days since Mr.
Carrington's last visit. On that occasion having failed to obtain
one minute with him alone, the handkerchief still remains in my
possession, and proves a very skeleton in my closet, the initials
M. J. C.--that stand for Marmaduke John Carrington, as all the
world knows--staring out boldly from their corner, and
threatening at any moment to betray me: so that, through fear and
dread of discovery, I carry it about with me, and sleep with it
beneath my pillow. Looking back upon it all now, I wonder how I
could have been so foolish, so wanting in invention. I feel with
what ease I could now dispose of anything tangible and obnoxious.

There is a slight chill in the air, in spite of the pleasant sun;
and I half make up my mind to go for a brisk walk, instead of
sauntering idly, as I am at present doing, when somebody calls to
me from the adjoining field. It is Mr. Carrington. He climbs the
wall that separates us, and drops into my territory, a little
scrambling Irish terrier at his heels.

"Is this a favorite retreat of yours?" he asks, as our hands
meet.

"Sometimes. Oh, Mr. Carrington, I am so glad to see you to-day."

"Are you, really? That is better news than I hoped to hear when I
left home this morning."

"Because I want to return you your handkerchief. I have had it so
long, and am so anxious to get rid of it. It--it would probably
look nicer," I say, with hesitation, slowly withdrawing the
article in question from my pocket, "if anybody else had washed
it; but I did not want any one to find out about--_that day_: so
I had to do it myself."

Lingering, cautiously, I bring it to light and hold it out to
him. Oh, how dreadfully pink and uncleanly it appears in the
broad light of the open air! To _me_ it seems doubly hideous--the
very last thing a fastidious gentleman would dream of putting to
his nose.

Mr. Carrington accepts it almost tenderly. There is not the
shadow of a smile upon his face. It would be impossible for me to
say _how_ grateful I feel to him for this.

"Is it possible you took all that trouble," he says, a certain
gentle light, with which I am growing familiar, coming into his
eyes as they rest upon my anxious face. "My dear child, why? Did
you not understand I was only jesting when I expressed a desire
to have it again? Why did you not put it in the fire, or rid
yourself of it in some other fashion long ago? So"--after a
pause--"you _really_ washed it with your own hands for me?"

"One might guess that by looking at it," I answer, with a rather
awkward laugh: "still, I think it would not look _quite_ so
badly, but that I kept it in my pocket ever since, and that gives
it its crumpled appearance."

"Ever since? so near to you for five long days? What a weight it
must have been on your tender conscience! Well, at all events no_
other_ washerwoman"--with a smile--"shall ever touch it. I
promise you that." He places it carefully in an inside pocket as
he speaks.

"Oh, please do not say that!" I cry, dismayed: "you must not keep
it as a specimen of my handiwork. Once properly washed, you will
forget all about it: but if you keep it before your eyes in its
present state--- Mr. Carrington, _do_ put it in your
clothes-basket the moment you go home."

He only laughs at this pathetic entreaty, and throws a pebble
into the tiny river that runs at our feet.

"Why are you alone?" he asks, presently. "Why is not the
indefatigable Billy with you?"

"He reads with a tutor three times a week. That leaves me very
often lonely. I came here to-day just to pass the time until he
can join me. He don't seem to care much about Greek and Latin," I
admit, ingenuously; "and, as he never looks at his lessons until
five minutes before Mr. Caldwood comes, you see he don't get over
them very quickly."

"And so leaves you disconsolate longer than he need. Your sister,
Miss Vernon--does she never go for a walk with you?"

Ah! now he is coming to Dora.

"Dora? Oh, never. She is not fond of walking; it does not agree
with her, she says. You may have noticed she is not very robust,
she looks so fragile, so different from _me_ in every respect."

"Very different."

"Yes, we all see that," I answer, rather disconcerted by his
ready acquiescence in this home view. "And so pretty as she is,
too! Don't you think her very pretty, Mr. Carrington?"

"Extremely so. Even more than merely pretty. Her complexion, I
take it, must be quite unrivaled. She is positively lovely--in
her own style."

"I am very glad you admire her; but indeed you would be singular
if you did not do so," I say, with enthusiasm. "Her golden hair
and blue eyes make her quite a picture. _I_ think she has the
prettiest face I ever saw: don't you?"

"No; not the prettiest. I know another that, to me at least, is
far more beautiful."

He is looking straight before him, apparently at nothing, and to
my attentive ear there is something hidden in his tone that
renders me uneasy for the brilliant future I have mapped out for
my sister.

"You have been so much in the world," I say, with some
dejection, "and of course in London and Paris and all the large
cities one sees many charming faces from time to time. I should
have remembered that. I suppose, away from this little village,
Dora's face would be but one in a crowd."

"It was not in London or Paris, or any large city I saw the face
of which I speak. It was in a neighborhood as small--yes, _quite_
as small as this. The owner of it was a mere child--a little
country-girl, knowing nothing of the busy world outside her home,
but I shall never again see any one so altogether sweet and
lovable."

"What was she like?" I ask, curiously. I am not so uneasy as I
was. If only a child she cannot, of course, interfere with Dora.
"Describe her to me?"

"What _is_ she like, you mean. She is still in the land of the
living. _Describe_ her I don't believe I could," says my
companion, with a light laugh. "If I gave you her exact
photograph in words, I dare say I would call down your scorn on
my benighted taste. Who ever grew rapturous over a description?
If you cross-examine me about her charms, without doubt I shall
fall through. To my way of thinking beauty does not lie in
features, in hair, or eyes, or mouth. It is _there_, without
one's knowing why; a look, an expression, a smile, all go to make
up the indescribable something that is perfection."

"You speak of her as though she were a woman. I don't believe she
is a child at all," I say, with a pout.

"She is the greatest child I ever met. But tell me---" Then,
breaking off suddenly, and turning to me, "By the bye," he says,
"what may I call you? Miss Vernon is too formal, and Miss Phyllis
I detest."

"Yes," return I, laughing, "it reminds me of Martha. You may call
me Phyllis if you like."

"Thank you; I shall like it very much. _Apropos_ of photographs,
then, a moment ago, Phyllis, did you ever sit for your portrait?"
He is looking at me as he speaks, as though desirous of
photographing me upon his brain without further loss of time.

"Oh, yes, twice," I answer, cheerfully; "once by a travelling man
who came round, and did us all very cheaply indeed (I think for
fourpence or sixpence a head); and once in Carston. I had a dozen
taken then; but when I had given one each to them all at home,
and one to Martha, I found I had no use for the others, and had
only wasted my pocket-money. Perhaps"--diffidently--"_ you_ would
like one?"

"_Like_ it!" says Mr. Carrington, with most uncalled-for
eagerness: "I should rather think I would. Will you really give
me one, Phyllis?"

"Of course," I answer, with surprise: "they are no use to me, and
have been tossing about in my drawer for six months. Will you
have a Carston one? I really think it is the best. Though, if you
put your hand over the eyes, the itinerant's is rather like me."

"What happened to the eyes?"

"There is a faint cast in the right one. The man said it was the
way I always looked, but I don't think so myself. _You_ don't
think I have a squint, do you, Mr. Carrington?"

Here I open my blue-gray eyes to their widest and gaze at my
companion in anxious inquiry.

"No, I don't see it," returns he, when he has subjected the eyes
in question to a close and lingering examination, Then he laughs
a little, and I laugh too, to encourage him, and because at this
time of my life gayety of any sort seems good, and tears and
laughter are very near to me; and presently we are both making
merry over my description of the wanderer's production.

"What o'clock is it," I ask, a little later. "It must be time for
me to go home, and Billy will be waiting."

Having told me the hour, he says:

"Have you no watch, Phyllis?"

"No."

"Don't you find it awkward now and then being ignorant of the
time? Would you like one?"

"Oh, would I not?" I answer, promptly. "There is nothing I would
like better. Do you know it is the one thing for which I am
always wishing."

"Phyllis," says Mr. Carrington, eagerly, "let me give you one."

I stare at him in silent bewilderment. Is he really in earnest?
He certainly looks so; and for a moment I revel in the glorious
thought. Fancy! what it would be to have a watch of my very own;
to be able every five minutes to assure myself of the exact hour!
Think of all the malicious pleasure I should enjoy in dangling it
before Dora's jealous eyes! what pride in exhibiting it to
Billy's delighted ones! Probably it would be handsomer than
Dora's, which has seen service, and, being newer, would surely
keep better time.

Then the delight passes, and something within me whispers such
joy is not for me. Of course he would only give it to me for
Dora's sake, and yet I _know_--I cannot say _why_ I feel it--but
I _know_ if I accepted a watch from Mr. Carrington all at home
would be angry, and it would cause a horrible row.

"Thank you," I say mournfully. "Thank you _very, very_ much, Mr.
Carrington, but I could not take it from you. It is very kind of
you to offer it, and I would accept it if I could, but it would
be of no use. At home I know they would not let me have it, and
so it would be a pity for you to spend all your money upon it for
nothing."

"What nonsense!" impatiently. "_Who_ would not let you take it?"

"Papa, mamma, every one," I answer, with deepest dejection. (I
would so _much_ have liked that watch! Why, _why_ did he put the
delightful but transient idea into my head?) "They would all say
I acted wrongly in taking it, and--and they would send it back to
you again."

"Is there anything else you would like, Phyllis, that I _might_
give you?"

"No, nothing, thank you. I must only wait. Mother has promised me
her watch upon my wedding morning."

"You seem comfortably certain of being married, sooner or later,"
he says, with a laugh that still shows some vexation. "Do you
ever think what _sort_ of a husband you would like, Phyllis?"

"No, I never think of disagreeable things, if I can help it," is
my somewhat tart reply. My merry mood is gone: I feel in some way
injured, and inclined towards snappishness. "And from what _I_
have seen of husbands I think they are all, every one, each more
detestable than the other. If I were an heiress I would never
marry; but, being a girl without a fortune, I suppose I must."

Mr. Carrington roars.

"I never heard anything so absurd," he says, "as such mature
sentiments coming from _your_ lips. Why, to hear you talk, one
might imagine you a town-bred young woman, one who has passed
through the fourth campaign; but to _see_ you--- You have learned
your lesson uncommonly well, though I am sure you were never
taught it by your mother. And how do you know that you may not
lose your heart to a curate, and find yourself poorer after your
marriage than before?"

"That I never will," I return, decisively. "In the first place, I
detest curates, and in the next I would not be wife to a poor
man, even if I adored him. I will marry a rich man, or I will not
marry at all."

"I hate to hear you talk like that," says Mr. Carrington,
gravely. "The ideas are so unsuited to a little loving girl like
you. Although I am positive you do not mean one word of what you
say, still it pains me to hear you."

"I _do_ mean it," I answer defiantly; "but as my conversation
pains you, I will not inflict it on you longer. Good-bye!"

"Good-bye, you perverse child; and don't try to _imagine_
yourself mercenary. Are you angry with me?" holding my unwilling
hand and smiling into my face. "Don't, I'm not worth it. Come,
give me one smile to bear me company until we meet again." Thus
abjured, I laugh, and my fingers grow quiet in his grasp. "And
when will that be?" continues Mr. Carrington. "To-morrow or next
day? Probably Friday will see me at Summerleas. In the meantime,
now we are friends again, I must remind you not to forget your
promise about that Carston photo."

"I will remember," I say; and so we separate.



CHAPTER VI.

On my return home, to my inexpressible surprise and delight, I
find Roland. During my absence he has arrived, totally unexpected
by any member of the household; and the small excitement his
appearance causes makes him doubly welcome, as anything that
startles us out of our humdrum existence is hailed with positive
rapture. Even mother, whose mind is still wonderfully fresh and
young, considering all the years she has passed under papa's
thumb, enters freely into the general merriment, and forgets for
the time being her daily cares.

"You see, I found I would be here almost as soon as a letter,"
explains Roland; "and, as I hate writing like a nightmare, I
resolved to take you a little by surprise."

Mother, radiant, is sitting near him, regarding him with humid
eyes. If dear mother had been married to an indulgent husband she
would have been a dreadful goose. Even as it is she possesses a
talent for weeping upon all occasions only to be equalled by
mine.

"How did you manage to get away so soon again, Roly?" I ask, when
I have embraced him as much as he will allow.

"I hardly know. Luck, I fancy--and the colonel--did it. The old
boy, you see, has a weakness for me which I return by having a
weakness for the old boy's daughter. Mother"--languidly--"may I
marry the old boy's daughter? She is an extremely pretty little
girl, young, with fifteen thousand pounds; but I would not like
to engage myself to her without your full consent."

Mother laughs and passes her hand with a light caressing gesture
over his charming face.

"Conceited boy!" she murmurs, fondly; "there is little chance you
will ever do so much good for yourself."

"Don't be too sure. At all events, I have your consent?"

"Yes, and my blessing, too," says mother, laughing again.

"Thanks. Then I'll turn it over in my mind when I go back."

"Roly," I break in with my accustomed graciousness, "what brought
you?"

"The train and an overpowering desire to see Dora's young man."

A laugh and a blush from Dora.

"I met him just now," I say, "down by the trout-river. What a
pity he did not come home with me, to satisfy your curiosity
without delay!"

"Mother, do you think it the correct thing for Phyllis to keep
clandestine appointments with her brother-in-law? Dora, is it
possible you do not scent mischief in the air? A person, too, of
Phyllis's well-known attractions---"

"What was he doing at the trout-river?" asks Dora, with a smile.
She is too secure in the knowledge of her own beauty to dread a
rival anywhere, least of all in _me_.

"Nothing, as far as I could see. He talked a little, and said he
was coming here next Friday."

"The day after to-morrow. I shall ask him his intentions," says
Roly. "It is most fortunate I am on the spot. One should never
let an affair of this kind _drag_. It will doubtless be a
thankless task; but I make a point of never shirking duty; and
when we have put our beloved father comfortably under ground---"

"Roland," interrupts mother, in a shocked tone. There is a pause.

"I quite thought you were going to say something," says Roland,
amiably. "I was mistaken. I will therefore continue. When we have
put our beloved father well under the ground I will then be head
of this house, and natural guardian to these poor dear girls and,
with this prospect in view, I feel even at the present moment a
certain responsibility, that compels me to look after their
interests and bring this recreant gallant to book."

"Roland, my dear, I wish you would not speak so of your father,"
puts in mamma, feebly.

"Very well, I won't," returns Roly; "and he shan't be put under
ground at all, if you don't wish it. Cremation shall be his fate,
and we shall keep his precious ashes in an urn."

"I don't believe Mr. Carrington cares a pin for Dora," says
Billy, irrevelantly. "I think he likes Phyllis twice as well."
This remark, though intended to do so, does _not_ act as a
bombshell in the family circle; it is regarded as a mere flash in
the pan from Billy, and is received with silent contempt. What
could a boy know about such matters?

"I have a month's leave," Roland informs us presently. "Do you
think in that time we could polish it off--courtship, proposal,
and wedding? Though," reflectively, "that would be a pity, as by
puffing off the marriage for a little while I might then screw
another month out of the old boy."

"Just so," I answer, approvingly.

"He is such a desirable young man in every way," says mother, _a
propos_ of Mr. Carrington; "so steady, well-tempered, and his
house is really beautiful. You know it,
Roland--Strangemore--seven miles from this?"

"I think it gloomy," Dora says, quietly. "When I--if I were
to--that is---"

"What a charming virtue is modesty!" I exclaim, _sotto voce_.

"Go on, Dora," says Roland, in an encouraging tone. "When you
marry Mr. Carrington, what will you do then?"

"Of course I don't see the smallest prospect of it," murmurs
Dora, with downcast eyes; "but if I were to become mistress of
Strangemore I would throw more light into all the rooms; I would
open up windows everywhere and take down those heavy pillars."

"Then you would ruin it," I cry indignantly; "its ancient
appearance is its chief charm. You would make it a mere modern
dwelling-house; and the pillars I think magnificent."

"_I_ don't," says dear Dora, immovably; "and if ever I get the
chance I will certainly remove them."

"You won't get the chance, then; you need not think it. Mr.
Carrington has not the smallest idea of marrying you," exclaims
Billy, whose Latin and Greek have evidently disagreed with him.

"It is a pity your tutor cannot teach you to be a gentleman,"
retorts Dora, casting a withering glance at our youngest born.

"Our dear William's temper appears slightly ruffled," remarks
Roland, smoothly. "Evidently the gentleman of the name of
Caldwood was lavish with his birch this morning. Come with me,
Phyllis: I want to visit the stables."

I follow him gladly; and Billy joining us, with a grim
countenance, we sally forth, leaving Dora to pour her griefs into
mother's gentle bosom.



CHAPTER VII

FRIDAY brings Mr. Carrington, who is specially agreeable, and
devotes himself a good deal to Roland. There is a considerable
amount of talk about shooting, hunting, and so forth, and we can
all see that Roly is favorably impressed. Dora's behavior is
perfect--her modesty and virtuous bashfulness apparent. Our
visitor rather affects her society than otherwise, but beyond
listening to her admiringly when she speaks, shows no marked
attention. In the country a visit is indeed a visitation, and
several hours elapse before he takes his departure. Once finding
myself alone with him in the conservatory, I bestow upon him my
promised picture, which he receives with open gratitude and
consigns to his pocket as he hears footsteps approaching.

Roland's presence has inspired us all with much additional
cheerfulness. We have never appeared so gay so free from
restraint, as on this afternoon, and Mr. Carrington finds it hard
to tear himself away. I myself am in wild spirits, and quite
outshine myself every now and then; and Billy, who is not at any
time afflicted with shyness, thinks it a safe opportunity to ask
our friend before he leaves if he will some day take us for a
drive in his dog-cart.

"Of course I will," say Mr. Carrington. "How unpardonable of me
never to have thought of it before! But perhaps," speaking to
Billy, but looking at Dora and me, "perhaps you would prefer four
horses and the coach? It will be a charity to give it a chance to
escape from the moths."

"Oh, I say" says Billy, "are you in earnest?" and, being
reassured on this point, fairly overflows with delight.

Dora and I are scarcely less delighted, and Roland is graciously
pleased to say it will be rather fun, when he finds the two
Hastings girls are also coming. Somehow nobody thinks of a
chaperon, which certainly heightens the enjoyment, and proves
what a reputable person Mr. Carrington must be.

When the day arrives, and our landlord, clad in a thick light
overcoat, drives his four bright bays up to our door, our
enthusiasm reaches its final pitch. Imagination can no farther
go: our dream is fulfilled.

Mr. Carrington helps Dora carefully to the box-seat, and then
springs up beside her. Billy and I sit very close to each other.
Roland takes his place anywhere, with a view to changing it on
the arrival of Miss Lenah Hastings. The whip crackles, the bays
throw up their heads--we are off!

I kiss my hands a hundred times to mamma and Martha and Jane, the
cook, who have all come out to the door steps to see us start;
while Brewster at the corner of the house stands agape with
excited surprise. Not that he need have shown astonishment of any
sort, considering our expedition and the manner of it has been
ceaselessly dinned into his ears every hour of the day during the
past week, by the untiring Billy.

At Rylston we take up the Hastings, and their brother, a fat but
well-meaning young man, who plants himself on my other side, and
makes elephantine attempts at playfulness. I do not mind him in
the least; I find I can pour out my superfluous spirits upon him
quite as well as upon a more companionable person, perhaps
better; for with him at least I have all the conversation to
myself. So I chatter and laugh and talk to Mr. Hastings until I
reduce him to a comatose state, leaving him all eyes and little
tongue.

I have succeeded in captivating his fancy, however, or else it is
his usual mode to devote himself for the entire day to whoever
may first happen to fall into his clutches; as, when we descend
to Carlton Wood to partake of the lunch our host has provided for
us, he still clings to me, and outwardly at least is almost
loverlike.

Alas that October days should be so fleet! A day such as this one
might have had forty hours without bringing _ennui_ to any of us;
but at length evening closes in, the time is come when we must
take our departure. Regretfully we collect our shawls and move
towards the drag.

Mr. Hastings, still adoring, scrambles on by my side, panting and
putting with the weight of the too solid flesh nature has
bestowed upon him and the wraps he is compelled to carry. Mr.
Carrington, Dora, and Miss Hastings are close behind; Billy
straggles somewhere in the distance; Roland and pretty Lenah
follow more to the left.

Just as we reach the road Mr. Carrington speaks, and colors a
little as he does so.

"Miss Phyllis, I think I once heard you say you had never sat on
the front of a drag; will you take it now? Miss Vernon agrees
with me it is a good chance for you to see if you would like it."

How good of him to remember that foolish speech of mine, when I
know he is longing for Dora's society!

"Oh! thank you," I say, flushing; "it is very kind of you to
think of it; but Dora likes it too, and I can assure you I was
quite happy. I enjoyed myself immensely when coming."

"Oh! in that case---" returns Mr. Carrington, coldly, half
turning away.

"Not but that I would _like_ it," I go on, encouraged by a smile
from Dora, who can now afford to be magnanimous, having been made
much of and singled out by the potentate during the entire day,
"if you are sure (to Mr. Carrington) you wish it."

"Come," says he with a pleased smile, and soon I find myself in
the coveted position, our landlord in excellent temper beside me.

The horses, tired of standing, show a good deal of friskiness at
the set-off, and claim their driver's undivided attention, so
that we have covered at least a half mile of the road before he
speaks to me. Then stooping to tuck the rug more closely round me
(the evenings have grown very chilly) he whispers, with a
smile:--

"Are you _quite_ sure you would rather be here with me than at
the back with that 'fat boy.'"

"Quite positive," I answer, with an emphatic nod. "I was only
afraid you would have preferred--you would regret--you would have
liked to return as you came," I wind up, desperately.

He stares at me curiously for a moment almost with suspicion, as
it seems to me, in the gathering twilight.

"At this moment, believe me, I have no regrets, no troubles," he
says at length, quietly. "Can you say the same? Did Hasting's
eloquence make no impression?  I couldn't hear what particular
line he was taking, but he looked unutterable things. Once or
twice I thought he was going to weep. The melting mood would just
suit a person of his admirable dimensions."

"He was very kind," I return coldly, "and I don't wish to hear
him spoken of in a slighting manner. He is so attentive and
good-natured; he carried all those wraps without a murmur, though
I'm sure he didn't like it, because his face got so red and
he--he lost his breath so dreadfully as we came along. None of
the others overburdened themselves, and _you_, I particularly
noticed, carried nothing."

"I'm a selfish beast, I know," said Mr. Carrington, composedly,
"and have always had a rooted objection to carrying anything,
except, perhaps, a gun, and there is no getting out of that.
There are so many disagreeable burdens in this life that _must_
be borne, that it seems to me weak-minded voluntarily to add to
them. Don't scold me any more, Phyllis; I want to be happy while
I can."

"Then don't abuse poor Mr. Hastings."

"Surely it isn't abuse to say a man is fat when he weighs twenty
stone."

"It is impossible he can weigh more than fourteen," I exclaim
indignantly.

"Well, even that is substantial," returns he, with a provoking
air. Suddenly he laughs.

"Don't let us quarrel about Hastings," he says, looking down at
me; "I will make any concessions you like, rather than that. I
will say he is slim, refined, a very skeleton, if you wish it,
only take that little pucker off your forehead it was never meant
to wear a frown. Now tell me if you have enjoyed your day."

"Oh, so much!" I say, with a sigh for the delights that are dead
and gone. "You see we have never been accustomed to anything
but--but---" I cannot bring myself to mention the disreputable
fossil that lies in the coach-house at home, so substitute the
words "one horse"; and now, to find one's self behind four, with
such a good height between one's self and the ground, is simply
bliss I would like to drive like this forever.

"May I take that as a compliment?"

"A compliment?"

My stupidity slightly discomfits my companion.

"I only hoped you meant you--you would have no objection to
engage me as coachman in your never-ending drive," he says,
slowly. "My abominable selfishness again, you see. I cannot
manage to forget Marmaduke Carrington." Then, abruptly. "You
shall have the four-in-hand any day you wish, Phyllis, as it
pleases you so much; remember that. Just name a day whenever you
choose, and I shall only be too happy to drive you."

What a brother-in-law he will make! My heart throbs with delight.
This day, then, is to be one of a series. I feel a wild desire to
get near Billy, to give him a squeeze in the exuberance of my
joy, but in default of him can only look my gratitude by smiling
rapturously into Mr. Carrington's dark-blue eyes.

"It is awfully good of you," I say, warmly; "you don't know how
much we enjoy it. We have always been so stupid, so tied down,
any unexpected amusement like this seems almost too good to be
true. But"--with hesitation and a blush--"we had better not go
_too_ often. You see, papa is a little odd at times, and he might
forbid it altogether if we appeared too anxious for it. Perhaps,
in a fortnight, if you would take us again--will you? Or would
that be too soon?"

"Phyllis, can't you understand how much I wish to be with you?"
His tone is almost impatient, and he speaks with unnecessary
haste. I conclude he is referring to pretty Dora, who sits
behind, and is making mild running with Mr. Hastings.

"Do you know," I say confidentially, "I am so glad you have come
to live down here. Before, we had literally nothing to think
about, now you are always turning up, and even that is something.
Actually, it seems to us, papa appears more lively since your
arrival; he don't look so gloomy or prowl about after us so much.
And then this drive--we would never have had the chance of such a
thing but for you. It is an immense comfort to know you are going
to stay here altogether."

"Is it? Phyllis, look at me." I look at him. "Now tell me this:
if any other fellow, as well off as I am, had come to
Strangemore, and had taken you for drives and that, would you
have been as glad to know him? Would you have liked him as well
as me?"

He is regarding me very earnestly; his lips are slightly
compressed. Evidently he expects me to say something; but, alas!
I don't know what, I feel horribly puzzled, and hesitate.

"Go on; answer me," he says, eagerly.

"I don't know. I never thought about it," I murmur, somewhat
troubled. "It is such an odd question. You see, if he had come in
your place I would not then have known you, and if he had been as
kind--yes, I suppose I would have liked him just as well," I
conclude, quickly.

Of course I have said the wrong thing. The moment my speech is
finished I know this. Mr. Carrington's eyes leave mine; he
mutters something between his teeth, and brings the whip down
sharply on the far leader.

"These brutes grow lazier every day," he says with an
unmistakable frown.

Five--six minutes pass, and he does not address me. I feel
annoyed with myself, yet innocent of having intentionally
offended. Presently stealing a glance at my companion, I say,
contritely,---

"Have I vexed you, Mr. Carrington?"

"No, no," he answers, hastily, the smile coming home to his lips.
"Don't think so. Surely truthfulness, being so rare a virtue,
should be precious. I am an irritable fellow at times, and you
are finding out all my faults to-night," he says, rather sadly,
laying his hand for an instant upon mine, as it lies bare and
small and brown upon the rug. "You have proved me both
ill-tempered and selfish. You will say I am full of defects."

"Indeed I will not," I return, earnestly, touched by his manner:
"I do not even see the faults you mention; and at all events no
one was ever before so kind to me as you have been."

"I would be kinder if I dared," he says, somewhat unsteadily.

While I ponder on what these words may mean, while the first dim
foreboding--suspicion--what you will--enters my mind, we see
Rylston, and pull up to give the Hastings time to alight and bid
their adieux. Then we go on again, always in the strange silence
that has fallen upon us, and presently find ourselves at home.

Mr. Carrington is on the ground in a moment, and comes round to
my side to help me down. I hold out my hands and prepare for a
good spring (a clear jump at any time is delightful to me); but
he disappoints my hopes by taking me in his arms and placing me
gently on the gravel; after which he goes instantly to Dora.

When we are all safely landed, papa, to our unmitigated
astonishment, comes forward, and not only asks but presses Mr.
Carrington to stay and dine. Perhaps, considering he has four
horses and two grooms in his train, our father guesses he will
refuse the invitation. At all events he does so very graciously,
and, raising his hat, drives off, leaving us free to surround and
relate to mother all the glories of the day.



CHAPTER VIII

The following Monday, as I sit reading in the small parlor we
dare to call our own, I am startled by Dora's abrupt entrance.
Her outdoor garments are on her; her whole appearance is full of
woe; suspicious circles surround her eyes. I rise fearfully and
hasten towards her. Surely if anything worthy of condemnation has
occurred it is impossible but I must have a prominent part in it.
Has the irreproachable Dora committed a crime? Is she in disgrace
with our domestic tyrant.

"Dora, what has happened?" I ask, breathlessly.

"Oh, nothing," returns Dora, reckless misery in her tone;
"nothing to signify; only--Billy was right--I am quite positive
he never cared for me--has not the slightest intention of
proposing to me."

"What? who?" I demand, in my charming definite way.

"Who?" with impatient reproach. "Who is there in this miserable
forgotten spot to propose to any one, except--Mr. Carrington?"

"What have you heard, Dora?" I ask, light breaking in upon my
obscurity.

"Heard? Nothing. I would not have believed it, if I had heard it.
I saw it with my own eyes. An hour ago I put on my things and
went out for a walk, intending to go down by the river; but just
as I came to the shrubberies, and while I was yet hidden from
view, I saw Mr. Carrington and that horrid dog of his standing on
the bank just below me. I hesitated for a moment about going
forward. I didn't quite like," says Dora, modestly, "to force
myself upon him for what would look so like a _tete-a-tete_; and
while I waited, unable to make up my mind, he"--a sob--"took out
of his waistcoat a large gold locket and opened it, and"--a
second heavy sob--"and after gazing at it for a long time, as
though he were going to eat it"--a final sob, and an inclination
towards choking--"he stooped and kissed it. And, oh! of course it
was some odious woman's hair or picture or something," cries
Dora, breaking down altogether, and sinking with rather less than
her usual grace into the withered arm-chair that adorns that
corner of our room.

A terrible suspicion, followed by as awful a sense of conviction,
springs to life within me. The word "picture" has struck an icy
chill to my heart. Can it by any possibility be my photograph he
has been so idiotically and publicly embracing? Am I the fell
betrayer of my sister's happiness?

A moment later I almost smile at my own fears. Is it likely any
man, more especially one who has seen so much of the world as Mr.
Carrington, would find anything worth kissing in my insignificant
countenance? I find unlimited consolation in this reflection,
that at another time would have caused me serious uneasiness.

Meantime Dora is still giving signs of poignant anguish, and I
look at her apprehensively, while pondering on what will be the
most sympathetic thing to say or do under the circumstances.

Her nose is growing faintly pink, large tears are standing in her
eyes, her head inclines a little--a very little--to one side.

Now when I cry I do it with all my heart. The tears fall like
rain; for the time being I abandon myself altogether to my grief,
and a perfect deluge is the consequence. Once I have wept my
fill, however, I recover almost instantaneously, feeling as fresh
as young grass after a shower.

Not so with Dora. When she is afflicted the tears come one by
one, slowly, decorously sailing down her face; each drop waits
politely until the previous one has cleared off the premises
before presuming to follow in its channel. She never sniffs or
gurgles or makes unpleasant noises in her throat; indeed, the
entire performance--though perhaps monotonous after the first--is
fascinating and ladylike in the extreme. In spite of the qualms
of conscience that are still faintly pricking me, as I sit mutely
opposite my suffering sister, I find myself reckoning each salt
drop as it rolls slowly down her cheek. Just as I get to the
forty-ninth, Dora speaks again,---

"If he really is in love with somebody else--and I can hardly
doubt it after what I have seen--I think he has behaved very
dishonorably to me," she says in a quavering tone.

"How so?" I stammer, hardly knowing what to say.

"How so?" with mild reproof. "Why, what has he meant by coming
here day after day, and sitting for hours in the drawing-room,
and bringing flowers and game, unless he had some intentions with
regard to me? Only that you are so dull, Phyllis, you would not
require me to say all this."

"It certainly looks very strange," I acknowledge. "But perhaps,
after all, Dora, you are misjudging him. Perhaps it was his
sister's--Lady Handcock's--hair he was kissing."

"Nonsense!" says Dora, sharply; "don't be absurd. Did you ever
hear of any brother wasting so much affection upon a sister? Do
you suppose Billy or Roland would keep _your_ face or hair in a
locket to kiss and embrace in private?"

I certainly cannot flatter myself that they would, so give up
this line of argument.

"Perhaps the person, whoever she is, is dead," I suggest more
brilliantly.

"No. He smiled at it quite brightly, as one would never smile at
a dead face. He smiled at it as if he _adored_ it," murmurs Dora,
hopelessly, and the fiftieth drop splashes into her lap. "I shall
tell papa," she goes on presently. "I have no idea of letting him
be imagining things when there is no truth in them. I wish we had
never seen Mr. Carrington! I wish with all my heart something
would occur to take him out of this place! I feel as though I
hated him," says Dora with unusual vehemence and a rather vicious
compression of the lips; "and, at all events, I hope he will
never marry that woman in the locket."

And I answer, "so do I" with rather suspicious haste as in duty
bound.



CHAPTER IX.

It is the evening of the same day, and we are all seated in our
accustomed places at the dinner table; all, that is, except papa.
It is such an unusual thing for _him_ to be absent, once a bell
has sounded summoning us to meals, that we are busy wondering
what can be the matter, when the door is flung violently open,
and he enters. It becomes instantly palpable to every one of us,
that, in the words of the old song, "sullen glooms his brow;"
Billy alone, with his usual obtuseness, remaining dangerously
unconscious of this fact.

Papa sits down in a snapping fashion and commences the helping
process in silence. Mamma never sits at the head of her table
except on those rare and unpleasant occasions when the neighbors
are asked to dine. Not a word is spoken; deadly quiet reigns, and
all is going on smoothly enough, until Billy, unhappily raising
his head, sees Dora's crimson lids.

"Why, Dora," he exclaims, instantly, in a loud and jovial tone,
"what on earth is the matter with you? Your eyes are as red as
fire."

Down goes Dora's spoon, up comes Dora's handkerchief to her face,
and a stifled sob conveys the remainder of her feelings. It is
the last straw.

"William!" cries my father in a voice of thunder, "go to your
room." And William does as he is bid.

The brown gravy-soup has not yet been removed; and, Billy being
our youngest, and consequently the last helped, more than half
his allowance of that nutritious fluid still remains upon his
plate. His going _now_ means his being dinnerless for this day at
least. A lump rises in my throat and my face flushes. For the
moment I feel that I have Dora and papa and my own soup, and,
leaning back in my chair, suffer it to follow Billy's.

I am almost on the verge of tears, when, happening to glance
upwards, my eyes fall upon Roly's expressive countenance. In his
right eye is screwed the most enormous butcher's penny I ever
beheld; his nose is drawn altogether to one side in a frantic
endeavor to maintain it in its precarious position; his mouth
likewise; his left orb is firmly fixed upon our paternal parent.

I instantly become hysterical. An awful fear that I am going to
break into wild laughter seizes hold of me. I grow cold with
fright, and actually gasp with fear, when mother (who always
knows by instinct, dear heart, when we are on the brink of
disgrace) brings her foot heavily down on mine, and happily turns
the current of my thoughts. She checks me just in time; I wince,
and, withdrawing my fascinated gaze from Roly's penny, fix my
attention on the tablecloth, while she turns an agonizing look of
entreaty upon her eldest hope; but, as his only available eye is
warily bent on papa, nothing comes of it.

There is an unaccountable delay after the soup has been removed.
Can Billy have been adding to his evil doing by any fresh
misconduct? This idea is paramount with me as I sit staring at
the house-linen, though all the time in my brain I see Roland's
copper regarding me with gloomy attention.

The silence is becoming positively awful, when papa suddenly
raises his head from the contemplation of his nails, and Roland
sweeping the penny from his eye with graceful ease, utters a
languid sigh, and says, mildly:---

"Shall we say Grace?"

"What is the meaning of this delay?" demands papa, exploding for
the second time. "Are we to sit here all night? Tell cook if this
occurs again she can leave. Three-quarters of an hour between
soup and fish is more than I will put up with. If there is no
more dinner, let her say so."

"Perhaps Mrs. Tully is indisposed," says Roly, politely,
addressing James. "If so, we ought to make allowances for her."
Mrs. Tully's admiration for "Old Tom" being a well-known fact to
every one in the house except papa.

"Be silent, Roland; I will have no interference where my servants
are concerned," declares papa; and exit James, with his hand to
his mouth, to return presently with a very red face and the roast
mutton.

"Where's the fish?" asks papa, in a terrific tone.

"It didn't arrive in time, sir."

"Who has the ordering of dinner in this house?" inquires papa,
addressing us all generally, as though ignorant of the fact of
mother's having done so without a break for the last twenty-six
years. "_Nobody_, I presume, by the manner in which it is served.
Now, remember, James, I give strict orders that no more fish is
ever taken from that fishmonger. Do you hear?"

"Yes, sir." And at length we all get some roast mutton.

It seems to me that dinner will never come to an end; and yet, to
watch me, I feel sure no stranger would ever guess at my
impatience. Experience has taught me that any attempt at hurry
will betray me, and produce an order calculated to prevent my
seeing Billy for the entire evening. I therefore smother my
feelings, break my walnuts, and get through my claret with a
great show of coolness. Claret is a thing I detest; but it
pleases papa to form our tastes, which means condemning us to eat
and drink such things as are nauseous and strictly distasteful to
us.

At length, however, the welcome word is spoken, and we rise from
the table. Once outside the door, I fly to the cook, and, having
obtained such delicacies as are procurable, rush upstairs, and
enter Billy's room, to find him seated at the farthest end, the
deepest look of dejection upon his features.

As our eyes meet, this gloom vanishes, giving place to an
expression of intense relief.

"Oh!" he says, "I thought you were Dora."

"No. I could not come sooner, as papa fought over every course.
But I have brought you your dinner now, Billy. You must be
starving."

"I had it long ago," says Billy, drawing a potato from his pocket
and a plate from under the dressing-table on which mutton is
distinctly visible. I feel rather disappointed.

"Who brought it to you?" I ask; but before I can receive a reply
a heavy step upon the stairs strikes terror to our hearts.

Instantly Billy's dinner goes under the table again, and the
dejected depression returns to his face. But I, what am I to do?
Under the bed I dive, plate and all, thrusting the plate on
before me, and am almost safe, when I tip over a bit of rolled
carpet and plunge forward, bringing both hands into the gravy. In
this interesting position I remain, trembling, and afraid to stir
or breathe, with my eyes directed through a small hole in the
valance.

The door opens noisily, and--enter Roly with a cane in his hand
and a ferocious gleam in his eyes.

"Oh, Roly!" I gasp, scrambling out of my hiding-place, "what a
fright you gave us! We were sure it was papa."

"Where on earth have you come from?" asked Roly, gazing with
undisguised amazement at the figure I present. "And--don't come
any nearer--'paws off, Pompey'--what is the matter with your
hands?"

"Oh, I had just brought up Billy some dinner, and when I heard
you I ran under the bed and tripped over the carpet and fell
splash into the gravy. But it is nothing," I wind up, airily.

"Nothing! I wish it was less. Go wash yourself, you dirty child."
Then resuming the ferocious aspect, and with uplifted cane, he
advances on Billy.

"William"--imitating papa's voice to a nicety--"I have not yet
done with you. What, sir, did you mean by exposing your sensitive
sister to the criticisms of a crowded table? If your own
gentlemanly instincts are not sufficiently developed to enable
you to understand how unpardonable are personal remarks, let this
castigation, that a sense of duty compels me to bestow, be the
means of teaching you."

Billy grins, and for the third time commences his dinner while
Roland leans against the window-shutter and contemplates him with
lazy curiosity.

"Billy," he asks, presently, "is mutton--when the fat has grown
white and the gravy is in tiny lumps--a good thing?"

"No it ain't," returns Billy, grumpily, and with rather more than
his usual vulgarity.

"I ask merely for information," says Roly. "It certainly _looks_
odd."

"It's _beastly_," says Billy. "If the governor goes in for any
more of this kind of thing I'll cut and run; that's what I'll
do."

"Why didn't you have some dumpling?" Roland goes on, smoothly.
"The whipped cream with it was capital."

"Dumpling?" says Billy, regarding me fixedly; "dumpling! Phyllis,
was there dumpling?"

"There was," I reply.

"And whipped cream!"

"Yes," I answer, faintly.

"Oh, Phyllis!" says Billy, in the liveliest tone of reproach. The
flicker of an amused smile shoots across Roland's face.

"Phyllis, why did you not bring him some?" he asks, in a tone
that reflects Billy's.

"How _could_ I?" I exclaim, indignantly. "I could not carry more
than one plate, and even as it was the gravy was running all
about. I was afraid every minute I would be caught. Besides---"

"Miss Phyllis, Miss Phyllis," comes a sepulchral whisper at the
door, accompanied by a faint knock. In the whisper I recognize
James. Having taken a precautionary peep through the keyhole, I
open the door, and on the threshold discover our faithful friend,
a large plate of apples and cream in his hand, and a considerable
air of mystery about him.

"Miss Phyllis," he says, in a fine undertone, "cook sent this
here to Master Billy; and the mistress says you are to come down
at once, as the master has been asking where you all are."

"I am coming," I return; "and tell cook we are awfully obliged to
her." Whereupon, having deposited the dainties before Billy, I
charge down stairs and into the library; and, having seized hold
of the first book I can see, I collect myself, and enter the
drawing-room with a sedate air.

"Where have you been?" demands papa, twisting his head round
until I wonder his neck doesn't crack.

"In the library, choosing a book."

"What book."

I glance at the volume I carry, and, to my unmitigated horror
find it a treatise on surgery.

"It is by Dr. Batly," I murmur, vaguely.

"Come here and let me see it." Trembling, I advance and surrender
my book.

"Is _this_ a proper subject for a young woman to study?" exclaims
papa, in high disgust, when he has read through the headings of
the chapters. "What an abominable girl you are! Go over there and
sit down, and keep yourself out of mischief for the remainder of
the evening, if you _can_."

"Would you like Tennyson's 'In Memoriam'?" asks Dora, sweetly,
raising her white lids for a moment to hold out to me an elegant
little edition in green and gold.

"No, thank you," I answer, curtly, and, subsiding into my chair,
sulk comfortably until bedtime.



CHAPTER X.

The next day Dora is still low--very low indeed--and sighs
heavily at intervals. We might, however, in spite of this, have
managed to knock some enjoyment out of our lives, but,
unfortunately, whatever communication she had made to papa on the
subject of Mr. Carrington's treachery has had the effect of
rendering him almost unbearable.

At breakfast the playfulness of his remarks can only be equalled
by the sweetness of his expression; and by lunch-hour he is so
much worse that (as far at least as I am concerned) the food
before me is as dust and ashes. I think Roland rather enjoys the
murkiness of our atmosphere than otherwise, and takes a small but
evident pleasure in winking at me as he presses the vinegar and
pepper upon our already highly-seasoned father.

The latter, knowing my nomadic tendencies, is successful in
bringing to light during the day a dozen unhemmed cambric
handkerchiefs, and before going to his customary afternoon ride
leaves strict injunctions behind him that by my fingers they are
to be begun and ended before his return. About four o'clock,
therefore, behold me sitting in state in the drawing-room, in
company with mamma and Dora, hard at work at my enforced task.

The conversation is limited; it dwindles, indeed, until it gets
so sparse that at length we are ashamed of it and relapse into
silence. Dora broods with tender melancholy upon her woes; mother
thinks of us; while I, were I to give a voice to my thoughts,
would demand of mother the name of the evil genius that possessed
her when she walked to the altar with papa.

The needle runs into my finger; it does so pretty regularly after
every fifth stitch, but this time it had got under my nail, and
causes me for the moment keen anguish. I groan, and mutter
something under my breath; and mother says, "Phyllis, darling, be
careful," in a dreamy tone. Surely we are more than ordinarily
dull.

Suddenly there comes a rattle of horses' hoofs upon the gravel
outside. We raise our heads simultaneously and question each
other by our looks. A little later, and Mr. Carrington's voice
striking on our ears sets speculation at rest. Mamma glances
furtively at Dora, and Dora breathes a faint sigh and blushes
pale pink, while suffering an aggrieved expression to
characterize her face.

A horrible thought comes into my head. Suppose--of _course_ it is
impossible--but _suppose_ Mr. Carrington were to come in now, and
in the course of conversation mention my photograph: what will
not mother and Dora think? What is to prevent their drawing a
conclusion about what happened yesterday? Although I do not in
the least believe it _was_ my picture Mr. Carrington was seen
embracing, still the very idea that it _might_ be, and that he
might at any time speak of it turns me cold. Something must be
done, and that quickly. Without further hesitation I rise from my
seat, put down my work, and make for the door. No one attempts to
detain me, and in an instant I am in the hall, face to face with
our visitor.

I lay my hand upon the front of his coat, and whisper
hurriedly:---

"Do not say a word about my picture, not a _word_. Do you
understand?" I have raised my face very close to his in my
anxiety, and shake him slightly to emphasize my words.

"I do;" replies he, placing his hand over mine as it lies almost
unconsciously upon his breast. "Of course I will not.
But--why---"

"Nothing," I say; "at least only a fancy. Go now. I will tell you
some other time."

"Phyllis, will you meet me at the oak-tree to-morrow evening at
five--at _four?_" he asks, eagerly, detaining me as I seek to
escape; and I say, "Yes," with impatient haste, and, tearing my
hand out of his, I turn my back upon him and gladly disappear.



CHAPTER XI.

"At last! How late you are! I thought you were _never_ coming,"
is Mr. Carrington's somewhat impatient greeting next evening, as
he advances to meet me from under the old oak-tree. My cheeks are
flushed with the rapidity of my walk; my breath rushes from me in
short, quick, little gasps.

"I was so busy, I could not come a moment sooner. I would not be
here at all but that I promised, and was afraid you would think
me out of my senses yesterday," I say, laughing and panting.

"I certainly thought you rather tragical, and have been puzzling
my brain ever since to discover the cause. Now, tell it to me."

"If I do you will think me horribly conceited." I hesitate and
blush uneasily. For the first time it occurs to me that I have a
very uncomfortable story to relate.

"I will not," says Mr. Carrington, amiably.

"Well then, the fact is, down at the trout-river, the day before
yesterday, somebody saw you kissing a picture in a locket, and I
feared if you mentioned having _my_ portrait they might--they
take up such ridiculous fancies at home--they _might_ think it
was _mine_."

"Is it possible they would imagine anything so unlikely?"

"Of _course_"--with eager haste--"_I_ know it was not, but they
might choose to think differently; and, besides, something has
whispered to me two or three times since that perhaps I was wrong
in giving my photograph to you at all. Was I?" wistfully.

"That is a hard question to ask _me_, Phyllis, who am so happy in
the possession of it. I certainly do not think you were."

"Then you would see no harm in my giving my picture to any one?"

"Of course I do not say it would be right of you to go about
giving it to every man you meet."

"No? Then why should I give it to you in particular.  After all,
I believe I was wrong."

"Oh, that is quite another thing altogether," says Mr.
Carrington, biting his lip. "You have known me a long time; I may
almost be considered an old friend. And, besides, you can be
quite sure that I will prize it as it deserves."

"That is saying very little," I return, gloomily. His reasoning
seems to me poor and unsatisfactory. I begin to wish my wretched
likeness back again in my untidy drawer.

"But why are you so sure it was _not_ your picture I was caught
admiring the other day?" asks Mr. Carrington, presently, with an
ill-suppressed smile.

"Nonsense!" I reply angrily. (I hate being laughed at). "For what
possible reason would you put _my_ face into your locket? I
_knew_ you would think me vain when I began, but I am
_not_--and--and I am very sorry I took the trouble to explain it
to you at all."

"Forgive me, Phyllis. I did not mean to offend you, and I do
_not_ think you vain. I was merely imagining what a fatuous fool
I must have looked when discovered in the act you describe. But
have you no curiosity to learn who it _really_ was I was so
publicly embracing?"

"I _know_," I return, with a nod; "it was that little girl you
told me of some time since--the village maiden, you remember,
whose face was so dear to you. Am I not right!"

"Quite right. What a capital guess you made!"

"May I see her?" I ask, coaxingly. "Do let me get just one little
peep at her. I am sure she is lovely, from what you say; and I do
so like pretty people?"

"You would only be disappointed, and then you would say so, and I
could not bear to hear one disparaging word said of my beauty."

"I will _not_ be disappointed. Of course you have had so much
experience to guide you--your taste must be better than mine.
Please let me see her."

"You promise faithfully not to scorn the face I will show you?
You will say no slighting word?"

"I will not indeed. How could you think I would be so rude?"

"Very good." He raises his watch-chain and detaches from it a
plain gold locket. I draw near and gaze at it eagerly. What will
she be like, this rival of Dora's?

"Now, remember," he says again, while a look of intense amusement
crosses his face, "you have promised to admire?"

"Yes, yes," I answer impatiently; and as he deliberately opens
the trinket I lean forward and stare into the large gray-blue
eyes of Phyllis Marian Vernon.

---

Slowly I raise my head and look at my companion. He appears grave
now, and rather anxious. I know I am as white as death.

"So you have put _me_ into a locket _too_," I say, in a low tone.
"Why?"

"Do not use the word 'too,' Phyllis. You have no rival; I keep no
woman's face near me except yours."

"Then it was an untruth you told me about that girl?"

"No it was not. Will you not try to understand? _You_ are that
little girl; it was your face I kissed the other day down by the
river. There is no face in the world I hold so dear as yours."

"Then you had no _right_ to kiss it," I break out indignantly, my
surprise and bewilderment making me vehement. "I did not give you
my picture to put in your locket and treat in that way. How dare
you carry me all over the place with you--making things so
unpleasant everywhere? And, besides, you are talking very
falsely; it is impossible that _any one_ could think me
beautiful."

"_I_ do," says he, gently. "I cannot help it. You know we all
judge differently. And as to my kissing it, surely that was no
great harm. It became mine, you know, when you gave it to me; and
for me to kiss it now and then cannot injure you or it." He gazes
down tenderly upon the face lying in his hand. "The Phyllis here
does not look as if she could be unkind or unjust," he says,
softly.

I am impressed by the mildness of his reproach. Insensibly, I go
closer to him, and regard with mingled feelings the innocent
cause of all the disturbance.

"It certainly looks wonderfully well," I say, with reluctance.
"It never appeared to me so--ah--_passable_ before. It must be
the gold frame. Somehow--I never thought so until to-day--but now
it seems much too pretty for me."


"Remember your promise," says Mr. Carrington, demurely, "to
admire and say no disparaging word."

"You laid a trap for me," I reply, smiling in spite of myself,
and hard set to prevent the smile turning into a merry laugh as I
review the situation.

I lean my back against the old tree, and, clasping my hands
loosely before me, begin to piece past events. I have not gone
far in my meditations when I become aware that Mr. Carrington has
closed the locket, has turned, and is steadfastly regarding me.
My hat lies on the ground beside me; the wanton wind has blown a
few stray tresses of my hair across my forehead. Involuntarily I
raise my head until our eyes meet. Something new, indefinite, in
his, makes my heart beat with a sudden fear that yet is nameless.

"Phyllis," whispers he, hurriedly, impulsively, "will you marry
me?"

A long, long pause.

I am still alive, then! the skies have _not_ fallen!

"_What!_" cry I, when I recover breath, moving back a step or
two, and staring at him with the most open and undisguised
amazement. _Can_ I have heard aright? Is it indeed me he is
asking to marry him? And if so--if my senses have not deceived
me--who is to tell Dora. This thought surmounts all others.

"I want you to say you will marry me," repeats he, rather
disconcerted by the emphatic astonishment of my look and tone. As
I make no reply this time, he is emboldened, and, advancing,
takes both my hands.

"Why do you look so surprised?" he says. "Why will you not answer
me? Surely for weeks you must have seen I would some time ask you
this question. Then why not to-day? If I waited for years I could
not love you more utterly, more madly, if you like, than now. And
you, Phyllis--say you will be my wife."

"I cannot indeed," I reply, earnestly; "it is out of the
question. I never knew you--you cared for me in this way--I
always thought--that is, we all thought--you---"

"Yes?"

"We were all quite sure--I mean none of us imagined you were in
love with _me_."

"With whom, then?--with Dora?"

"Well"--nervously--"I am sure mamma and papa thought so, and so
did I."

"What an absurd mistake! Ten thousand Doras would not make one
Phyllis. Do you know, ever since that first day I saw you in the
wood I loved you? Do you remember it?"

"Yes," I say, blushing furiously. "I was hanging from  the nut
tree and nearly went mad with shame and rage when I found I could
not escape. It puzzles me to think what you could have seen to
admire about me _that_ day, unless my boots." I laugh rather
hysterically.

"Nevertheless I _did_ love you then, and have gone on nursing the
feeling ever since, until I can keep it to myself no longer. But
you are silent, Phyllis. Why do you not speak? I _will_ not
remember what you said just now; I  _will_ not take a refusal
from you. Darling, darling, surely you love me, if only a
little?"

"No, I do not love you," I answer, with downcast lids and flaming
cheeks.

Silence falls upon my cruel words. His hand-clasp loosens, but
still he does not let me altogether go; and, glancing up timidly,
I see a face like and yet unlike the face I know--a face that is
still and white, with lips that tremble slightly beneath the
heavy fair mustache. A world of disappointed anguish darkens his
blue eyes.

Seeing all this, and knowing myself its cause, my heart is
touched and a keen pang darts through my breast. I press his
hands with reassuring force as I go on hastily:---

"But I _like_ you, you will understand. I may not _love_ you, but
I _like_ you very much indeed--better than any other man I ever
met, except Roland and Billy, and _he_ is only a boy." This is
not a very clear or logical speech, but it does just as well: it
brings the blood back to his face, and a smile to his lips, the
light and fire to his eyes.

"Are you sure of that?" he asks, eagerly. "Are you certain,
Phyllis?"

"Quite sure. But then I have never seen any men except Mr.
Mangan, you know, and the curate, and Bobby De Vere, and--and one
or two others."

"And these one or two others,"--jealously--"have I nothing to
fear from them? Have you given _them_ none of your thoughts?"

"Not one," return I, smiling up at him. The smile does more than
I intend.

"Then you _will_ marry me, Phyllis?" cries he, with renewed hope.
"If you _like_ me as you say, I will make you love me when you
are once my own. No man could love as I do without creating some
answering affection. Phyllis," he goes on, passionately, "look at
me and say you believe all this. Oh, my life, my darling, how I
have longed for you! How I have watched the hours that would
bring me to your side! How I have hated the evenings that parted
you from me! Say one little kind word to me to make me happy."

His tone is so full of hope and joy that almost I feel myself
drifting with the current of his passion. But Dora's face rising
before me checks the coming words. I draw back.

"Phyllis, put me out of pain," he says, entreatingly. I begin to
find the situation trying, being a mere novice in the art of
receiving and refusing proposals with propriety.

"I--I don't think I want to get married yet," I say, at length,
with nervous gentleness. I am very fearful of hurting him again.
"At home, when I ask to go anywhere, they tell me I am still a
child, and you are much older than me. I don't mean that you are
_old_," I add anxiously, "only a good deal older than I am; and
perhaps when it was too late you would repent the step you had
taken and wish you had chosen a wife older and wiser."

I stop, amazed at my own eloquence and rather proud of myself.
Never before have I made so long and so connected a speech.
Really the "older and wiser" could scarcely have done better. The
marrying in haste and repenting at leisure allusion appears to me
very neat, and _ought_ to be effective.

All is going on very well indeed, and I feel I could continue
with dignity to the end, but that just at this moment I become
conscious I am going to sneeze. Oh, horrible, unromantic thought!
Will _nothing_ put it back for ten minutes--for even _five?_ I
feel myself turning crimson, and certain admonitory twitchings in
my nose warn me the catastrophe is close at hand.

"Of course," says Mr. Carrington, in a low tone, "I know you
_are_ very young" (it is coming) "only seventeen. And,
and"--(_surely_ coming)--"I suppose twenty eight appears quite
old to you." (In another instant I shall be disgraced forever.)
"I look even older than I am. But good gracious Phyllis, is
anything the matter with you?"

"Nothing, nothing," I murmur, with a last frantic effort at pride
and dignity, "only a--a--snee--eeze--atchu--atchu--atchu!"

There is a most awful pause, and then Mr. Carrington, after a
vain endeavor to suppress it, bursts into an unrestrained fit of
laughter, in which without hesitation I join him. Indeed, now the
crisis is over and my difficult and new-born dignity is a thing
of the past, I feel much more comfortable and pleasanter in every
way.

"But, Phyllis, all this time you are keeping me in suspense,"
says Mr. Carrington, presently, in an anxious tone: "and I will
not leave you again without a decided answer. The uncertainty
kills me. Darling, I feel glad and thankful when I remember how
happy I can make your life, if you will only let me. You shall
never have a wish ungratified that is in my power to grant.
Strangemore shall be yours, and you shall make what alterations
there you choose. You shall have your own rooms, and furnish them
as your own taste directs. You shall reign there as the very
sweetest queen that ever came within its walls."

He has passed his arm lightly round my waist, and is keenly
noting the effect of his words.

"I remember the other day you told me how you longed to visit
foreign lands. I will take you abroad, and you shall stay there
as long as you wish--until you have seen everything your fancy
has pictured to you. You will like all this, Phyllis; it pleases
you."

There is no use in denying it. All this _does_ please me. Nay,
more; it intoxicates me. I am heart-whole, and can therefore
freely yield myself up to the enjoyment of the visions he has
conjured up before me. I feel I am giving in swiftly and surely.
My refusing to marry him will not make him a whit more anxious to
marry Dora; and instinct tells me now she is utterly unsuited to
him. Still I am reluctant.

"Would you let me have Billy and mamma and Dora with me very
often?" I ask faintly.

His arm round me tightens suddenly.

"As often as ever you wish," he says, with strange calmness. "I
tell you you shall be my queen at Strangemore, and your wishes
shall be law."

"And"--here I blush crimson, and my voice sinks to a
whisper--"there is something else I want very, very much. Will
you do it for me?"

"I will. Tell me what it is."

His tone is so quiet, so kind, I am encouraged; yet I know by the
trembling of the hand that holds mine that the quiet is enforced.

"Will you send Billy to Eton for me?" I say, my voice shaking
terribly. "I know it is a very great thing to ask, but he so
_longs_ to go."

"I will do better than that," he answers softly, drawing me
closer to him as he sees how soon I shall be his by my own
consent. "I will settle on you any money you wish, and _you_
shall send Billy to Eton, and afterwards to Oxford or Cambridge."

This assurance, given at any other time, would have driven me
half mad with delight. Now, though my heart feels a strong throb
of pleasure, it is largely mingled with what I know is pain. Am I
selling myself?

Some finer instinct within me whispers to me to pause before
giving myself irrevocably to a man whom I certainly do not love
as a woman should love the one with whom she elects to buffet all
the storms and trials of life. A horrible thought comes to me and
grows on my lips. I feel I _must_ give it utterance.

"Suppose," I say, suddenly, "suppose--afterwards--when I have
married you, I see some one to love with all my heart and mind:
what then?"

He shivers. He draws me passionately, almost fiercely to him, as
though defying my miserable words to come true.

"What put such a detestable idea into your head?" he asks
hoarsely, with pale lips. "Are you trying to frighten me? Shall I
tell you how _that_ would end? You would be my murderess as
surely as though you drove a knife into my heart. What an evil
thought! But I defy it," he says, forcing a smile. "Once you are
mine, once you belong to me altogether, I will hold you against
yourself--against the world. Oh Phyllis, my child, my _love_---"

He pauses, and, putting his hand under my chin, turns up my face
until my head leans against his arm and my eyes look straight
into his. His face is dangerously close to mine; it comes closer,
closer, until suddenly, without a word of warning, his lips meet
mine in a long, eager, passionate kiss.

It is the first time a lover's kiss has been laid upon my lips. I
do not struggle or seek to free myself. I only burst into a storm
of tears. I am frightened, troubled, and lie trembling and
sobbing in his arms, hardly knowing what I feel, hardly conscious
of anything but a sense of shame and fear. I know, too, that
Marmaduke's heart is beating wildly against my cheek.

"Phyllis, what is it? what have I done?" he asks, very anxiously.
"My darling, was I too abrupt? Did I frighten you? Forgive me,
sweet; I forgot what a mere timid child you are."

I sob on bitterly.

"It shall not happen again; I promise you that, Phyllis, I will
never kiss you again until you give me permission. Now surely you
will forgive me. My darling, why should it grieve you so
terribly?"

"I don't know," I whisper, "only I do not want to be married, or
have a lover, or _anything_."

Marmaduke lays his cheek very gently against mine, and for a long
time there is silence between us. After awhile my sobs cease, and
he once more breaks the silence by saying:---

"You will marry me, Phyllis?" and I answer, "Yes," very quietly,
somehow feeling as if that kiss had sealed my fate, and put it
out of my power to answer "No."

"Then look at me," says Marmaduke, tenderly. "Will you not let me
see my dear wife's face?"

I raise a face flushed and tear-stained and glance at him shyly
for a moment. Evidently its dimmed appearance makes no difference
to him, as there is unmistakable rapture and triumph in his gaze
as he regards it. I hide it again with a sigh, though now the
Rubicon being actually passed, I feel a sense of rest I had not
known before.

"Who is to tell them at home?" I ask presently.

"I will. Shall I go back with you now and tell them at once?"

"No, no," I cry, hastily, shrinking from the contemplation of the
scene that will inevitably follow his announcement. "It is too
late now. To-morrow--about four o'clock--you can come and get it
over. And, Mr. Carrington, will, will you please be _sure_ to
tell them I knew nothing of it--never suspected, I mean, that you
_cared_ for me?"

"That I _loved_ you? It would be a pity to suppress so evident a
fact. Though how you could have been so blind, my pet, puzzles
me. Well, then, to-morrow let it be. And now I will walk home
with you, lest any hobgoblin, jealous of my joy should spirit you
away from me."

Together and rather silently we go through the wood and out into
the road beyond. I am conscious that every now and then
Marmaduke's eyes seek my face and dwell there with a smile in
them that betrays his extreme and utter satisfaction. As for me,
I am neither glad nor sorry, nor anything, but rather fearful of
the consequence when my engagement shall be made public in the
home circle. As yet my marriage is a thing so faint, so far away
in the dim distance, that it causes me little or no annoyance.

Suddenly I stop short in the middle of the road and burst into
irrepressible laughter.

"What is it?" asks Mr. Carrington, who is smiling in sympathy.

"Oh that sneeze!" I say when I can speak "coming just in the
middle of your proposal. Could anything have been so unsuitable,
so utterly out of place? That odious little convulsion! I shall
always think of the whole scene with abhorrence."

"Suppose I propose to you all over again?" suggests Mr.
Carrington. "It is impossible you can bring it in so
unfortunately a second time; and you can then recollect the
important event with more complaisance."

"No, no. A second addition would be flat, stale, and
unprofitable; and besides, it does not really matter, does it?
Only I suppose it would be more correct to feel grave and
tearful, instead of comical, on such occasions."

"_Nothing_ matters," exclaims Marmaduke, fervently, seizing my
hand and kissing it, "since you have promised to be my wife. And
_soon_ Phyllis--is it not so?"

"Oh, no; _certainly_ not _soon_," I return, decidedly. "There is
plenty of time. There is no hurry; and I do not want to be
married for _ever_ so long."

My lover's countenance falls.

"What do you mean by 'ever so long?'" he asks.

"Two or three years, perhaps."

"Phyllis! how can you be so unreasonable, so _absurd?_" says he,
his face flushing. "_Two years!_ It is an eternity. Say six
months, if you will; though even _that_ is a ridiculous delay."

"If you talk like that," I say, stopping to stare fixedly at him,
"I will not marry you at all. We had better decide the question
at once. If you mean to say you think seriously I will marry you
in _six months_, all I can say is, you are very much mistaken. I
would not marry the Prince of Wales in six months; _there!_ If
you once mention the subject to papa, and he discovers I do not
wish to be hurried into the marriage, I have no doubt, he will
insist on my becoming a bride in six _days_. But rather than
submit to any tyranny in the matter I would run away and _drown_
myself."

I utter this appalling threat with every outward demonstration of
seriousness. Really the last hour has developed in a wonderful
manner my powers of conversation.

"Do you suppose," cried Marmaduke, with indignation, "I have any
desire to _force_ you into anything? You may rest assured I will
never mention the subject to your father. What do you take me
for? You shall do just as you think fit. But, Phyllis,
_darling_"--very tenderly, "won't you consider _me_ a little?
Remember how I shall be longing for you, and how unhappy will be
every day spent away from you. Oh, darling, you cannot comprehend
how every thought of my heart is wrapped up in you--how
passionate and devoted is my love."

He looks so handsome, so much in earnest, as he says this, with
his face flushed and his dark eyes alight, that I feel myself
relenting. He sees his advantage and presses it.

"You won't be cruel, darling, will you? Remember you have all the
power in your own hands. I would not, if I could, compel you to
marry me a day sooner than you wish. And, Phyllis, will you not
try to think it is for your happiness as well as for mine? In
time you will learn to love me as well--no, _that_ would be
impossible--but almost as well as I love you. The entire devotion
of a man's life _must_ meet with some return; and I swear it
shall not be my fault if every hour you spend is not happier than
the last. Speak, Phyllis, and say you will come to me in---"

"A year," I interrupt, hastily. "Yes, that is a great concession;
I said _three_ years first, and now by a word I take off two.
That is twenty-four long months. _Think_ of it. You cannot expect
more."

"It will _never_ pass," says Marmaduke, desperately.

"It will pass, all too soon," say I, with a heavy sigh.



CHAPTER XII.

All that evening and all the next day I creep about as one
oppressed with sin. As the hour approaches that shall lay bare my
secret I feel positively faint, and heartily wish myself in my
grave. I am as wretched as though some calamity had befallen me;
and verily I begin to think it has. With what intense longing do
I wish undone all that happened yesterday!

Almost as the hall-clock, with its customary uncouthness clangs
out four strokes, Mr. Carrington rides up to the door.

As I sit in an upper chamber--like Elaine, but with what
different emotions!--watching my lover's coming, I can see he is
looking oppressively radiant, and is actually whistling. I begin
to hate him. How detestable a man looks when whistling!
_Ploughboys_ whistle!

He knocks a loud, determined, and, as it seems to me in my morbid
fright, a triumphant knock at the door, and rings the bell until
it sends forth a merry peal that echoes through the passages. A
funny empty sensation comes into the tops of my fingers and
across my forehead, as though the blood was receding, and, rising
swiftly, I hurry to my own room and lock the door.

_Now_ he is in the hall, and Billy and he are laughing--at some
stupid joke, no doubt. _Now_ he is in the library; _now_ he has
told papa it is a fine day; and _now_ it must be all over!

I am too frightened to cry. Half an hour, an hour, go by. I long,
yet fear, to open the door. Another quarter of an hour elapses,
and then mother's step comes slowly along the corridor outside.

"Phyllis, are you within, open the door."

It is mother's voice, but it sounds strangely cold. I open to
her, and present a woebegone face to her inspection. She comes in
and comforts me for a moment silently. Then she speaks.

"Phyllis, I never thought you deceitful," she says, as severely
as it is in her to say anything, and with a look of reproach in
her dear eyes that cuts me to the heart.

 "Mother," I cry passionately, "don't look at me like that.
Indeed, indeed I am not deceitful. I knew nothing about it when
he asked me yesterday to marry him. I was a great deal more
surprised than even _you_ are now. I always thought it was Dora
(and I wish with all my heart it _was_ Dora); but, though I
refused him at first, he said so much afterwards that I was
induced to give in. Oh, mother, won't you believe me?"

"But you must have met him many times, Phyllis, before he asked
you in marriage--many times of which we know _nothing_."

"I did not, indeed. Whenever I saw him I told you--except once, a
long time ago when we met in the wood, with Billy. But I was
climbing a nut-tree that day, and was afraid to say anything of
it, lest I should get into disgrace. And when we went for that
drive; and two or three times we met here; and that was all. I am
sure I don't know what made him fall in love with _me_, and Dora
so much prettier and more charming in every way. I don't believe
he knows himself."

"It is certainly most extraordinary," says mother, "and, I must
add, very unfortunate. You will acknowledge it looks suspicious.
Your father is much disturbed about it and I really think Dora's
heart must be broken, she is crying so bitterly. If we had not
all made up our minds so securely about Dora it would not be so
bad; but she was sure of it. And his visits here were so
frequent. I really do think he has behaved very badly."

"It was a mistake altogether," I murmur feebly.

"Yes, and a most unhappy one. I am sure I don't know what _is_ to
be done about Dora. She insists upon it that you secretly
encouraged and took him away from her; and your father appears to
sympathize with her."

"That goes without telling," I reply bitterly.

Then there follows a pause, during which mother sighs heavily
once or twice, and I do severe battle with my conscience. At the
end of it I cry, suddenly,---

"Mother, there is one thing for which I _do_ blame myself, but at
first it did not occur to me that it might be wrong. One day we
were talking of photographs, Mr. Carrington and I, and--two days
afterwards I gave him mine. He put it in his locket, and when
Dora saw him down by the river it was _it_ he was kissing. I
never dreamed it _could_ be mine until he showed it to me
yesterday."

"I had forgotten to ask you about that. Dora and your father were
discussing it just now, and Dora declared she was certain it had
happened as you have now stated. Phyllis, if there has not been
actual duplicity in your conduct, there has at least been much
imprudence."

"I know that, mother," I return disconsolately.

"This will greatly add to your discredit in the affair: you must
see that. Really," says mother, sinking into a chair, and sighing
again, "this engagement, that should cause us all such pride and
joy, is only a source of annoyance and pain."

"Then I won't marry him at all, mother," I cry, recklessly. "I
don't want to one bit: and probably if I tell him to-morrow I
hate and despise him _he_ will not want to either. Or shall I
write? A letter will go far quicker."

But mother is aghast at this daring proposal. Because he has
disappointed her hopes in one quarter is no reason why she should
lose him altogether as a son-in-law.

"No, no," she says in a slightly altered tone. "Let things remain
as they now are. It is a good match for you in every sense of the
word; and setting him free would give Dora no satisfaction. But I
wish it had all come about differently."

With that she turns from me and goes towards the door. My heart
feels breaking.

"Oh, mother, you are not going to leave me like this, are you?" I
burst out, miserably. "When other girls get engaged, people are
kind and say nice things to them; but nobody seems to care about
_me_, nobody wishes _me_ joy. Am I _nothing_ to you? Am I to get
only hard and cruel words?" Piteous sobs interrupt me. I cover my
face with my hands.

Of course in another moment I am folded in mother's arms, and her
soft hands press my graceless head down upon the bosom that never
yet in all my griefs has failed me. Two of her tears fall upon my
cheek.

"My darling child," she whispers, "have I been too unkind to you?
I did not mean it, Phyllis; but I have been made so miserable by
all I have heard."

"But you don't think me deceitful, mother?"

"No, not now--not at any time, I think; but I was greatly upset
by poor Dora's disappointment. My darling, I hope you will be
happy in your choice and in my heart I believe you will. At all
events, he is not blind to the virtues of my dear girl. He loves
you very dearly, Phyllis. Are you sure, my dearest, that you love
him?"

"Did _you_ love papa very much, darling, when you married him?"

"Of course, dear," with a faint blush.

"Oh, mother, did you really?" Then, with a reflective sigh, "At
that rate I am glad I do not love Mr. Carrington."

"Phyllis! what are you saying? It is the first duty of every
woman to love her husband. You must try to regard Mr. Carrington
in that light."

"I _like_ him, and that is better. _You_ were blind to papa's
faults because you loved him; that was a mistake. Now, I shall
_not_ be blind to Marmaduke's; and if he does anything very
horrid, or develops unpleasant symptoms, I shall be able to give
him up before it is too late. If you had been fully alive to
papa's little tempers, mother, I don't suppose you would _ever_
have married him; would you?"

"Phyllis, I cannot allow you to discuss your father in this
manner. It is neither dutiful nor proper; and it vexes me very
much."

"Then I won't vex you. But I read in a book the other day. 'It is
better to respect your husband than to love him.'"

"One should do both, of course; but, oh, Phyllis, try to _love_
him; that is the great softener in the married life. It is so
easy to forgive when love urges. You are wrong, my pet, but you
have a tender heart, and so I pray all may be well with you. Yet
when I think of your leaving me to face the wide world I feel
lonely. I fancy I could have better spared Dora than my own wild
Phyllis."

She whispers this soothingly into my ear, kisses me as only a
mother _can_ kiss, and leaves me presently wholly comforted. If
mother indeed loves me, the scapegrace, better than her model
Dora, I have reason to feel glad and grateful.

Meanwhile the household is divided. "The boy Billee," as Roland
calls him, has been sent for two hours into solitary confinement,
because, on hearing the great news, he exclaimed, "Didn't I tell
you all along how it would be?" in a heartless and triumphant
manner, thus adding insult to Dora's injury.

 Roly also is on my side, and comes upstairs to tell me so.

"You have twice the spirit, you know," he says, in a tone meant
to compliment. "Dora is too dead-and-alive; no man born would be
tormented with her. I am awfully glad, Phyllis."

And then he speaks of poor "Dora," and a moment later goes into
convulsions of laughter over "poor Dora's" discomfiture.

"She made so sure, don't you know, and that; had upset and
re-arranged Strangemore and Carrington and everything to her own
entire satisfaction. Oh, by Jove, it is the best joke I ever
heard in my life!" And so on.

When by chance during the evening papa and I meet, though his
manner is frozen, he makes no offensive remarks; and, strange as
it appears to me, I seem to have gained some dignity in his eyes.
So the long hours of that day drag by, and night falls at last.

After dinner Dora comes creeping in, her eyelids red and swollen,
her dainty cheeks bereft of their usual soft pink. Misery and
despair are depicted in every line of her face and figure.

Papa rises ostentatiously and pushes an easy chair towards the
fire for her (already the touch of winter is upon us.) Mamma
pours out a glass of papa's own port. Even Billy proclaims a
truce for the time being, and places a soft stool beneath my
injured sister's feet, while I sit apart and feel myself a
murderess.

I begin to vaguely wonder whether, were I in Dora's place, all
these delicate attentions would be showered upon me. I also try
to decide whether, if I had been slighted by my beloved, I would
publish the fact upon the house-tops and come down to the bosom
of my family with scarlet eyes and pallid face and hair
effectively loosened: or whether I would hide my sorrow with my
life and endure all in heroic silence. I have got so far as the
Spartan boy in my meditations, when Roland, bringing his fingers
to meet upon the fleshy part of my arm, causes me to spring from
my seat and give utterance to an emphatic "_Oh!_" while Cheekie,
the fox-terrier, who is crouching in her favorite position at my
feet, coming in for a full share of my weight, sets up a
corresponding howl, and altogether the confusion is complete.

When it has subsided there ensues an awful pause. Then papa
speaks.

"It would be waste of time to appeal to your better feelings,
Phyllis: you _have none!_ But that you are hopelessly wanting in
all delicacy of sentiment, you would understand that this is no
time to indulge in a vulgar overflow of spirits. Do you not see
how your sister is suffering? Your heartlessness is downright
_disgusting_. Leave the room."

I instantly avail myself of the permission to withdraw only too
glad of the excuse, and retire, followed closely by Roland, who I
can see is choking with suppressed laughter.

"How could you do it?" I ask, reproachfully, as we gain the
hall-door. "They are all angry enough as it is."

"I could not help it," returns Roly, still struggling with his
merriment; "the solemnity of the whole thing was too much for me.
I knew I was going to laugh out loud, so pinched you to draw off
attention."

"I think you _might_ have chosen Billy."

"He was too far off; you were the most convenient."

"And so you sacrificed me to save yourself?" I exclaim,
indignantly.

Like all men, Roland is unutterably selfish; unlike all men, he
is ever ready to make atonement, once the selfish act is
accomplished.

"Even so," he says now. "But look here, Phyllis: I'll make it up
to you. Here's ten bob." And he tries to force the money into my
unwilling hand.

"No, keep it," I return, softened by the gift; "I can do without
it, and I am sure you want it yourself."

"I don't _really_," says Roland, looking fair into my eyes. "I
have plenty--for a while; and you know you said yesterday you had
spent your last penny. When you are Mrs. Carrington you can stand
to me. Here: no nonsense: if you don't take it this moment, I'll
chuck it into the pond."

Thus threatened, I take it; and then together we stroll into the
kitchen-garden, where Roland reduces his laughter-loving mind to
order with the aid of the fragrant weed.



CHAPTER XIII.

Our engagement having received the openly expressed though
secretly unwilling sanction of my father, Mr. Carrington comes
over every other day to our house, where he of course meets with
overpowering sweetness from everybody--Dora excepted. Not that
she shows him any demonstrative dislike. If she happens to be in
the room when he arrives she is as civil as the occasion calls
for, but at the first opportunity she makes her exit, not to
return again during his stay, and, if possible, avoids his
society altogether. A heavy sense of injury is upon her,
impossible to lift.

To me she has said little or nothing on the subject. Once, two
days after my engagement was made known, happening to find
herself alone with me, she said, curiously:---

"Was it your photograph I saw Mr. Carrington kissing that day?"

And when I answered "Yes," rather shamefacedly, she turned from
me with lowered lids and a curved smile that suggested many
thoughts. Like most even-tempered people, Dora, when roused, is
singularly obstinate and unforgiving.

At times I am a little unhappy, but very seldom. On such
occasions the horrible doubt that I am marrying Marmaduke for his
money crushes me. Every now and then I catch myself revelling in
the thought of what I shall do for Billy and Roly and all of
them, when plenty of gold is at my disposal. I try to think how
much I like him, how handsome he is, how kind, how good to me,
but always at the end of my cogitations I find my thoughts
reverting to the grand house in which I am to reign as queen, or
to the blue velvet dress I mean to wear as soon as I can afford
to buy it.

I now glory in an engagement ring that sparkles fairly and gives
me much pleasure. I have also an enormous locket, on which the
letters P. M. V. are marked out by brilliants. This latter
contains an exquisitely painted miniature of my betrothed, and is
given to me by him in a manner that betokens doubt of its being
acceptable.

"I don't suppose you will care for the picture part of it," he
says with a laugh and a rather heightened color.

But I _do_ care for it, picture and all, and tell him so, to his
lasting satisfaction, though it must be confessed I look oftener
at the _outside_ of that locket than at any other part of it.
Thus by degrees I find myself laden with gifts of all kinds--for
the most part costly; and, as trinkets are scarce with us and
jewels imaginary, it will be understood that each new ornament
added to my store raises me higher in the social scale.

So time speeds and Christmas passes and gentle spring grows
apace.

"Come out," says Billy one morning early in April, thrusting a
disheveled head into my room; "come out: it is almost warm."
Whereupon I don my hat and sally forth, my Billy in attendance.

Mechanically we make for the small belt of trees that encircles
and bounds our home, and is by courtesy "our wood." It is my
favorite retreat--the spot most dear to me at Summerleas. Ah! how
sweet is everything to-day, how fragrant! The primrose gold in
its mossy bed, supported by its myriad friends; the pretty purple
violet--the white one prettier still. I sigh and look about me
sadly.

"This is the very last spring I shall ever spend at home," I say,
at length, being in one of my sentimental and regretful moods.

"Yes," returns Billy; "this time next year, I suppose, you will
be holding high court at Strangemore. How funny you will look?
you are so small! Why, you will be an out-and-out swell then,
Phyllis, and can cut the country if you choose. What are you so
doleful about? Ain't you glad?"

"No, I am not," I reply emphatically; "I am sorry! I am
_wretched!_ Everything will be so new and big and strange,
and--_you_ will not be there. Oh, Billy!" flinging my arms around
his neck, "I feel _that_ worst of all. I am _too_ fond of you,
and that's a fact."

"Well, and I am awfully fond of you too," says Billy, giving me a
bear-like hug that horribly disarranges my appearance, but is
sweet to me, so much do I adore my "boy Billee."

We seat ourselves on a grassy knoll and give ourselves up to
gloomy foreboding.

"It is a beastly nuisance, your getting married at all," says
Billy, grumpily. "If it had been Dora, now, it would have been a
cause for public rejoicing; but you are different. What I am to
do without you in this stupid hole is more than I can tell. I
shall get papa to send me to a boarding-school when you go." (The
Eton plan has not yet been divulged.) "Why on earth did you take
a fancy to that fellow, Phyllis? Were you not very well as you
were?"

"It was _he_ took a fancy to _me_, if you please. I never thought
of such a thing. But there is little use discussing that now.
Marry him I must before the year is out; and really, perhaps,
after all, I shall be very happy."

 "Oh, yes, I dare say, if being happy means settling down and
having a lot of squalling brats before you can say Jack Robinson.
_I_ know how it will be," says Billy, moodily "you will be an old
woman before your time."

"Indeed I shall not," I cry, with much indignation, viewing with
discomfort the ruins to which he has reduced my handsome castle.
"I intend to keep young for _ever_ so long. Why, I am only
eighteen now, and I shan't be old until I am _thirty_. And,
Billy," coaxingly, "you shall see what I shall do for _you_ when
I marry him: I will send you to _Eton_. There!"

"Why don't you say you will send me to the moon?" replies he,
with withering contempt.

"But I will really; Marmaduke _says_ I shall; and you are to
spend all of your holidays at Strangemore; and I will keep a gun
for you, and a dog; and maybe he will let me give you a _horse_."

"Oh, fiddlesticks!" says the dear boy. "Draw a line somewhere.
You have said too much; and I've outgrown my belief in the
'Arabian Nights.' I will be quite content with the dog and gun."

"Well, you shall see. And Roland shall have money every now and
then to pay his debts; and Dora shall have as many new dresses as
she can wear; and for Mamma I will get one of those delightful
easy-chairs we saw in the shop-window in Carston, the one that
moves up and down, you know--and--- Oh, Billy! I think it is a
glorious thing to be rich. If I could only do all I say, I
believe I would marry him were he as ugly as sin."

In the enthusiasm of the moment I spring to my feet, and as I do
so become fatally aware that not two yards from me stands
Marmaduke, leaning against a tree. There is a curious, not
altogether amiable, expression upon his face, that assures me he
has overheard our conversation. Yet one cannot accuse him of
eavesdropping, as if we had only taken the trouble to raise our
heads our eyes must inevitably have met his.

I am palsied with shame and horror; I am stricken dumb; and
Billy, looking lazily upwards from where he is stretched full
length upon the sward to discover the cause, in his turn becomes
aware of the enemy's presence. A moment later he is on his feet
and has beaten a retreat, leaving me alone to face the foe.

Mr. Carrington comes slowly forward.

"Yes, I heard every word," he says, calmly, anger and reproach in
his eyes.

I make no reply: I feel myself incapable of speech. Indeed,
looking back upon it now, I think silence was the better part,
as, under the circumstances, I don't quite see what I could have
said.

"So this is the light in which you regard our marriage!"  he goes
on bitterly: "as a means to an end--no more. At the close of six
months I find myself as far from having gained a place in your
affections as when we first met. I may well despair. Your heart
seems full of thought and love for every one, Phyllis, except for
the man you have promised to marry."

"Then give me up," I say, defiantly, though my false courage
sinks as I remember what a row there will be at home if he takes
me at my word.

"No, I will _not_ give you up. I will marry you in spite of your
coldness: I am more determined on it now than ever," he makes
answer, almost fiercely.

I feel uneasy, not to say unhappy. I have heard of men marrying
women for spite and revenging themselves upon them afterwards.
This recollection is not reassuring. I glance at Marmaduke
furtively, and persuade myself he is looking downright
vindictive.

"Yes," I murmur, doubtfully, "and perhaps, afterwards, when I was
your wife, you would be cruel to me, and---"

"Phyllis," he interrupts me, hastily, "what are you saying? Who
has put such a detestable idea into your head? _I_ unkind to you,
or cruel! Child, can you not even _imagine_ the depth of the love
I bear you?"

I know I am going to cry. Already are my eyes suffusing; my nose
develops a tickling sensation. I am indignant with myself at the
bare thought, but nevertheless I feel assured if I open my mouth
it will be to give utterance to a sob. If I cry before him now he
will think---

"Phyllis, do you really wish to marry me?" asks Mr. Carrington,
suddenly, trying to read my hot and averted face. "If you repent
your promise, say so: it is not yet too late to withdraw. Better
bear pain now than lasting misery hereafter. Answer me truly: do
you wish to be my wife?"

"I do," I return, earnestly. "I shall be happier with you, who
are always kind to me, than I am at home. It is only at times I
feel regretful. But of course--if you don't want to marry me---"
I pause, overcome by the ignominy of this thought.

Mr. Carrington takes my hand.

"I would give half my possessions to gain your love," he says,
softly; "but, even as it is, no bribe on earth could induce me to
relinquish you. Don't talk about my giving you up. That is out of
the question. I could as easily part with my life as with my
Phyllis. Perhaps," with a rather sad little smile, "some time in
the future you may deem me worthy to be placed in the category
with Billy  and Roland and the rest of them."

A mournful sound breaks from me. I search my pocket for a
handkerchief wherewith to wipe away the solitary tear that
meanders down my cheek. Need I say it is not there? Mr.
Carrington, guessing my want, produces a very snowy article from
somewhere and hands it to me.

"Do you want one?" he asks, tenderly, and presently I am
dissolved in tears, my nose buried in my lover's cambric.

"I am sure you must hate me," I whisper, dismally. "I make you
unhappy almost every time we meet. Mr. Carrington, will you try
to forget what I said just now, and forgive me?"

"How can I forgive you anything when you call me Mr. Carrington?"

"Marmaduke, then." He presses me closer to him, and I rub my
stained and humid countenance up and down against his coat. I am
altogether penitent.

"After all, Marmaduke, may be I didn't say anything so very
dreadful," I venture, at the end of a slight pause. "I was only
thinking, and deciding on what I would like to give everybody
when--when I was your wife. Was that very bad?"

"No; there was nothing to vex me in all that; it only showed me
what a loving, generous little heart my pet has. But then,
Phyllis, why did you give me so plainly to understand you were
marrying me only for the sake of my odious money, by saying--what
you did in your last speech?"

"What did I say?"

"That for the sake of being rich you would marry me (or any one
else, your tone meant) even were I 'as ugly as sin.'"


"If I said that, it was an untruth, because if you were us ugly
as Bobby De Vere, for instance, I most certainly would not marry
you. I detest plain people."

"Well, at all events, I think you owe me some reparation for the
pain you have inflicted."

"I do, indeed," I admit, eagerly. "Lay any penance you like upon
me, and I will not shrink from it. I will do whatever you ask."

"Will you?" quickly. "Then kiss me of your own accord. I don't
believe up to this, Phyllis, you have ever yet done so of your
own sweet will."

"I will do it now, then," I return, heroically, and straight
away, raising myself on tiptoe, without the smallest pretense at
prudery, I fling myself into his arms and kiss him with all my
heart.

No accomplished coquette seeking after effect could have achieved
a more complete success by her arts than I have by this simple
act, which is with me an everyday occurrence where the boys are
concerned. By it I have obtained a thousand pardons, if need be.

He is evidently surprised, and grows a little pale, then smiles,
and strains me to him with passionate fervor.

"My darling--my own! Oh, Phyllis! if I could only make you love
me!" he whispers, longingly.

"Marmaduke," I say presently, in a rather bashful tone, trifling
with the lapel of his coat.

"Well, my pet?"

"I have something to say to you."

"Have you, darling?"

"I want to tell you that I think I must be growing fond of you."

"My angel!"

"Yes. And do you know why I think so?"

"No. I cannot imagine how anything so unlikely and desirable
should come to pass."

"I will tell you. Do you remember how, long ago when first you
kissed me, I disliked it so much that it made me cry?"

"Yes."

"Well, now I find I don't mind it one bit!"

Instead of being struck with the good sense of this discovery,
Marmaduke roars with laughter.

"Oh, you needn't laugh," I say, slightly offended: "it is a very
good sign. I have read in books how girls shudder and shiver when
kissed by a man they don't like; and, as I never shudder or
shiver when you kiss me, of course that means that I like you
immensely. Don't you see?"

"I do," says Marmaduke, who is still laughing heartily. "And I
also see it is an excellent reason why I should instantly kiss
you again. Oh, Phyllis! I think if we looked into the family
Bible we would discover we had all mistaken your age, and that
you are only ten instead of eighteen."

"Why?"

"For many reasons. Come; let us walk on."

As lunch-hour approaches, we retrace our steps until we reach the
principal avenue. Here Mr. Carrington declines my invitation to
enter the house and partake of such light refreshments as may be
going, and departs with a promise to take us for a drive the
following day.

Nature tells me the luncheon-hour must be past, and, impelled by
hunger, I run down the gravel sweep at the top of my speed; but,
just as I get to the thick bunch of laurels that conceals the
house from view, Billy's voice, coming from nowhere in
particular, stops me. Presently from between the evergreens his
head emerges.

"I thought he was with you," he says, with an air of intense
relief. "Well?"

"Well?" I reiterate.

"Why don't you tell me," cries Billy, angrily, "instead of
standing there with your mouth open? Did he hear what we said?"

"Yes, every word."

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" with a dismal groan. "And who is to tell
them at home, I would like to know?"

"Tell them what?"

"Why, about,--- Surely you don't mean to tell me he is going to
marry you after all that?" exclaims Billy, his eyes enlarged to
twice their usual size.

"Yes, of course he is," I reply, with much dignity and
indignation combined. "When a man loves a woman he does not give
her up for a trifle."

"A trifle! Well, I never," murmurs Billy floored for once in his
life.



CHAPTER XIV

We are in the orchard of Summerleas alone, Mr. Carrington and I,
with the warm but fitful April sun pouring heavily down upon us.
All around is one great pink and white sheet of blossoms; the
very path beneath our feet seems covered with tinted snow.

It is one of those pet days that, coming too soon, make us
discontented to think to-morrow may again be damp and chill--a
day that brings with it an early foretaste of what will be, and
is still and heavy as in the heart of summer.

"It will be a good year for fruit," I tell my lover, soberly,
"the trees are showing such a fair promise." And my lover laughs,
and tells me I am a wonderful child; that he has not yet half
dived into the deep stores of private knowledge I possess. He
supposes when I come to Strangemore he may dismiss his steward,
as probably I will be competent to manage everything there--the
master included.

Whereupon I answer, saucely, I need not go to Strangemore for
_that_, as I fancy I have him pretty well under control even as
it is. At this he pinches my ear and prophesies the time will yet
come when it will be his turn to menace _me_.

Our orchard has not been altogether sacrificed to the inner man:
here and there one comes upon straggling slopes of greenest grass
and irregular beds of old-fashioned and time-honored
flowers--such flowers as went to deck Ophelia's grave, or grew to
grace the bank whereon Titania slept.

High up in the western wall a small green gate gives entrance to
another garden--a quaint spot, picturesquely wild, that we
children chose to name Queen Elizabeth's Retreat. Long lines of
elms grow here, through which some paths are cut--paths innocent
of gravel and green as the grass that grows on either side. Here,
too, are beds of flowers and rustic benches.

"Come, show me anything as pretty as this in all Strangemore," I
say, with triumph, as we seat ourselves on an  ancient oaken
contrivance that threatens at any moment to bring the unwary to
the ground.

"I wonder if you will ever think anything at Strangemore as
worthy of admiration as what you have here?" says Marmaduke,
passing his arm lightly round my waist.

"Perhaps. But I know every nook and cranny of this old place so
well and love it so dearly! I can remember no other home. We came
here, you know, when I was very young and Billy only a baby.

"But Strangemore will be your home when you come to live with me.
You will try to like it for my sake, will you not? It is dearer
to me than either of the other places, although they say Luxton
is handsomer. Don't you think you will be able to love it,
Phyllis?"

"Yes, but not for a long time. I can like things at once, but it
takes me years and years and years to love any thing."

"Does that speech apply to persons? If so, I have a pleasant
prospect before me. You have known me but a few months; will it
take you 'years and years' to love me?"

There is lingering hope in his tone, expectancy in his eyes.

"You? Oh, I don't know. Perhaps so," I reply, with unpleasant
truthfulness.

Marmaduke removes his arm from around me and frowns.

"You are candor itself," he says, with a slight tinge of
bitterness. "Certainly I can never hereafter accuse you of having
concealed the true state of your feelings towards me. Whatever
else you may be, you are honest."

"I am," I return reluctantly; "I wish I were not. I am always
saying the wrong thing, and repenting it afterwards. Papa says my
candor makes me downright vulgar. Marmaduke, do you think honesty
is the best policy?"

I glance up at him with questioning eyes from under the flapping
hat that has braved so many summers.

"I do," he answers, warmly; "I think there is nothing on earth so
sweet or so rare as perfect truthfulness. Be open and true and
honest, darling, and like yourself as long as you can. Every hour
you live will make the _role_ more difficult."

"But why? You are older than I am, Marmaduke; would you tell a
lie?"

"No, not a direct lie, perhaps, but I might pretend to what I did
not feel."

"Oh, but that is nothing. I would do that myself," I exclaim,
confidentially. "Many and many a time I have pretended not to
know where Billy was when I knew papa was going to box his ears.
There is no great harm in that. And Billy has done it for me."

"You don't mean to say Mr. Vernon ever boxed your ears?"

I explode at the tragic meaning of his tone.

"Often," I say, merrily, "shoals of times; but that is not half
so bad as being sent to bed. However"--reassuringly--"he has not
done it now for ever so long--not since I have been engaged to
you."

"I should hope not, indeed," hotly. "Phyllis, why won't you marry
me at once? Surely you would be happier with me
than--than--living as you now do."

"No, no," edging away from him; "I would not. I am not a bit
unhappy as I am. You mistake me; and, as I told you before, he
never does it now."

"But it maddens me to think of his ever having done so. And such
pretty little ears, too, so pink and delicate! Of all the unmanly
blackg--- I beg your pardon, Phyllis: of course it is wrong of me
to speak so of your father."

"Oh, don't mind me," I say, easily. "Now you are going to be my
husband, I do not care about telling you there is very little
love lost between me and papa."

"Then why not shorten our engagement? Surely it has now lasted
long enough. There is no reason why you should submit to any
tyranny when you can escape from it. If you dislike your father's
rule, cut it and come to me; you don't dislike _me_."

"No; but I should dislike being married very much indeed."

"Why?" impatiently.

"I don't know," I return, provokingly; "but I am sure I should.
'Better to bear the ills we have, _et cetera_.'"

"You are trifling," says he, angrily, "why not say at once you
detest the idea of having to spend your life with me? I believe I
am simply wasting my time endeavoring to gain an affection that
will never be mine."

"Then don't waste any more of it," I retort, tapping the ground
petulantly with my foot while fixing my gaze with affected
unconcern upon a thick, white cloud that rests far away in the
eternal blue. "I have no wish to stand in your light. Pray leave
me--I shan't mind it in the least--and don't throw away any more
of your precious moments."

"Idle advice. I can't leave you now, and you know it.  I must
only go on squandering my life, I suppose, until the end. I do
believe the greatest misfortune that ever befell me was my
meeting with you."

"Thank you. You are extremely rude and unkind to me, Marmaduke.
If this is your way of making love, I must say I don't like it."

"I don't suppose you do, or anything else connected with me Of
course it was an unfortunate thing for me, my coming down here and
falling idiotically in love with a girl who does not care whether
I am dead or alive."

"That is untrue. I care very much indeed about your being alive."

"Oh! common humanity would suggest that speech."

He turns abruptly and walks a few paces away from me. We are both
considerably out of temper by this time, and I make a solemn vow
to myself not to open my lips again until he offers an apology
for what I am pleased to term his odious crossness. Two seconds
afterwards I break my vow.

"Why on earth could you not have fallen in love with Dora?" I
cry, petulantly, to the back of his head. "She would do you some
credit, and she would love you, too. Every one would envy you if
you married Dora, she never says the wrong thing; and she is
elegant and very pretty--is she not?

"Very pretty," replies he, dryly; "almost lovely, I think, with
her fair hair and beautiful complexion and sweet smile. Yes Dora
is more than pretty."

"If you admire her so much, why don't you marry her?" say I,
sharply. Although I am not in love with Marmaduke, I strongly
object to his expressing unlimited admiration for my sister or
any other woman.

"Shall I tell you?" says he, suddenly, coming back to me to take
me in his arms and strain me close to him. "Because in my eyes
you are ten times lovelier. Because your hair, though darker,
pleases me more. Because your complexion, though browner, is to
me more fair. Because your smile, though less uniformly sweet, is
merrier and tenderer, and more lovable. There! have I given you
enough reason for the silly preference I feel for a little girl
who does not care a straw about me?"

"Oh, yes, I do: I like you very much," I answer greatly
mollified. "I do really--better and better every day."

"Do you indeed?" rapturously. "My own darling."

"Yes," I say, in a thoroughly matter-of-fact tone, with a view to
bringing him back to earth again without any unnecessary delay.
"But how can you be so fond of me, Marmaduke, when you say I am
so cross? Now, tell me this," laying the first finger of my right
hand upon his lips, and beating time there with it to each of my
words: "why did you first take a fancy to me?"

"Just because you are Phyllis: I have no other reason. If you
were any one else, or changed in any way, I would not care in the
least for you."

"At that rate we are likely to have a happy time of it," I say,
sarcastically, "considering I am never the same for two weeks
running, and papa says every one's disposition undergoes a
complete alteration every seven years."

"I'll risk that," says he, laughing. "Seven years are a long way
off."

"But I shall change in less than seven years," I say,
persistently. "Don't you see? I have done so twice already, at
seven, and fourteen, and I shall do so again at twenty-one.
Therefore, in four years' time I shall be a different person
altogether, and you will cease to care for me."

"I shall always adore you, Phyllis," declares my lover,
earnestly, "whether we live together for four or fourteen or one
hundred and fourteen years."

This leaves nothing more to be said, so I am silent for a moment
or two, and gaze at him with some degree of pride as he stands
beside me, with his blue eyes, tender and impassioned--as
handsome a man as ever made vain love to a graceless maiden.

Still, admirable as he is, I have no desire for him to grow
demonstrative so soon again; therefore continue the conversation
hastily.

"Were you never in love before?" I ask, without motive.

It occurs to me that like a flash a faint change crosses his
face.

"All men have fancies," he answers, and something tells me he is
evading a strict reply.

"I don't mean a fancy: I mean a real attachment. Did you ever ask
any woman except me to be your wife?"

"Why?" he asks, with an attempt at laughter that ends in dismal
failure beneath my remorseless eyes. "Will you throw me over if I
say, 'Yes?'"

"No, of course not. But I think you might have told me before.
Here have you been pretending all along you never loved any one
but me, and now I discover accidentally that long before you knew
me you had broken your heart over dozens of women."

"I had not," angrily. "Why do you misconstrue my words?"

"Oh, of course you had."

"I really wish, Phyllis, you would not give yourself the habit of
contradicting people so rudely. I tell you I had not."

"Well, you were madly in love with one, at all events," I say,
viciously. "I could see that by your eyes when I asked you the
question."

"If a man commits a folly once in his life, he is not to be
eternally condemned for it, I suppose?"

"I never said it was a folly to love any one; I only suggested it
was deceitful of you not too have told about it before. I hate
secrets of any kind." My companion winces visibly. "There don't
be uneasy," I say, loftily. "I have no desire to pry into any of
your affairs."

We pace up and down in uncomfortable silence. At length:---

"I see you are angry, Phyllis," he says.

"Oh, dear, no. Why should such an insignificant thing that does
not affect me in any way, make me angry?"

"My darling child, I think you are; and, oh, Phyllis, for what?
For a hateful passion that is dead and buried this many a year,
and bore no faintest resemblance to the deep true affection I
feel for you. Am I the worse in your eyes because I once--when I
was a boy--fancied my heart was lost? Be reasonable, and be kind
to me. You have been anything but that all this morning."

"Was she dark, or fair?" I ask, in a milder tone, not noticing,
however, the hand he holds out to me.

"Dark--abominably dark."

"And tall?"

"Detestably so."

"You need not abuse her now," I say, reprovingly, "you loved her
once."

"I did not," cries he, with some excitement. "I could never have
loved her. It was a mad, boyish infatuation. Let us forget her,
Phyllis; the subject is hateful to me. Oh my darling, my pet, no
one ever really crept into my heart except you--you small, cold,
cruel, little child."

I am softened. I make up my mind I will not be cold during the
remainder of our day, so I slip my ungloved hand into his, and
bring myself close up to his side.

"I will forgive you this time," I whisper; "but Marmaduke,
promise me that never in the future will you conceal anything
from me."

"I promise--I swear," says my betrothed, eagerly and I receive,
and graciously return, the kiss of reconciliation he lays upon my
lips.



CHAPTER XV.

We are unmistakably and most remarkably late, but that is
scarcely a matter for wonder, considering the animal we drove and
the vehicle in which we journeyed. We have been bumped and jolted
and saddened all the way from Summerleas, besides having endured
agonies of shame and fear lest any of the grander folk meeting us
upon the road should look down upon us from their aristocratic
equipages and scorn our dilapidated condition. By taking an
unfrequented route, however, we arrive unseen, and are spared so
much humiliation.

When Mr. Carrington asked me a week ago if a garden party at
Strangemore would give me any pleasure--so little are we
accustomed to gayeties of any kind--my spirits rose to fever
height, and I told him without hesitation nothing on earth he
could do for me would occasion me greater delight than his
ordering and regulating _a fete_ in which I might bear a part.
Afterwards, when I fully understood the consequences of my rash
words, how heartily did I repent them!

First came the battle with papa about the necessary garments to
be worn at it--gowns we should have and gowns we had not--and a
skirmish naturally followed. Mamma and Dora undertook to face the
foe alone in this instance (it being unanimously decided in
conclave that my presence on the scene would only hinder any
chances of success), and after a severe encounter Dora
triumphed--as somehow Dora always does triumph--though I am bound
to admit many tears were shed and many reproaches uttered before
victory was declared in our favor.

Then came the getting to Strangemore in the disgraceful fossil
that clings to us like a nightmare, and won't fall to pieces from
decay.

Half an hour before we start, papa caracoles away on his
sprightly roan, got up regardless of expense, leaving Brewster to
drive us, with Billy seated beside him on the box-seat; while we
three women sit inside and try to think our dresses are not
crushed, while undergoing the hour and a half of anguish, before
described, on our way.

As we are all fully alive to the fact that to face the hall-door
at Strangemore and the assembled county in our shandrydan is more
than we can endure, we enter the grounds by a back way; and
having given Brewster strict orders to reach the yard without
being seen, and if seen to answer no inconvenient questions, we
alight, and shaking out our trains, proceed towards the gardens.

My dress is composed of simple batiste, but is a wonderful
mingling of palest pink and blue, impossible to describe; my hat
is also pink and blue, my gloves delicately tinted. Marmaduke's
earrings and locket and bracelets and rings are scattered all
over my person; and altogether, I flatter myself, I am looking as
well as it is possible for Phyllis Vernon to look.

Dora is in a ravishing costume, of which blue silk forms the
principal part, and has put on a half-pouting, just-awakened
expression, that makes her appear a lovely grown up baby.

Mamma is looking, as she always looks in my eyes, perfectly
beautiful.

She and Dora march in front, while Billy and I bring up the rear.
To my excited imagination it seems as if all the world were met
together on the croquet-lawn. I say, "Oh, Billy!" in an
exhilarated tone, and give his arm a squeeze; but, as the dear
fellow thinks it necessary to be morose on the occasion, he takes
it badly, and tells me, angrily, to moderate my transports, or
people will say I have never been at any entertainment
before--which if people did say it would be unusually near the
truth.

Presently Marmaduke, seeing us, comes quickly up, and, having
welcomed mother and Dora, offers me his arm with the air of a
proprietor, and carries me away from my family.

I feel as though treading on air, and am deliciously far from
shyness of any description. Before we have gone very far, my
conversational powers assert themselves.

"Marmaduke, don't you think I am looking very nice?" I say
naively.

"Very, darling. You always look that."

This general praise disappoints me. Whatever an infatuated person
may have chosen to consider me in the time past, I am satisfied
that at the present moment I really am worthy of admiration.

"But you cannot have seen my dress," I persist; "it came all the
way from London: and _we_ all think it so pretty. Look at it,
Marmaduke."

He turns his head willingly in my direction, but his gaze gets
little farther than my face.

"It is charming," he says, with enthusiasm. "That pale green
suits you tremendously."

"Pale-green!" and I am all faintest azure. I break into a merry
laugh, and give him an imperceptible shake.

"Green, you ridiculous boy! Why, there is not a particle of green
about me. I am nothing but pink and blue. Do look at me again,
Marmaduke, or I shall die of chagrin."

"Well, it was the blue I meant," declares my lover, composedly.
"Then, come with me to the other side, Phyllis: I want to
introduce you to Lady Alicia Slate-Gore."

"Lady Alicia!" I gasp, awestruck. "Is--is the duke here?"

"No; he is in Scotland. Lady Alicia came by herself. She is an
old friend of mine, darling, and I am very fond of her. I want
you, therefore, to be particularly charming to her."

"How can you expect me to be that--under the circumstances?" I
ask, lightly, glancing up at him from under my lashes with a
sudden and altogether new touch of coquetry born of the hour and
my gay attire. "How can I be amiable, when you tell me in that
bare-faced fashion of your adoration for her? Of course I shall
be desperately jealous and desperately disagreeable during the
entire interview."

Marmaduke's face betrays the intense delight all men feel when
receiving flattery from the beloved one. Perhaps, indeed, he
appears a trifle sillier than the generality of them, incense
coming from me being so totally unexpected. I know by his eyes he
would give anything to kiss me, were it not for shame sake and
the gaping crowd.

"Is your Lady Alicia very terrific?" I ask, fearfully and then,
almost before he has time to answer my question, we are standing
before a tall, benevolent-looking woman of forty-five, with a
hooked nose, and a scarlet feather in her bonnet, and I am bowing
and smirking at Lady Alicia Slate-Gore.

She is more than civil--she is radiant. She taps me on the cheek
with her fan, and calls me "my dear," and asks me a hundred
questions in a breath. She taps Marmaduke on the arm and asks him
what he means by making love to a child who ought to be in her
nursery dreaming fairy-tales.

At this Marmaduke laughs, and says I am older than I look--for
which I am grateful to him.

"Old!" says my lady, with a rapid bird like glance at me. "The
world will soon be upside down. Am I to consider fourteen old?"

"Phyllis will soon be nineteen," says Marmaduke; for which I feel
still more grateful, as it was only two months ago I attained my
eighteenth year.

"Indeed! indeed! You should give your friends your receipt,
child. You have stolen a good five years from Father Time, and
just when you least want it. Now, if you could only give us old
people a written prescription," etc., etc.

Marmaduke leaves us to go and receive some other guests, and her
ladyship still chatters on to me; while I, catching the infection
of her spirits, chatter back again to her, until she declares me
vastly amusing, and is persuaded Marmaduke has gained a prize in
the life-lottery.

Then Bobby De Vere comes up, a little later, and addresses me in
his usual florid style; so does fat Mr. Hastings; and presently
Lady Alicia appears again, bringing with her a tall, gaunt man
with a prickly beard, who, she says, is desirous of being
introduced.

He is probably a well-intentioned person, but he is very deaf,
and has evidently mistaken the whole affair. For example, after a
moment or two he electrifies me by saying, "You are fortunate,
Mrs. Carrington, in having so magnificent a day for your _fete_."

I color painfully, stammer a good deal, and finally explain,
rather lamely, I am not yet Mrs. Carrington, and that my proper
name is Vernon. Upon which he too is covered with confusion and
makes a hurried and very unintelligible apology.

"Beg pardon, I'm sure. Quite understood from Lady Alicia--most
awkward--inexcusably so. Only arrived at the castle late last
night, and am a stranger to every one here. Pray pardon me."

I put an end to his misery by smiling and asking him if he would
like to walk about a little--an invitation he accepts with
effusion.

There are dear little colored tents scattered all over the place.
Bands are playing; so are fountains; and flowers are everywhere.
I drink iced Moselle and eat strawberries, and am supremely
happy.

My emaciated cavalier escorts me hither and thither, and does all
he knows to entertain me. After an hour or so he leaves me, only
shortly to return again, and it becomes evident he is bent on
studying human nature in a new form as he listens with every
appearance of the gravest interest to the ceaseless babble that
flows from my lips.

The day wears on, and I see hardly anything of Marmaduke; it is
already half-past five, and in another hour my joy must end. I
stand at the door of a tent, framed in by blue and white canvas,
with a crimson strawberry on its way to my lips, and am vaguely
wondering at my lover's absence, when I see him coming towards
me, by degrees, and with that guilty air that distinguishes most
men when endeavoring secretly to achieve some cherished design.
He looks slightly bored, but brightens as his eyes meet mine and
hurries his footsteps.

As he draws nearer I address to him some commonplace remark, upon
which the two or three men who have been amusing me--my gaunt
companion included--sheer off from me as though I had the plague;
it being thoroughly understood on all sides that in me they
behold the "coming Queen" of Strangemore.

Their defection, however, disconcerts me not at all. I am too
glad, too utterly gay on this glorious afternoon to let any
trifles annoy me.

"Did you miss me?" asked Marmaduke, tenderly.

"Hardly. You see, I had scarcely time--I have been enjoying
myself so much. It has been a delicious day altogether. Have you
enjoyed it, Marmaduke?"

"No. I was away from you." There is a world of reproach in his
tone.

"True; I had forgotten that," I say, wickedly. Then, "To tell the
truth, 'Duke, I was just beginning to wonder had you forgotten my
existence. How did you manage to keep away from me for so long?"

"What unbearable conceit! I could not come to you a moment
sooner. If I had to get through so much hard work every day as
was put upon me this afternoon, I believe I should die of a
decline. Don't you feel as if you hated all these people,
Phyllis? I do."

"No, indeed; I bear them nothing but good will. They have all
helped by their presence to make up the sum of my enjoyment."

"I am so glad the day has been a success--to you at least. Are
you looking at that old turret, darling? There is such a
beautiful view of the gardens from one of those windows?" This
last suggestively.

"Is there?" I answer, with careless indifference. Then,
good-naturedly, "I think I would like to see it."

"Would you?" much gratified. "Then come with me."

In his heart I know he is rejoiced at the prospect of a
_tete-a-tete_ alone with me--rejoiced, too, at the chance of
getting rid for a while of all the turmoil and elegant bustle of
the crowd.

I go with him, down the garden path, through the shrubberies, up
the stone steps, and into the large hall, past immodest statues
and up interminable stairs, until we reach the small round
chamber of which he speaks.

I run to the window and look down eagerly upon the brilliant
scene below; and certainly what meets my eyes rewards me for the
treadmill work I have undergone for the purpose.

Beneath me lie the gardens, a mass of glowing color, while far
beyond them as the eye can reach stretches the wood in all its
green and bronze and brown-tinged glory. Upon the right spreads
the park soft and verdant. Below me the gayly-robed guests pass
ceaselessly to and fro, and the sound of their rippling laughter
climbs up the old ivy-covered walls and enters the window where I
stand.

"Oh, how lovely it is?" I cry, delightedly. "Oh, I am so glad I
came! How far away they all appear, and how small!"

Marmaduke is watching me with open content: he never seems to
tire of my many raptures.

Suddenly I lean forward and, with flushed cheeks, follow the
movement of one of the guests, who hitherto has been unnoticed by
me.

"Surely--surely," I cry, with considerable excitement, "that is
Sir Mark Gore."

Marmaduke stares. "Sir Mark is here," he says. "Do you know him?"

"Of course I do," I answer, gayly, craning my neck farther out of
the window, the better to watch my new-old acquaintance; "that
is, a little. What a handsome man he is! How odd he should be
here to-day!"

"I don't see the oddness of it," rather coldly. "I have known him
intimately for many years. How did you become acquainted with
him, Phyllis?"

"Oh," I say, laughing, "our first meeting was a very romantic
affair--almost as romantic as my second interview with you." I
say this with a glance half shy, half merry; but Mr. Carrington
does not seem as much alive to my drollery as usual. "Billy and I
had ridden into Carston--I on the old white pony, you know--and
just as we came to the middle of the High street, Madge shied at
a dead sheep, my saddle turned, and but for Sir Mark Gore, who
happened to be passing at the moment, I would certainly have
fallen off. He rushed to the rescue, caught me in his arms, and
deposited me safely on the ground. Was it not near being a
tragedy? Afterwards he was even condescending enough to tighten
the girths himself, though Billy was well able, and to speed us
on our homeward journey. Was it not well he was there?"

"Very well, indeed. And was that all you saw of him?"

"Oh, dear, no; we became great friends after that. I found him
wonderfully good-natured and kind."

As I speak I am ignorant of the fact that Sir Mark has the
reputation of being the fastest man about town.

 "I have no doubt you did," says my betrothed, sarcastically.
"And where did you meet him again?"

"At a bazaar, a week later. He got Mrs. Leslie, with whom he was
staying, to introduce him to me. And then he called with the
Leslies, and I think took a fancy to Dora, as he was continually
coming to Summerleas after that. Not that he ever came to the
point, you know; he did not propose to her or that; which
disappointed us all very much, as Mrs. Leslie told mamma he was
enormously rich and a good match."

"You seem to think a great deal of a good match," says Marmaduke,
very bitterly. "Are you so extremely fond of money?"

"Awfully," I say, with charming candor. "What can there be better
than a lot of it? I shall have plenty when I marry you,
Marmaduke, shall I not?"

"As much as ever you want," replies he; but there is no warmth in
his tones.

"Don't make rash promises. Perhaps I shall want ever so much. Do
you know I never had more than two pounds all together at a time
in my life, and that only once? My godfather gave it to me the
year before last, and it took Billy and me a whole week to decide
how we should spend it."

"Well?" absently.

"Well"--utterly unabashed--"finally we divided it into four
half-sovereigns. With one we bought a present for mother, and
were going to do the same for Dora, only she said she would
rather have the money itself than anything we would select. Then
Billy bought a puppy he had been longing for for a month with the
third, besides a lot of white rats--odious little things with no
hair on their tails--and a squirrel; and--and that's all," I wind
up abruptly.

"What did you do with the other half-sovereign? asks 'Duke, more
from want of something to say than from any overpowering
curiosity.

"Oh, nothing--nothing," I answer, feeling slightly confused, I
don't know why. "I cannot remember, it is so long ago."

"Only the year before last, by your own account, and I know your
memory to be excellent. Come, tell me what you did with it."

As he grows obstinate, so do I, and therefore answer with gay
evasion.

"What would I do with it but one thing? Of course I bought a
present for my sweetheart."

Surely some capricious spirit inhabits this room. For the second
time since we entered it Marmaduke's countenance lowers.

"Why, what is the matter now?" I ask, impatiently. "What are you
looking so cross about?"

"I am not cross," indignantly. "What is there to make me so?
There is no reason why you should not have innumerable
sweethearts as well as every other woman."

"Oh!" I say; and his last speech having made me aware that the
word "sweetheart" has been the cause of all the ill temper, I go
on wickedly, "why, none indeed; and this particular one of whom I
speak was such a darling! So good to me, too, as he was--I never
received an unkind word or a cross look from him. Ah! I shall
never forget him."

"You are right there. No virtue is as admirable as sincerity. I
wonder how you could bring yourself to resign so desirable a
lover."

"I didn't resign him. Circumstances over which we had no control
arose, and separated his lot from mine." Here I sigh heavily, and
cast my eyes upon the ground with such despairing languor as
would have done credit to an Amanda--or a Dora.

"If I am to be considered one of the 'circumstances' in this
matter," says my lover, hotly, "I may tell you at once I do not
at all envy the position. I have no desire to come between you
and your affections."

"You do not," I return, mildly; and, but that when a man is
jealous he loses all reasoning and perceptive faculties, he might
see that I am crimson with suppressed laughter. "Had you never
appeared on the scene, still a marriage between us would have
been impossible."

"What is his name?" asks 'Duke, abruptly.

"I would rather not tell you."

"I insist upon knowing. I think I have every right to ask."

"Oh, why? If I promised him to keep the matter secret, surely you
would not ask me to break my faith?"

"Once engaged to me, I object to your keeping faith with any
other man."

"Well, it is all past and gone now," I murmur, sadly. "Why rake
up the old ashes? Let us forget it."

"Forget it!" cries Marmaduke, savagely. "How easy you find it to
forget! And you, whom I thought so innocent a child--you, who
told me you never had a lover until I came to Strangemore! I
cannot so readily forget what you have now told me. It maddens me
to think another man has been making love to you, has held your
hands, has looked into your eyes, has--has--Phyllis"--- almost
fiercely--"tell me the truth; did he ever kiss you?"

My back is turned to him, but I am visibly shaking. I wonder
exceedingly why he does not notice it; but perhaps he does, and
puts it down to deep emotion.

"No," I say, in a smothered tone, "it never went so far as that."

"Then why not tell me his name?"

"Because--I--cannot."

"Will not, you mean. Very good: I will not ask you again. I think
we had better return to the grounds."

He moves a step or two away in the direction of the door.
Turning, I burst into a perfect peal of laughter, and laugh until
the old room echoes again.

"Oh, Marmaduke," I cry, holding out to him my hands, "come back
to me, and I will tell you all. It was old Tanner, your head
gardener, I meant the entire time. He used to give me all your
fruit and flowers before he went to America; and I bought him an
ear-trumpet with my ten shillings, and--oh! oh! oh!"

"Phyllis, Phyllis!" cries my lover, with reproachful tenderness,
and, catching me in his arms, presses upon my lips kisses many
and passionate, as punishment for my wrongdoing.

"How could you do it, darling? How could you make me so miserable
for even a few minutes?"

"I could not help it. You looked so angry and the idea came into
my head. And all about old Tanner! Oh! There--there, please don't
make me laugh again."

Friendly intercourse being thus once more restored, and it being
necessary we should now return to the guests, I make a bet with
him, in which a dozen pair of gloves count as high as three
kisses, and race him down all the stairs, through landings and
rooms and corridors, until I arrive breathless but triumphant at
the hall-door. Here we pause, flushed and panting, to recover our
equanimity, before marching out together calm and decorous to
mingle again among our friends.

Most of them are standing draped and shawled, only waiting to bid
farewell to their host. Almost on the steps we come in contact
with Sir Mark Gore.

"Miss Vernon," he exclaims, with a start of surprise, "you here!
How have I missed seeing you all day? Carrington, when you bring
so many people together you should at least give them printed
programmes with all their names inscribed, to let them know whom
to seek and whom to avoid. Miss Phyllis, how can I tell you how
glad I am to see you again?"

"Don't be too glad," says 'Duke, directing a tender smile at me
as I stand beaming pinkly upon Sir Mark, "or I shall be jealous."

"How! is it indeed so!" Sir Mark asks, addressing me. He too has
only reached the neighborhood within the last few hours, and
knows nothing of what has been going on of late in our quiet
village.

"Yes, it is indeed so," I return, with an assumption of
sauciness, though my cheeks are flaming. Then, half shyly, "Will
you not congratulate me?"

"No, I shall congratulate Carrington," replies he, shortly, and
after a few more words of the most commonplace description,
leaves us.

Mother is on her feet, and has assumed an important expression.
She has sent Billy in quest of Dora. Marmaduke crosses over to
her, whispers, and expostulates for a moment or two, until at
length mother sinks back again upon her seat with a resigned
smile, and sends Billy off a second time with a message to
Brewster to betake himself and the fossil back to Summerleas with
all possible speed. And so it comes to pass that when the lawns
are again empty Mr. Carrington drives us all, through the still
and dewy evening, to our home, where he remains to dine and spend
the rest of this eventful day.



CHAPTER XVI

It is a fortnight later, when the post coming in one morning
brings to Dora an invitation from our aunts, the Misses Vernon,
to go and stay with them for an indefinite period.

These two old ladies--named respectively Aunt Martha and Aunt
Priscilla--are maiden sisters of my father's, and are, if
possible, more disagreeable than he; so that there is hardly
anything--short of committing suicide--we would not do to avoid
paying them a visit of any lengthened duration.

Being rich, however, they are powerful, and we have been brought
up to understand how inadvisable it would be to offend or annoy
them in any way.

Dora receives and reads her letter with an unmoved countenance,
saying nothing either for or against the proposition it contains,
so that breakfast goes on smoothly. So does luncheon; but an hour
afterwards, as I happen to be passing through the hall, I hear
high words issuing from the library, with now and then between
them a disjointed sob, that I know proceeds from Dora.

An altercation is at all times unpleasant; but in our household
it is doubly so, as it has the effect of making the master of it
unbearably morose for the remainder of the day or night on which
it occurs.

Knowing this, and feeling the roof that covers papa to be, in his
present state, unsafe, I steal noiselessly to the hall door and,
opening it, find refuge in the outer air.

As evening falls, however, I am warned of the approach of
dinner-hour, and, returning to the house, am safely up the
stairs, when Billy comes to meet me, his face full of indignant
information.

"It is a beastly shame," he says, in a subdued whisper, "and I
would not submit to it if I were you. When luncheon was over,
Dora went to papa and told him she would not go to Aunt Martha;
and when papa raged and insisted, she began to blubber as usual,
and said if you were to take her place it would do just as well;
and of course papa jumped at the idea, knowing it would be
disagreeable, and says you _shall_ go."

"What!" cry I, furious at this new piece of injustice. "I shall,
shall I? He'll see!"

I turn from my brother with an ominous expression on my lips, and
move towards my bedroom door. The action means, "Not words, but
deeds."

"That's right," says Billy, following close in the character of a
backer-up, and openly delighted at the prospect of a scrimmage.
"Fight it out. I would give the governor plenty of cheek if I
were you; he wants it badly. It's a shame, that's what it is; and
you engaged and all! And what will Carrington say? Do you
know"--mysteriously--"it is my opinion Miss Dora thinks she could
get inside you, if you were once out of the way? She was always a
sneak; so I would not give in on any account.
But"--despondingly--"you will never have the pluck to go through
with it when it comes to the point. I know you won't."

"I will," I return, gazing back at him with stern determination
in my eyes, and then I go into my room to prepare for dinner,
leaving him both astonished and pleased at my new-found courage.

In this defiant mood I dress and go downstairs. All through
dinner Dora is more than usually agreeable. She smiles
continually, and converses gayly in her pretty, low-toned elegant
way. To me she is particularly attentive, and is apparently deaf
to the silence with which I receive her remarks.

Nothing is said on the expected subject of Aunt Martha until it
is nearly time for us to retire to the drawing-room, and I am
almost beginning to fear the battle will be postponed, when papa,
turning to me, says, carelessly, and as though it were a matter
of no importance:--

"As Dora dislikes the idea of going to your aunts, Phyllis, at
this time of year, we have decided on sending you for a month in
her place."

"But I dislike the idea too," I reply, as calmly as rage will let
me.

"That is to be regretted, as I will not have your aunts offended.
You are the youngest, and must give way."

"But the invitation was not sent to me."

"That will make little difference, and a sufficient excuse can be
offered for Dora. As your marriage does not come off until late
in the autumn, there is no reason why you should remain at home
all the summer."

"This is some of your underhand work," I say, with suppressed
anger, addressing Dora.

"I would not speak of 'underhand work,' if I were _you_," returns
she, smoothly, with an almost invisible flash from her innocent
blue eyes.

"Do not let us discuss the subject further," says papa, in a loud
tone. "There is nothing so disagreeable as public recrimination.
Understand once for all, Phyllis, the matter is arranged, and you
will be ready to go next week."

"I will not?" I cry, passionately, rising and flinging my napkin
upon the ground. "I have made up my mind, and I will not go to
Qualmsley. Not all the fathers in Christendom shall make me."

"Phyllis!" roars papa, making a wild grab at me as I sweep past
his chair; but I avoid him defiantly, and, going out, slam the
door with much intentional violence behind me.

I fly through the hall and into the open air, I feel suffocated,
half choked, by my angry emotion; but the sweet evening breeze
revives me. It is eight o'clock, and a delicious twilight
pervades the land.

I run swiftly, an irrepressible sob in my throat, down the lawn,
past the paddock, and along the banks of the little stream,
until, as I come to what we call the "short cut" to Briersley, I
run myself into Mr. Carrington's arms, who is probably on his way
to Summerleas.

Usually my greeting to him is a hand outstretched from my body to
the length of my arm. Now I cast myself generously into his
embrace. I cling to him with almost affectionate fervor. He is
very nearly dear to me at this moment, coming to me as a sure and
certain friend.

"My darling--my life!" he exclaims, "what is it? You are unhappy;
your eyes are full of trouble."

His arms are round me; he presses his lips gently to my forehead;
it is a rare thing this kiss, as it is but seldom he caresses me,
knowing my antipathy to any demonstrative attentions; but now my
evident  affliction removes a barrier.

"I want you to marry me--at once." I breathe rather than speak,
my hasty running and my excitement having wellnigh stifled me.
"You will, will you not? You must. I will not stay here a moment
longer than I can help. You said once you wished to marry me in
June; you must wish it still."

"I do," he answers, calmly, but his arms tighten round me, and
his face flushes. "I will marry you when and where you please. Do
you mean to-morrow?--next week?--when?"

"Next month; early next month. I will be ready then. You must
tell papa so this evening, and take me away soon. I will show
them I will not stay here to be tyrannized over and tormented."

I burst into tears, and bury my face in his coat.

"You shall not stay an hour longer, if you don't wish it,"
returns my lover, rather unsteadily. "Come with me now, and I
will take you to my sister's, and will marry you to-morrow."

"Oh, no, no," I say, recoiling from him; "not that; I did not
mean that. I did not want to run away with you. Next month will
be soon enough. It was only they insisted on my going to
Qualmsley, and I was determined I would not."

"It is disgraceful your being made wretched in this way,"
exclaims Marmaduke, wrathfully. "Tell me what has vexed you?" He
is not aware of the Misses Vernons' existence. "Where is
Qualmsley?"

"It is a horrible place, in Yorkshire, where nobody lives, except
my aunts. They want me to go to stay there next week for a month.
The hateful old things wrote inviting Dora, and when she refused
to go papa insisted on victimizing me in her place. If you only
knew Aunt Martha and Aunt Priscilla, you would understand my
abhorrence--my detestation--of them. They are papa's sisters--the
very image of him--and tread and trample on one at every turn. I
would rather die than go to them. I would far rather marry you."

I hardly guess the significance of my last words until I see my
lover whiten and wince in the twilight.

"Of course I don't mean that," I say, confusedly, "I only---"

But, as I don't at all feel sure what it is I do mean, I break
down here ignominiously and relapse into awkward silence.

"Of course not," he answers. "I quite understand." But his voice
has lost all its enthusiasm, and somehow his words drag. "Had you
not better come back to the house, Phyllis? You will catch cold
without your hat and in that light dress."

I am clothed in white muslin, a little open at the throat, and
with my arms half bare. A piece of blue ribbon defines my waist,
a bow of the same hue is in my hair; the locket that contains his
face is round my neck; a great crimson rose lies upon my bosom.

"I am not cold," I reply: "and I am afraid to face papa."

We are separated now, and I stand alone, gazing down into the
rippling stream that runs noisily at my feet. Already two or
three bright stars are twinkling overhead and shine up at me,
reflected from below. Mr. Carrington lets the distance widen
between us while regarding me I feel rather than see--with moody
discontented eyes.

"Phyllis," he says, presently, in a low tone, "it seems to me a
horrible thing that the idea of your marriage should be so
distasteful to you---"

"No, no; not distasteful," I interrupt, with deprecation.

"Don't say 'no' if you mean 'yes.' Put my feelings out of the
question, and tell me honestly if you are unhappy about it."

"I am not. It does not make me more unhappy to marry you than to
marry any one else."

"What an answer!" exclaims Marmaduke, with a groan. "Is that all
the consolation you can offer me?"

"That is all. Have I not told you all this long ago?" I cry,
angrily, goaded by the reflection that each word I speak only
makes matters harder. "Why do you bring the subject up again?
Must you too be unkind to me? You cannot have believed me madly
in love with you, as I have told you to the contrary ages ago."

"So you did. In my folly I hoped time would change you. What a
contemptible lover I must be, having failed in eight long months
to gain even the affections of a child. Will you never care for
me, Phyllis?"

"I do care for you," I return, doggedly, forcing myself to face
him. "After mamma and Billy and Roland, I care for you more than
any one else. I like you twenty thousand times better than papa
or Dora. I cannot say more."

I tap my foot impatiently upon the ground; my fingers seize and
take to pieces wantonly the unoffending rose. As I pull its
crimson leaves asunder I drop them in the brook and watch them
float away under the moon's pale rays. I would that my cruel
words could so depart.

I feel angry, disconsolate, with the knowledge that through my
own act I am cruelly wounding the man who, I must confess it, is
my truest friend. I half think of apologizing, of saying
something gentle, yet withal truthful, that shall take away the
sting I have planted. A few words rise to my lips. I raise my
head to give them utterance.

Suddenly his arms are around me; he is kissing me with passion
that is full of sadness. There is so much tenderness mingled with
the despair in his face that I, too, am saddened into silence.
Repentant, I slip a hand round his neck and give him back one
kiss out of the many.

"Don't be sorry," I whisper; "something tells me I shall yet love
you with all my heart. Until then bear with me. Or, if you think
it a risk, Marmaduke, and would rather put an end to it all now,
do so, and I will not be angry with you."

"More probably you would be thankful to me," he answered,
bitterly.

"I would not. I would far rather trust myself to you than stay at
home after what has passed." My voice is trembling, my lips
quiver faintly. "But if one of us must be unhappy, let it be me.
I release you. I would not---"

"Don't be foolish, child," he makes answer, roughly, "I could not
release you, even if I would. You are part of my life and the
best part, No; let us keep to our bargain now, whatever comes of
it."

His eyes are fixed on mine; gradually a softer light creeps into
his face. Putting up his hand, he smoothes back the loose hair
from my forehead and kisses me gravely on my lips.

"You are my own little girl," he says, "my most precious
possession; I will not have you inconsiderately used. Come, I
will speak to your father."

So hand in hand we return to the dragon's den, where, Mr.
Carrington having faced the dragon and successfully bullied him,
peace is restored, and it is finally arranged that in three weeks
we are to be married.

---

And in three weeks we _are_ married. In three short weeks I glide
into a new life, in which Phyllis Carrington holds absolute sway,
leaving Phyllis Vernon of the old days--the "general receiver" of
the blame of the family--to be buried out of sight forever.

First of all mother takes me up to London, and puts me into the
hands of a celebrated _modiste_, a woman of great reputation,
with piercing eyes, who scowls at me, prods, taps, and measures
me, until I lose sight of my own identity and begin to look upon
myself as so many inches and fingers and yards embodied. At
length, this terrible person expressing herself satisfied with
the examination, we may return home again, whither we are shortly
followed by many wicker-framed oil skin-covered trunks, in which
lie the results of all the measuring.

Everything is so fresh, so gay, so dainty, that I, who have been
kept on such low diet with regard to clothing, am enraptured, and
as I dress myself in each new gown and survey myself in mother's
long glass, sustain a sensation of pleasurable admiration that
must be conceit in an "ugly duckling."

As Madame charmingly and rather shoppily expresses it, my
wedding-dress is "a marvel of elegance and grace"--and lace, she
might have added, as Brussels is everywhere. Indeed, as I see it
and think of the bill that must follow, the old deadly fear of a
row creeps over me, chilling my joy, until I happily and
selfishly remember that when it does fall due I shall be far from
Summerleas and papa's wrath, when I become once more enthusiastic
in my praise. I even insist on exhibiting myself in it to
Marmaduke three nights before my wedding, though all in the house
tell me it is unlucky so to do; and Mrs. Tully, the cook, with
her eyes full of brandy-and-water, implores me not to be
headstrong.

Presents come in from all sides, Bobby De Vere's and Mr.
Hastings' being conspicuous more from size than taste. Papa so
far overcomes his animosity as to present me with an astonishing
travelling-desk, the intricacies of which it takes me months to
master, even with the help of Marmaduke. Roland, coming from
Ireland for the ceremony, brings with him from the Emerald Isle a
necklet too handsome for his purse; while Billy, with tears of
love in his dark eyes, puts into my arms a snow-white rabbit that
for six long months has been the joy of his heart.

Dora, who at first declared her determination of leaving home
during the festivities, on second thoughts changes her mind,
having discovered that by absenting herself the loss of a new
dress is all she will gain: she even consents frostily to be
chief bridesmaid. The two Hastings girls, with Bobby De Vere's
sister and two of Marmaduke's cousins, also assist; and Sir Mark
Gore is chief mourner.

As the eventful day breaks, I wake, and, rising, get through the
principal part of my dressing without aid, a proceeding that much
disappoints mother, who at this last hour of my childhood feels
as though I were once more her baby, and would have liked, with
lingering touches, to dress me bit by bit.

At eight o'clock Martha knocks at my bedroom door and hands in to
us a sealed packet, with "Marmaduke's love"  written on the
outside, and opening it we disclose to view the Carrington
diamonds, reset, remodelled, and magnificent in their brilliancy.
This is a happy thought on his part, and raises our spirits for
twenty minutes at least: though after this some chance word makes
our eyes grow moist again, and we weep systematically all through
the morning--during the dressing, and generally up to the very
last moment--so that when at length I make my appearance in
church and walk up tho aisle on papa's arm, I am so white and
altogether dejected that I may be considered ghastly.

Marmaduke is also extremely pale, but perfectly calm and
self-possessed, and has even a smile upon his lips. As he sees me
he comes quickly forward, and taking me from papa, leads me
himself to the altar--a proceeding that causes much excitement
among the lower members of the congregation, who, in loud
whispers, approve his evident fondness for me.

So the holy words are read, and the little mystical golden fetter
encircles my finger. I write myself Phyllis Marian Vernon for the
last time; and Sir Mark Gore, coming up to me in the vestry-room,
slips a beautiful bracelet on my arm, and whispers, smiling:---

"I hope you will accept all good wishes with this--_Mrs.
Carrington_."

I start and blush faintly as the new title strikes upon my ears,
and almost forget to thank him in wondering at its strangeness.
Then Marmaduke kisses me gravely, and, giving me his arm leads me
back to the carriage, and it is all over!

Am I indeed no longer a child? Is my wish accomplished, and am I
at last "grown up?" How short a time ago I stood in my bridal
robes in mother's room, still Phyllis Vernon--still a girl and
now--Why, it was only a few minutes ago---

"Oh, Marmaduke, am I _really_ married?" I say, gazing at him with
half-frightened eyes; and he says---

"Yes, I think so," with an amused smile, and puts his arm round
me and kisses me very gently. "And now we are going to be happy
ever after," he says, laughing a little.

All through breakfast I am in a haze--a dream. I cut what they
put upon my plate, but I cannot eat. I listen to Marmaduke's few
words as he makes the customary speech and think of him as though
it were yesterday and not to-day. I cannot realize that my
engagement is over, that what we have been preparing for these
nine months past is at last a settled fact.

I listen to Sir Mark's clever, airy little oration that makes
everybody laugh, especially Miss De Vere, and wonder to myself
that I too can laugh.

Billy--who has managed to get close up to me--keeps on helping me
indefatigably to champagne, under the mistaken impression he is
doing me a last service. I catch mamma's sad eyes fixed upon me
from the opposite side, and then I know I am going to cry again,
and, rising from the table, get away in safety to my own room,
whither I am followed by her, and we say our few final, farewell
words in private.

Three hours later I have embraced mother for the last time, and
am speeding away from home and friends and childhood to I know
not what.



CHAPTER XVII

We have been married nearly three months, and are going on very
comfortably. As yet no cross or angry words have arisen between
us; all is smooth as unruffled waters. Though Marmaduke is, if
anything, fonder of me than at first, he is perhaps a shade less
slavishly attentive. For example, he can now enjoy his _Times_ at
breakfast and read it straight through without raising his eyes
between every paragraph, to make sure I am still behind the
teapot and have not vanished into mid air, or to ask me tenderly
if I would wish to do this or care to go there.

He has also learned--which is more satisfactory still--that it is
possible to know enjoyment even when I am out of sight.

Two months of delicious thoughtless idleness we spend in Spain
and Switzerland, and then--we pine for home. This latter
secretly, and with a sworn determination that each will be the
last to confess it.

One calm glorious evening, however, after dinner, as I stand at
the window of our hotel, gazing over the Lake of Geneva,
something within me compels the following speech:

"How beautiful Strangemore must be looking now!"---

I feel slightly doubtful of the wisdom of my words when they were
uttered, and would have recalled them; but the encouraging
amiability with which Marmaduke receives my remark speedily
reassures me.

"Yes," he says, with energy, "it never looks so well as just at
this time of year."

"So I should think."

A long pause.

"English scenery is always at its best in the autumn. After all,
there is no place like England--I mean, of course for a
continuance. Don't you agree with me, darling?"

"I do indeed. Dear Briersley Wood! How fond Billy and I were of
it. You remember the clump of nut-trees, 'Duke?"

"Is it likely I should forget it?" sentimentally. "For my own
part, I think the wood on the other side of Strangemore handsomer
than Briersley; but of course it was too far away from Summerleas
for you to know it well."

Another pause, longer than the last, and more eloquent.

"How I should like to see it--_now!_" I murmur, with faint
emphasis and a heroically suppressed sigh.

"Would you really?" rising eagerly, and coming into the embrasure
of the window. "Would you like to get back, darling? Not yet for
a little while, of course," with quick correction, "but later on,
when---"

"I would like to start at once," I cry, frankly, flinging
hesitation to the winds; "as soon as possible. I am longing to
see every one; and you know, 'Duke," sweetly, "I have yet to make
a near acquaintance with _our_ home."

I smile up to him, and am satisfied my words have caused nothing
but the extremest content.

"Very good. It is easily arranged; and next year we can come and
get through what we now leave undone. They must be wanting us at
home, I fancy; there are the birds and everything," concludes
Marmaduke, in a reflective tone, which is the nearest approach to
a return of reason he has yet shown.

We spend a fortnight in London on our way back, when I am
presented to some of my husband's relations. His sister, Lady
Handcock, I do not see, as she has been in Canada for the last
two years with Sir James, and, though now travelling homewards
and expected every day, does not arrive during our stay in the
Great Babylon.

Cousins and aunts and friends, however, are numerous, and for the
most part so kind that restraint vanishes, and I tell myself
people-in-law are not so formidable as I have been led to
believe. One thorn, however, remains among my roses and pricks me
gently.

Lady Blanche Going--with whom we stay a week--of all the cousins
interests me most; though it must be confessed the interest is of
a disagreeable nature. She has a charming house in Park Lane, and
the softest, most fascinating manners; she is in every point such
as a well-bred woman ought to be, yet with her alone I am not
happy. For the most part looking barely twenty-five, there are
times--odd moments when the invariable smile is off her
face--when I could fancy her at least seven years older. Now and
then, too, a suspicious gleam--_too_ warm, as coming from a
decorous matron--falls from her sleepy almond-shaped eyes upon
some favorite among the "stronger" sex, and I cannot forgive her
in that she makes me appear the most unsophisticated, childish
bride that ever left a nursery. So that I am glad when we leave
her and move farther south to our beautiful home.

Oh, the delight, the rapture, of the first meeting, when the
first day after our return, I drive over to Summerleas: The
darling mother's tearful welcome, the "boy Billee's" more
boisterous one. Even Dora, for a moment or two forgets her
elegance and her wrongs, and gives me a hearty embrace. And how
well I am looking, and how happy! And how pretty my dress is, and
how becoming! And how they have all missed me! And just fancy!
Roland is _really_ engaged to the "old boy's" daughter, after
all; and the colonel himself writes about it, as though quite
pleased, in spite of her having such a good fortune. Though,
indeed, why should he not? for where could he find any one
handsomer, or dearer, or more charming than our Roly? and so on.

All too swift in its happiness flies the day, and Marmaduke comes
to reclaim me. Yet the strange senses of rest and completeness
that fills me, in the presence of the old beloved, distresses me.
Why can I not feel for Marmaduke that romantic, all-sufficing
devotion of which I have read? I certainly _like_ him immensely.
He is everything of the dearest and best, and kind almost to a
fault; therefore I ought to adore him; but somehow I cannot quite
make up my mind to it. One should love a husband better than all
the rest of the world put together; so I have heard, so I
believe; but do I?

I lay little plans; I map out small scenes, to try how far my
affection for my husband will go.

For instance, I picture to myself Billy or he condemned to start
in the morning for Australia, never to return; one or other must
go, and the decision rests with me. Which shall I let go, which
shall I keep? I send Marmaduke, and feel a deep pang at my heart;
I send Billy--the pang becomes keenest torture.

Again, supposing both to be sentenced to death, and supposing
also it is in my power to save one of them: which would I rescue?
Marmaduke of course! I haul him triumphantly from his gloomy
cell; but as I do so my Billy's beautiful eyes, filled with mute
despair, shine upon me from out the semi-darkness, and I cease to
drag Marmaduke: I cannot leave my brother.

When this last picture first presents itself to my vivid
imagination I am in bed, and the idea overcomes me to such a
degree that I find myself presently in floods of tears, unable
altogether to suppress my sobs.

In a minute or two Marmaduke wakes and turns uneasily.

"What is the matter, Phyllis," he asks, anxiously. "Is anything
wrong with you, my darling?"

"No, no, nothing," I answer hastily, and bury my nose in the
pillow.

"But you are crying," he remonstrates, reaching out a kindly hand
in the darkness that is meant for my face, but alights
unexpectedly upon the back of my head. "Tell me what is troubling
you, my pet."

"Nothing at all," I say again; "I was only thinking." Here I
stifle a foolish sigh born of my still more foolish tears.

"Thinking of what?"

"Of Billy," I reply reluctantly. And then, though he says
nothing, and though I cannot see his face, I know my husband is
offended.

He goes back to his original position, and is soon again asleep,
while I lie awake for half an hour longer, worrying my brain with
trying to discover what there can be to vex Marmaduke in my
weeping over Billy.

Still I am happy, utterly so, as one must be who is without care
or sorrow, whose lightest wish meets instant fulfilment, and less
and less frequently am I haunted by the vague fear of
ingratitude--by the thought of how poor a return I make for all
the good showered upon me, as I see how sufficient I am for my
husband's happiness: while only on rare occasions does he betray
his passionate longing for a more perfect hold upon my heart by
the suppressed but evident jealousy with which he regards my love
for my family.



CHAPTER XVIII

"Whom would you like to invite here for the shooting?" asks
Marmaduke, at breakfast, to my consternation. "I suppose we had
better fill the house?"

"Oh, 'Duke," I cry, in terror, "must you do that? And must I
entertain them all?"

"I suppose so," replies he, laughing; "though I dare say if you
will let them alone they will entertain themselves. If you get a
good many men and women together they generally contrive to work
out their own amusement."

"I have seen so few people in my life," I say, desperately, "and
none of them grand people. That is, lords, I mean, and that. I
shall be frightened out of my life."

"My acquaintance with lords is not so extensive as you seem to
imagine. I know a few other people. We will limit the lords, if
you wish to."

"Baronets and very rich people are just as bad."

"Nonsense, darling! I will be here to help you if they grow very
dangerous, and get altogether beyond control."

"Oh, that is all very well," I say, feeling inclined to cry, "but
you will be out shooting all day, and I will be left at home to
speak to them. I don't mind the men so much, but the women will
be dreadful."

This last sentence appears to afford Marmaduke the liveliest
amusement. He laughs until I begin to feel really hurt at his
want of sympathy.

"You don't care for me," I cry, with petulant reproach, "or you
would not try to make me so unhappy."

"My darling child, how can you say so? Unhappy! because a few
people are kind enough to come and pay you a visit. You say I do
not 'care for you' because I ask you to be civil to two or three
women!" Here he laughs again a little, though evidently against
his will. "Oh, Phyllis! if you are going to cry I will not say
another word about it. Come, look up, my pet, and I promise to
forget our friends for this autumn at least. We will spend it by
ourselves; though I must confess"--regretfully--"it seems to me a
sin to leave all those birds in peace. Now are you satisfied?"

But I am not: I am only ashamed of myself. Is this childish fear
of strangers the proper spirit for a grown-up married woman to
betray? I dry my eyes and make a secret determination to go
through with it, no matter what it costs me.

"No, no," I say, heroically; "let them come. It is very stupid of
me to feel nervous about it. I dare say I shall like them all
immensely when they are once here; and--and--perhaps they too
will like me."

"Small doubt of that," says my husband, heartily. "I only hope
the men won't get beyond the liking. Phyllis, you are a darling,
and when they leave us you shall tell me how tremendously you
enjoyed it all."

I am not sufficient hypocrite to coincide with this hopeful idea.
I kill a sigh before I next speak.

"Duke," I say, with faltering tongue, "must I sit at the head of
the table?"

"Of course," again visibly amused. "Surely you would not like to
sit at the bottom?"

"No," with deep dejection; "one is as bad as the other. In either
place I shall be horribly conspicuous." Then, after a brief
hesitation, and with a decided tendency to fawn upon him,
"Marmaduke, we will have all the things handed round; won't we,
now? I shall never have anything to carve, shall I?"

"Never," replies 'Duke; "you shall give us dinner in any earthly
style you choose, always provided you let us have a good one.
There!"

"And Parsons will see to that," I say, partially consoled,
drawing my breath more lightly.

"Now, whom shall we ask?" says 'Duke, seating himself, and
drawing out a pencil and pocket-book with an air of business,
while I look over his shoulder. "Harriet is staying with old Sir
William at present, but next week she will be free. She will
come, and James. I am so anxious you should meet each other."

"Oh, Marmaduke, what shall I do if your sister does not like me?
It would make me so miserable if she disapproved of me in any
way."

"Your modesty, my dear, is quite refreshing in this brazen age.
Of course, if Harriet expresses disapprobation of my choice, I
shall sue for a divorce."

I pinch his ear, and perch myself comfortably on the arm of his
chair.

"Is she anything like you?"

"You could hardly find a greater contrast, I should say, in every
way. She is extremely fair--quite a blonde--not much taller than
you are, and rather fat. She has a considerable amount of spirit,
and keeps Sir James in great order; while I am a dejected being,
tyrannized over by the veriest little shrew that ever breathed."

"I like that. But from what you say she must be a terrible
person."

"Then my description belies her. Harriet is very charming and a
general favorite. As for Sir James, he simply adores her. I dare
say she will bring Bebe with her."

"Who is Bebe?"

"Bebe Beatoun? Oh, Handcock's niece, and Harriet's 'most
cherished.' Fortunately, her mother is at present in Italy, so
_she_ can't come, which is lucky for us all, as she is a _dame
terrible_. Then we must ask Blanche Going."

"Oh, _must_ you ask her?" I exclaim, discontentedly. "I don't
think I quite like her; she is so supercilious, and seems to
consider me so--so _young_."

"Is that a fault? I never met any one with such a veneration for
age as you have. I tell you, Phyllis, there is nothing on earth
so desirable as youth. Be glad of it while you have it; it never
lasts. I dare say Blanche herself would not mind taking a little
of it off your hands, if--she only could."

"I don't think so; she rather gave me the impression that she
looked down upon me, as though I were foolish and not worth much
consideration."

"Don't be uncharitable, Phyllis; she could not think anything so
absurd. Besides, she told me herself one day she liked you
immensely--hoped you and she would be tremendous friends, and so
on. Blanche is too good-natured to treat any one as you say."

"Perhaps so. But, really, now, Marmaduke--seriously, I
mean--would you not wish me to be older? Say twenty-five or so,
with a little more knowledge of everything, you know? And, in
fact, I mean would it not be better if I were more a woman of the
world?"

"Oh, horror of horrors!" cries 'Duke, raising his, hands in
affected terror. "How can you suggest anything so cruel! If I
were married to a fashionable woman I would either cut and run,
or commit suicide in six months."

"Then you really think me---" I hesitate.

"A veritable little goose. No, no!--perfection, I mean," seeing
me pout. Then suddenly putting his arms round me and drawing me
down to him, he whispers, with deep feeling, "Phyllis, my
darling, darling girl, don't you know it? Must I tell it you over
and over again? Cannot you see every hour of your life how fondly
I love you, just for what you are? And _you_, Phyllis, tell
me--do _you_---" He stops abruptly and regards me with a curious
earnestness for a minute, then, laughing rather constrainedly,
puts me gently back from him and goes on: "What other guests
shall we name? Mark Gore; would you care for him?"

"Yes; I liked what I saw of him. And Dora, Marmaduke."

"Dora, of course. And some one to meet her, I suppose? Whom shall
we say? I think George Ashurst is an eligible who would just suit
her. He is not exactly brilliant, but he is thoroughly
good-hearted, and a baronet, with unlimited coin."

"I don't think Dora would like him if he is stupid," I say,
doubtfully.

"Oh, he is not a fool, if you mean that; and he has as many
golden charms as would make a duller man clever."

"Ah! who is mercenary now?" I say, lifting a finger of
conviction.

"Am I? You see what comes of marrying a _man_ of the world. Now,
had you seen as much life as I have you might be equally
unpleasant."

"But _I_ don't think you unpleasant, 'Duke."

"Don't you? There is consolation to be found in that. And now
whom would you like to invite, darling?"

"I would like Billy," I say, disconsolately; "but he is never in
the way when wanted, like other boys. And Roly is in Ireland, by
special desire, of course. And I would like mother, only---"

"Perhaps you would like the whole family?" says my husband,
mildly.

"Yes, I would," I return, with alacrity; "every---" I was going
to say "man jack of them," but thinking this--though purest
English to Billy's ears--may be considered vulgar by mere
outsiders, check myself in time, and substitute the words "every
one of them," rather tamely. "All, that is, except papa; I doubt
if he could be amiable for two hours together. But where is the
use in wishing for what I cannot have?"

"We could get Billy for a week, I dare say, later on," says
Marmaduke, kindly, "while the rest are here, if only to keep you
from despair. Is there any one else?"

"No; papa looked upon friends as nightmares, so we have none.
Besides, I shall have quite enough to do making myself agreeable
to those you have named. I only hope they will not worry me into
an early grave."

"Well, then, I suppose, with two or three spare men, this list
will do?"

"Don't you think you are asking a great many?"

"No; very few, it seems to me; at least barely enough to make the
house warm. Here is a tip for you, Phyllis: when making up your
mind to invite people to stay with you, always ask a good many
together, as the more there are the easier it will be to amuse
them, and much trouble is taken off the shoulders of the poor
little hostess. Bebe you will like, she is so gay and bright:
every one is fond of her?"

"How old is she?"

"Very young--not more than nineteen or twenty, and she looks
almost as young as you. She will suit you, and help you to do the
honors. The only thing that can be said against Bebe is, she is
such an incorrigible little flirt. Do not learn that
accomplishment from her."

"How shall I be able to help it, if you throw me in the way of
it? I think you are acting foolishly," with a wise shake of my
head. "What if one of those 'spare men' should chance to fall in
love with me?"

"That would be a mere bagatelle to _your_ falling in love with
one of the 'spare men.'"

"I see nothing to prevent that either."

"Don't you?" Then, half earnestly, taking my face between his
hands, "You would not do that, Phyllis, would you?"

"No, I think not," I say, lightly, letting him have his kiss
without rebuke: "I feel no desire to be a flirt. It must be an
awful thing, as it seems to me, to have two or three men in love
with you at the same time. I find _one_ bad
enough"--maliciously--"and that is what it comes to, is it not?"

"I suppose so, if one is a successful coquette."

"Well," I say, springing to my feet, "I only hope Dora will get a
good husband out of all this turmoil, if only to recompense me
for the misery I am going to endure."



CHAPTER XIX.

During the morning of the day on which Lady Handcock is expected
to arrive, I feel strangely nervous and unsettled. I don't seem
to care so much for any one's good opinion as for hers. If
Marmaduke's sister refuses to like me, I shall take it very
hardly indeed, and I do not dare to flatter myself that it may be
otherwise. Probably she will be cold and haughty and indifferent,
like the generality of grand dames, or, worse still, supercilious
and filled with a well-bred mockery only half concealed, like
Lady Blanche Going.

As she has written to say they will not arrive until five
o'clock, I put on my outdoor things after luncheon and wander
forth alone in search of good spirits and a frame of mind so
altogether radiant as shall help me to conquer fate towards
evening. As at four o'clock, however, I retrace my steps, I am by
no means certain I have found anything beyond a brilliant color.

I cross the threshold and move towards the staircase with the
laudable intention of robing myself for conquest be fore their
coming, when to my consternation I am met by Tynon, the butler,
with the pleasing intelligence that "Sir James and Lady Handcock
and Miss Beatoun" have already arrived.

Have entered my doors with no hostess to receive them or bid them
welcome! What _will_ they think? How awkward it has proved, my
going for that stupid walk!

I smother a groan, fling my hat at Tynon, and, just as I am, with
my hair slightly disarranged, enter the drawing room.

At the upper end stands Marmaduke, laughing and talking gayly to
a fair-haired, prettily-dressed woman, who in a lower class of
existence, might be termed "buxom." To say she is inclining
towards _embonpoint_ will, however, sound less shocking to ears
polite. I have heard from my husband that she is about thirty
years of age, but in the quick glance I take at her I decide she
might be any age under that, she is so white and soft and gay.

"Oh! here she is," says 'Duke, gladly, as I enter.

"I am so sorry!" I murmur, with a rising color, coming quickly
forward; "but we did not expect you until five o'clock."

As I advance, so does she, and when we meet she lays two small
plump, jewelled hands upon my shoulders.

"It was all my fault," she says, smiling. "When you know me
better you will understand that I cannot _help_ being in a hurry.
However, you must forgive me this time, as my appearing at this
hour is in itself a flattery, proving how impatient I was to see
you." Then, regarding me attentively. "Why, what a child!" she
cries; "what a baby! and what delicious eyes! Really, Marmaduke,
I hardly know whether most to congratulate or--pity you."

She speaks with a curiously pretty accent, putting an emphasis on
every third or fourth word that fascinates and pleases the
listener.

"_Pity!_" return I, amazedly, making an unsuccessful effort to
elude her firm grasp, while the indignant color flames into my
cheeks. "You speak as if--_why_ should you _pity_ him?"

"Because, cannot you fancy what a life you are going to lead
him," says her ladyship, with a little arch laugh that wrinkles
up her Grecian no. "Child I too have eyes and I can see mischief
written in every line of your--_ugly_ little face."

I try to feel angry, but cannot. It is in her power to make every
word she utters an undeveloped compliment. I succumb at once and
forever, and give myself up to her merry true-hearted influence.
Putting my frowns in my pocket, I laugh.

"If you keep on saying these things before 'Duke," I say, "he
will find me out, and perhaps in time repent his bargain."

Here I make a little _moue_ at my husband, who is standing rather
behind his sister, which he returns with interest "How do you
know I have not found you out long ago? It is my belief I married
you for my sins. Harriet, I leave her now in your hands; reform
her--if you can."

"Go and look after James," says Lady Handcock "He always gets
into mischief when left by himself. I want to make friends with
Phyllis."

By and by Miss Beatoun comes in, and I get through another
introduction.

She is hardly as tall as I am, and wonderfully pretty. No need to
disbelieve the report that last season all men raved of her. Her
eyes are large and dark and soft, her hair a very, very light
brown, though hardly golden, and guiltless of dye. A tiny black
mole, somewhat like a Queen Anne's patch, grows close to her left
ear.

As I look at her, I decide hastily she is _more_ than pretty--she
is attractive. Her whole face is full of light; the very corners
of her mouth express unuttered laughter; it is altogether the
most _riante_, kissable, lovable face conceivable. Her bands and
feet are fairy-like in their proportions.

Nevertheless, her eyes, though unusually soft, betray the
coquette; they cannot entirely conceal the mischievous longing
for mastery that lurks in their velvet depths.

"Is she not young, Bebe?" asks Lady Handcock, indicating me.

"_Very_. Much younger even than I dared to hope. Of course"--to
me--"we all heard you were _quite_ a girl; yet that did not
reassure me, as it can be said of most brides, and as a rule they
are a disagreeable lot. But you have forgotten to give yourself
airs, and that is _so_ novel and delightful--so many young women
_will_ go in for that sort of thing. I feel," says Miss Beatoun,
gayly, "I am going to have a delicious autumn, and be very
happy."

"I hope so," I answer, earnestly. "Do you know, Lady Handcock, I
quite dreaded your coming?--it kept me awake several nights,
thinking perhaps you would be cold and difficult, and would not
like me; and now I am _so_ relieved--you cannot fancy what a
weight is off my mind."

I say this with such evident feeling that they both laugh
heartily, and Bebe gives it as her opinion that I am a "regular
darling."

"But you must not call me Lady Handcock," corrects my
sister-in-law. "My name is Harriet--or Harry, for the most part.
I do not want to be made an old woman just yet, though Bebe
_will_ tell every one I am her aunt, instead of saying James is
her uncle."

"It is the only hold I have over her you see," exclaims Bebe,
"and I keep it as a threat. But for knowing I have it in my power
to say that, she would be under no control. And with mamma so
given to itinerant habits, and Harry being my natural _chaperon_
I have to protect myself as best I may."

---

By dinner hour our party is still further enlarged by Dora, Mark
Gore, and Sir George Ashurst, a very fair young man, with an
aquiline nose, plump face, and a long white moustache. He at once
impresses me with the belief that he is thoroughly good-natured,
and altogether incapable of ill temper of any kind. Perhaps,
indeed, if he were to smile a little less frequently, and show
some symptoms of having an opinion of his own, it would be an
improvement. But what will you? One cannot have everything. And
he is chatty and agreeable, and I manage to spend my evenings
very comfortably in his society.

The next day Captain Jenkins and Mr. Powell, from the Barracks at
Chillington, put in an appearance; and a very youthful gentleman,
with a calm and cherubic countenance, arrives from London. This
latter is in the Hussars, and is full of a modest
self-appreciation very much to be admired.

"Well, Chips, so you have come, in spite of all your
engagements," says Marmaduke, slapping this fair-haired warrior
affectionately upon the shoulder. (His correct name is John
Chippinghall Thornton; but his friends and brother officers
having elected to call him "Chip," he usually goes by that
appellation. Though _why_ I have never been able to fathom, as it
would be a too palpable flattery to regard this very erratic
young man as a "chip of the old block," his father being a
peculiarly mild and inoffensive clergyman, residing in a northern
village).

"What did Lady Emily say to your defection, and Maudie Green, and
Carrie, and all the rest of your friends?"

"Oh, I say, now," says Master Chips, with an ingenuous blush, "it
isn't fair to show me up in this light--is it?--and before Mrs.
Carrington, too. She will have no opinion of me if she listens to
all _you_ say."

"I am only anxious to hear how you tore yourself away from their
fascinations."

"Yes, do tell us, Mr. Thornton," says I. "We are so afraid that
you have sacrificed yourself to oblige us."

"Don't you believe a word Marmaduke says, Mrs. Carrington: he is
always representing me falsely. I shall be unhappy forever if you
won't understand how proud and charmed I was to receive your
invitation. Just to show you how he exaggerates, the Carry and
Maud he spoke of are my cousins, and that's the same as sisters,
you know."

"Only far more dangerous," I return, laughing.

"Well, at all events, they have every one gone off to Germany or
country-houses, so they must do without me. I couldn't go
trotting after 'em everywhere, you know: do enough of that in the
spring to last the year. And, besides, I don't much care for any
of that lot now."

"No? Tired of them already? What a desperate Don Juan! Really,
Chips, I shudder to think where you will end. And who is the idol
of the present hour?--something more exquisite still?"

"Not to be named in the same day," says Mr. Thornton,
confidingly. "Fact is, she is a sort of connection of your own.
Met her last season in town, you know,--- and er"--an eloquent
sigh--"I mean Miss Beatoun."

Marmaduke bursts out laughing, and so do I.

"Then, you are all right," says 'Duke. "With your usual luck you
have fallen upon your feet. At this instant the same roof covers
you and your _inamorata_."

"No!" cries Chips, eagerly. "You don't mean it? Of course you are
only joking. You're not in earnest, now Marmaduke--are you?"

"Seeing is believing," returns Duke. "But if you don't go and
dress yourself this very moment you will get no dinner, and lose
a good chance of exercising your fascinations upon Miss Beatoun."

Later on he takes her in to dinner and is supremely happy; while
Messieurs Jenkins and Powell, who have reached their thirty-third
year, look on aghast at the young one's "cheek." They are
estimable men, and useful in their own way, but refuse to shine
in conversation. I _think_ they like each other; I am quite
_sure_ they like Marmaduke, who draws them out in a wonderful
manner, and makes them marvel at their own unwonted brilliancy;
while Harriet aids and abets him by her gayety.

At my right hand sits Sir James, a tall, distinguished-looking
man, with hair of iron-gray and deep-set eyes. He is grave and
remarkably silent--such an utter contrast to his laughter-loving
wife, of whom he never appears to take the smallest notice. To me
it is a matter of amazement how he can so systematically ignore
her, as he seldom addresses to her a word or lets his eyes rest
upon her for any length of time.

But for Marmaduke's assertion that they adore each other I would
be inclined to think them at daggers drawn, or at least
indifferent; and it is only now and then when she speaks to him,
and I see his eyes light up and smile and soften, that I can
accept the gentler idea.

Not to his wife alone, however, is he reserved; all the rest of
the world he treats in a similar manner, and I come to the
conclusion he abhors talking, and is a man with no settled taste
or pursuits. Hearing, indeed, that his one passion is hunting, I
broach the subject cautiously, and, feeling certain of making a
score, express myself desirous of being informed as to the
express nature of the "bull-finch."

"Explanations always fall short," is his reply. "Some day when we
are out I will _show_ you one. That will be best."

So my ignorance remains unenlightened, and as he calmly returns
to his dinner, I do the same, and abandon all hopes of hearing
him converse.

Dora is doing the amiable to Sir George Ashurst. Anything so
simple or innocent as Dora in her white dress and coral ribbons
could hardly be conceived. I am admiring her myself with all my
heart, and wondering how it is she does it; and I fancy Sir Mark
Gore is doing the same. Once, as she raises the childish
questioning blue eyes to her companion's face, and murmurs some
pretty speech in her soft treble, I see Sir Mark smile openly. It
is only a momentary merriment, however, as directly afterwards he
turns to me, suave and charming as ever.

"How becoming white is to your sister!" he says. "It suits her
expression so wonderfully. I don't know how it is, but the word
_ingenue_ always comes to me when I look at her."

"She is very pretty," I return, coldly. I have not yet quite
decided on the nature of that smile.

"You do her an injustice. Surely she is more than 'pretty'--a
word that means so little in these degenerate days. If I were an
artist I should like to paint her as 'Moonlight,' with a bunch of
lilies in her hands, and just that dress she is now
wearing--_without_ the ribbons--and a little stream running at
her feet. I have seldom seen so sweet an expression. One could
hardly fancy an unkind word coming from those lips, or a hidden
motive in her heart."

I think of our "Moonlight's" designs upon Marmaduke and the man
who is now so loud in her praise. I think of the many and
energetic _fracas_ between her and Billy, and am silent. I don't
know why, but I am positive Sir Mark is amused. I color and look
up.

"What ages ago it seems since last we met!" says he, promptly.

"Ages? No, months. It was last June we met, I think--and here."

"Oh, that was only the barest glimpse; one could hardly call it a
meeting. I was referring to my visit to the Leslies two years
ago. You remember that little scene in the High street, at
Carston?"

I laughed merrily.

"'I do indeed. But for you the _finale_ would have been _too_
ignominious. I shall always owe you a debt of gratitude for your
timely appearance. The saddle turned, I recollect, exactly
opposite the Bank, and I had a horrid vision of two or three
young men gazing at me in eager expectation from some of the
windows."

"Yes; and then we met again, and--- Shall I peel one of these for
you?"

"Please."

"And I flattered myself you treated me with some degree of
graciousness; flattered myself so far that I presumed to send you
a little volume of poems I had heard you wish for and which--you
returned. That was rather cruel, was it not?"

"I have always _felt_ how rude you must have thought me on that
occasion." I reply, blushing hotly. "I did so long to tell you
all about it, but could not. It was not my fault, however; I
confess I would have kept it if possible: it was papa. He said
you should not have sent it, and insisted on its being returned."

"Well, perhaps he was right. Yet it was a very harmless and
innocent little volume, after all, containing only the mildest
sentiments. (Is that a good one?)"

"(Very good, thank you). It was Tennyson's 'Idyls'--I remember
perfectly; and it was filled with the prettiest illustrations.
Oh, I was so sorry to part with that neat little book! Do you
know I was silly enough to cry the day I posted it back to you?"

Sir Mark regards me earnestly, almost curiously. I am laughing at
my own past folly, but he does not even smile in sympathy.

"I am sorry any act of mine should have cost you a tear," he
says, slowly, "But why did you not write a line to explain all
this to me when sending it?"

"_Fancy_ the iniquity of such a thing! the very suggestion would
have brought down untold wrath upon my poor head. To ask
permission to write a letter to a gentleman! Oh, horror!"

"And you would not--but, no, of course you would not," says Sir
Mark, rather unintelligibly.

And then I glance at Lady Handcock, and she glances at me. Sir
Mark rises to open the door, and I smile and nod gayly at him as
I cross the threshold and pass into the lighted hall.

---

We are all beginning to know each other well, and to be mutually
pleased with each other, when, towards the close of the week,
Lady Blanche Going joins our party. She is looking considerably
handsomer than when I last saw her in town, and is apparently in
good humor with herself and all the rest of the world. How long
this comfortable state of affairs may last, however, remains a
mystery. She brings with her a horse, a pet-poodle, and a _very_
French maid, who makes herself extremely troublesome, and causes
much dissension in the servants' hall.

Sir Mark Gore and her ladyship are evidently old friends, and
express a well-bred amount of pleasure on again meeting. Perhaps
her ladyship's expressions are by a shade the warmest.

"I had no idea I should meet you here," she winds up, sweetly,
when the subject of her satisfaction is exhausted. "Mrs.
Carrington, when alluding to her other guests, never mentioned
your name."

"No? Mrs. Carrington, how unkind of you to dismiss me so
completely from your thoughts! 'Never to mention my name!' It is
horrible to picture oneself so totally forgotten."

"You could not surely hope to be _always_ in my thoughts?" I
answer, lightly.

Her ladyship flashes a sharp glance at us from her long dark
eyes.

"I might not _expect_ it, certainly; but I am not to be blamed if
I cannot help hoping for anything so desirable."

"Vain hope!" return I saucily, "and a foolish one besides. Have
you never heard that 'familiarity breeds contempt?' and that 'too
much of anything is good for nothing?' Were I to keep you
perpetually in my mind I might perhaps end by hating you."

"What an appalling idea!" murmurs Lady Blanche, softly, speaking
in that peculiar tone of half-suppressed irony I so greatly
detest. "Should anything so dreadful ever occur I doubt if Sir
Mark would recover it."

"I don't suppose I should," replies Sir Mark, rather bluntly, as
it seems to me, without turning his head in her direction.

There is a moment's rather awkward pause, and then her ladyship
laughs lightly, and, crossing the room, sits down by Bebe
Beatoun.

Her laugh is an unpleasant one, and jars upon me painfully. Her
very manner of rising and leaving me alone with Sir Mark has
something in it so full of insolent meaning that for the instant
I hate her. She makes me feel I have said something
foolish--something better left unsaid, though thoroughly unmeant.
I color, bite my lip, and, without another word to my companion,
who is looking black as night, I go out through the open window.

So for the second time the little thorn enters into my heart and
pricks me gently. A seed is sown that bears, me bitter fruit.



CHAPTER XX.

Nobody seems to mind me in the least (as a hindrance to their
rather open flirtations), though, with the exception of Lady
Blanche, all my guests appear prepossessed in my favor.

I am no good at all as a _chaperon_--looking at that necessary
evil in the light of a guardian of morals--as no one, I feel
utterly positive, would listen to a word of advice given by me,
even had I the courage to speak that word, which I feel sure I
have not.

"Tell you why I like you so much," says Bebe to me, one day, with
charming candor (we have become great friends by this time); "you
have so little of the married woman about you. You don't look the
thing at all. Nobody would feel in the least put out if _you_
caught them doing anything, even a little bit _fi-fi_. You'd be
afraid to scold, and you are too good-natured to 'peach.' Now
there's mamma; _her_ eyes strike terror to the hearts of the
girls she _chaperons_. Only let her catch you with your hand in
the possession of any Detrimental, however delightful, and it is
all up with you half an hour later."

"But I suppose your mother is right. I shall remember what you
say, and take her as a model from this day forth."

"It isn't _in_ you. You would make a horrible mess of it; and you
are infinitely nicer as you are. A strong stare is a necessary
ingredient, and you don't possess that. You should be able to
wither with a look. I hate being scolded, and I would back mamma,
once started, to hold her own against any of those Billingsgate
ladies one hears of. I assure you the amount of vituperation our
night brougham has concealed about its person is enough, one
would think, to turn the color of its cloth. No doubt that is why
it requires doing up so very often."

"You don't seem any the better for all the indignation."

"No, that is just it. That shows the folly of wasting so much
valuable breath. I am a born flirt, and as such I hope I'll die.
There! that is extra naughty, is it not? So, out of respect for
you, I will unsay it, and hope instead I may depart this life a
calm and decorous matron."

"Do you know I never had a flirtation in my life?" I say, almost
regretfully.

"No? really! How absurd!" says Bebe, bursting into a much-amused
laugh. "That is just what makes you the curious, dear, darling,
little child you are. But you need not be so poverty-stricken any
longer unless you please, as any one can see how _epris_ with you
is Sir Mark Gore."

"Nonsense!" cry I, blushing furiously. "How can you say anything
so untrue? I have known him this ever so long; he is quite an old
friend."

"And a _fast_ friend," says Bebe, laughing again at her own wit.
"Having waited so long you do right to begin your campaign with a
seasoned veteran."

"You must not say such things: if you do I shall rouse myself and
assert my authority as a very dragon among _chaperons_; and then
where will you and Captain Jenkins and Master Chips be?"

"No, don't," entreats Bebe, pretending to be frightened. "As you
now are you are perfection: were you to change you would not be
Phyllis Carrington at all. When _I_ marry I intend taking you as
an example, and so make myself dear to the hearts of all my
spinster friends."

"And when will that be, Bebe?"

A shade crosses and darkens her face. For a moment she looks sad;
then it disappears, and she laughs gayly.

"Never, probably. I don't get the chance. Generally when I pay my
autumn visits, I live in a state of constant dread of being
pounced upon by officious matrons, just as I am going in for an
hour of _thorough_ enjoyment with a man who has not a penny on
earth besides his pay. But here it is different. _You_ would
never pounce, my Phyllis, would you? You would make a delightful
clitter-clatter, with those little high-heeled shoes of yours,
long before you turned the corner; there is nothing mean or
prowling about you. Phyllis, is all that hair really your own? I
won't believe it till I see it. Let me pull it down, and do it up
again for you in a new style, will you? I am tremendously good at
hair-dressing, really. Harry says I am better than her French
maid. When all trades fail, and I am a lonely old maid, I shall
bind myself to a barber."

With this she pulls my hair all about my shoulders, and makes me
endure untold tortures for at least three-quarters of an hour.

---

Meantime Dora is improving the shining hours with Sir George
Ashurst. She is making very fast and likely running, that looks
as if it meant to make the altar-rails its goal.

As for her victim, he has neither eyes nor tongue nor ears for
any one but Dora, and success lends enchantment to my sister's
face and form. Always pretty, she has gained from the excitement
of the contest an animation hitherto unknown, that adds
considerably to her charms.

I experience little throbs of satisfaction and delight as I
contemplate this promising flirtation; though as yet I do not
dare to think of marriage as its probable termination. I long
intensely to discuss the subject with Dora, to learn how far I
may beguile myself with hope; but one day, having touched upon it
very delicately, I am met with such an amount of innocent
blankness as effectually deters me from making any further
attempt.

Nevertheless, speak it I must, or die; and, coming upon Marmaduke
suddenly, directly after receiving Dora's rebuff, I proceed with
much caution to sound him about the matter.

He is in his own private den, a little room devoted to rubbish,
and containing a motley collection of pipes, guns, whips,
actresses (for the most part decent), and spurs. As I enter he is
bending over some new favorite among the guns, and is
endeavoring, with the assistance of the largest pin I ever saw,
to pick dust from some intricate crevice. He is crimson, either
from stooping or anxiety--I don't know which, though I incline
towards the latter opinion--as on seeing me he says,
irritably,---

"Phyllis, have you a small pin? I cannot think," flinging the
large one angrily from him, "why they choose to make them this
size: they are not of the smallest use to any fellow who wants to
clean a gun."

"They may have been designed for some other purpose," I suggest,
meekly, producing a more reasonably sized pin, which he seizes
with avidity and returns to his task.

I seat myself near him, and for a few minutes content myself with
watching the loving care he bestows upon his work. No careless
servant's hands should touch those new and shining barrels.

"Marmaduke," I say at length, "I don't think Sir George so very
stupid."

"Don't you, darling?" absently.

"No. Why did you say he was?"

"_Did_ I say it?" Evidently every idea he possesses is centred in
that absurd gun.

"Dear me, 'Duke, of course you did," I cry, impatiently. "You
told me he was not 'brilliant,' and that means the same thing.
Don't you remember?"

"Well _is_ he brilliant?"

"No, but he converses very nicely, and is quite as agreeable as
any of the other men, in a general sort of way."

"I am very glad you think so. He is a great friend of mine; and,
after all, I don't suppose it matters in the least a man's not
being able to master his Greek and Latin, or failing to take his
degree."

"Of course not. I dare say he did not put his mind to it. I am
convinced had he done so he would have distinguished himself
as--as much as anybody."

"Just so."

"I think"--with hesitation--"he would suit Dora very well."

"I agree with you there; more particularly as Dora is not clever
either."

"Yes, she is," I cry hotly; "she is exceedingly clever. She can
do a great deal more than most girls; she can do lots of things
that I can't do."

"Can she? But perhaps you fail in the cleverness also?"

"I think you are excessively rude and disagreeable," I say, much
affronted, and getting up, move with dignity towards the door.

"If you see Ashurst tell him I want him," calls out Marmaduke as
I reach it.

"Yes; and at the same time I shall tell him you said he was a
dunce at college," I return, in a withering tone.

Marmaduke laughs, and, dropping the precious gun, runs after me,
catches and draws me back into his _sanctum_.

"I think Dora and Ashurst two of the most intellectual people it
has ever been my good fortune to meet," he says, still laughing,
and holding me. "Will that do? Is your majesty appeased?"

"I wouldn't tell fibs, if I were you," return I, severely.

"Say lies. I hate the word 'fib.' A lie sounds much more honest.
But I am really in earnest when I say I think Dora clever. I know
at least twenty girls who have done their best to be made Lady
Ashurst, and not one of them ever came as near success as she
has."

"But he has not proposed to her yet."

"It is the same thing. Any one can see that he has Dora on the
brain, and I don't think (asking your pardon humbly) his brain
would stand much pressure. I'd lay any amount she has him at her
feet before his visit is concluded."

"How delightful! How pleased mamma will be! Marmaduke, I forgive
you. But you must not say slighting things of me again.

"Slighting things of _you_, my own darling! Cannot you see when I
am in fun? I only wanted to make you pout and look like the baby
you are. In reality I think you the brightest, dearest, sweetest,
_et cetera_."

Thus my mind is relieved, and I feel I can wait with calmness the
desirable end that is evidently in store for Dora.

I am so elated by Marmaduke's concurrence with my hopes that I
actually kiss him, and, re-seating myself, consent to take the
butt-end of the gun upon my lap and hold it carefully, while he
rubs the barrels up and down with a dreadfully dirty piece of
scarlet flannel soaked in oil.

When, however, this monotonous process has been continued for ten
minutes or so, and I find I cannot flatter myself with the belief
that it will soon be over, I lose sight of the virtue called
patience.

"Do you think they would ever grow brighter than they are now?" I
venture mildly. "If you rubbed them for years, Marmaduke, I don't
believe they could be further improved: do you?"

"Well, indeed, perhaps you are right. I think they will do now,"
replies he, regarding his new toy with a fond eye; and then
almost with regret, as though loath to part with it, he replaces
it in its flannel berth.

"Bye the bye, Phyllis, I had a letter from a friend of mine this
morning--Chandos--telling me of his return to England, and I have
written inviting him here."

"Have you? I hope he is nice. Is he Mr. or Captain Chandos, or
what?"

"Neither: he is Lord Chandos."

"What!" cry I; "the real live lord at last! _Now_, I suppose, we
will have to be very seemly in our conduct, and forget we ever
laughed. Is he very old and staid, 'Duke?"

"Very. He is a year older than I am; and I remember you once told
me I was bordering on my second childhood or something like it.
However, in reality you will not find Chandos formidable. He has
held his honors but a very short time. Last autumn he was only
Captain Everett, with nothing to speak of beyond his pay, when
fate in the shape of an unsound yacht sailed in, and, having
drowned one old man and two young ones, pushed Everett into his
present position."

"What a romance! I suppose one ought to feel sorry for the three
drowned men, but somehow I don't. With such a story connected
with him, your friend ought to be both handsome and agreeable. Is
he?"

"I don't know. I would be afraid to say. You might take me to
task and abuse me afterwards, if our opinions differed. You know
_you_ think George Ashurst a very fascinating youth. Chandos is a
wonderful favorite with women, if that has anything to do with
it."

"Of course it has--everything."

"I have been thinking," says 'Duke, "that as a set-off to all the
hospitality we have received from the county, we ought to give a
ball."

"A ball! Oh, delicious!" cry I, clapping my hands rapturously.
"What has put such a glorious idea into your head? To dance to a
band all down that great, big, ballroom! Oh, 'Duke! I am so glad
I married you!"

'Duke laughs and colors slightly.

"Are you, really? Do you mean that? Do you never repent it?"

"Repent it? Never!--not for a single instant. How could I, when
you are so good to me--when you are always thinking of things to
make me happy?"

"I am doubly, trebly rewarded for anything I may have done by
hearing such words from your lips. To know you are 'glad you
married me' is the next best thing to knowing you love me."

"And so I do love you, you silly boy, I am very, very fond of
you. Marmaduke, do you think you could get Billy here for the
ball?"

"I will try. I dare say I shall be able to manage it. And now run
away and get Blanche Going to help you write out a list of
people. She knows every one in the county, and is a capital hand
at anything of that sort."

"She seems to be a capital hand at most things," I reply,
pettishly, "except at making herself agreeable to me. It is
always Blanche Going can do this, and Blanche Going can do that.
She is a paragon of perfection in your eyes, I do believe. I
won't ask her to help me. I hate her."

"Well ask any one else you like, then, or no one. But don't hate
poor Blanche. What has she done to deserve it?"

"Nothing. But I hate her for all that. I feel like a cat with its
fur rubbed up the wrong way whenever I am near her. She has the
happy knack of always making me feel small and foolish. I suppose
we are antagonistic to each other. And why do you call her
'_poor_ Blanche?' I don't see that she is in any need of your
pity."

"Have you not said she has incurred your displeasure? What
greater misfortune could befall her?" says 'Duke, smiling
tenderly into my cross little face.

I relent and smile in turn.

"Oh, believe me, she will not die of that," I say; "and at all
events don't _you_ be unhappy, 'Duke," patting his face softly.
"I shall never hate _you_--be sure of that."

And then catching up my train to facilitate my movements, I run
through the house in search of Harriet and Bebe, to make known to
them my news and discuss with them all the joys and glories of a
ball.

Bebe is scarcely less delighted than I am; and all the rest of
that day and the greater part of the next we spend in arranging
and dissarranging countless plans.

"It shall be a ball," says Bebe, enthusiastically, "such as the
county never before attended. We will astonish the natives. We
will get men down from London to settle everything, and the
decorations and music and supper shall be beyond praise. I know
exactly what to do and to order. I have helped Harriet to give
balls ever so often, and I am determined, as it will be your
first ball as Mrs. Carrington, it shall be a splendid success."

"My first ball in every way," I say feeling rather ashamed of
myself. "I was at several small dances before my marriage, and at
a number of dinner-parties since, but I never in my life was at a
real large ball."

"What!" cries Bebe, literally struck dumb by this revelation;
then, with a little lady-like shout of laughter, "I never heard
of anything half so ludicrous. Why Phyllis. I am a venerable
grandmother next to you. Harriet," to Lady Handcock, who has just
entered, "just fancy! Phyllis tells me she was never at a ball!"

"I dare say she is all the better for it," says Harriet, kindly,
seeing my color is a little high. "If you had gone to fewer you
would be a better girl. How did it happen, Phyllis?"

"No one in our immediate neighborhood ever gave a ball," I hasten
to explain, "and we did not visit people who lived far away." I
suppress the fact of our having had no respectable vehicle to
convey us to those distant ball-givers, had we been ever so
inclined to go. "I suppose it appears very odd to you."

"Odd!" cries Bebe; "it is abominable! I am so envious I can
scarcely bring myself to speak to you. I know exactly what I may
expect, while _you_ can indulge in the most delightful
anticipations. I can remember even now the raptures of _my_ first
ball: the reality far exceeded even my wildest flights of fancy,
and that is a rare thing. Positively I can smell the flowers and
hear the music this moment. And then I had so many partners--more
I think, than I get now: I could have filled twenty cards instead
of one. Why, Phyllis, I am but two years older than you, and yet
if I had a pound for every ball I have been at, I would have
enough money to tide me over my next season without fear of
debt."

My mind--incapable of retaining, even when at its best, more than
one idea at a time--is now so filled to overflowing with the
thought of this ball that I quite lose sight of our expected
visitor, and forget to mention the advent of Lord Chandos. I talk
and dream and think of nothing but the coming gayety.

Nevertheless it causes me keen anxiety. I am conceitedly desirous
of looking my best on that eventful night; I am also ambitious of
seeming stricken in years, having long ago decided that my
juvenile appearance as a married woman is very much against me,
and that age brings dignity.

I sit down, and, running over all my dresses in my mind, cannot
convince myself that any of them, if worn, would have the desired
effect of adding years to my face and form. My _trousseau_, to be
just, was desirable in every way. How she managed it no one could
tell, but mother _did_ contrive to screw sufficient money out of
papa to set me creditably before the world. Still all my evening
robes seem youthful and girlish in the extreme as I call them up
one by one.

After a full half-hour of earnest cogitation, I make up my mind
to a grand purpose, and, stealing downstairs, move rather
sneakily to Marmaduke's study. I devoutly trust he will be alone,
and as I open the door I find I have my wish.

He is busily writing; but, as he is never too busy to attend to
me, he lays down his pen and smiles kindly as he sees me.

"Come in, little woman. What am I to do for you?"

"Marmaduke," I say, nervously, "I have come to ask you a great
favor."

"That is something refreshingly now. Do you know it will be the
first favor you have asked of me, though we have been married
more than three months? Say on and I swear it shall be yours,
whatever it is--to the half of my kingdom."

"You are quite sure you will not think it queer of me, or--or
shabby?"

"Quite certain."

"Well, then"--with an effort--"for this ball, I think, Marmaduke,
I would like a new dress; may I send to London for it?"

When I have said it it seems to me so disgracefully soon to ask
for new clothes that I blush crimson, and am to the last degree
shamefaced.

Marmaduke laughs heartily.

"Is that all?" he says. "Are you really wasting a blush on such a
slight request? What an odd little girl you are! I believe you
are the only wife alive who would feel modest about asking such a
question. How much do you want darling? You will require some
other things too, I suppose. Shall I give you a hundred pounds,
to see how far it will go? Will that be enough?"

"Oh, 'Duke! a great deal too much."

"Not a bit too much. I don't know what dresses cost, but I have
always heard a considerable sum. And now, as we are on the
subject of money, Phyllis; what would you prefer--an allowance,
or money whenever you want it, or what?"

"If you would pay my bills, Marmaduke, I would like it best." I
have never felt so thoroughly married as at this moment, when I
know myself to be dependent on him for every shilling I may
spend.

"Very well. Whatever you like. Any time you tire of this
arrangement you can say so. But at all events you will require
some pocket-money," rising from the table and going over to a
small safe in the wall.

"No, thank you, 'Duke; I have some."

"How much?"

"Enough, thank you."

"Nonsense, Phyllis!" almost angrily. "How absurd you are! One
would think I was not your husband. I wish you would try to
remember you have a perfect right to everything I possess. Come
here directly and take this," holding out to me a roll of notes
and a handful of gold. "Promise me," he says, "when you want more
you will come to me for it. It would make me positively wretched
if I thought you were without money to buy whatever you fancy."

"But I never had fifty--I never had ten pounds in my life," I
say, half amused. "I won't know what to do with it."

"I wonder if you will have the same story to relate this time
next year?" answers 'Duke, laughing. "The very simplest thing to
learn is how to spend money. And now tell me--I confess I have a
little curiosity on the subject--what are you going to wear on
the twenty-fourth? You will make yourself look your most
charming, will you not, Phyllis?"

"I shall never be able to look dignified or imposing, if you mean
that," say I, gloomily. "All the old women about the farms who
don't know me think I am a visitor here, and call me 'Miss,' just
as though I were never married."

"That is very sad, especially as you will have to wait so many
year for those wrinkles you covet. I dare say a dealer in
cosmetics, however, would lay you on a few for the occasion, if
you paid him well; and, with one of your grandmother's gowns, we
might perhaps be able to persuade our guests that I had married a
woman old enough to be my mother."

"I know what I should _like_ to wear," I say, shyly.

"What?"

"Black velvet and the diamonds," I say, boldly.

Marmaduke roars.

"What are you laughing at?" I ask, testily, somewhat vexed.

"At the picture you have drawn. At the idea of velvet and
diamonds in conjunction with your baby face. Why did you not
think of adding on the ermine? Then, indeed, with your height you
would be quite majestic?"

"But may I wear it? May I--may I?" ask I, impatiently. "All my
life I have been wanting to wear velvet, and now when I have so
good an opportunity do let me."

"Is that your highest ambition? By all means, my dear child,
gratify it. Why not? Probably in such an effective get-up you
will take the house by storm."

"I really think I shall look very nice and--_old_" I return,
reflectively. Then, "'Duke, have you written about Billy?"

"Yes; I said we wished to have him on the nineteenth for a week;
that will bring him in time for the slaughter on the twentieth. I
thought perhaps he might enjoy that."

"You think of everything. I know no one so kind or good-natured.
'Duke, don't make a joke about that velvet. Don't tell any one
what I said, please."

"Never fear. I will be silent as the grave. You shall burst upon
them as an apparition in all your ancient bravery."

That evening we dress early, Bebe and I, for no particular
reason, that I can remember, and, coming downstairs together,
seat ourselves before the drawing-room fire to ruin our
complexions and have a cozy chat until the others break in upon
us. We have discussed many things and expressed various opinions
about most of the other guests in the house, until at length we
draw breath before entering with vivacity upon some fresh
unfortunate. Even as we pause, the door at the end of the room is
flung wide, and a tall young man coming in walks straight towards
me.

The lamps have not yet been lit, and only the crimson flashes
from the blazing fire reveal to us his features. He is dark,
rather more distinguished-looking than handsome, and has
wonderful deep, kind, gray eyes.

"Lord Chandos," announces Tynon, in the background, speaking from
out the darkness, after which, having played his part, he
vanishes.

I rise and go to meet the new-comer, with extended hand.

"This is a surprise, but a pleasant one. I am very glad to bid
you welcome," I say, in a shy, old-fashioned manner; but my
hand-clasp is warm and genial, and he smiles and looks pleased.

"Thank you; Mrs. Carrington, I suppose?" he says, with some faint
hesitation, his eyes travelling over my dreadfully youthful form,
that looks even more than usually childish to night in its
clothing of white cashmere and blue ribbons.

"Yes," I return, laughing and blushing. "Marmaduke should have
been here to give us a formal introduction to each other, though
indeed it is hardly necessary: I seem to know you quite well from
all I have heard about you."

A slight rustling near the fire, a faint pause, and then Bebe
comes forward.

"How d'ye do, Lord Chandos?" she says. "I hope you have not quite
forgotten me."

She holds out her hand and for an instant her eyes look fairly
into his--_only_ for an instant.

She is dressed in some filmy black gown, that clings close to
her, and has nothing to relieve its gloom save one spot of
blood-red color that rests upon her bosom. Her arms shine bare
and white to the elbow; in her hair is another fleck of the
blood-red ribbon. Is it the flickering uncertain light or my own
fancy that makes her face appear so pale?

Her eyes gleam large and dark, and the curious little black mole
lying so close to her ear looks blacker than usual in contrast to
her white cheek. But her tone rings gay and steady as ever. A
smile quivers round her lips.

I am puzzled, I scarcely know why. I glance at Lord Chandos,
and--surely the firelight to-night is playing fantastic
tricks--_his_ face appears flushed and anxious, I draw
conclusions, but cannot make them satisfactory.

"I had no idea I should meet you here," he says, in a low tone
that is studiously polite.

Bebe laughs musically.

"No! Then we are mutually astonished. I thought you safe in
Italy. Certainly it is on my mind that somebody told me you were
there."

"I returned home last week." Then, turning to me, he says,
hurriedly, "I hope Carrington is well?"

"Quite well, thank you.
Will you come with me to find him? He would have been the first
to welcome you, had he known of your coming, but we did not hope
to see you until next week."

"I had no idea myself I could have been here so soon. But
business, luckily, there was none to detain me, so I came
straight on to throw myself on your tender mercies."

We have now reached the library door.

"Marmaduke," I call out, opening it and entering, "I have brought
you Lord Chandos. Now, are you not surprised and pleased?"

"Oh! more pleased than I can say," exclaims 'Duke, heartily,
coming eagerly forward to greet his friend. "My dear fellow, what
good wind blew you to us so soon?"

When I return to the drawing-room I find the lamps burning
cheerily, and most of our party assembled.

Lady Blanche, reclining in a low _fauteuil_, is conversing
earnestly with Sir Mark Gore, who stands beside her. Seeing me,
she smiles softly at him and motions him to a chair near her. As
I move past her trailing skirts a sudden thought of Mons. Rimmel
comes to me--the delicatest, faintest perfume reaches me. She
runs the fingers of one white hand caressingly across her white
arm; her every movement is an essence--a grace.

Dora, in her favorite white muslin and sweet demure smile, is
holding Mr. Powell and Sir George Ashurst in thrall. She is
bestowing the greater part of her attention upon the former, to
the disgust and bewilderment of honest George, who looks with
moody dislike upon his rival. Both men are intent upon taking her
down to dinner. There is little need for you to torture yourself
with jealous fears, Sir George. When the time comes it is without
doubt upon your arm she will lay that little white pink-tinged
hand.

Bebe is sitting upon a sofa, with the infatuated Chips beside
her, and is no longer pale: two crimson spots adorn her cheeks
and add brilliancy to her eyes. As I watch her wonderingly she
slowly raises her head, and, meeting my gaze, bestows upon me a
glance so full of the liveliest reproach, not unmixed with
indignation, that I am filled with consternation, What _have_ I
done to deserve so withering a look?

"I would give something to know of whom you are thinking just
now," says a voice at my elbow. "Not of _me_, I trust?"

I turn to find Sir Mark is regarding me earnestly. Instinctively
I glance at the vacant chair beside Lady Blanche, and in doing so
encounter her dark eyes bent on mine. Verily, I am not in good
odor with my guests to-night.

All through dinner I try to attract Bebe's attention, but cannot.
I address her, only to receive the coldest of replies. Even
afterwards, when we get back once more to the drawing-room, I
cannot manage an explanation, as she escapes to her own room, and
does not appear again until the gentlemen have joined us.

Neither she nor Lord Chandos exchange one word with each other
throughout the entire evening. With a sort of feverish gayety she
chatters to young Thornton, to Captain Jenkins, to any one who
may chance to be near her, as though she fears a silence.

Nevertheless the minutes drag. It is the stupidest night we have
known, and I begin to wish I had learned whist or chess or
something of that sort. I am out of spirits and though innocent
of what it may be, feel myself guilty of some hideous blunder.

Presently the dreaded quiet falls. The whist-players are happy,
the rest of us are not. Sir Mark, with grave politeness, comes to
the rescue.

"Perhaps Mr. Thornton will kindly favor us with a song?" he says,
without a smile.

And Mr. Thornton, with a face even more than usually benign,
willingly consents, and gives us. "What will you do, love, when I
am going?"--_a propos_ of his approaching departure for
India--with much sentimental fervor, and many tender glances
directed openly at Miss Beatoun.

"Thank you," murmurs that young lady, when the doleful ditty is
finished, having listened to it all through with an air of
saddened admiration impossible to describe, and unmistakably
flattering. "I know no song that touches me so deeply as that."

"I know you are laughing at me," says Chips, frankly, seating
himself again beside her, and sinking his voice to a whisper that
he fondly but erroneously believes to be inaudible; "but I don't
care. I would rather have you to make fun of me than any other
girl to love me!"

Could infatuation further go?

"Perhaps one might find it possible to do both," insinuates Miss
Beatoun, wickedly; but, this piece of flagrant hypocrisy proving
to much even for her, she raises her fan to a level with her lips
and subsides with an irrepressible smile behind it, while poor
little Chips murmurs:--

"Oh, come, now. That is more than any fellow would believe, you
know," and grins a pleased and radiant grin.

Bebe, being asked to sing, refuses, gently but firmly; and when I
have delighted my audience with one or two old English ballads,
we give in, and think with animation of our beds.

In the corridor above I seize hold of Bebe.

"What has vexed you?" I ask, anxiously. "Why are you not friends
with me? You _must_ come to my room before you go to bed.
Promise."

"Very good. I will come," quietly disengaging my hand. Then,
before closing the door, "Indeed, Phyllis, I think you might have
told me," she says, in a tone of deep reproach.

So that is it! But surely she must have seen his coming so
unexpectedly was a great surprise. And is there a romance
connected with her and Lord Chandos?

I confess to an overpowering feeling of curiosity. I dismiss my
maid with more haste than usual, and, sitting in my dressing-gown
and slippers, long for Bebe's coming. I am convinced I shall not
sleep one wink if she fails to keep this appointment.

I am not doomed to a sleepless night, however, as presently she
comes in--all her beautiful hair loose about her shoulders.

"Now, Bebe" I exclaim, jumping up to give her a good shake, "how
could you be so cross all about nothing? I did not know myself he
was coming so soon. You made me miserable the entire evening, and
spoiled everything."

"But you knew he was coming sometime; why did you not say so?"

"I forgot all about him. I knew no reason why I should attach
importance to his presence here. I don't know now either. I was
quite ignorant of your previous acquaintance with him. Probably
had he waited in London until next week, as he originally
intended, it might have occurred to me to mention his coming, and
so I would have spared myself all the cruelty and neglect and
wicked looks so lavishly bestowed upon me this evening."

"You have yet to learn," says Miss Beatoun, who _is_, I think, a
little ashamed of her pettishness, "that of all things I most
detest being taken by surprise. It puts me out dreadfully; I
don't recover myself for ever so long; and to see Lord Chandos
here, of all people, when I believed him safe in Italy, took away
my breath. Phyllis, I don't know how it is, but I feel I must
tell you all about it."

"Yes, do. I am so anxious to hear. Yet I half guess he is, or
was, a lover of yours. Is it not so? And something has gone
wrong?"

"Very much wrong, indeed," with a rather bitter laugh. "It will
be a slight come-down to my pride to tell you this story; but I
can trust you, can I not? I am not fond of women friends as a
rule--indeed, Harriet is my only one--but you, Phyllis, have
exercised upon me some charm, I do believe, as when I am near you
I forget to be reserved."

"That is because you know how well I like you."

"Is it? Perhaps so. Well, about Lord Chandos. My story is a short
one, you will say, and to the point. I met him first two years
ago. He fell in love with me, and last year asked me to marry
him. That is all; but you will understand by it how little
ambitious I was of meeting him again."

"And you---"

"Refused him, dear. How could I do otherwise? He was only Captain
Everett then, without a prospect on earth; and I am no heiress.
It would have meant poverty--scarcely even what is called
'genteel poverty'--had I consented to be his wife; and"--with a
quick shudder of disgust--"I would rather be dead, I think, than
endure such a life as that."

"Did you love him, Bebe?"

"I liked him well enough to marry him, certainly," she admits,
slowly, "had circumstances been different."

We are silent for a little time; then Bebe says, in a low tone.

"He was so good about it, and I deserved so little mercy at his
hands. I don't deny I had flirted with him horribly, with cruel
heartlessness, considering I knew all along when it came to the
final move, I would say 'No.' I liked him so well that I could
not make up my mind to be brave in time and let him go, never
counting the pain I would afterwards have to inflict--and bear."

Her voice sinks to a whisper. Without turning my head, I lay my
hand on hers.

"It all happened one morning," she goes on, presently making a
faint pause between each sentence, "quite early. There was
nothing poetic or sentimental about it in the way of
conservatories or flowers or music. He had come to pay me his
usual visit. It was July, and mamma and I were leaving town the
next day. We were not to see each other again for a long time.
Perhaps that hastened it. It was a wet day, I remember--I can
hear the sad drip, drip, of the raindrops now--and we felt silent
and depressed. Somehow then--I hardly know how--it all was
said--and over."

"How sad it was!" I murmur, stroking the hand I hold with quiet
sympathy. "And then---"

"Then I let him see how utterly false and worthless was the woman
he loved. I let him know that even if I adored him his want of
money would be an insurmountable barrier between us. I think I
_told_ him so. I am not quite sure of that. I do not recollect
distinctly one word I said that day. I only know that he went
away impressed with the belief that I was a mere contemptible
money-worshipper."

"Did he say anything--reproachful, I mean?"

"That was the hardest part of it. He would not reproach me. Had
he been bitter or hard or cold I could have borne it better; but
he was silent on the head of his wrongs. He only sat there,
looking distinctly miserable, without an unkind word on his
lips."

"What? Did he say nothing?"

"Very little. Unless to tell me I had treated him disgracefully,
I don't know that there was anything _to be_ said. He declared
that he had expected just such an answer; that he felt he had no
right to hope for a happier one. He did not blame me--of course I
was acting wisely--and so on. He never once asked me to
reconsider my words. Then he got up and said he must bid me a
long farewell. He knew a man who would gladly exchange with him
and give him a chance of seeing a little Indian life; he was
tired of England. You can imagine the kind of thing."

"Poor fellow! How did he look?"

"He was very white, and his lips were tightly compressed. And I
think there were--_tears_ in his eyes. Oh, Phyllis" cries Bebe,
passionately, rising to push her chair back sharply, and
beginning to pace the room, "when I saw the tears in his eyes I
almost gave in. _Almost_, mark you, not quite. I am too well
trained for that."

"I think I would have relented."

"I am sure you would; but your education has been so different.
Upon this earth," says Bebe, slowly, "there is nothing so mean or
so despicable as a woman born and bred as I am. Taught from our
cradles to look on money and money's worth as the principal good
to be obtained in life; with the watchwords, 'an excellent
match,' 'a rich marriage,' 'an eligible _parti_,' drummed into
our ears from the time we put on sashes and short frocks. There
is something desperately unwholesome about the whole thing."

"Did you never see him since?" ask I, deeply impressed by her
manner and the love-affair generally.

"Never until to-night. You may fancy what a shock it was."

"And he didn't even _kiss_ you before going away, as he thought,
forever?" I exclaim, unwisely.

"Kiss me," severely. "How do you mean, Phyllis? Of course he did
not kiss me: why should he?"

"Oh, I don't know. I suppose it would have been unusual," I
return, overwhelmed with confusion. "Only it seemed to me--I mean
it is so _good_ to be kissed by one we love."

"Is it?" coldly. "I am not fond of kissing."

I hasten to change the subject. "When he was gone, how wretched
you must have felt!"

"I suppose I did. But I shed no tears; I was too unhappy, I
think, for mere crying. However,"--with sudden recklessness--"it
is all over now, and we have lived through it. Let us forget it.
A month after the scene I have just described, the old lord and
his sons were drowned, and Travers Everett came in for
everything. You see what I lost by being mercenary."

"I wonder, when he became so rich, he did not come back directly
and ask you all over again."

"He knew rather better than that, I take it," says Bebe, with a
slight accession of _hauteur_; and for the second time I feel
ashamed of myself and my ignoble sentiments. "He went abroad and
stayed there until now. He don't look as though he had pined
over-much, does he?"--with a laugh--"A broken heart is the most
curable thing I know. I thought I had never seen him look so
well."

"A man cannot pine forever," I say, in defense of the absent.
Then, rather nervously, "I wonder when you will marry now, Bebe?"

"Never, most probably," kneeling down on the hearth-rug. "You see
I threw away my good luck. Fortune will scarcely be so
complaisant a second time." says Bebe, with a gay laugh, laying
her head down upon my lap; and then in another moment I become
aware that she is Bobbing passionately.

The tears rise thickly to my own eyes, yet I find no words to
comfort her. I keep silence, and suffer my fingers to wander
caressingly through her dark tresses as they lie scattered across
my knees. Perhaps the greatest eloquence would not have been so
acceptable as that silent touch.

In a very short time the storm passes, and Bebe, raising her
face, covers it with her hands.

"I have _not_ been crying," she says, with wilful vehemence; "you
must not think I have. If you do, I will never be your friend
again. How dare you say I shed tears for any man?"

"I did not say it, Bebe. I will never say it," I return,
earnestly.

She puts her bare arms around my neck and lays her head upon my
shoulder in such a position that I cannot see her face, and so
remains, staring thoughtfully into the fire.

"I know you will be very angry with me," I say presently, "but I
must say it. Perhaps you will marry him some time."

"No, never, never. Do you think it. I refused him when he was
poor; I would not accept him now he is rich. How could you ever
imagine it? Even were he to ask me again (which, believe me, is
the most unlikely thing that could happen), I would give him the
same answer. He may think me heartless; he shall not think me so
mean a thing as that."

"If he loves you he will think no bad of you."

"You do well to say 'if'. I don't suppose he does love me now. He
did once." Her arms tighten around me, although I think for the
moment she has forgotten me and everything and is looking back
upon the past. After a little while she says, again, "Yes, he did
love me once."

"And does still. I am sure of it. His whole face changed when he
saw you this evening. I remarked it, though I am not generally
famous for keen observation. It is impossible he can have
forgotten you, Bebe."

"Of course. There are so few pretty people in the world," with a
smile. "The change you saw in him tonight, Phyllis, was probably
surprise; or perhaps disgust, at finding himself so unexpectedly
thrown again into my society. He did not once address me during
the evening."

"How could he, when you devoted yourself in such a provokingly
open manner to that ridiculous boy, and afterwards allowed
Captain Jenkins to monopolize you exclusively? I wish, Bebe, you
would not."

"Indeed I shall," says Miss Beatoun, petulantly, "I shall flirt
as hard as ever I can with every one I meet. He shall not think I
am dying of chagrin and disappointment."

"And will you not even speak to Lord Chandos?"

"Not if I can help it. So you need not say another word. If you
do, I will report you to Marmaduke as a dangerous little
match-maker, and perhaps marry Captain Jenkins. I have really met
more disagreeable men. And as for Chips," says Bebe, who has
seemingly recovered all her wonted gayety, "that boy is the most
amusing thing I know. He is perfectly adorable. And so handsome
as he is, too! It is quite a pleasure alone to sit and look at
him."

"Are you going away now?" seeing her rise.

"Yes; it is all hours, or, rather small hours, and Marmaduke will
be here in a moment to scold me for keeping you from your
beauty-sleep. Good night, dearest, and forget what a goose I made
of myself. Promise me."

"I cannot promise to forget what I never thought," I reply,
giving her a good hug, and so we part for some hours.

Still, I do not go to bed. Her story has affected me deeply, and
sets me pondering. I have seen so little real _bona fide_
sentiment in my home life that probably it interests me in a
greater degree than it would most girls of my own age differently
reared. I sit before my fire, my hands clasped round my knees,
for half an hour, cogitating as to ways and means of reuniting my
friend to her beloved--for that Lord Chandos has ceased to regard
her with feelings of ardent affection is a thing I neither can
nor will believe.

I am still vaguely planning, when Marmaduke, coming in, orders me
off to my slumbers, declaring my roses will degenerate into
lilies if I persist in keeping such dissipated hours.



CHAPTER XXI.

"Billy is coming to-day," is the first thought that occurs to me
as I spring from my bed on the morning of the nineteenth and run
to the window. It is a glorious day outside, sunny and warm and
bright, full of that air of subdued summer that always belongs to
September. The flowers below are waving gently in the soft
breeze; the trees have a musical rustle they surely lacked on
yesterday; the very birds in the air and among the branches are
crying, "Coming, coming, coming!"

Soon I shall see him; soon I shall welcome him to my own home.
Alas, alas! that so many hours must pass before he can enter my
expectant arms! That detestable "Bradshaw" has decreed that no
train but the half-past five shall bring him.

Bebe, who is immensely amused at my impatience, declares herself
prepared to fall in love with Billy on the spot, the very moment
she sees him.

"I am passionately attached to boys," she says, meeting me in the
corridor about half-past three (I am in such a rambling,
unsettled condition as compels me to walk from pillar to post all
day); "I like their society--witness my devotion to Chips--and
they like mine. But for all that, I shall be nowhere with your
Billy; you have another guest in your house who will take his
heart by storm."

"Whom do you mean?"

"Lady Blanche Going. I never yet saw the boy who could resist
her. Is not that odd? Is she not the last person one would select
as a favorite with youth?"

"I hope he will _not_ like her," I cry, impulsively; then,
feeling myself, without cause, ungracious, "that is--of course I
do not mean that--only--"

"Oh, yes, you do," says Miss Beatoun, coolly; "you would be very
sorry if Billy were to waste his affection on her. So would I.
You detest her; so do I. Why mince matters? But for all that your
boy will be her sworn slave, or I am much mistaken. If only to
spite _you_, she will make him her friend.

"But why? What have I ever done to her?"

"Nothing; only it is intolerable somebody should admire you so
much."

And with a mischievous glance, Miss Beatoun disappears round the
corner.

"Marmaduke," say I, seizing my husband by the arm as the dog-cart
comes round to the door for final orders, preparatory to starting
for the station (it is now almost five o'clock), "is William
going for Billy? I wish _I_ could go.  You don't think he will
expect---" I hesitate.

Marmaduke reads my face attentively for a minute, then ponders a
little.

"You think he may be disappointed if welcomed only by a groom?"
he says, with a smile. "Take that little pucker off your
forehead, Phyllis: I will bring your Billy to you myself," and
mounting the dog-cart, drives off to the station without another
word.

As I have already said, it is now five o'clock. It will take him
just half an hour to reach Carston and meet the train. Ten
minutes at least must be wasted finding Billy, getting his traps
together, and settling things generally; then half an hour more
to drive home; so that altogether one hour and ten minutes must
go by before I can hope to see them. This appears an interminable
age; all the day has not seemed so long as this last hour and ten
minutes.

At a quarter to six I run upstairs and get myself dressed for
dinner--although we do not dine until half-past seven--hurrying
through my toilet with the most exaggerated haste, as if fearing
they may arrive before it is finished; and I would not miss being
the first to greet my boy for all the world contains.

When I once more reach the drawing-room it still wants five
minutes to the promised time. Lady Blanche Going and one or two
of the men are lounging here. She raises her head as I enter, and
scans me languidly.

"Do we dine earlier than usual to-night, Mrs. Carrington?" she
asks, with curiosity.

"No; not earlier than usual. It was a mere whim of mine getting
my dressing over so soon."

"Oh, I quite forgot your brother was coming," she says, with a
faint smile, bending over her work again. She looks as though she
were pitying my youthful enthusiasm I make no reply. Taking up a
book, I seat myself near a front window, as far as possible from
the other occupants of the room, and pretend to read.

A quarter past six. Surely they ought to be here by this.
Twenty-five minutes past six! I rise, regardless of comment, and
gaze up the avenue.

Oh, if anything should have prevented his coming! Are not masters
always tyrants? But even in such a case ought not Marmaduke to be
back by this to tell me of it?

Or, yet more sickening thought, _can_ any accident have happened
to the train, and is Marmaduke afraid to bring me home the evil
tidings?

I am just picturing to myself Billy's chestnut locks be-dabbled
with his gore, when something smites upon mine ear. Surely it is
the sound of wheels. I flatten my nose against the window-panes
and strain my eyes into the gathering twilight.

Yes, fast as the good horse can bring them they come.  A moment,
later, and the dog-cart in full swing rounds the corner, while in
it, coated to the chin, and in full possession of the reins, sits
my brother, with Marmaduke--quite a secondary person--smiling
beside him.

I utter an exclamation, and, flinging my book from me--blind to
the smiles my guests cannot restrain--I rush headlong from the
room, and in another instant have Billy folded in my arms. Surely
a year has gone by since last I saw him.

"Oh, Billy, Billy!" I cry, clinging to him, the tears in my eyes,
while glad smiles fight for mastery upon my lips.  "Is it really
you? It seems years and years since last we were together. Oh,
how tall you have grown, and how good-looking!"

"Oh, I'm all right," returns Billy, graciously giving back my
kisses, warmly, it is true, but with none of the lingering
tenderness that characterizes mine. "I don't think a fellow
alters much in a month. Though really, now that I look at you,
_you_ appear very tall, too, and thin, I think.  We had such a
jolly drive over; never wanted the whip the whole way, except for
the flies."

"Yes. And are you glad to see me, Billy? Were you lonely without
me? I was so lonely without you! But come upstairs to your room,
and I will tell you every thing."

As I am drawing him eagerly away I catch sight of Marmaduke's
face, who has been silently regarding us all this time, himself
unnoticed.

Something in his expression touches me with remorse. I run up to
him and lay my hand upon his arm.

"Thank you for bringing him," I say, earnestly, "and for letting
him have the reins. I noticed that. You have made me very happy
to-day."

"Have I? It was easily done. I am glad to know I have made you
happy for even one short day."

He smiles, but draws his arm gently from my grasp as he speaks,
and I know by the line across his forehead some painful thought
has jarred upon him.

I am feeling self-reproachful and sorry, when Billy's voice
recalls me to the joy of the present hour.

"Are you coming?" says that autocrat, impatiently, from the first
step of the stairs, with about six bulging brown-paper parcels in
his arms, that evidently no human power could have induced to
enter the portmanteau that stands beside him. "Come," he says,
again; and, forgetful of everything but the fact of his presence
near me, I race him up the stairs and into the bedroom my own
hands have made bright for him, while the elegant Thomas and the
portmanteau follow more slowly in our rear.

"What a capital room!" says my Billy, "and lots of space. I like
that. I hate being cramped, as I always am at home."

"I am glad you like it," I reply, bubbling over with
satisfaction. "I settled it myself, and had the carpet taken off,
because I knew you would prefer the room without it.  But I
desired them to put that narrow piece all round the bed, lest
your feet should be cold. You won't object to that?"

"Oh, no; it may remain, if you have any fancy for it."

I am about to suggest that as it is not intended for my bare feet
it does not affect me one way or the other; but, knowing argument
with Billy to be worse than useless, I refrain.

"Have you any dress-clothes?" I ask, presently, some-what
nervously.

"No; I never had any dress-clothes in my life; where would I get
them?--but I have black breeches and a black jacket (like a
shell-jacket, you know), and a white shirt and a black tie. That
will do, won't it? Langley says I look uncommon well in them; and
you'll see when I'm dressed up and that, I'll be as fit as the
best of 'em."

It is evident Billy's good opinion of himself has not been
lowered since we parted. He holds a generous belief in his own
personal attractions; so does Langley, whoever he may be.

"Far nicer than any of them," I respond, with enthusiasm; and he
does not contradict me.

When the garments just described have been laid upon the bed,
Billy discloses symptoms of a desire to get into them, I turn to
leave the room. But on the threshold I be-think me of another
important question, and pause to ask it in a tone not altogether
free from trepidation; for Billy, at times, is a person difficult
to deal with.

"Have you a clean white cambric handkerchief?" I ask, slowly.

"Well, no, I have not," confesses my brother, amicably. "You see,
all the white ones mother gave me when leaving, I exchanged with
another fellow for some of his.  And grand handkerchiefs they
are--really handsome ones, you know, Phyllis; but they have all
got flags, or sailors, or fat Shahs painted in the corners and in
the middle, which makes them look just a _leetle_ conspicuous.'
But it won't matter a bit," says Billy, cheerfully, "as I seldom
blow my nose (indeed, never, unless I have a cold in my head);
and if I don't exhibit the Shahs, they will never find me out."

"Oh, indeed that would not do," I exclaim, earnestly.  "You must
let me get you one of Marmaduke's, and then you will feel more
easy in your mind. Just suppose you were to sneeze! I often do
it, even without having a cold."

"All right; you can bring it," says Billy, and I withdraw.

When, half an hour later, the drawing-room door opens to admit
him, and looking up I see my brother's well-shaped head and
slight boyish figure, a strange pang of delight and admiration
touches my heart.

He enters boldly, with a.. the grace and independence an English
boy and especially an Eton boy, if well-bred possesses, and
advancing leisurely, comes to a standstill by my side.

I introduce him to Harriet, who is nearest to me; then to Sir
George Ashurst, then to Captain Jenkins; afterwards I leave him
to his own devices. I am glad to hear him chatting away merrily
to kind Sir Gorge, when a voice, addressing him from an opposite
sofa, makes me turn.

The voice belongs to Lady Blanche Going, and she is smiling at
him in her laziest, most seductive manner.

"Won't you come and speak to me?" she says, sweetly, "Mrs.
Carrington will not find time to present you to every one, and I
cannot wait for a formal introduction. Come here, and let me tell
you I like Etonians better than anything else in the world."

Sir Mark's moustache moves slightly, just sufficient to allow his
lips to form themselves into a faint sneer; while Billy, thus
summoned, crosses over and falls into the seat beside her
ladyship.

"Do you, really?" he says. "But I'm awfully afraid I shall
destroy your good opinion of us. You see, the fact is"--he goes
on, candidly--"I have so little to say for myself, I fear in a
very few minutes you will vote me a bore.  However, you are quite
welcome to anything I have to say; and when you are tired of me
please say so."

"Oh, that your elders had half your wit!" exclaims her ladyship,
with an effective but bewitching shake of her beautiful head. "If
they would but come to the point as you do, Mr. Vernon, what a
great deal of time might be saved!"

"Oh, I say, don't call me that," says my brother, with an
irresistible laugh; "every one calls me 'Billy.' I shouldn't know
myself by any other name. If you insist upon calling me Mr.
Vernon I shall fancy you have found reason to dislike me."

"And would that be an overwhelming calamity?"

"I should certainly regard it in that light. I like being friends
with--beautiful people," returns Billy, with a faint hesitation,
but all a boy's flattering warmth; and so on.

Here Sir James Handcock, wakening from one of his usual fits of
somnolence, actually takes the trouble to cross the room and put
a question to his wife in an audible whisper.

"Who is that handsome lad?" he asks, staring kindly at Billy. (He
was absent when my brother first entered the room.)

"Mrs. Carrington's brother," returns his wife, with a sympathetic
smile.

"A really charming face," says Sir James, criticisingly;
"scarcely a fault. Quite a face for an artist's pencil." And I
feel my heart warm towards Sir James Handcock.

When dinner is announced, Lady Blanche declares her intention of
going down with no one but her new friend, and Billy, proud and
enchanted, conducts her to the dining-room; while Bebe casts a
"what did I tell you?" sort of look at me behind their backs.
Indeed, so thorough are the fascinations she exercises upon him
that before the evening is concluded he is hopelessly and
entirely her slave.



CHAPTER XXII.

It has come at last--the night of my first ball; and surely no
girlish _debutante_ in her first season ever felt a greater
thrill of delight at this mere fact than I, spite of my being
"wooed an' married an' a'."

Behold me in my room arrayed for conquest.

Having once made up my mind to the black velvet--though mother
and Harriet and Bebe all declare me a great deal too young and
too slight for it--I persist in my determination, and the dress
is ordered and sent down.

It is a most delectable old dress, rejoicing greatly in "old
point;" and when I am in it, and Martha has fastened the diamonds
in my hair and ears and round my throat and wrists and waist, I
contemplate myself in a lengthy mirror with feelings akin to
admiration.

Having dismissed my maid, who professes herself lost in pleased
astonishment at the radiant spectacle I present, I go softly to
'Duke's dressing-room door, and, hearing him whistling within,
open it quietly.

Standing motionless, framed in by the portals, I murmur,
"Marmaduke."

He turns, and for a moment regards me silently.

"My darling!" he says then, in a tone of glad surprise, and comes
quickly up to me.

"Am I--looking--well?" I ask tremulously.

"'Well!' you are looking lovely," returns he, with enthusiasm,
and, taking my hand carefully, as though fearful of doing some
injury to my toilet, leads me before his glass.  "See there," he
says, "what a perfect little picture you make."

I stare myself out of countenance, and am thoroughly satisfied
with what I see.

"I had no idea I could ever appear so--presentable," I say, half
shy, wholly delighted.

"You shall be painted in that dress," declares 'Duke warmly, "and
put all those antiquated dames in the picture-gallery in the
shade."

"Are not the diamonds beautiful?" exclaim I. "And my gloves such
a good fit! And"--anxiously--"Marmaduke, are you _sure_ you like
my hair?"

"I like everything about you. I never saw you look half so well.
I feel horribly proud of you."

"Bestow a little of your admiration on my bouquet, if you please.
Sir Mark had it sent down to me, all the way from London, and his
man brought it to me half an hour ago. Was it not thoughtful?"

"Very. I suppose"--with a comical sigh--"all the men will be
making love to you to-night. That's the worst of having a pretty
wife; she is only half one's own." Then, abruptly, changing the
subject, "What dear little round babyish arms!" stooping to press
his lips to each in turn.  "They might belong to a mere child."

"And you really think I am looking _downright pretty?_" I ask
desperately, yet withal very wistfully, reading his face for a
reply. I do so ardently long to be classed among the well favored
people!

"I should rather think I do. Why, Phyllis! of what earthly use is
a mirror to you?"

"As--as pretty as Dora?" with hesitation. I am gradually nearing
the highest point.

"Pshaw! Dora, indeed! She could not hold a candle to you--to be
emphatic."

"Well, here's a kiss for you," say I, standing on tiptoe to
deliver it in the exuberance of my satisfaction, feeling for once
in my life, utterly and disgracefully conceited.

Marmaduke, however, appearing at this moment dangerously desirous
of taking me into his arms and giving me a hearty embrace, to the
detriment of my finery, I beat a hasty retreat, and go off to
exhibit myself to mamma and Dora.

His Grace the Duke of Chillington and Lady Alicia Slate-Gore have
arrived. The rooms begin to look gay and very full. His Grace
a--well-preserved gentleman, of unknown age--adjusts his glass
more carefully in his right eye, and coining over, requests from
me the pleasure of the first quadrille. I accept, and begin to
regard myself as an important personage. I glance at myself in
one of the long mirrors that line the walls, and seeing therein a
slender figure, robed in velvet and literally flashing with
diamonds, I appear good in my eyes, and feel a self-satisfied
smirk stealing over my countenance.

I am dimly conscious that darling mother is sitting on a sofa
somewhat distant from me, looking as pretty as possible and
absolutely flushed with pride and pleasure as she beholds me and
my illustrious partner.

Dora, a little further down, is positively delicious in white
silk and pink coral--the coral being mine. Her still entertaining
for me the old grudge does not prevent her borrowing of me freely
such things as she deems may suit her child-like beauty; while I,
unable to divest myself of the idea that in some way I have
wronged her, and that but for me all these things she borrows
would by right be hers, lend to her lavishly from all that I
possess.

To-night, however, in spite of the bewitching simplicity of her
appearance, I feel no jealous pangs. "For this night only," I
will consider myself as charming as Dora.

"Rather think it will be a severe season. You hunt?" asks his
Grace, in rather high, jerky tones, having come to the
conclusion, I presume, that he ought to say something.

I answer him to the intent that I do not; that in fact--lowering
to my pride as it may be to confess it--I would rather be afraid
to do so.

He regards me with much interest and approval.

"Quite right; quite right," he says. "Ladies are--ha--charming
you know, of course, and that--but in a hunting-field--a
mistake."

I laugh, and suggest amiably he is not over-gallant.

"No--no? really! Have I said anything rude? Can't apply to you,
you know, Mrs. Carrington, as you say you have no ambition to be
in at the death. Women, as a rule, never _are_, you know; they
are generally in a drain by that time; and if a man sees them,
unless he wants to be considered a brute for life, he must stop
and pull 'em out It takes nice feelings to do that gracefully,
and with a due regard to proper language, in the middle of a good
run. Charming girl, Miss Beatoun."

"Very."

"Pretty girl, too, in white silk and the coral."

"You mean my sister?"

"Indeed indeed? You must excuse the openness of my observations.
I would never have guessed at the relationship. Can't discern the
slightest family resemblance."

He says this so emphatically that I understand him to mean he
considers me far inferior to Dora. I begin to think his Grace an
obtuse and undesirable person, sadly wanting in discrimination.
No doubt he is thinking my plainness only to be equalled by my
dullness. I wish impatiently the quadrille would begin and get
itself over, that I may be rid of him, more especially as I am
longing with a keenness that belongs alone to youth, for a waltz
or a galop, or anything fast and inspiriting.

At last the band strikes up and we take our places.  Marmaduke
(who is dancing with Lady Alicia Slate-Gore) and I are the only
untitled people in the set. Nevertheless, as I look at my husband
I think to myself, with a certain satisfaction, that not one
among us has an appearance so handsome or so distinguished as
his.

The quadrille being at an end, Sir Mark Gore instantly claims me
for the coming waltz, and, as I place my hand very willingly upon
his arm, whispers:---

"You are like an old picture. I cannot take my eyes off you. Who
told you to dress yourself like that?"

"Myself. Is it not nice?" I ask, eagerly, casting another
surreptitious glance at my youthful form as we move near a glass.
"Don't you think it becoming?"

"If I told you all I thought," he exclaims, eagerly then,
checking himself with an effort, and a rather forced laugh,
continues--"you might perhaps read me a lecture."

"Not I: I am not in the mood for lectures. I feel half
intoxicated with excitement and pleasure, as though nothing could
have power to annoy or vex me to-night. The very music thrills
me."

"You remind me of Browning's little lady,---

 'She was the smallest lady alive:
 Made in a piece of nature's madness.
 _Too_ small almost for the life and gladness
 That over-filled her.'

You remember her?"

"Am I the 'smallest lady alive?' Why, see, I am quite up to your
shoulder. You insult me, sir. Come, dance, _dance_, or I will
never forgive you."

He passes his arm round my waist, and in another moment we are
waltzing.

Did I ever dance before, I wonder? Or is this some new sensation?
I hardly touch the ground; my heart--my very pulses--beat in
unison with the perfect music.

I stop, breathless, flushed, radiant, and glance up at Sir Mark,
with parted, smiling lips, as though eager to hear him say how
delightful he too has found it.

He is a little pale, I fancy, and answers my smile rather slowly.

"Yes, it has been _more_ than pleasant," he says, divining and
answering my thought.

He is not enthusiastic; and I am dissatisfied.

"You don't _look_" I say with inquisitive reproach, "as though
you enjoyed it one bit."

A curious smile passes over Sir Mark's face.

"Don't I?" he replies, quietly.

"No. Decidedly the reverse even. Of _course_"--with a
considerable amount of pique--"You could have found plenty of
better dancers among the people here."

"Perhaps I could; although you must permit me to doubt it. I only
know I would rather have you for a partner than any one else in
the room."

I am not proof against flattery, A smile is born and grows
steadily round my lips, until at length my whole face beams.

"Well, you might try to _appear_ more contented," I say, with a
last feeble attempt at remonstrance. "When I get what I want I
always look pleased."

"I know you do. But I am a thankless being; the more I get the
more I want. When a man is starving, to give him a _little_ only
adds to the pangs he suffers---"

The last bars of the waltz died out with a lingering wailing
sigh. A little hush falls. . . . Sir George Ashurst, coming up,
offers me his arm.

"You will let me put my name down for another before you go?"
asks Sir Mark, hurriedly, following us a few steps.

I hand him my card. "Keep it for me," I say, "until after the
dance. You can then return it."

"May I have the next after this?" very eagerly.

I glance at him over my shoulder. "Yes--if I am disengaged, and
you care for it," I make answer, forgetful of my character as
hostess, of the world's tongue, of everything but the sweet
gayety of the present hour.

---

The night wears on. Already it is one hour past midnight. Sir
Mark is again my partner.

Up to this the evening has fully answered my fondest
expectations. I have danced incessantly. I have been utterly,
thoughtlessly happy. Now a slight contraction about the soles of
my feet warns me I begin to experience fatigue.

Sir Mark leads me towards a conservatory, dimly lit and
exquisitely arranged, at the door of which I stand to bestow a
backward glance upon the ball-room.

At a considerable distance I can discern Bebe standing beside
Lord Chandos. It is without doubt an interval in their dance, but
they are not talking. Miss Beautoun's head is slightly inclined
_from_ her companion, and it is evident to me she has mounted an
exceedingly high horse. Nevertheless, to see her with him at all
gratifies me; as it is surely a step in the right direction.

Dora is waltzing with a "Heavy," and I can see Sir George
glowering upon them from a remote corner. Dora sees him also, and
instantly smiles tenderly into her dragoon's light-blue eyes.
This too looks promising. My spirits go up another degree, and I
indulge in a low pleased laugh.

"Still revelling in bliss, Mrs. Carrington?" Sir Mark's voice
recalls me. "No flaw as yet?"

"Not one. Of course not. What a ridiculous question!  I told you
nothing should interfere with my enjoyment this evening. Yet,
stay"--with a demure and dejected shake of the head: "every now
and then I _am_ troubled with a faint regret."

"And it--is---"

"That all this must some time come to an end. There, is not that
a haunting thought?"

I laugh, so does he.

"I shall have plenty of it in the spring," I continue, presently.
"'Duke says I shall go to London then."

"And so lose the keen sense of pleasure you now possess. What a
mistake! Take my advice, and don't go through a London season."

"What stupid advice. Indeed I _shall_, and enjoy it too, I am
only longing for the time to come round. I shall be dreaming of
it from now until then."

"You are bent on rushing wildly to your fate," says he, smiling.
"Well, do so, and rue it later on. When you come to look on
dancing, not as a good thing in itself, but merely as a means to
an end, remember I warned you."

"I will remember nothing," I say, saucily, "except that I am at
this moment without a care in the world.  Come, let us go in."

Sir Mark hesitates.

"Shall we finish the dance first?"

"No," I am looking longingly into the cool green light of the
conservatory beyond me. "See how delicious it is in there. Let us
find a seat."

Still he hesitates, as though unwilling to move in the desired
direction.

"It seems a pity to lose this music," he says. "Afterwards we
could rest."

I turn my eyes mischievously upon him.

"_Who?_ is keen about dancing now?" I ask, gayly. "Not _I_. For
my part, I pine for a sofa. As you _will_ have it, I confess I am
just a little wee bit tired."

We walk on through the outer nest of flowers into the smaller one
beyond, which is if anything dimlier lit, calmer, more subtly
perfumed. The nameless fragrance is everywhere, the splash,
splash of a small fountain falls soothingly on the ear; the
music, though distinct, is strangely, dreamily distant.

Some tall shrubs are dispersed here and there; behind them cozy
seats are hidden; shadows of a darker shade envelope them.

As with purposeless steps I pass by a rather larger one of these
I suddenly find myself face to face with Lady Blanche Going
and--Marmaduke.

Now there is no earthly reason why they should not be here alone
together; hundreds of other couples, tired and warm from dancing,
have probably done the same; yet, as my eyes fall upon them, a
strange feeling that is partly anger, partly pain, troubles me.
All my gay wild spirits sink and disappear. I know my face has
lost its vivacity and expresses only surprise and chagrin.

As my glance fastens more directly upon Duke, I see he too is
looking unlike himself. There is a dark, almost fierce expression
in his eyes; his lips are compressed. A slight movement of the
thin nostrils as he draws his breath tells me he is evidently
suppressing some strong emotion.

Her ladyship, exquisitely lovely in deep cream-colored silk, with
something scarlet in her dark hair, is nestling among the crimson
cushions of the lounge, and does not deign to raise herself as we
approach. Her eyes are a degree larger, more languid than usual;
her complexion, always good, is perfect in this soft light. Her
fan is in my husband's hands.

It is impossible for me, without being guilty of positive
rudeness, to turn and leave them without a word. I stand,
therefore, silent, a pale, slight child, next to her, in all her
supercilious beauty--with little of the woman about me except my
trailing velvet and golden ring, and glittering, gleaming jewels.

"Are you having a good time, Mrs. Carrington?" asks Lady Blanche,
sweetly.

"Very, thank you," with extreme coldness. "I had no idea I could
enjoy anything so much."

"You _look_ happy," with increased amiability and a soft,
indulgent smile, such as one would use toward an excitable child.
"I suppose you still find pleasure in dancing?"

"Yes. I believe I have a good many years yet to run before I
must, for decency's sake, declare myself tired of it."

"Until you are quite an old married woman like me? Yes," with
much complacency. "You are fortunate in your partner. All the
world acknowledges Sir Mark to be above praise--in the dancing
line. Even I"--with a sudden and to _me_ utterly inexplicable
glance at the gentleman in question--"can remember how desirable
he used to be."

Dead silence, and a slight bow on the part of Sir Mark.

"Indeed?" say I, turning a smile of exaggerated friendliness upon
him. "Then consider how doubly good it is of him to waste _so
much_ of his time upon a mere novice like me."

I hardly know what prompts this speech. Perhaps a faint
remembrance of how at certain times, when conversing with Mark
Gore, I have looked across the rooms or gardens, or wherever we
might chance to be, and seen a glance that was almost hatred fall
on me from her ladyship's eyes. Now, however, my spiteful little
speech has no greater effect than to cause Marmaduke's fingers to
close with vicious force around the painted satin toy he holds.

Why does he not speak? Why will he not even suffer his gaze to
meet mine? I feel angry and reckless. He is sitting a little
forward, with his head slightly bent and a determined expression
upon his face. Is he anxious for my departure? Have I disturbed
his interesting _tete-a-tete!_

I will show him how little power he has over me for either joy or
sorrow.

I turn away, and with a backward careless nod at Lady Blanche,
say lightly,---

"Take care you don't suffer for sitting there. There are so
_many_ draughts in a conservatory, _We_ even consider the open
air safer."

And with that, though it was by no means my original intention, I
go out through the glass door into the silent starlight night,
and even manage to laugh gayly before we are beyond earshot.

As we touch the gravel, however, I face Sir Mark, and, foolishly
unmindful of how my words may impress him, cry fiercely, "Did you
bring me there on purpose?"

"_Where?_" he asks, with such wide astonishment as instantly
brings me to my senses. I feel overpowered with shame, and try to
turn it off, clumsily enough.

"Into Lady Blanche's presence," I say, fretfully. "You _know_
that woman always puts me out."

"Was it not yourself who _insisted_ on going there?" Sir Mark
reminds me, gravely.

"True," I reply, and then I laugh a little, and, taking higher
ground, continue, "You are horrified at my ill temper, are you
not? And indeed I have behaved disgracefully. After all, I don't
know why I should feel bitterly towards her; it is a mere
unfounded prejudice on my part. You think me wretchedly pettish?"

"I do not, indeed," very quietly. "Of course I can fully
understand how utterly impossible it would be for you and Blanche
Going to have a single idea in common."

"She is so clever you mean," with a small frown.

"She is such an _intrigante_, I mean," replies my companion,
quite coolly.

"Let us go in, it is cold," I say, with a quick shiver. So we go
round by the hall door, and soon again find ourselves in the
ball-room. As we enter I determinately put from me all thought of
'Duke's dark, passionate face. I _will_ be happy. I _will_ wrench
from the flying hours all they have worth taking. Why should I
care, who never really loved, whether or not he finds contentment
in another woman's society.

---

I am tired, and somewhat dispirited. The rooms are growing
thinner. A voice at my side makes me start and turn.

"If not engaged, will you give me this?" asks 'Duke,
ceremoniously.

"Certainly, if you _wish_ it. But are you so _badly_ off for a
partner? To dance with one's wife must be--to say the least of
it--insipid."

He makes no reply, but places his arm around my waist in silence.
It is a waltz.

"Do you know this is the first time I ever danced with you?" I
say, struck myself by the oddness of the idea.

"I know." And in another moment we are keeping time to one of the
dreamiest airs of Strauss. No, not even Mark Gore is a better
dancer than Marmaduke.

When we have taken just one bare turn round the room, 'Duke stops
short and leads me on to a balcony that by some chance is vacant.

"There! I won't inflict myself upon you any longer," he says,
quietly. "You dance very well. After all practice has nothing to
do with it. Will you sit down? Or shall I find you a partner for
the remainder of this waltz?"

"Are you in such a hurry to be gone?"

"No; certainly not," seating himself beside me.

Silence.

"I really wish, Marmaduke," I burst out, petulantly, "you would
say what has aggrieved you, instead of sitting there frowning and
glowering at one and making people feel uncomfortable If you want
to scold me, do so. I dare say I shall survive it."

This piece of impertinence rouses no wrath in the person
addressed, and draws no reply.

"Well, what is it?" I go on. "I have been _quite_ happy all the
evening--until now. Every one else has been civil to me. If you
_must_ be disagreeable, be so at once. What have I done?"

"I have accused you of nothing, Phyllis."

"No"--in an agitated tone--"I wish you would. I might then know
why you are looking so cross."

"Of course I am quite aware you can be supremely happy without
me. There was no necessity for you to hint at it so broadly."

"And you _cannot_ without _me_, I suppose? You appeared very
comfortable in the conservatory some time ago."

"Did I" with a quick return of the angry expression he had then
worn. "My face belied me then. I could hardly feel comfortable
when I saw you laying yourself open to the ill-natured comments
of the entire room."

"What do you mean Marmaduke?"

"You know what I mean. Is it the correct thing to dance the whole
evening with one man!"

"What man?"

"Gore, of course. Every one remarked it. I wish you would try to
be a little more dignified, and remember how censorious is the
world in which we are living."

"Do you want me to understand that _you_ think I was _flirting_
with Sir Mark Gore?" I am literally trembling with indignation.

"No, I merely wish you to see how foolishly you have acted."

"Was it with such base insinuations against your wife Lady
Blanche amused you to night? Do you think it was becoming conduct
on your part to listen to such lies being uttered without
rebuke?"

I have risen, and, with folded hands and white lips, am looking
down upon him.

"Phyllis! How can you suppose that I would listen calmly to _any
one_ who could speak evil of _you?_"

"I can readily suppose anything after what you have said. Is it
not worse of _you_ to _think_ evil of me? _Flirting!_  _You_
beyond all people are in a position to acquit me of that. I had
plenty of opportunities: did I ever flirt with you?"

"You did not, indeed. I tell you I don't for a moment suspect you
of such a thing; only---"

Here, looking up, we both became aware of Sir Mark's approach. He
is still some distance from us.

"Are you engaged to him for this, Phyllis?" asks my husband, in a
low hurried tone.

"Yes."

"Don't dance it, then," imploringly. "Say you will not, if only
to oblige me."

"Why? What excuse can I offer? You ask me to be rude to him, and
yet give no reason why I should be so."

"You intend dancing it with him then?" sternly.

"Certainly," in a freezing tone.

"Very good. Do so." And, turning on his heel, he walks quietly
and slowly away.

"I fear I have displaced a better man," says Sir Mark, lightly,
as he joins me. "Will you forgive me? I could not resist
reminding you of your promise of this."

"I fear I must undo that promise," I return, gayly. "I am really
fatigued. To dance with me now would be no advantage to any one."

"Am I to thank Carrington for this disappointment?  Was he
fearful of your being over-tired?" He is courteous as ever, yet
it seems to me the very faintest suspicion of a sneer comes to
his lips--so faint that a moment later I doubt it has ever been.

"No," I return, calmly. "You give him credit for too much
thoughtfulness. So far from dreaming of fatigue, he even asked me
just now to dance with him--was not that self-denying of
him?--but I only took one small turn. You forget I am not yet in
proper training. I have had very little practice in my time."

"Let me get you an ice. No? Some champagne, then? Iced water?"

"Nothing thank you."

"At least let me stay and talk to you."

"I shall be glad of that. You never met any one with such a
rooted objection to her own society as I have," I answer,
laughing.

Then the strain loosens; the smile dies off my lips.  How
ardently do I long to be alone! Why does not this man get up and
leave me? At all events, Marmaduke will see I have repented of my
ill temper, and am not dancing.

As I sit moodily staring through the window at the gay scene
within, it so happens the Duke of Chillington, with one or two
other men, passes slowly by.

"Our cousin of Chillington," says Sir Mark, with an amused
air--he is a second cousin of his Grace--"has expressed himself
enraptured with his hostess."

I raise my eyebrows and betray some slight surprise.

"I think you must mistake. When speaking to him, in the earlier
part of the evening, he gave me to understand--politely, it is
true, but none the less plainly--that he considered me a very
mediocre sort of person."

"In that case I fear we must believe his lordship to be an arch
old hypocrite, as he told _me_ he thought your manner and
expression above all praise."

"Well, I think him a very stupid old gentleman," I reply,
ungraciously.

Sir Mark turns his eyes upon me thoughtfully.

"Have you found that 'little rift' after all, Mrs. Carrington?"
asks he gravely.

"Yes--I suppose so," with impatience. Really the man grows very
tiresome. "I must have been mad to hope we wretched mortals could
have five whole hours of unbroken happiness."

"True:

 'Every white must have its blacke,

 And every sweete its soure.'"

"Another quotation?" superciliously. I am not in an amiable mood.
"You seem to have them ready for all emergencies. How closely you
must attend to your poetical studies! How fond of them you must
be!"

"I am. Does that surprise you? Do you find a difficulty in
associating me with polite verse?"

He has his elbow on his knee; his fingers caress his heavy black
mustache. He is regarding me with the profoundest interest.

"I really never thought about it," I return, wearily, with a
rather petulant movement of the head.

Oh that this hateful ball was at an end!

---

The last guest has departed. We of the household have gone up to
our rooms. Now that it is all over, I feel strangely inclined to
sit down and have a good cry. In the solitude of my own room
Marmaduke's words and glances come back to me, making me
miserable, now that excitement is no longer at hand to help me to
forget. One by one they return with cruel clearness.

If he would only come up from that horrid smoking-room and be
good-natured once more and make friends with me! I think I could
forgive and forget everything, and look upon the remembrance of
this ball with much delight and satisfaction.

My slight jealously of Blanche Going has disappeared, and weighs
not at all in the scale with my other miseries.  Indeed, I have
almost forgotten the incident in which she figured.

Hark! a distant door bangs. Now surely he is coming. Will He
enter my room first, I wonder, to speak to me as he always does?
Or will he at once shut himself morosely into his dressing-room?

Steps upon the stairs, steps along the corridor. A laugh.

"Good-night" from Sir Mark Gore. "Good-night," heartily returned
by Marmaduke. Bah! how needlessly I have worried myself! He is
not angry at all. If he can jest and talk so easily with the
cause of all our dispute, he can certainly entertain no bitter
thoughts towards me.

I hear Marmaduke cross the inside room and approach mine. I feel
confident he is coming to "make it up" with me. I turn my chair
so as to face the door and be ready to meet him half-way in the
reconciliation; though--lest he may think me too eager--I find it
my duty to let a gently aggrieved shadow fall upon my face.

The door opens, and he comes in, walks deliberately to my
dressing-table, lights a candle, and then, without so much as a
glance at the fireplace, where I sit, prepares to return to his
room.

"Marmaduke!" I cry, in dismay, springing to my feet.

He stops and regards me coldly.

"Do you want me? Can I do anything for you?"

"'Duke! how can you be so unkind, so unforgiving, so--so cruel to
me?" I exclaim, going a little nearer, a suspicion of tears in my
voice, large visible drops in my eyes.  "Are you going away
without saying one word to me?"

"What _have_ I to say? You have left me nothing.  When last we
spoke I asked you to do a very simple thing to please me, and you
refused."

"I know. But afterwards I was sorry. I--you must have seen--I did
not mean to vex you."

"I saw nothing. The knowledge of what I _was_ to see in defiance
of my entreaty was not reassuring, I left the ball-room then and
did not return to it again. I was glad there was no necessity why
I should do so: they were all going."

"Then you do not know--I did not dance with Sir Mark--after all?"
I ask, eagerly, laying the bare tips of my fingers upon his arm.

"No!" laying down the candle, while his color grows a shade
deeper. "Did you refuse him, then?"

"Yes; I said I was too tired; I said---"

"Oh! Phyllis! darling--darling!" cries 'Duke, catching me in his
arms before I can finish my confession, and straining me to his
heart.

"So you see you need not have been so very cold to me," I whisper
from this safe retreat, feeling much relieved. It is positive
torture to me to quarrel with any one.

"Forgive me, my own. It is our first disagreement; it shall be
our last. What a miserable hour and a half I might have spared
myself had I but known!"

"But 'Duke, you said I behaved foolishly all the evening."

"Never mind what I said."

"But I must know who put it into your head. Was it Blanche
Going?"

"She said something about it, certainly. It was a mere careless
remark she made, but it struck me. I don't believe she knew she
said it."

"I guessed rightly, then. That woman hates me. She was trying to
make mischief between you and I."

"Oh, no, darling. Do not misjudge her. I am convinced she had no
hidden meaning in what she said. It was only a passing word, and
probably I took it up wrongly.  She has no thought for you but
kindness."

"Then I don't like her kindness, and I will not have you
listening to her remarks about me. She never says anything
without a meaning. You do not think I was flirting, 'Duke?"

"My darling, of course not. No; but I love you so dearly it is
positive agony to imagine any one _might_, by chance,
misinterpret your conduct."

"And you will never be cross to me again?"

"Never."

"And you are deeply grieved you behaved so infamously to me?"

"I am indeed."

"And I looked lovely _all_ the evening?"

"I never beheld anything half so lovely."

"And I dance very nicely?"

"Beautifully. Quito like a fairy." Whereupon we both laugh
merrily, and anger and resentment are forgotten.



CHAPTER XXIII.

We are all more or less late for breakfast next morning, Mr.
Thornton being the only one who exhibits much symptom of life. He
is, if possible, a degree gayer, more sprightly than usual, and
talks incessantly to any one who will be kind enough to listen to
him.

"I do think a ball in a country-house the most using-up thing I
know," he says, helping himself generously to cold game-pie. "It
is twice the fun of a town affair, but it knocks one up--no doubt
of it--makes a fellow feel so seedy and languid, and ruins the
appetite."

"I think you will do uncommonly well if you finish what you have
there," remarks Sir Mark, languidly.

Thornton roars: so does Billy.

"You have me there," says Chips. "I ought to have known better
than to introduce _that_ subject. My appetite is my weak point."

"Your strong point, I suppose you mean," puts in Sir Mark,
faintly amused.

"I think the worse thing about a country ball is this," says
Bebe; "one feels so lonely, so purposeless, when it is over. In
town one will probably be going to another next evening; _here_
one can do nothing but regret past glories.  I wish it were all
going to happen, over again to-night."

"So do I," says Thornton, casting a sentimental glance at the
speaker. "I would go over every hour of it again gladly--old
maids and all--for the sake of the few minutes for the sake of
the few minutes of real happiness I enjoyed. There are _some_
people one could dance with _forever_."

Lord Chandos, raising his head, bestows a haughty stare upon the
youthful Chips, which is quite thrown away, as that gay young Don
is staring in turn, with all his might, and with the liveliest
admiration, at Miss Beatoun.

"Could you?" asks that fascinating person, innocently "Now I
could not; at least I think I would like to sit down now and
then. But, Phyllis, dear, seriously, I wish we were going to do
something out of the common this evening."

"Try charades or tableaux," suggests 'Duke brilliantly. "The very
thing! Tableaux let it be, by all means.  Marmaduke, no one can
say last night's dissipation has clouded your intellect. We will
have them in the library, where the folding-doors will come in
capitally."

"You used to be a great man at tableaux, Carrington," says Sir
George; "and I shall never forget seeing Lady Blanche once as
Guinevere."

Her ladyship raises her white lids and smiles faintly.

"You were Lancelot, Gore, on that occasion," continues this
well-meaning but blundering young man. "You remember, eh?"

"Distinctly--quite as if it happened yesterday," replies Sir
Mark, with a studied indifference little suited to the emphatic
words. "Have some of this hot cake, Thornton? You are eating
nothing."

"Thanks: I don't know but I will," says Chips, totally unabashed.
"You could hardly give me anything I like so well as hot cake for
breakfast."

"You will make a point of remembering that, I trust, Mrs.
Carrington," says Sir Mark, gravely.

"Phyllis, you would look such a good Desdemona," says Bebe, who
is now fairly started. "I am sure she must have been _very_ young
to let herself be beguiled into a marriage with that horrid
Othello."

"And who would represent the Moor?"

"Sir Mark, I suppose: he looks more like it than any one else."

"You flatter me, Miss Beatoun," murmurs Sir Mark, with a slight
bow.

"Oh, I only mean you are darker than any of the others, except
James, and I am sure he never could look sufficiently ferocious,"
answers Bebe, laughing.

"And you think I can?"

"You will have to. When we have blackened you a little, and bent
your eyebrows into a murderous scowl, and made you look
thoroughly odious, you will do very well."

"How one _does_ enjoy the prospect of tableaux. I rather think I
shall rival Salvini by the time I am out of your hands."

"I hope not. I can't bear Salvini," says Harriet, mildly.

"That is going rather far, Harry. Why don't you say you can't
bear his figure? We _might_ believe that."

"But I don't want to be smothered," I protest, nervously.

"Oh, you _must_ submit to that. When people hear of 'a scene from
"Othello"' they immediately think of pillows. They would consider
they had been done out of something if we gave them a mere court
part. We will have you just dying, murmuring your last poor
little words, with Sir Mark looking as if he were longing to try
the effect of the bolster next, and Miss Vernon, as Emilia,
kneeling beside you."

"Now, that is what I call a downright cheerful picture," says
Marmaduke.

"_I_ call it high tragedy," replies Miss Beatoun, reprovingly.
"_Will_ you be Emilia, Miss Vernon?"

"I will help you in any way I can," says Dora, with her usual
gentle amiability.

"You would make a capital Beatrice, Bebe," says Marmaduke. "We
might have a good scene from 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Who will
be Benedick? Now, don't all speak at once."

"I think it would suit me," says Chips, very modestly.

We all laugh heartily.

"You grow modest, Mr. Thornton," says Sir Mark. "I fear you must
be ill. Try a little of this honey; you will find it excellent."

"No, thanks. I feel I shall be able to pull through now until
luncheon."

"Let us go into the library and arrange everything," I suggest,
eagerly; and we all rise and go there.

By degrees, as the afternoon advances, the men show symptoms of
fatigue and drop off one by one, while we women still keep
together to discuss the all-engrossing idea.

Curious odds and ends of old-world finery are dragged from remote
closets and brought to light. Clothes that once adorned
Marmaduke's ancestors are now draped around young white arms and
necks, and draw forth peals of laughter from the lookers-on.

"But we must have an audience," suggests: Bebe, at length, rather
blankly, stopping short, with her hands in the air, from which
hangs down an ancient embroidered robe.

"True. How shall we manage that?"

"Send a groom instantly with invitations to the Hastings, the
Leslies, and the De Veres, and the Cuppaidges. I am positive they
are all dying of _ennui_ this moment, and will hail with rapture
any chance of escape from it. They will all come; and the Leslies
have two or three really very presentable young men staying with
them."

"Yes, that will be best. Dora, will you go and write the notes
for me? Now, would it not be a good thing to exclude all the
non-players from our council?"

"Oh," says Harriet, "then _I_ must go."

"No, no, Harry, we can't do without you," cry I, imploringly;
"you must stay. We could not get on without some head to guide us
and soothe down disappointed actors. You shall be wardrobe-woman
and chief secretary and prime minister and stage manager all in
one."

"Yes," says Bebe, who has got herself into the ancient robe by
this; "and head-centre and peacemaker, and all that sort of
thing. Now, don't I look sweet in this flowered gown? Ah! what
interesting creatures our great-great-grandmothers must have
been! It almost makes me long to be a great-great-grand mother
myself."

"But your salary--your salary: state your terms," says Harriet.
"I cannot be all that you have mentioned for nothing."

"For love, dearest: call you _that_ nothing?" replies Bebe, as
she struts up and down before a long glass.

Presently darling mother, who has slept at Strangemore and
breakfasted in her room, comes creeping in, and a dispute arises
as to whether she must be excluded from the cabinet and sent into
exile until night reveals our secrets. But she is so amused at
everything, and has grown so young and gay in the absence of her
bugbear, that we make an exception in her favor also; and, as she
has a real talent for dressing people, and would have made an
invaluable ladies' maid, had her lot been cast so low, we find
her very useful later on.

The invitations are despatched, and acceptances from all brought
back; every one, it appears, will be delighted to come and
witness our success or failure, as the case may be.  These polite
replies cause us faint pangs of consternation largely tinctured
with timidity, making us conscious that we are regularly in for
something: that much is expected of us; and that, after all, the
performance may prove "flat, stale, and unprofitable."

All through dinner we--the intended victims, are mysterious, not
to say depressed; while Sir James Handcock, the two men from the
Barracks, and Sir George Ashurst make mild jokes at our expense,
and wish us safely out of it.

At nine the guests arrive; at half-past nine all is in readiness;
the audience is seated, the impromptu curtains are drawn up, and
"Rebecca laying the jewels at Rowena's feet" stands revealed.

Lady Blanche Going, as the Jewess, is looking positively
beautiful, as kneeling at Dora's feet, in many colored garments
of crimson and gold and such gorgeous shades, with much gleaming
of precious stones, she gazes with saddened curiosity in the face
above her; while Dora, raising her veil--my wedding veil--with
uplifted arms to look down on her, presents such a contrast, with
her dead white robe and fair babyish face, to the darker beauty's
more glowing style as takes the audience by storm.

The applause is loud and lengthened; and Sir George Ashurst's
enthusiasm reaches such a pitch that when it subsides he has to
retire to his room in search of another pair of gloves.

The curtain rises for the second time on Lady Blanche again and
Sir Mark Gore as "The Huguenots." This, too, is highly
successful, albeit her ladyship is too dark for the part.

Everybody agrees that Sir Mark, with the sorrowfully determined
expression on his face, is perfect; while Lady Blanche astonishes
some of us by the amount of passionate pleading she throws into
her eye.

And now comes a hitch. The third tableau on which we have decided
is "The Last Appeal." There has been considerable difficulty
about the arrangement of this from the beginning, and now at the
last moment Sir Mark Gore vows he will have nothing to do with
it.

"I couldn't do it," he says, throwing out his hands.  "There is
no use urging a fellow. I could look murderous.  I might look
sentimental: I could not appeal. I won't, and that's all about
it. They will say there are no more actors if you send me on
again so soon; and besides, those breeches don't fit me. They
will go on Chandos; let him take my part."

"How disobliging you are!" says Miss Beatoun, flushing. "Then I
won't be the person appealed to. I did not want to, all along. It
is too bad I should get no parts but those in which rags and ugly
dresses are worn. I shall have to do Cinderella presently in
tatters, and in this I have only a short gown, and nasty thick
shoes and a pitcher."

"What nonsense!" say I. "You know every one said you looked
delicious with that little handkerchief across your shoulders.
Lord Chandos, go and dress yourself directly, as Sir Mark will
not."

"Of what use is it," says Chandos, quietly, "if Miss Beatoun
declines to act with me?"

"Acting with you has nothing to do with it," returns Bebe,
reddening perceptibly. "I only decline the 'old clo' part of it.
Consider how it hurts my vanity."

"Yet you would have worn them had Sir Mark kept his word," I say,
in an injured tone.

At this Lord Chandos looks expressively at Miss Beatoun, Miss
Beatoun looks witheringly at me, and Marmaduke, utterly innocent,
says persuasively:---

"Come now, Bebe, that's conclusive. Chandos will think you have
some reason for it if you persist in refusing."

At this unfortunate remark even I feel some dismay.  Considering
all that has passed between these two, and the nature of the
tableau in question, it _is_ unfortunate. Chandos and Bebe color
violently; the latter's fingers close with nervous force upon the
pretty short gown she is wearing and crumple it recklessly. The
loose cambric kerchief on her breast rises and falls with angry
motion. Chandos is evidently furious.

"I shall think nothing of the kind," he says, in a low, distinct
tone. "Miss Beatoun should be allowed to please herself. For my
part, I think it an odious scene and hackneyed to the last
degree."

"Still, as it is on the cards---" I murmur, weakly.

Marmaduke stares at me in wonderment, and then at Harriet, who is
also listening. We are every one of us thoroughly unpleasant.

Bebe laughs a rather forced laugh. "I wonder what our friends in
the dress circle are thinking all this time?" she says. "Lord
Chandos, go and put on your things and don't let us keep them
waiting any longer."

"That's right," exclaims Marmaduke, much relieved, moving away to
another group in the distance engaged in a hot dispute. Still
Chandos lingers.

"I am sorry for this," he says to Bebe, in a low tone, almost
haughtily. "But it is not yet too late. If the idea is so
detestable to you, then give it up now, and I will support you."

"Why should it be distasteful to me?" very coldly. "I will make
no further objections."

"I hope you exonerate me. I could not help it. I am more vexed
about it than you can be."

"I think you might have said emphatically just at first you did
not wish it. However, it does not matter."

"How could I? Such a remark would have been an implied rudeness
to you."

"Then I wish you had been rude."

"You are unreasonable, Miss Beatoun," says his lordship, stiffly.
Then in a still lower tone, "There are few things I would not do
for you, but that is not one of them."

"I think you had better go and put on those garments Sir Mark
rejected. We can finish the argument later on," murmurs Bebe,
turning away, with a half-smile, and, Lord Chandos hurrying over
his toilet, we have them on our miniature stage sooner than we
dared to hope.

But, though they gave in to their own wishes, or rather to their
own pride, the performance is a failure, for, though Bebe
certainly manages to look the very personification of hardened
persistency, Lord Chandos by no means comes up to our idea of the
appealing and despairing adorer, and altogether there is a stony
finish about it that nobody admires.  The spectators are, indeed,
polite, and say all manner of pretty things, but they say them
from the lips alone, which is palpable and not satisfactory.

And now comes my turn. The "British public," as Mr.  Thornton
persists on calling our very select audience, is requested to
turn its kind attention on Tennyson's "Sleeping Princess,"
wrapped in mystic slumber. I am the Sleeping Princess, it having
struck me in the early part of the day that this _role_,
requiring little beyond extreme inaction, would exactly suit me,
and cause me less trepidation.

Upon a crimson lounge, clad all in white, I lie, my long fair
brown hair scattered across the cushions and falling to the
ground beside me. One hand is thrown above my head, the other
hangs listlessly, sleepily, downwards; a deep-red rose has
dropped from it, and now blushes, half lost, amidst the tresses
on the floor.

Sir Mark, in the character of the Prince, leans over me as though
in the act of giving the caress that brings me back from
dreamland. His face, I know, is near--so near that, between
nervousness and shrinking, I feel a mad desire to break into
forbidden laughter; so much so that when the curtain falls I am
more than thankful.

Slowly it descends, and as I hear it touch the stage, I
cautiously open my eyes--to find Sir Mark has not yet raided
himself from his stooping posture.

My eyes look straight into his. There are literally only few
inches between his face and mine, and I fancy I can discern a
treacherous gleam in them. Something masterful, too, in his
expression, as though he would say, "I could an' I would,"
strikes me. Instantly I resent it, and springing to my feet,
stand back from him, crimson with indignation and some undefined
fear.

There is no time for words, had I even the desire to speak, which
I have not, as at this moment Lady Blanche Going and Marmaduke
come from behind the scenes to congratulate us.  I try to recover
myself hurriedly, but it is too late; my red cheeks and
frightened, half shamed eyes attract their notice; and Marmaduke,
glancing from me to Sir Mark, regards us earnestly, coloring very
slowly himself the while.

"Oh!" exclaims her ladyship, starting, and assuming an air of
surprise; then, with an affected laugh, "How foolish of me? But
really for the moment, on account of your attitudes and
stillness, I fancied I had come on too soon, and that you were
still acting."

"How completely you must have forgotten the subject of the late
tableau!" replies Sir Mark, in a very calm tone, fixing her with
his wonderful keen, dark eyes.

Some instinct of evil makes me go and stand close to Marmaduke.

"Was it a success?" I ask, nervously.

"Without doubt," says 'Duke, rousing himself. "You look fatigued,
Phyllis; come and have some wine."

I take his arm and go with him gladly.

"Did anything vex you, darling?" he asks me, quietly, as we go
into the next room.

"No; it was imagination. I did not know his face was quite so
close, and, in consequence, when I opened my eyes I got a start.
It was ridiculous of me."

"Was that all?"

"Yes, that was all." I laugh, though in a rather spiritless way,
and feel angry with myself for the vague restraint that is quite
discernible in my manner while Marmaduke pours me out some
claret-cup, without asking any more questions.

"'Duke--Marmaduke--where are you? Oh, cone, come," cries Bebe,
looking in, "we are all waiting for you.  How can I pose properly
until you get me the slipper?  You said you had it somewhere."

So 'Duke flies, and I, putting from me my small vexation, which
even already appears half fanciful, follow him to the sides, to
see how they look before the curtain rises.

Cinderella (Bebe), clad in picturesque rags, is represented in
the act of flying, leaving behind her the magical slipper, which
Master Chips is eagerly stooping to pick up. He makes a veritable
"Prince Charming," in his scarlet cloak and long silk
stockings--got no one knows how--and cap and feathers; while
Bebe, glancing backwards in her flight to mark the fate of her
shoe, casts upon him a bewitching languishing gaze that
(supposing the original Cinderella to be capable of such another)
must have had more to do with her being Princess later on than
anything in the shape of a vow.

Then we close up Dora, as Constance de Beverley, into an
imaginary wall--the poor nun, with raised despairing eyes and
downward clasped hands, creating much sympathy.  Yet, none of us
feel sure this was the spirit in which the real Constance met her
doom; only, as the devotional tearful style suits Dora, we
conclude it was, and make no unwelcome inquiries; and every one
is charmed.

After this comes "Queen Eleanor presenting the agreeable choice
of the poisoned bowl or the dagger to the fair but frail
Rosamond," represented by Blanche Going and myself; at the
conclusion of which Bebe draws me aside to whisper, laughingly,
how Blanche had looked the part _con amore_.

"I would have given very little for your chance of life had there
been any reality about it," she says. "She looked--oh, she looked
as--if---" with a vicious clenching of her small fist, full of
meaning.

Bebe as a laughing saucy Beatrice, and Lord Chandos as Benedick,
makes a much happier tableau than their last, and eventually we
wind up with a scene from the "Queen's Maries" of Whyte Melville,
in which everybody generally is brought in, and where Blanche
Going, as Mary Stuart, in black velvet and the inevitable cap, is
the principal feature; though Bebe makes a very charming Seaton,
and even I feel some admiration on beholding Marmaduke as
Darnley.

With a sense of relief we come down from the stage and mingle
with our audience, accepting modestly the compliments showered
upon us from all sides.

Mother, who has not been inside a theatre since she was nineteen,
comes up to tell us it was the prettiest sight she ever saw, and
to compare us favorably with all the celebrated actors and
actresses of her time.

Presently we leave the scene of our triumphs and wander into the
great cool ball-room, where the decorations of the foregoing
evening are still to be seen. Then somebody orders in a piano,
and somebody else sits down and begins to play on it, and in
another minute or two we are all dancing.

"I don't believe poor Mary Hamilton ever had your laughing eyes,"
says Sir Mark to me, during a pause in the dance. "She must have
been a sadder, more sedate sort of person altogether. See how
differently love works in different people."

"You forget she was unhappy in hers. Besides"--saucily--"how do
you know love has anything to do with _my_ eyes?"

"I don't know, of course; am only supposing---"

"Never suppose. It is foolish, and--fatiguing. Though now we are
on the subject, Monsieur Chastelar, you shall give me your
definition of the words 'to love.' If we may accept Whyte
Melville's opinion of you, you must be a very competent judge."

"I have no theory of my own; I am a sceptic on that point. I will
give you the orthodox definition if you wish, which everybody--in
a novel--is bound to accept. It means, I fancy to merge your
existence so entirely in that of another as to obliterate oneself
and live only for him or her, as the case may be. Also, it would
be strictly necessary to feel lost and miserable in the absence
of the beloved one. You may call _that_ fatiguing if you please.
Do you like the picture? Horrible, isn't it?"

"Not only horrible, but impracticable, I should say. I might
manage to be supremely happy in the presence of the adored; I do
not think I could be 'miserable' exactly in his absence." Then
laughing, "Is that really 'pure love?'  If so, I am a sceptic
too. It would be absurdly weak-minded, and would confine one's
happiness to too little a world, to indulge in such a belief. It
must be wiser to take enjoyment as it comes in every way, and not
be so hopelessly dependant on one."

"I entirely agree with you. Indeed I fancy most people would
agree with you," replied Sir Mark, carelessly, looking straight
before him, with so much meaning in his gaze that instinctively I
follow it, until my eyes fall upon Lady Blanche Going, at the
other end of the room.

Evidently tired and flushed from dancing, she has sunk with lazy
grace into a low chair, and now, half turning, is laughing up
into Marmaduke's face as he leans solicitously over her. Even as
I look she raises her hand to repossess itself of the bouquet he
holds, and to my impatience it seems that an unnecessarily long
time elapses before the flowers go from his hand to hers.

My late careless frivolous words appear to mock me. Why does he
look at her like that? Why is he always by her side? Are there no
other women in the room?

I try to think of something gay and heartless to say to Sir Mark,
but just at the moment nothing will come to me.

Again the vague jealously of the evening before returns in
twofold force, and I bring my teeth rather tightly together.
After all Marmaduke said to me on the balcony last night about
making myself conspicuous with one, it is, to say the least of
it, rather inconsistent with his own behavior now.

What a perpetual simper that woman keeps up, merely to show the
whiteness of her teeth! How pleased 'Duke appears to be with her
inane conversation! Now if I had ever loved him this probably
would have vexed me, as it---

Bah! I _will_ think of something else.

I turn to Sir Mark, with a very successful little laugh.

"A living illustration of my text," I say, bending my head in my
husband's direction.

"Where? Oh! there." He stares at Lady Blanche reflectively for a
minute or so, and then says, "She is certainly good-looking."

"'Good-looking!' How very faint! Surely she is handsome. Are you
one of those who consider it impolitic to admire one woman to
another?"

"As a rule I believe it to be a mistake," replies he, coolly;
"but in this case I had no thought of policy. I am never quite
sure that I do think her ladyship handsome. That she is generally
thought so I admit. Marmaduke and she were always good friends."

"So I should say."

"At one time we imagined a _tendresse_ there, and dreamed of a
marriage, but, you see, 'Duke was bent on doing more wisely."

"Thanks. That is a pretty put. Was the _tendresse_ you speak of on
her side or his?"

"A mutual business, I fancy, if it existed at all. But, as we
made a mistake in the principal part of it, we probably did so in
all. Besides"_lightly_"I ought not to tell you all this Mrs.
Carrington. Tales out of school are malicious. Such mere
suppositions as they are too."

"Why surely I may congratulate myself on having gained a victory
over so much beauty? It would be a pity to deny me this little
gratification."

Nevertheless, at heart, I am sorely vexed, and, through pique and
wounded feeling, make myself more than agreeable to Sir Mark for
the evening. Not once does 'Duke come near me; nor does he even
appear to notice my wilful flirtation.

Just before we break up, indeed, finding myself near to him in
the supper-room, a strange desire to test his real mind towards
me, to compel him to pay me some attention, seizes me. He is as
usual in close attendance on Blanche Going, who has kept him
chained to her side--willingly chained, without doubt--during the
greater part of the evening.

Having dismissed my partner on some pretext, I look straight at
Marmaduke, and, shivering slightly, say, "How cold it is!"

"Cold?" replies he, nonchalantly. "Is it? I thought it warm.
Better send some one for a shawl. Here, Gore,  will you get Mrs.
Carrington something warm to put round her? She finds a draught
somewhere."

And, as Sir Mark departs obedient, 'Duke turns once more to his
companion, as though forgetful of my very existence. Lady Blanche
smiles disagreeably.

Yesterday--surely only yesterday--he would have been kinder; he
would have gone for this shawl himself How eagerly, with what
extreme tenderness has he ever anticipated my wants! And now the
attentions of a stranger are considered good enough for me. Is he
tired of me already?  Has he so soon discovered the poverty of my
charms? Or has that old fascination returned with redoubled
power, to make him regret what is, alas! irrevocable?

Sick at heart, and mortified to the last degree, I turn away, yet
with lifted head and proud, disdainful lips, lest he or she
should rightly guess my thoughts.

---

All the next day a marked coldness exists between me and my
husband. We mutually avoid each other, and, the better to do so,
fall back for conversation upon those nearest to us. The nearest
to me, at all events, is Sir Mark Gore.

Not being by any means a "gushing" pair, this temporary
estrangement is unnoticed by the greater part of our guests; to
the few, however, it is plainly visible. Bebe sees it, and is
vexed and troubled. Sir Mark sees it, and is curious. Lady
Blanche sees it, and is triumphant. It is clear that, for
whatever end she has in view, all things are working well. Once
or twice during the evening I catch her eyes fixed upon me, and
as I do so her glance falls slowly, while a malignant, insolent
smile creeps round her mouth. At such moments I am pagan in my
sentiments, and would, if it were possible, call down all evil
things upon my enemy.

Next day, however, the clouds partially disperse. Naturally
forgiving, I find a difficulty in maintaining wrath for any
lengthened period, and Marmaduke appears only too glad to meet my
advances.

The third day, indeed, all seems forgotten; our animosity is
laid, and peace is proclaimed, This time, however, there has been
no explanation, no kindly reconciliation, and only Marmaduke and
I know that underneath our perfect amiability lies a thin stratum
of ice, that any chance cold may harden into hopeless solidity.

-----

"Phyllis, we have agreed to let the birds hold high holiday
to-morrow, if you will promise us a picnic. It seems a pity to
let this last glimpse of summer go by unmarked," says Marmaduke,
speaking to me from the foot of the dinner-table.

"Oh, how delightful!" cry I, flushing with pleasure, and dodging
all the flowers on the table to got a good look at his face. As
he is also carefully dodging them in his turn, with the like
laudable purpose of beholding me, it is some time before we
manage it. When our eyes do meet we smile sympathetically.

I hardly know why I do so, but as I withdraw my gaze from
Marmaduke I turn upon Sir Mark Gore, who sits at my right hand.
The curiously cold, calculating expression I meet startles and
somewhat displeases me.

"Do you not like picnics!" I ask him abruptly.

"Very much indeed. Why should you think otherwise?"

"Your expression just now was not one of pleasure."

"No? It ought to have been. I was inwardly admiring the charming
enthusiasm with which you received your husband's proposition."

"Oh!" return I, curtly. "Yes. As I told you once before, when I
am pleased I show it; I am more than pleased now; I am
enchanted," smiling brightly at the thought. "Do you know I have
not been at a picnic since I was a girl--that is, unmarried."

"Not since then? Why, you must almost forget what a picnic means.
Shall I refresh your memory? It means salted pies, and sugared
fowl, and indescribable jellies and warm fluids, and your knees
in your mouth, and flies. I don't myself know anything more
enjoyable than a picnic."

"Dear me, how I pity you! Whose picnics have you been at, may I
ask?" inquire I with scorn. "To-morrow, I promise you, you shall
see a very different specimen."

To-morrow comes to us as fine as though bespoken.  Lady Blanche,
walking into the breakfast-room in the most charming of morning
robes, addresses herself to my husband.

"Well, most noble, what are your plans for to-day?" she asks,
with a pretty show of animation.

Though I am in the room, and she knows it, she takes no notice of
me whatever--does not even trouble herself so far as to bestow
upon me the courtesy of a "good-morning." She looks up at
Marmaduke, and smiles at him, and awaits his answer as though he
alone were to be consulted.  Evidently in her opinion the
mistress of the house is of no importance a--mere nonentity in
fact; the master is everything.

It occurs to me that she might be even gracious enough to smile
in my direction, but she confines her attentions entirely to
Marmaduke.

Has any one else in the room noticed her insolence. There is
rather a hush I fancy, as I move composedly to my seat and alter
the cups and saucers into more regular rows, I wonder curiously
whether Marmaduke has remarked her breach of etiquette. Not he!
What man ever saw anything wrong where a pretty woman is the
transgressor, more especially when that pretty woman's
blandishments are directed towards him? He gives back her smile
placidly, and then speaks,---

"I believe we have decided on a picnic."

"The picnic, of course. But _where?_ That is the question."

"Anywhere you like; I am yours to command."

"You really mean it? Then I should like to go right through the
country to St. Seebird's Well. It is years since last I was
there." She breathes a soft sigh, as though recalling some tender
memory connected with her former visit.

"To the Wishing Well?" says 'Duke. "That is a long drive. The day
is fine, however, and I see nothing to prevent our doing it. Can
we manage it, do you think, Phyllis?"

"I see no obstacle in the way," I answer, indifferently, without
raising my eyes.

"Then we may consider it a settled plan--may we, Mrs.
Carrington?" says Lady Blanche, sweetly.

This time I do lift my head, and turn my eyes slowly upon her
ladyship's.

"Good-morning, Lady Blanche," I say, quietly, and with the utmost
composure. In spite of herself, she is disconcerted.

"Oh! good-morning," she says. "I quite fancied I had seen you
somewhere before this morning."

"Did you? You take coffee, I think, Sir George?  Dora, give Sir
George some coffee."

"I think I deserve a vote of thanks for my suggestion." says Lady
Blanche, recovering. "I feel in great spirits myself already. The
drive will do us good, and make us all as fresh as possible."

"True," says Marmaduke; "we have not had a drive for some time. A
picnic near home is, I believe, a mistake. It is a capital idea,
Phyllis, is it not?"

He addresses himself to me in a rather anxious, not to gay
conciliatory, tone: for the first time he becomes aware of my
unusual silence.

"Excellent. Though for my part I hardly require a drive as a
tonic. I am always as fresh as I can be." (I cannot resist this
one little thrust.) "Mr Thornton,"--to Chips, who has just
entered--"come and sit here by me: there is no more room."

For the first time in my life I feel my youth an advantage as I
watch the faint color rise to her ladyship's cheeks.  Her mouth
changes its expression. It is no longer complacent. At this
moment I feel she hates me with a bitter hatred, and am partly
comforted.

A brief smile quivers beneath Sir Mark's moustache; it is
scarcely there when it is gone again, and he drops his eyes
discreetly on his plate.

"How shall we go?" asks 'Duke. "We have the coach, and your trap,
Ashurst, and the open carriage: will that be enough? Harriet,
what will suit you?"

"I shall stay at home, thank you," says Harriet, smiling.  "I
know I am letting myself down in your estimation horribly, but I
confess I detest long drives. I believe I detest anything
lengthened. I am naturally fickle." (She is the most sincere
creature alive.) "I shall enjoy lounging about at home, looking
at the flowers, and reading, and that."

"Indeed, Harriet, you shall not," cry I, impetuously.  "We would
all be miserable without you."

"That's a fact, Lady Handcock," puts in Chips, heartily.

"Chippendale, you almost make me relent," says Harriet, smiling.
"But"--in a piteous aside to me--"do not compel me to go. It is
twelve miles there, and twelve miles back, if it is a yard; just
think of that. My poor back would not stand it. James shall go
and represent me."

"Why not change the place, and name a spot nearer home?" says
Dora, quietly. Dora always does the correct thing.

"Just so," exclaims Sir George, who would have thought Jericho a
very convenient spot had Dora so named it. "We have another
Wishing Well somewhere in the neighborhood; eh, 'Duke?"

"The Deacon's Well," says Sir Mark, "is only seven miles from
this. Would that be too far, Lady Handcock?"

"I shall be quite unhappy if you make me the disturber of the
peace," says Harriet, in comic despair. "Let me stay at home; I
shall do very well; and at present I feel ashamed of myself."

"Nonsense!" says 'Duke. "If you don't come willingly we shall
carry you. So you may at well make up your mind to visit the
Deacon."

"And it is really the prettier well of the two," says Blanche,
gracefully, as she sees her cause fall to the ground.

"Then you and Blanche can keep each ether company on the coach,
Phyllis, and any one else that likes. Thornton shall have the
horn; it is about the one instrument on which he can perform with
marked success."

"I shall take the phaeton and ponies," say I, quietly "They have
not been out for two days, and it will do them good. Exercise is
the only thing that keeps them in order."

"Oh, nonsense, Phyllis! you will find it much pleasanter with
Blanche and the rest of us."

"Without doubt; but then I have set my heart on driving my
ponies. They are my hobby at present; so you must excuse my bad
taste if I say I prefer being with them to even the good company
you mention. That is, if I can get any one to come and take care
of me."

"I shall be most happy, Mrs. Carrington, if you will accept me as
your escort," says Sir Mark, instantly, as though desirous of
being the first to offer his services.

Blanche Going raises her head and regards him fixedly.  In the
velvet softness of her dark eyes shines for an instant an
expression that is half reproach, half passionate anger; only for
an instant; then turning her glance on me, she meets my gaze
full, and sneers unmistakably. I feel radiant, triumphant. At
least I have it in my power to give her sting for sting.

"Thank you," I say to Sir Mark, with a beaming smile. "I shall
feel quite safe and happy in my mind with you.  At heart I
believe I am a coward, so feel it pleasant to know there will be
help at hand if the ponies prove refractory."

"You had better take a groom with you, Phyllis," says my husband,
shortly.

"Oh, no, thank you. It will be quite unnecessary Sir Mark, I
know, it as good as two or three grooms in a case of emergency."

"Nevertheless, I think you had better have a groom.  Those ponies
are generally skittish after an idleness. I shall tell Markharm
to accompany you."

"Pray do not give yourself the trouble," I reply, obstinately: "I
shall not need him. You do not think there is any cause for fear,
do you, Sir Mark!"

"I think not. I think I am a match for your ponies at any
moment," returns he, smiling.

"In my opinion grooms are a mistake in a small carriage" murmurs
Lady Blanche, addressing the table generally.  "There is
something unpleasant in the fact that they are close behind one's
back ready to hear and repeat every idle word one may chance to
utter." Her smile as she says this is innocence itself.

"I fully agree with you," answer I, equitably; "though Sir Mark
and I are above uttering anything idle."

Marmaduke frowns, and the conversation ends.

Meantime, the others have been eagerly discussing their plans.
Sir George Ashurst has obtained a promise from Dora to take the
seat beside him on his dog-cart. Harriet has decided on the open
carriage, and declares her intention of calling and taking up
mamma. Lord Chandos alone has had no part in the discussion.

Just then the door opens to admit Bebe, fresh and gay as usual.
Positively we have all forgotten Bebe.

"Late--late--so late!" says she, laughing. "Yes, Marmaduke, I
know it is actually shocking. Don't say a word, dear; your face
is a volume in itself. Good-morning, every body. Phyllis _you_
don't look formidable. I shall have my chair near you."

The men rise and somebody gets her a seat.

"Bebe, we forgot you," cry I, contritely. "Where shall we put you
now?"

"Put me?" says Babe, regarding her chair. "Why, here, I suppose."

"No, no; about our drive to the Wishing Well, I mean we have just
been arranging everything, and somehow you got left out."

"I have still two seats at the back of my trap." says Ashurst;
"will you accept one, Miss Beatoun? Ami Chandos can have the
other."

The faintest possible tinge of color rises to Bebe's cheek.

"A back seat! Oh, Sir George, is that all you can offer me? I was
never so insulted in my life. It is positively unkind. Marmaduke,
why did not you look after my interests in my absence?"

"I don't know how it happened. First come first served I suppose"

"The unkindest cut of all. 'Duke, you are ungenerous, or else in
a bad temper; which? However. I forgive you."

"I would give you the front seat," says good-natured George, "but
I fear those very tiny little hands would never be able for the
ribbons; and I have given the other to Miss Vernon."

"Miss Beatoun, have my place," says Thornton, eagerly. "I dare
say Miss Hastings will get on without me, even if she comes; and
Powell can blow the horn."

Dora comes forward gracefully. "Take mine," she says in spite of
a reproachful glance from Sir George. "I don't in the least mind
where I sit."

"_Embarras des richesses!_" cries Bebe, laughing, putting up her
hands to cover her ears. "Not for all the world, Miss Vernon.
Thank you very much all the same.  Did you think I was in
earnest? If the truth be told, I like nothing better than the
back seat on anything, if the horses be fast. There is something
delicious, almost sensational, in finding ourself flying through
the air without seeing what is taking one. I only hope I shan't
fall off."

"It will be Chandos's fault if you do," declares Sir George, "Do
you hear, Chandos? You will have to keep your eyes open, and be
careful every time we come to a corner."

Bebe colors again, and glances at Lord Chandos, who by a curious
coincidence she finds glancing at her. Their eyes meet.

"Will you find the task too arduous?" she asks, mischievously,
for once losing sight of her coldness.

"I will tell you that when we return," replies he, answering her
smile.

Not until the others have well departed does Markham bring round
the ponies; and as he puts the reins into my hands he utters a
gentle warning.

"I thought it safer to let the other horses get a bit of a start
first, ma'am," he says. "You might spare the whip to-day, I'm
thinking; they're that fresh as it will give you enough to do to
hold 'em."

"All right, Markham," says my companion, gayly; "I will see your
mistress does not irritate them to madness."

The pretty animals in question toss their heads knowingly, then
lower them, and finally start away down the avenue, round the
corner, pass the beeches, and out into the open road.

The air is fresh and soft, the speed, to say the least of it
enlivening, and for a mile or so I know thorough enjoyment then
my arms, begin to drag.

"How they do pull!" I say, with a petulant sigh.

"Let me have the reins," exclaims Sir Mark, eagerly; "you will be
exhausted if you try to hold those fretful creatures for the next
six miles. You are hardly strong enough for the task." And, with
a gesture that is almost relief I resign to him my seat.

"That would be the nearest road to Carston, supposing we had
started from Summerleas," I say presently, as we come to one
particular turn. "Oh, how often, long ago, I used to travel it!
What years and years and years seem to have gone by since last
spring! What changes have occurred! and yet in reality only a few
short months have passed."

"Happy changes, I hope, Mrs. Carrington."

"For me? Yes, indeed. When first you knew me I was the most
insignificant person among us at home, and now I think I have all
I ever wished for." Sir Mark smiles.

"I never heard any one say that before. Of what use will the
Deacon's Well be to you? Do you mean to tell me you have no wish
left ungratified?"

"Well, perhaps there are a few things I would willingly put out
of my way," I reply, with a faint recurrence in my own mind to
Lady Blanche Going.

"Only things? You are unfortunate. When I go in for that useless
sort of wishing, it is for people--not _things_--I would have
removed. Were I you, Mrs. Carrington, I believe I should live in
a perpetual state of terror, waiting for some blow to fall to
crush such excessive happiness.  You know one cannot be
prosperous forever."

"I never anticipate evil," return I, lightly. "Surely it is bad
enough when it comes, without adding to it by being miserable
beforehand. Why, how doleful you look? What is it? You remind me
of some youthful swain in love for the first time in his life."

"Perhaps I am."

"In love? How amusing! With whom then? Bebe? Dora? Or some person
or persons unknown? Come, surely you may confide with all safety
in your hostess."

"She is the last person I would choose as a confidante on this
occasion. The sympathy she would accord me would be very scanty."

"Oh, how unjust! Have I proved myself so utterly heartless? And
is sympathy so very needful in your case--is it a hopeless one?"

"Quite so."

"Poor Sir Mark! 'If she be not fair to me, what care I how fair
she be?' is a very good motto: why not adopt it, and--love again?
I have heard there is nothing easier."

"Would you find it easy?"

"I don't know, having never tried. But if the love is to be
unhappy, I wonder people ever let themselves fall into the
snare."

"You speak as if you yourself were free from the gentle passion,"
says Sir Mark, with a searching look, under which I color and
feel somewhat confused.

"We were talking of second lovers," I say, hurriedly.  "One hears
of them. I was advising you to turn your attention that way.
Surely it would be possible."

"I don't believe in it; at least to me it would be impossible,"
replies Sir Mark, in a low tone, and silence falls upon me.

Once again I am in the ball-room at Strangemore, listening to a
tale of early love. Is Sir Mark thinking of Marmaduke now, I
wonder, and the story he then told me, of his old infatuation for
his cousin Blanche? Was it more than an infatuation, a passing
fancy? Was it an honest, lasting attachment? And have I secured
but the tired, worn-out remnant of a once strong passion?

My changeful spirits, so prone to rise, so easy to dash to earth,
again forsake me. Discontented and uncertain, I sit with lowered
lids and fretful, puckered brow.

"Do you, then, think a man can love but once in his life?" I
force myself to ask, though with open hesitation.

"But once? Is it not enough? Would you condemn any one to suffer
the restless misery, the unsatisfied longing, a second time?"
responds he moodily.

"No; but it is bad for those who come after," I reply with deep
dejection.

"They must take their chance. The suffering cannot be all on one
side. We must accept our share of misery, as it comes, with the
best grace we can."

"I will riot," I cry, passionately. "All my life I have
determined to be happy, and I will succeed. Whatever happens,
whatever comes of it, I refuse to be miserable."

"What a child you are!" says he, almost pityingly.

"I am not. I am talking quite rationally. I firmly believe we all
make half our own grievances."

"And what becomes of the other half?"

"Let us leave the subject," I say petulantly, ignoring my
inability to answer him. "You are dull and prosy. If you insist
on being a martyr, be one, but do not insist also on my following
in your footsteps. Because you choose to imagine yourself
unhappy, is no reason why I should not be gay."

"Certainly not," replies he, with increasing gloom, and brings
the whip down sharply across the ponies' backs.

Instantly, almost as the lash touches their glossy skins, they
resent the insult. The carriage receives a violent shock.  They
fling themselves backwards on their haunches, and in another
moment are flying wildly on, regardless of bit or curb or rein.

As I realize the situation, I grow mad with fright. Losing all
sense of self-control, I rise from my seat and prepare to throw
myself out of the phaeton. Surely the hard and stony road must be
preferable to this reckless deadly flight.

Seeing my intention, Sir Mark rises also.

"Phyllis, are you mad?" cries he, flinging his arms round me.
"Your only chance is to remain quiet; Phyllis, be sensible. Sit
down when I desire you."

There is an almost savage ring in his tone. He holds me fast and
forces me down into my seat. I struggle with all my strength for
a moment or two to free myself from his strong grasp, and then a
coldness covers me, and I faint.

When my senses return to me, I find I am still in the carriage.
The ponies are also to be seen, motionless in their places,
except for the trembling that convulses their frames, while a
fierce snort, every now and then, and tiny flecks of froth hither
and thither and mingle with those already upon their backs and
harness, betray their late panic. But we are safe, apparently,
quite safe.

Sir Mark's arm is supporting me, while with his other hand he
holds something to my lips. It is that detestable thing called
brandy, and I turn my head aside.

"Take it," urges he, in a low, trembling tone; "whether you like
it or not, it will do you good. Try to swallow some."

I do as I am bid, and presently, feeling better, raise myself and
look around for symptoms of a smash.

"What have they done?" I ask, with a shudder, "Have they---"

"Nothing," replies he, with a laugh that is rather forced.  "It
was a mere bolt. If you had not fainted you would have known it
was all over in a few minutes."

"It was the whip," I whisper, still nervous.

"Yes; it was all my fault. I quite forgot Markham's caution. I
have to apologize very sincerely for my mistake."

"Never mind apologies," I say, laughing, "as we are safe. I never
remember being so terrified in my life, not even when my steed
nearly deposited me in the middle of the High street in Carston.
And you," I continue, in a half-amused tone, peering at him from
under my hat--"you were frightened too? Confess it."

"I was," returned he, carefully evading my gaze.

"But why, if, as you say, there was no danger?"

"There are worse things than runaway ponies--your fainting, for
instance. I thought you were never going to open your eyes again,
you looked so horribly white and cold--so like death."

"What a lovely picture!" laughing voluntarily. "Well, console
yourself; you have seen what nobody else ever saw Phyllis
Carrington fainting. I had no idea I had it in me.  I really
think I must be growing delicate, or weak-minded."

In silence Sir Mark gathers up the reins, and once more the
ponies start forward.

"Now, Dora can faint to perfection," I go on, finding immense
enjoyment in my subject. "If she is vexed or troubled in any way,
or hears thunder, she can go off gracefully into the arms of
whoever happens to be nearest to her at the time. She never
fails; it is indeed wonderful how accurately she can measure
distance, even at the last moment. While as for me, I do believe
if I were scolded until nothing more was left to be said, or if
it thundered and lightened from this to to-morrow, it would not
have the effect of removing my senses. At least up to this I have
found it so. For the future I shall be less certain. But how
silent you are, and how cross you look! Still thinking of the
obdurate fair one?"

"Of her--and many other things."

"Well, perhaps she too is thinking of you."

"I can imagine nothing more probable," with a grim smile.

"Neither can I." My treacherous spirits are again ascending, "Let
me describe her to you as at this moment I almost think I can see
her. Seated in a bower, enshrined in roses and honeysuckles, with
her hands folded listlessly upon her lap, and her large dreamy
black eyes (I am sure her eyes are black) filled with repentant
tears, she is now remembering with what cruel coldness she
received your advances; while unmolested the pretty earwigs run
races all over her simple white dress--simple but elegant, you
know."

"H'm--yes."

"And now remorse has proved too much for her; she resolves on
writing you a letter expressing contrition for her past
heartlessness. She draws toward her paper, pens, and ink (in a
three-volume novel the heroine has everything at her hand, even
in the most unlikely places; there is never any fuss or
scramble), and indites you a perfumed and coronetted note, which
you will receive--to-morrow.  There! Now, don't you feel better?"

"Infinitely so."

"What! still frowning? still in the lowest depths? I begin to
doubt my power to comfort you."

"I don't feel any inclination to jest on the subject," returns
Sir Mark, gruffly, making a vicious blow with the whip at an
unoffending and nearly lifeless fly.

"Well, there," I gasp, in a sudden access of terror lest he might
again incense the ponies, "I will jest no more.  And don't
despair. Perhaps--who knows?--she may grow fond of you in time."

He laughs, a short, bitter laugh that yet has something in it of
dismal merriment. "If I could only tell you," he says, "if you
only knew, you would understand what a double mockery are such
words coming from your lips."

His fingers close around the whip again. Again frightened, I
hastily clutch his arm.

"Don't do that," I entreat; "please do not use that dreadful whip
again: remember the last time you did so we were nearly killed."

"I wish we had been altogether so," mutters he, savagely.

I stare at him in speechless surprise. Did that flask contain
_much_ brandy? What on earth has happened to our careless,
debonair Sir Mark?

Even as I gaze in wonder, he turns his head and looks with some
degree of shame into my widely-opened, astonished eyes.

"Pardon me," he says, gently. "I don't know what has come to me
to-day. I fail to understand myself. I doubt I am an ill-tempered
brute, and have hardly any right even to hope for your
forgiveness."

But his manner has effectually checked my burst of eloquence, and
we keep unbroken silence until we reach our destination.

Here we find Marmaduke and Lady Blanche anxiously on the lookout
for us; the others, tired of waiting, have wandered farther
afield. Marmaduke is looking rather white and worried, I fancy.

"What has kept you until this hour?" he asks, irritably, pulling
out his watch.

"Oh, how long you have been!" supplements Blanche. "We were
beginning to wonder--almost to fear an accident had occurred. It
is quite a relief to see you in the flesh."

"You were very near not seeing us," I explain. "The ponies
behaved very badly--ran away with us for half a mile or so--and
frightened me so much that I fainted."

"How distressing!" says Blanche, apparently much concerned. "How
terrified you must have been! And so unpleasant, too, without a
lady near to help you! You were able to resuscitate Mrs.
Carrington, at all events." (To Sir Mark.)

"Well, I don't suppose I would have been of much use without the
brandy," replies he, coolly.

"It must have been quite a sentimental scene," remarks her
ladyship, with a little laugh. "It reminds one of something one
would read; only, to make it perfect, you should be lovers. Now
that you are safe it does not seem unkind to laugh, does it?"

Marmaduke by this time is black as night. In spite of myself, I
know I have blushed crimson; while Sir Mark, turning abruptly
away, goes to explain some trivial break in the harness to one of
the coachmen.

"It is a pity, Phyllis, you would not take my advice this
morning," says 'Duke, in a voice that trembles a little, either
from suppressed anger or some other emotion. "If you had taken a
groom, as I begged of you, all this unpleasantness might have
been saved."

"I don't see how a groom could have prevented it," I reply,
coldly. "Without a second's warning they were off: it was
nobody's fault."

"My dear 'Duke, we should be thankful they have escaped so well,"
murmurs Blanche, in her softest tones, laying a soothing touch
upon my husband's arm. Both touch and tone render me furious. "I
dare say it was not very serious."

"I dare say not; but it might have been. And, whether or not it
has kept every one waiting for at least three-quarters of an
hour."

"It might have kept you still longer had I been killed," I
return, quietly, moving away in secret indignation.

Marmaduke follows me, leaving Blanche and Sir Mark to come after,
and side by side, but speechless, we proceed on our way.

At length, in a rather milder tone, Marmaduke says, "I
hope--otherwise--your drive was enjoyable."

"Very much so, thank you. Though I must say I don't care about
feeling my life in danger. I hope you enjoyed yours."

"No"--shortly--"I did not. I never enjoyed anything less."

"How unfortunate! Was her ladyship thoughtful, or ill-tempered,
or what?"

"She had nothing to do with it. I was thinking of you the entire
time."

"Of me? How good of you! I am so sorry I cannot return the
compliment, but no one was farther from my thoughts than you.
Concluding you were happy, I dismissed you from my memory."

"I had a presentiment about those ponies."

"Ah! it was the ponies occupied your mind--not their mistress.
That sounds far more natural."

"They are vicious, and not to be depended upon," continues 'Duke,
declining to notice my interruption. "I shall dispose of them the
very first opportunity."

"Indeed you shall do nothing of the kind. They are mine, and I
will not have them sold."

"Well, keep them, if you insist upon it; but certainly you shall
never drive them again."

"Then I certainly shall; and to-morrow, most probably I will not
be ordered about as though I were a mere baby."

Marmaduke turns, and regards me so steadily and gravely, that at
length, in spite of myself, my eyes submit and drop.

"Phyllis, how changed you are!" says he, presently, in a low
tone. "When first I knew you--even two months ago--you were a
soft, tender, gentle little girl; and now you are always unjust
and bitter to me, at least."

Something rises in my throat and prevents my utterance. Large
tears gather in my eyes.

"I _am_ changed; I know it." I burst out, suddenly.  "Before I
married you I was a different person altogether.  And how can I
help being 'bitter' at times? Even now, when I told you how near
death I had been, you showed no feeling of regret--thought of
nothing but the delay I had occasioned you and your friends."

"Oh, Phyllis," says 'Duke, in a tone that implies that I have
wrung his heart by my false accusations, and before either can
again speak we have passed a hillock and are in full view of our
guests.

They are all scattered about in twos or threes, though none are
very far distant from the others; and the scene is more than
usually picturesque. Certainly the old Deacon knew what he was
about when he placed his well in this charming spot. It is a
little fairy-like nook, fresh and green, and lying forgotten
among the hills. A few pieces of broken-down, ivy-covered wall
partially conceal the steps leading to the Wishing Well.

"'Duke, let us wish for dinner--and get it--before we wish for
anything else," entreats Bebe. "The drive has given me a horrible
appetite. I am generally a very nice person--eh, Mr.
Thornton?--but just at present I am feeling a downright
unladylike desire for food. Phyllis, darling, do say you are
hungry."

"I am--starving" I reply, though conscious at the moment that the
smallest morsel would choke me.  "Yes, by all means. 'Business
first, pleasure afterwards,'" quotes Chips, blithely, who is
stretched full length by Miss Beatoun's side, with his hat off
and a straw in his mouth, looking extremely handsome and
unspeakably happy. Lord Chandos is at her other side, though
rather farther away.

"What do you say, Phyllis?" says 'Duke, looking at me.

"Do not take me into consideration at all," I return in a
suppressed voice. "Dinner now, or in five hours to come, would be
quite the same thing to me."

I move quickly away from him towards mamma as I say this, and,
sinking down on the turf very close to her, slip my hand into
hers; and as I feel her gentle fingers closing upon mine, a sense
of safety and relief creeps slowly over me.

Dinner progresses; and, though I will not acknowledge it, I begin
to feel decidedly better. Fragments of conversation float here
and there.

"I have a great mind to set my little dog at you," says Bebe, in
reply to some flagrant compliment bestowed upon her by the
devoted Chips. A little _bijou_ of a dog, with an elaborate
collar and beseeching eyes, that sits upon her knee and takes its
dinner from her pretty white fingers, is the animal in question.

"Oh, please don't," murmurs Chips, pathetically. "I am so
horribly afraid of your little dog. You would not like me to die
of nervous excitement, would you?"

"I am not so sure. It would make room for a better man."

"Impossible! There isn't a better fellow going than I am. You ask
my mamma when you see her."

"I need not ask anybody; I can see for myself. What do you do all
day long but play billiards?"

"I beg your pardon, Miss Beatoun. You estimate my capabilities at
a very improper level. I do no end of things besides billiards. I
shoot, smoke, eat, and--talk to you."

"What a way to spend one's life!" severely. "I wonder where you
think you will go when you die?"

"I hope wherever you go. I say," piteously, "don't scold a fellow
on such a splendid day--don't; it's uncommon afflicting of you;
and don't put on your gloves for a little longer."

"Why?"

"Because I like looking at your hands, though at the same time
they always irritate me. They are the very prettiest I ever saw;
and--forgive me for saying it--but I always want to kiss them.
Now, don't begin again, please; remember you have lectured me for
a good hour.'

"Then I have wasted a good hour and done nothing I give you up;
you are past cure."

"I remember coming here once before," breaks in Lottie Hastings's
voice, "and wishing for something, and I really got it before the
year was out."

"Must one wait a whole year?" asks Sir Mark. "Then I shall have
to write mine down. Give you my word that if my own name was
suppressed for a year I don't believe I would recollect what it
was at the end of it."

"Are we bound by law to name our wishes?" asks Chips, earnestly.
"Because, if so, I shall have to sink into the ground with shame.
I'm horrid bashful--that is my most glaring fault, you know, Miss
Beatoun--and I would not disclose my secret desire for anything
you could offer."

"For anything I could offer," repeats Miss Beatoun.  "Are you
sure? Shall I tempt you? Would you not, for instance, take---"
The eyes say the rest.

"Don't," exclaims Thornton, putting his hands over his ears. "I
won't listen to you. I refuse to understand.  Miss Hastings, will
you permit me to sit by you? Miss Beatoun is behaving with more
than her usual cruelty."

"Come," says Miss Hastings, smiling and putting aside her dress
to give him room to seat himself on the grass near her.

As Chips leaves Bebe, Lord Chandos quietly slips into his place,
to Miss Beatoun's evident surprise.

"Is it fair to encourage that poor boy so very openly?" begins
Chandos, calmly.

"What?" says Miss Beatoun.

"Is it kind to flirt so much with young Thornton?" repeats Lord
Chandos, still perfectly calm.

"You must make a mistake," says Bebe, provokingly "You know I
never flirt. In the first place, I don't consider it good form."

"Neither do I consider it 'good form' for a young lady to talk
slang," very gravely and quietly. "I wouldn't do it if I were
you."

"How do you know what you would do if you were I?"

"At all events, you must acknowledge that it is not becoming."

"Do you profess to understand what is becoming to young ladies?
Have you been studying them? Come, then, if you are so good a
judge, I will ask you to tell me if this hat is so very becoming
as they all say. Look well, now, before you decide; it is a
question of the utmost importance."

This saucy little speech is accompanied by such a bewitching
glance from under the said hat that Lord Chandos loses his
presence of mind. "I cannot bear to see you flirt so much as you
do with every one," he mutters, hastily; "it tortures me. Bebe,
why is it?"

Miss Beatoun grows decidedly white, even to her lips, yet is
still thoroughly composed.

"But do I flirt?" she says. "I don't believe I do. Do you believe
it, my darling, my treasure, my Tito?" to the dog. "Not you. No,
no, Lord Chandos; it is not that at all."

"What is it then?" impatiently.

"Why, it is 'every one' who flirts with me, to be sure.  And that
is not my fault, is it?" with the most bewildering assumption of
injured innocence.

And now we all rise and saunter towards the well.

"If you would only wish as I do," whispers Sir George to Dora, "I
would be the happiest man alive."

"Would you?" says innocent Dora. "But how shall I know what you
are longing for?"

"Can you not guess?"

"I am afraid I cannot. Unless, perhaps--but no, of course it
would not be that. Indeed I do not know how to reach your
thoughts. One must want so many things."

"I want only one."

"Only one! Oh, how moderate! Only one! Let me see," with a
delicious meditative air, and two slender fingers pressed upon
her lips.

"Shall I tell you?"

"Oh, no, no," with a pretty show of eager fear. "If you told any
one the charm would be broken, and you would not get what you
want. Perhaps--who knows?--the boon I am going to demand will be
the very thing you would tell me." This with a sufficiently
tender glance from the lustrous azure eyes.

"For my part," says Bebe, wilfully. "I shall wish for something I
can never get, just to prove how absurd it all is."

"From time to time we every one of us do that," says Chandos. "We
hanker after the impossible. I begin to fear I shall never get my
heart's desire."

He glances expressively at Bebe.

"Then think of something else," suggests that young lady,
smoothly. "Your second venture may be more successful."

"No, I shall keep to my original wish, until I either gain it or
else find further hoping folly."

"Phyllis, it is your turn now. Will you not descend and court
fortune?" calls Harriet.

I am deeply engaged listening to mamma while she reads to me
Billy's last effusion from Eton, to which place he returned the
second day after our ball.

"It is a pity to disturb Mrs. Carrington," says Sir Mark. "She
told me this morning she had not a wish left ungratified."

Marmaduke raises his head quickly, and, flushing warmly turns a
pleased and rather surprised glance at me.

"Nevertheless, I will come," I cry incautiously, springing to my
feet, "and beg for the continuance of my happiness, which
includes everything."

"Oh, Phyllis!" cries Bebe.

"Oh, Mrs. Carrington," exclaims Sir Mark; "what a rash
proceeding! Why did you say it aloud? You have destroyed every
chance of receiving that good gift."

"Yes," say I, "how provoking! Never mind, contentment still
remains: and that, I have heard, is quite as much to be desired."

Everybody laughs heartily, and Marmaduke says, "You will get
nothing, Phyllis, if you declare your wants so openly."

"Neither happiness nor contentment, how dismal!" exclaim I,
laughing too. "Well, I shall keep my third and last thought to
myself."

And having hoped in my own mind that Lord Chandos would very soon
again ask Bebe to be his wife, I go through the form of drinking
a little of the pure spring water Master Chips offers me with due
solemnity.

The principal business of the day being concluded, our party once
more breaks up into detachments, some straying out of sight in
pretended search of scenery, some following their example in an
opposite direction without any pretense at all.

Sinking down again by mother's side, I content myself with her
and Harriet, while Marmaduke and Sir James stay to bear us
company, and smoke unlimited cigars, while offering a lazy remark
every now and then.

"Do you feel no desire to investigate the neighborhood?" asks Sir
Mark of me, carelessly, as he passes by; and as I answer, "No,"
with a smile and shake of my head, he saunters off towards Lottie
Hastings, with whom he commences a flirtation, calm but vigorous.

Somehow it is a peaceful hour we spend, and one that drives me
from the vague irritation that before tormented me. In the quiet
of the present I forget all life's vexations, and remember only
such good things as are within my grasp.  How paltry now seem the
troubles that oppress me! I fear--yet know not what it is I fear.
I doubt--yet, if compelled to do so, would find a difficulty in
giving my doubt a name.

This sweeter mood continues, and travels home with me, although
we do not reach Strangemore until it is nearly nine.

Here, at an early supper, we all find ourselves in the wildest
spirits. Glancing curiously at Dora, attracted by some nameless
new expression in her eyes, I feel convinced the day has been to
her one of unmixed triumph, and that already the Wishing Well has
granted her desire.

As I get near her in the drawing-room, I manage to whisper, "What
is it, Dora? did he? Are you---"

"Yes he _did_, and I _am_" responded Dora, with a smile of
unusual liveliness for her. "To-night you shall know all."

---

"How was it, Dora? How did it happen?" I ask, two hours later, as
I sit opposite to her, my hands embracing my knees, in my
favorite position, my head bent forward in eager anticipation of
her news.

"I hardly know. It was all that Wishing Well, I fancy.  For the
future I shall feel it my duty to be superstitious.  At all
events, it surely helped to bring it about, as he only wanted the
opportunity to declare himself," says Dora, complacently.

"What did he say, Dora? Was he nervous--or---"

"Very nervous. He seemed quite afraid to come to the point. You
see I am always so distant in my manner," says my modest sister,
"he had no way of judging what my answer was likely to be."

"I am sure whatever he said was just what it should be, he is so
thoroughly sincere," I remark, still anxious to get at the root
of the matter.

"I am afraid I cannot altogether satisfy your curiosity Phyllis,
it has all got so mixed up. Of course he told me principally what
I knew before--that he adores me, for instance, and was desirous
of marrying me, and so forth. Ha was slightly incoherent, I
thought; but it really signified very little whether his English
was good or bad, so long as I managed to understand what he
meant."

"Of course not, darling. Oh, Dora, I am so sorry we let mamma go
without telling her."

"I did tell her, dear. At least, that is, he--George told her."
She brings out the Christian name of her beloved with a charming
amount of diffidence. "He said he would like to make sure of me;
and indeed I thought myself it might perhaps be as well he should
be the one to mention it to her as a settled thing. You
understand?"

I do, and begin to entertain rather an admiration for Dora's
astuteness.

"You will forgive me now, Dora?" I say, suddenly leaning over to
put my hand on hers.

"Forgive you? Forgive what?"

"Well, dear, when I married 'Duke, you know, I thought you were
rather vexed--you said so many things; and sometimes I have
fancied, since, you still think I was in the wrong."

"My dear Phyllis, what a curious girl you are! 'Forgive you!' as
if I had not done so, ages and ages ago--if indeed there was
anything to forgive. Surely you couldn't have thought me so
vindictive, so unchristian, as to retain bitter feelings against
you all this time?"

She has opened her childish blue eyes to their widest, and is
gazing at me plaintively, as though grieved I should imagine her
capable of any vile feeling.

"I sometimes feared---" I stammer, utterly abashed in the
presence of so much sweetness.

"You must put such ideas out of your head, Phyllis; they are very
unworthy. I never harbor unforgiving thoughts, I should hope,
towards any one--least of all towards you, my sister. Besides, I
ought really to be thankful to you, if anything. Marmaduke and I
would have been most unsuited to each other. He is far too
_exigeant_ and masterful for my taste. George is in every way
more desirable."

I don't quite see all this, but reserve my sentiments.

"He is greatly to be liked," I say, with truth--honest,
good-natured George Ashurst having won his way into my affections
long since. "I don't know that I was ever more delighted about
anything in my life."

"Yes, everybody will be pleased, I imagine--papa and mamma
especially. I don't see how papa can make the faintest objection
in any way. He must be gratified."

I think of Sir George's rent-roll, and have the words, "I should
think so, indeed," upon the tip of my tongue, but, being desirous
of keeping up friendly relations with Dora, refrain from uttering
them. She evidently takes her good fortune as a matter of course,
having ever rated herself at a high price, and believes she has
got her bare deserts--no more.

"I hope you--that is, I hope he will be very good to you," I say,
making the correction in time.

"I hope we will be very good to each other. Indeed, I see nothing
to prevent our being quite happy and--comfortable. Don't you
think he appears very fond of me?"

"More than that: I think he appears to love you very dearly."

"Yes, I really think he does," says my sister, running her
fingers lazily through her silken yellow hair.

"And you, Dora--do you love him?"

"Of course, dear. Would I marry him else? Am I the sort of person
to sell myself for mere money's sake?" Indignation of the mild
and virtuous order is in her tone. "No," says Dora, calmly
looking me fair in the eyes, "I would not marry a man unless I
loved him--not if he had the mines of Golconda."

This ennobling sentiment is, I feel, aimed at me, and justly
judge it will be unwise to press the matter farther: so I say, "I
am so glad, darling!" but say it very weakly.

"Nevertheless," goes on Dora, after a moment's pause, "as I do
love him, it is very fortunate he should be so well off.
Yesterday he told me he had twenty thousand pound a year. Rather
more than you have, dear, is it not?"

No, Dora has not yet forgiven me.

"A great deal more," I say, warmly; "we have only fifteen
thousand. But then, Dora, it was only to be expected you would
make a far better match than I could."

"Well, yes--perhaps so," admits Dora, casting an admiring glance
at her own pretty shell-pink face as it smiles back at her from
an opposite mirror.

The door opens, and Marmaduke comes in. "Oh, 'Duke," I cry,
rising, "just fancy! Dora is--but you shall guess my news--what
is she?"

"That is a rather embarrassing question," says he, smiling. "Were
I to tell you all that Dora is in my eyes, we would get no sleep
to-night."

Dora laughs, and I say:---

"Nonsense! A list of her perfections would be no news; we all
know them. Tell me what you think has occurred to her since this
morning."

"I think she has become engaged to George Ashurst," returns
'Duke, coolly. "Why, you foolish child, do you call that news?
Ashurst has told every one in the house of his good luck by this
time. If I were you, Dora, I would breakfast in my own room
to-morrow morning. You will never be able to stand all the
congratulations."

"How can he be so absurd?" murmurs Dora, for once in her life
genuinely confused, and a rich red coloring her cheeks.

"I congratulate you with all my heart," says 'Duke, kindly,
kissing her. "You have got as good a husband as any girl could
desire, and as rich a one, too, without doubt. We shall be small
people, Phyllis, you and I, next to my Lady Ashurst."

"I must not stay to hear any more flattery. Thank you very much
for all you have said," replies Dora, gracefully, and, having
bidden us both good-night goes off to her own room.

Every one in the house is immensely delighted. An engagement,
even when everything belonging to it goes smoothly, and suitably,
cannot fail to awaken interest in the heart of a woman; and,
Dora's lover being uncoveted by any of us, no jealousy shows
itself to mar the universal good feeling.

We chatter about it all next day, and tell each other we had seen
how it would end from the very beginning. We dilate on the
charming place he has in Surrey, his palace in the North; and
then we whisper of what a detestable creature is his mother;
while Bebe hopes Dora will have courage to put a veto at once
against any lengthened visiting on her part.

"Because," says Miss Beatoun, "we _all_ know where _that_ will
lead. When Ashurst's brother married Lady Octavia Dering, his
mother invited herself to pay them a month's visit; and she
stayed ten; and it was the doctor and the nurse, eventually, who
insisted on putting her out, shortly after the boy was born. They
say poor Lady Octavia nearly went out of her mind one morning
when, on going into her nursery, she found the old lady
deliberately pouring some nauseous allopathic medicine down the
child's throat. Octavia told me herself, with tears in her eyes,
the poor little fellow was all but in a fit for two hours
afterwards. She is really a very shocking old person, and should
be suppressed. I do hope dear Dora will gather together all her
pluck and try to be a match for her."

Secretly, I feel so assured of dear Dora's being a "match" for
any mother-in-law alive that I endure no uneasy pangs on this
count. She bears the congratulations and the little good-natured
banterings admirably, is modest without being stupidly shy, and
prettily conscious without betraying any symptoms of _gaucherie_.
She is indeed as perfect in her new _role_ of bride-elect as
though she had sustained the part for years.

"Sir George must be a favorite with the gods: let us hope he
won't die young," says Sir Mark, bending over Dora some time
during the evening, "He has had everything he could possibly
desire from his cradle upwards--money, friends, position; and now
he must get _you_. I think"--in a playfully injured tone--"the
good things of this life are very unequally divided. In common
justice, Ashurst should have been forced into matrimony with a
woman as ugly, ill-tempered, and altogether disenchanting as--his
manners, instead of which---"

He sighs audibly, and makes an eloquent pause.

Dora smiles, her usual soft serene smile, untouched by coquetry
that experience has taught me means so little--and raises one
white hand in deprecation. Dora's hands are faultless,
filbert-nailed, creamy-white, pink-tinged, with just sufficient
blue tracery of the most delicate kind here and there to call
attention to their beauty.

"_Is_ Lady Ashurst all that you say?--so _very_ terrific? How
unhappy you make me!" she murmurs, plaintively, demurely ignoring
other parts of his speech.



CHAPTER XXIV.

Fresh and keen, and decidedly chilly, blows the October wind. The
men have all deserted us, and gone out shooting. The women are
scattered through the house.

Crossing the hall and the smaller drawing-room, I meet no one,
and entering the larger apartment beyond, seek my favorite seat
in the bow-window, where, book in hand, I ensconce myself behind
the curtains, and, stretching myself upon a lounge, prepare to be
lazily happy. The lace draperies falling round me entirely
conceal me from view; I can see right into the conservatory
without turning my head, and the seductive breath of flowers
stealing towards me adds one more thrill to my enjoyment.

Steadily I turn page after page. I feel I am growing interested,
a very little later I feel I am growing sleepy. My lids droop.
Putting my book down, upon my lap, with of course the settled
intention of taking it up again directly, I yawn mildly.

The door opens: with a start I become aware of Bebe's entrance.
To admit I am present means conversation--and conversation with
this drowsy fit upon me means misery. I therefore keep breathless
silence, and Bebe, all unconscious, saunters past me, basket and
scissors in hand, goes into the conservatory.

I watch her dreamily, as with a business-like air she drags the
light garden-ladder forward, and, mounting, commences to clip my
very choicest blossoms for her own secret purposes.

One by one they fall into her basket. Has she no conscience? Or
has she forgotten it is already October, and the flowers grow
scarce? I confess to some faint indignation as I regard her, and
have almost decided on rousing to remonstrate with her in person,
when a firm but hasty footstep upon the gravel outside excites my
curiosity.

A moment later Lord Chandos pushes open the door of the
conservatory, and, entering, stops short, his gaze fixed upon
Miss Beatoun.

As for Bebe, between looking suddenly round and surprise at his
unexpected presence there, she loses all idea of balance, and is
in the act of coming with undue hurry to the ground, when Lord
Chandos, stepping quickly forward, catches her and lifts her
lightly down. Perhaps he is a trifle longer in the performance of
this deed than is strictly necessary.

"Oh! how could you frighten one so?" exclaims Bebe, coloring, and
speaking ungratefully, as it seems to me, considering he has just
saved her from a heavy fall. "I thought you were out shooting
with the others."

"So I was; but--I forgot something, and had to return for it."

"What did you forget?--your pipe?"

"No, my gun," replies he, in the most barefaced fashion possible.

"Oh! cries Miss Beatoun lengthily, and then they both laugh.

"Why don't you admit at once you had no intention of shooting
to-day? It would have been much honester."

"Because admissions are dangerous. It is always better policy to
leave people in doubt. Yet, as I never class you in my own mind
under the head of 'people,' I will confess to you it is not so
much forgetfulness causes my presence here just now as a settled
determination not to remember.  My conscience was anything but
clean when I said I had mislaid something, and should come back
to find it."

"Was it really your gun?"

"No; I think I put it on cartridges, or a handkerchief, or--I am
not clear what."

"And why? What was your motive? I fancied you an indefatigable
sportsman--one impossible to turn aside from your prey."

"Shall I tell you my motive?" asks Chandos, in such an utterly
changed low tone that Miss Beatoun, standing near the ladder,
lays her hand suddenly upon it to steady herself, and retreats a
step.

"Better not," she says, in a voice that trembles apprehensively,
in spite of all her efforts to be calm. "Remember what you said a
moment since: 'Admissions are dangerous.' Better leave me in
doubt."

"I cannot. Besides, you are not in doubt. You know what it is I
am going to say. I have come back here again to-day to tell you
how I have tried, and found it impossible, to crush the love I
bear you."

At this juncture I become aware I am in for a scene. The
certainty is horrible to me. I am in such an unhappy position as
enables me to see them without myself being seen. I can also hear
every word they utter. In fact, there are but very few yards
between us.

With shame I now recollect that Bebe once said of me that never
would I be accused of "pouncing" upon delicate situations; yet,
if I go out now, I shall cover them both with everlasting
confusion.

What shall I do? I put my fingers in my ears as a last resource
and tightly close my eyes, but somehow they will not keep shut.
Every now and then I cannot help glancing to see if they are gone
or going--I cannot resist removing my fingers to hear if the
conversation has taken a cooler turn.

Every moment I linger only makes my declaring myself more
difficult. I end by giving in, and staring and listening with all
my might.

"Ah! why does Bebe look so determined? Why can't she yield
gracefully and be happy? I would at once, were I in her place,
and feel no degradation in so doing. She is flushed and miserable
to look at, her large eyes seeming larger and darker than usual
through pained excitement.  Yet still there is so much mistaken
pride impressed upon her features as makes me fear for the part
she will take in the interview. If she would but listen to her
heart's dictation!

"Lord Chandos, I implore you to desist," entreats Bebe, hastily,
raising one hand, to prevent his further speech. "It is worse
than useless."

But he only imprisons the warning hand and continues: "Nay, hear
me--that is all I ask--and then, if I am again to be rejected, be
it so. But surely I have been wretched long enough, and you---"

"I will not listen," murmurs Bebe, more deeply agitated. "The
answer I gave you when you were poor is the only answer I can
ever give you now." Her voice dies way, almost to a whisper.

"What do you mean by that?" exclaims Chandos, passionately. "Is
the very money that I hailed with delight, principally because I
dreamed it might bring me closer to you, to prove a barrier
between us? Presumptuous as it may sound, I dare to believe I am
not quite indifferent to you. Your manner when we parted, your
eyes when we met again down here, have fostered this belief, and
yet you shrink from me."

A little inarticulate cry escapes her. One hand goes to her
throat; she tries vainly to withdraw the other from his grasp.

"Contradict me--if you can," he says, in a low but vehement tone.

"This is ungenerous--unmanly," she falters, her words half choked
with emotion.

"Contradict me," he reiterates.

"I can; I do," murmurs she, but so weakly that her voice can
scarcely be heard.

"Is that the truth, Bebe?" says Chandos, more quietly.  "Is pride
to come between us now? Darling, listen to me.  If you for one
moment imagine I think badly of you because you refused to marry
a poor man, you wrong me. I think you acted rightly. Even as I
asked you that day I felt myself a coward in doing so. Was it
honorable of me to seek to drag you down from all the luxuries
and enjoyments to which you had been accustomed, to such a life
as it was only in my power to offer? Had your answer been
different, do you believe we would have been happy? I do not."

"You strike at the very root of all romance," protests Bebe, with
a rather sad smile.

"I decline to countenance a great deal of rubbish," returns he
vigorously. "Poverty is the surest foe that love can have, I
stoutly maintain, in spite of all the poets that ever wrote. But
now that it no longer stands in the way, Bebe, be my wife, and
let us forget the past."

"Do you think we should either of us ever forget it?" demands
she, raising a small white mournful face to his.  "Do you not see
how it would come between us every hour of our lives? Even
supposing what you say to be true, that I love you, it would be
all the greater reason why I should now refuse to be persuaded
into doing as you wish. Could I bear to know, day by, that my
husband thought me mercenary?"

"Mercenary! I shall never think you that. How could I? How could
any man blame you for shrinking from such a selfish proposal as
mine? I tell you again I think you behaved rightly in the
matter."

"Very rightly, no doubt, and very wisely, and very,
prudently--for myself," replies Bebe, in a cold, bitter way "Why
seek to disguise the truth? If it be true what you have supposed,
that I returned your affection, I only proved myself one of those
who fear to endure even the smallest privation for the sake of
him they love; and what a love that must be!" She laughs
contemptuously. "I fear, Lord Chandos, I am not of the stuff of
which heroines are made."

"If, as you hint, I am wrong," exclaims Chandos, eagerly catching
at a last chance, "if all along I have been deceiving myself in
the belief that you cared for me, let me begin again now, and at
least try to obtain your affection.  If, when---"

"Enough has been said," interrupts she, icily--"too much. Let my
hand go, Lord Chandos. I want to find Mrs. Carrington."

(Mrs. Carrington is almost on the verge of lunacy by this time
between fright and disappointment.)

"Is there, then, no hope?" asks Chandos, sternly. "Am I to
understand that you again reject me?"

"Yes, as you put it in that light. It is your own fault," bursts
out Bebe, passionately. "I told you not to speak."

"Had all the world told me the same thing, I would still have
spoken. Death itself is preferable to suspense. If my persistence
has caused you any annoyance, Miss Beatoun, I beg you will
forgive me."

"I too would be forgiven," falters Bebe, putting out a cold white
hand. As he stoops to kiss it she goes on, faintly: "Will you
promise me to forget you ever cared for me--in this way?"

"Impossible," returns he, abruptly, and turning, walks out of the
conservatory through the door by which he entered.

Now, is it not provoking? I feel my heart touched with pity for
Lord Chandos, with resentment towards his cruel love, until,
glancing towards the latter, who has stood motionless since his
departure, with head bent and hands loosely clasped, the
resentment fades, and compassion of the deepest takes its place.

I would give all the world to be able to go, meet and comfort
her, to twine my arms around her neck, to express my sympathy.
But how can I? What a treacherous creature she would think me!
How mean! nothing but a pitiful eavesdropper. Slowly she raises
her head, and, breathing a heavy sigh, advances until she stands
within the drawing-room.

She is awfully close to me now: I can almost touch her. How on
earth am I to meet her again with this secret on my mind? If I go
on feeling as I do now, I shall betray my self a thousand times
within an hour.

Two large tears gather in her eyes and roll mournfully downwards.

I can bear it no longer. Whatever comes of it, I must make my
presence known, and, springing from my couch, I dash aside the
thick lace curtains and reveal myself.

Uttering a sharp cry, she recedes a little, then checks herself
to stare at me with mingled haughtiness and astonishment.

"Yes, I was here all the time," I cry, imploringly, "and I heard
every word. I was lying on this sofa, and nothing escaped me. Of
course you will never forgive me for it, but indeed I did not
mean to listen."

"Oh, Phyllis?"

There is such a world of reproach in her tone that I become
distracted. I move towards her and break into a speech of the
most incoherent description, my words tailing from me with the
rapidity of desperation.

"Yes, it is true," I say. "You may look at me as if you hated me,
but what was I to do? When first you came in I was in a dozy,
half sleepy sort of state, and not until you and Chandos were in
the very middle of your discussion did I fully awake to the
horrors of my situation. Had I declared myself then, it surely
would have been worse; and, besides, I hoped, I believed you
would have been kind to him at the end, and dreaded lest my
unexpected appearance should put a stop to his proposal.
However"--pathetically--"I suppose you will never forgive me."

"Oh, Phyllis, it is all over now!" is poor Bebe's unlooked-for
reply, as she throws herself into my arms, with a burst of grief.
She is forgetful of all but her trouble. How paltry a thing in
comparison with it is my small misdemeanor!

"No, no," I reply, soothingly, patting the back of her neck,
which is all I can get at. "Remember the very last thing he
said--that it would be 'impossible' to forget you."

"Ah! so he said. But when he has time to reflect will see how
cold and detestable were my words. He will be glad of his escape
from any one so unloving. I myself wonder now, Phyllis, how I
could have so spoken to him."

"I could have killed you as I listened," I say, vindictively.
"How you brought yourself to behave so badly to the dear fellow
is more than I can understand. And he looked so nice all the
time, and was so delightfully in earnest! Oh, I know I would have
given in long before he had time to say one-half what he said to
you. Bebe, what made you so cold? I could have gone in and shaken
you with all my heart."

"I wish you had," replies she, dolefully. "Yet, perhaps things
are better as they are. At all events, he cannot think meanly of
me. I have shown him that, whatever else I may be, I am not a
mere money-lover."

"Well, for all that, I think it a foolish thing to cut off one's
nose to vex one's face," return I, with much truth and more
vulgarity.

"I am not vexing any one," says Bebe.

"Yes, you are. You meant to vex Lord Chandos, and you succeeded.
And you are vexing yourself dreadfully. And all for what? For the
miserable thing called pride. Now, I never had any of that
troublesome commodity about me, and I believe the want of it adds
greatly to one's enjoyment."

"Had I accepted him I would have been wretched," murmurs she,
with a sigh. Then, breaking down again: "And now that I have
refused him, I am wretched too; so there is no comfort anywhere."

"I shall always for the future hate that conservatory," exclaim
I, half crying. "And what was the use of my wishing at the
Deacon's Well, if this is the only answer I am to receive?"

"Was your wish about me?"

"Yes. I hoped Lord Chandos would again ask you to marry him. And
see, it has happened. I forgot to wish at the same moment that
you might be endowed with a little common sense. It never
occurred to me that you would be rash enough to murder your
happiness a second time."

"What a good little thing you are, Phyllis, to think about it at
all! Well, let us not speak of it again to-day. I do not choose
he shall see me with reddened lids, like a penitent. And if I cry
any more I shall have to borrow some rouge from the blooming
Going to color my pale cheeks. See, I still can laugh!"

"You will marry him yet," retort I, with conviction, refusing to
notice the negative shake of the head she bestows upon me as she
quits the room.



CHAPTER XXV.

"Harriet, I am freezing rapidly: will you ring the bell, as you
are so near it, and let us get some more coals? Tynon seems to
think we require none."

Harriet withdraws her hand reluctantly from where it is lying,
warm and perdu, beneath the silky Skye snoozing on her lap, and
does as she is bidden.

It is terribly cold. Suddenly, and without the usual warning,
winter has come upon us. We sit shivering around the fire, and
abuse unceasingly the roaring logs because they won't roar
faster.

Already my guests talk of leaving; already countless invitations
to spend the coming Christmas in the homes of others have reached
Marmaduke and me. Indeed, Harriet and Bebe--whose mother does not
return to England until the coming spring--will take no refusal.

Dora's marriage is arranged to come off about the middle of the
ensuing month; and even now the illustrious personage who deigned
to make me presentable on my entrance into fashionable life is
busying herself about the _trousseau_. It seems to me a dreary
month in which to celebrate a wedding, but Sir George and Dora do
not see it in this light, and talk gayly of all the delights to
be called from a winter in Rome.

"Where is Lady Blanche?" I ask, suddenly awakening to the fact
that for some hours I have not seen her.

"She complained of a headache shortly after the departure of the
shooting-party," says Dora, who is as usual tatting, "and went to
her own room."

"Dear me! I hope it is nothing serious," I say, anxiously, my
conscience accusing me of some slight neglect, "I thought she did
look rather pale when I met her in the hall."

"I don't think you need be uneasy, dear," remarks Harriet,
mildly, with a suspicious twinkle in her eyes; "Blanche's
headaches never come to anything. Probably she will be quite
herself again by dinner-time."

"Perhaps she felt a little dull--when the gentlemen were gone,"
suggests dear Dora, very innocently, without raising her white
lids.

Harriet laughs maliciously, and pulls her Skye's ears; and, thus
encouraged, our gentle Dora smiles.

"It seems rude, though, not to inquire for her, does it not?" say
I, with hesitation. "I think I will just run up and ask it there
is nothing that I can do for her."

So saying, I put down my work--a wonderful piece of imagination
in the shape of a beaded collar for Cheekie, Bebe's fox-terrier,
which ever since its arrival has evinced a decided preference for
me beyond its mistress--and, going upstairs, knock at the door of
the "round" room that Blanche occupies.

"Come in," returns her ladyship's voice, carelessly, evidently
thinking she is addressing one of the domestics.

I turn the handle and enter.

At the farther end of the room, robed in a pale blue
dressing-gown richly trimmed with lace, sits Blanche, looking by
no means so ill as I had expected to see her. Indeed, the
clearness of her eyes and the general air of liveliness about her
agree badly with her tale of a headache.

She has before her a tiny writing-table, and in her hand a very
elaborate pink sheet of note-paper, heavily monogrammed. It is
covered with close writing, and as I open the door she is in the
act of folding it. As her eyes meet mine, however, with a sudden
want of presence of mind, scarcely worthy of her, she hesitates,
and finally ends by putting it hastily between the leaves of her
blotter.

She has flushed slightly, and looks put out. Altogether, I cannot
help seeing that my visit is as ill-timed as it is unwelcome.

She rises to meet me, and in doing so throws a goodly amount of
elegant languor into her face and form.

"I was sorry to hear of your not feeling well," I hasten to say
as sympathetically as I can. "I came to see if I could do
anything for you."

"So good of you"--with a weary smile--"so kind to take all this
trouble! But, thank you, no. I am a perfect martyr to these
attacks, and I find when seized with one that rest and entire
freedom from conversation are my only cures. I have such a
wretched head," putting her hand pathetically to her forehead.
"At such times as these I am utterly useless, and the worst
companion possible."

"A headache must be a miserable thing," say I, thinking all the
while how uncommonly well she bears hers.

"Yes," resignedly. "You never have one, I suppose."

"Oh, never; I hardly know what it means--the sensation you speak
of. I am so desperately healthy, you see. I dare say it comes
from living in the country all my life and never keeping late
hours. Perhaps"--smiling--"when I get to London I shall learn all
too soon."

"I hope not, for your own sake."

"I fear you will be terribly _ennuyee_ up here all by yourself.
If you would come down to the library it would be so much more
cheerful for you. There is a good lounge there; and you need not
talk unless you wish it."

"Thank you very much, but indeed I am better where I am. I hate
inflicting myself upon my friends when I am so hopelessly out of
spirits. Perhaps by and by--towards evening--I shall lose this
feeling of heaviness. I generally do, indeed, if I remain
perfectly quiet during the day. Until then, dear Mrs. Carrington,
I must ask you to excuse me.  But"--going back to her own seat,
withdrawing the coquettish little note from its concealment, and
proceeding to fold it into a cocked-hat with elaborate
openness--"will you not sit down for a few minutes?"

I accept the hint.

"No, indeed. I will leave you to get a little sleep, so that we
may be the more sure of seeing you among us this evening."

Much pleased with this speech, which sounds to my own ears
particularly graceful, I move towards the door and vanish.

"Well, how is she?" asks Bebe, coming upon me unexpectedly, and
speaking in a suppressed and agitated tone, as though some one
were dead or dying in the next room.  "Is she anything better,
poor darling? Does the doctor hold out the faintest chance of her
recovery I Speak, and relieve my burning anxiety!"

"I don't believe she is ill at all," I return, in high disgust.
"She looks perfectly well, and her color quite as bright as
ever."

"A hectic flush, dearest. I fear our sweet friend is in a bad
way. How could you look at her without seeing the ravages of
disease? Dear Phyllis, I doubt you are sadly wanting in
discernment. What did our 'stricken deer' say to you?"

"Oh, she put on an affected drawl, and called herself a wretched
being, and pressed her forehead tragically, and was meekly
resigned in every way, and looked most provokingly healthy all
the time. I know I was not half at sympathetic as I ought to have
been."

Bebe breaks into merry laughter. We have turned a corner, and are
on our way downstairs by this. "Look here, Phyllis!" cries she:
"you may take my word for it, the fair Blanche is this moment in
as sound health as you or I."

"But why, then, immure herself in her room and act the martyr?"

"Tired of our company, probably, dear. We all understand
Blanche's vapors by this time. The men have gone out, you see,
not to return until dinner-hour, and women are so terribly
insipid. My lady's dresses want renovating, it may be, and surely
this a capital opportunity to see to them. _Voila-tout_."

"And could she not say so? Why tell a lie about such a trifle?"

"Blanche has a talent for lying. A pity to let it run altogether
to waste, is it not? She enjoys a little mystery now and then;
and, besides, she would die of chagrin if she thought we knew she
even spent an hour upon the doing up of her things. We all have
our 'little weaknesses,'" says Miss Beatoun, comically, as we
enter the drawing-room.

Somehow, the remembrance of that pink note and the faint
confusion exhibited by Blanche Going on my entrance into her room
lingers in my mind. I feel a vague dislike to that monogrammed
epistle. For whom was it meant?

Off and on during the remainder of the day this question haunts
me, and only a supreme effort of the will prevents my connecting
it with the name of "Marmaduke."

Surely, surely, I cannot be becoming that most detestable of all
things, a jealous, suspicious wife!

I am unhappy and restless in spite of all my endeavors to be
otherwise. I wander through the house conversing with feverish
gayety with any one I chance to meet, longing eagerly, I scarcely
know why, for the return of the sportsmen. Yet, as the twilight
falls and the shades of evening gather, instead of waiting for
their coming, I have Dora in full possession of the tea-tray,
and, quitting the drawing-room, go upstairs to pass a solitary
and purposeless hour in my boudoir--the pretty little sanctum,
all blue and silver, that associations have endeared to me.

Finding myself as restless here, however, as elsewhere, I leave
it as the clock chimes half-past six, and, turning into the
picture gallery, begin to stare stupidly enough upon the grim
cavaliers and immodest shepherdesses, who in their turn stare back
at me.

Suddenly I become conscious that some cold air is blowing upon
me, and, raising my eyes, perceive the lower window to be partly
open. I shiver, and involuntarily move forward to close it.

Outside this window runs a balcony, reached by stone steps from
the ground beneath, and as I draw nearer to it sounds coming from
thence fall upon my ears--first a woman's voice, and then a
man's.

Their words, though softly uttered, are thoroughly distinct; a
fragment of their conversation, unchecked by the chill wind,
passes close by me and makes itself heard.

"So _you_ thought _once_. You cannot have altogether forgotten
the old times--the past memories---"

It is Blanche Going's voice, and the accent strikes me as being
reproachfully, nay _tenderly_ impassioned.

For a moment my heart stops beating. A cold dampness covers my
face. I _cannot_ move. I hardly dare to breathe. Oh, to whom are
these words addressed? _Whose_ voice will give her back an
answer?

Sir Mark speaks; and with a relief that through its intensity is
for the instant acutest pain, I stagger against the wall near me,
and stand motionless to recover calm.

"Can anything be more melancholy than 'old times?'"  murmured Sir
Mark, lightly, without the faintest trace of tenderness in his
tone. "Believe me, we can have no real happiness in this life
until we have learned successfully how to forget."

I leave the window noiselessly, but as I go the words and their
meaning follow me. "Old times"--"past memories"--can it indeed be
that in the "long ago" lie love passages that were once fresh
between Lady Blanche and Sir Mark Gore?

_If_ it be so, and that the remembrance of them is not yet quite
dead in _her_ heart, what becomes of my theory (that of late has
been a settled conviction) that she bears an overweening
affection for my husband. Surely her tone was utterly sincere:
she had not feigned that despairing sadness: those few words had
come from a full heart--from a woman making a last vain effort to
revive a buried love.

I gain my own room, and, having locked the outside door, stop to
press my hand to my forehead. A sensation that is partly triumph,
partly joy, rises within me--joy, however, that lasts but for a
moment, as, with a groan, I recollect how as yet I have not
proved Marmaduke's indifference to _her_.

Of what consequence is it to me to know whether Marmaduke is or
is not the first in Blanche Going's thoughts, unless I be assured
that _she_ is not the first in _his?_

Nevertheless, in spite of these dismal doubts, I feel my spirits
somewhat lighter. My feelings towards my husband take a kindlier
shade as I hurry through my dressing with the assistance of my
maid--being already rather late with my toilet. I hear 'Duke
enter his own room. The days are long gone by when he would seek
my presence the first thing on his return, and, having given me
the kind and tender kiss I prized so little, proceed to tell me
all that the day had brought him.

Just now this thought forces itself upon me obstinately, bringing
a strange, remorseful pang to my heart. I dismiss Martha, and in
an unusually softened frame of mind, open the door that separates
his room from mine, and say, cheerfully, "Had you good sport,
Marmaduke?"

He looks up, plainly surprised, but makes no comment on my
unexpected appearance.

"Pretty fair. Not so good as we hoped on setting out, but very
respectable for all that. Thornton is a first class shot. Any one
here to-day?"

"Yes, the De Veres and Murrays. But they stayed no time, and old
Mrs. Murray was in a very bad temper. It appears Harry is more
than ever determined about marrying the governess."

"I pity the governess, if she goes back to live with the old lady
as a daughter-in-law."

"So do I. Oh, Marmaduke, have you got any eau-de-Cologne? Martha
must have a weakness for it, as she never leaves me any."

"I see plenty in one of these bottles. Come and take it,"

I walk in, fastening my bracelet as I go.

"That's a pretty dress you have on to-night" says Marmaduke,
regarding me critically before going in for a second battle with
a refractory tie; already three lie in the corner slaughtered.

"Fancy _your_ seeing anything about me worth admiring!" I reply;
but, in spite of my words, my laugh is low and pleased. His tone,
though quiet, has a ring of cordiality in it that for some time
has been absent. A smile hovers round my lips; I lift my head and
am about to make some little, trilling, saucy, honeyed speech,
when my eyes fall upon a certain object that lies upon the
toilet-table among the numerous other things he had just
withdrawn from his pockets.

A tiny pale-pink three-cornered note rests, address uppermost,
beneath my gaze. "Marmaduke Carrington, Esq."--no more. How well
I knew it, the detestable, clear, beautiful writing!

I feel my lips compress, my cheeks grow ashy white.  Turning
abruptly, stung to the quick, I leave the room.  "Will you not
take the bottle with you?" calls out Marmaduke, and I answer, in
rather a stifled voice, "No, thank you," and shut the door
between us hastily.

Oh that _that_ was all that separated us! I feel half mad with
outraged pride and passion. That she should write him
_billets-doux_ in my own house, that _he_ should receive them and
treasure them, seems to me in my excited state; the very basest
treachery. Making fierce love beneath my very eyes, so careless
of my feelings, or so convinced of my stupidity, as to take no
pains to conceal their double-dealing!

I grow almost reckless, and remember with some sort of
satisfaction that at least it is in my power to wound him in turn
and her, too, after what I have overheard this evening. Although
his vaunted love for me--if ever there--is now gone, I can still
touch him where his honor is concerned. I rub my pale face until
the color returns to it, I bite my quivering lips until they
gleam like crimson berries, and, going downstairs, for the first
time in my life I let the demon of coquetry rise and hold full
sway within my breast, while I go in for an open and decided
flirtation with Sir Mark Gore.

Yet how miserable I am. How wretched are the moments, when I give
myself room for thought! I note Marmaduke's dark frown, as, with
flushed cheeks and gloaming, sparkling eyes, I encourage and play
gayly to Sir Mark's nonsense. I see Bebe's surprised glance and
Harriet's pained one. I watch with exultation the bitter
expression that clouds Lady Blanche's brow. I see everything
around me, and long--with a feverish longing--for the evening to
wear to an end.

At length comes the welcome hour of release. We have all wished
each other good-night. The men have retired to their
smoking-room, the women to their bedroom fires and the service of
their maids.

Martha having pulled my hair to pieces and brushed it vigorously,
I give her leave to seek her own couch, and, with a set purpose
in my mind, get through the remainder of my night toilet without
assistance.

An unrestrainable craving to learn all the particulars of
Marmaduke's former attachment to Lady Blanche Going (as described
by Mark Gore) seizes me; and Bebe being of all people the one
most likely to satisfy my curiosity I determine to seek her and
gain from her what knowledge I can. She is, besides, the only one
of whom I would make such an inquiry; therefore to her room I
prepare to go.

I hastily draw on a pale-blue cashmere dressing-gown, prettily
trimmed with satin quilting of the same shade, and substitute
blue slippers for the black ones I have been wearing during the
evening. My hair hangs in rich chestnut masses far below my
waist; two or three stray rippling locks wander wantonly across
my forehead. A heavy blue cord and tassel, confining my gown,
completes my costume.

Leaving my own room noiselessly, I reach Bebe's, and knock softly
on the door.

She too has dismissed her maid, and is sitting before the fire in
an attitude that bespeaks reverie. Whatever her thoughts,
however, she puts them from her on my entrance, and comes forward
to greet me, the gay, bright, _debonnaire_ Bebe of every day.

"I am so glad you have come!" she says, running to take both my
hands and lead me to the fire. "A few minutes conversation at
this hour of the night is worth _hours_ of the day. And, oh,
Phyllis, how pretty you look!"

"Nonsense!" return I, mightily pleased, nevertheless; and, going
over to the cheval glass, I proceed to examine myself with a
critical eye.

"_Wonderfully_ pretty," repeats Bebe, with emphasis.  "My dearest
Phyllis, you should _always_ wear blue cashmere, and let your
hair fall down your back just so. You look exactly fourteen, and
very charming."

"Well, even at the best of times I was never considered pretty,"
declared I, modestly. "Now and then, when wearing a new dress or
that, I may have appeared good-looking; but even Marmaduke never
told me I was _that_."

"Never told you you were _pretty!_" cries Bebe, in a voice of
horror. "Never told you you were the sweetest and loveliest
creature upon earth? What a _miserable_ lover!" It would be
impossible to describe the amount of scorn she throws into her
manner.

Her words, though I know they are spoken in jest, coming thus
hotly on my new suspicions, rankle sorely.

"I don't see that his telling me a lie would have done any good,"
I expostulate, somewhat warmly, feeling passionately aggrieved at
the thought that he has fallen short in his wooing. Surely once,
if for ever so little a time, I was all in all to him.

"Yes, it would--an immensity of good. It would be only fit and
proper. That is just one of the things about which a man ought to
be able to lie _well;_ though, indeed, in most cases I doubt if
it _would_ be a lie. Change a friend into a lover, awaken within
him the desire to make you his wife, and, such is the vanity and
self-complacency of man, he will at once (in regarding you as
_his_ possible property) magnify your charms, and end by
contrasting you favorably with every other wife of his
acquaintance. _You_ do not come within the pale of my remarks,
however, as I speak of ugly women. Phyllis, you are too modest.
You give me the impression that all your life through you have
been more or less sat upon. Is it not so?"

"I believe it is," I answer, laughing; "but I think justly so.
Why, only look at my nose; it turns right up; and--and then, you
know, Dora was always on the spot to eclipse me."

"Indeed I know nothing of the kind. _You_ are infinitely more
attractive in my eyes; though I admit Dora has charms, with her
complexion and eyes of 'holy blue.' I verily believe you are a
hypocrite. Don't you know all the men here rave about you? Don't
you know it was a fixed creed in the family that Marmaduke's
heart was cased in steel until he destroyed it by marrying you?"

"Oh," I say, with a light laugh, though my blood is coursing
wildly though my veins, "you exaggerate slightly there, I think.
Was he not very much _epris_ with his cousin, Lady Blanche Going,
some years ago?"

"A mere boy-and-girl attachment. I would as soon dream of lending
importance to the passion of a schoolboy in his teens--to the
passion of my dear Chips, for instance.  Besides, she was several
years older than he was--whatever she may be now," says Bebe,
with a little grimace.

"Was it violent while it lasted?"

"I don't remember anything about it; but mamma says it died a
natural death after one season. Then she married Colonel Going."

"Why does Colonel Going remain away so long?"

"Ah! why, indeed, my dear? that is a thing nobody knows. There
was no divorce, no formal separation, no _esclandre_ of any kind;
he merely put the seas between them, and is evidently determined
on keeping them there.  To me and my cousins of my own age the
colonel is something of a myth; but mamma knew him well about six
years ago, and says he was a very fascinating man, and upright,
but rather stern."

"What a curiously unpleasant story! But didn't people talk?"

"Of course they did; they did even worse--they whispered; but her
ladyship took no notice, and every one had to confess she behaved
beautifully on the occasion. She gave out that her extreme
delicacy alone (her constitution is of iron) prevented her
accompanying him to India, and she withdrew from society, in the
very height of the season, for two whole months. Surely decorum
could no further go!"

"And then?"

"Why, then she reappeared, with her beauty much augmented from
the enforced quiet and early hours--and with her mother."

"What is the mother like? One can hardly fancy Blanche with
anything so tender as a mother."

"Like a fairy godmother, minus the magic wand and the energy of
that famous person. A little old lady with a dark face, and eyes
that would be keen and searching but for the discipline she has
undergone. She has no opinions and no aims but what are her
daughter's; and Blanche rules _her_--as she rules every other
member of her household--with a rod of iron."

"Poor old creature! What an unhappy age! So you say Marmaduke's
admiration for Blanche meant nothing?  And she--did she like
_him?_"

"For 'like' read 'love' I suppose? My dearest Phyllis, have you,
who have been so long under the same roof with Blanche, yet to
discover how impossible it would be for her to love any one but
Blanche Going. Yet stay; I wrong her partly; _once_ she _did_
love, and does so still, I believe."

"Whom do you mean?" ask I, bending forward eagerly.

"Have you no notion? How surprised you look! You will wonder
still more when I tell you the hero of her romance is at present
in your house."

"Here, in _this_ house!" I stammer.

"Yes. No less a person than Mark Gore."

So I am right. And jealousy has been at the root of all her
ladyship's open hostility towards me!

"Any casual observer would never think so," I remark, at last,
after a very lengthened pause.

"That is because Murk's infatuation has come to an end, and he
does not care to renew matters. If you watch him you may see what
particular pains he takes to avoid a _tete-a-tete_ with her. And
yet there was a time when she had considerable influence over
him. He was a constant visitor at her house in town--so constant
that at length it began to be mooted about how he had the
_entree_ there at all hours and seasons, even when an intimate
friend might expect a denial. Then people began to whisper again,
and shake their wise heads and pity 'that poor colonel,' and
watch eagerly for the _denouement_.

"Why did her mother not interfere?"

"My dear, have I not already told you what a perfectly drilled
old lady is the mother? It would be as much as her life is worth
to interfere in any of her daughter's arrangements. She is
utterly dependant on Blanche, and, therefore, perforce, a
nonentity. She is expected to remain in the house as a useful
piece of furniture; and she is also expected to have neither ears
nor eyes nor tongue. Besides, it was not a singular case; Mark
was only the last on a long list of admirers. My lady could not
exist without a _cavalier servente_."

"I think it downright abominable," say I, with much warmth.

Bebe looks amused.

"So do I. But what will you? And in spite of all our thoughts
Mark came and went unceasingly. Wherever madame appeared, so did
her shadow; at every ball he was in close attendance; until, the
season dragging to a close, Blanche went abroad for two months,
and Mark went down to this part of the world. To 'Duke, was it?"

"No; if you mean the summer before last, he stayed with the
Leslies," I admit, somewhat unwillingly. "I met him several
times."

"What! you knew him, then, before your marriage?" cries Bebe,
with surprise.

"Very slightly. Once or twice he called with the Leslies, and
when he returned to town he sent me an exquisite little volume of
Tennyson; which delicate attention on his part so enraged papa,
that he made me return the book, and forbade my writing to thank
Sir Mark for it. So ended our acquaintance."

"Oh, _now_ I have the secret; _now_ I understand why Blanche
detests you so," exclaims Bebe, clapping her hands merrily. "So
he lost his heart to you, did he? And madame heard all about it,
and was rightly furious? Oh, how she must have ground her pretty
white teeth in impotent rage on discovering how she was outdone
by a simple village maiden! I vow it is a tale that Offenbach's
music might adorn."

"How absurd you are, Bebe! How you jump to conclusions! I assure
you Sir Mark left our neighborhood as heart-whole as when he came
to it."

"Well, I won't dispute the point; but whether it was your fault
or not, when Blanche and he again met all was changed. His love
had flown, no one knew whither, he still continued to pay her
visits, it is true, but not every day and all day long. He still
attended the balls to which she went, but _not_ as her slave.
Blanche fretted and fumed herself thin at his defection; but it
was no use: the spell was broken, and Mark was not to be
recalled. You will think me a terrible scandal-monger," says
Bebe, with a smile, "but when one hears a thing perpetually
discussed one feels an interest in it at last in spite of
oneself. You look shocked, Phyllis. I suppose there is no such
thing in this quiet country as polite crime?"

"I don't know about the politeness, but of course there is plenty
of crime. For instance, last assizes Bill Grimes, out gardener's
son at Summerleas, was transported for poaching; and eight months
ago John Haddon, the black-smith, fired at his landlord; and it
is a well-known fact that Mr. De Vere beats his wife dreadfully
every now and then; but there are no such stories as the one you
have just told to me. I think it disgraceful. What is the use of
it all?  How can it end?"

"Sometimes in an elopement; sometimes, as in Blanche's case, in
nothing. You must understand she is perfectly respectable, and
that the very nicest people receive her with open arms. But then
none of them would be in the least surprised if any morning she
was missing. And, indeed, sometimes I wish she _would_ like
somebody well enough to quit the country with him. Anything would
be decenter than these perpetual intrigues."

"Oh, no, Bebe; nothing could be so bad as that. Little as I care
for her, I hope I shall never hear such evil tidings of her."

"Phyllis, you are a dear charitable child, and I like you--it
would be impossible for me to say how much. Do you know"--putting
her hand on mine--"I have always sneered at the idea of any
really sincere attachment existing between women? But since I
have known you I have recanted and confessed myself in error. If
you were my sister I could not love you better."

Contrasting her secretly with meek-eyed Dora, I feel guiltily
that to me Bebe is the more congenial of the two.  With my
natural impulsiveness I throw my arms round her neck and favor
her with a warm kiss.

"But I am not charitable," goes on Bebe, when she has returned my
chaste salute, "and I detest Blanche with all my heart. There is
something so sly and sneaking about her. She would do one an
injury, if it suited her, even while accepting a kindness at
one's hands. Do you know.  Phyllis, she is still madly in love
with Sir Mark, while I think _he_ is decidedly smitten with you?"

My face and throat grow scarlet.

"I hope not," I stammer, foolishly.

"I am sure of it. He never takes his eyes off you, and at times
my lady is absolutely wild. I never noticed it so plainly as this
evening; and by the bye, _ma mie_"--very gently and kindly--"I
confess it occurred to me--were you flirting with Mark--just a
little?"

"I don't know what came over me this evening," I reply,
petulantly; "I hardly know what I said or did. Something was on
my mind and made my actions false. I don't care a bit for Mark
Gore, but still I let it seem as if I did."

"Don't make yourself unhappy by imagining absurdities," says
Bebe, quietly, _apropos_ of nothing that I could see, and without
looking at me; "and take care of Blanche; she would make a
dangerous enemy. Not that I think she could harm you; but
sometimes her soft eyes betray her, and she looks as if she could
cheerfully stab you. To me it is a little comedy, and I enjoy it
immensely. I can see she would do anything to bring back Mark to
his allegiance, and for that purpose makes love to Marmaduke
before his eyes, in the vain hope of rendering him jealous.
And"--with a swift shrewd glance at me--"what can poor 'Duke do
but pretend to accept her advances and be civil to her?"

I think of the pink billet and of all the other trifles light as
air that go far to make me believe the pretense to be a pleasant
one for 'Duke, but say nothing. He certainly finds it more than
easy to be "civil" to her.

"However, _her_ pains go for naught," continues Bebe: "there is
nothing so difficult to re-light as a dead love."

A shadow crosses her _piquante_ face. She draws in her lips and
bravely smothers a sigh. A door bangs loudly in the distance.

I start to my feet.

"It must be later than I thought," I say. "The men seem to have
tired of their cigars. Good night, dear Bebe."

"Good-night," she murmurs, and with a hurried embrace we part.

I gain the corridor, down one long side of which I must pass to
get to my own room. Fancying, when half-way, that I hear a noise
behind me, I stop to glance back and ascertain the cause; but no
capped or frisetted head pushes itself out of any door to mark my
doings. Some one of the indescribable noises belonging to the
night had misled me.

Reassured, I turn again--to find myself face to face with Mark
Gore.

He is three yards distant from me. His face wears a surprised and
somewhat amused expression, that quickly changes to one deeper,
as his eyes travel all over my pretty gown, my slippers, and my
disordered hair.

Naturally I am covered with confusion, and, having had time to
feel ashamed of my behavior during the evening, feel how
especially unfortunate is this encounter.

"Do you often indulge in midnight rambles?" he asks, gayly,
stopping in front of me.

"No," I return, as unconcernedly as I well can, considering my
perturbation; "but to-night Miss Beatoun and I found so much to
say about our friends that we forgot the hour. Don't let me
detain you, Sir Mark. Good-night."

"Good-night," holding out his hand, into which I am constrained
to put mine. As I make a movement to go on, he detains me for a
moment to say, quietly, "I never saw you before with your hair
down. You make one lose faith in coiffeurs. And why do you not
oftener wear blue?"

There is not the faintest shadow of disrespect in his tone; he
speaks as though merely seeking information; and, though the
flattery is openly apparent, it is not of a sort calculated to
offend. Still, I feel irritated and impatient.

"Fancy any one appearing perpetually robed in the same hue?" I
say, snubbily; "like the 'woman in white', or the 'dark girl
dressed in blue!'"

"You remind me of Buchanan's words," goes on Sir Mark, not taking
the slightest notice of my tone. "Do you remember them?"

 "'My hair was golden yellow, and it floated to my shoe;
My eyes were like two harebells bathed in little drops of dew.'"

"_My_ hair golden yellow!" exclaim I, ungraciously, "Who could
call it so? It is distinctly brown. I cannot say you strike me as
being particularly happy in the suitability of your quotations."

All this time he has not let go my hand. He has either forgotten
to do so, or else it pleases him to retain it; and, as we have
moved several steps apart, and are at least half a yard asunder,
our positions would suggest to a casual observer that Sir Mark is
endeavoring to keep me.

Raising my head suddenly at this juncture, I see Marmaduke coming
slowly up the stairs. Our eyes meet; I blush scarlet, and, with
my usual clear common sense, drag my hand in a marked and guilty
manner out of my companion's. Once more I stammer, "Good-night,"
very awkwardly, and make & dart towards my own room, while Sir
Mark, totally unaware of the real cause of my confusion, goes on
his way, conceitedly convinced that the fascination of his manner
has alone been sufficient to bring the color to my brow.

Inside my door I literally stamp my feet with vexation. "Could
anything be more provoking? What a nuisance that Sir Mark is,
with his meaningless compliments! I have no patience with men who
are forever cropping up just when they are least wanted."

"Do you know how late it is?" says Marmaduke, coming in from his
dressing-room, with an ominous frown in his blue eyes.

"Yes; I was thinking what a scandalously late hour it is for you
to be still up smoking," I retort, determined to fight it out,
and meanly trying to make my own cause better by throwing some
blame on him.

"I thought you in bed at least an hour ago."

"Well, you thought wrong. I had something particular to say to
Bebe and went to her room. That delayed me.  We neither of us
guessed how the time had run away until we heard the study-door
close, or the smoking-room, or wherever you were. Coming out I
met Sir Mark accidentally."

Though my tone is defiant, I still feel I am excusing myself, and
this does not sweeten my temper.

"Oh!" says Marmaduke, dryly.

"Why do you speak in that tone, Marmaduke?"

"I am not aware I am using any particular tone. But I admit I
most strongly object to your going up and down the corridors at
this hour of night in your dressing-gown."

"You mean you disapprove of my meeting Sir Mark Gore. I could not
help that. It happened unfortunately, I allow; but when the man
stopped me to bid a civil good-night, I could not bring myself to
pass him as though he were an assassin or a midnight marauder. Of
course I answered him politely. I can see nothing improper in
that, to make you scowl as you are scowling now."

"I am not talking of impropriety," says 'Duke, very haughtily.
"It is _impossible_ I should connect such a word with your
conduct. Were I obliged to do so, the same roof would not cover
us both for half an hour longer be assured of that."

I laugh wickedly.

"Which of us would go?" I ask. "Would you turn me out? Wait a
little longer, until the frost and snow are on the ground: then
you can do it with effect. The tale would be wanting in interest
unless I perished before morning in a snowdrift. And all because
I crossed a corridor at midnight in a blue dressing-gown. Poor
gown! who would guess that there was so much mischief in you? Sir
Mark aid it was a very pretty dressing-gown."

I sink my hands in the pockets of the luckless gown and look up
at Duke with a "now then!" expression on my face. He is as black
as night with rage. Standing opposite to him, even in my
high-heeled shoes, I want quite an inch of being as tall as his
shoulder, yet I defy him as coolly as though he were the pigmy
and I the giant.

"I don't in the least want to know what Gore said or did not say
to you," says he, in a low, suppressed voice; "keep such
information to yourself. But I _forbid_ you to go into Bebe's
room another night so late."

"Forbid me, indeed!" cry I, indignantly. "And have _I_ nothing to
forbid?" (Here I think of the cocked-hat note.) "_You_ may do as
you like, I suppose? _You cannot_ err; while I can to be scolded
and ill-treated because I say good-night to a friend. I never
heard anything so unjust; and I _won't_ be forbidden; so there!"

"It strikes me it must have been a _very_ 'civil' good-night to
necessitate his holding your hand for such a length of time, and
to bring a blush to your cheeks."

"It was not Sir Mark made me blush,"

"No? Who, then?"

"_You_." This remark is as unwise as it is true a discovery I
make a moment later.

"Why?" asks 'Duke, sternly. "What was there in the unexpected
presence of your husband to bring the blood to your face? I had
no idea I was such a bugbear. It looks very much as though you
were ashamed of yourself."

"Well, then, yes I _was_ ashamed of myself," I confess, with
vehement petulance, tapping the ground with my foot. "I was
ashamed of being caught out there _en deshabille_, if you want to
know. And now, that you have made me acknowledge my crime, I
really do wish you would go back to your own room, Marmaduke,
because you are in an awful temper, and I detest being
cross-examined and brought to task. You are ten times worse than
papa and more disagreeable." Here I give my shoulders an
impertinent shrug, and fairly turn my back upon him. An instant
later, and he has slammed the door between us, and I see him no
more that night.



CHAPTER XXVI.

Drip, drip, drip. Patter, patter, patter. How it does rain, to be
sure! If it continues pouring at this present rate, there will be
but very little rain left in the clouds in half an hour.

"Just twelve o'clock," says Mr. Thornton, with a moody sigh, as
he pulls out his watch for the twentieth time. "We are regularly
done for if it keeps on five minutes longer, as rain at twelve
means rain all day."

"Mere superstition," replies Miss Beatoun, rising to flatten her
pretty nose against the window-pane, in the vain hope of catching
a glimpse of the blue sky.

It is the next day; and, as we have arranged to visit a
skating-rink in a town some few miles from us, the rain is a
disappointment--especially to me, as I have never seen a rink.

"I hardly think that you will see one to-day," says Sir Mark,
turning to me, with a smile.

"Seems so odd you never having seen one, dear Mrs. Carrington,"
says Blanche Going, sweetly, "so universal as they now are. When
in Paris, and passing through London, I wonder you had not the
curiosity to go and spend a few hours at one. Marmaduke, how very
neglectful of you not to get Mrs. Carrington into Prince's!"

"Prince's is no longer the fashion," replies Marmaduke, curtly.
He is sitting rather apart from the rest of us, and is looking
gloomy and ill-tempered. He and I have exchanged no words since
our last skirmish--have not even gone through the form of wishing
each other a good-day.

"It is getting worse and worse," declares Chips, from his
standing-point at the window, where he has joined Miss Beatoun.

"It is always darkest before dawn," says that young lady, with
dauntless courage.

"So they say," murmurs Lord Chandos, catching her eye,

"Poor Thornton!" says Sir Mark, with deep sympathy; "I don't
wonder at your depression--such a chance thrown away; and you
always look so nice on wheels. Our friend Thornton, Mrs.
Carrington, is impressed with the belief, and very justly so,
that he is an unusually fascinating skater."

"Quite so," returns Chips, ironically. "I wonder what you would
all do if you hadn't me to laugh at? You ought to love me, I come
in so handy at times and give you so many opportunities of
showing off the brilliancy of your wit."

"He grows sarcastic," murmurs Sir Mark. "This weather, instead of
damping him, as it would more frivolous mortals, has the effect
of developing his hidden powers."

"Let us forget the weather," says Bebe, brightly, turning from
the contemplation of it to sink into a seat by the fire, "and
then perhaps it will clear. After making up our minds to go to
Warminster and visit a rink, and dine at a hotel and drive home
again in the dark and have a general spree, I confess, the not
being able to do anything has rather put me out."

We are all assembled in the library, it being the least doleful
room in the house on a wet day. As Bebe speaks, we all try more
or less (Marmaduke being included in the less) to put on a
cheerful countenance and enter into light conversation. For the
most part we succeed, and almost manage to forget our troubles.

"Bye the bye, Thornton, you used to be a great man on the Turf,"
presently says Sir Mark, addressing Chips, _apropos_ of something
that has gone before. Chips, who is lounging in a chair beside
Miss Beatoun, his whole round boyish face one cherubic smile,
looks up inquiringly.  "Masters told me you were quite an
authority."

"Oh, not at all," returns Mr. Thornton, modestly: "I don't
pretend to anything. I flatter myself I know a likely animal when
I see it--nothing more."

"I always thought you intended making your fortune in that line,"
continues Sir Mark, lazily. "The last time I met you, in the
spring, you were radiant in the possession of so many more
hundreds than you ever hoped to obtain."

"Oh, Mr. Thornton, is it possible _you_ go in for betting?"
murmurs Bebe, with a glance enchantingly reproachful. "I had
placed you on such a high pinnacle in my estimation and _now_
what am I to think? I feel _so_ disappointed."

"Don't," entreats Chips, sentimentally. "If _you_ begin to think
badly of me, I shall do something desperate. Besides, I really
only put on a mere trifle now and then; nothing at all to
signify; wouldn't ruin a man if he were at it forever. You should
see how some fellows bet. Don't you know---"

"Did you do well last Ascot?" asks Chandos, in tone that is meant
to be genial.

"Well, no; not quite so well as I might wish," with a faint
blush. "Fact is, I rather overdid it--risked my little all upon
the die--and lost."

"Showing how natural talent has no chance against the whims of
fickle fortune. Even the very knowing ones, you see, Mrs.
Carrington, have to knock under sometimes," says Sir Mark.

"How was it?" I ask Chips, with a smile.

"Oh! it was a beastly shame," responds that young man.  "The
horse would have won in a walk if he had got fair play. It was
the most outrageous transaction altogether.  If the rider had
gone straight, there was not an animal in the running could have
beaten him. It was the clearest case of pulling you ever saw."

Lady Blanche laughs softly.

"I never knew an unsuccessful bettor who didn't say that," she
says. "I was waiting to hear you. Each man believes the horse he
fancies _would_ have won only for something. They would die
rather than confess themselves ignorant."

"But I always thought everything was fair and above board on a
race-course," observes Harriet.

Thornton roars.

"Lady Handcock, you are the most charitable woman alive," he
cries, gayly, "but I fear in this instance your faith in the
goodness of humanity goes too far. I met Hamilton the other day,
and he told me a capital story _apropos_ of racing honor. You
know Hamilton, Chandos?"

"Yes, I think so--middle-sized man, with a fair beard?"

"What a vivid description!" murmurs Miss Beatoun, demurely. "One
so _seldom_ sees a middle-sized man, with a fair beard!"

Chandos glanced at her quickly, rather amused, I think, by her
impertinence; but her eyes are innocently fixed on Thornton, who
is evidently full of his story.

"Go on, Thornton," says Sir Mark, blandly: "we are all miserable
till we learn what befell your friend Hamilton."

"It was at Fairy House races, last year," begins Chips, nothing
daunted. "Hamilton was over in Dublin at the time, and went down
there to back a horse he knew something about. A rather safe
thing it was, if rightly done by; and, knowing the jock, who was
a devoted adherent of his own, he went up to him on the course,
to know if he might put his money on with any chance of success.
'Wait awhile, Misther H.,' says his ingenuous friend, turning a
straw in his mouth with much deliberation, 'an' I'll tell ye.
Come to me again in ten minutes.' Accordingly, in ten minutes
Hamilton, seeing him in the paddock, dressed and mounted, went to
him again. 'Well?' said he. 'Wait yet another little bit, Misther
H.,' says this imperturbable gentleman; 'the instructions ain't
final. Meet me in five minutes at that post,' indicating a
certain spot. So Hamilton met him there, and for the third time
he asked him impatiently if he meant winning. 'I do, Misther H.'
says he, in a mysterious whisper, '_if the reins break!_'"

We all laugh heartily, and Bebe, while declaring the story
delicious, vows she has lost all faith in mankind for evermore.

"I have _not_," stoutly maintains Harriet. "Of course, there must
be exceptions, but I believe there is a great deal of goodness
among us all in spite of popular opinion. Why do you look so
supercilious, Marmaduke? Don't you agree with me?"

"No, I do not," replies 'Duke, promptly. "I think there is very
little _real_ goodness going. Taking the general mass, I believe
them to be all alike bad. Of course, there is a great deal in
training, and some appear better than others, simply because they
are afraid of being found out.  That is the principal sin in this
life. I don't deny that here and there one finds two or three
whose nature is tinged with the divine; these reach nearer the
heavens, and are the exceptions that prove my rule."

"My dear 'Duke, how shockingly uncharitable!" says his sister,
slowly; while I, gazing on my husband with open-eyed amazement,
wonder vaguely if last night's disturbance has occasioned this
outbreak.

"It is uncharitable _always_ to speak the truth," says 'Duke,
with a faint sneer. "You asked me my opinion, and I gave it. Are
you acquainted with many beautiful characters, Harry? I confess I
know none. Selfishness is our predominant quality; and many of
the so-called religious ones among us are those most deeply
impregnated with this vice. They follow their religion through
fear, not love, because they dread consequences, and object to
being uncomfortable hereafter, so do what their hearts loathe
through mere selfish terror."

"I had no idea you could be so eloquent," laughs Lady Blanche,
mockingly from her low seat. "Pray, go on Marmaduke; I could
listen to you forever. You are positively refreshing after so
much amiability."

"My dear fellow, you grow bearish," expostulates Sir Mark, with
raised brows and an amused glance. "We wither beneath your words.
Abuse yourself as much as you please, but _do_ spare the rest of
us. We like to think ourselves perfection; it is very rude of you
to undeceive us so brusquely. And how can you give utterance to
such sweeping assertions in such company? Have you forgotten your
wife is present?"

"No"--with a forced smile--"I have not. But I fear even Mrs.
Carrington cannot be considered altogether harmless." He points
this remark with a curiously unloving expression cast in my
direction.

"Never mind, Mrs. Carrington," exclaims Thornton, with his usual
vivacity. "At all events you may count upon _one_ devoted
admirer, as I, for my part, do not believe you have a fault in
the world."

"Thank you," I answer gayly, though secretly I am enraged at
Marmaduke's look and tone. "Thank you very much, Mr. Thornton. I
consider myself fortunate in having secured your good opinion.
But, Marmaduke"--addressing him with the utmost coolness--"how
uncivil you can be! I say nothing of my own feelings I know I am
hopelessly wicked; but your guests, what must they think?  Take
Lady Blanche, for instance: is she not looking the very picture
of innocence, though no doubt speechless with indignation? Surely
you will exonerate _her?_."

"No, not even Blanche," replies Marmaduke; but even as he
condemns her he bends upon her one of his very sweetest smiles.

"I am the more pleased that you do not," says her ladyship, in
her low, soft tones, returning his glance fourfold. "Even if it
were possible, I would not be altogether good. Perfection in any
shape is the one thing of which we most tire."

"The day is clearing; the rain has almost ceased," announces Lord
Chandos, solemnly, at this moment.

I spring to my feet.

"No!" cry I, "you don't _mean_ it?"

"I am almost sure I do," replies he, sententiously

And there, indeed, amid, the clouds as I run to look at them,
shines out a dazzling piece of blue sky that grows and widens as
I gaze.

"It still wants a quarter to one," I say, rapidly. "We will have
lunch at once--no matter whether we eat it or not--and then we
shall start for Warminister, and I shall see my rink after all.
But first I must go to the gardens.  Sir Mark"--in a coquettishly
appealing tone, casting at him a very friendly glance from my
gray-blue eyes--"will _you_ come with me and take care of me as
far as the gates? I have something _very_ particular to say
to--Cummins."

I make the little pause maliciously, and raise my long lashes
just so much as permits me to obtain a glimpse of Marmaduke.

He is talking pleasantly to Lady Blanche, and evidently means me
to understand that he is ignorant of my conduct.  But I can see a
frown on his forehead and certain lines about his mouth that tell
me plainly he has both seen and heard and condemned, and I am
satisfied.

"I shall be delighted," says Sir Mark, with prudent coldness, and
together we leave the room.

---

An hour later; lunch is over, and I am rushing up the stairs to
don my walking-attire. On the topmost landing stands Bebe,
already dressed and about to descend.

As I meet her gaze it arrests me. Surely some expression that
closely resembles woe characterizes her face.  Her eyebrows are
slightly elevated, her lips at the corners curving downwards; her
cheeks are innocent of nature's rouge; a suspicious pinkness
rests upon her lids.

Dear--dear--_dear!_ is there nothing but trouble in this world?
I, of course, am wretched--that goes without telling--but pretty,
bright, _piquante_ Bebe, must she too be miserable? What untoward
thing can have occurred to bring that wistful look into her eyes?

Turning to my maid, who is following me at a respectful distance,
I speak aloud:--

"Martha, I will dispense with your services this afternoon. Miss
Beatoun is here, and will give me any assistance I may require."

So saying, I draw my friend into my room and close my door.

"Now, Bebe, what is it?" I ask, pushing her into a
lounging-chair, and beginning a vigorous search for my seal-skin
jacket. Martha is a good girl the--best of girls--but she can
never put anything in the same place twice running.

"Oh, it is nothing--nothing," answers Bebe, in a tone almost
comical in its disgust. "My pride has had a slight fall--my
conceit has been a little lowered--no more. I hate myself" (with
a petulant stamp of the foot) "for taking it so much to heart;
but I _do_, and that is the fact, and I cannot yet overcome the
feeling. If I did not know I must have looked like a foolish
culprit all the while, I think I would not so greatly mind; but
my color was coming and going in a maddening fashion; and then
his tone--so quick--so---"

"Chandos's tone, I suppose, you mean? But you forget, dear; I
know nothing."

"True, of course not. Well, after you left the library that time
with Mark, the whole party broke up and dispersed about the house
to prepare for this drive, all except myself. I stayed
on--unluckily, as it turned out--to finish my novel, until I
should be called to lunch. It interested me, and I thought myself
sure of solitude for a little time, but in less than three
minutes the door was re-opened, and Chandos came in."

"Well?" I say, as she makes a long pause.

"Unfortunately, it struck me that his coming back so soon again
to where he knew I was alone looked, you know, rather
particular--as if he wished to say something private to me;
and--I had no desire to hear it.

"Oh, Bebe?"

"Well, believe me or not, as you will, I really, dreaded his
saying anything on the--old topic--to such a degree that I rose
and made as though I would instantly quit the room. Oh!" cries
she, with an irrestrainable blush and movement of the hand, "I
wish I had died before I did _that_."

"Why, darling?"

"Oh, need you ask? Don't you see how it betrayed my thoughts?
Why, it looked as though I made quite sure he was going to
propose again. Can't you understand how horrible it was?" says
Bebe, burying her face in her hands, with a hysterical laugh.
"_He_ understood it so, at all events.  He stopped right before
me, and said, deliberately, with his eyes fixed on mine, 'Why do
you leave the room? I came for a book, and for nothing else, I
assure you.' Thus taken aback, I actually stammered and blushed
like a ridiculous schoolgirl, and said, weakly, 'It is almost
time to think of dressing. We start so soon. And besides--I---'
Could anything be more foolish? 'One would think I had the plague
or the pestilence, the way you rush from a room the moment I
enter it,' says he, impatiently.--'I swear I am not going to
propose again. I have had enough of it. I have no desire whatever
to marry a woman against her will. I asked you to be my wife, for
the second time, a week or two ago, thinking my poverty had been
the cause of your former refusal, and was justly punished for my
conceit. Believe me, I have brains enough, to retain a lesson,
once I have learned it; so you may sit down, Miss Beatoun, with
the certainty that I shall never again offend you in _that_ way.'
I could never tell you how I felt, Phyllis, during the utterance
of these words. My very blood was tingling with shame. My eyes
would not be lifted; and, besides, they were full of tears. I
felt that I hated both myself and him."

"It was a very curious speech for him to make," say I, feeling
both puzzled and indignant with Chandos.

"I think he was quite right," declares she, veering round to
resent what seems like an attack on my part. "It must have
angered and disgusted him to see me so confident of his lasting
affection as to imagine him ready to make a fresh offer every
time people left us _tete-a-tete_. I think any man with spirit
would have done just so. No one is to be blamed but myself."

"On the other hand, why should he conclude you thought anything
of the sort?" I say, defending her stoutly in spite of herself.
"He only proved the idea to be quite as uppermost in his mind as
it was in yours. I would have said something to that effect had I
been you."

"_Said_, my dear I could not have even _thought_ of anything at
the moment, I was so confused. It is the simplest thing possible
to think of what would have been the correct thing to say, and to
make up neat little speeches, half an hour after the opportunity
for uttering them is passed, but just on the instant how few have
presence of mind!"

"It was provoking," say I, "and"--with an irrepressible little
laugh--"funny, too. My own impression is he _did_ come back to
renew his pleadings, but saw by your manner it would be useless.
Pity you did not insist on knowing the title of the book he was
so anxious to procure. At all events it is nothing to be
miserable about, dear Bebe."

"Oh, I shan't be miserable, either. Now that I have told some one
I feel better. I have had a good cry, brought on my thorough
vexation, and will now dismiss both the occurrence and his
lordship from my mind."

"Shall you find that an easy task? The latter part of it, I
mean?"

"Quite easy--nothing more so," replies she, with a saucy
uplifting of her chin as she leaves me.

As the hat I wish to wear has been locked away in a certain part
of a wardrobe where I am certain no hat was ever stowed before,
it takes me some time to discover it. When at length I do so, I
find I am considerably behind time, and catching up my gloves,
run hastily along the gallery, and down the western corridor,
that will bring me a degree sooner to the hall below.

As I turn the corner I come without any warning upon Marmaduke
and Lady Blanche Going, evidently in deep and interesting
converse. I stop short; and both, looking up, see me.

"Rage and indignation fill me at this unexpected rencontre. What
_can_ this woman have to whisper to my husband that might not be
said in public?"

Blanche, with the utmost composure, nods her head, smiles, and
vanishes down the staircase, leaving me alone with Marmaduke;
while he stands frowning heavily, and apparently much annoyed by
what has just been said. His black looks deepen as his eyes meet
mine; but as, with raised head and naughty lips, I pass him by,
he suddenly moves towards me, and, throwing his arms round me,
strains me passionately to him, and, turning up my face, kisses
me twice, thrice, upon my mouth.

Still smarting under my angry thoughts, I tear myself from his
embrace and stand aloof, panting with mortification.

"How dare you?" I gasp. "Don't attempt to touch me."

"What! has your indifference _already_ changed to hatred?" says
he, bitterly, as I walk rapidly away.

---

The sun shines out with redoubled power and brilliancy, and,
toiling up Carlisle street, we find ourselves before the door of
the principal hotel in Warminster. Such a goodly turnout as ours
is seldom seen even in this busy, bustling town, and the waiters
and hostlers come out to admire and tender their services. To the
enterprising owner of this grand hotel belongs the rink, and
thither we bend our footsteps.

To see the world on wheels--to see the latest, newest vanity of
the Great Fair--is my ambition. Turning a corner, we enter a
gateway adjoining the hotel; we pass the mystic portal, we pay
the inevitable shilling, throw ourselves upon the mercies of the
movable barrier, and find ourselves _there_.

Just at first the outside circle of admirers prevents our
catching sight of the performers, and the dull grating noise of
the machines falls unpleasantly upon our ears. We draw nearer the
chattering, gaping crowd, and by degrees edge our way in, until
we too have a full view of all that is to be seen.

Surely there is a mistake somewhere, and it is wheels, wheels,
wheels, _not_ love, that 'makes the world go round.'

On they come, by twos and threes, in single file, in shaking
groups, all equally important, all filled with a desire to
get--nowhere. A novice comes running, staggering, balancing
towards us; evidently her acquaintance with this new mode of
locomotion was of the vaguest half an hour ago. The crowd passes
on, and she must follow it; so, with a look of fear upon her face
that amounts almost to agony, she totters onward to brave a
thousand falls. A sudden rush past her--the faintest touch does
it--she reels: her heels (that on ordinary occasions, to judge by
their appearance, must be the staunchest of supports) refuse to
uphold her now; her lips part to emit a dying gasp, already she
smells the ground, when a kindly hand from behind seized her,
steadies her with good-natured force, and, with a smile of
acknowledgement, that confesses the misery of the foregoing
minutes, she once more totters, trips, and scrambles to her fate.

I am delighted, entranced. I find myself presently laughing gayly
and with all my heart, the galling remembrance of the last few
hours swept completely from my brain. I cry "Oh!" at every
casualty, and grasp my companion's arm; I admire and smile upon
the successful. I begin to wish that I too could skate.

Here comes the adept, with eyes fixed questioningly upon the
watchful crowd. Their approving glances fire him with a mad
desire to prove to them how superior he is to his compeers. He
will do _more_ than skate with consummate grace and ease; he will
do better than the "out-side edge;" he will _waltz_.

Oh, daring thought! Now shall he bring down the well-deserved
plaudits of the lookers-on. He turns--one, two, three--it is a
swing, a hop, not perhaps a ball-room performance, but at least a
success. Eyes become concentrated. He essays it again, and again
victory crowns his effort. Yet a third time he makes the
attempt--alas I that fatal three. Is it that his heel catches his
toe, or his toe catches his heel? The result at least is the
same: over he goes; disgrace is on him; with a crash he and the
asphalt meet.

"It is monotonous, I think," breathes Sir Mark in my ear, in a
deprecating tone, and then looks past me at Bebe.

"It is fatiguing," murmurs Harriet, with a yawn.  "James, if you
don't get me a chair this instant, I shall faint."

"It is delicious," declare I, enthusiastically; "it is the nicest
thing I ever saw. Oh! I wish _I_ could skate."

"It makes one giddy," says Lady Blanche, affectedly "Do they
never turn in this place?" Almost on her words a bell tinkles
somewhere in the distance, and as if by magic they all swerve
round and move the contrary way--all, that is, except the tyros,
who come heavily, and without a moment's warning, to their knees.

And now the band strikes up, and the last waltz comes lingeringly
to our ears. Insensibly the musical portion of the community on
wheels falls into a gentle winging motion and undulate to the
liquid strains of the tender "Manolo."

"This is better," says Lady Handcock, sinking into the chair for
which her faithful James had just done battle.

Bebe and Thornton, hand in hand, skim past us.

"Oh! I must, I _will_ learn," I cry, excitedly. "I never saw
anything I liked so much. Sir Mark, _do_ get me a pair of skates
and let me try. It _looks_ quite simple. Oh, if Billy were but
here!"

Sir Mark goes to obey my command, and I stand by Harriet's chair,
too interested for conversation. How they fly along! the women
with more grace in their movements, the men with more science.
Here is the fatal corner turn; the numbers are increasing; whirr,
crash, down they come, four together, causing an indescribable
scene of confusion.  Two from the outside circle rush in to
succor their fallen darlings. It is a panic--a _melee_. Yet stay;
after all it is nothing; they are up again, flushed but
undaunted: it is all the fortune of war. _Vogue la galere_.

A tall young man, blonde and slight, attracts my notice.  Half an
hour ago he struck me as being the gayest of the gay; now his
expression, as he slowly wends his way through the skaters, is
sad and careworn in the extreme; the terrors of the rink are
oppressing him sore, anxiety is printed on his brow; he has but
one thought from start to finish--how to reach uninjured the
chair he has just left.  He never takes but one turn at a time
round the arena, and never gains his haven of safety without a
long-drawn sigh of relief. The fear of ridicule lies heavy upon
him.  But what will you? Rinking is the fashion, and for what
does a young man live if not to follow the _mode?_

I see, too, the elderly gentleman, who, with bent knees and
compressed mouth, essays to rival his juniors. He _will_ be
young, and he will skate, whether his doctor "will let him or
no." _Vive la jeunesse!_

_La jeunesse_, in the form of a diminutive damsel, follows
closely in his wake; she is of tiny build, and has her hand
clasped by one of the tallest young men it has ever been my luck
to behold.

"I pity that young man," says Harriet. "Titania has secured him
for her own."

And indeed it seems like it. Where she may choose to lead him for
the next hour there must he surely go. Were be dying to leave
her, to join some other, "nearer and dearer," he will not be able
to do so. Can he act the brute and ask her to sit down before she
shows any inclination so to do? Can he feign fatigue when she
betrays no symptoms of fagging, and regards him with a glance
fresh at when they first started? He must only groan and suffer
patiently, even though he knows the demon of jealousy is working
mischief in the heart of his beloved as she sits silently
watching him from a distant corner.

"What wonderful vitality that small creature develops!" says
Harriet. "Probably, at home, if asked to rise twice from the
chair, she would declare herself fatigued and _ennuyee_ to the
last degree; here she keeps in motion for an hour at a stretch,
and is still smiling and radiant."

"The game seems hardly worth the candle," remarks Sir James,
gazing after Titania's very insipid looking cavalier.

"My dear, it is worth ten thousand candles," returns his wife.
"That is young Woodleigh, and you know he came in for all that
money on his uncle's death. In such a cause you would not have
her countenance fatigue?"

"Here comes her contrast," remarks Sir James, as a slight, dark
woman, very pretty, with just a _soupcon_ of coloring on her pale
cheeks, and enough shading round her lids to make her dark eyes
darker, skates by.

"I have been watching her," says Harriet. "She is Mrs. Elton,
whose husband died last year--much to her satisfaction, as people
say. See, Phyllis, how she is surrounded by admirers: every tenth
minute she accepts a new aspirant to her hand, as far as rinking
goes. Ah, my dear! see what it is to be a bewitching widow--far
better than being a lovely girl. And James positively refuses to
give me a chance of trying whether I would be a success if so
circumstanced."

Sir James smiles comfortably, and so do I, while watching the gay
widow as she beams, and droops, and languishes, according to the
mood of each companion--amusing all in turn, and knowing herself
as universally adored by the opposite sex as she is detested by
her own.

"I had great difficulty in getting your skates. I wonder if these
are small enough?" whispers Sir Mark in my ear; and, turning, I
behold him fully equipped for the fray, followed by a subdued
little boy, who carries under his arm the articles in question.
They proved to be the right size, and soon I find myself standing
on four wheels (that apparently go every way in the most
impartial manner), grasping frantically my Mentor's arm.

"Oh, what is the matter with my heels? They won't stay still!" I
cry, desperately, as my body betrays an inclination to lay itself
flat upon the ground. "They can't be right, I am sure. Are all
the skates like these?"

"Yes. Try to walk a little, and you will find it easier.  It is
wonderful how soon one gets used to the sensation."

I summon all my pluck, and get round the place three times
without stopping or falling, thanks to Sir Mark's strong arm. As
I reach my starting-point once more, I pause and sink into a
vacant chair.

"I will rest a little," I breathe hastily. "I am dreadfully tired
and frightened. I had no idea it would prove so difficult. Go
away, Sir Mark, and take a turn by yourself; and perhaps later
on, if you come back for me, I will try again. Oh, I wonder how
on earth it is all these people manage to keep upright?"

"Don't lose heart," says Sir Mark, smiling. "Once on a time they
all felt just as you do now. Indeed, I think you a very promising
beginner."

He leaves us, and Harriet and I fall to criticizing the
performers again. After all, I think the beginners amuse me most,
more especially _now_, when I can "deeply sympathize" with their
terrors. The way they stumble against each other, their frequent
falls, their earnest faces--earnest as though it were a matter of
life and death in which they are engaged--all combine to excite
my risible faculties to the last degree.

I laugh merrily and heartily, my color rises, I clap my hands
with glee as two fat men, coming into collision, fall prostrate
almost at my feet.

"How you enjoy everything!" says Harriet, patting me on the
shoulder, and laughing herself through sympathy.

"It is all so new to me," I return, with delight; and, glancing
up at her, I also catch Sir James's eyes fixed upon me, filled
with pleasant amusement.

There are little boys with spindle legs who look all boots and no
body; little boy-rinkers and little girl-rinkers, who do their
work so beautifully and show such unlimited _go_ as puts their
elders to shame.

Sir Mark comes back again, and again I am persuaded to rise and
court fortune. In my turn I scramble and totter and push and try
to believe I am enjoying the moment. At length I break into a
little slide--insensibly, as it seems--and after that matters go
more smoothly.

"Ah! now you are getting into the way of it," exclaims Sir Mark,
almost growing excited over my progress. "Just keep on like that,
and soon you will master, it."

Half an hour elapses. The others of our party, who have been at
it longer than I have, and to whom it is a novelty, have tired of
skating, and stand once more together in a group.

As I approach them, attended by Sir Mark, I pause to utter a few
words.

"It is lovely, delicious. I am getting on capitally. I shall do
it perfectly in no time," I gasp, conceitedly; and, instantly
slipping, I fall forward helplessly into my companion's arms.

I get a severe shock, but think myself lucky in that I have
escaped the ground.

Sir Mark holds me a shade longer, and perhaps a shade more
tenderly, than the occasion requires; and, looking up, I catch
Blanche Going's eyes, and can see that she wears upon her
handsome face a smile, half insolent, wholly suspicious. The
others must see it, too.

Extreme anger grows within my breast. Disengaging myself from Sir
Mark's support, I stand alone, though insecure, and feel that I
am rapidly becoming the color of a rich and full-blown peony.
Certainly my bitterest enemy could not accuse me of blushing
prettily; and this knowledge, added to what I am already smarting
under, renders ma furious.

I repent my first move. I regret having so far given in to
popular opinion as to withdraw myself from Sir Mark's sustaining
arm. Hastily turning to him again--unmindful of Harriet's kind
little speech--I hold out to him my hand, and address him with
unwonted _empressement_.

"Thank you," I say; "but for you I should have come to
ignominious grief in the very midst of my boasting. I am in your
debt, remember. Will you add to your goodness by taking my hand
yet again for a round or two? I want to be a degree more assured.
It is not every day," I add, with a gay, coquettish laugh, "a
lady will make you a generous offer of her hand."

Marmaduke, as well as Blanche, hears every word. Sir Mark takes
my hand very readily, and together we out of sight.

As usual, once my naughtiness is _fait accompli_, I suffer from
remorse. When next I find myself near 'Duke I am mild and
submissive as a ringdove. Would he but speak to me now I feel I
could pardon and be pardoned with the utmost cheerfulness. Alas!
he remains mute and apparently unforgiving, being in the dark as
to my softened mood.

A deep curiosity to learn his exact humor towards me seizes hold
of me, and for the satisfying of it I determine to open fire and
be the first to break down the barrier of silence that has risen
between us.

"What a pity we must leave this place so soon!" I say, with
exceeding geniality. "It opens again at half-past seven. If we do
not start for home, 'Duke, until ten o'clock, why should we not
spend another hour here after dinner?"

"At that hour the place will be thronged with shop-keepers and
the townfolk generally," replies he, in his coldest tones,
without looking at me.

"I should not mind them in the very least," eagerly.

"I dare say not: there are few things you _do_ mind; but _I_
should," returns 'Duke, slowly and decisively, and, walking away,
leaves me _tete-a-tete_ with Sir Mark Gore.

All the sweetness within me changes to gall. I am once again
angered and embittered; nay, more, I long to revenge myself upon
him for the severity of his manner. At such moments who has not
found the tempter near?

Sir Mark, bending his head, says, smoothly: "You should remember
how tired Marmaduke must be of this kind of thing. He has seen so
much of it. It was good enough of him, I think, to drive here
to-day at all. No doubt he shudders at the thought of visiting a
country rink twice in six or seven hours. Will you allow me to be
your escort here to-night? If it proves unbearable we need only
stay a few minutes. I am sure Marmaduke would in reality wish you
to be gratified---"

He hesitates, and regards me quietly. I am by no means as sure as
he is of Marmaduke's amiability; but at this instant I care for
nothing but the opportunity of showing my husband how little I
care for his likes or dislikes.

"I dare say you are right," I return, calmly. "Of course it is
just the sort of amusement a man would find dull, once the
novelty was worn away. It is self-denying of you to offer your
services. Yes, I think I will come here to-night for a few
minutes, if only to see how the scene looks by lamplight."

"Much gayer than by daylight. That you can imagine." replies he,
evenly, his eyes bent upon the ground.

Once having pledged myself to go, I feel no inclination to break
my word. All through dinner mutinous thoughts support me in my
determination.

Having led my guests back into the reception-room, I pass into
the adjoining apartment unnoticed, and, hurriedly putting on my
hat and jacket, slip out into the hall, where I find Sir Mark
awaiting me.

Now for the first time, looking out into the darkening night, I
understand what fear means. My heart sinks. What wild and foolish
thing am I about to do? Obstinacy and the shame of confessing
myself unnerved alone prevents me from turning back again, and it
is with a beating, cowardly pulse, though an undaunted exterior,
that I cross the threshold with my companion.

As I have said, the rink adjoins the hotel, and a very few
minutes brings us once more within its shelter. During those few
minutes my usual talkativeness deserts me; I am silent as the
grave. Sir Mark, too, makes no attempt at conversation.

Inside, the laughing, moving crowd somewhat distracts me from my
gloomy apprehensions. The bright glare of the lamps, the music of
the band, which is playing its liveliest air, render me less
fearful of consequences. Sir Mark gets me a pair of skates; he
holds out his hand; I move forward; the crush is not so great as
I had imagined the music cheers me. After all what harm have I
done? I stumble; a merry laugh forces itself from my lips; all is
forgotten save the interest of this new pastime.

Can a quarter of an hour have passed away? I am chattering gayly,
and clinging to my cavalier, in a fashion innocent, indeed, but
rather pronounced, when, looking up, I encounter Marmaduke's eyes
fixed upon me from the doorway. There is in them an expression
strange, and, to me at least, new--an expression that strikes
terror to my heart as I gaze.

Sir Mark, unaware of his presence, continues to issue
instructions and guide my quavering footsteps, until we are
within a few feet of my husband. Loosing my hands then from his
grasp, I precipitate myself upon Marmaduke and cling to him for
the support he coolly allows me to take.

Sir Mark, propelled by the push I have given him in parting,
skates on some little distance from us, giving me time to gasp,
"Oh, 'Duke, don't be angry. I liked it so much to-day and you
said we would not start before ten; so I knew I had plenty of
time. You are not angry, are you?"

By this time--before 'Duke can reply--if indeed, he would deign
to notice me, which I begin to doubt--Sir Mark is returned, and
is now addressing my husband with the utmost _bonhomie_.

"See what it is to be of a dissipated turn, Carrington.  In
default of more congenial sport I could not resist the pleasures
of an obscure rink. I fear it was foolish of me, though, to put
it into Mrs. Carrington's head; though I really think there are
few draughts anywhere, it is such a lovely night."

He says this as though the only earthly objection that could be
raised to my coming out at this hour with him alone, is the fear
of my catching cold.

"Don't you think you have had enough of it now?" says 'Duke,
calmly--_too_ calmly--still with that strange expression in his
eyes, though perfectly polite. He does not look at me, and the
hand I still hold in desperation is limp within my grasp, and
takes no heed of the gentle, beseeching pressure I bestow upon it
every quarter of a minute.  "It is getting rather late"--glancing
at his watch; "I fear I must ask you to return at once, as the
traps are ordered round; and it will not do for Mrs. Carrington
to keep her guests waiting."

"I want a boy to take off my skates," I say, submissively,
shocked at the lateness of the hour; it wants but ten minutes to
ten.

"True. But boys are never in the way when wanted.  Gore, I'm sure
_you_ will not mind unfastening Mrs. Carrington's skates, just
for once," in a queer voice.

"I shall be delighted," says Mark, courteously, going down on his
knees before me. As he bows his head I barely catch a certain
gleam in his eyes that is neither Laughter nor triumph, yet is a
curious mingling of both.

I feel ready to cry with vexation.

"You will follow me as soon as you can," says 'Duke, and, to my
amazement, walks steadily away.

"I am afraid I have got you into a scrape," says Mark, in a low
tone, as he bends over my left foot, and with slow fingers draws
out the leather straps.

"How do you mean?" I ask, haughtily, feeling passionate anger in
my heart towards him at the moment, regarding him as the cause of
all my misery.

"I mean--of course I don't know--but I fancied Carrington was
angry with you for coming here with--that is--so late." His
hesitation and stammering are both affected and untrue.

"Not a bit of it," I reply stoutly; "he probably does not like
being kept waiting: men never do. He is wonderfully punctual
himself, and of course I ought to have been back ages ago. I wish
now I had never come. Can't you be a little quicker?" with an
impatient movement of my toe. "It don't take the boys hours to
get off each skate."

"You are in a desperate hurry _now_."

"I _am_ in a desperate hurry, and I hate vexing Marmaduke. There,
hold it tightly, and I will pull my foot out.  Now, try and be a
little quicker about this one."

"I assure you I am doing my best," sulkily. "I don't want to keep
you here, in your present mood, longer than I can help."

"I should think not," say I, with a disagreeable laugh.

As the skate comes off he flings it aside with a savage gesture,
and, rising, offers me his arm, which I decline.

"We must run for it," I say, indifferently, "and I never can do
that to, my own satisfaction when holding on to any one. I detest
jogging."

"Why don't you say at once you detest _me?_" exclaims Mark,
roughly, and summarily disposes of a small boy who is unhappy
enough to be in his path at the moment.

"I will if you like," return I, equably; and in silence as
complete as when we set out we return to the hotel.

When we arrive, every one is busy getting on his or her outdoor
things. My sealskin jacket and velvet hat already adorn my
person, so no convenient business of that kind comes to my aid to
help me to carry of the confusion and secret fear that are
consuming me. I stand somewhat apart from the rest, looking
strangely like a culprit. Even  Bebe, who is a sure partisan is
so standing before a distant mirror, adjusting the most
coquettish of head gears as to be unable to see me, while young
Thornton chatters to her admiringly upon one side, and Lord
Chandos glowers at her from the other.

Presently some one approaches, and to my astonishment Sir James
Handcock, with an unusual amount of energy in his eyes and
manner, takes up a position near me, and actually volunteers a
remark.

"Remember I am old enough to be your father," he begins,
abruptly, "and don't be angry with me. I feel that I must speak.
I don't want to see you made unhappy. I want you to cut the whole
thing. Flirtations however innocent were never meant for
tender-hearted little girls like you."

I am so utterly taken aback, so altogether surprised, that I even
forget to blush, and can do nothing but stand staring at him in
silent bewilderment. Sir James to deliver a lecture! Sir James to
take upon him the part of Mentor!  it is more than my brain can
grasp at a moment's notice.  Surely I have been guilty of
something horrible, unpardonable, to shake him out of his
taciturnity.

Harriet, coming up at this juncture, hastens to assist me out of
my dilemma.

"Has he been scolding you?" she asks briskly, with her quick
ready smile. "James, I won't have Phyllis frightened to death by
a stern old moralist like you. Go and get things together; and if
you meet a comfortable motherly gray shawl, remember it is mine."

Thus dismissed, James, ever obedient, departs, casting a kindly
glance at me as he goes. Harriet lays her hand lightly on my arm.

"Don't look so horrified, child," she says. "James's voice, from
continual disuse, has degenerated into a growl, I own, but it
need not reduce you to insensibility. He is awkward, but he means
well, as they say in the British drama. Come"--with a faint
pressure--"try to look more cheerful, or people will begin to
wonder and imagine all sorts of unlikely things. You have made a
mistake; but then a mistake is not a crime."

"What have I done?" I ask, rousing myself. "I only wanted to see
the rink again, and 'Duke would not take me. He was unkind in his
manner, and vexed me. Sir Mark offered to take charge of me, I
believe I wanted to show 'Duke I could go in spite of him, but I
never thought of--of anything else; and now 'Duke is so angry he
will not even speak to me."

"Oh, that is nonsense! of course he will speak to you. You have
committed a little folly, that is all. I can quite understand it.
Probably, under like circumstances, and at your age, I would have
been guilty of the same. But it was foolish nevertheless."

"He should not have spoken to me as he did."

"I dare say not; though I don't know what he said, and do not
wish to know. There are always faults on both sides. And now,
Phyllis, as we are on the subject, let me say one word. You know
I am fond of you--that I think you the dearest little
sister-in-law in the world. Therefore you will hear me patiently.
Have nothing more to say to Mark Gore. He is very--unfortunate in
his--friendships. I do not wish to say anything against him, but
no good ever came of being too intimate with him. Are you
offended with me? Have I gone too far Phyllis?"

"No, no," anxiously retaining the hand she half withdraws, "I am
glad, as it was on your mind, you spoke. But you cannot
think--you cannot believe---" I am too deeply agitated to
continue.

"I believe nothing but what is altogether good of you, be sure of
that," she answers, heartily. "But I dread your causing yourself
any pain through thoughtlessness. Remember 'how easily things go
wrong,' and how difficult it is sometimes to set them right
again. And--Marmaduke loves you."

"I wish I had never seen this odious rink," I whisper,
passionately. "I will never go to one again. I wish I had never
laid eyes on Mark Gore. I hate him. I---"

"Good child" interposes she, calmly, as an antidote to my
excitement. "Now, go and make peace with your husband.  See,
there he is. Marmaduke, Phyllis is too cold in this coat, get her
something warm to put round her shoulders."

Mechanically I obey the faint push she gives me, and follow 'Duke
into the dimly-lighted hall. He strides on in front, and takes
not the slightest notice of my faltering footsteps.

"Marmaduke," I whisper, nervously, "Marmaduke, may I drive home
with you?"

"With me! For what?"

His tone is stern and uncompromising. My new-found courage
evaporates.

"Because I--I want to--very much," I answer, feebly, much
dispirited.

"You came here with Gore. Why not return with him? It seems to me
far better for all parties you should do so."

"But I do not wish it. I would rather drive home with any one
than Sir Mark Gore. Oh, Marmaduke, please let me go with you."

"It is rather late to think of saving appearances, if you mean
that."

"I do not mean it. I am not thinking of anything but you."

He laughs unpleasantly.

"Did Harriet tell you to make that sweet little speech?

"No," in a low tone.

"Do you imagine you are pleasing me by making this request?" he
exclaims, angrily, glancing down at me as I stand staring at him,
my head barely reaching his shoulder.  Reproach and entreaty are
in my uplifted eyes, but they do not soften him. "Do you think
you are offering me compensation? Pray do not for a moment
believe I am either hurt or annoyed by your behavior of this
evening. Why should I? You are not the only woman in the world
who has suddenly developed a talent for flirtations."

"Marmaduke, what are you saying? Of what are you accusing me?"

I am nearly in tears by this time, and cannot find words to argue
or deny the horrid imputation of coquetry.

"Do not let me stand in the way of your amusements.  Of course
when I chose to marry a child--and a child without a spark of
affection for me--I must learn not to cavil at consequences.
Understand, Phyllis, it is a matter of indifference to me whether
you drive home with Mark Gore or any other man. Do not give
yourself any annoyance, under a mistaken impression that you may
be gratifying me. Take your Choice of an escort."

"I have taken it," I say, dolefully, "but the one I want won't
take me. Marmaduke, how unkind you are! Do you then, _refuse_, to
drive me home?"

"If you insist on sitting beside me you can do so," he yields,
ungraciously. "You will find it stupid, as I am in no mood for
conversation, and have no desire for your company."

"Nevertheless I will force it on you," I cry, with some faint
spark of pride and indignation. "Though you hate me, I will
return with no one but you."

And so it is settled, and soon we are driving side by side under
the brilliant dancing stars.

It is a long, long drive--much longer, it seems to me, in the
chill night than in the glare of day--and not one word does my
companion speak. Once, when the moon rushes Out with a white
gleam from behind the scudding clouds, I take courage to look at
him; but he is biting his mustache, and wears upon his brow a
heavy frown that completely freezes on my lips the few silly
words I would have uttered.

Once, too, as his hand lies bare upon his knee, I venture to
place my fingers timidly upon it, but he shakes them off, under a
plain pretense of adjusting the reins; and thus, twice repulsed,
I have no heart to make a further advance.

So, in dead silence, we make our journey, listening absently, to
the chatter of those behind and the sound of the horses' feet as
they bravely cover the ground.

In silence we reach our home, in silence he helps me down, and
with the sorriest pain at my heart it has ever yet known I go
upstairs and shut myself into my room.

Martha, under a mistaken impression that I am what she is pleased
to term "poorly," pours out some eau-de-Cologne and proceeds to
bathe my forehead with vigorous concern; and such is the
forlornness of my state that I cannot bring myself to bid her
begone. When she has put me through the various stages of
undressing, has left me ready for bed, and insisted on hearing me
say I am immensely better, she departs, to my infinite relief.

I turn dismally in my chair, and begin to wonder what I am to do
next. Every minute my crime appears more hideous; I feel more
positive he will never forgive me.

Strangely enough, as my own misdemeanors grow in size and
importance, his decrease, until at length they sink into utter
insignificance. The remembrance of that pink note alone rankles,
and perhaps even that could be explained.

The hours slip by. 'Duke's foot is to be heard slowly pacing his
own floor.

I must and will compel him to make friends with me.  How can I
face a long sleepless night such as I know will be mine if I go
to bed unpardoned? I will make one more effort, and this time I
will not be unsuccessful, As I have not now, and never have had,
a particle of pride in my composition, it takes me very little
thinking to decide on this course.

I am sitting before my fire as I develop this idea, toasting my
bare toes in a rather purposeless manner, preparatory to jumping
into bed. Unlike most people, I can endure any amount of heat to
the soles of my feet.

Mechanically I slip into my blue slippers, and, rising, go to the
glass. Yet, what I see pleases me: I certainly do look nice in my
dressing-gown. No other style of garment, no matter how
bewitching or elaborate, suits me half as well. This particular
gown at which I am now gazing profoundly is of white cashmere,
lined and wadded, and trimmed profusely with pale blue. There is
a dear little frill round the neck that almost makes me love
myself. It is a gift of Marmaduke's. Walking one day in Paris,
during our honeymoon, it had attracted our attention in a
shop-window, and he had insisted on my going into the shop then
and there and making myself the owner of it. Surely when he sees
me now he will remember the circumstance, and it will soften him.

Ah! he was very fond of me then, I recollect, with a sigh.

My hair is streaming down my back, far below my waist; I am
looking well, but young very young; indeed, I am painfully
conscious that, now my high-heeled shoes are lying under a chair,
I might easily be mistaken for a child of fourteen.

The thought is distasteful. Hastily putting up my hands, I wind
my hair round and round my head until I have reduced it to its
everyday decorous fashion; only to find that rolls and smoothness
do not accord well with a _negligee_ costume.

Looking at myself again with a critical eye, I am again
dissatisfied. I may appear older, I certainly do not present so
pleasing a _tout ensemble_; so, with much vicious haste, I once
more draw out the hair-pins and let my straight brown hair hang
according to its fancy. Being now at last convinced I am to be
seen at my best, I proceed to act upon the thought that has
caused all this unwonted vanity, I go softly to Marmaduke's
dressing-room door, armed with my brush and begin to batter at it
pretty loudly.

"Marmaduke, Marmaduke!" I cry, but obtain no answer. That he is
within is beyond all doubt, as every now and then through the
thick oaken door I can hear a sound or two.

Again I exercise my lungs, again I batter at the door.

"'Duke--Marmaduke!" I cry once more, impatiently.

"What do you want?" demands my husband, in a voice that sends my
heart into my blue slippers.

"I want to get in," I return, as meekly as one can, when one's
tone is raised to the highest pitch.

"You cannot now; I am busy."

"But I must. 'Duke, do open the door. I have something of the
utmost importance to say to you."

After a moment or two I can hear him coming slowly to the door.
In another instant he has unlocked it, and is standing in the
doorway in an attitude that is plainly meant to bar my further
approach.

"Won't you let me in?" I say. "I want to speak to you; I have
something to tell you."

Here I make a dive under the arm he had placed against one side
of the door as a prudent barricade, and gain the dressing-room.
Having so far succeeded, I pause to glance timidly at him.

He has divested himself of his coat and waistcoat, and has
evidently been brushing his hair, as it is smooth to the last
degree and has about it a general air of being ready to enter a
ball-room at a moment's notice.

"You might be going to a reception, your hair is so beautifully
dressed," I say, with a weak attempt at raillery and composure.

"Did you nearly break down the door to come and tell me that?"
asked he, without a vestige of a smile.

Once again my eyes seek the carpet. All my affected nonchalance
deserts me. I feel frightened. Never before has his voice sounded
go harsh when addressed to me. I put my hands behind me, and
grasp nervously the torrent of hair that flows down my back. For
the second time it occurs to me how abominably young I must be
looking.  Somehow the word "Doll" writes itself before my lowered
eyes.

"No," I say, in a whisper. "I came to ask you to forgive me to
tell you I am very sorry for it all."

"Are you? I am glad of that. In my opinion you could not be too
sorry."

"Oh, 'Duke, do not be _too_ hard on me. I did not mean to make
you so very angry. I did not think there was any harm in what I
did."

"_No harm?_ No harm in flirting so outrageously as to bring down
upon you the censure of all your guests? No harm in making
yourself the subject of light gossip? Do you know that ever since
last night, when you chose to disgrace both yourself and me by
your conduct, I have felt half maddened. _Angry_. The word does
not express what I feel. A hundred times during these past few
hours I have with the utmost difficulty restrained myself."

"I don't see that I have done anything so very terrible; I have
not behaved worse than--than others I could name, I don't believe
anybody noticed me," I reply, miserably, and most untruthfully.

"Pshaw! How blind you must think people! Do you suppose they will
not comment freely on your going to that low place with Gore, at
nine o'clock at night, _alone_. I own my belief in their dulness
or good-nature is not as comfortable a one as yours. Blanche
Going, at all events, spoke to me openly about it."

I instantly take fire.

"No doubt," I cry, with passion. "Lady Blanche Going has her own
reasons for wishing to degrade me in my husband's sight. She is a
wicked woman! Were I to do _half_ what she has done, and is
capable of doing, I would be ashamed to look you in the face. I
_hate_ her! If you believe what _she_ says, rather than what _I_
say, of course there is little use in my speaking further in my
own defense."

"I believe only what I see," returns my husband, significantly;
"and that--I regret to say of you, Phyllis--is more than I can
think of with calmness."

He turns from me as he speaks, and begins to pace excitedly up
and down the room, a frown born of much anger upon his forehead.

"To think you should have chosen _that_ fellow, who has hardly a
shred of character left, as your _friend_."

It would be impossible to put on paper the amount of scorn he
throws into the last word.

"He is no friend of mine," I say, sullenly, beating my foot
petulantly against the ground. "I always understood he was a
particular favorite of yours. If you consider him such a
disreputable creature, why did you invite him to your house!

"Because I was unfortunately under the impression I could ask any
man with safety into my _wife's_ house," says he, loftily; and
the quotation in which Caesar's wife is brought to bear comes to
my mind: I am almost tempted to mention it for purposes of
provocation, but refrain. In truth, I am really unhappy, and at
my wit's end, by this.  Surely I cannot have so altogether
forgotten myself as he seems to imagine.

"There are worse people here than Mark Gore," I remark, still
sullen.

"If there are, I don't know them, and certainly do not wish to
discuss them. The misdemeanors of the world do not concern me; it
is with you alone I have to deal. Ever since Gore entered the
house you have shown an open and most undignified desire for his
society. I bore it all in silence, neither thwarting you nor
exhibiting my displeasure in any way; but when I see you casting
aside common prudence, and making yourself a subject for
scandalous remarks, I think it is high time for me to interfere
and assert my authority. Were you several years younger than you
are, you are still quite old enough to know right from wrong; and
for the future"--here he stops short close beside me, and, with
his blue eyes flashing, goes on, "for the future, I insist on
your conducting yourself as my wife should."

When a man is without his coat and waistcoat, and thinks himself
ill-used, he generally looks more than his actual height.
Marmaduke, standing before me with uplifted hand to enforce his
remarks, and with a very white face, certainly appears
uncomfortably tall. He is towering over poor little me, in my
heelless shoes and white gown, and for a moment it occurs to me
that I ought to feel frightened; the next instant anger has
overpowered me, and raised me to his level.

"How _dare_ you speak to me like that? By what right do _you_ use
such language? You who every hour of the day make yourself
conspicuous with that horrible cousin of yours? Do you suppose,
then, that I have no eyes? that I cannot fathom motives, and
actions, and---`"

"What do you mean?" interrupts he, haughtily.

"That sounds very well; but if, when you accused me of flirting
with Mark Gore, _I_ had drawn myself up, and asked, in an injured
tone, 'what you meant,' you would very soon have told me I knew
only too well. Have I not noticed you with Blanche? Do you ever
leave her side? Whispering in corridors--lingering in
conservatories--letting her write you letters! Oh, I know
_everything!_" cry I, absolutely sobbing with long pent-up rage
and grief.

"Write me letters!" repeats 'Duke, in utter bewilderment.

"Yes; long, _long_ letters. I saw it."

"Blanche never in her life wrote me a long letter, or any other
letter, that I can recollect."

"_Oh!_ When I saw it with my own eyes, and only yesterday, too!
How can you deny it? In the morning she pretended she had a
headache, and I went up to ask her how she was, and there on the
table was a pink note, with three of the pages closely written
over, and while I stayed she folded it into a cocked hat; and
when I came home in the evening I went into your room---_this_
room--for some eau-de-Cologne, and it was lying _there_ on the
table under my _nose_," I wind up, with passionate vulgarity.

"I think you must be raving," says 'Duke, his own vehemence
quieted by mine. "A letter--yet stay," a look of intelligence
coming into his face; and, going over to a drawer he rummages
there for a moment, and at length produces the very
three-cornered note that has caused me so many jealous pangs. "Is
this the note you mean?"

"Yes, it is," coming eagerly forward.

"I now recollect finding this in my room, when I returned from
shooting yesterday. She asks me to do a commission for her,
which, as it happens, quite slipped my memory until now. Take and
read it, and see how just were your suspicions."

As I put out my hand, I know that I am acting meanly, but still I
do take it, and, opening it, find my three closely-written pages
have dwindled down to half a one. Five or six lines, carelessly
scrawled, are before me.

"Are you satisfied?" asks 'Duke, who, half sitting on the table
with folded arms, is watching me attentively.

"Yes," in a low voice; "I was wrong. This is not the note I saw
with her. I now understand she must have meant _that_ one
for--for somebody else, and, knowing I saw it, sent this to you
to blind me."

"_More_ suspicions, Phyllis? As to what other charges you have
brought against me, I can only swear that when I told you a year
ago you were the only woman I had ever really loved, I spoke the
truth."

"From all you have said to me to-night, I can scarcely imagine
you would now repeat those words," I say, in trembling tones.

"Yes, I would. If I live to be an old man, I shall never love
again as I have loved, and _do_ love, you."

"Yet you are always meeting Blanche; you are always with her.
Only this very morning I found you both together in the corridor
in earnest conversation."

"It was quite by accident we met; I had no idea she was there."

"She was speaking to you of me?"

"She said something about your manner towards Gore the night
previous. It was something very kind, I remember, but it angered
me to think any one had noticed you, though in my heart I knew it
must be so. It was too palpable.  She meant nothing hurtful."

"The wretch! 'Duke, listen to me and believe me. If I had not
felt positive that note," moving a little nearer and laying my
fingers upon it, "was the one I saw with her, I would never have
acted towards Mark Gore as I did last night. But I felt wounded
and cut to the heart, and tried to torture you as I was being
tortured. It was foolish, wicked of me, I know, but it made no
one so miserable as myself."

"But then--the rink." He speaks very quietly now, but he has come
off the table, and is standing before me, one hand resting on it
very close to mine, but not touching. I am gazing earnestly into
his face with large, wistful eyes.

"It was the same longing for revenge made me go there--nothing
else. I had tried to make up with you by asking you to take me to
the rink in the evening, but you would not meet my advances, and
answered me very cruelly." My lips tremble. "Your words restored
all my anger. I was determined to show you I could go there
without your permission. Sir Mark was on the spot, and asked me
to go with him; it was all the same to me whom I went with, so
long as I could defy you, and I agreed to accompany him--not, as
you thought, because I wished to be with him, but only to vex
you. I thought of no one but you. It would not trouble me if I
never saw Mark Gore again. You believe me, 'Duke? I never told
you a wilful lie, did I?" Two heavy tears long gathering roll
down my cheeks.

"Never," replies he, hoarsely.

Silence follows his last word. We stand very near, yet separate
gazing into each other's eyes. Presently, impulsively, his hand
mores, and closes firmly upon mine. For an instant longer we
gaze, and then I am in his arms, crying as if my heart would
break.

"You don't care for her; _say_ you don't care for her," I sob,
entreatingly.

"Phyllis, how can you ask me? To care for that worldly-wise
woman, when I have _you_ to love, my own darling my angel!"

This is comforting; it almost sounds as though he were calling
her bad names, and I sob on contentedly from the shelter of his
arms.

"And you will never speak to her again, will you, _dear_ 'Duke?"

"Oh, my pet! You forget she is a guest in the house. How can I
avoid speaking and being civil to her?"

"Of course I don't mean _that_. But you will have no
_tete-a-tete_ and you won't be so attentive to her and you will
be very glad when she goes away?"

"I will indeed, be most sincerely delighted, if her staying
causes you one moment's unhappiness. She speaks of leaving next
week; let us be polite to her for these few remaining days--poor
Blanche!--and then we will forget she ever lived."

"Yes," I acquiesce, and then there is a pause in the
conversation. Is he not going to touch on the other cause of war?
For a little time I am filled with wonderment; then I say, shyly,
"You do not ask me about Mark Gore?"

"No." replies he, hastily, "nor will I. I understand everything;
I believe all you said. A misconception arose between us: now it
is at rest forever, let us refer to it no more. Now that it is at
an end, I feel rather flattered at your being so jealous; it
tells me you must be getting to care for me a little."

"Oh, _caring_ is a poor thing. I think now I love you better than
any one in the world, except---"

"Billy, and Roly, and mamma," he mimics me, laughing, though he
bites his lips, "the old story."

"Wrong: I was going to say mother only. Somehow, Billy and Roly
of late do not seem so dear as you." I stroke his face
patronizingly.

"Only mother!" he says, with a gay laugh (how many weeks have
passed since last I heard that laugh!) "why, that is much better.
Billy always appeared the most formidable rival. I am progressing
in your good books. In time I may even be able to vanquish
mother."

"I am so glad I made that onslaught on your door a little while
ago," declare I, merrily, "and I think you were very undecided
about letting me in. How good it is to be quite friends again!
and we have not been that for a long time. Oh, is not jealousy a
horrible pain?"

 "'And to be wroth with those we love
 Doth work like madness on the brain,'"

quotes 'Duke softly.

"It all began by Mark Gore telling me you were once engaged to
Blanche Going."

"What a lie!" cries 'Duke, so eagerly that I cannot choose but
believe him. "How often am I to tell you I never loved any one
but you?"

"That is another thing. Men always imagine when they form a new
attachment that the old ones contained no real love. What I
should like to know is, how many you asked to marry you." My
words are uttered jestingly, yet his face changes, very slightly,
ever so little, yet it certainly changes. Only a little pallor, a
little faint contraction nothing more. It is gone almost as soon
as it is there.

"I never asked Blanche, at all events," he laughs, lightly.  And
not until many days have come and gone, do I remember his
singular hesitation.



CHAPTER XXVII.

Two days have passed--two days that have brought back to me all
the light and life and gladness of my girlhood. Never since my
marriage have I been so happy as now.

Marmaduke and I are the best of friends, there is not so much as
a shadow of a cloud between us, and I have convinced myself that,
as I was the most foolish girl in the world, so am I now the
luckiest, and that 'Duke is the dearest old boy to be found
anywhere. If I still feel guilty of having no passionate
attachment for my husband, I console myself with the thought that
I am probably incapable of a grand passion, and that haply I
shall get through life all the more comfortably in consequence.

Harriet and Bebe notice the new relations existing between me and
my husband with undisguised pleasure, but wisely make no comment.
Sir James sees it too, and once, in passing me, smiles, and pats
me approvingly on the shoulder. Dora and George Ashurst are too
much taken up with each other and their approaching nuptials to
notice anything but their own tastes and predilections. But
Blanche Goring sees it with an evil sneer.

---

It is three o'clock in the afternoon. Outside, the world is
looking cold and uninviting; inside, all is warmth and apparent
contentment.

Some of us are in the billiard-room, knocking about the balls,
but doing more talk than honest work. I for my part am starting
for a brisk run to the gardens, with a view to bringing Cummins
to order.

Cummins is an ancient Scotchman, old, crusty, and valuable, who
has lived as head gardener at Strangemore for more years than he
can remember, and who has grown sour in the Carrington service.
Having made himself more than usually obnoxious to-day, and
declined to part with some treasured article of his rearing for
any one's benefit, the cook has tearfully appealed to me, and I
have promised to exert myself and coax my own gardener into
giving me some of my own property. Throwing round me, therefore,
a cosy shawl, fur-lined, and covering my head with the warmest
velvet hat I own, I sally forth, bent on conquest.

The air is keen and frost-bitten. As I hurry along one of the
smaller paths, hedged in on either side by giant evergreens, with
my chin well buried in my fur, I come suddenly upon Sir Mark
Gore, leisurely strolling, and smoking a cigar.

Ever since my explanation with Marmaduke I have carefully avoided
Sir Mark. Not once has he had an opportunity of speaking with me
alone. Not once have I suffered him to draw me into personal
conversation. Consequently, I am doubly put out and annoyed by
this rencontre--conscience telling me he cares more for me than
is at all to be desired.

Seeing me, he flings the cigar over the hedge and comes more
quickly forward.

"Oh, don't do that," I say, as unconcernedly as I well can; "you
have recklessly wasted a good cigar. I am in a desperate hurry,
and cannot stay to interfere with your smoking."

"It is the simplest thing in the world to light another," replied
he, coolly. "But what a day for you to be out! I heard you say at
lunch you meant going, but felt positive this bitter wind would
daunt you. May I accompany you in your desperate hurry? Is it an
errand of mercy--a case of life or death?"

His easy manner reassures me.

"I am going to entreat Cummins," I say, laughing.  "Don't you
pity me? Cannot you understand what a difficult task I have laid
out for myself? No, I think you had better not come. I shall be
able to use more persuasive arts if left to deal with him alone."

"I would back you to win were he the King of the Cannibal Islands
himself. If I must not witness your triumph, may I at least be
your escort on the road to it?"

I can see he is obstinately bent on being my companion, and grow
once more disquieted.

"Ye-es, if you wish it," I say, with obvious unwillingness; "but
it is such a little way now it scarcely seems worth your while."

"I think it very well worth my while, and accept your _gracious_
permission," replies Sir Mark, with a quiet stress on the
adjective, and a determination not to notice my evident objection
to his company. So there is no help for it, and we walk on side
by side in silence.

Presently, in a low voice, he says, suddenly and without
preface:---

"Why do you avoid me, Mrs. Carrington? What have I done to be
tabooed as I have been for the last two days?  Have I offended
you in any way?"

"Offended me?" I stammer (when people are unexpectedly asked an
obnoxious question, what would they do if they could not repeat
their questioner's last words?). "Of course you have not offended
me. How could you? What can have put such a ridiculous idea into
your head?"

"Your own conduct. Do you think I have not seen, and felt, your
changed manner?" He is speaking almost in an undertone. "Were I
your greatest enemy, you could not treat me with more distant
coolness. You scarcely deign to speak to me; your eyes carefully
avoid mine, you hardly answer when I address you. Surely you must
have a motive for all this."

"In the first place, I do not acknowledge your 'this'.  You only
imagine my manner changed. I certainly hare no motive for being
rude to you."

"Then I think you have treated me very cruelly--very
capriciously, considering all things."

The last words are barely distinct; he is evidently using great
self-control; but, in my present nervous state, all sounds are
very clear to me.

"What things, Sir Mark?" I demand, with an irrepressible touch of
hauteur. He is looking steadily at me--so steadily that, in spite
of myself, to my mortification and disgust, I feel I am blushing
furiously. Still I hold my ground; I absolutely decline to let my
eyes fall before his.

"I suppose," says Sir Mark, very quietly still, "when a woman has
led a man on to love her until he is mad enough to lose his head,
and imagine he has awakened in her mind some faint interest in
himself, she is not to be held responsible for any mischief that
may come of it. I say I suppose not. But it is, perhaps, a little
hard on the man."

"I do not understand you," I say, with as much calmness as I can
summon, though, in truth, I am horribly frightened, and can feel
my heart beating heavily against my side.

"Do you not?" exclaims he, with a rapid vehement change of tone.
"Then I shall explain. I am not so blind but I can see now all
that has been happening here during the past month. Were you
jealous of Marmaduke? Did you imagine he could love another, when
you were ever before him? Did you seek to revenge yourself upon
him by turning your sweet looks and sweeter words upon me, by
showering upon me all the childish maddening graces of which you
are capable, until you stole the very heart out of my body?"

"Oh, don't!" I cry, tremulously, recoiling from him, a look of
horrified amazement on my face. "You do not know what you are
saying. It is terrible. I will not listen to you."

"Yes you will," fiercely. "Does it hurt you to hear me? Does it
distress you to know that I love you I, who have never loved any
one--that I love you with a passion that no words could describe?
You have ruined my life, and now that you have attained your
object, have satisfied yourself of Marmaduke's affection, you
throw me, your victim, aside, as something old, worn out,
worthless, careless of the agony you have inflicted. It is cold,
cruel, innocent children like you, who do all the real mischief
in this life. Do you remember those words of Moore's? they haunt
me every time I see you;

 'Too bright and fair
 To let wild passions write
 One wrong wish there.'

I believe you are incapable of loving, though so lovable in
yourself."

"You have said enough: is it manly of you to compel me to hear
such words? Surely you must have exhausted all your bitterness by
this."

"'Reproach is infinite and knows no end.' Yet of what use to
reproach you? You have a heart that cannot be touched. Possibly
you do not even feel regret for what you have done."

"Sir Mark, I entreat--I desire you to cease."

"You shall be obeyed; for I have finished. There is nothing more
to be said. I was determined you should at least hear, and know
what you have done. Now you can go home happy in the thought that
you have added one more fool to your list. Yes, I will cease.
Have you anything to say?"

"Only this: I desire you will leave my house without delay."

My lips are white and trembling, but it is anger, not
nervousness, that affects me now.

"This moment, if you wish it," with a short laugh.

"No; I will have no comments made. You can easily make a
reasonable excuse out of your letters to-morrow morning. After
all you have said, I hope I shall never see your face again."

"You never shall, if it depends on me."

"I regret that I ever---"

"Oh, pray leave all the rest unsaid, Mrs. Carrington," he
interrupts, bitterly. "I can fancy it. You regret, of course, you
ever admitted such a fallen character within your doors; I have
insulted and wounded you in every possible way. So be it. You say
so, therefore it must be true. At the same time I would have you
remember, what is also true, that I would die to save you from
any grief or harm. If," sinking his voice, and speaking in a
slow, peculiar tone, "if you are ever in deep trouble, and I can
help you, think of me."

I am impressed without knowing why. It is as though some one had
laid a curse upon me. I grow as white as death, and my breath
comes from me in short, quick gasps.  At this moment, a deadly
fear of something intangible, far off, of something lying in the
mystic future, passes over me like a cold wind.

Sir Mark, raising his hat, draws near. He takes my chilled
gloveless hand.

"May I?" he asks, humbly, and with the natural grace that belongs
to him. "It is a farewell."

Oppressed with my nameless terror, I cannot reply. I scarcely
hear him. Stooping, he lays his lips lightly on my hand.

The touch recalls me. With a shudder I snatch away my fingers,
and drawing back, sweep past him in eager haste to rid myself of
him and the evil fears to which his words have given rise.

I hurry on with parted lips and trembling pulses, anxious to
escape. Crossing the rustic bridge that spans a small stream at
the end of a pathway, I glance instinctively backwards. He is
still standing motionless on the exact spot where we parted, his
arms folded, his head bare, his eyes fixed upon my retreating
form. Again I shudder and hasten oat of sight.

---

I have said, "I will never see his face again."

To carry out this design I determine on suffering from headache
for once in my life, and by this means absent myself from dinner.
Armed with this resolution, I go swiftly to my room as the early
night closes in, having lingered in the gardens as long as
prudence would permit.

Throwing myself upon a sofa, I summoned the faithful Martha, and
declare myself unwell. They hardly constitute a lie, these words
of mine, as my temples, through excitement and uneasiness, are
throbbing painfully. I feel feverish, and miserably restless,
though my foolish superstition of a few hours since has resolved
itself into thin air and vanished. Still, how can I draw breath
freely while "_that man_" continues to haunt the house?

"Dear, dear me, m'm," says Martha, coming to the front, as usual,
with mournful vehemence, and an unlimited supply of remedies.
"You do look bad, to be sure. You really should get advice, m'm.
There is young Dr. Manley in the village, as is that clever, I do
hear, as he can cure anything; and you are getting them headaches
dreadful frequent. Only two days since I used a whole bottle of
ody-collun upon your pore forehead. But vinegar is an elegant
thing, and much stronger than the ody. Shall I try it, m'm?"

"No thank you, Martha," I say, feeling hysterical: "I prefer the
'Ody;'" whereupon Jean Maria Farina is produced, and I am gently
bathed for five minutes.

Marmaduke comes softly in.

"A headache, darling," he says, with tender commiseration: "that
is too bad. Martha give me the bottle. I will see to your
mistress.

"The delicatest touch possible, if you please, sir," says Martha,
warningly, who doesn't believe in men, as she leaves the room.
She is dreadfully old-maidish, this favorite attendant of mine,
but she adores me, and with me to be loved is a necessity.

I have made up my mind to say nothing to 'Duke on the subject of
Sir Mark until the latter is well out of the house. So for the
present I permit my husband to think my slight indisposition
about the worst of its kind ever known.

"What can have given it to you?" he says, damping my hot brow
with more than a woman's gentleness. "I told you, Phyllis, it was
very foolish of you to venture out of doors to-day; I hope you
have not got a chill."

"I don't think so. I put on very warm things. But, Marmaduke, I
would like not to go down to dinner. Do you think my staying away
would appear odd?"

"Certainly not, pet. I will explain to every one. Bed is the best
place for you. Promise me you will go to sleep as soon as you
can."

"As soon as ever I can. Oh 'Duke there is a quarter past chiming,
and you not dressed yet. Hurry it will be dreadful if neither of
us can show at the proper moment."

"I won't be an instant," says 'Duke, and scrambles through the
performance with marvellous rapidity, getting down to the
drawing-room before the second gong sounds.

I have accomplished my purpose, and will probably, nay,
certainly, not be called upon to see the dreaded features of Sir
Mark again. Early to-morrow morning, I trust, he will be beyond
recall. It never occurs to me to think what hours the trains
leave Carston, which is our nearest railway station. To-morrow,
too, I shall explain everything to 'Duke: to conceal the real
facts of the case from him, even for so short a time, grieves me
sorely.

I begin presently to fancy what they may be saying and doing down
in the dining-room; and, so fancying, it suddenly comes to me
that I am healthily and decidedly hungry. When going in for a
violent headache, I certainly had not counted upon this, and
laugh to myself at the trap of my own making, into which I have
fallen, ill or not ill, however, dinner I must and will have.

I ring the bell and summon Martha.

"Well, m'm, are you anything better?" asks that damsel, stealing
in on tiptoe, and speaking in a stage whisper.

"I am," I respond, briskly, sitting up; "and oh, Martha, it is
odd, is it not, but I do feel so awfully hungry."

"No, do you really, m'm?" exclaims Martha, delighted, "that's a
rare good sign. I don't hold with no appetite, myself. Lie down
again, m'm, quiet-like, and I'll bring you up a tray as 'll tempt
you, in two minutes. A little bit of fowl, now, and a slice of
'am, will be the lightest for you; and will you take Moselle,
m'm, or Champagne?"

"Moselle," I reply, feeling something of the pleasurable
excitement of long ago, when Billy used to smuggle eatables into
my chamber of punishment; "and Martha, if there is any orange
pudding, or iced pudding, you know, you might---"

"I'll bring it, m'm," says Martha. And presently I am doing full
justice to as dainty a little dinner as Martha's love could
procure.

I sleep well, but permit myself to be persuaded; into staying in
my room for breakfast. After that meal down-stairs, Marmaduke
comes tramping up to see how I am. It is eleven o'clock; surely
Sir Mark can have made his excuses and taken his departure by
this tine.

"Is he gone?" I ask, in a hollow whisper, as 'Duke enters my
room.

"Who?"

"Mark Gore."

"No, not yet. Did you _know_ he was going?" looking much
surprised, and seating himself on the edge of the bed.

"I did. I _desired_ him to go. Shut the door close; and I will
tell you all about it. But, first, 'Duke, before I say one word,
make me a vow you will not be angry with him or take any notice
of what he has done."

"What has he done?" demands 'Duke, growing a trifle paler.

"No harm to any one. Make me your vow first."

"I vow, then," says he, impatiently. And I forthwith repeat to
him word for word all that passed between Sir Mark and me, in the
evergreen walk.

"The scoundrel!" says 'Duke, when I have finished.

"Yes, just so," say I. "I really think he must have gone mad.
However, there was no excuse for it, so I simply ordered him out
of the house. He looked dreadfully unhappy. After all, perhaps he
could not help it."

'Duke laughs in spite of his anger, which is extreme.

"Of all the conceited little women!" he says. "What gave you the
headache last night? Was it his conduct?"

"Well, I think it was founded on a determination not to see him
again. But I was afraid to tell you anything then, lest you might
refuse to sit at table with him, or be uncivil, or have a row in
any way. You will remember your promise, 'Duke, and let him go
quietly away. An explanation would do no good. Once he is gone,
it will not signify."

"He used to be such a good fellow," says 'Duke, in a puzzled,
provoked tone.

"Well, he is anything but that now," reply I, with decision. "If
you go away now, 'Duke, I think I will get up.  I dare say he
will be on his way to London by the time I am dressed."

I get through my toilet with a good deal of deliberation.  I am
in no great hurry to find myself downstairs; I am determined to
afford him every chance of getting clear of the premises before I
make my appearance.

When dressed to Martha's satisfaction, I go cautiously through
tho house, and, contrary to my usual custom, make straight for
Marmaduke's study. Opening the door without knocking, I find
myself face to face with Marmaduke and Sir Mark Gore.

I feel petrified, and somewhat guilty. Of what use my condemning
myself to solitary confinement for so many hours, if the close of
them only brings me in contact with what I have so striven to
avoid?

Marmaduke's blue eyes are flashing, and his lips are white and
compressed. Sir Mark, always dark and supercilious, is looking
much the same as usual, except for a certain bitter expression
that adorns the corners of his mouth.  Both men regard me fixedly
as I enter, but with what different feelings!

Marmaduke holds out his hand to me, and the flash dies in his
eyes. Sir Mark's lips form the one word "false."

"No, I am not false," I protest, vehemently, putting my hand
through Marmaduke's arm, and glancing at my opponent defiantly
from my shelter; "'Duke is my husband; why should I hide anything
from him? I told you I would conceal nothing."

"What charming wifely conduct!" says Sir Mark, with a sneer; "not
only do you confide to him all your own little affairs, but you
are ready also at a moment's notice to forgive him any
peccadilloes of which he has been guilty."

I feel 'Duke quiver with rage, but laying a warning pressure on
his arm, I succeed in restraining him.

"He has been guilty of none," I cry, indignantly. "He never cared
for any one but me, as you well know."

Sir Mark looks down, and smiles meaningly; I redden with anger.

"Why are you not gone?" I ask, inhospitably; "you promised you
would leave early this morning."

"Grant me a little grace, Mrs. Carrington. Had I had time, I
might, indeed, have ordered a special train, but, as matters
stand, I am compelled to be your guest until one be allowed by
the authorities to start. But for your entrance here just now,
which I did not anticipate, I would not have troubled you by my
presence again. However, it is the last time you shall be so
annoyed. Perhaps you will bid me good-bye, and grant me your
forgiveness before I go. You at least should find it easy to
pardon, as it was my unfortunate and undue admiration for
yourself caused me to err."

His tone is light and mocking, there is even a half smile upon
his lips. He treats Marmaduke's presence as though he were
utterly unaware of it. Yet still something beneath his sneering
manner makes me know he does repent, either his false step, or
its consequences.

It is with amazement I discover I bear him no ill-will Indeed, I
might almost be said to feel sorrow for him at this present
moment. I shall be intensely relieved and glad when he is no
longer before me; but he has been kind and pleasant to me, in
many ways, during these past two months, and I forgive him. I put
my hand in his, and say "good-bye," gently. He holds it tightly
for an instant, then drops it.

"Good-bye, Carrington," he says, coolly: "I hope when next we
meet time will have softened your resentment."

He Moves towards the door with his usual careless graceful step.

"And I hope," says 'Duke, in a voice clear and quiet, yet full of
suppressed passion, "that the day we meet again is far distant. I
have no desire to renew acquaintance in the future with a man who
has so basely abused the rights of friendship and hospitality.
You have chosen to act the part of a scoundrel. Keep to it,
therefore, and avoid the society of honest men. For myself, I
shall endeavor to forget I ever knew any one so contemptible."

"Take care," says Sir Mark, in a low, fierce tone.  "Don't try me
too far, '_Honest_ men!' Remember one thing, Carrington: you owe
me something for my forbearance."

For a full minute the two men glare at each other, then the door
is flung open, and Mark is gone.

"What did he mean by that?" ask I, frightened and tearful. "What
was that he said about forbearance? Tell me, 'Duke."

Marmaduke's face is white as death.

"Nothing," he answers, with an effort. "It is only a stagy way he
has of speaking. Let us forget him."

---

So Mark Gore drops out of our life for the present. Three days
later Lady Blanche Going also takes her departure.

As we assemble in the hall to bid her good-bye--I, from an
oppressive sense of what is demanded by the laws of courtesy, the
others through the dawdling idleness that belongs to a country
house--she sweeps up to me, and, with an unusually bewitching
smiles, says, sweetly:---

"Good-bye, dear Mrs. Carrington. Thank you so much for all your
kindness to me. I really don't remember when I have enjoyed
myself so well as here at dear old Strangemore with you."

Here she stoops forward, as though she would press her lips to my
cheek. Instantaneously dropping both her hand and my
handkerchief, I bend to pick up the latter; when I raise myself
again, she has wisely passed on, and so I escape the hypocritical
salute.

Marmaduke puts her, maids, traps, and all, into the carriage. The
door is shut, the horses start; I am well rid of another
troublesome guest. I draw a deep sigh of relief as two ideas
present themselves before my mind. One is, that I am better out
of it all than I deserve; the second, that never again, under any
circumstances, shall she enter my doors.

---

It is the night before Harriet's departure, and almost all our
guests have vanished. Our two military friends have resumed their
regimental duties a week ago; Sir George Ashurst has gone to
London for a little while; Dora has decided on burying herself at
Summerleas during his absence--I suppose to meditate soberly upon
the coming event.

It is nine o'clock. Dinner is a thing of the past. Even the
gentlemen, having tired of each other, or the wine, or the
politics, have strolled into the drawing-room, and are now
indulging in such light converse as they deem suitable to our
feeble understandings.

Suddenly the door is flung wide, and Bebe comes hurriedly in--so
hurriedly that we all refrain from speech, and raise our eyes to
rivet them upon her. She is nervous--half laughing--yet evidently
scared.

"Oh, Marmaduke!" she says, with a little gasp, and going up to
him and fastening her fingers on his arm, "I have seen a ghost!"

"A _what?_" says 'Duke.

"A ghost--a downright, veritable ghost. Now don't look so
incredulous I am thoroughly in earnest. I was never in my life
before so frightened. I tell you I saw it plainly, and quite
close. Oh, how I ran!"

She puts her other hand to her heart, and draws a long breath.

Naturally we all stare at her, and feel interested directly.  A
_real_ spectre is not a thing of everyday occurrence. I feel
something stronger than interest; I am terrified beyond measure,
and rising from my seat, I look anxiously at 'Duke.

"I never heard there was a ghost here before," I say,
reproachfully. "Is the house haunted? Oh, 'Duke! you never told
me of it--and I have gone about it at all hours, and sometimes
even _without a light!_"

I conclude there is something comical in my dismay, as Marmaduke
and Lord Chandos burst out laughing, Thornton fairly roars, while
Sir James gets as near an outburst of merriment as he ever did in
his life.

"Is there a ghost in your family?" I demand, rather sharply,
feeling nettled at their heartless mirth.

"No; I am afraid we have nothing belonging to us half so
respectable. All the ancestors I ever heard of died most amiably,
either on the battle-field, or on the gallows, or in their beds.
We cannot lay claim to a single murderer or suicide; there is not
even a solitary instance of a duel being fought within these
walls. I doubt we are a tame race.  There is not a spark of
romance about us. Bebe's imagination has run riot."

"I tell you I saw it," persists Bebe, indignantly. "Am I to
disbelieve my own sight? I was walking along the corridor off the
picture-gallery quite quietly, thinking of anything in the world
but supernatural subjects, when all at once, as I got near the
window, I saw a face looking in at me from the balcony outside."

"Oh, Bebe!" I cry, faintly, casting a nervous glance behind me,
as I edge closer to Lord Chandos, who happens to be the one
nearest me.

"It was a horrible face, wicked, but handsome. The head was
covered with something dark, and it was only the eyes I noticed,
they were _unearthly_--so large, and black, and revengeful; they
had _murder_ in them." Bebe stops, shuddering.

"Really, Carrington, it is too bad of you," says Chips,
reprovingly. "If you keep them at all they should at least be
amiable. I wonder Miss Beatoun lives to tell the tale.  Pray go
on: it is positively enthralling. Did the eyes spit fire?"

"The head vanished while I stared, and then I dropped my candle
and ran downstairs, as though I were hunted, Oh, I shall never
forgot it!"

"Probably some poor tramp prowling about," says 'Duke seeing I am
nearly in tears.

"It was nothing living," declares Miss Beatoun with a settled
conviction that sends a cold chill through my veins.

"Bebe, how can you be so stupid?" exclaims 'Duke, almost
provoked. "Ghosts, indeed!--I thought you had more sense. Come
let us go in a body and exorcise this thing, whatever it is. I
believe an apparition should be spoken of respectfully in
capitals as _IT_. She may still be on the balcony."

"I think it improbable," says Chips: "she would see by the aid
of--of Miss Beatoun's candle that it is an unlikely spot for
silver spoons."

"Well, if we fail, I shall give orders for a couple of men to
search the shrubberies. And whatever they find they shall bring
straight to Bebe."

"They will find nothing," says Bebe, with an obstinacy quite
foreign to her.

I take Marmaduke's arm and cling to him. He looks down at me
amused.

"Why, you are trembling you little goose. Perhaps you had better
stay here."

"What! all alone!" I cry, aghast. "Never I would be dead by the
time you came back. No, I would rather see it out."

So we all march solemnly upstairs, armed with lights, to
investigate this awful mystery.

Sir James and Thornton take the lead, as I decline to separate
from Marmaduke or to go anywhere but in the middle. Not for
worlds would I head the procession and be the first to come up
with what may be store for us. With an equal horror I shrink from
being last--fearful of being grabbed by something uncanny in the
background.

The whole scene is evidently an intense amusement to the men, and
even Harriet, to my disgust, finds some element of the burlesque
about it. The lamps upon the staircase and along the corridors
throw shadows everywhere, and are not reassuring. Once Mr.
Thornton, stalking on in front, gives way to a dismal howl, and,
stopping short, throws himself into an attitude of abject fear
that causes me to nearly weep: so I entreat him, in touching
accents, not to do it again without reason.

Another time, either Harriet or Bebe--who are walking close
behind me (having ordered Lord Chandos to the extreme rear, as a
further precaution)--lays her hand lightly on my shoulder,
whereupon I shriek aloud and precipitate myself into Marmaduke's
arms.

At length we reach the dreaded spot, and Thornton, after a few
whispered words with Sir James, flings up the window, and, with
what appears to me reckless courage, steps out upon the darksome
balcony alone.

He is a long time absent. To me it seems ages. We three women
stand waiting in breathless suspense. Bebe  titters nervously.

"He is without doubt making a thorough examination," says Sir
James, gravely.

We strain our eyes into the night, and even as we do so,
something supernaturally tall--black, gaunt, with a white plume
waving from its haughty head--advances slowly towards us, from
out the gloom. I feel paralyzed with fright, although instinct
tells me it is not _the thing_.

"Who are ye, that come to disturb my nightly revel?" says the
plumed figure; and then we all know we are gazing at Mr.
Thornton, lengthened by a sweeping-brush covered with a black
garment, which he holds high above his head.

"Thornton, I protest you are incorrigible," exclaims Marmaduke,
when at length he can command his voice; "and I thought better of
you, James, than to aid and abet him."

I am on the very verge of hysterics; a pinch, administered by
Bebe, alone restrains me: as it is, the tears of alarm are
mingling with the laughter I cannot suppress.

"My new black Cashmere wrap, I protest!" cries Harriot, pouncing
upon Chips and his sweeping-brush. "Well, Really, Chippendale---
And the feather out of my best bonnet. Oh, this comes of having
one's room off a balcony. Why, you wicked boy, you have been
upsetting all my goods and chattels. Who gave you permission,
sir, to enter my bedroom?"

"Sir James," replies Chips, demurely, who has emerged, from his
disguise, and is vainly trying to reduce his dishevelled locks to
order. "It was so convenient."

"Oh, James!" says his wife, with a lively reproach, "have I lived
to see you perpetrate a joke?"

"But where is the spectre?" I venture to remark.

"You must really ask Miss Beatoun," says Chips. "I have done my
duty valiantly; no one can say I funked it.  I have done my very
best to produce a respectable _bona fide_ bogy; and if I have
failed, I am not to be blamed. Now I insist on Miss Beatoun's
producing hers. We cannot possibly go back to the domestics (who,
I feel positive, are cowering upon the lowest stair)
empty-handed. Miss Beatoun, you have brought us all here at the
peril of our lives. Now where is he?"

"It was not a man," says Bebe.

"Then where is she?"

"I am not sure it was a woman either," with some hesitation.

"Ye powers!" cries Chips. "Then what was it? a mermaid? an
undiscovered gender? The plot thickens. I shan't be able to sleep
a wink to-night unless you be more explicit."

"Then you may stay wide awake," retorts Miss Beatoun, "as I
remember nothing but those horrid eyes. You have chosen to turn
it all into ridicule; and who ever heard of a ghost appearing
amidst shouts of laughter? How dreadfully cold it is! Do shut
that window and let us go back to the drawing-room fire."

"I hope your next venture will be more successful," says Chips,
meekly. And then we all troop down again to the cozy room we have
quitted, by no means wiser than when we started.

Somehow I think no more about it, and, except that I keep Martha
busied in my room until I hear Marmaduke's step, next door, I
show no further cowardice. The general air of disbelief around me
quenches my fears, and the bidding farewell to the guests I have
got to like so well occupies me to the exclusion of all other
matters.

Then follows Dora's wedding, a very quiet but very charming
little affair, remarkable for nothing beyond the fact that during
the inevitable breakfast speeches my father actually contrives to
squeeze out two small tears.

The happy pair start for the Continent--the bride all smiles and
brown velvet and lace, the bridegroom, perhaps; a trifle
pale--and we at home fall once more into our usual ways, and try
to forget that Dora Vernon was ever anything but Lady Ashurst.

Marmaduke and I, having decided on accepting no invitations until
after Christmas, being filled with a desire to spend this season
(which will be our first together) in our own home, settle down
for a short time into a lazy Darby-and-Joan existence.

---

It is the second of December; the little ormolu toy up on the
mantle-piece has chimed out a quarter to five; it is almost quite
dark, yet there is still a glimmer of daylight that might,
perhaps, be even more pronounced but for the blazing fire within
that puts it to shame.

"What a cosy little room it is!" says 'Duke from the doorway.
"You make one hate the outer world."

"Oh, you have come," I cry well pleased, "and in time for tea.
That is right. Have you taken off your shooting-things? I cannot
see anything distinctly where you now are."

"I am quite clean, if you mean that," says he, laughing and
advancing. "I shall do no injury to your sanctum.  But it is too
early to go through the regular business of dressing yet."

"Had you a good day?"

"Very good indeed, and a pleasant one altogether.  Jenkins was
with me, and would have come in to pay you his respects, but
thought he was hardly fit for so dainty a lady's inspection. Have
you been lonely, darling? How have you occupied yourself all
day?"

"Very happily," I say, surrendering one of my warm hands into his
cold ones. And then I proceed to recount all the weighty affairs
of business with which I have been employed during his absence.

But even as I speak the words freeze upon my lips.  Between me
and the dreary landscape outside rises something that chills
every thought of my heart.

It is a head, closely covered with some dark clothing--the
faintest outlines of a face--a pair of eyes that gleam like
living coals. As I gaze horror-stricken, it disappears, so
suddenly, so utterly, as to almost make me think it was a mere
trick of the imagination. Almost, but not quite the eyes still
burn and gleam before me, but to my memory comes Bebe's
marvellous tale.

"'Duke, 'Duke," I cry rising, "what is it? What have I seen? Oh!
I am horribly frightened!" I cling to him, and point eagerly
towards the window.

"Frightened at what?" asks 'Duke, startled by my manner, and
gazing ignorantly in the direction I have indicated.

"A face," I say nervously. "It was there only a moment ago. I saw
it quite distinctly, and eyes so piercing.  Marmaduke," shrinking
closer to him, "do you remember Bebe's story?"

"My darling girl, how can you be so absurd," exclaims 'Duke,
kindly, "letting that stupid tale upset you so? You only imagined
a face, my dearest. You have been too much alone all day. There
can be nothing."

"There was," I declare, positively. "I could not be so deceived."

"Nonsense, Phyllis! Come with me to the window and look out. If
there really was any one, she must be in view still."

He leads me to the window rather against my will, and makes me
look out. I do so to please him, standing safely ensconced behind
his arm.

"The lawn is bare," he says convincingly; "there is no cover
until one reaches the shrubberies beyond; and no one _could_ have
reached them since, I think. Now come with me to the other
window."

I follow him submissively with the same result; and finally we
finish our researches in the bow-window, at the farthest end of
the room.

The prospect without is dreary in the extreme. A storm is
steadily rising, and the wind is soughing mournfully through the
trees. Great sullen drops of rain fall with vindictive force
against the panes.

---"Now, confess, you are the most foolish child in the world,"
says 'Duke, cheerfully, seeing I am still depressed.  "Who would
willingly be out such an evening as this! Not even a dog, if he
could help it; and certainly a spectre would have far too much
sense."

"If it was fancy, it was very vivid," I say, reluctantly, "and,
besides, I am not fanciful at all. I was a little unlucky, I
think; it reminded me of--of---"

"A Banshee?" asks 'Duke, laughing.

"Well, yes, something like that," I admit seriously.

"Oh, Marmaduke, I hope no bad fortune is in store for us.  I feel
a strange foreboding at my heart."

"You feel a good deal of folly," says my husband.  "Phyllis, I am
ashamed of you. The idea of being superstitious in the nineteenth
century! I shall give you a good scolding for this, and at the
same time some brandy-and-water. Your nerves are unstrung, my
dearest; that is all.  Come, sit down here, and try to be
sensible, while I ring the bell."

As he speaks he rings it.

"Tynon, have the grounds searched again directly. It is very
annoying that tramps should be allowed the run of the place. A
stop must be put to it. Half a glass of brandy and a bottle of
soda."

"Yes, sir."

"Don't give me brandy and soda-water," I say, with some energy.
"I do so hate it."

"How do you know?"

"Because I tested yours the other evening, and thought it a
horrible concoction. I was tired of hearing men praise it as a
drink, so thought I would try if it was really as good as they
said. But it was not: it was extremely disagreeable."

"It was the soda you disliked. I will put very little in, and
then you will like it better."

"But indeed, Marmaduke, I would rather not have anything."

"But indeed, Phyllis, I must insist on your taking it. If we are
going to be so ultra-fashionable as to encourage a real ghost on
the premises, we must only increase our allowance of spirits, and
fortify ourselves to meet it. By the by, have you decided on the
sex? Bebe was rather hazy on that point."

"I don't know," I say, shuddering; "I wish you would not jest
about it."

Then I drink what he has prepared for me, and, in spite of my
dislike to it, feel presently somewhat happier in my mind.

---

The world is only three days older, when, as I sit alone in my
own room reading, Tynon opens the door, and addresses me in the
semi-mysterious manner he affects.

"There's a woman downstairs, ma'am, as particularly wants to
speak with you."

"A woman?" I reply, lazily. "What sort of a woman Tynon?"

"Well, ma'am, a handsome woman as far as I can judge. A furriner,
I would say. A woman of a fine presence--as might be a lady; but
I ain't quite certain on that point."

"Oh, Tynon, show her up," I say, hastily, feeling dismayed, as I
picture to myself a lady left standing in the hall while Tynon
makes up his mind as to what her proper position in society may
be.

He obeys my behest with alacrity, and in a very few moments "the
woman" and I are face to face; nay, as she comes slowly forward,
and throws back her veil, and fixes upon me her wonderful eyes, I
know, with a sinking of the heart, that I am face to face with
Bebe's ghost.

I am startled and impressed--uncomfortably impressed--as I gaze
on the remains of what must once have been an extraordinary
beauty. I have risen on her entrance, and we now stand--my
strange visitor and I--staring at each other in silence, with
only the little work-table between us.

She is dressed in deepest black of a good texture; I am in rich
brown velvet. She is tall and full--truly, as Tynon had described
her, "a woman of a fine presence;" I am small and very slight.
Her eyes are large, and dark, and burning--such eyes as belong to
the South alone; mine, large too, are gray-blue, and soft and
calm.

I feel fascinated, and slightly terrified. At last I speak.

"Is there anything I can do? I believe you wished to speak to
me!" I venture, weakly, and with hesitation.

"I do," says my strange visitor, never removing her piercing gaze
from my face. "I also wished to _see_ you _close_.  So you are
_his_ wife, are you? A child, a mere doll!"

I am so taken aback I can find no reply to make to this speech:
every moment renders me more amazed, more thoroughly frightened.

"You are Mrs. Carrington of Strangemore," she goes on, in the
purest English, but with an unmistakably foreign accent. "Well,
Mrs. Carrington, I have come here to-day to tell you something I
fear will be unpalatable to your dainty ears."

At this instant it occurs to me that I have admitted to my
presence, and am shut up with, an escaped lunatic. At this
thought my blood curdles in my veins; I move a step backwards,
and cast a lingering, longing glance at the bell handle. Watching
my every gesture, she immediately divines my intention.

"If you will take my advice," she says, "you will not touch that
bell. What I have to say might furnish too much gossip for your
servant's hall. No, I am _not_ mad. Pouf! what a fool it is,
trembling in every limb! Pray restrain yourself Mrs. Carrington:
you will require all your courage to sustain you by and by."

She is speaking very insolently, and there is a fiendish triumph
in her black eyes; I can hear a subtle mockery in her tone as she
utters my married name.

"If you will be so kind as to state your business without any
further delay," I remark, with as much hauteur as I can summon to
my aid, "I shall feel obliged."

"Good," says she, with a vicious smile: "you recover. The white
mouse has found its squeak. Listen, then." She seats herself
before the small table that divides us, leans her elbows upon it,
and takes her face between her hands. Her eyes are still riveted
upon mine; not for a second does she relax the vigilance of her
gaze. "Who do you think I am?" she asks, slowly.

"I have not the faintest idea," I reply, still haughty, though
thoroughly upset, and nervous.

"I--am--Marmaduke--Carrington's--lawful--wife," she says, biting
out the words with cruel emphasis, and nodding her head at me
between each pause.

I neither stagger nor faint, nor cry out: I simply don't believe
her. She is mad, then, after all. Oh, if Tynon, or Harris, or any
one, would only come! I calculate my chance of being able to rush
past her and gain the door in safety, but am disheartened by her
watchfulness. I remember, too, how fatal a thing it is to show
symptoms of terror before a maniac, and with an effort collect
myself.

"If you have nothing better to say than such idiotic nonsense," I
return, calmly, "I think this interview may as well come to an
end." As I utter this speech in fear and trembling, I once more
go slowly in the direction of the bell.

"Oh! must you then see my marriage-lines?" says the woman with a
sneer, drawing from her bosom a folded paper. "Is there too much
of the stage about my little declaration? Come, then, behold
them; but at a distance, carita, at a distance."

She spreads open the paper upon the table before me.  Impelled by
some hideous curiosity, I draw near. With one brown but shapely
finger, she traces the characters, and I read--I read with dull
eyes, the terrible words that seal my fate. No thought of a
forgery comes to sooth me; I know in that one long awful moment
that my eyes have seen the truth.

Mechanically I put out my hand to seize the paper, but she pushed
me roughly back.

"No, no, ma belle," she laughs coolly; "not that!"

"It is a lie," I cry, fiercely; "a lie!"

Where now is all my nervousness, my childish terror?  My blood
flames into life. For the time I am actually mad with passion, as
mad as I imagined her a little while ago.  A cruel,
uncontrollable longing to kill her--to silence forever the
bitter, mocking tones, to shut the vindictive eyes that seem to
draw great drops of blood from my heart--takes possession of me.
I catch hold of a heavy ruler that lies on a Davenport near, and
make a spring towards her.

But I am as an infant in the hands of my opponent; I feel myself
flung violently to one side against a wall, while the ruler falls
crashing into an opposite corner.

"Bah!" she cries through her teeth. "Can English blood get warm?
I did not believe it until now. So you love the handsome husband,
do you? That, after all, is not a husband, see you, but a lover.
This is my house, _Mees!_ I This is _my_ room! Leave it, I
command you!"

She laughs long and loudly; but all my fury has died out.

"I do not believe one word of all your vile story," I declare,
doggedly, knowing I am lying as I speak; "it flavors too much of
the melodrama to be real. You are an impostor; but you calculate
foolishly when you think to gain money from me by your false
tale. You have been seen more than once about these grounds
before now.---"

"Ay"--interrupting me with a rapid shrug of her finely formed
shoulders--"I pined, I hungered for a sight of your English baby
face.--I the mistress of it all--skulked about these walls, and
was hunted through your shrubberies like a common thief. Twice
was I near detection; twice through my native cunning I evaded
your stupid bulldogs of men. And each time I hugged myself to
think I had the revenge _here_" laying both hands lightly on her
bosom where the fatal paper once more lies.

"I do not believe you," I reiterate, stupidly: "it is nothing but
a wicked invention of your own. I am silly to feel even
annoyance. My husband will soon be in then we shall hoar the
truth."

"We shall--the whole truth. His face will betray it.  Then you
shall hear of the happy evenings spent in Florence, beneath the
eternal blue of the sky, when Carlotta Veschi lay with her dark
head reclined upon her English lover's breast; when words of love
fell hotly upon the twilight air; when vows were interchanged;
when _his_ lips were pressed, warmly, tenderly, to--_mine_."

"Be silent, woman!" I cry, passionately, breathing hard and
painfully. Oh, the anguish! the torture! I raise my head a little
higher, but my hand goes out and grasps unconsciously a friendly
chair, to steady my failing limbs.

"Does it distress you, Anima, all these loving details?  From
_his_ lips they will possibly fall more sweetly. I am but an
interloper--only the despised worm that crawls into the rose's
heart. Mine is the hand (unhappy one that I am) to lay waste the
nest of the doves."

"Here he is!" I cry joyfully, as I hear my husband's footsteps
pass the window. The very crunching of the gravel beneath his
heel rouses me. Hope once again springs warm within my breast. It
is not, it cannot be true. He will send this horrible woman away,
and reduce all my ridiculous fears to ashes.

I run to him with unusual eagerness as he enters, and, smiling,
he holds out his arms. But even before I can throw myself into
them, what is it that comes across his face? What is this awful
whiteness, this deadly look of terror? Why does he stagger back
against the wall?  Why do his hands fall lifeless to his sides?
Why do his eyes grow large with unearthly horror?

The woman stands where last she stood. She has not moved on his
entrance, or made the faintest advance. Though slightly paler,
the evil mockery still lingers is her eyes.

She rakes one finger slowly, tragically, and points it at him.

"I have found you," she says. "My--husband!"

No reply. Both his shaking hands go up to hide his face. I run to
him, and fling my arms around his neck.

"Marmaduke, speak!" I cry. "Tell her she lies. 'Duke, 'Duke,
raise your head and send her from this place.  Why are you
silent? Why will you not look at me? It is only I--your own
Phyllis. Oh, Marmaduke, I am horribly frightened. Why don't you
tell her to begone?"

"Because he dare not," says my visitor, slowly. "Well, Marmaduke,
have you no welcome for your wife?"

He puts me roughly from him, and, going over to her, seizes her
by the wrists and drags her into the full light of the window.

"You fiend!" he hisses, beneath his breath. "It was all false,
then, the news of your death? You are alive?  You are still left
to contaminate the earth? Who wrote the tidings that set me, as I
believed, free?"

"I did," replies the woman, quietly. "I was tired of you. Your
milk-and-watery affection, even at the very first, sickened me. I
wished to see you no more. I had begun to hate you, and so took
that means of ridding myself of you forever. But when I heard of
the rich uncle's death--of the money, the grandeur, all that had
come to you--I regretted my folly, and started to claim my
rights.  I am here: repudiate me if you can."

I have crept closer; I am staring at Marmaduke. I cannot, I will
not, still believe.

"Marmaduke, say she is not your wife," I demand, imperiously.

"Ay, say it," says the woman, with a smile.

I go nearer, and attempt to take his hand.

"'Duke, say it, say it!" I cry, feverishly.

"Do not touch me!" exclaims he, hoarsely, shrinking away from me.

I feel turned to stone--not faint or sick; only numbed, and
unable to reason. The Italian bursts into a ringing laugh.

"What a situation!" cries she. "What a scene! It is a tragedy,
and the peasant is the heroine. I--Carlotta--am the wife, while
the white, delicate, proud miladi is only the mist---"

Before the vile word can leave her lips, Marmaduke's hand is on
her throat. His face is distorted with passion and madness: there
is upon it a settled expression of determination that terrifies
me more than all that has gone before. His thin nostrils are
dilated with rage. His very lips are gray. Already the woman's
features are growing discolored.

"Marmaduke!" I shriek, tearing at the hand that pinions her to
the shutter, "Marmaduke, for _my_ sake--remember--have pity. Oh,
what is it you would do?"

By a superhuman effort my weak fingers succeed in dragging his
hand away, He shivers, and falls back a step or two, while the
Italian slowly recovers.

"Would you murder me?" she gasps. "Ah! wretch--dog--`beast! But I
have a revenge!"

She stalks towards the door as she utters this threat, and
quickly vanishes.

I turn to my--to Marmaduke.

"It is true?" I ask.

"It is true," he replies, and as he speaks I can scarcely believe
the man who stands before me, crushed and aged and heart-broken,
is the same gay, handsome young man who entered the room all
smiles a few minutes ago.

"If _she_ is your wife, what am _I?_" I ask, with unnatural
calmness.

"Phyllis! Phyllis! my life! forgive me!" he cries, in an
anguished tone; and then the room grows suddenly dark; I fall
heavily forward into the blackness, and all is forgotten.

---

When I recover consciousness, I find myself in my own room, lying
upon my bed. The blinds are all drawn down, to cause a soothing
darkness. There is a general feel of dampness about my hair and
forehead; somebody is bending anxiously over me. Raising my eyes
in languid scrutiny, I discover it is my mother.

"Is that you, mamma?"

"Yes, my darling."

"I did not know you were coming to-day. How is it you are here
just now? and why am I lying on my bed?"

I uplift myself upon my elbow, and peer at her curiously. Her
eyelids are crimson; her voice is full of the thick and husky
sound that comes of much weeping.

"What has happened? Why am I here?" I repeat.

"You were not well, dearest. A mere faint--nothing more: but we
thought you would feel better if kept quiet quiet. I was driving
over to see you to day, and very fortunately arrived just as I
was wanted. Lie down again and try to sleep."

"No, I cannot. What has vexed you mother? You have been crying."

"Oh, no, darling," in trembling tones; "you only imagine it.
Perhaps it is the uncertain light."

"Nonsense," I insist angrily; "you know you have. I can see it in
your eye, I can hear it in your voice. Why do you try to deceive
me! Something has happened--I feel--it and you are keeping it
from me. Let me think---"

With a nervous gesture mother raises a cup from a table near, and
puts it to my lips.

"Drink this first, and think afterwards," she says; "it will do
you good."

"No, I shall think first. There is something weighing on my
brain, and--on my heart. Why don't you help me to remember?"

I put my hands to my head in deep perplexity. Slowly, slowly the
truth comes back to me; slowly all the past horrible scene
revives itself.

"Ah!" I gasp, affrightedly. "I remember! I know it all now. I can
see her again! She said--But," seizing mother's wrists fiercely,
"It is not true, mother? Oh mother! say it is not true! Oh!
mother! mother!"

"Phyllis, my child--my lamb! what shall I say to comfort you?"

"Deny it!" I cry, passionately flinging my arms around her waist,
and throwing back my head that I may watch her face. Poor face!
so filled with the bitterest of all griefs, the want of power to
solace those we love. "Why do you cry? Why don't you say at once
it was a lie?  You are as bad as Marmaduke; _he_ stood there too,
deaf as a stick or a stone to my entreaties. Oh, will no one help
me? Oh, it is true then!--it is true!"

I push her from me, and, burying my head on my arms rock myself
to and fro, in a silent agony of despair. Not a sound breaks the
stillness, but mother's low suppressed sobbing; it maddens me.

"What are you crying for?" I ask, roughly, raising my tearless
face; "my eyes are dry. It is my sorrow, not yours not any one's.
What do _you_ mean by making moan?"

She makes no answer, and my head drops once more upon my arms. I
continue my ceaseless, miserable rocking. Again there is silence.

A door bangs somewhere in the distance.

"I will not see him!" I cry, starting up wildly "Nothing on earth
shall induce me. I cannot, mother. Tell him he must not come in
here."

"Darling, he is not coming. But even if he were, Phyllis, surely
you would be kind to him. If you could only see his despair! He
was quite innocent of it. Phyllis, I implore you, do not foster
bitter thoughts in your heart towards Marmaduke."

"It is not that. You mistake me. Only--it is all so horrible--I
fear to see him. Yesterday he was my husband--no, no--I mean I
thought he was my husband; to-day what is he?"

"Oh, darling! try to be calm."

"I am calm. See, my hand does not even tremble," holding it up
before her. "Oh, what have I done, that this should happen to me?
What odious crime have I committed, that I should be so punished?
Only six months married--_married_, did I say--I must learn to
forget that word!"

"Oh, Phyllis, hush! If you would but try to sleep, my poor love!"

"Shall I ever sleep again, I wonder, with that scene before me
always? It has withered me. Her eyes how they burned into mine!
Her very touch had venom in it! And yet why should I be so hard
on her, poor creature? Was she not in the right? He is _her_
husband, not mine. She has the prior claim. _She_ is the deserted
wife, while I am only---

"Phyllis! Phyllis!"

"And all my life before me!" I cry, with passionate self-pity,
clasping my hands. "How shall I bear it? What are those words,
mother? Do you recollect? Something beginning,---

 'So young, so young,
 I am not used to tears to-night,
 Instead of slumber; nor to prayer
 With sobbing breath, and hands out-wrung.'"

"Phyllis, do you want to kill me?" says mother, her sobs breaking
forth afresh.

"Poor mother! do I make you sad? Do your tears relieve you? I
suppose so, as I have none. I think my sorrow is too great for
that. It was like a dream, the whole thing. I could not realize
it then. It is only now I, fully understand how alone I am in the
world."

"My own girl, you still have me."

"And so I have, dear, dearest mother; but I will live alone, for
all that. Disgrace has fallen upon me, but I will not ask others
to bear my burden. Was it not well Dora's marriage took place
last month? My position cannot affect hers now."

"Oh Phyllis! do not talk of disgrace. What disgrace can attach to
you, my poor innocent child?"

"I cannot lie here any longer," I say, abruptly, getting off the
bed; "I shall go mad, if I stay still and think. And my
hair,"--fretfully--"it has all come down; it must be settled
again. Oh, no; I cannot have Martha; she would look doleful and
sympathetic, as if she knew everything, and I should feel
inclined to kill her."

"Let me do it, darling. Your arms are tired," says mother,
meekly, and proceeds to shake out and comb with softest touch the
heavy masses of hair that only yesterday I gloried in. Even this
morning, when it lay all about my shoulders, how happy I was!

"Do you know, mother," I say, drearily, "it seems to me now as
though between me and this morning a whole century had rolled?"

"Phyllis," says mamma, earnestly, "I don't like your manner. I
don't like the way you are taking all this. A little while ago
your grief was vehement, but natural; now there is an
indifference about you that frightens me. You will be ill,
darling, if you don't give way a little."

"Ill? with a chance of dying you mean? Why, that would be famous!
But don't fear, mother: no such good fortune is in store for me.
I shall probably outlive every one of you." I laugh a little.
"How nicely you use the brush! you do not drag a single hair. And
it is nearly seven months now since last you brushed my hair; and
I was then almost a child, was not I? And we have never thought,
you and I, such bad luck was in store for the poor little
scapegrace of the family. Yes, roll it back like that. Oh! did
you ever see so miserable a face? I hate it," making a faint,
grimace at my own image in the glass. "How white it is!"

"Too white!"

"Yes, but not so white as hers; and her eyes, so large and black.
I have read that Italian women are revengeful. I think if she had
had a knife then she would have killed me."

"Phyllis, you are overwrought. Darling, do let me put you into
bed again, and try to swallow some of this composing draught. Or
see, this comfortable couch--will you lie here?" coaxingly.

"Do you think she will come back again, mother? that would be
worse than anything. She muttered some bad words, or some threat,
as she was leaving the room: and yet do you know it was my hand
kept Marmaduke from murdering her? Murder; has not that an ugly
sound?  Poor 'Duke! he was half mad, I think."

"Of course he was. Do not let your mind dwell on it.  Look what
large soft cushions; only put your head on them, and you will
sleep. And I will tuck you up, and sing to you, and imagine you
my own little baby Phyllis again."

"But what an old, old baby! I feel as old as yourself to-day.
This morning I remember I laughed for nearly five minutes without
stopping over some absurd story of Martha's.  I fear I offended
her at last; but I am punished now; much laughing, you know, goes
before crying. Shall I cry much, later on I wonder?"

"No, no, my love, I hope not. Come; if you will lie down here,
and drink this, I will lie with you, and then you will not be
lonely."

"No, I want to walk. I feel so restless. Where is my hat, mother?
Can you see it? Ah! you are not much better than Martha after
all; she never knows where anything is. How light my head feels!
Do not pity me, mother? is it not hard to bear? Ah---" I fling my
arms above my head, and fall senseless at her feet.

---

It is evening of the same day--a dark sullen December evening,
dark as the thoughts that throng my breast. I feel unsympathetic,
cold, almost dead. Much as I have tried during the past few
hours, I cannot quite reconcile myself to the idea that it is
I--I myself--who am principally concerned in all this horror that
has taken place.

I argue in my own mind. I represent the case a for a third
person. I cannot realize that the one most to be pitied is
I--Phyllis Phyllis _what?_

I have at length consented to see Marmaduke, and am lying upon a
sofa in a hopelessly dishevelled state, as he enters. I have not
shed a single tear; yet the black hollows beneath my eyes might
have come from ceaseless weeping.

I half rise as he comes across the room, yet cannot raise my head
to meet his gaze. I dread the havoc despair and self torture will
have wrought in his face. He moves slowly, lingeringly, until he
reaches the hearthrug, and there stands and regard me
imploringly. This I feel and know, though through some other
sense beside sight.

"Will you not even look at me?" he says, presently in a change,
almost agonized, tone.

I force my eyes to meet his, but drop them again almost
immediately.

"Is forgiveness quite out of the question?"

"No," I return; "of course I forgive you. It was not your fault.
There is nothing to forgive. But in the first instance you
deceive me; that I feel the hardest. Even to myself my voice
sounds cold and strange.

"I acknowledge it. But how was I to tell this would be the end of
it? It appeared impossible you should ever know the truth. It was
only known to myself and one other.---"

"And that was---"

"Mark Gore. The woman, as I believed, was dead, and who could
betray the secret? The whole miserable story was so hateful to me
that to repeat it to you--whom I so devotedly loved--was more
than I had courage for. How could I tell you such a sickening
tale! How could I watch the changes--the dislike, it might
be--that would cloud your face as I related it? By your own
confession, I knew you bore me none of that love that would have
helped me safely through even a worse revelation, and I dreaded
lest the bare liking you entertained for me should have an end,
and that you, a young girl, would shrink from a widower, and the
hero of such a story."

"Still, it would have been better if you had spoken; I can
forgive anything but deceit."

"Once or twice I tried to tell you the only secret I had from
you, but you would not listen, or else at the moment spoke such
words as made me doubt the expediency of ever mentioning the
affair at all. But now that it is too late, I regret my
duplicity, or cowardice, or whatever it was that swayed me."

"Too late, indeed!" I repeat almost mechanically.

After a minute or two, he says, in a low voice:---

"Have you no interest, no curiosity, that you do not ask? Will
you let me tell you now all the real circumstances of the case?"

"What need?" I answer wearily. "Of course it is the old story. I
seem to have heard it a hundred times.  You were a boy, she was a
designing woman; she entrapped you: it is the whole thing."

"I was no boy; I was an over-honorable man. She was an Italian
woman, with some little learning, of rather respectable
parentage, and who (a wonderful thing among her class) could
speak a good deal of English. She was handsome, and for the time
I fancied I loved her. No thought of evil towards her entered my
heart; I asked her to marry me and the ceremony was performed,
privately but surely, in the little chapel near her home, her
brother being the principal witness. Hardly a month had passed
before I fully understood the horrible mistake I had made--before
I learned how detestable was the woman with whom I had linked my
fate. Her coarse, harsh manner, her vile, insolent tongue, her
habits of drunkenness, nay, more, her evident preference for a
low, illiterate cousin, were all too apparent. I left her, she
declaring herself as glad to see the last of me as I was to be
rid of her. Does the whole thing disgust you, Phyllis?"

He pauses, and draws his hand wearily across his forehead.

I shake my head, but make no further reply; and presently he goes
on again in a low tone:

"I was, comparatively speaking, poor then; yet, out of the
allowance my uncle had made me, I sent her regularly as much,
indeed, more, than I could afford; but dread of discovery forced
me to be generous. Then one day came the tidings of her death.
Even now, Phyllis--now, when I am utterly crushed and
heart-broken--I can feel again the wild passion of delight that
overcame me as I pictured myself once more free. Again I mixed
with the world I had for some time avoided, and was received with
open arms, my uncle's death having made me a rich man; and
then--then I met you. Oh, Phyllis, surely my story in a sad one,
and deserving of some pity."

"It is sad," I say, monotonously, "but not so sad as mine."

Coming over, he kneels down beside my sofa, and gently, almost
fearfully, he takes one of my hands in both his.

"Oh not so sad as yours, my poor love, my own darling," he
murmurs painfully, "but still unhappy enough.  To think that I,
who would willingly have shielded you with my life, should be the
one to bring misery upon you I."

He hides his face upon the far edge of the cushion on which my
aching head is reclining. I can no longer see him, but can feel
his whole frame trembling with suppressed emotion. With some
far-off, indistinct sensation of pity, I press the hand that
still holds mine.

Presently I rouse myself, and, rising to a sitting posture, I fix
my dull eyes upon the opposite wall, and speak.

"I suppose it is to my old home I must go."

As though the words stung him, Marmaduke gets up impetuously, and
walks back to his former position upon the hearthrug. I noticed
that his face has grown, if possible, a shade paler than before.
A sudden look of fear has over-read it.

"Yes, yes; of course you shall go home for a little time if you
wish it," he says, nervously.

"Not for a little time; forever," I return. A horrible pain is
tugging at my heart.

"Phyllis," cries he almost fiercely, "what are you saying? You
cannot mean it. Forever? Do you know what that means? If you can
live without me, I tell you plainly I would rather ten thousand
times be dead than exist without you. Are you utterly heartless,
that you can torture me like this? Never to see you again; is
that what you would say?" Coming nearer, so close that he touches
me, while his eyes seek and read with desperate eagerness my
face, "Speak, speak, and tell me you were only trying to frighten
me."

"I cannot. I meant just what I said," I gasp, consumed by a
sudden dread of I scarcely know what. "Why do you disbelieve?
What other course is open to me?"

"Listen,"--trying to speak calmly, and seizing hold of my hands
again; "why should you make this wretched story public? As yet,
no one is the wiser; you and I alone hold the secret. This woman,
this fend, will go anywhere will do anything, for sufficient
money, and I can make it worth her while to be forever silent.
When she returns to Italy, who then will know the truth?"

"The truth--ah! yes---"

"Are you not my wife? Has not my love bound you to me by stronger
ties than any church laws? Why should this former detested bond
ruin both our lives?"

"A little while ago you spoke of yourself as an 'over-honorable'
man. Is what you now propose honorable or right? Marmaduke, it is
impossible. As our lives have shaped themselves, so must they be.
I cannot live with you."

"Think of what the world will say. Phyllis, can you bear their
cruel speeches? It is not altogether for my own sake I plead,
though the very thought of losing you is more than I can bear. It
is for you, yourself, I entreat. Remember what your position will
be. Have pity upon yourself."

"No, no! I will not listen to you. I will not, Marmaduke."

He flings himself on his knees before me.

"Darling, darling, do not forsake me," he whispers despairingly.

"Let me go," I cry wildly. "Is this your love for me?  Oh, the
selfishness of it. Would you have me live with you as---"

"Be silent!" exclaims he, in a terrible voice. A spasm of pain
contracts his face. Slowly he regains his feet.

"You madden me," he goes on, in an altered tone. "I forget that
you, who have never loved, cannot feel as I do.  Phyllis, tell me
the truth; have you no affection for me. Are you quite cold?"

"I am not!" I cry, suddenly waking from my unnatural apathy, and
bursting into bitter tears, the first I have shed to-day. As the
whole horrible truth comes home to me, I rise impulsively and
fling myself into my husband's arms--for my husband he has been
for six long months.  "I do love you, 'Duke--'Duke; but, oh! what
can I do?  What words can I use to tell you all I feel? I am
young, and silly, and ridiculous in many ways, I know; but yet
there is something within me I dare not disobey--something that
makes me know the life you propose would be a life of sin, one on
which no blessing could fall. Help me, therefore, to do the
right, and do not make my despair greater than it is."

He is silent, as he holds me clasped passionately to his breast.

"We must part," I go on, more steadily. "I must leave you: but,
oh, Duke, do not send me home. I could not go there."

I shudder violently in his embrace at the bare thought of such a
home-coming. How could I summon courage to meet all the whispers,
the suppressed looks, the very kindnesses, that day by day I
should see?

"And here I could not stay, either," I sob, mournfully: "memory
would kill me. 'Duke, where shall I go? Send me, you--somewhere."

I wait for his answer with my head pillowed on his chest. I wait
a long time. Whatever struggle is going on within him takes place
silently. He makes no sign of agony; he does not move; his very
heart, on which I lean, has almost ceased to beat. At length he
speaks, and as the words cross his lips I know that he has
conquered, but at the expense of youth and joy and hope.

"There is Hazelton," he says; "it is a pretty place. It was my
mother's. Will you go there? And---"

"Yes, I will go there," I answer, brokenly.

"What servants will you take with you?" he asks me, presently, in
a dull, subdued way; all impatience and passion have died within
him.

"I will take none," I reply, "not one from this place.  You must
go to Hazelton and get me a few from the neighborhood round
it--just three or four, who will know nothing of me, and seek to
know nothing."

"Oh, my darling, at least take your own maid with you, who has
known you all your life. And Tynon, he is an old and valued
servant; he will watch over you, and take care of you."

"I will not be watched," I say, pettishly; "and I detest being
taken care of. I am not ill. Even when a heart is sick unto
death, there is no cure for it. And I would not have Tynon on any
account. Every time I met his eyes I would know what he was
thinking about. I would read pity in every glance and gesture,
and I will not be made more wretched than I am by sympathy."

"Then take Martha. You know how attached to you she is.---"

"No; I will have no one to remind me of the old life. Do not urge
me, 'Duke. Give me my own way in this.  Believe me, if you do, I
shall have a far better chance of--peace."

"I wish, for your sake, I was dead," says 'Duke, hoarsely.

At this I begin to cry again, weakly. I am almost worn out.

"You will at least write to me, now and then, Phyllis?"

"It will be better not."

"Why? I have sworn not to see you again, but I must and will have
some means of knowing whether you are dead or alive. Promise me
that twice a year, once in every six months, you will let me have
a letter. It is only a little thing to ask, out of all the happy
past."

"I promise. But you--will you stay here?"

"Here?" he echoes, bitterly. "What do you take me for? In this
house, where every room and book and flower would remind me of
your sweet presence? No, we will leave it together: I shall look
my last on it with you I will not stay to see it desolate and
gray and cold without its mistress. You must let me be your
escort to your new home, that people may have less to wonder at."

"And where will you go?"

"Abroad--India, Australia, America--anywhere: what does it
matter? If I travelled to the ends of the earth, I could not fly
my thoughts."

"And"--timidly--"what of _her?_"

"Nothing," he answers, roughly: "I will not talk of her again to
_you_."

There is a low, apologetic knock at the door. Instantly I seat
myself on the sofa in as dignified an attitude as I can assume,
considering my hair is all awry and my eyelids crimson. 'Duke
lowers the lamp prudently, and falls back to the hearthrug,
standing with his hands clasped carelessly behind him, before he
says, in a clear, distinct tone:---

"Come in."

"Dinner is served," announces Tynon, softly, with the vaguest,
discreetest of coughs. How is it that servants always know
everything?

"Very good," returns Marmaduke, in his ordinary voice. "Let Mrs.
Vernon know." Then, as though acting on a second thought:---

"Tynon."

"Yes, sir."

"It may be as well to let you know now that Mrs. Carrington and I
are leaving home next week for some time.

"Indeed, sir? yes, sir." Tynon's face is perfectly impassive,
except at the extreme corners of the mouth: these being slightly
down-drawn indicate regret and some distress.

"We both feel much disappointed at being obliged to leave home at
this particular time the Christmas season being so close at hand;
but the business that takes us is important, and will admit of no
delay. I shall leave behind me the usual sum of money for the
poor, with an additional gift from Mrs. Carrington, which I will
trust you and Mrs. Benson" (the housekeeper) "to see properly
distributed."

"Thank you, sir: it shall be carefully attended to."

"I am quite sure of that," kindly. Then, with a return to the
rather forced and stilted manner that has distinguished his
foregoing speech, he goes on: "It is altogether uncertain when we
shall be able to come back to Strangemore, as the business of
which I speak will necessitate my going abroad; and as Mrs.
Carrington's health will not allow her to accompany me, and as
she has been ordered change of air, she will go to Hazelton,
which she has not seen, and await my return there. You quite
understand, Tynon?"

"Perfectly, sir," replies the old butler, with his eyes on the
ground. And as I watch him, I know how perfectly indeed he
understands, not only what is being said, but also what is not
being said.

'Duke weary of lying, draws his hand across his forehead. "You
will please let the other servants know of our movements.
Although my absence may be more prolonged than I think, I shall
wish them all to remain as they now are so that the house may be
in readiness to receive us at any moment. But," turning his gaze
for the first time fully upon Tynon and speaking very sternly, "I
will have no whispering or gossiping about things that don't
concern them: mind that. I leave you in charge, Tynon, and I
desire that all such conduct be punished with instant dismissal.
You hear?"

"Yes, sir; you may be sure there shall be no gossiping or
whispering going on in this house."

"I hope not." Then, having noticed the quavering voice and
depressed air of this old servitor, who has known him from his
youth up, he adds more gently, "you may go now. I know I can
trust you. I do not think I have any more directions to give you
at present."

Tynon bows in a shaky, dispirited way, and leaves the room.
Outside in the dusk of the corridor, I can see him put his hand
to his eyes. But he is staunch, and even now compels himself to
turn and say, with deference and with a praiseworthy show of
ignorance of what the preceding conversation may mean:---

"I hope you will excuse my mentioning it, sir, but if there is
one thing beyond another that raises Mrs. Cook's irritableness,
and makes her perverse towards the rest of the household, it is
to hear the soup was allowed to grow cold."

"All right, Tynon: Mrs. Harrison's nerves shall not be upset this
evening. We will go down now," says 'Duke, with a smile--a very
impoverished specimen of its kind, I must own, but still a smile.

I rush into the next room--my dressing-room is off my
boudoir--and having bathed my poor eyes and hastily brushed my
hair and given myself a general air of prosperity make for the
dining-room. On the stairs we encounter mother, looking so pale
and wan, and almost terrified, that I take my hand off
Marmaduke's arm and slip it round her waist. It will never do for
her to present such a woful countenance to the criticism of
servants.

"Try to look a little more cheerful, darling," I whisper,
eagerly; "it will not be for long: as it has to be gone through,
let us be brave in the doing of it."

She looks at me with a relieved astonishment; and truly the
strength of will that bears me through this interminable evening
amazes no one so much as myself.

---

Hazelton down by the sea, I have gained your shelter at last.
Only yesterday, Marmaduke and I finished our miserable journey
here, and took a long, a last, farewell of each other.

How can I write of it, how describe the anguish of those few
minutes, in which a whole year's keenest torture was compressed?
How paint word by word the mad but hopeless clinging, the
lingering touch of hands that never more should join, the
despair, the passion, of the final embrace.

It is over, and he is gone, and I have fallen into a settled
state of apathy, and indifference to what is going on around me,
that surely bears some resemblance to a melancholy madness.

Hazelton is a very pretty, old-fashioned house, about half the
size of Strangemore--with many straggling rooms well wainscoted
almost three parts up each wall. Some of the floors are of
gleaming polished oak, some richly, heavily carpeted. It is a
picturesque old place, that at any other time, and under any
other circumstances, would have filled me with admiration.

Afar off one can catch a glimpse of the sea. From the parlor
windows it is plainly visible; in the other rooms a rising hill,
and in summer the foliage, intercept the view, In reality, it is
only a mile and a half distant from the house, so that at night
when the wind is high, the sullen roar of it comes to the
listening ear.

The few servants who have had the house in charge have been
retained, and three more have been added. These have evidently
made up their minds to receive me with open arms; but as a week
passes, and I show no signs of interest in them, or their work,
or the gardens, or anything connected with my life, they are
clearly puzzled and disappointed. This I notice in a dull
wondering fashion. Why can they not be as indifferent to me as I
am to them?

All the visitors that should call do call; it is not a populous
neighborhood, but as I decline, seeing them, and do not return
their visits the would-be acquaintance drops. On Monday, the
vicar, a slight, intellectual-looking man, rides up to the door,
and, being refused admittance, leaves his card, and expresses his
intention of coming again some day soon. Which message, being
conveyed to me by the respectable person who reigns here as
butler, raises my ire, and induces me to give an order on the
spot that never, on any pretence whatever, is any one--vicar or
no vicar--to be admitted to my presence.

Sunday comes, but I feel no inclination to clothe myself and go
forth to confess my sins and pour out my griefs in the house of
prayer. All days are alike to me, and I shrink with a morbid
horror from presenting myself to the eyes of my fellows. In this
quiet retreat I can bury myself, and nurse my wrongs, and brood
over my troubles without interference from a cruel world.

I find some half-finished work among my things, and taking it to
my favorite room, bend over it hour by hour more often it falls
unheeded on my lap, while I let memory wander backward, and ask
myself, sadly, if such a being ever really lived as wild, merry
careless Phyllis Vernon.

The days go by, and I feel no wish for outdoor exercise, My color
slowly fades.

One morning, the woman who has taken Martha's place, and who
finds much apparent delight in the binding and  twisting of my
hair into impossible fashions, takes courage` to address me.

"The gardens here, ma'am, are so pretty, the prettiest for miles
round."

"Are they? I must go and see them."

"'Deed, m'm, and it would do you good. A smart walk now once in a
way is better'n medicine, so I'm told. And the grounds round here
is rare and pretty to look at, though to be sure winter has a
dispiritin' effect on everything."

"It is cold," I say, with a shiver.

"It is, m'm surely"--leaving the mighty edifice she is erecting
on the top of my head to give the fire a vigorous poke--"but with
your fur cloak and hat you won't feel it.  Shall I bring them to
you after breakfast, ma'am?"

"Very well; do," reply I, with a sigh of resignation.

Much pleased with her success, the damsel retreats, and
punctually to the moment, as I rise from my breakfast-table,
appears again, armed with cloak and gloves and hat.  Thus
constrained, I sally forth, and make a tour round the gardens
that surround what must be for evermore my home.

And very delicious old gardens they are, as old-fashioned as the
house, and quite as picturesque. There is a total want of method,
of precision, in the arrangement of them, that instinctively
charms the eyes. I wander from orchard into flower-garden, and
from flower-garden on again to orchard, without a break of any
sort--no gates divide them: it is all one pretty happy medley.

The walks, though scrupulously neat, are ungravelled, and here
and there a dead leaf, crisp and dry, displays itself. The very
trees, though bereft of leaves, do not appear so foolish, so
melancholy, in this free land of theirs, as they always look
elsewhere.

I feel some animation creeping in my blood; my step is more
springy. At the garden gate the father of all this sweetness
steps up to me. He is a rosy-checked, good-humored-looking man, a
brilliant contrast to the unapproachable Cummins; he presents me
with a small bouquet of winter flowers.

"I am proud to see you ma'am," he says, with a touch of interest
in his tone. "I am sorry I have nothing better worth offering you
than these 'ere." He tenders the bouquet as he speaks--a very
marvel of a bouquet, considering the time of year.

"Thank you," I say, with a gracious smile, born of my brisk and
pleasant promenade: "it is lovely. It is far prettier in my eyes
than the summer one, because so unexpected."

"I pass on, leaving him, bowing and scraping and much gratified,
in the middle of the path, with the unwonted smile still upon my
lips."

But, as the evening draws on, this faintest, glimmer of renewed
hope dies, and I sink back once more into my accustomed gloom.

---

"What will you please to order for dinner to-day, mum?" asks cook
from the doorway. I have never yet given directions for that
meal, much to that worthy creatures despair, whose heart and
thoughts are in her stew-pans.

I glance up with languid surprise.

"Anything you please," I say; "you are always very satisfactory.
I told you I would leave everything to you.  Why do you ask me
to-day in particular?"

"Law, mum, sure it's Christmas day, and I thought may be as
'ow---"

"Christmas-day, is it," I exclaim, curiously. "Then I have been a
whole fortnight in this place."

"Yes, mum. A whole fortnight and one day, by five o'clock this
hevening, precisely. I took the liberty of asking you to order
dinner for this one night, thinking as you might put a name to
something or other dainty that you fancies."

"Indeed I have no choice, cook, and I am not at all hungry."

"Likely enough, mum, considering it is now only twelve o'clock;
but for a lady like yourself, as eats no luncheon to speak of,
you will for certain be starved by seven."

"I thought a Christmas dinner never varied, cook. You can have
the usual thing, I suppose."

"In course, mum," says cook, undaunted. She is a fine, fat,
healthy-looking woman, with a large eye, and a slightly wheezy
intonation, as though she were constantly trying to swallow some
of her own good things that had inadvertently stuck in her
throat. It seems to me that I ought to love this comfortable
creature, who is so obstinately bent on flattering me against my
will. "But whatever folks may say, a plum pudding for a delicate
lady like you is uncommon 'eavy on the 'art and mind when
bed-hour comes. If you would just say anything that would please
you--something light that I might try my hand on--an ice-pudding,
now?"--this with as near an attempt at coaxing as respect will
permit.

But the word "ice-pudding" calls up old memories: I remember my
ancient weakness for that particular confection. My brows
contract; a sharp pain fills my breast.

"No, no! anything but ice-pudding," I say, hastily: "I--hate it."

"Dear me, mum! now do you? Most of the quality loves it. Then
what would you say? I'm a first-class hand in the pastry line---"

"Make me--a meringue," I murmur, in despair, seeing I shall have
to give in, or else go through a list from the cookery book, and
fortunately remembering how I once heard a clever housekeeper say
there were few sweets so difficult to bring to perfection. But
the difficulty, if there is any, only enchants my goddess of the
range.

"Very good, mum; you shall 'ave it," she says, rapturously; and
retires with flying colors, having beaten me ignominiously.

A month--two months--go by, and still my self-imposed seclusion
is unbroken.

Now and again I receive a letter from former friends, but these I
discourage. From mother I hear regularly once a week, whether I
answer her or not. Poor mother! She has begged and prayed for
permission to visit me, to see how time is using me, whether I am
well or ill; but all to no avail. I will not be dragged out of
the gloomy solitude in which I have chosen to bury myself.

From Dora, on her return from Rome, comes such a kindly, tender
letter as I had not believed it possible the chilly Dora could
pen. It is wound up by a postscript from Sir George, as
warm-hearted in tone as he is himself. It touches me, in a
far-off, curious manner; but I shrink from the invitation to join
them that it contains, and refuse it in such a way as must
prevent a repetition of it.

Monotonous as is my existence, I hardly note how time flies.
March winds rush by me, and I scarcely heed them.  But for the
hurtful racking cough they leave me as a legacy, ere taking their
final departure, I would not have known they had been among us.
This cough grows and increases steadily, rendering more pallid my
already colorless cheeks, while the little flesh that still
cleaves to my bones becomes less and less as the hours go on. It
tears my slight frame with a cruel force, and leaves me sleepless
when all the rest of the world is wrapped in slumber.

Oh, the weary days; the more than weary nights, when oblivion
never comes to drown my thoughts, or, coming, only wraps me in
dreams from which I wake, damply cold, or sobbing with a horror
too deep for words!

There are times when I fight with Fate, with all that has brought
me to this pass; when I cry aloud and wring my hands and call on
death to rescue me, in the privacy of my own room, from the
misery that weighs me down and keeps me languishing in the dust.
But these times are rare, and come to me but seldom--at such weak
moments as when a feeling of deadly sickness or overpowering
regret gains mastery over me.

In very truth, my life is a sad one--a mistake--a blot, there is
no proper place for me in the universe that seems so great. There
is no happiness within me, no spring of hope. I appear to myself
a thing apart--innocent, yet marked with a disgraceful brand.
With an old writer--whom I now forget--I can truly say:---

 "For the world, I count it not an inn, but an hospital; and a
place not to live, but to die in."

At last I wake to the fact that I am ill--dreadfully ill.  There
can be no doubt of it; and yet my malady has no name. I have lost
all appetite; my strength has deserted me; great hollows have
grown in my cheeks, above which my eyes gleam large and feverish.
When I sit down I feel no desire to rise again.

Towards the middle of April I rally a little, and an intense
craving for air is ever on me. Down by the sea I wander daily,
getting as close to it as my strength will allow, the mile that
separates me from it being now looked upon as a journey by my
impoverished strength. Somewhat nearer to me than the shore is a
high, level plain of sand and earth and grass, that runs back
inland from a precipice that overlooks the ocean. On this I sit,
and drawing sometimes up to the edge, peer over, and amuse myself
counting the waves as they dash on to the beach far, far below.

This plain, forming part of the grounds belonging to Hazelton,
possesses the double charm of being easier of access than the
strand, and of being strictly private.

It is the 17th of April--a cold day, but fresh, with little
sunshine anywhere. I am sauntering along my usual path to my
sandy plain, thoughtless of anything in the present, innocent of
presentiments, when suddenly before me, as though arisen out of
the earth, stands Sir Mark Gore.

How long is it since last I saw him?--not months surely?--it
seems more like yesterday. Why do I feel no surprise, no emotion?
Is the mind within me indeed dead? I am more puzzled by my own
unnatural calmness at this moment than even by an event so
unexpected as his presence here.

We both stand still and gaze at each other. As far as I am
concerned, time dies; I forget these weary months at Hazelton. I
think of our parting at Strangemore. His eyes are reading,
examining with undisguised pain, the changes in my face and form.
At length he speaks.

"I hardly thought to meet you here, Mrs. Carrington," he says,
advancing slowly, and addressing me in the low, hushed tone one
adopts towards the sick or dying. He appears agitated.

I regard him with fixed coldness.

"You, who know all," I say, with quiet emphasis, "why do you call
me by that name? Call me Phyllis; that, at least still remains to
me."

He flushes crimson, and a pained look comes into hie eyes.

"I suppose," I go on, curiously, "that last warning you gave
Marmaduke at the library door at home--at Strangemore,"
correcting myself without haste, "had reference to--that woman?
Am I right?"

"Yes; I regret now having ever uttered it."

"Regrets are useless, and your words did no harm.  Thinking of
things since, I knew they must have meant an allusion to her."

"How calmly you speak of it!" he says, amazed.

"I speak as I feel," I reply.

There is rather an awkward pause. Now that he is here, the
question naturally presents itself--for what reason has he come?
At length---

"Will you not say you are glad to see me?" ventures Sir Mark,
uneasily.

"I am neither glad nor sorry," is my unmoved return; "I have
forgotten to be emotional. I believe my real feeling just now is
indifference. Considering how unlooked-for is your presence here,
it astonishes even myself that I can call up so little surprise.
Curious, is it not? You look thin, I think, and older--not so
well as when last we met."

He grows a shade paler.

"Do I?" Then, drawing a hard, quick breath--"And you, child, what
have you been doing with yourself? Except for your eyes, it is
hardly you I see. So white, so worn, so changed; this place is
killing you."

"It is a very quiet place. It suits me better than any other
could."

"I tell you it is killing you," he repeats, angrily. "Better to
face and endure the world's talk at once, than linger here until
body and soul part."

"I shall never face the world," return I, quietly. "Here is my
convent; at least within its walls I find peace.  I see no one,
therefore hear no evil talk. I have no wish to be disturbed."

"So you think now; but as time goes on you must--you cannot fail
to tire of it. Is it natural to one so young to lock herself
voluntarily away from people of her own age? Why, how old are
you, child?"

"Almost nineteen."

"Almost, nineteen!" cries he, with an unmirthful laugh, "and you
may live for fifty years! Are you going to immure yourself within
these same four walls for fifty years."

"I shall not live for fifty years."

"But you may; without excitement of any description I see no
reason why you should not live for a century."

"I shall not live for two years," returned I, impressively.

"Phyllis what are you saying?" cries he, with a shudder.

"The truth. I am dying slowly, and I know it. I am glad of it. I
have no energy, no hope, no wish for life. Do you wonder much? At
times I have a strange fancy that I am already dead; and then---"
I break off dreamily.

"What abominable morbid fancy! It is horrible!" exclaims Sir
Mark, excitedly. "You must see a doctor without delay; if you
were well no such mournful ideas would occur to you."

"Mournful!" I smile a little. "Yes, perhaps so--when I wake again
to--find I am alive."

"Nonsense," impatiently. "Why have your people left you so much
alone? It is shameful, unheard of! Phyllis, promise me you will
see a doctor if I send one."

"Who shall minister to a mind diseased?" say I, still smiling.
"No, I will not see your doctor. My ailment has no name; I do not
suffer; quiet is my best medicine."

We walk on a little way in silence.

"You do not ask after your friends," says he, abruptly.

"Have I still any left? Well, tell me. I should like to know how
is Marmaduke? and where?"

"Do you not hear from him, then?" turning to gaze suspiciously in
my face.

"No; why should I? We parted forever when he brought me here.
Oh," with a sudden, sharp uplifting of my voice--"how long ago it
seems! what years, and years, and years! Tell me you--where is
he?"

"Abroad somewhere; we none of us know where.  You think of him
incessantly?" still with his eyes searching and reading my face;
"it is for him the color has left your cheeks, the light has died
from your eyes? Is it the old life, or is it merely him you
regret?"

"I think I regret nothing but my youth," return I, wearily.

"Had you never, at any time, any idea of the truth?" asks he, in
a low tone, presently.

"Never. How should I. He kept it from me, fearing it would cause
me pain."

"He deceived you grossly."

"Yes but, as he thought, for my good. Where was the use of
enlightening me? The story was told; the woman was dead--or so he
believed. He chose to hide it from me."

"Yes, he hid it from you."

"Well, what of that?" I cry, impatiently; "it was a mistake, I
think, but a kindly one. He was always thinking of my happiness.
It was perhaps a worse shock to him than it was to me. He had no
faintest thought of her being alive until she stood before him."

He is silent. Something in his manner, in the very way he keeps
his eyes bent resolutely upon the ground, chills me. Upon his
face a curiously determined expression has gathered and grown.

"No faintest thought," I repeat, sharply, watching him now as
keenly as he watched me before; "of course he had not. He had
heard of her death years before he ever met me. Had he even
doubted on the subject, his treachery would have been unequalled.
But you cannot think that: it is impossible you can think it:
therefore say so!"

Still he is silent--ominously so, as it seems to me. His eyes are
still downcast; the evil determination in his face is stronger;
his cane is digging deep furrows in the sandy loam.

"Why don't you speak," cried I, fiercely; "what do you mean by
standing there silent, with that hateful expression upon your
face? Do you mean to insinuate that there was a doubt in his
mind? Look at me, and answer truly. Do you believe Marmaduke knew
that woman to be living when he married me?"

I am half mad with suspense and fear. Placing both my hands upon
his arm, I put forth all my puny strength, and actually compel
him, strong man as he is, to meet my gaze.

For a moment he hesitates--a long moment--and then the right
triumphs. Though in his own mind he is firmly convinced that can
he but endue my mind with this doubt of Marmaduke's integrity he
will substantially aid his own cause, still, being a gentleman
born and bred, he finds a difficulty in bringing his lips to
utter the miserable falsehood.

"No: I don't believe he did know," he answers, doggedly.

"You are sure of this?" I ask, feverishly.

"I would give my oath of it," he replies, with increased
sullenness.

"Coward!" murmur I bitterly, taking my hands from his arm, and
turning away.

The excitement of the past few minutes has been terrible to my
weakened frame; I feel a vague dizziness, a coldness creeping
over me. I am a good half-mile from home: should I faint, there
will be nothing for it but for Sir Mark to carry me there, and to
have that man's arms round me for so long a time is more than I
could endure. The bare thought of it nerves me to action.

Hurriedly drawing a pin from some secret fold of my dress, I press
it deep into my arm, so deep that presently I feel a warm
sluggish drop ooze out and trickle slowly down my flesh, Until it
sinks into the lining of my sleeve. The little dull pain that
follows rouses me, and puts an end to all fear of my becoming
insensible.

I draw a long breath and gradually awaken to the fact that my
companion is again speaking.

"In spite of all that, he has wronged you horribly," he is saying
with much deliberation. "What has he made you? A woman without a
name--one whom the virtuous world would not recognize. He has
driven you to bury yourself in this remote corner of the earth,
cut off from all that makes life acceptable. He has destroyed
your youth, and ruined your health: this is all you have to thank
him for."

"The undeniable truth of your words renders them all the more
pleasing." I say, bitterly. "Have you come all the way down here
to tell me what I know so well already?"

"Yes, and for something more, to ask you to be my wife. Hush! let
me speak. I know the answer you would make me, but I do not think
you have fully weighed everything. Were you to endure this life
you are now leading but for a season, for a year, even for
several years, I would say nothing; but until this woman, this
Carlotta, dies, you can never be his wife. Remember that. And who
ever knew any one to die quickly whose death was longed for? Look
at annuitants, for instance; they live forever: therefore this
isolation of yours will know no end."

I am motionless, speechless, from rage and amazement.

"Then by your own words and actions," he goes on in the same
measured fashion, suppressing forcibly the fire and agitation
that lie beneath his cold exterior, "I have seen a hundred times
how little real affection you entertain for Carrington; therefore
you are not bound to him by the ties of love. Will you not
consider for your own sake?  I offer you my name, my rank,
everything that I possess.  Few men would be tempted to do as
much, perhaps."

"Sir," say I, feeling half choked, "believe me, I fully
appreciate all the sacrifices you would make for my sake. Pray
spare both me and yourself the recital of them."

"Sacrifices?" interrupts he, eagerly: "no, indeed! I never
thought of it in that light. I only meant to put the case clearly
before you exactly as it is, without any false lights. I tell you
that so far from my present proposition to you being a sacrifice
on my part, I would gladly go on my knees to you this moment, if
by doing so I could gain your consent to my plans. I will take
you to any part of the world you may choose to name, at home or
abroad. I shall be prouder, more blest than I can say, if you
will consent to be my wife."

"Have you quite done?" say I, in a tone treacherously calm. "Have
you anything more to say? No? Are you sure?  Now listen to me.
Even if the circumstances were totally different--if I were free
as air--if you were the last man on earth I would not marry you.
Whether I do or do not love Marmaduke, is a question I decline to
answer to you.  At all events, to my own way of thinking, I am
his wife now, and shall ever remain so--until death divides us.
But as to whether or not I love you, I feel no hesitation about
answering that. I look upon you as the lowest, the meanest of
men, to come here behind your friend's back to traduce him, and
insinuate lies about him, so as to do him injury in the eyes of
the woman he loves. I loathe and detest you, with all my heart."

I am staring him valiantly in the face as I utter these
denunciations. My cheeks are crimson with rage, my eyes are
flashing; for the moment all my old strength, and more than my
old spirit have returned to me. I have worked myself through the
force of my eloquence into such a passion that I literally
tremble from head to foot. I feel humbled and insulted in my own
eyes. All these months of lonely weariness have failed to bring
home to me the fact that I am not a married woman. This man's
complete acceptance of it has maddened me.

"Thank you," says he, slowly; "but pray do not stop yet. There
must be something more you wish to say. Don't mind me; don't take
my feelings into consideration."

"I don't," I reply, viciously stamping my foot. "But, as it
happens, I have said all I ever wish to say to you. You may take
from my lips now the very last words I shall condescend to utter
to you. Leave me; I hate and despise you!"

"I will," cries he, furiously, losing sight of all the
self-imposed restraint that has bound him daring the last fifteen
minutes. "But I shall take something else too. As you decree we
shall part here never to meet again, I shall at least kiss you in
farewell, for the insolence you have shown me."

His face is full of anger and settled purpose; he is white to the
lips; his eyes gleam steadily. There is no sign of wavering or
relenting about him.

Oh, how I regret my intemperate speech. An awful fear seizes hold
of me. I can almost fancy his committing murder with that look in
his eyes. I forget all but a wild desire to escape, and, breaking
from him, I rush madly towards the bare, unwalled cliff that
overhangs the sea.

But a very little space divides me from the edge, as his hand
catches and closes on my arm and drags me roughly backwards.

"Are you mad?" he pants hoarsely, all the passion gone from his
face, leaving only cold horror in its place. "Are you out of your
senses? Come home directly. What! would you prefer death to a
kiss from me? At last you have effectually put an end to my
absurd infatuation. I have no great fancy for any woman's
loathing."

So saying, he leads me homewards, tired, worn out with
conflicting emotions. His hand still clutches my arm, as though
he fears I will again break loose and try to accomplish my wicked
purpose.

Silent and obedient I go with him, until we reach the small gate
by which I generally leave and return.

Here he stops, and, putting me inside, shuts the wicket again
between us, he being on the outside.

"Now go home," he says, sternly, "and go to bed. You are as white
as death. Do you hear me?"

I answer, "Yes," very meekly, feeling somewhat frightened and
subdued.

"As I shall take very good care not to put myself in your way
again," he goes on, in the same tone, "I would wish to say,
before leaving, that in the future, when you stigmatize me as
mean and dishonorable, I would have you also remember that to-day
I came to do you the kindest turn any man could do you under the
circumstances."

After this remark, without further glance or gesture he turns and
leaves me.



CHAPTER XXVIII

During many days that follow I lie prostrate, weak as a little
child, upon my bed. The shock, the thoughts he has called up, the
sure and certain knowledge he has imparted to me of how that part
of the world that knows all my sad story regards my position, has
done much to destroy the poor remains of life and hope that still
cling to me almost unconsciously.

A fresh cold has again attacked me, and brought on with increased
vigor my old cough. By the middle of May, I am a complete wreck
of my once buoyant self.

Rising one Sabbath morning with a curious awesome sense of coming
dissolution upon me, I put on my outdoor things, and slowly
crawl, rather than walk, the little way that separates me from
the rustic, ivy covered church.

The sexton, all prying eyes and gaping mouth, shows me, heavily
veiled as I am, into the Carrington pew, guessing instinctively,
though he has never seen me, that the strange lady of Hazelton
has at last given in and confessed a craving for spiritual
consolation.

I kneel and pray as in a dream. The voices of the village choir
rise up around me, yet scarcely enter my dulled ear. The Litany,
with all its grandeur, all its solemn beauty, fails to impress my
sickened soul.

I sit alone, apart, my veil drawn down, my hands clasped upon my
knees, turning neither to the right nor left, dimly conscious
that the sermon I hear so coldly is far beyond the average of
those usually served up to the congregations of remote, almost
forgotten country towns.

When it is over, and my neighbors have well departed, I move down
the aisle, and make my way down again to my hermitage, unmoved,
unsoftened, by all I have heard and seen.

After the mockery called lunch is at an end, I go to my chosen
sitting-room, and, getting into a window that overlooks a small
inlet of the sea, sit down to my incessant musing.

Presently, far off through the house, comes the sound of
impatient knocking. I cannot hear distinctly, so thick are the
ancient oaken doors that divide me from the hall; but that it is
a double knock I feel small doubt.

This thought, so foreign, being forced upon me, after quite six
months of perfect isolation, raises a nervousness that is near
akin to fear, within my breast. I wait in palpitating expectancy
for what is to follow. Perhaps the vicar, emboldened by my
appearance in his church, has determined to strike while the
iron, in his opinion, must be hot, and has ridden over to try and
gain access to the one hardened sinner who disgraces his parish.
Many conjectures rush through my mind, but this takes root. It
must be so.

Steps in the hall. Is it possible the man has admitted him on his
own responsibility against my orders, or has he forced his way,
setting his duty before him as an excuse for his impertinence?

Steps up the stairs, along the passage--steps almost at the door.

I spring to my feet, and push back my chair. Who is it? Who is it
I hear? I move still farther into the window, I clutch the
curtains to steady myself, I put both my hands up to my head, to
stifle the wild sob that rises in my throat.

Nearer, nearer! I lean against the window-shutters, and am
trembling like one in ague from head to foot, as the door opens,
and Marmaduke comes in.

Our eyes meet, and then of a sudden a great calm falls upon me!

---

"She is dead," says he, wearily, and flings himself into the
chair near which he is standing. He makes no attempt to come
nearer to me, to touch me after that first long eager glance.

As for me, I cannot utter even one poor word. Am I glad? Am I
sorry? Am I half mad with joy at the very sight of him? or am I
altogether indifferent? I hardly know.

"She is dead." The words keep ringing in my ears. My brain echoes
them. "She is dead--dead!"

A clammy moisture, cold and weak, covers my face.  My hands fall
to my side lifeless.

"Not,"--I stammer--"not--you did not---"

"Murder her?" supplies he, with a bitter laugh. "No; though I
could have done so with a good will, I refrained from that. When
I reached her she was lying shrouded in her coffin."

"When did she die?" I ask; "and how?"

"In Florence, a fortnight ago, of some malignant fever. I have
come here with as little delay as possible to tell you of it."

I glance at him curiously. It is not the old Marmaduke who has
come back to me. He is travel stained, worn, and thin. His voice
has lost its old ring, his eye its brightness. There is something
dejected in his very attitude.

Such a meeting, after such a parting! I marvel at it inwardly,
though conscious I would not have it otherwise.

Alas! how wrongly things have gone with us during our brief
married life, from beginning to end! Is it indeed true that when
the mist and the rain arise to blot our hopes, nor time nor
vengeance can suffice to make existence quite the same again?

"How can I tell that she is really dead?" say I, moodily: "you
deceived me once. Perhaps some day she will come to life again to
defy and torture me."

"I do not think you have any right to speak to me in this way,"
replies he, quietly. "I may have deceived you passively once in
my life by forbearing to mention what would do no good in the
telling, and might have caused you grief, or at least,
unpleasantness. But to you or any other being I have never lied.
I saw the woman dead with my own eyes. I attended her funeral. I
did not think proofs necessary; but if you require it I can
produce a witness."

He pauses calmly for a reply, being utterly passionless in his
manner; but I give him none. I am still wondering at the change
in him, the change in myself.

"You will not believe me guilty of falsehood in such a case?" he
says. "You surely must see I am speaking the truth."

"I suppose so," I murmur, at length. "Poor woman!  She did not
long outlive her revenge." I sigh heavily, and my head droops. My
thin white fingers clasp and unclasp one another aimlessly. My
thoughts are so indistinct I can put them into no shape. The
light falls upon my bent figure, my slight shrunken form.

 "Phyllis!" cries Marmaduke, springing to his feet with a sudden,
sharp change of tone, "how white you are! how emaciated! how
altered in every way! Have you been ill?  Oh, my darling!"--with
a groan--"I have ruined your life, and broken your heart: have I
destroyed your health also?"

He makes an impetuous movement towards me, as though he would
catch me in his arms.

"Don't do that," I cry, hastily, shrinking further into the
recess of the window. "Do not touch me. Remember you are not--my
husband."

He stops short, and his eager arms fall empty to his sides. His
face grows a shade paler.

"True," he says, in a low voice: "I had forgotten that: you do
well to remind me. Fortunately, it is a matter that can soon be
put right."

"Is it?" I question coldly. "Can any tiling that has once gone
wrong in this world ever be put right again, I wonder."

"This can, at all events." regarding me closely. "We must be
married again here, and without delay. The few who know our
wretched story can be our witnesses, and no one beyond need be a
bit the wiser."

"You forget that walls have ears, and that one's sin must always
find one out."

"There was no premeditated sin in this case, and"--speaking
somewhat curtly--"I do not believe we have been found out. On my
way through London coming down here, I sounded a few of my
acquaintances on the subject, and all seemed ignorant of the real
cause of our separation.  However, that is an outside question
altogether. The principal thing now is to put oneself beyond the
reach of scandal. When will you wish the ceremony, Phyllis? Next
week? I fear this being Friday, it will be impossible to arrange
it sooner. You will want some of your friends with you."

He is calm again, but is now watching me narrowly.

"I don't know," I say deliberately, "whether I shall consent to a
second marriage. I have grown accustomed to my present life;
solitude suits me. Now I am free then---"

I have scarcely, I think, rightly calculated the full effect of
my words. Striding forward, Marmaduke seizes me by both arms,
and, turning, forces me to meet his gaze.

"What are you saying?" he cries, fiercely. "What folly is this?
Do you know that for all these past months I have been half mad,
when thinking of the blight I have brought upon your honor, and
are you so insensible to it that you can hesitate about accepting
this one only way of redeeming it? Your dislike to me must have
grown indeed, if at such a time you can shrink from taking my
name."

"You misunderstand me. I only shrink from changing my present
calm mode of living."

"Do you know what the world will do, when sooner or later it
finds out the truth--as it surely will? Do you know it will cut
you, avoid you, wound you in every possible way?"

"Why should I care?" I interrupt, recklessly. "All these months I
have done without companionship; there is no reason why in the
future I should feel the want of it.  Besides, they must see it
is through no fault of mine that things have so arranged
themselves."

"The world will never be content with the true version of the
story. It will not rest without adding to it such false outlines
as shall serve to render it more palatable to its scandal-loving
ears. You must be indeed ignorant of its ways if you can imagine
otherwise. It will ask why, when the obstacle was happily
removed, I did not then marry you? What answer will you make to
that?"

"Who will question me? If I shut myself away from every one, how
shall I be affected by the surmises of society?"

"You talk like a foolish child, and like a very selfish one. Am I
unworthy of any consideration? How shall I bear to look on while
society vilifies you to its heart's content and leaves you
without a rag of reputation? You in your present position--a
woman without a name--would have as much chance of admission
within your own circle as the veriest Pariah that could be
produced. I will not listen to your folly. Even if you hate me, I
shall insist upon your marrying me."

"How can you insist!" I ask almost angrily. There is a wild,
unsettled throbbing of my heart that puzzles me I scarcely know
what it is I would or would not wish. All these past mouths of
bitter maddening thought and unbroken loneliness have crushed the
life within my breast and dulled my intellect. "You have no claim
upon me?"

"No," in a changed, softened voice. "I cannot, indeed, insist,
but I can plead--not for myself, Phyllis, but for you.  I have
put the case before you truthfully, and now entreat you to become
my wife before the real reason for our separation gets abroad. I
offer you my name alone. Once having put you in possession of
that, I swear I will rid you of my presence forever if you wish
it. Will that content you? Why should the idea be so repugnant to
you? unless, indeed---"

Here he pauses. A deep-red passionate flush suffuses his face.
Placing his hands heavily upon my shoulders he once more compels
me to meet his eyes.

"Unless, indeed, you wish to hold yourself free for another? If I
thought that if during my absence you had seen any one else,
who---"

"Oh, yes!" I interrupt, bitterly; "that is so likely!  My married
life has been so pleasant--such a prosperous one that doubtless I
am in a hurry to try it again. No; believe me, I have fixed my
affections on no one during your absence. You are quite safe
there. I am as heart-whole as when you left me. I feel no wild
desire to throw myself into the arms of any man."

He draws a long, deep breath.

"I would kill you," he says, slowly, "if for a moment I doubted
your truth."

"I am hardly worth the killing," return I, with a little, faint,
chill smile, looking upon my wasted hands and fragile figure as
it reflects itself in an opposite mirror. "Why do you want me so
much? I have always been more of a torment to you than a joy, and
now I have lost even those few poor little charms I may once have
thought I possessed. Ice itself cannot be colder than the woman
you wish for the second time to make your own. Why will you not
take the chance of escape I offer?" He makes a movement of
impatience. "You are unwise in letting it slip. What can you see
in me to love?"

"Just what I always saw in you to love. I cannot change. To me,
you are my wife the most precious thing on earth. I will not give
you up."

"And you saw her lying dead?" I say, irrelevantly.

"Yes. Have I not told you so already? Why name her to me?"

"Poor soul! How strange she must have looked," I say, dreamily,
"lying there with those restless, burning eyes forever closed--so
cold, so white, so still. And you looked down upon her. You were
glad to see her there," with a shudder. "You rejoiced that death
had stepped in to conquer her and free you of a chain that
dragged. It is a dreadful picture."

"A very natural one, I think. Glad? Yes I was glad I was more
than that: I was deeply thankful to see her there, powerless to
work her wicked will or pollute the world again. I think--I hope
I forgave her; but I was glad to see her dead."

There is a pause. Weary of standing, I sink into a chair. I push
back my hair from my forehead, which has begun to throb a good
deal, and then let my hands fall listlessly into my lap.

Kneeling down besides me, he takes one of them gently and strokes
it. While he does so, I examine him critically. He has grown more
like himself by this time, and but for the hollows in his cheeks,
and that his moustache is somewhat darker and longer, I see no
great alteration. Verily he has emerged from the fight unscathed,
and triumphant in comparison with me.

"Tell me your real objection to my proposal," he says, softly.

"Does my disinclination to be re-married so much surprise you?" I
ask, slowly and gravely. "Until I saw you I was a light-hearted
child--I feel that now by force of contrast, though often then I
fancied myself ill used; I did not know the meaning of real pain,
of bitter enduring shame--that crudest of all heart-aches. You
enlighten me."

"Phyllis--my love--spare me!"

"Here, in this quiet spot, I am at peace. My life is going from
me slowly: I have little strength left; do not urge me against my
will to enter again into the turmoil and troubles of everyday
existence."

"Oh, my darling, don't speak so hopelessly. The melancholy of
your life has caused you to exaggerate the evils of your state.
Change of air and a good doctor will do wonders for you. Only do
not waste time. Delay is often fatal. Phyllis, think of your
mother. For her sake, promise to marry me again next Monday."

"Very well; you shall have your way," I return, fairly beaten by
his vehemence and determination.

"That is wise! that is sensible!" he says, eagerly.  "Any other
course you adopted could only be suggested by weak and morbid
sentiments. Everything later on shall be as you wish. I will go
back to London by the night man to arrange matters. So let me
know now any things you may require--what friends as witnesses,
for instance."

"Harriet and Bebe, I suppose; and Dora and George Ashurst. That
will be sufficient, will it not?"

"Your mother?"

"Mamma? Oh, no! oh, no!" I cry, weeping. "Not mamma. She dressed
me for my first wedding; I will not have her now. We would both
be thinking of that all the time, and it would break her heart.
But go to her, and tell her everything. She may find some
consolation in your tidings."

"I will go to her to-morrow." he whispers soothing.  "Afterwards
I may go on to Strangemore. Can I bring you anything from there?"

"Send me Martha. I would like to have her with me, again."

"I will. Phyllis, my dear, dear girl, why do you cry so bitterly?
Of what are you thinking? Surely you must see that I am only
acting for the best. If I consented to what you propose, I would
deserve the name of black-guard; no term would be too harsh to
apply to me. Sooner or later, darling, you will acknowledge this,
and thank me for my firmness."

"I suppose so," making a violent effort to suppress my sobs. "I
am only weak and nervous. Your coming was so unexpected; you
should have warned me. And I have been so quiet here. Remember
you have promised that I shall not be disturbed afterwards. You
will still leave me to myself. I am fit for nothing else. Oh,
this pain--this faintness! Will you ring the bell and get me a
glass of wine?"

He receives me as I totter feebly forward, and lays me on my
couch with the utmost tenderness and a good deal of trepidation.

Then he rings the bell, and as the man enters, gives the order
for the wine in the old clear quick voice, that seems to me to
belong so entirely to Strangemore as to be out of place in this
other home.

Not until I am quite recovered, and apparently little the worse
for my faintness, does he take his leave. Gently kissing my
hands, with the assurance that he will be back again with the
friends I have expressed a wish for, on the coming Sabbath, he
quits the house as quietly as he entered it.

On the Sunday, about the middle of the day, Harriet and Bebe
arrive. Dora and George Ashurst follow them in time for dinner. I
can see they are all more or less shocked at the changes that
have taken place in my appearance, though they refrain from
saying so.

Bebe lays herself out to amuse and arouse me by retailing to my
languid ears all the most secret gossip and raciest pieces of
scandal from the London world, bit by bit, as it occurs to her.

Lord Harry has been at P--- again, and was well received there in
spite of all that has come and gone. Lord Augustus was jilted by
Miss Glanville. George Brooks found the air of Monaco didn't
agree with him, and was obliged to exchange into another and less
desirable regiment, to see what time and India would do for him.
The Duke has made a wretched match in the eyes of the world.  But
she is awfully good to look at, and he appears provoking
contented and happy.

"And he really should not do that, you know," says Bebe; "it
isn't good form to be in such high spirits with the tide of
popular opinion so dead against you. To see them in the theatre
is immense fun (I don't believe she ever saw one until she
married him and came to town), he sitting beside her and
explaining everything, she all big eyes and pleasurable
excitement. His delight in her delight is quite pretty."

Lady Blanche Going has had measles, much to her own disgust and
Bebe's enjoyment.

"And how is Chandos?" I ask, presently.

"How can I tell you, my dear, when I see so little of him? He has
been making a grand tour somewhere, and 'raking up old bones,' we
hear; but the 'where' is wrapped in mystery--Jericho, most
probably; it would just suit his dismal disposition."

She speaks heartlessly, but her low, broad forehead wrinkles ever
such a little.

"I hope, wherever he is, he will come back safely," I say,
kindly, ignoring her manner. "I liked him so much.  To me he
never appeared dismal. And your Chips: what of him?"

"Ah! my poor Chips? He sailed for India a month ago. Such a
leave-taking as we had! It, would have melted an Amazon. I assure
you I very nearly wept; and I certainly kissed him. So did
Harriet--twice--who was on the spot doing propriety. I thought
that was taking an unfair advantage of me. And he is to shoot
every tiger in Bengal, and to send me the skins. At long last I
shall be embarrassed by my riches."

After dinner, we are all assembled in the drawing-room, we become
aware of some noise that strongly resembles a scuffle in the
hall. It is followed by the sudden opening of the door, and the
apparition of Martha on the threshold, flushed with victory, and
with her bonnet artistically awry.

Seeing me lying on the sofa, she loses all presence of mind (of
which her stock was always small), and, regardless of beholders,
rushes forward, and precipitates herself at my feet.

"Oh, Miss Phyllis! Oh, ma'am!" says she, with a lamentable sniff
and a nice forgetfulness of manners, as she takes note of my
leanness, "oh, Miss Phyllis! my dear, my dear! How terrible bad
you do look, to be shore!"

Here she falls to kissing and to weeping over my hand, finally
breaking into loud sobs. The old spinster appellation, suiting as
it does my present position so neatly--albeit unmeant by my
faithful handmaiden--raises within me a grim sense of amusement.
I check it, however, as being unfit for present company.

"Nonsense, Martha," I say, kindly, "don't go on like that. I dare
say, now you have come to take care of me, I shall recover my
beauty. I shall feel quite insulted if you cry over me any more."

"Martha, come with me," says Bebe, with authority; and Martha,
being, like all the good ones of her class, instinctively
obedient, rises, and leaves the room close at Miss Beatoun's
heels.

"What a dreadful habit those people have got of giving way to
their feelings on every possible occasion!" exclaims the usually
serene Harriet, wrathfully, as the door closes, coming to my side
to shake up my pillows and get rid of her irritation.---

"Really, yes, it is very distressing," chimes in Dora, from the
depths of the large arm-chair, in which her small figure is
almost lost; she speaks as it behoves a pretty baroness to speak,
who now for the first, time is made aware of some of the grosser
habits of the lower classes. Her tone is perfect--having just the
correct amount of surprise and disapproval--no more, "And yet
that woman always used to strike me as being such a very properly
conducted sort of person."

"Don't be so hard on her Harry," say I. "Remember she has known
me all my life, and has had the care of me ever since I was an
infant. She loves me; do not condemn her for that love."

"I was wrong, of course," confesses Harriet, remorsefully. Such
attachment, being rare, should be considered beautiful. I
apologize to your Martha. But I was thinking, not of her, darling
but of you. I did so dread she would excite you over much, and
to-morrow will be such a trying day. Now, lie back again, dear,
and keep silence while we chat to you.

---

It is still the morning of my second wedding day, though a few
minutes since I heard some clock chime the quarter to twelve.
Habited in the darkest gown my wardrobe can produce, I go
downstairs slowly, as in a dream, to the drawing-room, where I
find them all assembled before me.

They all glance at me as I enter, and seem relieved on perceiving
the total lack of nervousness exhibited by my features. Indeed,
it occurs even to myself that I am the only one present
thoroughly unimpressed.

Marmaduke is looking pale but composed, George Ashurst painfully
anxious; but that is only what might be expected of him. The
others are all more or less evidently desirous of getting it over
in a hurry, and appearing at their ease, in which they fail. The
priest, a stranger to me, seems curious.

Bebe comes forward, and taking my hand, leads me before the
impromptu altar. Marmaduke steps to my side, and his old college
chum commences the service. I have obstinately refused to be
remarried by the vicar at home.  Bebe dexterously draws off the
wedding ring--that has never yet left my finger since it was
first placed there--and thoughtfully hands it to 'Duke. With a
shudder he flings it from him into the glowing fire, where it
vanishes forever with a faint tinkling noise.

"Not that," he mutters, in a low tone, and brings out a new one
from his pocket.

In a clear voice utterly devoid of emotion, I answer all the
responses. Marmaduke's voice shakes a good deal, and I turn and
look at him surprised. He has had my hand in a warm, close clasp
from the moment the prayer-book was opened, and now, too, I
notice how he trembles as for the second time he binds me to him
with the little golden, emblem of eternity.

Although their voices reach my outward ears, although I myself
say what is required of me with perfect calmness, I do not really
hear or heed one word of the ceremony. Thoughts, frivolous and
unworthy of the solemnity of the occasion, flit through my brain.
I cannot fix my attention on any one thing. I feel no desire to
do so.

I wonder vaguely whether, were a widow going to be married again,
she would feel as indifferent as I do; then I recollect how, in
her case, the bridegroom at least would be a new feature, which
would, without doubt, add a little zest to the affair.

How pretty Dora is looking in that navy blue silk and cashmere
costume--wonderfully pretty and timid! but then everything always
did become Dora.

How nervous that good George appears, and how ridiculously red!
Why, he might almost be painted.

Oh! I have ordered no wedding breakfast. Only fancy! a wedding
without a wedding breakfast! How could I have been so remiss?
They will all think me terribly stupid. I almost confess aloud
this negligence on my part, so little do I heed the sacred words
that are falling on the air; but fortunately some still remaining
sense of propriety restrains me.

The service is nearly at an end; once more Marmaduke Carrington
and I are man and wife. It only waits for the few last sentences
to be read.

Looking up, I catch Bebe's eyes. Why are they so wet?  And how
large they are--how large!--why do they grow, and gleam, and burn
into mine, like--like--Ah!

I wrench my hand from Marmaduke, and, turning towards George
Ashurst, fling up my arms somewhat wildly.

"Save--save me!" I gasp.

In another moment he has caught me, and I am lying senseless on
his breast.

When I come to myself, I find them all around me, though most of
them stand at a little distance from the sofa. The strange
clergyman has vanished--no doubt horrified at such unorthodox
behavior.

Marmaduke, with folded arms, is stationed rather apart from the
others, biting his lips, and making a violent effort to conceal
his fear and emotion.

"Are you better, darling?" asks Bebe, whose arm is under my head,
while Dora, supplied with a smelling-bottle, leans over me at the
other side--the very sweetest picture of misery.

"I am," I return, feebly; "I don't know what made me so foolish.
I did not feel nervous; but I was unlike myself all the morning."

"Poor child!" says Harriet, and down come Dora's tiny fingers,
wet with eau-de-cologne, upon my forehead.

"I shall be all right in a minute or two," I go on, smiling as I
regain strength. "It was too bad of me to frighten you all so
much. In the middle of it, I suddenly recollected I had forgotten
to order you any breakfast, and the horror of the thought must
have been too much for me. I grow nervous and fanciful in my old
age. But I am all right again now."

The day wears on; my wedding guests have had their lunch, and are
now in the drawing-room, bidding me farewell before starting for
the train that is to bear them away from the newly-married
couple. How strange, how difficult to comprehend, it all appears!

Dora kisses me with a good deal more than her usual warmth. For
once, her pretty show of sympathy is quite sincere. I think at
this moment, seeing me so sick, and languid, and devoid of all
the old unrestrainable joyousness, she, for the first time,
altogether forgives me my misdoings. George kisses me, too,
heartily, and murmurs a few confused congratulatory words. Even
to his thick brain it has become apparent how strangely apathetic
and indifferent is the bride.

"The continent is the place for you, Phyllis," he says; "any one
can see that with half an eye. Get Carrington to take you there
without delay!"

I smile faintly but make no rejoinder.

"Good-bye, darling," whispers my Bebe, stooping over me, and
rubbing her cheek with a little purring motion to mine. "Be a
good child, and let Marmaduke pet you to his heart's content. You
want an overdose, now you have been so long alone."

At length they are all gene, leaving the house to fall back into
its old silence and calm. All, that is, except Marmaduke, who
lingers purposely.

"There is no reason," he says, in answer to my inquiring look,
"why all those people should know so soon the terms on which we
have arranged to live. By degrees it can make itself known."

I lie idly thinking, idly putting together in my mind the strange
story of my life. Once, looking up, I catch his gaze intently
fixed upon me. Twice, three times, I meet it, and then, growing
irritable through exhaustion and excitement, I say, pettishly:---

"Why do you look at me so? I hate being stared at.  One would
imagine I had more heads than one. Is my appearance so very
grotesque, Marmaduke?"

"Was I staring?" he asks, absently, and drawing out his watch,
examines it anxiously, and then commences a slow promenade up and
down the room. He appears distrait, impatient. His eyes are now
turned towards the window that overlooks the avenue. It is as
though he were expectant of some one's arrival.

"If you are not going until the next train," I remark, snubbily,
"you have two full hours to wait: therefore you need hardly
calculate minutes so soon. That is the eighth time you have
examined your watch within the past ten minutes." Certainly I am
not in my most amiable mood.

"I am not returning to London to-night," he says, calmly. "I dare
say I can get a bed at that place in the village."

"Surely, considering this is your own house, you need not throw
yourself on the mercy of the parish for a bed. Martha will see
about a room for you."

"It is your house, not mine. I made you a present of it
when--some time ago. However," quickly, "if you invite me, I
shall gladly put up here."

Turning his face to the window, and away from me he goes on
rapidly:---

"To tell you the truth, Phyllis, the chief reason for my staying
here now is this: I made an appointment with Sir James Smithson
to meet me in this house at four o'clock, to to take a look at
you, and tell me his opinion as to your state of health."

"Sir James Smithson!" I cry, angrily. "Do you mean to tell me you
have brought a doctor to torment me and make me miserable? This
is what comes of marrying you. Oh, why was I so weak as to give
in to your wishes? I won't see him--you may be sure of that."

"My darling, be reasonable," with the humblest entreaty.  "It
will only be for a few minutes. Directly he sees you, he will
know the very thing that will set you up again. There is not,
there cannot be, anything seriously wrong with you.  Good advice
is all you require. Why will you insist on--on---"

"Dying," I put in, flippantly. "Why don't you say it?  I shan't
go to my grave a moment sooner through your mentioning the
unpleasant word."

"You will see him, Phyllis?"

"Oh, if he is really coining, I suppose I must. But, I warn you,
I shall take no nasty, stuffs, politely called tonics, and I will
not go abroad."

In this amiable frame of mind I prepare myself to receive the
great London doctor. As the servant ushers him into my room, I
rise and bow, and am much relieved at finding myself in the
presence of a small, homely, jolly-looking little man, with none
of the signs of greatness about him.

He examines my chest, and asks a question or two that would
certainly suggest themselves to an idiot. He thumps me here and
pats me there, hums and haws, and finally says I want "tone."

"And change of air, my dear Mrs. Carrington, A little pleasure
trip, now--just a little run through all the old spots we know so
well--and then a winter at Pau or even a degree further south, is
all that we want, eh?"

"I will take your tonics," I say, giving in so far, "but,"
determinately, "I will not take change of air. I am happy here: I
will not leave it."

"Dear! dear!" ejaculated Sir James, soothingly, giving me another
tap: "how people differ! Most young ladies, now, would do almost
anything for me, if I would only order them to Pau. Such a lively
place, my dear Mrs. Carrington, so invigorating, so gay; just the
very thing for a woman so young, and, let me add, so very
charming, as yourself.  Now pray do reconsider it."

I laugh, and glance at myself in an opposite mirror. A white
face, lean jaws, large unnatural eyes, and pallid lips meet my
view. I am altogether unlovely.

"I shall get well enough here," I say, obstinately. "You may
order me every nasty concoction you can think of, and I will
promise you to drink and eat them all; but go from Hazelton I
will not."

"Well, well, we shall see how you get on," replies Sir James,
cajolingly, patting my hand. He deals in pats and gentle
reassuring nods, but he is a dear old man and I feel some faint
regret that he should leave thinking me unreasonable. He does
leave me, however, presently and seeks my husband, doubtless to
pour into his ears all the unpalatable things he is too gallant
to say to me.

No more is said to me on the subject. I have evidently conquered.
Marmaduke returns to London, taking a run down every now and then
to see how I am getting on. I am not getting on at all. I am
simply stationary, and am no whit more beautiful to behold than
when first his astonished eyes fell upon me, now more than a
mouth ago.

---

I have wandered listlessly down by the sea. It is a dreary day,
raw, chill, unsummerlike. I shiver vaguely as I go, and wish the
night would come to bring us nearer to a more congenial day. All
around is mist, and cheerless damp. Gray sky, gray earth, gray
clouds that cover land and sea: and, oh! gray shadow lying on my
heart, how gray art thou!

I feel more than ordinarily depressed and weary. The tide is far
out: hardly a breath of wind disturbs the surface of the waters.
Seating myself upon a flat rock, I open my book and commence to
read.

But my thoughts will not be controlled. Raising my eyes, I look
seaward, and wonder at the great pale mist that spreads itself
north and south. The horizon sinks into the ocean, and veils of
vapory substance are everywhere.

I sigh, and turning dejectedly from the unvarying scene before
me, discover Marmaduke coming towards me across the sands.

"What a curious light!" he says, without greeting of any kind and
sits down upon the pebbles at my feet.

"Very," I answer, stupidly, and then begin to wonder vaguely what
has brought him to-day from the busy town, and who has betrayed
my favorite hiding-place.

Presently, unconsciously I sigh again, and turn my face from him.
"What is it?" asks he, kindly, taking my hand--not
affectionately, merely reassuringly. "Tell me the truth now
to-day. Is it that you hate me?"

"I hardly know," I return, wearily, "No, it is not hatred, I
think; it is indifference."

We rise, and pace silently homewards.

It is the evening of the same day, My depression of the morning
has vanished, leaving a spirit of provocation in its place. I am
in the drawing-room, lounging idly in a low cushioned chair, with
Fifine, my pet Skye, in my lap. I amuse myself, and gratify the
wickedness within me, by practising upon the long-suffering
animal such mild torments as disturb without maddening her.

'Duke, under the impression that there is a fire in the grate
stands with his back to the fireplace, and stares at me.

"I wish," he remarks presently, without premeditation, "you could
be induced to take Sir James' advice and seek change of air. This
solitary hole must have a bad effect upon your health.

"I have borne the solitude for so many months that I dare day I
can bear it again. Though, indeed," mischievously, "I had company
at times. I could actually have been married, had I so chosen."

"What!" says Marmaduke, in a low tone, flushing.

"I could have been married, had I so chosen," I repeat, with much
gusto. "Why do you look so surprised? I was free, was I not?
There was no reason, then, why I should not listen to any man's
proposal."

"What do you mean, Phyllis?" sternly.

"Just what I say. A friend of ours who is aware of all the
circumstances of our case, came here one day and made me a
handsome offer of his hand and what he is pleased to term his
heart."

"Did Gore come down here to see you?"

"Not so much for that as to ask me to marry him."

"The scoundrel!" says 'Duke, through his closed teeth.

"Why should you call him that? On the contrary, there was
something generous in his wish to bestow his name upon a woman
situated as I was. (No, no, Fifine, you must not lick me. Kiss me
if you will, but keep your little tongue in its proper place.)
Few men would have done it, I fancy. At all events, it convinced
me of the truth and sincerity of his affection for me."

"If you saw so many admirable points in his character why did you
let such a valuable chance of securing them go by?" he asks,
bitterly. He is white with anger by this time. I see his emotion,
but, being fiendishly inclined at the moment, know no remorse.

"One does do a foolish thing now and again," I reply, calmly,
curling Fifine's silky locks the wrong way, to her infinite
disgust. "Afterwards, when it is too late, one repents."

"Am I to understand you repent not having bound yourself for life
to that unmitigated villain?"

I burst out laughing.

"Poor Sir Mark!" I cry. "A scoundrel! a villain!  What next? He
tried to do the best he could for me, and gets only abuse in
return. Do I repent not having married him? Well, no. At that
time I was not particularly in love with matrimony; I had no
desire to form new ties. _Now_, indeed--I break off in pretended
confusion.--- My head bends itself a little on one side. I gaze
down consciously into Fifine's lustrous eyes.

"Phyllis," says my husband, with suppressed indignation,
"whatever you may really mean by your words, I must beg that for
the future I may hear no more of it; I---" But here the horrible
pain in my side comes back to me with its usual acute energy, and
mischief fades from me. I push Fifine from my lap, and half rise.

"If you are going to be tragical," I say, "I hope you will leave
me. I care neither for Sir Mark Gore, nor any other man, as you
ought to know. Oh, my side!" I gasp, pressing my hand to it, and
becoming colorless.

My breath and voice fail me. In a moment his kind arms are round
me. My head falls helpless on his shoulder, as though I were a
mere child (and indeed I am little more in his strong grasp, now
sickness has reduced me).  He carries me to a sofa, and does for
me all that can be done, until the first unbearable anguish is
past. Then, with his arm under my head, so as to raise me, he
sits waiting in silent watchfulness until rest and ease return.

"You're not rid of me yet," I whisper, with a faint mocking
smile, as I notice the fear and misery in his face. "Don't look
so woebegone."

Suddenly he falls on his knees beside my couch, though still
supporting me.

"I can't bear it any longer." he says, passionately "Darling!
darling! why will you kill yourself? How can I watch you dying by
inches? Have pity for me, if you have none for yourself, and save
me from going mad.  Phyllis, dearest?" controlling himself by an
effort, and trying to speak more calmly, "why can you not look
upon me as a cousin, or brother, or father, and let me take you
abroad to some place where you can get change of air and scene,
and where I may at least be near enough to protect you and see
that you want for nothing?"

"My _father_" return I, with an amused laugh: "just compare
yourself with papa; think of the inhuman length of his nose. I am
afraid it would not do. The world, simple as it has shown itself,
would hardly accept you in that light.  You grow younger and
fresher every day. It is wonderful how little the agony of your
mind preys upon your body."

"Phyllis," regardless of this taunt, "let me take you to the
south of France."

"Oh, why can't I be let alone?" I cry, pettishly. "Why am I to be
tormented every hour of the day? I hate dirty, foreign towns; and
besides, I know all the journeys I could take would do me no
good; but if I am to get no peace until I consent to leave the
only place that pleases me, I may as well do so at once. I will
go back to Strangemore."

"You mean it darling?" cautiously, and without evincing too much
joy, lest in my pettishness I should repent and go back of my
words.

"Oh, yes: why not? Rather than be perpetually told how obstinate
and self-willed and sullen I am, I would go to Timbuctoo, or Hong
Kong, or any other cheerful spot."

"You would not try a warmer climate first?" with hesitation. "You
know Sir James spoke of---"

"No. I will go to Strangemore, or nowhere. I have always had a
fancy for it. Even long, long ago--how short a time in
reality!--when Billy and I used to go nesting and fishing there,
we thought it the sweetest spot on earth. I almost think it so
still. Is it not odd that I should look with such kindness upon
the scene of my greatest trouble?"

"Hush!" with a shudder: "do not let us think of it."

"Why not? I often do. It seems very far away now. _She_ had her
grievance, too, poor soul!"

"When will you start?" abruptly. "Next week? Monday?"

"To-morrow," with decision. "The sooner the better. If I die on
me way," with cruel gayety, "blame yourself for it and remember
you would have it so."

"To-morrow, then," says 'Duke, with a long sigh.



CHAPTER XXIX.

As I cross the threshold and enter the old hall at Strangemore, a
great passionate rush of unrestrainable rapture flows over me.
Sudden recollections and emotions threaten to overpower me. I am
at home, at rest, at last!  With an impulsive movement I put my
hand to my heart.  Each well-remembered object sends out to me a
thousand welcomes. With silent joy I greet them.

Yet, compelled by the strange wilfulness that sorrow and
loneliness have bred within me, I conceal all this from
Marmaduke, and, returning the servants' salutations with a
courtesy kind but subdued, I go slowly up the stairs and into my
own room.

All is changed. I pause and gaze around me with much wonder.
Carpets, curtains all are unfamiliar, and where white once
mingled with the gold, pale pink appears.

The doors beyond are flung wide. What was formerly 'Duke's
dressing-room is now transformed into a boudoir, while the
apartment beyond that again is an exquisitely furnished
reception-room.

In the boudoir a small fire burns, and though we may count
ourselves now well into the summer, still the bright flames look
warm and homelike, and involuntarily I stretch out my hands to
their friendly warmth.

A knock at the door. Instead of calling out. "Come in," I go
forward, and, opening it, find myself face to face with my
husband.

"You will not come down to dinner?" he says; but his tone is a
question almost an entreaty.

"No!" I return, ungratefully; "I am too tired. I shall be better
alone."

His face expresses disappointment.

"I am sure you are right," he says, moving away. "Try to rest,
and forget your fatigue."

The remnant of conscience I still retain here smites me.

"My rooms are so pretty," I say, quickly, following him a step or
two; "they are lovely. Was it all your own taste?  It was so good
of you to do it for me."

"You are pleased?" coloring. "I fancied you would like them
changed."

"It was more than good of you," I say again, remorsefully. "You
think of everything, and I am always ungrateful."

"Nonsense! Get back your old spirits, and I shall be richly
rewarded." Then with a sudden, unexpected movement, "You are
welcome home, Phyllis," he says, and bending, presses his lips to
mine.

It is the very first caress he has offered me since our second
marriage; and now it is the lightest, fleetest thing conceivable.
Confused and puzzled, I turn back into my room, with a sensation
that is almost fear at my heart.  What a cold, unloving kiss! A
mere touching of the lips, without warmth or lingering pressure.
What if he has ceased to love me?

---

 We toil, through pain and wrong,
 We fight, and fly;
 We love, we lose, and then, ere long,
 Stone dead we lie.
 O life! is all thy song
 Endure--and die?

The sorrowful despairing words repeat themselves over and over
again in my brain. They fascinate and yet repel me. Why must the
wretchedness of this world so heavily overbalance the good?

I fling the small volume from me with some impatience as
Marmaduke comes in.

He has been studiously cold to me of late; indeed, he has shown
an open and marked avoidance of my company.  It has at times
forced itself upon me that he bitterly repents his hasty
persistence at Hazelton, and would now gladly sever the tie that
binds us, were that possible.

At this moment he is looking bored and _ennuye_ to the last
degree, as he goes to one of the windows, and stands idly gazing
out over the park and woodlands. Not once, as he crosses the room
do his eyes fall upon me.

And yet surely I am now better worth regarding than on those
first days at Hazelton, when he appeared so anxious to make me
his own. It is the latter end of July, warm sultry, glorious
July, and I am once more the Phyllis of old. My cheeks are round
and soft and childlike as of yore, my eyes are bright and clear
and have lost their unnatural largeness, my figure has regained
its original healthy elasticity; yet Marmaduke heeds me not.

Suddenly, with some abruptness, and without turning to look at
me, he says:---

"Don't you think it would be an improvement to ask some people
down here, eh? It might make things more cheerful for you. Just
the old lot, you know."

So at last he has made an open confession of the dullness that I
feel sure has been consuming him; he has discovered that a very
little of my society, taken singly, would go a long way. Well, I
too will let _him_ see how gladly I shall welcome strangers to
our hearth.

"I am so glad you mentioned it," I say, briskly; "I have been
wishing of late for some break-in on our monotony. Harriet and
Bebe will come, I feel sure, and, oh!  poor little Chips, I had
forgotten he is at present broiling in India; but Chandos will
not refuse, I think; and Blanche Going, and Sir Mark Gore." These
latter I add with some innocent malice.

"Sir Mark Gore is in Norway," replies 'Duke, stiffly.

"Indeed! Then we must put up with his loss. But Blanche
Going--where is she?"

"Probably in Jamaica, for all I know, or care," unaimiably.

"What an answer! Poor Blanche! if she could only hear you. You
should remember, 'Duke, that flippancy, though excusable in a
woman, is simply brutal in a man. Solitude disagrees with you;
you grow downright rude."

"If I was rude, I apologize," returns he, carelessly. Then,
having whistled straight through his favorite air most
successfully, and wound up with an elaborate flourish, he walks
through the open window on to the balcony outside.

"Very good; ask them all as soon as you like," He says, over his
shoulder with a languid nod; "and go for a stroll the day is too
fine to spend indoors."

---

"I was going to beg an invitation if I did not receive one," says
Harriet, a week later, as she returns my kiss of welcome. "I was
growing very uneasy about you. But," tapping my cheek, "I might
have spared myself any worry on the subject of your health, as
you are looking provokingly well."

Bebe declares I have caused them all more trouble than I am
worth, whereupon I take her in custody and march her upstairs and
run her into her bedroom.

Just before dinner Chandos arrives, having been driven over from
a country-house some miles distant, where he has been staying.

Bebe greets him with a light laugh that has nothing in it of
nervousness or suppressed pleasure. It is purely indifferent. For
the moment I feel puzzled and disappointed.

"Strangemore seems to be our established meeting-ground after
long absences," she says, giving him her hand. "Let me
congratulate you on having escaped cholera and lawless tribes in
the East."

"I have only been a week in England since my return," replies he,
ceremoniously, "and have been kept pretty busy all that time, or
I would have allowed myself the pleasure of calling upon you and
Mrs. Beatoun. I did not know you were again staying with Lady
Handcock?"

"Oh, Harriet cannot do without me now," says Bebe, with a little
saucy glance at Harry, who smiles and shakes her head. "She finds
me invaluable."

"How infinitely obliged your mother must be to Lady Handcock!"
says Chandos, mischievously.

"For taking me off her hands? Ah! see what comes of associating
with barbarians," retorts Bebe, with a shrug.

Yet, with all their badinage and apparent unconcern, I can
perceive an undercurrent of constraint between these two. During
all the first week, this forced gayety and determined
forgetfulness of the sweet and bitter past continues and then it
falls away. Silence and avoidance take their place, and in
Chandos especially I notice a distant avoidance of all converse
bordering on a _tete-a-tete_.

I am beginning to despair of any good result arising from this
second bringing together of them in my house, then one evening
shortly before the termination of their visit a something, a mere
trifle, occurs, that is yet sufficient to alter the tenor of more
lives than one.

It is the 27th of August. Dinner is at an end, and, tired of
strolling in the grounds and gardens--so softly perfumed by the
night flowers--we three women pass into the lighted drawing-room,
while Marmaduke and Chandos linger outside on the balcony to
finish their cigars.

I let my fingers wander idly over the piano, and now and again
hum softly some old air or ballad.

"Bebe, sing something for us to-night," I say, coaxingly rising
from the piano-stool. She is not fond of letting us hear her
perfectly beautiful voice. "Anything you like yourself; only
sing."

"Don't ask me," she objects, languidly. "It is so long since I
have sung that I scarcely know any song correctly.  Harriet will
tell you I rarely if ever touch the piano."

"But you must," I persist. "Break down if you will, only let me
hear your voice. Remember there are no ungenerous critics here,
and nobody's singing pleases me so much as yours."

"Do, Miss Beatoun," says some one.

It is Chandos. He and Marmaduke have come in through the open
window, and are now standing in its embrasure, framed in by the
hanging curtains on either side.

The tone of his voice strikes me as being odd. He is looking
eagerly, fixedly at her; will she refuse this sudden unexpected
request of his? Coming after his late coldness it surprises even
me.

Bebe raises to his a face smiling, but pale.

"Well yes, I will sing you something," she says, and taking my
place, strikes a few lingering chords.

"I have no music with me," she continues, with her face turned
from us, "so you must be satisfied with what overcomes first to
me." Then she begins:---

 'Along the grass sweet airs are sown
 Our way, this day in spring
 Of all the songs that we have known,
 Now which one shall we sing?
 Not that, my love, ah! no;
 Not this? my love? why so?
 Yet both were ours, yet hours will come and go.
 The branches cross above our eyes,
 The skies are in a net,
 And what's the thing beneath the skies
 We two would most forget?
 Not birth, my love, no, no,
 Not death, my love, no, no;
 The love once ours, but ours long hours ago.'"

As she comes to the last line, a curious wild sadness that is
almost despair, mingles with the petulant defiance that has
hitherto characterised her tone. And the music, where has she got
it--so weird, so pathetic, so full of passionate recklessness.

When she is finished we are silent. I feel horribly inclined to
cry, yet scarcely know why, and am certain Marmaduke's eyes are
fastened upon me.

Somebody says, "Thank you," and then we all follow suit. Chandos
alone is silent.

"Why will you sing sad songs, Bebe?" exclaims 'Duke, Impatiently;
and Bebe laughs.

"I suppose because I am such a dismal animal myself" she replies
lightly, and, rising, comes over to me.

The moonlight streams across the carpet, rebuking the soft
radiance of the lamps, A hush has fallen upon us.  Her song's
refrain almost repeats itself aloud through the stillness. Two
tears fall quietly upon my clasped hands. "The love _once_
ours---"

Pushing the curtain aside with one hand, Chandos says, in a low,
determined tone:---

"Will you come and see how the gardens look by moonlight?"

He addresses no one, he mentions no name, but his eyes are fixed
on Bebe; he has forgotten all, everything, but her.  Putting my
own thoughts from me, I listen with breathless eagerness for her
answer. Well do I know it is the third and last appeal. Should
she reject this she will indeed lose forever the heart that truly
loves her. At length she speaks.

"Yes, if you wish it," she says, letting the words fall from her
lips with singular sweetness.

She joins him, and together they go out on the balcony, down the
steps, and so disappear.

"I am so rejoiced!" exclaims Harriet, plaintively, when they are
well out of hearing. "Now I do hope they will marry each other,
and bring their little comedy to a successful close. I am sure we
must all confess it has been a sufficiently long run."

---

"Yes, I sang it on purpose. I don't mind acknowledging it to
you," cries Bebe, hours afterwards, flinging her arms around my
neck, and hiding her face out of sight.

"And was it not well I did?--was it not well? Oh, Phyllis, though
I sang it so bravely, there was a terrible fear at my heart all
the time. I wished him to know, yet I dreaded his knowing. Can
you understand? I dreaded his guessing my motive too clearly, and
yet it was my last chance."

"Dearest, I am so glad."

"Ah! what tortures I have endured this past fortnight?  I felt
convinced he no longer cared for me, and I know I could not be
happy without him. But he does love me--more than ever, he says
and now I shall have him always." She pauses to indulge in a
little rapturous sob. "Phyllis, never mistake obstinacy for
pride!"

Harriet and I agree in thinking them the most charming of lovers.
Indeed, as an engaged pair, they are a pattern to all lovers
similarly afflicted. They never glower at us when we enter the
room unexpectedly, and they don't blush. They get rid of all
inevitable spooning by going for long walks together, where no
one can witness or be distressed by their absurd appreciation of
each other's society. And they actually refrain from making eyes
at each other across the dining-table. When I say that they
manage to keep themselves alive to the fact that there are other
people in the world besides themselves, I consider I have spoken
volumes in their favor and have done them every justice.

When they leave at the end of the week I positively miss them,
and wish them back again; but, as the wedding is to take place
almost immediately, further delay in the country is impossible.

Marmaduke and I fall once more into our old ways, seeing as
little as may be of each other.

Although I will not confess it even to myself, I am sick at
heart. With the return of my good health has come back my old
horror of loneliness, and the girlish longing for some one to
sympathise with me in all the pleasures and troubles of my daily
life. Not even the frequent visits of mother, and Dora--who with
her husband is staying at Summerleas--can make up to me for what
I believe I have lost.

When it is too late, I learn how precious a thing I have cast
away. By my own capricious folly, and through wilful temper, I
have forever alienated 'Duke's affection. Very rarely does he
speak to me; still more rarely of his accord does he seek my
presence. I no longer afford him any joy.  It is only too
apparent that he has ceased to care for me.

Full of such thoughts and misgivings, I one day creep upstairs to
the little turret chamber, where--while still Phyllis Vernon--I
once stood with Marmaduke to gaze down upon the crowded parterre
beneath. In another tiny apartment opening off this, is a
deeply-cushioned window, in which it is my usual practice to sit
and read such works as serve to distract my mind from the vague
regrets that now forever haunt it.

I have at length brought myself to feel some interest in the hero
of my tale, when approaching voices warn me that foes to my
solitude draw near. Not wishing to be disturbed I move still
further into my window, and pull the curtains across me, so that
no one in the adjoining room could by any chance see me.

I can distinguish George Ashurst's jerky tones, and then
Marmaduke's, distinct, though low. There seems to me something
argumentative in their discourse, and the footsteps come slowly,
as though every now and then they stood to dispute a point.

Suddenly now my own name is mentioned, and putting down my book,
I wait to hear what will follow.

Of course I know perfectly well in my own mind that I ought to
rise at once and honorably declare myself, but decide equally
well in my own mind that I will do no such thing. What can 'Duke
be saying about me? As they enter the turret, his words ring out
plain and stern.

"I tell you Ashurst, I can stand the life I am leading no longer.
You cannot understand what it is to see the woman you love--to
see your wife--treat you as the very commonest stranger. Good
feeling alone, I honestly believe, prevents her from showing me
absolute hatred."

"Pooh! my dear fellow," says George, "I don't believe A word of
it. She is too kind a little soul to hate any one; and you least
of all. Of course the whole thing, you know, was unfortunate, you
know, and that, but it will all come right in the end."

"I dare say. When I am in my grave," says Marmaduke, bitterly.
"You are a good fellow, George, but you can't know everything,
and I am not to be persuaded in this matter. She is right; I
should never have insisted on the second marriage: it has only
made her life more miserable, and placed a fretting chain around
her neck.  But indeed I meant it for the best."

"What else could you have done, you know?" interposes kindly
George.

I have gained my feet, and am standing, trembling with hope and
fear, in my hiding-place, my hand grasping the sheltering curtain
for protection and support. At this moment I no longer deceive
myself; by my passionate eagerness to hear what more 'Duke may
say I know that all my heart is his. And he loves me! Oh, the
relief--the almost painful rapture--this certainly causes me!
Hush! he speaks again.

"I shall torment her no longer with my presence. I have delayed
here too long already, but I hoped recovered health, and the old
associations, might give her a kindlier feeling towards me. Now I
feel convinced she never loved me.  Let her live her life in
peace. She will grow gay and bright, and like the child Phyllis I
first knew when she feels sure she has seen the last of me."

"Well, well, well," says George, "I suppose there is no use in
any one's speaking; but to me it is incomprehensible; why she
cannot be content and happy in this charming; place, with the
best fellow in the world for her husband, is more than I can
fathom. But it seems to me now, Carrington, really, you
know--that _you_ very seldom speak to _her_; eh?"

(Good George--dear George.) "Why should I put myself in the way
of a cold reply? I detest forcing myself upon any one--and when
she is by her own avowal happier when absent from me. Bah! let us
forget the subject: to me it is a hateful one."

"Then why on earth, when you knew all this beforehand, did you
insist on marrying her again?"

"Because there was nothing else to be done. Better to bear a name
distasteful to her than to bear none at all. I did it for her
sake."

"Then do you mean me to understand that you yourself had no
interest in the matter?"

There is a pause--a long one--and my heart actually stops
beating; at length:---

"Do not think that," says 'Duke, in a low tone. "The love I felt
for her on our first wedding-morning is, if possible, deeper and
truer now. Though at times my chains gall and almost madden me,
yet I would not exchange them for fetters soft as down. At least
she is mine, insomuch that no other man can claim her. And I have
this poor consolation in my loneliness, that, though she does not
love me, she at all events cares for no one else."

"Poor little Phyllis!" murmurs George Ashurst, tenderly.

"You are a happy man, George," says 'Duke, adopting a lighter
tone. "Do not let my troubles depress you."

"Yes: Dora is a perfect wife," declares my brother-in-law, with
honest content. "Good-bye Carrington; I will come over about that
house either to-night or to-morrow morning early."

"Better come to-night and sleep," urges 'Duke and George, half
consenting, goes noiselessly down the stairs.

When he has been gone at least five minutes, I steal from my
concealment, and, entering the turret chamber, walk softly
towards Marmaduke, who is standing with his back turned to me,
gazing down through the window upon the lawn beneath. His
attitude betokens deep thought. I go lightly to his side, and let
my eyes follow the direction his have taken.

"Dreaming, 'Duke?" I ask, gayly.

He starts violently as I wake him from his reverie, and betrays
astonishment not only at my presence at this moment, but also at
my altered demeanor.

"Almost, I think," he says, after a moment's hesitation.  It is
so long since I have addressed him with anything approaching to
_bonhomie_.

"How short the evenings are getting!" I go on, peering out into
the dusk. "Marmaduke, do you remember the large party you had in
these gardens before we were married?"

"Yes."

"And how we two stood just here and looked down upon them?"

"I remember well." He is evidently intensely puzzled by my
manner, which is cordial to the last degree.

"How long ago it seems now! does it not."

"Very long."

I am not progressing; I feel this, and pause for a moment.

"You are dressed for dinner," I remark, presently "So early?"

"Not to very early; It is half-past six."

"Indeed! how the time has flown I Well, let me add this to your
appearance to make you perfect." I detach a little red rose-bud
from the bosom of my dress, and place it with lingering
carefulness in his coat. I believe as I do it he imagines I have
developed the crowning phase of my malady, by going mad. "'Duke,"
with perfect unconcern, and with my head a little on one side to
mark the effect made by my rose--"'Duke, don't you think it is
time now I should give up my invalid habits, and learn to change
my dress every evening like a civilized being?"

"I think you would be very foolish, Phyllis, to try any changes
just yet."

"But don't you think me much better and stronger in every way?"

"Very much better. Your face has gained its old color, and your
arms have regained the pretty soft roundness they had when you
were--that is--before we were married."

I pull up the loose sleeve of my dress and look with some
satisfaction upon the "pretty soft roundness." My old weakness
for compliments is strong upon me.

"Why did you not finish your sentence?" I ask, slyly: "you were
going to say when I was a _girl_."

"Because you look such a girl still--such a mere child,
indeed--that I thought it would sound absurd."

"I am glad of that. I would wish to be young and fresh always.

"There was a time," with a faint smile, "when you longed with
equal vigor to be old and worldly-wise."

"Ah, yes! what a goose I was then! But really, though, I am
growing horribly fat. My hands, even--see how plump they are."

I lay five slight little fingers in his, confidingly: I can see
how he reddens at my touch. He holds them softly, and turns them
over to see the pink palm at the other side, and then turns them
back again, but he does not speak: very slowly, but with
determination, he lets them go.

"No fear of my wedding-ring coming off now," I say, cheerfully,
though somewhat disconcerted at the failure of my last little
ruse; "not even when I wash my hands does it stir. I won't be
able to get rid of it in a hurry."

"That seems rather a pity, does it not?" remarks he, bitterly.

"A pity? Why, I would never forgive myself if I lost it."

"Would you have nothing in the past altered, Phyllis?" he asks,
suddenly, and curiously, turning for the first time to confront
me.

"Some things--yes. But not my wedding-ring, certainly."

"Good little Phyllis," murmurs he, somewhat sadly, "your
recovered health has restored to you your good-nature."

"It was not good-nature," I protest, eagerly, feeling strangely
inclined to cry. "I said it because I meant it.  But come,"
hastily, fearing I have said too much, "dinner must be ready: we
had better go downstairs."

Marmaduke leaves the window, and moves toward the door, allowing
me to follow.

"Have you forgotten your manners?" I cry, playfully.  "Will you
not conduct me downstairs? Give me your arm, 'Duke."

"Your spirits are very high to-night, are they not?" he says,
smiling. "I am glad to see you so like your old self, as now I
can with a clear conscience leave home."

"Are you leaving?"

"Yes. You know I promised myself to go abroad in the autumn. I
will arrange with Billy or your mother to stay with you while I
am away."

"If you are going, well and good," I return, quietly, "but do not
arrange matters for me. I will have no one to stay with me in
your absence."

"What! not even Billy?"

"Not even Billy," I say firmly.

---

We get through dinner almost without a comment. My sudden
overflow of geniality has entirely forsaken me. I am as mute, as
depressed, as in those first days at Hazelton.

Rising from the table as soon as custom will permit me I make my
way to the drawing-room, where I sit in moody discontent.

I am wretched--most miserable; doubly so in that I can see no
plan of escape from my troubles lying clear before me. I rest my
aching head on my hands and try to think; bit always his saddened
face and averted eyes are to be seen. We are so close, yet so
divided. Only a wall or two, a door, a passage, but miles might
be said to separate us, so far apart are we in sympathy. At this
moment I know he is sitting in the library, silent,
companionless.

And then a great desire rises within me. Throwing aside my book,
with a nervous determination, I walk down the drawing-room,
through the door, across the hall, never pausing until I find
myself before the library door.

I knock hurriedly, lest by any chance my ebbing courage should
entirely evaporate; and my heart almost dies within me, as the
well-known voice calls out, "Come in."

I open, and advance a few steps into the room. A slight fire is
burning in the grate it is the beginning of September, and
already the evenings show symptoms of coming cold; Marmaduke is
seated at the table, busily engaged, with writing materials all
around him.

"What is it, Phyllis?" he asks, expectantly, the pen still in his
hand.

"Oh, nothing," I return, awkwardly, failing miserably as I come
to the point; "nothing to signify; another time will do. You are
busy now. What are you writing, 'Duke?"

"I was drawing out my will," he replies, smiling. "I thought it
better to do so before leaving home for--for an indefinite time.
No one knows what may happen. I am glad you have come in just
now, as you may as well hear what I have written and see if you
wish anything altered.  Now listen."

"I will not!" I cry petulantly. "I hate wills and testaments, and
all that kind of thing. I won't listen to a word of it; and--and
I hope with all my heart _I_ shall die before you."

"My dear Phyllis," then quickly, "you are excited; you have
something on your mind. What did you come to me for just now,
Phyllis? tell me."

Now or never. I am conscious of a chill feeling at my heart, but
I close one hand over the other tightly and, thus supported, go
on bravely.

"Yes, I did come to tell you something. That--that I love you.
And oh, 'Duke--if you leave me again, you will kill me."

Here I burst into a perfect passion of weeping, and cover my face
with my hands.

There is not a movement in the room, not a sound, except my heavy
bursting sobs. Then some one puts an arm round me, and presses my
head down upon his breast, I look up into Marmaduke's face. He is
white as death; and though he is evidently putting a terrible
restraint upon himself, I can see that his lips, beneath his fair
moustache, are trembling.

"You are tired, Phyllis, over-fatigued," he says, soothingly.
"Lie still here, and you will be better presently."

"It is not that," I cry passionately, "not that at all. Oh,
Marmaduke, hear me now: do not punish me for my past coldness. I
love you with all my heart; try to believe me."

"I cannot," he whispers, huskily, "I have been too long living in
the other belief. To hope again, only to be cast down, would be
my death. I do not dare imagine it possible you love me."

"But I do! I do!" I sob, piteously, flinging my arms around his
neck. "I always, always liked you better than any one else, but
during these past few months I have learned to love you so well
that I cannot be happy without you. When I heard you say this
evening you intended leaving me again, I thought my heart would
have broken."

Turning up my face so that the full glare of the lamp falls upon
it, Marmaduke gazes at me as though he would read the innermost
workings of my heart.

"Is this the truth?" he asks. "Are you sure you are not deceiving
yourself and me?"

"Must I say it again? Can you not see by me how it is?" I answer,
still crying: I am a perfect Niobe by this time, and am dismally
conscious that the tip of my nose is degenerating into a warm
pink. "I am sure I am unhappy enough for anything."

Not noticing the rather ungracious tendency of this last remark,
'Duke draws me closer to him, and, stooping his head, presses his
cheek to my wet one.

"My love! my life!" he whispers, and holds me as though he never
meant again to let me go.

We are quite silent for a few minutes--during which a great
content, such as I have never before know creeps into my heart.
Then 'Duke, with a long, happy sigh, partly releases me. His
eyelashes I can see are wet with tears, but there is the very
sweetest and tenderest smile upon his lips. "I have not waited in
vain," he says. "At last I can call you mine; at last: and just
when I had given up all hope--darling--darling!"

It is half an hour later, and we are now thoroughly comfortable,
full of rest and quiet joy.

We are sitting before the library fire, I on a low stool, with my
head leaning against 'Duke's knee, he with one hand round my
neck, while with the other he every now and then ruffles, or, as
he fondly believes, smoothes, my "nut-brown locks." For the last
three or four minutes no words have passed between us. I think we
are too happy to give way to the mere expression of our feelings.

Suddenly, all in one moment, as it seems to us, without any
warning, we hear a loud voice outside the door, a heavy footstep,
a rapid turning of the handle, and George Ashurst is in the room.

I make one desperate effort to rise and recover the dignity my
attitude has destroyed, but Duke, with a strong detaining grasp,
prevents me. I get only as far as my knees, and from that
position glare at my brother-in-law as though I would willingly
devour him.

"I took your offer of a bed, after all," he is beginning, when
something in the situation strikes him as odd. He meets my eyes,
and breaks down. "Oh, ah! I had no idea--I didn't know, you
know." He stops, hopelessly, looking as ludicrously silly and
puzzled as even I could wish him.

"Neither did I," declares Marmaduke, with a laugh, "until half an
hour ago. But it is all right, Ashurst; we have made it up; and
when I do go abroad, I will take my wife with me."

"Didn't I tell you all along how it was?" cries George,
enthusiastically (he had not; but by a superhuman effort I
refrain from contradicting him). "I declare to you," says he
subsiding into a chair, "I was never so glad of anything in all
my life before."

There is a minute's pause. Then 'Duke, turning, lays a light
caressing touch upon my shoulder as I kneel beside him. He speaks
in a very low tone.

"We are all very glad, I think--and thankful," he says, with the
softest, tenderest smile.

 All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the sorrow;
 All the aching of heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing;
 All the dull, deep pain, and constant, anguish of patience!





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