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draperies floated by, and Uncle Oliver came elbowing his way through the whirlers.
"Half-past one Cecy. Won't wait another minute."
"Half-past one! Why, the evening is only just beginning, and she has had no supper yet. Whoever heard of leaving a ball without feeding?" objected Fred.
"Don't care. Plenty of refreshment going all night, and I have had supper. Three hours pirouetting ought to suffice, even a modern grandniece of the period."
There was no help for it, despite Fred's accusation of a breach of promise, regarding the far-down mazurka-despite even Fan's entreaties,-Cecy had to obey. Fred escorted her faithfully downstairs, whispering vows of deadly vengeance should Mr. Lindores or his carriage be in presumptuous waiting to convey her home. neither was visible this time; so, in happy exchange, Cecy-pretty dress and all-was huddled into the first dirty cab Uncle Oliver could hail: sic transit gloria mundi.
COME, LET US BE MERRY TO-NIGHT."
"I DON'T know how it is, Cecy, but the saying Good-bye to you feels twice as bad as parting from all the rest. I wish I hadn't to go to-morrow-I hate the idea of Russia-I am sure the climate will kill me. However, that matters little-nobody cares for younger brothers; they must accept and be thankful for the crumbs, the dregs of independence, whilst the eldest born is lapped in luxury. Primogeniture is a horrible law. Now, if I were a Frenchman I should be entitled to a good slice off Derry carne-four or five hundred a year, at any rate, and poor Percy who has grown tired of the navy and is always threatening to leave it, would be able to do what he liked also."
"But if that were law, wouldn't Derrycarne be very small?" ventured Cecy. There would have been your uncles?"
Hang my uncles! you are growing as cold and calculating as Fan, who told me last night I ought to be thankful for the chance of being frozen to death, or having my hair ruined by the plica polonica.'
"I don't know what that is."
"It is a horrid disease, very painful and unbecoming, every separate hair swells and expands to the thickness of your finger. Fancy me returning some years hence, my head apparently crowned with tubers in a high state of vegetation!"
"Oh," and Cecy absolutely shuddered at the hideous possibility
of Fred's waving chevalure being transformed into a garden of
"And there's the Patrick's ball," went on Mr. Macnamara, piteously. "I'm losing it, too, and yet you'll go and forget me. thought you had a softer nature, Cecy."
Poor Cecy Was she likely to forget him whose society had formed the very sunshine of her life lately, whose every word, every look lay treasured within her very heart? She was silent through
fear of saying too much.
"You seem quite indifferent, Cecy; and I care so much for you."
"Oh, Fred, I care-you know I do." She fairly broke down. Mr. Macnamara was mollified.
There, don't cry, child! I believe you, and it will be a comfort to me, when far away, to feel there is one who will sometimes cast a thought to the poor exile. But, Cecy, I want something more. Could you promise to care for me-to be constant to me through possible years of separation ?"
Fred's voice sounded awfully tender, and he genuinely felt so at the moment. He became impatient at Cecy's start, hesitation, and dead silence. Poor child; her heart was suddenly conscious of reciprocating Fred's avowed sentiments, and with this consciousness rose another, the consequent disapproval and anger of her grandmother and Uncle Oliver--especially Uncle Oliver. She remembered his look of pleasure at the ball when, en passant, some words of Fred's bad news must have reached his ears.
Cecy, I know what keeps you silent," urged Fred, mournfully. "Fear of that bothering old pair, grandmamma and granduncle; I am quite aware they dislike me. They have only just one little crime to lay to my charge, and that is that I am a younger brother. Now, if Crofton, who is a chronic invalid, were to propose to you, they would be perfectly enchanted!"'
"Oh, no," interrupted Cecy, with a dread recollection of the one half-hour she had spent in Crofton's society.
"I tell you they would," persisted Fred; "and that is why, if you care for me at all (which I almost doubt), our engagement I'm heir presumptive, at any rate; must be a private, secret one. and perhaps some day, in the dim future, your amiable guardians will be glad to acknowledge me. Cecy, will you give me the promise I ask? I shall go away miserable if you refuse."
"What am I to promise ?" she faltered.
"That you will be true to me till I come home again. There, you are my good little Cecy; how happy I will be, knowing you care even a wee, wee bit for me! Heigho! here comes Lily. Wait till you hear the insufferable amount of nonsense the small
doll will enunciate, the platitudes she will rehearse for my benefit. -Hullo, Lily, are not you sorry to lose your only available brother, for going out?"
"Of course, very," responded Lily, absently, her mind being at the moment distracted, evolving the trying question whether she could conscientiously give young Dacre of the Greys, four dances at the next ball. "But then, Fred, one should do one's duty and keep up."
'Delightful sentiment and logic! It is pleasant to belong to a really affectionate family," sneered Fred. "I shall depart perfectly steeped in essence of regret. Fan, too, is I believe composing a farewell ode in my honour."
"Oh, that is to me a surprise! She will be quite disappointed that you know it."
"Confound her surprise and disappointment! what good will accrue to me from a maudlin set of verses, whose rhyming cost more thought than their subject?" retorted Fred, as Frances entered and had the gas lit.
"Fred, dear," she began, in the pompous, superior tone Fred hated. "Don't look so depressed; it is not right, and makes mamma really unhappy. This is our last evening, and--"
"You need not remind me of that. Are not all my cousins, to the remotest degree, invited to celebrate the auspicious event?" No; only your two favourites-Cecy and Mab."
"Pray, don't class them together," cried Fred hastily. "They are opposite poles-queen Mab is
"What!" demanded her majesty's self, sailing in all her evening glory into the room and glancing suspiciously round the group. "Pray finish you sentence, Master Fred; what is queen Mab made of-made of?" She affected a playful accent, but her eyes gleamed angrily.
'Well, if not of every creature's best, at least of Rimmel and Rachel's best," answered Fred, tormentingly. "I am in a morose mood to-night, Mab; so beware."
"A perfect brute, indeed!" said Mab. "I'm sorry I came." "There, don't pout; a good woman you are, and there's plenty of you."
Mab relented, and sat beside Fred, smiling and talking till tea, after which Frances solemnly produced the song she had specially written for the occasion.
"I have set it to an easy air," she announced, placing herself at the piano; so that all can join. I shall read it over first," and she unfolded her paper.
The very beginning line woke Fred's indignation. "Come, let us be merry to-night." He had expected a small epic immortalis.
ing his worth, bewailing his approaching absence, and lo! instead, came an appeal to the company to rejoice.
"I think that it is exquisitely bad taste," he cried, angrily; "though I have no doubt it expresses precisely the author's sentiments."
Frances waited calmly till he had finished his remonstrance, then she said with becoming dignity
"You misjudge me; it you would only listen to the whole piece you would find it but endeavours to carry out your own idea, expressed yesterday, that people should be happy together while they could."
"Well, carry out the idea, and finish the precious morceau."
Unruffled, Frances recommenced, and after reading it through, supplied copies to the group round the piano, and they sang together
"Come let us be merry to-night,
And forgetting how soon we must part,
With no thoughts of to-morrow's adieu
Dim the eyes that are beaming so bright;
So let us be merry to-night.
In singing our favourite song
Once more let our voices unite,
And, while the gay measure flows on,
O let us be merry to-night!
For the last time; yet through the long years
We are lost to each other's fond sight,
Recollection will smile through her tears
To think how we were merry to-night."
The long years. With what a painful thrill the words sank into Cecile's breast! How was it that everything, everybody she loved, or that seemed to love her, was taken away by some unaccountable fate! Frank-Fred-that dangerous, evanescent cousinFred, who had throned himself (despite her silence), an idol, an oracle in her foolish heart, or fancy (which is it predominates at nineteen?) Dreamily she sat apart after the song ended, and Fred, condemning the ode (not altogether groundlessly) as pitiful doggrel, criticised remorselessly its every rhythm and cadence.
Presently Mab, who found the entertainment not apres son gout, took her departure.
"I shall see you home, Cecy," whispers Fred. "Our last
Blasé, Fred Macnamara had, from the pure force of opposition it seemed, fallen in love with his shy, unsophisticated pretty cousin. The impending separation only intensified the tender sentiment.
"Nobody cares for you as I do. Won't you, then, promise to care for me till I return-won't you, Cecy?" he murmured beseechingly, as they stood in grandmamma's hall. Her heart gave certainly a more willing and ready assent than her lips; but that last was not very reluctant either. She promised.
"And mind you keep it a dead secret from the powers that be," he added, glancing up stairs.
"Yes," she repeated, rather more falteringly, but the exigeant Fred was satisfied, and with a hurried farewell the cousins parted. Would the little mile of romance they had traversed in life's journey, be marked in the future by a "white" or a "black" stone?