Chapter 20327682

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXLL-(Continued)
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20327682
Full Date1879-08-02
Page Number137
Corrections0
Word Count7684
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleVixen
article text

The Storyteller.

Vixen.

CHAPTER XLL-(Continued.)

BY MISS BRADDON, AUTHONESS OF "AURORA FLOYD" &c., &c.

IT was 5 o'clock in the afternoon when they arrived at Lea Tourelles. They had loitered a little in those sunny lanes, stopping to look sea ward through a gap in the hedge, or to examine

a fen whioh was like the ferns of Bampshira. They had suoh a world of lovers' nonsense to say to each other, sneh confessions of past unhappi* Mas, sneh schemes of future bliss. "I'a afraid you'll never like Briarwood as well as the Abbey House," said Rorie humbly. "I tried my best to patch it up for Lady Mabel; for you see, aa I felt I fell short in tbe matter of afieetion, I wanted to do tbe right thing in f urni* turn and deooratuns. But the house is lament* ably modem and commonplace. I'm afraid you'll never be happy there." "Boris, I could be happy with you if our home were no better than the eharooal*btirner,s hat in Mark Ash," protested Vixen. " It's vary good of you to say that Do you like sage-green t" Rorie asked with a doubtful air. "Pretty welL It reminds me of mamma's dressmaker, Madame Theodore." "Because Mabel insisted npon having sage* green curtains and chair-oovers, and a sage*green wall with a chocolate dado-—did you ever hear of a dado J—in the new morning room I built for her. I'm rather afraid you won't like it; I should have preferred pink or blue myself, and no dado. It looks so much as if one had ran short of wall-paper. But it can all be altered bj*and*by if you don't like it" They found Miss Skipwith pacing the weedy gravel walk in front of her parlor window, with a disturbed air, and a yellow envelope in her hand. 44 My dear, thia has been an eventful day," she exclaimed. •• I have been very anxious for your return. Here is a telegram for yon ; and as it is the first you have had since you have been stay. Log here I conclude it is of some importance." Vixen took the envelope eagerly from her hand. "If you were not standing by my side, a telegram would frighten me," she whispered to Roderick. "It might tell me you were dead." The telegram was from Captain Winatanley to Miss Tempest: " Gome home by the next boat Tour mother is ill, and anxious to see you. The carriage will meet you at Southampton/ Poor Vixen looked at her lover with a con* science stricken countenance. "Oh, Rorie, and I have been so wickedly, wildly, happy!" she cried, as if it were a crime to have so rejoiced. "And I made so light of mamma's last letter, in which she complained of being ill. I hardly gave it a thought" "I don't suppose there is an anything very wrong," said Rorie, in a comforting tone, after he had studied those few bold words in the tele gram, trying to squeeze tbe utmost meaning out of the brief sentence. " You see, Captain Win stanley doaa not say that your mother is danger- The right of republishing " Vi_eu" iv Queen-Und has been porchaied by the proprietor* of the QaMufalrfcr.

ously HI, or even Terr ill; he only says ill. That might mean something quite insignificant— hay-lever, or neuralgia, or a nervous headache." "But he tells me to go home—he who hates me, and was ao glad to get me out of the house." " It ia jour mother who summons you home, no doubt She is mistress in her own house, of oourse." " Tou would not aay that if you knew Captain Winatanley." They were alone together on the gravel walk, Miss Skipwith having retired to make the tea in her dingy parlor. It had dawned upon her that thia visitor of Miss Tempest's was no common friend; and she had judioiously left the lovers together. " Poor misguided child 1" she mur mured to herself pityingly; "just aa she was developing a vocation for serious things ! But perhaps it is all for the best I doubt if she would ever have had breadth of mind to grapple with the great problems of natural religion." "Isn't it dreadfult" said Vixen, walking up and down with the telegram in her hand. "I shall have to endure hours of auspenae before I can know how my poor mother is. There is no boat till to-morrow morning. It's no use talk* ing, Rorie." Mr. Vawdrey was following her up and down the walk affectionately, but not saying a word. " I feel convinced that mamma must be seriously ill; I should not be sent for unless it were so. In all her letters there has not been a word about my going home. I waa not wanted." "But, dearest love, you know that your mother is apt to think seriously of trifles." M Rorie, you told me an hour ago that she waa lookini* ill when last you saw her. Roderick looked at his watch. "There ia one thing I might do,"he said. musingly. "Haa Miss Skipwith a hone and trapT " Not the least bit in the world." "That's a pity; it would have saved time. I'll get down to St. Helier's somehow, telegraph to Captain Winatanley to enquire the exact state of your mother's health, and not come back tOl I bring you his answer." " Oh, Rorie, that would be good of you V ex* claimed Vixen. " But it seems too cruel to send Jrou away like that; you have been travelling so ong. You hare had nothing to eat Tou most be dreadfully tired." " Tired I Have I not been with yon t There •re some people whose presence makes one on* conscious of humanity's weaknesses. No, darling, I am neither tired nor hungry ; I am only in* effably happy. I'll go down and set the wires in motion ; and then I'll find ont all about the steamer for to*moirow morning, and we will go back to Hampshire together." And again the rejoicing lover quoted the Laureate: And on her lover's arm -he leant, And round her waist she felt it fold, Aad far serosa the kills they west, In that new world whioh is the old. Rorie had to walk ail tbe way to 8t Heller's. He despatched an urgent message to Captain Winatanley sod then dined temperately at a French restaurant not far from the quay, where the ban vwemU of Jersey are wont to assemble nightly. When he had dined he walked about the harbor, looking at the shins, and watching the lights beginning to glimmer from the bsirsck* windows, and the straggling street along tbe shots, and the far-off beacons shining out, as the rosy sunset darkened to purple night Hs went to the offioe two or throe times before the return message had come ; but at last it was handed to him, and he read it by the offlos*lamp: "Captain WlasUnley, Abbey Haass, Hssspahire, to Mr. Vawdrev, St. Heller*-, " My wife is seriously M, but in ao itaiarHatt danger. Tho doctors order extmae quiet; all agitation is to be carefully avoided. Let Mia Temps* bear this ia a-tad when she comes home." Roderick drove back to Las Toorsllss with thb massage, whioh was in some respects reassuring, or at any rate afforded a certainty lass appalling than Violet's measureless fears. Vixen wss sitting on the pilgrim's bench be side the manor house gateway, watching for her lover's return. Oh, happy lover, to oe thus watched for and thus weloomed ; thrice, nay, a thousandfold happy in the certainty that she was his own for ever t He put his arm round her, and they wandered along the shadowy lane together, between dewy banks of tangled verdure, luminous with glow-worms. The stars wars shining above the overarching roof of foliage, the harvest moon wss rising over the distant sea. " What a beautiful pLaos Jersey is I" exclaimed Vixen innocently, as she strolled lower down the lane, circled by her lover's arm. " I had no idea it was half so lovely. But then of oourse I was never allowed to roam about in the moonlight And, indeed, Rorie, I think we had better go in directly. Miss Skipwith will be wondering. " Let her wonder, love. I can explain every* thbg when we go in. She was young herself onoe upon a time, though one would hardly give her credit for it; and you may depend she has walked in this lane by moonlight Yes, by the light of that very same sober old moon, who haa looked down with the same indulgent smile upon endless generations of lovers." " From Adam and Eve to Antony and Cleo patra," suggested Vixen, who couldn't get Egypt out of her head. "Antony and Cleopatra were mi-idle-aged lovers," said Rorie. "The moon must have despised them. Youth is the only season when love is wisdom, Vixen. In later life it means folly and drivelling, wrinkles badly hidden under Sint, pencilled eyebrows, and false hair. Aphro te should be for ever young." "Perhaps that's why the poor thing puts on paint and false hair when she finds youth de parted," said Vixen. " Then she is no longer Aphrodite, but Venus Pandemos, and a wicked old harridan," answered Rorie. And then he began to sing, with a rich full voice that rolled far upon the still air— Gather ye roae-buda while ye may, Old time ia rtill a-flying ; And this aanie flower that amiles to day To-morrow will be dying. Then be not ooy, bnt use your time, And whilst ye may, go marry ; For, having loet but onoe your prime, You may for ever tarry. "What a fine voice you have, RorieT' cried Vixen. "Have I really ? I thought it was only Lord Mallow that could sing. Do you know that I waa

desperately jealous of that nobleman, onoe—when I fancied he was singing himself into your affec tions. Little did I think that he waa destined to become my greatest benefactor." " I shall make you sing duets with me, sir, by and-by." " Tou shall make me stand on my head, or play clown in an amateur pantomime, or do any thing supremely ridiculous, if you like. • Being your slave what can I do ' " " Tea, you must sing Mendelssohn with me. * I would that my love,' and ' Greeting.'" " I have only one idea of greeting, after a cruel year of parting and sadness," said Rorie, drawing the bright young face to his own, and covering it with kisses. Again Vixen urged that Miss Skipwith would be wondering; and this time with suoh insistanoe that Rorie was obliged to turn back and asoend thehilL " How cruel it is of you to snatch a soul out of Elysium," he remonstrated, "I felt as if I was lost in some happy dream—wandering down this path, which leads I know not where, into a dim wooded vale, such as the fairies love to inhabit." " The road leads down to the inn at Le Tao, where Cockney excursionists go to eat lobsters, and play skittles," said Vixen, laughing at her lover. They went back to the manor house, where they found Miss Skipwith annotating a tremendous manuscript on blue foolscap, a work whose out ward semblance would have been enough to frighten and deter any publisher in his right mind. "How late you are, Violet," she said, looking up dreamily from her manuscript; " I have been re-writing and polishing portions of my essay on Buddha. The time has flown, and I had no idea of the hour till Doddery came in just now to ask if he could shut up the house. And then I re membered that you had gone out to the gate to watch for Mr. Vawdrey." "I'm afraid you must think our goings on rather eccentric," Rorie began shyly ; " but per haps, Vix Miss Tempest has told you what old friends we are ; that, in fact, I am quite the oldest friend she has. I came to Jersey on purpose to ask her to marry me, and she has been good enough " —smiling blissfully at Vixen, who tried to look daggers at him—" to say Tea." "Dear me !" exclaimed Miss Skipwith, looking much alarmed; "this is very embarrassing. I am so unversed in such matters. My life haa been given up to study, far from the haunta of man. My nephew informed me that there was a kind of—in point of fact—a flirtation between Miss Skipwith and a gentleman in Hampshire, of which he highly disapproved, the gentleman being engaged to marry hia cousin.'' "It was I," cried Rorie, "but there was no flirtation between Miss Tempest and me. Who* ever asserted such a thing was a slanderer, and 1 won't offend you by saying what he waa, Miss Skipwith. There waa no flirtation. I was Miss Tempest's oldest friend—her old playfellow, and we liked to see each other, and were always friendly together. But it was an understood thing that I was to marry my cousin. It was Miss Tempest's particular desire that I should keep an engagement made beside my mother's death-bed. If Miss Tempest had thought other wise, I should have been at her feet I would have flung that engagement to the winds; for Violet Tempest is tne only woman I ever loved. And now all the world may know it, for my cousin has jilted me, and I am a free man." "Good gracious I Can I really believe this f asked Miss Skipwith, appealing to Violet "Rorie never told a falsehood In his life," Vixen answered proudly. " I feel myself in a most critical position, my dear child," said Miss Skipwith, looking from Roderick's frank eager face to Vixen's downcast eyelids and mantling blushes. "I had hoped such a different fate for you. I thought the thirst for knowledge had arisen within you, that the aspiratioa to distinguish yourself from the ruck of ignorant women would follow the arising of that thirst, in natural sequence. And here I find you willing to marry a gentleman who happens to have been the companion of your childhood, and to resign—for his sake—all hope of distinction." " My chances of distinction were so small dear Miss Skipwith-" faltered Vixen. "If I had pos sessed your talents!" "True," sighed the reformer of all the theolo* gies. "We have not all the same gifts. There wss a day when I thought it would De my lot to marry and subside into the dead level of domesti city ; but I am thankful to think I escaped the snare." "And the gentleman who wanted to marry you, how thankful must he be 1" thought Rorie dumbly. "Tet there have been momenta of depression when I have been weak enough to regret those early days," sighed Miss Skipwith. "At best our strength is tempered with weakness. It is the fate of genius to be lonely. And now I suppose I am to lose you, Violet!" " I am summoned home to poor mamma," said Vixen. " And after poor mamma has recovered, as I hope she speedily may, Violet will be wanted by her poor nusband," said Rorie. "Tou must come across the sea and dance at our wedding, Miss Skipwith." "Ah," sighed Miss Skipwith, "if you could but have waited for the establishment of my universal church, what a grand ceremonial your marriage might have been 1" Miss Skipwith, though regretful, and inclined to take a dismal view of the marriage state and its responsibilities under the existing dispensa tion, waa altogether friendly. She had a frugal supper of cold meat and salad, bread and cheese and cider, served in honor of Mr. Vawdrey, and they three sat till midnight talking happily—Miss Skipwith of theology, the other two of themselves and the smiling future, and such an innocent forest life as Rosalind or Orlando may have pro mised themselves, when they were deep in love, and the banished Duke's daughter m'ghed for no wider kingdom than a shepherd's hut in the wood land with the lover of her choice. There were plenty of spare bedrooms at tbe manor house ; but so bare and empty, bo lo_i{ abandoned of human occupants, as to be fit only for the habitation of mice and spiders, a stray but or wondering owl. So Roderick had to walk down the hill again to St Heller's, where he found

hospitality at an hotel. He]was up betimes, to happy to need much sleep, and at 7 o'oloek he and Vixen were walking in the dewy garden, planning the wonderful life they were to lead at Briarwood, and all the good they were to do. Happiness was to radiate from their home, as heat from the sun. The sick, and the halt, and the lame were to come to Briarwood ; as they had come to the Abbey House before Captain Winstanley's barren rule of economy. "God haa been so good to us, Rorie," said Vixen, nestling at her lover's side. "Can we ever be good enough to others ?" " We'll do our best, anyhow, little one," he answered gently. " I am not like Mallow ; I've no grand ideas about setting my native oountry in order and doing away with the poor laws; but I've always tried to make the people round me happy, and to keep them out of the workhouse and the county gaoL" _ They went to the courtyard where poor Argus lived his life of isolation, and they told him they were going to be married, and that his pathway henceforward would be strewn with roses, or at all events Spratt's biscuits. He was particularly noisy and demonstrative, and appeared to receive this news with a wild rapture that was eminently encouraging, doing his best to knock Roderick down in the tumult of his delight The lovers and the dog were alike childish in their infinite happiness, unthinking beings of the present hour, too happy to look backward or forward, this little space of time called " now" holding all things needful for delight. These are the rare moments of life to which the heart of man cries, "Oh stay, thou art so beautiful 1" and could the death-bell toll then, and doom come then, life would end in a glorious euthanasia. Violet's portmanteaux were packed. All was ready. There would be just time for a hurried breakfast with Miss Skipwith, and then the fly from Bt Helier's would be at the gate to carry the exile on the first stage of the journey home. " Poor mamma 1" sighed Vixen. " How wicked of me to feel so happy when she Is I1L" And then Rorie oomforted her with kindly* meant sophistries. Mrs. Winstanley's indisposi tion was doubtless -more an affair of the nerves than a real illness. She would be cheered and revived immediately by her daughter's return. "How oould she suppose she would be able to live without you !" cried Rorie. " I know I found life hard to bear." "Tet you bore it for more than a year with admirable patienoe," retorted Vixen, laughing at him ; " and I do not find you particularly altered or emaciated." "Oh, I used to eat aad drink," said Rorie, with a look of self-contempt M I'm afraid I'm a horribly low-minded brute. I used even to enjoy my dinner, sometimes, after a long oountry ride; but I could never make yon understand what a bore life was to me all last year, how the glory and enjoyment seen_ed to hate gone out of exis tence. The dismal monotony of my days weighed upon me like a nightmare. Life had become a formula. I felt like a sick man who had to take ao many doses of medicine, so many pills, so many basins of broth, in the twenty-four hours. There was no possible resistance. The siok-nurse was there, in the shape of Fate, ready to use brute fores if I rebelled. I never did rebel. I assure you, Vixen, I was a model lover. Mabel and I had not a single quarrel I think that is a proof that we did not care a straw for each other/ "Ton aad I will hate plenty of quarrels." said Vixen. "It will be so nice to make Mends again." Now came the hurried breakfast—a cup of tea drunk standing, not a crumb eaten; agitated adienx to Miss Skipwith, who wept very womanly tears over her departing* charge, and uttered good wishes in a choking voles. Even the Dodderys seemed to Vixen more human than usual, now that sho waa going to leave them, in all likelihood for ever. Miss Skipwith came to the gats to see the travellers ott, and ascended the pilgrim's bench in order to have the latest view of the iy. From this eminence she waved her handkerchief as a farewell salutation. " Poor soul I" sighed Vixen ;" she has never been unkind to me ; but oh i what a dreary life I have led in that dismal old house P They had Argus In the fly with them, sitting up, with his month open, and his tail flapping against the bottom of the vehicle in perpetual motion. He kept giving his paw first to Vixen and then to Rorie, and exacted a great deal of attention, insomuch that Mr. Vawdrey ex* claimed:— "Vixen, if you don't keep that dog within bounds I shall think him as great a nnisauoe as a stepson. I offered to marry you, you know, not you and your dog." " Tou are very rude 1" cried Vixen. " Tou don't expect me to be polite, I hope. What ia the use of marrying one's old playfellow if one cannot be uncivil to her now and then f To me you will always be the tawny-haired little girl I used to tease." " Who used to tease you, you mean. Tou were very meek in those days." Oh, what a happy voyage that was over the summer sea I They sat side by side upon the bridge, sheltered from wind and sun, and talked the happy nonsense lovers talk ; but which can hardly be so sweet between lovers whose youth and childhood have been spent far apart as be tween these two who had been reared amidst the same sylvan world, and had every desire and every thought in unison. How brief the voyage seemed ! It waa but an hour or so since Roderick had been buying peaches and grapes, as they lay at the end of the pier at Guernsey, and here were the Needles and the chalky cliffs and undulating downs of the Wight, The Wight! That meant Hampshire and home ! "How often those downs have been our weather-glass, Rorie, when we have been riding across the hills between Lyndhurst and Beau lieu," said Vixen. She had a world of questions to ask him about all that had happened during her exile. She almost expected to hear that Lyndhurst steeple had fallen ; that the hound* had died of old age ; that tbe Knightwood Oak had been struck by lightning ;or that some among th.H'.> cal -:., '•* <- which time uaturo'ly brings had b^failto thy "r roundings of her home. !* was the nr.iuK'-* thing in the world to hear that nutting had happened, that everything was exactly the same as it had been when -he went away. That

dreary year of exile had seemed long enough for earthquakes and destruction, or even for slow decay. " Do you know what became of Arion ?" aaked Vixen, almost afraid to shape the question. " Oh, I believe he was sold soon after you left home," Rorie answered carelessly, "Sold," echoed Vixen drearily. "Poor dear thing! Tea, I felt sure Captain Winatanley would sell him. But I hoped " * What ?" " That Borne one I knew might buy him. Lord Mallow perhaps." " Lord Mallow ! Ah, you thought he would buy your horse for love of the rider. But you see constancy isn't one of that noble Irishman's virtues. He loves and he rides away —when the lady won't have him, own cntendu. No, Arion was Bent up to Tatter-all's, and disposed of in the usual way. Some fellow bought him for a covert hack." " I hope the man wasn't a heavy weight," ex claimed Vixen, almost in tears. She thought Rorie was horribly unfeeling. " What does it matter ? A horse must earn his salt" " I had rather my poor pet had been shot, and buried in one of the meadows at home," said Vixen plaintively. "Captain Winatanley was too wise to allow that Your poor pet fetched a hundred and forty* five guineas under the hammer." " I don't think it is very kind of you to talk of him so lightly," said Vixen. This was the only little cloud that came between them in all the voyage. Long before sunset they were steaming into Southampton Water, and the yellow light was still shining on the furxy levels when the brougham that contained Vixen and her fortunes drove along the road to Lyndhurst. She had aaked the coachman for news of his mistress, and had been told that Mrs. Winßtanley wss pretty muoh the same. The answer was in some measure reassuring ; yet Violet's spirits began to sink as she drew nearer home, and must so soon find herself face to face with the truth. There was a sadness too in that quiet evening hour ; and the shadowy distances seemed full of gloom, after the dancing waves, and tbe gay morning light The dusk was creeping slowly on as the carriage passed the lodge, and drove between green walls of rhododendron to the house. Cap* tain Winatanley waa smoking his cigar in the porch, leaning against the Gothic masonry, in tha attitude Vixen knew so well of old. " If my mother war* lying in her coffin, I dare* say he would be just the same," she thought bitterly. The captain cams down to open the carriage door. Vixen's first glance at his face ahowed her that he looked worn and anxious. Mls mamma very HI T she asked tremulously. "Very ill," he answered, in a low voice. M Mind, you are to do or say nothing that can agitate her. Ton must be quiet and cheerful. If you see a change yon must take care and say nothing about it" "Why did you leave ma so long in ignorance of her illness ? Why did you not send for me sooner V " Your mother has only been seriously ill within the Last few days. I sent for you directly I saw any occasion for your presence," the captain answered coldly. He now for the first time became aware of Mr. Vawdrey, who had got out of the brougham on the other side and came round to assist in the unshipment of Violet's belongings. "Good evening, Mr. Vawdrey. Where in Heaven's name did you spring from t" he en quired with a vexed air. w I have had the honor of escorting Miss Tempest from Jersey, where I happened to be when she received your telegram." " Wasn't that rather an odd proceeding, and likely to cause scandal 1" " I think not; for before people can hear that Miss Tempest and I crossed in the same boat I hope they will have heard that Miss Tempest and I are going to be married." " I see, cried the captain, with a short laugh of eroding bitterness ; " being off with the old love you have made haste to boon with the new." " I beg your pardon. It is no new love, but a love as old as my boyhood," answered Rorie. "In one weak moment of my life I was foolish enough to let my mother choose a wife for me, though I had made my own choice, unconsci ously, years before." " May Igo to mamma at once 1" asked Vixen. The captain said Tea, and she went up the staircase and along the corridor to Mrs. Win stanley's room. Oh, how dear and familiar the old house looked, how full of richness and color after the bareness and decay of Lea Tourelles; brocaded curtains hanging in heavy folds against the carved oaken framework of a deep-set window; gleams of evening light stealing through old stained glass ; everywhere a rich variety of form and hue that filled and satisfied the eye ; a house worth living in assuredly, with but a little love to sanctify and hallow all these things. But how worthless these things if discord and hatred found habitation among them I The door of Mrs. Winstanley's room stood half open, and the lamplight shone faintly from within. Violet went softly in. Her mother was lying on a sofa by the hearth, where a wood-fire hid been newly lighted. Pauline was sitting opposite her, reading aloud in a very sleepy voice out of the Court Journal: "The bride was exquisitely attired in ivory satin, with flounces of old Duchesst lace, the skirt covered with tulle, bouil lone", and looped with garlands of orange blossom " " Pauline," murmured the invalid feebly," will you never learn to read with expression ? Tou are giving me the vaguest idea of Lady Evelyn Fit-darner's appearance." Violet went over to the sofa and knelt by her mother's side and embraced her tenderly, looking at her earnestly all the while, in the clear soft lamplight Tea, there was indeed a change. The always delicate face was pinched and shrunken. The ivory of the complexion had altered to a dull gray. Premature age had hollowed the cheeks and lined the forehead. It was a change that meant decline and death. Violet's heart sank as she beheld it: but she re membered the captain's warning, and bravely strove to put on an appearance of cheerfulness. " Dear mother, I am so happy to come home to

you," she said gaily ; " and I am going to nurse and pet you, for the next week or so; till you get tremendously well and strong, and are able to take me to innumerable parties." " My dear Violet, I have q> lite given up parties; and I shall never be strong again." "Dearest, it has always been your habit to fancy yourself an invalid." " Yes, Violet, once I may have been full of fancies : but now I know that lam UL Tou will not be unkind or unjust to Conrad, will you, dear ? He sent for you directly I asked him. He has been all goodness to me. Try and get on with him nicely, dear, for my sake," This was urged with Buch piteous supplication that it would have needed a harder heart than Violet's to deny the prayer. " Dear mother, forget that the captain and I ever quarrelled," said Vixen. " I mean to be excellent friends with him henceforward. And, darling, I have a secret to tell you if you would like to hear it" " What secret, dear ?" "Lady Mabel Ashbourne has jilted Roderick I" "My love, that is no secret I heard all about it the day before yesterday. People have talked of nothing else since it happened. Lady Mabel has behaved shamefully." "Lady Mabel has behaved admirably. If other women were wise enough to draw back at the last moment there would be fewer unhappy marriages. But Lady Mabel's elopement is only the prologue to my story." " What can you mean, child ?" " Roderick came to Jersey to make me an offer." "So soon ! Oh, Violet, what bad taste !" _" Ought he to have gone into morning ? He did not even sing willow, but came straight off to me, and told me he had loved me all his life ; so now you will have my trousseau to think about, dearest, and I shall want all your good taste. You know how little I have of my own." "Ah, Violet, if you had only married Lord Mallow i I could have given my whole mind to your trousseau then : but it is too late now, dear. I have not strength enough to interest myself in anything." The truth of this complaint waa painfully obvious. Pamela'a day waa done. She lay, half effaced among her down pillows, as weak and helpless-looking as a snowdrop whose stem is broken. The life that was left in her was the merest remnant of life. It was as if one could see the last sands running down in the glass of time. Violet sat by her side, and pressed her cold hands in both her own. Mrs. Winatanley waa very cold, although the log had biased up fiercely, and the room seemed stifling to the traveller who had come out of the 000 l night air. - - " Dear mother, there will be no pleasure for me in being married if you do not take any interest in my trousseau," pleaded Vixen, trying to cheer the invalid by dwelling oa the things her soul had most loved in health. " Do not talk about it, my dear," bar mother exclaimed peevishly. " I don't know where the money is to come from. Theodora's bill waa posi tively dreadful Poor Conraid had quite a straggle to pay it You will be rich when j ou are of age, but we are awfully poor. If wa do not save money during the next few years wa shall ha destitute. Conrad says so. Fifteen hundred a year, and a big house like this to maintain. It would be starvation. Conrad has closed Theo dore's account I am sure I don't know where your trousseau is to come from." Here the afflicted Pamela began to sob hysteri cally, and Vixen found it hard work to comfort her. " My dearest mother, how can y.u be poor and I rich!" she said, when the invalid had been tranquilliaed, and was lying helpless and ex* hauated. "Do you suppose I would not share my income with you ? Rorie has plenty of money. He would not want any of mine. Tou can have it all if you like." " Tou talk like a child, Violet You know nothing of the world. Do you think I would take your money, and let people aay I robbed my own daughter ? I have a little too much self respect for that Conrad is doing all he can to make our future comfortable. I have been foolish and extravagant But I shall never be ao any more. I have outlived those follies." " Dear mother, I cannot bear to hear you talk like that," said Vixen, feeling that when her mother left off caring about fine dresses she must be getting ready for that last garment which we must all wear some day, the fashion whereof changes but little. " Why should you relinquish society, or leave off dressing stylishly 1 Tou are in the prime of life." "No, Violet, I am a poor faded creature," whimpered Mrs. Winatanley, "stout women are handsome at forty, or even " —with a shudder— " five-and-forty. The age suits their style. But I was always slim and fragile, and of late I have grown painfully thin. No one but a Parisian dressmaker could make me presentable; and I have done with Paris dresses. The utmost I can hope for is to sit alone by the fireside and work antimacassars in crewels. rt But, dear mother, you did not marry Captain Winatanley in order to lead auch a life as that t Tou might as well be in a biguinage." Vain were Vixen's efforts to console and cheer. A blight bad fallen upon her mother's mind and spirits—a blight that had crept slowly on, un heeded by tbe husband, till one morning the local iirictitioner —a gentleman who had lived all his ife among his patients, and knew them so well externally that he might fairly be supposed to have a minute acquaintance with their internal organism—informed Captain Winstanley that he feared there was something wrong with his wife's heart, and that he thought it would be as well to get the highest opinion. The captain, startled out of his habitual self command, looked up from his desk with an aahy countenance. _" Do you mean that Mrs. Winstanley has heart disease—something organically wrong ?" " Unhappily I fear it is so. I have been for some time aware that she had a weak heart Her cornplexioa, her feeble circulation, several indi cations have pointed to that conclusion. This morning I have made a thorough e__U-unation, and I find mischief, decided mischief." "That means she may die at any moment, suddenly, without an instant's warning." "There would always be that fear. Or aha might sink gradually from want of vital power.

There is a sad deficiency of power. I hardly ever knew anyone remain ao long in so low a state." " You have been attending her, off and on, ever since our marriage. You must have seen her sinking. Why have you not warned me before ?" "It seemed hardly necessary. You must have perceived the change yourself. Tou must have noticed her want of appetite, her distaste for exer tion of any kind, her increasing feebleness." "I am not a doctor." "No ; but these are things that speak plainly to every eye —to the eye of affection most of aIL " We are slow to perceive the alteration in any* one we see daily and hourly. Tou should have drawn my attention to my wife's health. It ia unfair, it is horrible, to let this blow come upon me unawares." If the captain had appeared indifferent hither* to, there waa no doubt of the intensity of bis feeling now. He had started np from his chair, and walked backwards and forwards, strongly agitated. "Shall we have another opinion!" asked Dr. Martin. " Certainly. The highest in the land," "Dr. Lorrimer, of Harley-street, is the most famous man for heart disease." " I'll telegraph to him immediately,'' said the captain. He ordered his horse, rode into Lyndhurst, and despatched his telegram without the loss of a minute. Never had Dr. Martin seen anyone more in earnest, or more deeply stricken by an announcement of evil. "Poor fellow, be must be very fond of her," mused the surgeon, as he rode off to his next call. " And yet I should have thought she must be rather a tiresome kind of woman to live with. Her income dies with her I suppose. That makes a difference." The specialist from Harley.street arrived at the Abbey House on the following afternoon. He nude his examination and gave his opinion, which was very much the same as Dr. Martin's, but clothed in more scientific language. " This poor lady's heart haa been wearing out for the last twenty years," he told the local surgeon ; " but she seems, from your account, to have been using it rather worse for the last year or so. Do you know if she has had any par ticular oooaaion for worry f' " Her only daughter has net got on vary well with the second husband, I believe," said Dr. Martin. " That may have worried her.'* " Naturally. Small domestic anxieties of that kind are among the most potent oauses of heart disease." And then Dr. Lorrimer gave hia in structions about treatment He had not tbe faintest hope of saving the patient, but he gave her the full benefit of his soknoe. A man could soaroely oome so far and do less. When he went out into the hall and met the captain, who was waiting anxiously for his verdict, he began in the usual oracular strain; but Captain Winstanley cut him short without ceremony. "I don't want to hear details," he said. "Martin will do everything you tall him. I want the best or the worst you can tell _a« in straightsst language. Can you save my wife, or am I to lose her T "My dear sir, while there is life there is hop-." answered the physician, with tha eompassionsta air that had grown habitual, like his black frank* coat and reneral sobriety of attire. " I have seen wonderful recoveries or rather a wonderful pro longation of Ufa, for cure is, of coarse, impossible —in oases as bad as thk. But " 44 Ah !" cried tha captain bitterly, "there is a •but'" "In this case there k a sad want of rallying power. Frankly, I have vary little hope. Do nil you can to cheer and comfort your wife's mind, and to make her last days happy. All medicine apart, that k about tha bast advice I can give you." After thk the doctor took hk fas, gave the captain's hand a oordial grip, expressive of sympathy and kindliness, and want hk way, feeling assured that a good deal hung upon that little life whioh he had left slowly ebbing away, like a narrow rivulet dwindling into dryness under a July sun. "What doss the London doctor say of me, Conrad?" asked Mrs. Winstanley, whan her husband went to her presently, with hk counten ance composed and cheerful "He tired me dreadfully with hk stethoscope. Doss be think me very tU f Is there anything wrong with my lungs?' " No, love. It k a case of weakness and lan* gour. Tou must make up your mind to get strong; and you will do more for yourself than all the physicians in London can do." " But what does he say of my heart f How does he explain that dreadful fluttering—the auffocating sensation—the— !" "He explains nothing. It k a nervous affec tion, which you must combat by getting strong. Dear love 1" exclaimed the captain with a very real burst of feeling, "what can I do to make your life happy ; what can I do to assure you of my love ?" "Send for Violet," faltered hk wife, raking herself upon her elbow, and looking at him with timorous eagerness, " I have never been happy since she left us. It seems aa if I had turned her out of doors—out of her own house—my kind husband's only daughter. It has preyed upon my mind continually, that—and other things/ " Dearest, I will telegraph to her in an hour. She shall be with you as soon as the steamer can bring her." " A thousand thanks, Conrad. Tou are always good. I know I have been weak and foolish to think " Here she hesitated, and tears began to roll down her hollow cheeks. "To think what, love f asked her husband, tenderly. If love, if tenderness, if flattery, if all sweetest things that ever man said to woman could lure this feeble spirit back to life, she should be so won, vowed the captain. He had never been unkind to her, or thought unkindly of her. If he had never loved her, he had at least been tolerant But now, clinging to her as the re presentative of fortune, happiness, social status, he felt that she was assuredly hk best and dear* est upon earth. " To think that you never really cared for me," she whimpered; " that you married me for the sake of thk house, and my income I" "Pamela, do yon remember what Tom Jone_

said to hk mistress when she pretended to doubt ! hk love ?" " My dear Conrad, I never read'Tom.Jones.' I have heard dear Edward talk of it as if it was something too dreadful." " Ah, I forgot Of course, it k not a lady's book. Tom told hk Sophia to look in tha glass, if she were inclined to question hia love for her, and one look at her own sweet face would con* vince her of hk truth. - Let it be so with your* self, dear. Ask yourself why I should not love the Bweetest and most lovable of wom«n." If sugarplums of speech, if lovelike attentions, could have cured Pamela Winstanley's mortal sickness, Bhe might have recovered. But the hour had gone by when suoh medicaments might bave prevailed. While the captain had shot, and hunted, and caught mighty salmon, and invested his odd hundreds, and taken his own pleasure in various ways, with almost all the freedom of bachelor life, his wife had, unawares, been slowly dying. The light had burued low in tbe socket: and who shall re-illumine that brief candle when its day is over 1 It needed now but a breath to quench the feeble flame. " Great Heaven I" cried Captain Winstanley, pacing up and down his study, distraught with tbe pangs of wounded self-interest; "I have been taking care of her money, when I ought to have taken care of her. It is her life that all hangs upon : and I have let that slip through my fingers while I have planned and contrived to save a few beggarly hundreds. Short-sighted idiot that I have been t Poor Pamela! And she has been so yielding, so compliant to my every wish 1 A month—a week, perhaps—and she will be gone : and that handsome spitfire will have the right to thrust me from this house. tfp,my lady, I will not afford you that triumph... My wife's coffin and I will go out together." (to ayxMniKuan.}