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vowing concerned had lingered round the choir-screen, as if fearing to enter, yet loth to go away. The service terminated, the heavy books were closed, doors were opened, and the feet of the few persons who had attended evensong began pattering down the paved alleys. Not wishing Picotee to know that the object of her secret excursion had been discovered, Ethelberta now stepped out of the west doorway with the viscount before Picotee had emerged from the other; and they walked along the path together until she overtook them.

“I fear it becomes necessary for me to stay in Melchester to-night,” said Lord Mountclere. “I have a few matters to attend to here, as the result of our arrangements. But I will first accompany you as far as Anglebury, and see you safely into a carriage there that shall take you bome. To-morrow I will drive to Knollsea, when we will make the final preparations."

Ethelberta would not have him go so far and back again, merely to attend upon her; hence they parted at the railway, with due and correct tenderness; and when the train had gone, Lord Mountclere returned into the town on the special business he had mentioned, for which there re mained only the present evening and the following morning, if he were to call upon her in the afternoon of the next day—the day before the wedding-now so recklessly hastened on his part, and so coolly assented to on hers.

By the time that the two young people had started it was nearly dark. Some portions of the railway stretched through little copses and plantations where, the leaf-shedding season being now at its height, red and golden patches of fallen foliage lay on either side of the rails; and as the travellers passed, all these death-stricken bodies boiled up in the whirlwind created by the velocity, and were sent flying right and left of them in myriads, a clean fanned track being left behind.

Picotee was called from the observation of these phenomena by a remark from her sister : “Picotee, the marriage is to be very early indeed. It is to be the day after to-morrow-if it can. Nevertheless I don't believe in the fact I cannot."

“ Did you arrange it so ? Nobody can make you marry so soon.” “I agreed to the day,” murmured Ethelberta, languidly.

“How can it be? The gay dresses and the preparations and the people—how can they be collected in the time, Berta ? And so much more of that will be required for a lord of the land than for a common

Oh, I can't think it possible for a sister of mine to marry a lord.” “And yet it has been possible any time this last month or two, strange as it seems to you. It is to be not only a plain, an unlordly wedding, without any lordly appliances, but a secret one-as-secret as if I were some under-age heiress to an Indian fortune, and he a young man of nothing a year."

“ Has Lord Mountclere said it must be so private? I suppose it is on account of his family."

man.

66

“No. I say so; "and it is on account of my family. Father might object to the wedding, I imagine, from what he once said; or he might be much disturbed about it; so I think it better that he and the rest should know nothing till all is over. You must dress again as my sister to-morrow, dear. Lord Mountclere is going to pay us an early visit to conclude necessary arrangements."

"Oh, the life as a lady at Lychworth Court ! The flowers, the woods, the rooms, the pictures, the plate, and the jewels ! Horses and carriages rattling and prancing, seneschals and pages, and footmen hopping up and hopping down. It will be glory then!"

We might hire our father as one of my retainers, to increase it,” said Ethelberta, drily.

Picotee's countenance fell. “How shall we manage all about that? 'Tis terrible, really!”

“The marriage granted, those things will right themselves by time and weight of circumstances. You take a wrong view in thinking of glories of that sort. My only hope is that my life will be quite private and simple, on account of my inferiority and Lord Mountclere's staidness. Such a splendid library as there is at Lychworth, Picotee-quartos, folios, history, verse, Elzevirs, Caxtons—all that has been done in literature from Moses down to Scott—with such companions I can do without all other sorts of happiness." “ And

you will not go to town from Easter to Lammas-tide, as other noble ladies do?" asked the younger girl, rather disappointed at this aspect of a viscountess's life.

“I don't know."

"But you will give dinners, and travel, and go to see his friends, and have them to see you?”

“ I don't know."

“Will you not be, then, as any other peeress; and shall not I be as any other peeress's sister?”

“That, too, I do not know. All is mystery. Nor do I even know that the marriage will take place. I feel that it may not; and perhaps so much the better, since the man is a stranger to me.

I know nothing whatever of his nature, and he knows nothing of mine."

CHAPTER XLII.

MELCHESTER—Continued. The commotion wrought in Julian's mind by the abrupt incursion of Ethelberta into his quiet sphere was thorough and protracted. The witchery of her presence he had grown strong enough to withstand in part; but her composed announcement that she had intended to marry another, and, as far as he could understand, was intending it still, added a new chill to the old shade of disappointment which custom was day by day enabling him to endure. The whole interval during which he had produced those diapason blasts, heard with such inharmonious feelings by the three auditors outside the screen, his thoughts had wandered wider than his notes in conjectures on the character and position of the gentleman seen in Ethelberta's company. Owing to his assumption that Lord Mountclere was but a stranger who had accidentally come in at the side door, Christopher had barely cast a glance upon him, and the wide difference between the years of the viscount and those of his betrothed was not so particularly observed as to raise that point to an item in his objections now. Lord Mountclere was dressed with all the cunning that could be drawn from the metropolis by money and reiterated dissatisfaction; he prided himself on his upright carriage; his stick was so thin that the most malevolent could not insinuate that it was of any possible use in walking ; his teeth had put on all the vigour and freshness of a second spring. Hence his look was the slowest of possible clocks in respect of his age, and his manner was equally as much in the rear of his appear

ance.

Christopher was now over five-and-twenty. He was getting so wellaccustomed to the spectacle of a world passing him by and splashing him with its wheels that he wondered why he had ever minded it. His habit of dreaming instead of doing had led him up to a curious discovery. It is no new thing for a man to fathom profundities by indulging humours : the active, the rapid, the people of such splendid momentum that almost before they can see where they are they have got somewhere else, have been surprised to behold what results attend the lives of those whose usual plan for discharging their active labours has been that of postponing them indefinitely. Certainly, the acquisitions of the inactive are, usually, rather interesting from their quaintness than valuable for their brilliancy, and of such a sort was Christopher's. What he had learnt was that a woman who had once made a permanent impression upon a man cannot altogether deny him her image by denying him her company, and that by sedulously cultivating the acquaintance of this Creature of Contemplation she becomes to him almost a living soul. Hence a sublimated Ethelberta accompanied him everywhere—one who never teased him, eluded him, or disappointed him : when he smiled she smiled, when he was sad she sorrowed. He may be said to have become the literal duplicate of that whimsical unknown rbapsodist who wrote of his own similar situation

By absence this good means I gain,

That I can catch her,

Where none can watch her,
In some close corner of my brain ;

There I embrace and kiss her ;

And so I both possess and miss her. This frame of mind naturally induced an amazing abstraction in the

it was.

organist, never very vigilant at the best of times. He would stand and look fixedly at a frog in a shady pool, and never once think of batrachians, or pause by a green bank to split some tall blade of grass into filaments without removing it from its stalk, passing on ignorant that he had made a cat-o'-nine-tails of a graceful slip of vegetation. He would hear the cathedral clock strike one, and go the next minute to see what time

“I never seed such a man as Mr. Julian is,” said the head blower. “He'll meet me anywhere out-of-doors, and never wink or nod. You'd hardly expect it. I don't find fault, but you'd hardly expect it, seeing how I play the same instrument as he do himself, and have done it for so many years longer than be. How I have indulged that man, too! If 'tis Pedals for two martel hours of practice I never complain ; and he has plenty of vagaries. When 'tis hot summer weather there's nothing will do for him but Choir, Great, and Swell altogether, till yer face is in a vapour ; and on a frosty winter night he'll keep me there while he tweedles upon the Twelfth and Sixteenth till my arms be scrammed for want of motion. And never speak a word out of doors.” Somebody suggested that perhaps Christopher did not notice his coadjutor's presence in the street; and time proved to the organ-blower that the remark was just.

Whenever Christopher caught himself at these vacuous tricks he would be struck with admiration of Ethelberta's wisdom, foresight, and self-command, in refusing to wed such an incapable man: he felt that he ought to be thankful that a bright memory of her was not also denied to him, and resolved to be content with it as a possession, since it was as much of her as he could decently maintain.

Wrapped thus in a humorous sadness he passed the afternoon under notice, and in the evening went home to Faith, who still lived with him, and showed no sign of ever being likely to do otherwise. Their present place and mode of life suited her well. She revived at Melchester like an exotic sent home again. The leafy Close, the climbing buttresses, the pondering ecclesiastics, the great doors, the singular keys, the whispered talk, echoes of lonely footsteps, the sunset shadow of the tall steeple, reaching further into the town than the good bishop's teaching, and the general complexion of a spot where morning had the still. ness of evening, and spring some of the tones of autumn, formed a proper background to a person constituted as Faith, who, like Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon's chicken, possessed in miniature all the antiquity of her progenitors.

After tea Christopher went into the streets, as was frequently his custom, less to see how the world crept on there than to walk up and down for nothing at all. It had been market-day, and remnants of the rural population that had visited the town still lingered at corners, their toes hanging over the edge of the pavement, and their eyes wandering about the street.

The angle which formed the turning-point of Christopher's promenade was occupied by a jeweller's shop, of a standing which completely outshone every other shop in that or any trade throughout the town. Indeed, it was a staple subject of discussion in Melchester how a shop of such pretensions could find patronage sufficient to support its existence in a place which, though well-populated, was not fashionable. It had not long been established there, and was the enterprise of an incoming man whose whole course of procedure seemed to be dictated by an intention to astonish the native citizens very considerably before he had done. Nearly everything was glass in the frontage of this fairy mart, and its contents glittered like the hammochrysos stone. The panes being of plate-glass, and the shop having two fronts, a diagonal view could be had through it from one to the other of the streets to which it formed a

corner.

in upon

This evening, as on all evenings, a flood of radiance spread from the window-lamps into the thick autumn air, so that from a distance that corner appeared as the glistening nucleus of all the light in the town. Towards it idle men and women unconsciously bent their steps, and closed

the
panes like night-birds upon

the lantern of a lighthouse. When Christopher reached the spot there stood close to the pavement a plain close carriage, apparently waiting for some person who was purchasing inside. Christopher would hardly have noticed this had he not also perceived, pressed against the glass of the shop-window, an unusual number of local noses belonging to overgrown country lads, tosspots, an idiot, the ham-smoker's assistant with his sleeves rolled up, a scot-andlot freeholder, three or four seamstresses, the young woman who brought home the washing, and so on.

The interest of these gazers in some próceedings within, which by reason of the gas-light were as public as if carried on in the open air, was very great.

“Yes, that's what he's a buying o'—haw, haw !” said one of the young men as the shopman removed from the window a gorgeous blue velvet tray of wedding-rings, and laid it on the counter.

“ 'Tis what you may come to yerself, sooner or later, God have mercy upon ye; and as such no scoffing matter," said an older man.

“ Faith, lief

cry as laugh to see a man in that corner.” “ He's a gent getting up in years too. He must bev been through it a few times afore, seemingly, to sit down and buy the tools so cool

I'd as

as that.”

“ Well, no.

See what the shyest will do at such times. You bain't yerself then; no man living is hisself then.”

" True," said the ham-smoker's man. “ 'Tis a thought to look at that a chap will take all this trouble to get a woman into his house, and a twelvemonth after would as soon hear it thunder as hear her sing !"

The policeman standing near was a humane man, through having a young family he could hardly keep; and he hesitated about telling them to move on. Christopher had before this time perceived that the articles were laid down before an old gentleman who was seated in the shop, and

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