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with which he had raged against his fate all been less likely to consider the probability his life. But he had no comprehension of of her manner being taken for encouragethe practical bearing of the facts which he ment, if she had been his wife already. resented — his was the blind anger of self- The bird-like gaiety of her nature, and the love; how those facts affected others, in re- entire freedom of her manner from vanity, lation to him, he did not think about. The affectation, or self-engrossment, made her well-bred ease of his reception at Meriton, a very charming creature indeed ; and she the unceremonious celerity and facility with bad not the least notion that she might be which he found himself admitted into the just a little too charming, for a world which circle there, the total absence of anything did not know that she had engaged herself like curiosity or questioning concerning him, to be perennially captivating to one happy assisted to confirm him in his delusive state and favoured individual. Her apprehension of mind. Though his good manners and that the Honourable Herbert Bingham inquickness enabled him to adapt himself to tended to propose to her did not clash with the sphere in which he now found himself, this general unconsciousness. She did not and though he caught the tone of the soci- suspect herself of having been too charming ety at Meriton with ease, he was far from to him; she merely divined that he recomprehending its origin — far from pene- garded her as her uncle's probable heiress, trating the secret of that perfect security of and that he believed any doubt on that caste, which frees the bestowers of courtesy subject would be set at rest, if Stephen and hospitality on outsiders from apprehen- Ilaviland knew that he might have the bop. sion of their being either abused or misun- our of bequeathing his property to the derstood. It was more than pardonable, it future Viscountess Bredisholme. was quite natural, that a young man of the For the terrible error into wbich the disposition and temperament of Horace young artist fell, the bright, beautiful girl Holmes, whose life had had such excep- was in no wise to blame. She had no intional experiences, should have been una- stinctive consciousness of his feelings. The ble to read aright, should have been misled truth, as he knew it about himself, had so by, the manner and bearing of Madeleine much unconscious influence over him, that Burdett. She belonged to a world whose the love that had sprung up within him, ways were unknown to him, and in inter- fierce and sudden as it was, did not betray preting them he was as likely to err through itself by any outward sign. llis natural such knowledge as he had, as through his gravity of manner was a little deeper; the ignorance. If Madeleine made any differ- fire in his dark eyes shone a liitle more ence in her frank, cheerful kindliness, if brightly when he turned them upon Madethere was any additional grace in her pol- leine; but that was all. ished manner, any added vivacity in her A little knowledge of that world in which conversation, any marked readiness to he found himself a stranger, and yet familplease beyond the common, any one of the iar, would have saved him much by teachtrifling signs by which a perfectly well-bred ing him that that delightful manner meant, woman may give one guest in particular to in the sense in which he sought its meaning, understand that he is especially welcome nothing. But his ignorance led him to besuch demonstration had been made for him. lieve that it meant much. Madeleine Burdett liked him cordially : he The fascination which Madeleine had for was clever, agreeable; she enjoyed his so- Horace Holmes exerted itself in many ciety; and her feelings had been sharpened ways. Its power did not lie altogether in by her instant perception that the Honour- her beauty, though he worshipped that; he able Mr. Bingham and her cousins were not was capable of appreciating her high tone disposed to be over-courteous to the un- of mind; ber sunny-heartedness; her sweet, known visitor at Meriton, who had not the sparkling gaiety, which contrasted so strikadvantage of their acquaintance in London, ingly with poor Alice's timid gloom. Everyand to whom the stigma attached of having thing she said and did was delightful to him, something to do and doing it. In her and to look at her was an unvarying joy. sweet girlish devotion to the one image en- How feeble, pale, half-hearted, titile, had shrined in her heart, in her immutable con- been the feeling he had entertained for stancy to the engagement which she held so Alice -- and which had beguiled him to the sacred, though she did not affect a prudish disastrous marriage which bound him to a avoidance of other men, or in any way silly, wbining, discontented woman, who make herself a nuisance to society, Made- had never understood, and who now exasleine Burdett regarded berself as so com- perated by fearing, him — in comparison pletely and changelessly Verner Bingham's with the fervent, glowing, overwhelming promised wife, that she could hardly have passion with which this beautiful, refined,

brave, gifted, strong-souled girl inspired there had come the strong power for evil of him!

He gave himself over to the intoxication of this feeling, sometimes driving everything besides from his memory and revelling in the enjoyment of the present hour. When he looked beyond it all was blank, and in his mind there was dark, threatening anger and gloom. It did not strike him that the fact that no one in the house where he had been for many days a guest, and was now an inmate, knew that he was a married man, was evidence of the distinction between him and the others there. It was not that he had concealed Alice's existence, but that nobody cared to know anything about him. He made himself very agreeable: he was some sort of artist, they believed one did meet people of this kind in country-houses sometimes; and there all discussion or interest about him ended.

Alice wrote to her husband rarely. He had given her only the address of Lynnstoke post-office, and she had no knowledge of his movements, and but a vague comprehension of his occupations. Her letters had no interest for him now, as she sadly felt while she wrote them; and the consciousness of this made them duller and more trite than they need have been. Her timid heart had not the courage to portray itself either by words or in her letters, and when her husband ceased to care for her, he really ceased to know what manner of mind she had; he condemned her to utter solitude, because the heart which he decreed was to be shut to him, could never be open to any other human being.

It seemed as if a lifelong sentence of solitude had been passed on Alice. There had been but one brief interval, in the early days of her marriage, but it had soon passed away, and loneliness of heart, fated never again to be broken in this world, had set in for her. Her husband had no pity for her; the disappointment of her life made no impression upon him beyond producing impatience and contempt. What a fool she was! | -a weak, puling, silly fool, who could not make the best for herself of a very bad bargain, as he had done. Women, to be sure, had fewer opportunities; but for all that, she need not whine, and mope, and shut herself up alone. But she always had been a sentimental idiot; if only he had not been kept by her pretty face from finding it out in time! No softening remembrance of their childhood now had power to win one tender or merciful thought of her from the perverted heart, in which no good seed had ever taken effectual root; and in addition

a mighty, lawless passion.

The state of the young artist's feelings was as little suspected by anyone at Meriton as by Madeleine herself. Stephen Haviland and Frank Burdett had fallen into her own way of regarding her as an engaged young lady, and they were busy with the shooting just then, and saw very little of indoor doings. Stephen was much preoccupied too, and not a little cross; it was dull for him downstairs without Julia, however well the other people might get on without her. He hoped she was not going to turn delicate; he always hated sickly women, and ill-health would soon tell on her good looks. Everyone said Mrs. Haviland was the youngest-looking woman in the county for her years; and the fine old Haviland spirit remained strong enough in Stephen to make him feel it fitting and proper that, on any point where superiority was to be manifested, precedence should be taken by Mrs. Haviland.

He

The proposition that Miss Burdett should
profit by Mr. Holmes's presence at Meri-
ton, to pursue her studies in landscape-
drawing, had been made by Stephen Havi-
land, and assented to by Mr. Holmes, some
days before Julia made her first appearance
among the party assembled in her house.
Assented to with exultation by Horace
Holmes. This meant his being more with
her, and on more familiar terms than he
had ventured to hope for — and, so far, was
all delightful. He did not feel the confirma-
tion of his inferior position implied in the
arrangement, and it was creditable to Ste-
phen Haviland's tact that he did not.
never asked himself where all this was to
end; he never questioned whither this guil-
ty passion, which the Fates seemed conspir-
ing to aid and to intensify, was leading him.
Blindly, madly, recklessly, he yielded to
the spell of Madeleine's beauty, grace, and
gaiety, and did not look beyond. If the
coward thought of Alice's helplessness and
solitude, that she was quite unknown and
unfriended, really lurked at this time in his
inmost heart, dimly suggesting that she
might be injured to any extent in the pur-
suit of his object with safety, he did not in-
vestigate it, he did not question it; he al-
lowed it to murmur to him almost unheard,
and went on sunning himself in the light of
Madeleine's presence with a desperate per-
sistence, eager only for any sign that might
tell him there was a chance of her return-
ing his love. The unspeakable wickedness
of such a hope had no check for him; the
utter futility of it did not confront him with

1

an accusation of insensate folly. He saw der the unconscious mischief she was doing. her each day, and during many hours of This was the state of things when Julia had every day, in the lustre of her youthful so far recovered from her illness as to be beauty, in the glory of her girlhood, mov- able to pass the afternoon hours in the ing about her luxurious home — in which drawing-room and to talk of resuming her every object was beautiful, adorned with place at table. every accessory to her loveliness which If he had been less absorbed in his love wealth could procure, surrounded with all for Madeleine, Horace Holmes would have that affection and solicitude could add to felt much curiosity about his invisible hostthe material ease and luxury of her life-ess. He had heard her talked about by the with bright, unconscious grace, and all the guests and the members of the family, and dignity of custom; and he loved her with a a fine portrait of her, in which the artist fierce, passionate intensity which absorbed had done justice to her stately beauty, all his thoughts and feelings, making him formed a prominent object in the dininglive only in the hours of which she made room. He knew she was a handsome, clevthe sunshine.

er, influential woman, and he instinctively Angelina and Clementina were not given felt that her penetration would be more to be to supposing that any man in their company dreaded than the desultory observation of could be attracted by any woman except everyone else in the house. Only at first one or both of themselves, so the condition he had thought this, or thought about her; of Horace Holmes's feelings passed quite of late the recklessness of his feelings swept unnoticed by them. They would have been away all beside. prompt to give Madeleine credit for flirting • You will see my aunt to-day,' Madeleine with him, had not their attention been just said to him as he was reluctantly leaving then engrossed by their own designs on her on the conclusion of a drawing-lesson; Herbert Bingham and Captain Medway, I cannot go out, because she is coming and the jealousy wbich what they called her downstairs; but you will find us in the bou

interference with them in regard to those doir when you return from your walk.' gentlemen excited in their respective minds. The house was quiet when Julia left her Nothing could have been more difficult than dressing-room, and, accompanied by Madeany such interference' on Madeleine's leine, went down to her boudoir, where part, for each of the coveted swains was everything had the air of strangeness which profoundly indifferent to the young lady strikes one after even the briefest absence who honoured him with her preference; and caused by illness. She was not feeling very when both awoke to a consciousness of the much stronger, but she had resolved to designs on their liberty, nothing could be make this effort, and Madeleine's pleasure more prompt and unmistakable than the repaid her for the exertion. The excessive measures which they took, to defeat the amiability of the girl pleased Julia. It was maneuvres and for ever dash the hopes of alien to her own nature, but she could and Angelina and Clementina. But those ma- did admire it. næuvres were in full play, and those hopes The afternoon was very fine; the lights were in full bloom, long after the time when and shadows lay upon the gardens and the if they bad bad any attention to spare from park with the solemn beauty of the fall of themselves, or could have suspected any the year. The view was different from that man of being in love with any woman who which her own rooms commanded, and Julia was not Angelina or Clementina Marsh, looked out musingly, gratefully. Unusual they might at least have observed that the softness was in her voice and in her smile. society of their cousin was much sought by She sat in an easy-chair placed close to the the 'mere artist' whom their uncle so un- window; her dress of white cashmere and accountably patronised to so very unusual swan's-down was carefully disposed. Madean extent, and to whom, therefore, they leine thought her aunt looked older than did not dare to be rude. So as Madeleine before her illness, but not less beautiful. was otherwise engaged, not at hand to di- The slightly-sharpened features had even vert the solemn attentions of Mr. Bingham more than their usual proud refinement, and and make Captain Medway go on in that the shapely fingers had additional tapering provoking way of his by her tiresome jokes, grace, now that the gems which adorned (they considered such wit as hers quite vul- clasped them but loosely. gar, and wondered it took the Captain The talk between the two was very affecin '), they cared not at all with what or with tionate, and on Madeleine's side very conwhom she occupied herself.

fidential. Julia Haviland really had no So there was no check, no restraint upon confidences to impart. The whole of her Madeleine, nothing to turn her aside or hin- I later prosperous life lay upon the surface.

6

She had no mysteries now in the existence had been first aroused by his laugh, was beneath which, far away, a secret so dark again recalled by the tones of his voice. and dismal had been buried out of sight; Somewhere, at some period of her life, and she enjoyed her liberty of spirit, having she had known some one who spoke and no intimates and no special affections and laughed like this young man. Their converanxieties. The pressing and peremptory sation was necessarily trivial and not procorrespondent of Mr. Eliot Foster never tracted. Madeleine joined them, and then wrote a letter now which all the world might Mrs. Marsh came to make herself agreeable not have seen, or received one which she to Mrs. Haviland, who would have made could not have handed over with unbroken herself more agreeable to Mrs. Marsh by seal for perusal by the Viscountess Bredis- remaining in retreat a little longer. holme herself. According to either the sentimental or the sensational standard of life, this was not a very interesting state of things; but Julia's standard was neither sentimental nor sensational, and she found it very comfortable.'

6

Madeleine had received a letter that morning from Verner Bingham, and she was in the highest spirits. She sat on her aunt's footstool, her beautiful face held up to that other face, differently but perhaps equally beautiful, and all her innocent happiness, her trustful, untroubled hopefulness, shone in her brilliant eyes. Julia leaned back in her chair, and, with her head bent downwards, looked at the young girl with a grave, steady smile.

Madeleine had finished reading to her aunt such portions of Verner's letter as were not quite too sacred to be imparted even to her, and had just replaced it in her bosom, when the party, returning from a walk, passed the windows, and were graciously recognised by Mrs. Haviland. The next minute the Misses Marsh were in the room; and Madeleine had gone to the hall, to convey her aunt's invitation, that he would come and be introduced to her, to Mr. Holmes, who had seen and seized all the beauty of the group formed by the two women as he approached the window. He had seen the brilliant look of happiness in Madeleine's face, and noticed that her hand was at her neck, but the letter was already hidden when his eyes had lighted on her. It was not unreasonable or unlikely that, as she came towards him with that radiant look unaltered, he should feel, with a thrill of delight, that it had been caused by her having seen him, and now attended her greeting of him.

He accompanied her at once to Julia's presence, and confirmed the impression Mrs. Haviland had received in the glimpse she had had of him by his graceful bearing and handsome face. When, after a while, he was seated near her, she began to talk with him, and then the vague sense of some distant association which she vainly endeavoured to connect with its origin, and which

Well, aunt, what do you think of him ? said Madeleine to Mrs. Haviland when they were alone. Is he not handsome and nice?'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Haviland, he is both handsome and nice. Quite a gentleman too. I fancy I have heard someone speak so like him."

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Have you, aunt?' Madeleine paused for a moment, thinking, and then said suddenly: 'Of course, so have I; he speaks like you, and laughs like you.'

Is that it!' said Julia. 'I suppose it must be, and that I recognise the tone of my own voice; but it is not a very interesting explanation. Has Mr. Holmes finished the work he had to do here? Have you seen the drawings?'

'Yes, he showed them to me; but he has sent them to London, unfortunately. I suppose he cannot remain here much longer.'

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How do your lessons go on?'

Very well indeed. Mr. Holmes is a capital teacher, though he tells me he has never given any lessons before. I hope we shall see him in town. He is to be there soon, and I have told him we always go up in the winter. He knows nothing of London, he tells me, having been always in France.'

'Yet he speaks English without any of the accent people sometimes acquire who live out of England,' said Julia; I suppose his education was English.'

'I don't know at all,' replied Madeleine; and then she reverted to Verner's letter, and to her own hopes and plans.

6

'Aunt,' said the girl, in the course of her happy talk, I never heard anything about you and uncle Stephen, when you were young-I mean, about your engagement and marriage. Did it all go on quite smoothly, or had you any troublesome people like the Bredisholmes to think about? I know my grandmother was glad, and very, very fond of you always; but was there any obstacle, any drawback at all?'

You ask me to go back a long time,' said Julia; to the time before you were

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born, child. No; there was no one to oppose us your uncle's mother liked his choice, and my parents were not living.'

You have no relatives at all, aunt, have you? How lonely you must have been when you married Uncle Stephen! Only to think of it seems hard to me-a young girl without any relatives. I am better off than anyone else in the world, I think, for I have you, and so much besides. I should have no courage for anything, I think, if I were alone in the world; but you would have courage enough for anything, aunt.'

Not now, my dear,' said Julia. I had a higher spirit once than I have now; but I am pretty secure from ever requiring to exert it. Now, Maddy, you must go down again; I must not let you stay here and moralise you must go and dine.'

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A young girl without relatives; alone in the world! thought Julia Haviland when she was alone; and that is her notion of the dreariest condition of human life; the very worst her fancy can picture! And I was a younger girl than she is now, and a handsomer, when 'she shuddered slightly, rang for her maid, had the fire renewed, and resolutely set her mind against the invasion of memory.

The party at Meriton was to break up rather earlier than usual that year, and Horace Holmes's visit was to come to an end shortly after the departure of Captain Medway, who found himself obliged to bestow some of his leisure upon his relatives in Warwickshire. The affectionate and artless Clementina beheld the approach of the fatal hour with dismay. The gallant Captain had not only not proposed to her, but she had almost proposed to him without eliciting a response which even Clementina could construe favourably, and now but one resource remained; this was the manifestation of vivid interest in Captain Medway's ⚫ ancestral home,' as she called the comfortable dwelling which the Captain's father had purchased on his retirement from a lucrative commercial career in Sheffield. Clementina's interest in the Captain's father, mother, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, cousins, horses, dogs, and guns, was so irrepressible that Madeleine good-naturedly joined in the conversation, to prevent the emotional young lady's making herself quite too ridiculous, and the reluctant young officer's looking like a fool. For this instance of 'interference' Captain Medway thanked, and Clementina hated, her.

Is your father's place anywhere near Princethorpe?' asked Madeleine; I know a little of that part of Warwickshire.'

'It is near the village of Woolston,' replied the Captain, moving away from his relentless pursuer, and approaching Madeleine.

'I know that neighbourhood, and like it so much. Of course you know Coventry very well. I think it such a charming place. Have you ever been there, Mr. Holmes? I

At this moment, Frank Burdett put his head in at the door, and called to Madeleine. She went to him immediately, and he detained her so long that she forgot what they had been talking about when she returned, and Horace Holmes did not remind her.

-

As the time drew near for his leaving Meriton, Horace Holmes gave himself up more and more completely to the passion which had taken possession of him. He looked neither back nor forward, he thought only of Madeleine, and cursed his fate blindly, desperately. But there were times in which he almost forgot it, and found himself watching the girl, weighing her words, greedily following her glances, trying to read the indications of her manner, as if he had been free to woo and win her, if he could; as if this were a fair, manly, honest pursuit, in which he might challenge the approbation of the world. The impunity of the present, his complete severance from the associations of the past, the freedom secured by his being so little known in England, where his business connection was his only one, the contrast presented in every detail of his external life with that of which he hated to think — emboldened him somehow, and held him back from realising the baselessness of his position, the utter madness, apart from its wickedness, of his state of mind. If Madeleine loved him— and he had hope, he had growing hope; he did not shrink from calling it hope, in his own evil mind. he would shrink from nothing, he would dare everything, to call her his. He must leave her now; for a while he must exist without the light of her presence; but it would not be for long; he should see her in town, when he should have made arrangements to provide for his full and invulnerable security. The mention made by Madeleine of Coventry had given him a start for a moment, but when he thought over it coolly he saw no reason for apprehension. He, individually, had never been associated with Coventry very strongly, and Alice's connection with the ancient city had long been broken, and was forgotten, no doubt. Insignificant people like them did not linger long in anyone's memory. He dismissed the matter from his thoughts.

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