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felt secretly flattered by his smooth and complimentary discourse.
“I am quite well, thank you, Mr. Drew," I answered. “May I wish you a merry Christmas ? "
"As many as you please, Travis! As for you, you are sure to enjoy yourself as my Lady's guest."
“Lord Felixstowe's guest,” corrected Mrs. Miller.
The steward drew his riding-whip slowly through his fingers, and smiled a queer sort of smile. He had far-seeing little black eyes, deeply set under the shaggiest of eyebrows, and just then they twinkled with an undefinable expression. He looked at me over his spectacles; gold-rimmed they were, and he was seldom without them, and said, “Ah, yes, very kind of the little Earl ! But he is rather aspiring in his choice of playfellows, don't you think?"
“Aspiring !" said Mr. Duckett. “As how, Mr. Drew? Now, begging Master Hugh's parding, and I'm sure he'll agree with me, I should say-condescending !
"I meant with regard to age," drily returned Mr. Drew. “Travis is more than twice as old as our young Lord, and I should think nursery games and baby chatter were scarcely in Travis's way."
“Oh! Master Travis will be with my Lady; he entertains her much," said Sophie. “She has grown quite affectionate towards him. La petite Phébé will play with my Lord, and with leetle Lady Maude. Miladi Maude is in eagerness for your arrivement, Mees Phébé, who has watched for you across the park ever since she has dined. And she have a beautiful new doll to show you, and its toilette is ravishing--superbe! I do assure you. I did it myself; it is a poupée—that is, a doll—of extraordinary merits. Also I have a lovely toilette for you, ma petite ange! Miladi choose it herself. It is necessary that we try it on. The sash is widecomme ça !”—holding her hands about twelve inches apart—"and bleu !_bleu like the sky, and like your beaux yeux, ma petite ! Allons ! Bon-jour, Monsieur Drew!
Remember me, I pray you, on the Jour de l’An ;” and Sophie carried off Phæbe to the nursery quarters, and the little girl went well tented. She had grown very fond of the good-natured Sophie, and she was picking up little bits of French with amazing facility, much to Martin's admiration and to Margery's annoyance, for it was her settled opinion that no good could ever come out of France. The hostile sentiments with which in the commencement of the present century we Britishers regarded our neighbours across the Channel had lingered in the lonely dales and valleys of the far North long after it had faded from the minds of English people
generally, and Margery clung pertinaciously to the cherished dogmas of her youth. To her thought the French were innately bloodthirsty, treacherous, and licentious—"a nation of assassins, liars, and adulterers," as she calmly assured Mr. Duckett, who talked fluently about his Parisian experiences and declaimed against our insular prejudices. And to learn their language was next door to learning their ways, she maintained ; Mam'sell Sophie might be a decent girl, she looked like one, she acknowledged, but still she was French, and she wished she was far enough from Phoebe, that was all. Martin however overruled the old lady's objections so far as to restrain her from actually interfering, though, in consequence, he had to suffer something in the way of reproaches on the score of his own unfaithfulness as a religious professor and a son of the Established Church, and also to listen patiently or impatiently, according to his mood, to certain doleful prophecies as to what "the end of it all would be."
“ We sall see! we sall see!” she cried, sitting iu her chair of state, and nodding her head sagaciously.
“Nae!” said Martin, with stolid humour ; "nae, woman! ye wunna see, for ye'll be gane to glory lang afore that. Ye clane forget that ye're seventy-fower !” a fact of which poor Margery, as we know, hated to be reminded, and of which she was kept in perpetual remembrance by her ungallant old spouse. She was right in one particular, it did Phæbe no good to be continually lauded for her prettiness, and already the little girl was giving herself the airs of a conscious beauty, and displaying a precocious taste for finery. As for her old Eaglesmere frocks and bonnets, she protested against putting them on, and wept bitterly, and kept as much as possible out of sight when compelled by her inflexible grandmother to wear them.
Poor little Phæbe! she did look very lovely that evening when she came down into the crimson-drawing-room with Lady Maude and Lord Felixstowe; Sophie, and Mrs. Fitzgerald, the head nurse, following in the rear. Phæbe wore a plain white frock, of course, but it was fine, and soft, and gauzy with beautiful embroidery round the bottom and the sleeves. The vaunted blue sash was in. deed very
handsome and of the loveliest cerulean tint; ribbons of the same delicate hue tied up the sleeves and snooded the lovely golden ringlets, and blue kid boots encased the tiny feet. What with the shiny curls, the lily and rose complexion, the azure eyes, the sylph-like form, and the elegant toilette, Sophie might well say
charmante comme une véritable fée.” And Phæbe knew as well as did the Marchioness that charmante meant charming, and that fée was equivalent to fay or fairy. She was beginning to have an insatiable appetite for flattery, and she liked compliments in
French quite as well as in English, and perhaps a little better. she could not always exactly translate them, she caught their general meaning with wondrous aptitude.
Lady Maude was a few months younger than Phoebe, but quite as tall. She was a very handsome child, with a clear olive skin, ruby lips, rich, black, silken hair, and dark, lustrous eyes. A greater contrast to Phoebe and to her own little brother could not be well imagined. But Phæbe was probably as pretty as she ever would be, while the glorious beauty which distinguished Maude in after years was only dimly foreshadowed in her budding, childish charms. She too wore a white frock, but there was something about it more elaborate than Phæbe's, and her sash, and ribbons, and shoes were scarlet, or crimson, or carmine-I am not sure which—but they accorded well with the carnation bloom upon her cheeks, and with the carved coral necklace and pendant round her shapely, little neck.
Lord Felixstowe was the sort of little boy that ladies call “ love" and "a darling." He was fairer than Phoebe; his skin was of marble-like whiteness, his features perfect, and his violet eyes and golden brown hair exactly resembling those of his beautiful lady mother. In fact, he was as like the Marchioness as he could be in feature and complexion, but her rather peculiar expression he had certainly not inherited. Perhaps, though, such a baby can scarcely be said to have any fixed expression. He was a sweet, engaging child, docile and loving, but with a spirit of his own nevertheless; a fine, promising little lad, that any man might have been proud to call son and heir-that any mother might have rejoiced to fondle as her own.
The nurse and Sophie went away, and we were left alone with the Marchioness. She was in excellent spirits that evening; she sang to us, she played with us, she told us wonderful stories till it was time for Lord Felixstowe to be borne away to bed. He pouted and fretted a little at first, but it was long past his usual bed-time, and, as Mrs. Fitzgerald said, “ the longer he stayed the longer he would want to stay till he grew fractious with weariness.” Finally the Marchioness carried him away in her own arms, promising him that she would undress him herself, and tell him stories till he went to sleep.
She turned as she left the room—a fair, fair picture, the exquisitely lovely young mother, with her lovely child clinging to her neck. Maude and Phoebe were very busy in arranging a beautiful bright case of bon-bons just arrived from Paris, and they had also a dissected map of England waiting to be put together. They were fully occupied with their playthings and with each other. The Marchioness pointed to a table on which were a reading-lamp, some fine engravings, and several volumes of "Nature-printed Ferns;" there she thought I should find amusement till she returned.
I might have gone on being amused and edified till midnight had I not been interrupted. I was delighted with the engravings of foreign churches and cathedrals, Italian lakes, ruins of ancient Rome, and Alpine mountain-solitudes. I was hanging entranced over the Hospice of St. Bernard when the door opened, and I looked up to see if the Marchioness had returned, for I heard a rustling as of silk.
Not Lady Dovercourt, but Lady Olive, her step-daughter, the girl who had so strangely excited me when I saw her in church that first Sunday morning at Dovercourt! Though I had heard she might be expected home at Christmas, I had almost forgotten her existence. Nothing had been said about her that evening; indeed, I found afterwards that there had been a mistake; the Marchioness had understood that she was not returning till New Year's Eve.
Lady Olive walked in with an air, and went straight to the table where the two little girls were sitting with their arms intertwined and their faces very close together. “Well, Maude," said the elder sister, “I am come back again."
Maude sprang up to be embraced, but Lady Olive put her coldly away. “Don't, child,” she said, in the tone of a young lady of fashion; " do you not see that your fingers are sticky? There ! you are spoiling my lace-tucker.”
Phæbe, in the meanwhile, Iwas seized with a sudden fit of shyness. She was quite at home now at the Castle, but Lady Olive was a stranger, and though not much taller than herself, spoke and looked as if she were ten
years older. “Who is that child ?" she demanded authoritatively of her sister.
Phæbe turned crimson, and the tears trembled in her eyes. I could willingly have shaken the young lady, notwithstanding all the chivalrous notions concerning the gentler sex which I had learned from Sir Walter Scott, and which had also been sedulously implanted by my old tutor Mr. Gibson.
“It is Phæbe Milner,” replied Maude, rather astonished. She had grown so accustomed to Phæbe that she could not comprehend Olive's haughty unfamiliarity.
“Phoebe Milner!” And the slim neck drew itself up, and the haughty eyelids drooped. • Oh! the lodge-keeper's granddaughter! What is she doing here?”
Maude was silent with consternation. I marched quickly to the rescue.
“Pbæbe Milner is here," I said, boldly, “because Lady Maude wished for her company, and the Marchioness was so good as to invite her to spend Christmas at the Castle.”
“Oh! oh! Indeed! Thank you !.”
It is impossible to put into words the concentration of scorn that was in her words and in her look. She turned away to the fire, and compared her watch with the little French pendule on the chimney-piece, for the fairy clock was then ringing out one of its sweet, silvery-chiming quarters.
It was a quarter to nine; I always remember that. The little girls sat still, sorrowful and dismayed.
Having put away the pretty golden toy, and played with a diamond locket that flashed and glittered on the “lace tucker” she had spoken of, she turned suddenly, and came up to me close to where I was standing by the grand pianoforte. Her words fell slowly and distinctly—“Are you too invited—boy?”
“Certainly, Lady Olive, or I should not be here."
She eyed me with supreme disdain ; then, in tones that seemed to freeze one like a breath from glacial regions, she said, “How dare you 'Lady Olive' me? Why do you not say "my lady' like the rest of your equals ? Just understand, boy, that I never permit impertinences, and that I always keep common people—vulgar boys, for instance--in their places."
“I am not a valgar boy, Lady Olive."
" You dare talk to me! You are vulgar, I say; you are the old lodge-keeper's grandson; your parents were common people; you are lowly born!”
“Well, Lady Olive ?" I was quite as cool as she, and to the full as self-possessed and haughty.
“Well ? how dare you? How dare you, boy?' I am nobly born."
“Indeed! Had you not told me so, Lady Olive Walton, I never should have guessed it."
“I will not stay a minute longer to be insulted by a beggar!” she cried, the tears flashing in her black eyes. "I will not stay in the Castle. I will go to my Aunt Juliana. I shall tell Miss Flogg to get ready this instant. Oh, you wicked, vulgar, dreadful boy!” And she swept out of the room and was gone, leaving an awful silence behind her."
(To be continued.)