« AnteriorContinuar »
say, "I don't believe in your humility a-bit, Mr. Warburton; and I know you don't wish I should."
May and Harvey Prescott were in deep conversation, their heads bent close together over the little book they held, though her pretty head hardly reached to his shoulder.
"You mustn't say that bit quite so fast, Mr. Prescott; for I bave to recover from my embarrassment on your unexpected declaration," May was saying; "and you don't give me time Begin again?"
"Since the first moment I saw you, dear Lady Alice," com menced Harvey, "I have known but one hope, one wish, one thought-"
"You make me laugh, Mr. Prescott," she said, taking the book from his hand; "you run the words ali together. You are in too great a hurry. We'll have a quiet little rehearsal to-morrow, that will be best, won't it, Marian?" she added, turning
"How kind you are to put up with me!" Harvey murmured. "What time shall I come?"
"Whenever you like," she answered, good-naturedly; and Uncle James just then making his appearance, with the intimation that the half-hour bell would ring directly, the gentleman took the hint, and after a general and lively discussion as to future rehearsals and invitations to be given and costumes to be worn, they soon took their leave.
The ten days that followed threw us more than ever together; some days we met at Prescott Grange, Harvey's paternal home, where the people made much of us, Harvey, their only child, being more like a grandson than a son to them, they, his parents, having married late in life, as well as others. We all met at Stanton Hall. Nothing especially interesting took place on these occasions, beyond Warren Warburton making himself horribly conspicuous by his devotion to me; while May grew sad and reserved, with a touch of coldness in manner towards me, which was natural under the circumstances; but which grieved me very much. As to Major Gunthorpe, the more we saw of him the more we liked him. Uncle James took an especial fancy to him, asking him to dinner sometimes, and even to stay the night, a great mark of favour on his part when this happened. I sometimes took a stroll with him after breakfast. There wasn't much to see about the quiet old place, but what there was I showed him; the dogs and our horses, and the greenhouse, and even the pigs, for he said he was fond of farming; so of course I took him to the farm-yard, and made him admire the turkies, and the geese, and the pigeons. I was quite surprised at a soldier being so domestic and so easily pleased. And
with my short gown, and my stout boots, and my warm grey jacket trimmed with beaver, I braved all weathers, taking long walks with him and Uncle James, May being too delicate to face the cold winds and the frost, and sometimes the snow. I did not know how thoroughly happy I was at this time till afterwards. Uncle James made me blush one day by telling me, before Major Gunthorpe, that I was looking radiant, and even asked him, with charming simplicity, if it were not so.
"Nothing like exercise for young ladies, is there, Gunthorpe ?" he said, tapping my cheek, for he was in a particularly good humour this morning. "Youv'e got your mother's grey eyes, Marian, if you have nothing else, and you remind me of her very much at times, poor thing!"
Major Gunthorpe's answer to this was a pleasant protecting smile, offering me, at the same time, his hand, in his gallant, semipaternal, wholly tender manner, to assist me in crossing an unevenly muddy stretch of ground, while perpetrating a little joke as to his making the best use he could of the only hand he had.
I thought him the most delightful of companions, he had seen and done so much, he knew so many people worth knowing, he had such a happy knack of conversing without seeming to converse. It was no wonder Uncle James monopolised him in the way he did, and no wonder every one liked him and I more than all.
The evening of our theatricals found us with a very sympathetic and good-natured audience. The temporary theatre in other words, the long dining-room-was delightfully crowded; it made my heart beat on first seeing such an array of faces. I was sure half the country was there, with half the country's friends; and in an imposing background of domestics, coachmen and footmen, stableboys, gardeners, ladies'-maids, house-maids, and kitchen-maids, all were there to admire and to applaud.
We all knew our parts, and all acted our best, and the gentle Lady Alice looked very lovely in her rich dresses, in her robe of black velvet and old lace, and diamond stars, and again in the robe of pale pink silk and pearls, and lastly, in her sea-green shimmering valise; for Lady Alice was the wealthy daughter of a noble Cavalier, while I, as a Puritan maiden, the daughter of a stern puritan parent was attired with puritan simplicity, the only relief to my soft grey dress being my cuffs and collar of white linen, and my red-brown hair loosely tied with a blue ribbon, so loosely tied that when I was finally folded in my father's arm, a stray tress caught in a button of his coat, and my efforts to disentangle it only brought down my wealth of hair over my shoulders in graceful confusion, adding to the abandonment of my attitude; the audience considering the tender manner in which Le smoothed it back from
my face as a part of the tableau, pronounced the scene an excellently arranged one and true to nature, while I foolishly thought that the touch was a loving one, as I looked up into his face for one moment. After the play, when we had all resumed our ordinary attire, there was a little dancing and a great supper, in the interval of which Warren Warburton contrived to isolate me from the others, much against my will. "Your uncle is looking for you, Miss Neville, I think," he said; "I saw him in the billiard-room last."
"Thanks!" I answered; "I will go to him," and I ran quickly down the old corridor to the dimly-lighted billiard-room. One glance showed me it was empty, and I was about to return to the drawingroom, when I turned and beheld Mr. Warburton on the threshhold. He had followed me there, and caught my hand as I was about to pass him.
Stay one moment, Miss Neville," he said; "I never get a chance of speaking to you alone. Sit down here, won't you? and let me talk to you."
No, indeed," I replied; "we can talk here-can't we? then I can see what every one is doing." The hall at the end of the corridor was lined with couches and settees, and everyone was talking and laughing in little groups.
"As you like," he answered, leaning his back against the wall; as long as I am with you I don't much care where we are, providing you will smile on me ever so little."
"That's one of
"Ah! Mr. Warburton," I said, impulsively. your gallant speeches, that you have ready for all occasions. I daresay you have said the same to many others, my cousin May, perhaps?" and I looked at him keenly to see how he took my thrust.
A half contemptuous smile flickered for a moment over his cold good-looking face, and then he said earnestly—
"Is it possible, Marian, you can do yourself the injustice of being jealous of your little insipid cousin, May?" and he shrugged his shoulders. "Make your mind quite easy, my dear girl-I have never thought seriously of her for one moment; she is as tame and childish as you are piquant and tantalising, my bewitching Marian."
"You think so," I said dryly, controlling with difficulty the indignation I felt that he could so speak of my beautiful little May. "How lucky it is she doesn't hear you !-she wouldn't feel flattered. Who knows?" I added carelessly, "perhaps you will say something equally disagreeable of me to-morrow."
"Do you think I should?" he cried bending his eyes down to mine with an impassioned glance. "Can you not read my heart better than this-my beautiful Marian?"
"I won't let you talk to me like this," I said with affected playfulness; "it's chilly here and they are all moving into the supper. room; give me something to eat." And I placed my hand on his arm, and followed to the supper-room in the wake of the others, hating my self-imposed task, and yet glad that my opinion of this man was a correct one, and thankful that my darling would escape his clutches by my means.
PALE, tremulous orb, most like the love
The garish joys of day were fled,
When in the purple-shadowed sky
Yet even when they thickly stole,
Thine influence still, more full and bright,
And still will shine, when night is deep,
And, gathered to our solemn rest,
Yet ere descends that certain night,
A TALE OF THE LAST CENTURY.
AFTER THE FUNERAL,
NEAR to the City of Winchester lies the small village of Little Worthy, a quaint-looking place full of associations with the past. Here is the old church dedicated to St. Martin, dating centuries back, with the three large stone figures in front of the door, supposed to represent Christ and the two Marys. The broad meadows, and fields, and green woodlands that lie all around the little village, were given by the third son of the Conqueror to the monks of Hyde Abbey eight hundred years ago. How things have changed since then! How many have come and gone, and played out the dream of life in that little village, and in the old cathedral city-churchmen and people, knights and burghers, young and old!
Perhaps thoughts similar to these were passing through the mind of a sorrowing widow, who, with her two orphan children, sat weeping on a stile, midway between Winchester and Little Worthy.
It was a bright July afternoon, and the sun poured down, hot and glaring, on the sad group; but the weary, heart-broken woman little heeded it; she had seemed as one moving in a dream, and had scarce yet passed from her trance of grief. All nature, however was bright and joyous, in sad contrast with her sorrow-stricken face. The birds were twittering in a clump of fine old oaks hard by, mowers were singing in a neighbouring hay-field, the blue waters of the Itchen wound like a band of silver through the green landscape; and in the distance, melting away into the golden clouds of the west, lay the North Downs, a long range of greyish-white hills, with a stretch of heath, forming a dark purple patch amidst the lighter tints of the uplands.
Mrs. Berrington was young in years and old in sorrow. On that
! The catastrophe of this story is founded upon fact. It is scarcely necessary that the writer should say, that for the allusions to mamers, customs, costumes, and so forth, she is indebted to old pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, &c., of the last century.