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" You would prefer the blue sea to the trees ?”
“In that particular spot I should; they might have looked just as well, and yet have hidden nothing worth seeing. The narrow slit of sea would have been invaluable there.”
“ They shall fall before the sun sets, in deference to your opinion,” sid Lord Mountclere.
" That would be rash indeed," said Ethelberta laughing," when my opinion on such a point may be worth nothing whatever."
“Where no other is acted upon, it is practically the universal one," he replied gaily.
And then Ethelberta's elderly admirer bade her adieu, and away the whole party drove in a long train over the hills towards the valley wherein stood Lychworth Court.
She watched them out of sight, and she also saw the rest depart— those who, their interest in archæology having begun and ended with this spot, had, like herself, declined the hospitable viscount's invitation, and started to drive or walk at once home again. Thereupon the castle was quite deserted except hy Ethelberta, the ass, and the jackdaws, now floundering at ease again in and about the ivy of the keep.
Not wishing to enter Knollsea till the evening shades were falling, she still walked amid the ruins, examining more leisurely some points which the stress of keeping herself companionable would not allow her to attend to while the assemblage was present. At the end of the survey, being somewhat weary with her clambering, she sat down on the slope commanding the gorge where the trees grew, to make a pencil sketch of the landscape as it was revealed between the ragged walls. Thus engaged she weighed the circumstances of Lord Mountclere's invitation, and could not be certain if it were prudishness or simple propriety in herself which had instigated her to refuse. She would have liked the visit for many reasons, and if Lord Mountclere had been anybody but a remarkably attentive old widower, she would have gone. As it was, it had occurred to ber that there was something in his tone which should lead her to hesitate. "Was anyone among the elderly or married ladies who had appeared upon the ground in a detached form as she had done and many had appeared thus-invited to Lychworth ; and if not, why were they not? That Lord Mountclere admired her, there was no doubt, and for this reason it behoved her to be careful. His disappointment at parting from her was, in one aspect, simply langhable, from its odd resemblance to the unfeigned sorrow of a boy of fifteen at a first parting from his first love : in another aspect it caused reflection; and she thought again of his curiosity about her doings for the remainder of the summer.
While she sketched and thought thus, she perceived a movement in the gorge. One of the trees forming the curtain across it began to wave strangely: it went further to one side, and fell. Where the tree had stood was now a rent in the foliage, and through the narrow rent could be seen the distant sea.
Ethelberta uttered a soft exclamation. It was not caused by the surprise she had felt, nor by the intrinsic interest of the sight, nor by want of comprehension. It was a sudden realization of vague things hitherto dreamed of from a distance only—a sense of novel power put into her hands without request or expectation. A landscape was to be altered to suit her whim. She had in her lifetime moved essentially larger mountains, but they had seemed of far less splendid material than this; for it was the nature of the gratification rather than its magnitude which enchanted the fancy of a woman whose poetry, in spite of her necessities, was hardly yet extinguished. But there was something more, with which poetry had little to do. Whether the opinion of any pretty woman in England was of more weight with Lord Mountclere than memories of his boyhood, or whether that distinction was reserved for her alone; this was a point that she would have liked to know.
The enjoyment of power in a new element, an enjoyment somewhat resembling in kind that which is given by a first ride or swim, held Ethelberta to the spot, and she waited, but sketched no more. Another tree-top swayed and vanished as before, and the slit of sea was larger still. Her mind and eye were so occupied with this matter that sitting in her nook she did not observe a thin young man, his boots white with the dust of a long journey on foot, who arrived at the castle by the valley-road from Knollsea. He looked awhile at the pile, and skirting its flank instead of entering by the great gateway, climbed up the scarp and walked in throngh a breach. After standing for a moment among the walls, now silent and apparently empty, with a disappointed look he descended the slope, and proceeded along his way. Ethelberta, who was in quite another part of the castle, saw the black spot diminishing to the size of a fly as he receded along the dusty road, and soon after she descended on the other side, where she remounted the ass, and ambled homeward as she had come, in no bright mood. What, secing the precariousness of her state, was the day's triumph worth after all, unless, before her beauty abated, she could ensure her position against the attacks of chance ?
To be thus is nothing;
But to be safely thus; - she said it more than once on her journey that day.
On entering the sitting-room of their cot up the hill she found it empty, and, from a change perceptible in the position of small articles of furniture, something unusual seemed to have taken place in her absence. The dwelling being of that sort in which whatever goes on in one room is audible in all the rest, Picotee, who was upstairs, heard the arrival and came down. Picotee's face was rosed over with the brilliance of some excitement. “What do you think I have to tell you, Berta ?” she said.
“I have no idea," said her sister. “Surely,” she added, her face intensifying to a wan sadness, “ Mr. Julian bas not been here ?"
“Yes,” said Picotee. “And we went down to the sands—he, and Myrtle, and Georgina, and Emmeline, and I—and Cornelia came down when she had put away the dinner. And then we dug wriggles out of the sand with Myrtle's spade: we got such a lot, and had such fun; they are in a dish in the kitchen. Mr. Julian came to see you; but at last he could wait no longer, and when I told him you were at the meeting in the castle ruins he said he would try to find you there on his way home, if he could get there before the meeting broke up."
“ Then it was he I saw far away on the road—yes, it must have heen.” She remained in gloomy reverie a few moments, and then said, " Very well—let it be. Picotee, get me some tea : I do not want dinner."
But the news of Christopher's visit seemed to have taken away her appetite for tea also, and after sitting a little while she flung herself down upon the couch, and told Picotee that she had settled to go and see their aunt Charlotte, ,
“I am going to write to Sol and Dan to ask them to meet me there," she added. “I want them, if possible, to see Paris. It will improve them greatly in their trades, I am thinking, if they can see the kinds of joinery and decoration practised in France. They agreed to go, if I should wish it, before we left London. You, of coure, will go as my maid."
Picotee gazed upon the sea with a crestfallen look, as if she would rather not cross it in any capacity just then.
" It would scarcely be worth going to the expense of taking me, would it?" she said.
The cause of Picotee's sudden sense of economy was so plain that her sister smiled; but young love, however foolish, is to a thinking person far too tragic a power for ridicule; and Ethelberta forbore, going on as if Picotee had not spoken : “I must have you
may there : so many are passing through Rouen at this time of the year. Cornelia can take excellent care of the children while we are gone. I want to get out of England, and I will get out of England. There is nothing but vanity and vexation here."
“I am sorry you were away when he called,” said Picotee, gently.
“Oh, I don't mean that. I wish there were no different ranks in the world, and that contrivance were not a necessary faculty to have at all, Well, we are going to cross by the little steamer that puts in here, and we are going on Monday.” She added in another minute, “ What had Mr. Julian to tell us, that he came here? How did he find us out ?”
“I mentioned that we were coming here in my letter to Faith. Mr. Julian
says that perhaps he and his sister may come here for a few days before the season is over. I should like to see Miss Julian again. She is such a nice girl.”
“Yes.” Ethelberta played with her hair, and looked at the ceiling as she reclined. “ I have decided after all,” she said, “ that it will be better to take Cornelia as my maid, and leave you here with the children. Cornelia is stronger as a companion than you, and she will be delighted to go. Do
you think you are competent to keep Myrtle and Georgina out of harm's
“Oh yes—I will be exceedingly careful,” said Picotee, with great vivacity. “ And if there is time I can go on teaching them a little." Then Picotee caught Ethelberta's eye, and colouring red, sank down beside her sister, whispering, " I know why it is. But if you would rather have me with you I will go, and not once wish to stay.”
Ethelberta smiled, as if she knew all about that, and said, “Of course there will be no necessity to tell the Julians about my departure until they have fixed the time for coming."
The sound of the children with Cornelia, and their appearance outside the window, pushing between the fuschia bushes which overhung the path, put an end to this dialogue; they entered armed with buckets and spades, a very moist and sandy aspect pervading them as far up as the high-water mark of their clothing, and began to tell Ethelberta of the wonders of the deep.
A ROOM IN LYCHWORTII COURT,
“Are you sure the report is true?”
“ I am sure that what I say is true, my lord; but it is hardly to be called a report. It is a secret, known at present to nobody but myself and Mrs. Doncastle's maid.”
The speaker was Lord Mountclere's trusty valet, and the conversation was between him and the viscount in a dressing-room at Lychworth Court, on the evening after the meeting of archæologists at Coomb Castle.
“H'm-h’m : the daughter of a butler. Does Mrs. Doncastle know of this yet, or Mr. Neigh, or any of their friends ?”
lord.” “ You are quite positive ?”
“Quite positive. I was, by accident, the first that Mrs. Menlove named the matter to, and I told her it might be much to her advantage if she took particular care it should go no further.”
“ Mrs. Menlove? Who's she?"
“ Oh, ah—of course. You may leave me now, Tipman." Lord Mountelere remained in thought for a moment. “A clever little puss, to hoodwink is all like this-hee hee!” he murmured. “Her educa. tion-how finished ; and her beauty—so seldom that I meet with such a woman. Cut down my elms to please a butler's daughter-what a joke-certainly a good joke! To interest me in her on the right side instead of the wrong was strange. But it can be made to change sides—hee hee—it can be made to change sides! Tipman!”
Tipman came forward from the doorway.
“ Will you take care that that piece of gossip you named to me is not repeated in this house? I strongly disapprove of talebearing of any sort, and wish to hear no more of this. Such stories are never true. - Answer me do you hear? Such stories are never true.”
“ I beg pardon, but I think your lordship will find this one true," said the valet, quietly.
“ Then where did she get her manners and education? Do you know
“ I do not, my lord. I suppose she picked 'em up by her wits.”
“ Never mind what you suppose," said the old man, impatiently. “Whenever I ask a question of you tell me what you know, and no more."
“Quite so, my lord. I beg your lordship's pardon for supposing." “ H'm-h’m. Have the fashion-books and plates arrived yet ? ” “ Le Follet has, my lord; but not the others.”
“Let me have it at once. 'Always bring it to me at once. Are there any handsome ones this time?”
“They are much the same class of female as usual I think, my lord,” said Tipman, fetching the paper and laying it before him.
“ Yes, they are,” said the viscount, leaning back and scrutinising the faces of the women one by one, and talking softly to bimself in a way that had grown upon him as his age increased. “Yet they are very well : that one with her shoulder turned is pure and charming—the brownhaired one will pass. All very harmless and innocent, but without character : no soul, or inspiration, or eloquence of eye. What an eye was hers! There is not a girl among them so beautiful as she. .. Tipman! Come and take it away. I don't think I will subscribe to these papers any longer-how long have I subscribed ? Never mind—I take no interest in these things, and I suppose it is because I am getting to be an old man. What white article is that I see on the floor yonder ?.”
“I can see nothing, my lord.” “ Yes, yes you can.
At the other end of the room. It is a white handkerchief. Bring it to me.”
“I beg pardon, my lord, but I cannot see any white handkerchief. Whereabouts does your lordship mean?”
There, in the corner. If it is not a handkerchief, what is it? Walk along till you come to it—that is it; now a little further—now your foot is against it."
“Oh that-it is not anything. It is the light reflected against the skirting, so that it looks like a white patch of something--that is all."
“H'm-h’m. My eyes-how weak they are ! I am getting old, that's what it is : I am an old man."
“Oh no, my lord.”
“Well, we sball all be old some day, and so will your lordship, I suppose; but as yet VOL. XXXIII.—NO. 193.