|Chapter Title||LADY MAULEVRIER'S GRAND-DAUGHTER.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Phantom Fortune|
"Lady Lesbia sauntered about the lawn, looking very elegant in her cream-coloured Indian silk gown, very listless, very tired of her lovely surrounding*. ; Mary roamed
about with, a swifter footstep, looking at the roses, plucking off a dead leaf, or a canker bud here and there."
" PH A NTOM FORTUNE, "
By MISS BRADDON,
Author of "Lady Audleifs Sesret," "Dead Men's Shoe*," " Weavers and Weft;' "Just as I iro," ic, ¿ic.
NOTE.-THE PREVIOUS FOUR CHAPTERS FORM THE
PROLOGUE TO THE STORY.
LADY MAULEVBIEK'S GRAND-DAUGHTER.
J'WH AT a horrid day," said Lady Alary, throwing down her hook with a yawn, and looking out of the deep bay window into a world of mountain and lake, which was clouded over, nay, almost blotted- out and altogether extin- guished by the thick veil of rain and dull grey mist ; such rain as one sees only in a lake district, a- dense wall of water which shuts off sky and distance, and narrows the world to one solitary dwelling, suspended among clouds and water, like another ark in a new deluge.
Hain-such rain as makes out-of-door exercise impossible -was always an affliction to Lady Mary. Her delight was in open air and sunshine, fishing in the lake and rivers, sitting in some sheltered hollow of the hills, more fitting for au eagle's nest than for the occupation of a young lady trying to paint those ever-varying unpaintable mountain slopes, which change their hues with every change of the sky-swimming, riding, roving far and wide over hill and . heather-pleasures all more or Jess masculine in their nature,
and which were a subject of regret with Lady Maulevrier.
Lady Lesbia was of a different temper. She loved ease and elegance, the gracious luxuries of life-she loved art and music, but not to labour hard at either. She played and sang a little-excellently within that narrow compass which she had allotted to herself-played Mendelssohn's "Lieder" exquisitely,, with finished touch and faultless accent ; sang Heine's ballads with consummate expression. She painted not at all. Why should any one draw or paint indifferently, she asked, when Providence has furnished the world with so many great painters in the past and present. She could not understand Mary's ardent desire to do the thing herself-to be able with her own pencil and her own .brush to reproduce the lakes and valleys, the wild brown hills she loved so passionately. Leshia did not care two straws for the lovely lake district amidst which she had been reared - every pike and force, every beck and gill whereof was distinctly dear to her younger sister. She thought it a very hard thing to have spent so much of her life at Peliside, a trial that would ; have hardly been endurable if it were not for grandmamma. Grandmamma and Lesbia adored each other. Lesbia was the one person in the world for whom Lady Maulevrier's stateliness was
subjugated by perfect love. To all the rest of the world the Countess was marble, but to Lesbia she was wax. Lesbia could mould her as she pleased ; but happily Lesbia was not the kind of young person to take advantage of this privilege ; she was thoroughly ductile or docile, and had no desire, at present, which ran counter- to her grandmother.
Lesbia was a bsauty. In her nineteenth year she was a curious reproduction in face and figure, expression, and car- riage, of that Lady Diana Angersthorpe, who four-and-forty years ago fluttered the dove-cotes of St. James's and May Fair by her brilliant beauty and her wit. There in the panneled drawing-room at Fellside hung Harlow's portrait of Lady Diana in her zenith, in a short-waisted white satin frock, with large puffed gauze sleeves, through which the perfect arm shows dimly. Standing under that picture Lady Lesbia looked as if she had stepped out of the canvas. She was to be painted by Millais next year, Lady Maul- evrier said, when she had been introduced, and society was beginning to talk about her ; for Lady Maulevrier made up her mind five or six years ago that Lesbia should be the reigning beauty of her season. To this end she had educated and trained ker, furnishing her with all those graces best calculated to please and astonish society. She was too clever
a woman not to discover Leshia's shallowness and lack of
all great gifts, save that one peerless dower of perfect beauty. She knew exactly what Lesbia could be trained to do ; and to this end Lesbia had been educated ; and to this end Lady Maulevrier brought down to Fellside the most accomplished of Hanoverian governesses, who had learned French in Paris, and had toiled in the educational mill with profit to herself and her pupils for a quarter of a century. To this lady the countess entrusted the education of her grand-daughters' minds, while for their physical training she provided another teacher in the person of a clever little Parisian dancing mistress, who had set up at the West-end of London as a teacher of dancing and calisthenics, and had utterly failed to find pupils enough to pay her rent and keep her modest pot-a-feu going. Mademoiselle Thiebart was very glad to exchange the uncertainties of a first floor in North Audley Street for the comfort and security of Fellside Manor, with a salary of a hundred and fifty pounds a-year.
Both Fraulein and Mademoiselle had been quick to dis- cover that Lady Lesbia was the apple of her grandmother's eye, while Lady Mary was comparatively an outsider.
So it came about that Mary's education was in somewise a mere picking up of the crumbs which fell from Leshia's
table, and tha* she was allowed in a general way to run wild. She was much quicker at learning than Lesbia, learned the lessons that were given her at railroad speed, and rattled off her exercises with a slap-dash penmanship which horrified the neat and niggling Fraulein, and then rushed off to the lake or mountain, and by this means grew browner and browner, and more indelibly freckled, day by day, thus widening the gulf between her and her beauty sister.
But it is not to be supposed that because Lesbia was beautiful Mary was plain. This is very far from the truth. Mary had splendid hazel eyes, with a dancing light in them when she smiled, ruddy auburn hair, white teeth, a deeply dimpled chin, and a vivacity and archness of expression which served only in her present state of tutelage for the subjugation of old women and peasant boys. Mary had been taught to believe that her chauces of future promotion Were of the smallest-that nobody would'even talk of her, or think of her, by and by, when she in her turn would make her appearance in London society, and that it would -be a very happy thing for her if she were so fortunate as to attract the attention of a fashionable physician, a Canon of Westminster or St. Paul's, or a barrister in good practice. Mary turned up her pert little nose at this humdrum lot.
" I would much rather spend all my life among these dear hills than marry a nobody in London," she said, fearless of that grand old lady at whose frown so many people shivered. "If you don't think people will like me and admire me-a little-you had better save yourself the trouble of taking me to London. I don't want to play second fiddle to my
"You are a very impertinent person, and deserve to be
taken at your word," replied my lady, scowling at her, .
"but I have no doubt before you are twenty you will tell ?> another story."
"Oh!" said Mary, now just turned seventeen, "then I am not to go out till I am twenty."
" That will be soon enough," answered the countess. " It will take you as long to get rid of those odious freckles. And no doubt by that time Lesbia will have made a bril- liant marriage.''
And now on this rainy July morning these two girls, neither of whom had any serious employment for her life, or any serious purpose in living, wasted the. hours, each in" ¡ her own fashion.
Tim "Illustrated Syiney yews" ii the only publication in New South Wala in which this tale can appear.
Lesbia reclined upon a cushioned seat in the deep embra- sure of a Tudor window, her pose perfection-it was one of many pos.se which Mademoiselle has taught her, and which, by assiduous training, had become a second nature. Poor Mademoiselle having finished her mission and taught Leshia all she could teach, had now departed to a new and far less luxurious situation in a finishing school at Passy ; but Fraulein Kirsch was still retained, as watch-dog and
Leshia's pale-blue morning gown contrasted exquisitely with a complexion of lilies and roses, violet eyes, aud golden brown hair. Her features were distinguished by that perfect chisseling which gave such a haughty grace to her grand- mother's countenance, even at sixty-seven years of age-a loveliness which, like the marble loveliness it suggests, is unalterable by time. Lesbia was reading Keats. It was her habit to read the poets, carefully and deliberately, taking up one at a time, and duly laying a volume aside 1 when she-found herself mistress of its' contents She had
no passion for poetry, but it was an elegant leisurely kind of reading which suited her languid temperament. Moreover, her grandmother had told her that an easy familiarity with the great poets of all time is of all knowledge that which best qualifies a woman to shine in conversation without ?offending the superior sex by any assumption of scholarship.
Mary was a very different class of reader, omniverous tearing out the hearts of books, roaming from flower to .flower in the fields of literature, loving old and new, romance and reality, novels, travels, plays, poetry, and never dwelling long on any one theme. Perhaps if Mary had lived in the bosom of a particularly sympathetic family she might have been reckoned almost a genius, so much of poetry and originality was there in her free unconventional character; but hitherto it had been Mary's mission in life to be snubbed, whereby she had acquired a very poor opinion
.of her own talents.
"Oh," she cried with a desperate yawn, while Lesbia smiled her languid smile over Endymion, "how I wish something would happen-anything to stir us out of this statuesque, sleeping-beauty state of being. I verily believe the spiders are ali asleep in the ivy, and the mice behind the waiuscote,, and the horses in stable."
'.' What could happen ?" asked Lesbia, with a gentk ?elevation of pencilled brows. Are nott hese lovely lines,
And coverlids gold-tinted ¡ike the peach, Or ripe October's faded marigolds,
Fell slenk about hitn ia a thousand folds.
Faded marigolds ! ls not that intensely sweet ?"
"Very well for your sleepy Keats, but I don't suppose you would have noticed the passage if marigold were no in fashion," said Mary, with a touch of scorn. " Wha .could happen? Why a huudred things-an earthquake .flood or tire. What could happen do you say, Lesbia Why Maulevrier might come home unexpectedly, and chara
us ont of this death-in-life. "
" He would occasion a good deal of unpleasantness if h did," answered Lesbia coldly, "You know how angry h hás made grandmother."
"'Because he keeps racehorses which have au unluck; knack of losing," said Mary, dubiously. " I suppose if bi horses won grandmother would rather approve ? "
"Not at all. That would make hardly auy difference except that 'be would not ruin himself quite so quickly .Grandmother says that a young man who goes ou the turf i . sure to be ruined sooner or later. And then iVlaulevriër' habits are altogether wild and foolish. It is very hard up on grandmother, who lias such noble ambition for all of us.
"Not for me," answered Mary, smiling. " Her view about me aie very humble. She considers that I shall li most fortunate if a doctor or a lawyer condescends to lik me enough to make' me an offer. He might make me a .offer without liking me, for the sake of hearing himself ar nounced as Mr. and Lady Mary Snooks at dinner partie! 1 That would be too horrid, but I daresay such things hav
" Don't talk nonsense, , Mary," said Lesbia, loftily " There is no reason why you should not make a reall . good marriage if you follow grandmother's advice and don
affect eccentricity. "
" 1 don't affect eccentricity, but I'm afraid I really ai ecceutric," murmured Mary, meekly, " for I like so man things I ought not to like, and detest so many things whic
I ought to admire."
" I daresay you will have tamed down a little before ye are presented," said Lesbia, carelessly.
She could not even affect a profound interest in any oi but herself. She had a narrowness of mental vision whic prevented her looking beyond the limited circle of her ow pleasures, her own desires, her owii dreams and hopes. SI was one of those strictly correct young women who was nev likely to do any harm in the world, but who was just as unlike ever to do auy good. Mary sighed, aad went back to her boo a bulky volume of travels, and tried to lose herself in tl sandy wastes of -Africa, and to be deeply interested in tl : sources of the Congo, not, in her heart of hearts caring
straw whether that far away river comes from t . mountains bf the moon, or from the moon itself. To-d;
she could not pin her mind to pages which had< interest at another time. Her thoughts were with Lord Maulevrii that fondly loved only brother, just seven years her seui< who had taken tb racehorses and bad ways, and was tryi his hardest to dissipate the splendid fortune which 1 grandmother, the Dowager Countess, nursed so judicioiu .during his long 'minority. Maulevrer and Mary had alwa been what the young man called " no end of chums."
He called her his brown-eyed Molly, much to the i uoyance of Lady Maulevrier and Lesbia, and Mary's life w all gladness when Maulevrier was at Fellside. She devot herself wholly to his amusements, rode and drove with hi followed on her famous pony, when he went otter huntii and very often abandoned the pony to the care of so: stray mountain youth in order to join the hunters, and leaping from stone to stone on the margin of the strea and occasionally, io moments of, wild excitement, when 1 hounds were in full cry, splashing in and out of the wat like a naiad in a skort riding skirt.
Mary looked after Maulevrier's stable when he was aw . and had supreme command of a kennel of fox-terriers wh
cost her brother more money than the Countess would hi cared to know, for in the wide area of Lady Maulevric ambition there was no room for two hundred guinea f terriers, were they never so perfect.
Altogether Mary's life was a different life when ! brother was at home ; and in his absence the beBt part her days were spent in thinking about him and fulfilling . duties of her position as his representative in stable Í kennel, and among certain rustics in the district, chiefly the sporting tvpe, who were Maulevrier's chosen alliet j proteges. * - ' ,
^ever, perhaps, had two girls of patrician lineage lived a more secluded life than Lady Maulevrier's granddaughters. They had known no pleasures beyond the narrow sphere of home and home friends. They had never travelled-they had seen hardly anything of the outside world. They had never been to London or Paris, or to any city larger than York ; and their visits to that centre of dissipation had been of the briefest, a mere flash of mild gaiety, a race meeting, an oratorio, and back by express train, closely guarded by governess and footmen, to Fellside. In the autumn, when the leaves were falling in the wooded grounds of Fellside, the young ladies were sent, still under guardian- ship of governesses and footmen, to some quite seaside, resort between Alnwick and Ediuburgh, where Mary lived the wild free life she loved, roaming about the beach,
boating, shrimping, seaweed-gathering, making hard work I for the governesses and footmen who had been sent in charge of her.
Lady Maulevrier never accompanied her granddaughters on these occasions. She was a vigorous old woman, straight as a dart, slim as a girl, active in her degree as any young athlete among those hills, and she declared that she never felt the need of chauge of air. The soddèn shrubberies, the falling leaves did her no harm. Never within the memory of this generation had she left Fellside. Her love of this mountain retreat was a kind of ¿-«to. She had some here broken spirited, perhaps broken hearted, bringing her dead husband from the little inn at Langdale forty years ago, and she had hardly left the spot since that day.
In those days Fellside House was a very different kind of dwelling from the gracious, modern, Tudor mansion which now drowned and beautified the hill side above Grasmere
Lake. It was then an old rambling cottage, with queer little rooms and inconvenient passages, low ceilings, thatched gables, and all manner of strange nooks and corners. Lady Maulevrier was of too strictly conservative a temper to think'of pulling down an old house, which had been in her husband's family for generations. She left the original cot- tage undisturbed, and built her new house at right angles with it, connecting the two with a wide passage below and a handsome corridor above, so that access should be perfect in the event of her requiring the accommodation of the old quaint, low-ceiled rooms for her family or her guests. During forty years no such necessity had ever arisen, but the old house known as the south wing was still left intact, the original furniture undisturbed, although the only oc- cupants of the building were her ladyship's faithful old housesteward, James Steadman, and his elderly wife.
The house which Lady Maulevrier had built for herself and her grandchildren had not , been created all at once, though tne nucleus dating forty years back was a hand- some building. She had added more rooms as necessity or fancy dictated-now a library with bed-rooms over it, now a music-room for Lady Lesbia and her grand piano -anon a billiard-room as an agreeable surprise for Maulevrier when he came home after a tour in America. Thus the house had grown into a long low pile of Tudor tnasoury-steep gables, heavily mullioned casements, grey stone walls, curtained with the rich growth of passion-flower, magnolia, clematis, .myrtle, and roses-and all those flowers which thrive and flourish in that mild and sheltered spot.
The views from those mullioned casements were perfect. Switzerland could give hardly any more exquisite picture than that lake shut in by hills, grand and bold in their varied outlines, so rich in their colouring that the eye, dazzled with beauty, forgot to calculate the actual height of. those craggy peaks and headlands, the miud forgot to despise them because they were not so lofty as Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn. The velvet sward of the hill sloped steeply downward from Lady Maulevrier's drawing-room windows, to the road beside the lake, and this road was sc hidden by the wooded screen which bounded her ladyship's grounds that the lake seemed to lie iu the green heart ol her gardens, a lovely placid lake on summer days, reflecting the emerald lines of the surrounding hills, and looking like a smooth green meadow, which invited the foot-passenger tc
The house was approached by a winding carriage drive that led up and up and up from the road beside the lake, sc screened and sheltered by shrubberies and pine woods thai the stranger knew not whither he was going till he came upon an opening in the wood, and thc stately Italian garder in front of a massive stone porch, through which he enterec a spacious oak-panneled hall, and anou, descending a ster or two, he found himself in Lady Maulevrier's drawing room, and face to face.with that divine view of the ever lasting hills, the lake shining below him, bathed in sunlight
Or if it were the stranger's evil fate to come in we weather he saw only a rain-blotted landscape-the blurrec outlines of gray mountain peaks, scowling at him from tin other side of a grey pool. But if the picture without wen depressing,, the picture within was always good to lool upon-for those oak-panneled or tapestried rooms, com mu nicating by richly-curtained doorways from drawiug-roon to library, from library to billiard-room, were as lovely a wealth and taste could make them. Lady Maulevrier argue« that as there was but one house among all the possession of her race which she cared to inhabit, she had a right t make that house beautiful, and she had spared nothing upo; the beautification of Fellside ; and yet she had spent niuo less than would have been squandered, by any pleasure loving dowager, restlessly roving from Piccadilly to th Engandine, from Pontresina to Nice or Monaco, winding u with Easter in Paris, and then back to Piccadilly. He ladyship's friends wondered that she should care, to bur herself alive in Westmoreland, and expatiated on the eccen tricity of such a life ; nay, those who had never seen Fell side argued that Lady Maulevrier had taken in her old ag to hoarding, and that she pigged at a cottage in the Lak .district in order to swell a fortune which young Maulevrie would set about squandering as soon' as she was in he coffin. But here they were wrong. It was not in Lad Maulevrier's nature to lead a sordid life in order to sav money. Yet in these quiet years that were gone, startin with that golden nucleus which Lord Maulevrier had brougl home from India, obtained no one knows how. t he countes had amassed one of the largest fortunes in actual hard eas possessed by any member of the peerage. She had it, an she held it with a grasp that nothing but death coal loosen ; nay, that all-foreseeing mind of hers might contriv to cheat grim death itself, and to scheme a way for prc tecting this wealth, even when she who had gathered an garnered it should be mouldering in her grave. The entaile estates belonged to Maulevrier, were he never such a foi or spendthrift, . but this fortune of the dowager's was he own, to dispose of as she pleased, and not a penny of it w£ j likely to go to the young Earl.
I Her granddaughter Lesbia was Lady Mulevrier's rock <
defence against future follies. She should be the inheri ress of this noble fortune-she should spread and widen tr.
power of the Maulevrier race. Her sou should link the family name with the name of his Eather ; and if by any hazard of fate the present Earl should die young and child- less the old countess's interest .should be strained to the uttermost to obtain the title for Leshia's offspring. Why should she not be Countess of Maulevrier in her own
right? But in order to make this future possible, the most important factor in the sum was yet to be found, in the person of a husband for Lady Lesbia-a husband worthy of peerless beauty and exceptional wealth, a husband whose own fortune should be so important as to make him above suspicion. That was Lady Maulevrier's scheme-to wed wealth to wealth-to double or quadruple the fortune she had built up in the lony slow years of her widowhood, and thus to make her granddaughter one of the greatest ladies in the laud ; for it need hardly be said that the man who was to wed Lady Lesbia must be her equal in rank and lineage, if not her superior.
Lady Maulevrier waa not a miser ; she was liberal and benevolent to all who came within the circle of her life.
Wealth for its own sake she valued not a jot ; but she lived in an age in which wealth is power, and ambition was her ruling passion As she had been ambitious for her hus- band in the days that were gone, she was now ambitious for her granddaughter. Time had intensified the keen eagerness of her mind. She had been disappointed, cruelly, bitterly, in the ambition of her youth. She had been made to drink the cup of shame and humiliation. But to this ambition of her old age she held with even greater tenacity. God help her if she should be disappointed here.
It is not to be supposed that so astute a schemer as Lady Maulevrier had not surveyed the marriage market iu order to discover that fortunate youth who should be deemed worthy to become the winner of Leshia's hand. Years ago, when Lesbia was still in the nursery, the dowager had made, herself informed of the age, weight, and colours, of every likely runner in the matrimonial stakes, orin plainer words had kept herself by her correspondence with a few intimate friends, and her close study of the fashionable newspapers, thoroughly acquainted with the character and exploits, the disposition aud antecedents of those half-dozen eldest sons among whom she hoped to find Leshia's lord and master. She knew her peerage by heart, and knew the family history of every house recorded therein, the sins
and weaknesses, the follies and losses of by-gone years ; the , taiuts, mental and physical ; the lateral branches and inter- marriages ; the runaway wives and unfaithful husbands ; idiot sons or scrofulous daughters She knew everything that was to be known about that aristocratic world into which she had been boru sixty-seven years ago, and the sum total of her knowledge was that there was oue man, and one only, whoms he desired for her granddaughter's hus- band-one man, and one only, into whose hands, when earth and sea and sky were melting from her glassy eyes, she could be content to resign the sceptre of power. <-'
There were do doubt half-a-dozen, or more, in .thé list of elder sons, who were fairly eligible ; but this young man was the Achilles in the rank and tile of chivalry, and her soul yearned to have him and no other for her darling.
Her soul yearned to him with a tenderness which was not all on Leshia's account. Forty-nine years ago she had fondly
loved his father-loved him and had been fain to renounce him ; for Ronald Hollister, afterwards Lord Hartfield, was then a younger son, and the two families had agreed that marriage between paupers was an impudent flying in the face of Providence, which must be put down with an iron hand. Lord Hartfield sent his sou to Turkey in the diplomatic service, and the old dowager Lady Carrisbrook whisked her niece off to London, anil, kept her there under watch and ward till Lord Maulevrier had proposed and been accepted by her. There should be no foolishness, no clandestine correspondence. The iron hand crushed two young hearts, and secured a brilliant future for the bodies which survived.
Ten years later Ronald's elder brother died unmarried. ¡ He abaudoued that career of vagrant diplomacy which had i taken him all over Europe, and as far abroad as Wash-
ington, and re-appeared in London, the most elegmt man of . his era, bub thoroughly blasó. There were rumours of an
unhappy attachment in the'Faubourg St. Germain ; of a ? tragedy at Petersburg. Society protested that Lord Hart I field would die a bachelor, as bia brother died before him. ! The Hollisters are not a marrying family, said society. But I six or seven years after his return, to England Lord Hart ! field married Lady Florence Ilmington, a beauty in her first j season, and a very sweet but somewhat mindless young
person. The marriage resulted in the birth of an heir, whose appearance upon this mortal stage was followed within a year by his father's exit. Hence the Hartfield property, al ways a fine estate, hail been nursed and fattened during a long minority, and the present Lord Hartfield was reputed one of tue richest 'young men of his time. He was also spoken of as a superior person, inheriting all his father's intellectual gifts, aud having the reputation of being siugu ¡ larly free from.the vices of profligate youth. He was neither ! prig nor pedant, and he was very popular in the best society,
but he was not ashamed to let it be seen that his ambi- tion soared higher than the fashionable world of turf and stable, cards aud pigeon matches.
Though not of the gay world, nor in it, Lady Maulevrierhad contrived to keep herself thoroughly en rapport with fashion, j Her few chosen friends, with whom she corresponded on terms i of perfect confidence, were among the best people in London -not the circulators of club-house canards, the pickers-up of second-hand gossip from the society-papers, but actors in the comedy of, high life, arbiters of fashion and taste, boro and bred in the purple.
Last season Lord Hartfield's absence had cast a cloud over the matrimonial horizon. He had been a traveller for more than a year-Patagonia, Pent, the Pyramids, Japan, the North Pole-society cared not where-the fact that he was gone was all-sufficient. Bachelors a shade less eligible came to the front in his absence and became first favourites. Lady Maulevrier, well informed in advance', had deferred Leshia's presentation till next season, when she was told Lord Hart- field would certainly reappear. His plans had been made for return before Christmas, and it would seem that his plan of life was laid down with as much precision as if he had been a prince of the blood royal. Thus it happened, to Leshia's intense disgust, that her debut was deferred till
the verge of her twentieth birthday. Its would neve*' do. . Lady Maulevrier told herself, for the edge to be taken off the effect which Leshia's beauty was' to make, on society during Lord Harttield's absence. He must be there, on the spot, to see this star rise gently and slowly above society's horizon, and to mark how everybody bowed down and wor- shipped the new light.
" I shall be an old woman before I appear in society," said Leébia, petulantly ; " and! 1 shall be like a wild woman of the woods, for I have seen nothing, and know nothing of
the civilized world."
" You will be ever so much more attractive than the young women I hear of, who have seen and known a great deal too much," auswered the dowager ; and as her grand- daughter knew that Lady Maulevrier's word was as the law of the Medes and Persians,v there were no more idle repinings.
Her ladyship gave no reason for the postponement of Les- hia's presentation. She was far too diplomatic to breathe a i word of her ideas with regard to Lord Hartfield. Anything
like a matrimonial scheme would naturally have been revolting to Lesbia, who had grand, but not sordid views about matrimony. She thought it her mission to appear, and to conquer. A crowd of suitors would sigh around her, like the loves and graces of that fair Belinda whose story she had read so often, and it would be her part to choose the most worthy. The days are gone when a girl would so much as look at Sir Plume. Her virgiu fancy demands the Tennysonian ideal, the grave and knightly Arthur.
But when Lesbia thought of the most worthy, it was always of the worthiest in her own particular sphere ; and he of course would be titled and wealthy, and altogether fitted to be her husband. He would take her by the hand and lead her to a higher seat on the dais, and place upon her head, or at least upon her letter paper and the panels of her carriage, a coronet in which the strawberry leaves should stand out more prominently than in her brother's emblazonment. Leshia's mind could not conceive an ignoble marriage, or the possibility of the most worthy happening
to be found in a lower circle than her own.
And now it was the end of July, and the season which should have beeu glorified by Lady Leshia's debut was over and done with. She had read in the Society papers" of all the balls, and birthdays, and race meetings, and regattas, and cricket matches, and gowns, and parasols, and bonnets -what this beauty wore on such an occasion, and how that other beauty looked on another occasion-and she felt as she read like a spell-bound princess in a fairy tale, mewed up in a stony bower, and deprived of her legitimate share in all the pleasures of earth. She had no patieuce with Mary-that wild, unkempt, ungraceful creature, who could be as happy as summer days are long racing about the hills with her bamboo alpenstock, rioting with a pack of fox terriers, practising crack shots at billiards, rowing on the lake, doing all things unbecoming Lady Maulevrier's grand- daughter.
That long rainy day dragged its slow length to a close, and then came tine days, in which Molly and her fox terriers went wandering over the sunlit hills, skipping and dancing across the mountain streamlets-gills as they were called in this particular world - almost as gaily as the shadows of fleecy cloudlets dancing up yonder in the windy sky.- Molly spent half her days among the hills, stealing off from governess aud grandmother, and the stately beauty sister, and sometimes hardly beiug missed by them, so ill did her young exuberance harmonize with their calmer life ! .
"One cari tell when Mary is at home by a perpetual banging of doors," said Lesbia, which was a sisterly exag- geration founded upon fact, for Molly was given to impetuous rushing in and out of rooms when that eager spirit of hers impelled the light lithe body upou some new expedition. Nor is the society of fox terriers conducive to repose or stateliness of movement: and Maulevrier's terriers, although strictly forbidden the house, were for ever breaking bands and leaping in upon Molly's retirement at all unreasonable hours. She and they were enchanted to get away from the beautiful luxurious rooms, and to go roving by hill side and force away to Easedale Tarn to bask for hours on the grassy margin of the deep still water, or to row round and round the mountain lake in a rotten boat. It was here, orin some kindred spot that Molly got' through most of her reading here that she read Shakespeare, Byron, and Shelley, and "Wordsworth-dwelling lingeringly and lovingly upon every line in which that good old man spoke of her native land. Sometimes she climbed, to higher ground and felt herself ever so much nearer heaven upon the crest of Silver Howe, or upon the rugged stony steep of Dolly Waggon pike half way up the dark brow of Helvellyn ; sometimes she had disappeared for hours, and had climbed to the sum- mit of the hill, and had wandered in perilous pathwaj's on Striding Edge, or by the dark still water of the
red tarn. This had been her life ever since she had been
old enough to have an independent existence, and the hills and the lakes, and the books of her own choosing had done a great deal more in ripening her mind than Fraulein
Kirsch and that admirable series of educational works
which has been provided for the tuition of modern youth. Grammars and geographies, primers, and elementry works of all kinds were Mary's detestation ; but she loved books that touched her heart and filled her mind with thoughts wide and deep enough to reach into the infinite of time and space, the mystery of mind and matter, life and death.
Nothing occurred to break the placid monotony of life at Fellside for three long days after that rainy morning; and then came an event which, although commonplace enough in itself, marked the begining of a new era in the existence of Lady Maulevrier's granddaughters.
It was evening, and the two girls were dawdling about on the sloping lawn before the drawing-room windows, while Lady Maulevrier read, the newspapers in her own particular chair by one of those broad Tudor windows, according to her iufalliable custom Remote as her life had been from the busy worldj her ladyship had never allowed her .knowledge of public life and the bent of modern thought to fall into arrear. , She took a keen interest iu politics, in progress of all kinds., She was a staunch Conservative, and looked upon every Liberal politician as her personal enemy; but she took care to keep, herself informed of everything that was being said or done in the enemy's camp. She had an intense respect for Lord Bacon's maxim: knowledge is power. It was a kind of power secondary to the power of wealth, perhaps ; but wealth unprotected by wisdom would soon dwindle into poverty.
Lady Lesbia sauntered about the lawn, looking very ele- gant in her cream-coloured. Indian silk gown, very listless, very tired of her lovely surroundings. Neither lake nor mountains possessed any charm for her. She had had too much of them. Mary roamed about with a swifter foot- step, looking at the roses, plucking off a ,dead leaf, or a canker bud here and there. Presently she tore aeross the lawn to the shrubbery which screened the lawn and flower gardens from the winding carriage drive sunk many feet below, and disappeared in a thicket of arbutus and Irish yew.
"What terribly hoydenish manners," murmured Lesbia, with a languid shrug of her shoulders, as she strolled back to the drawing room.
She cared very little for the newspapers, for politics not at all, but anything was better than everlasting contem- plation of the blue still water, and the rugged crest of Helm Crag.
"What was the matter with Mary that she rushed off like a madwoman?" inquired Lady Maulevrier, looking up
from the Times.
" I haven't the least idea. Mary's movements are quite beyond the limits of my comprehension. Perhaps she has
gone after a bird's nest."
Mary was intent upon no bird's nest. Her quick ear had caught the sound of manly voices in the winding drive under the pine wood ; and surely, yes, surely one was a dear familiar voice, which heralded the coming of happiness. In such a moment she seemed to have wings. She became unconscious that she touched the earth, she went skimming bird-like over the lawn, and in and out, with fluttering muslin frock, among arbutus and pine, yew and laurel, till she. stood poised lightly on the top of the wooded bank which bordered the steep ascent to Lady Maulevrier's gate, look- ing down at two figures which were sauntering up the road.
They were both young men, both tall, broad-shouldered, manly, walking with the easy swinging movement of men accustomed to active exercise. One, the handsomer of the two in Mary's eyes/siuce she thought him simply perfection, was fair-haired, blue-eyed, the typical Saxon. This was Lord Maulevrier. The other was dark, bronzed by foreign travel, perhaps, with black hair, cut very close to an intelligent looking head, bared to the evening breeze.
" Hulloa 1" cried Maulevrier, " there's Molly. How d'ye do, old girl?"
The two men looked up, and Molly looked d >wn. Delight at her brother's return so filled her heart and mind that there was no room left for embarassment at the appearance
of a stranger.
" Oh Maulevrier, I am so glad. I have been pining for you. Why didn't you write to say you were coming It would have been-something to look forward to.
"Couldn't. Never knew from day to day what I was going to be up to ; besides, I knew I should find you at
" Uf course. We are always at home," said Mary; "go up to the house as fast as you can. I'll go and tell grand-
" And tell them to get us some dinner," said Maulevrier. Mary's fluttering figure clipped and was gone, vanishing in the dark labyrinth of shrubs, The two young men sauntered up to the house.
"We needn't hurry," said Maulevrier to the companion whom he had not taken the trouble to introduce to his sister. "We shall have to wait for our dinner.
" And we shall have to change our dusty clothes," added the other; " I hope that mau will bring our portmanteau
" Oh we needn't dress. We can spend the evening in my den, if you like!"
Mary flew across the lawn again, and bounded up the steps of the verandah-a picturesque Swiss verandàh which made a covered promenade in front of the house.
"Mary, may I ask the meaning of this excitement," enquired her ladyship, as the breathless girl stood before
" Maulevrier has come home." "Atlast?"
" And he has brought a friend."
" Indeed. He might have done me the honour to enquire if his friend's visit would be agreeable. What kind ol person?"
"I have no idea. I didn't look at him. Maulevrier is looking so well. They will be here in a minute. May ]
order dinner for them."
' "Of course they must have dinner," said her ladyshir resignedly, as if the whole thing were an infliction, anc Mary ran out and interviewed the butler, begging that al things might be made particularly comfortable for thi travellers. It was nine o'clock, and the servants wen enjoying their eventide repose.
Having given her orders, Mary went back to the drawin; room, impatiently expectant of her brother's arrival, fo which event Lesbia and her grandmother waited with per feet tranquility, the dowager calmly continuing the perusa of her Times, while Lesbia sat at her piano in a shadow; corner and played one of Mendelssohn's softest Lieder. T those dreamy strains Maulevrier and his friend presentí;
"How d'ye do grandmother? how do, Lesbia. This i my very good friend and Canadian travelling companior Jack Hammond. Mr. Hammond, Lady Maulevrier, Lad
Very glad to see you Mr. Hammond," said the dowagei iii atone so purely conventional that it might mean anj thing. "Hammond! I ought to remember your family
the Hammonds of"
"Of nowhere," answered the stranger in easiest tone; " spring from a race of nobodies, of whose existance yon ladyship is not likely to have heard."