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Sir Tom
by Mrs. Oliphant
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Upon which Fletcher, somewhat mollified and murmuring that Sir Thomas was a gentleman that would always have his joke, answered boldly that that was not how she would have dressed her lady had she had the doing of it. "But I know my place," Fletcher said, "though to see my lady like this always goes against me, Sir Thomas, and especially with foreigners in the house that are always dressed up to the nines and don't think of nothing else. But if Lady Randolph would wear her blue it could all be done in five minutes, and look far nicer and more like the lady of the house."

This transfer was finally made, for Lucy had no small obstinacies and was glad to please her husband. The "blue" was of the lightest tint of shimmering silk, and gave a little background of colour, upon which Lucy's fairness and whiteness stood out. Sir Thomas always took an interest in his wife's dress; but it was seldom he occupied himself so much about it. It was he who went to the conservatory to get a flower for her hair. He took her downstairs upon his arm "as if they were out visiting," Lucy said, instead of at home in their own house. She was amused at all this form and ceremony, and came down to the drawing-room with a little flush of pleasure and merriment about her, quite different from the demure little Lady Randolph, half frightened and very serious, with the weight on her mind of a strange language to be spoken, who but for Sir Tom's intervention would have been standing by the fire awaiting her visitor. The Dowager was downstairs before her, looking grave enough, and Jock, slim and dark, supporting a corner of the mantelpiece, like a young Caryatides in black. Lucy's brightness, her pretty shimmer of blue, the flower in her hair, relieved these depressing influences. She stood in the firelight with the ruddy irregular glare playing on her, a pretty youthful figure; and her husband's assiduities, and the entire cessation of any apparent consciousness on his part that any question had ever arisen between them, made Lucy's heart light in her breast. She forgot even the possibility of having to talk French in the ease of her mind; and before she had time to remember her former alarm there came gliding through the subdued light of the greater drawing-room two figures. Sir Tom stepped forward to meet the stranger, who gave him her hand as if she saw him for the first time, and Lucy advanced with a little tremor. Here was the Contessa—the Forno-Populo—the foreign great lady and great beauty at last.

She was tall—almost as tall as Sir Tom—and had the majestic grace which only height can give. She was clothed in dark velvet, which fell in long folds to her feet, and her hair, which seemed very abundant, was much dressed with puffs and curlings and frizzings, which filled Lucy with wonder, but furnished a delicate frame-work for her beautiful, clear, high features, and the wonderful tint of her complexion—a sort of warm ivory, which made all brighter colours look excessive. Her eyes were large and blue, with long but not very dark eyelashes; her throat was like a slender column out of a close circle of feathery lace. Lucy, who had a great deal of natural taste, felt on the moment a thrill of shame on account of her blue gown, and an almost disgust of Lady Randolph's old-fashioned openness about the shoulders. The stranger was one of those women whose dress always impresses other women with such a sense of fitness that fashion itself looks vulgar or insipid beside her. She gave Sir Tom her left hand in passing, and then she turned with both extended to Lucy. "So this is the little wife," she said. She did not pause for the modest little word of welcome which Lucy had prepared. She drew her into the light, and gazed at her with benignant but dauntless inspection, taking in, Lucy felt sure, every particular of her appearance—the something too much of the blue gown, the deficiency of dignity, the insignificance of the smooth fair locks, and open if somewhat anxious countenance. "Bel enfant," said the Contessa, "your husband and I are such old friends that I cannot meet you as a stranger. You must let me kiss you, and accept me as one of yours too." The salutation that followed made Lucy's heart jump with mingled pleasure and distaste. She was swallowed up altogether in that embrace. When it was over, the lady turned from her to Sir Tom without another word. "I congratulate you, mon ami. Candour itself, and sweetness, and every English quality"—upon which she proceeded to seat herself in the chair which Lucy had set for her in the afternoon with the screen and the footstool. "How thoughtful some one has been for my comfort," she said, sinking into it, and distributing a gracious smile all round. There was something in the way in which she seized the central place in the scene, and made all the others look like surroundings which bewildered Lucy, who did nothing but gaze, forgetting everything she meant to say, and even that it was she who was the mistress of the house.

"You do not see my aunt, Contessa," said Sir Tom, "and yet I think you ought to know each other."

"Your aunt," said the Contessa, looking round, "that dear Lady Randolph—who is now Dowager. Chere dame!" she added, half rising, holding out again both hands.

Lady Randolph the elder knew the world better than Lucy. She remained in the background into which the Contessa was looking with eyes which she called shortsighted. "How do you do, Madame di Forno-Populo!" she said. "It is a long time since we met. We have both grown older since that period. I hope you have recovered from your fatigue."

The Contessa sank back again into her chair. "Ah, both, yes!" she said, with an eloquent movement of her hands. At this Sir Tom gave vent to a faint chuckle, as if he could not contain himself any longer.

"The passage of time is a myth," he said; "it is a fable; it goes the other way. To look at you——"

"Both!" said the Contessa, with a soft, little laugh, spreading out her beautiful hands.

Lucy hoped that Lady Randolph, who had kept behind, did not hear this last monosyllable, but she was angry with her husband for laughing, for abandoning his aunt's side, upon which she herself, astonished, ranged herself without delay. But what was still more surprising to Lucy, with her old-fashioned politeness, was to see the second stranger who had followed the Contessa into the room, but who had not been introduced or noticed. She had the air of being very young—a dependent probably, and looking for no attention—and with a little curtsey to the company, withdrew to the other side of the table on which the lamp was standing. Lucy had only time to see that there was a second figure, very slim and slight, and that the light of the lamp seemed to reflect itself in the soft oval of a youthful face as she passed behind it; but save for this noiseless movement the young lady gave not the smallest sign of existence, nor did any one notice her. And it was only when the summons came to dinner, and when Lucy called forth the bashful Jock to offer his awkward arm to Lady Randolph, that the unannounced and unconsidered guest came fully into sight.

"There are no more gentlemen, and I think we must go in together," Lucy said.

"It is a great honour for me," said the girl. She had a very slight foreign accent, but she was not in the least shy. She came forward at once with the utmost composure. Though she was a stranger and a dependent without a name, she was a great deal more at her ease than Lucy was, who was the mistress of everything. Lucy for her part was considerably embarrassed. She looked at the girl, who smiled at her, not without a little air of encouragement and almost patronage in return.

"I have not heard your name," Lucy at last prevailed upon herself to say, as they went through the long drawing-room together. "It is very stupid of me; but I was occupied with Madame di Forno-Populo——"

"You could not hear it, for it was never mentioned," said the girl. "The Contessa does not think it worth while. I am at present in the cocoon. If I am pretty enough when I am quite grown up, then she will tell my name——"

"Pretty enough? But what does that matter? one does not talk of such things," said the decorous little matron, startled and alarmed.

"Oh, it means everything to me," said the anonymous. "It is doubtful what I shall be. If I am only a little pretty I shall be sent home; but if it should happen to me—ah! no such luck!—to be beautiful, then the Contessa will introduce me, and everybody says I may go far—farther, indeed, than even she has ever done. Where am I to sit? Beside you?"

"Here, please," said Lucy, trembling a little, and confounded by the ease of this new actor on the scene, who spoke so frankly. She was dressed in a little black frock up to her throat; her hair in great shining bands coiled about her head, but not an ornament of any kind about her. A little charity girl could not have been dressed more plainly. But she showed no consciousness of this, nor, indeed, of anything that was embarrassing. She looked round the table with a free and fearless look. There was not about her any appearance of timidity, even in respect to the Contessa. She included that lady in her inspection as well as the others, and even made a momentary pause before she sat down, to complete her survey. Lucy, who had on ordinary occasions a great deal of gentle composure, and had sat with a Cabinet Minister by her side without feeling afraid, was more disconcerted than it would be easy to say by this young creature, of whom she did not know the name. It was so small a party that a separate little conversation with her neighbour was scarcely practicable, but the Contessa was talking to Sir Tom with the confidential air of one who has a great deal to say, and Lady Randolph on his other side was keeping a stern silence, so that Lucy was glad to make a little attempt at her end of the table.

"You must have had a very fatiguing journey?" she said. "Travelling by night, when you are not used to it——"

"But we are quite used to it," said the girl. "It is our usual way. By land it is so much easier: and even at sea one goes to bed, and one is at the other side before one knows."

"Then you are a good sailor, I suppose——"

"Pas mal," said the young lady. She began to look at Jock, and to turn round from time to time to the elder Lady Randolph, who sat on the other side of her. "They are not dumb, are they?" she asked. "Not once have I heard them speak. That is very English, so like what one reads in books."

"You speak English very well, Mademoiselle," said the Dowager suddenly.

The girl turned round and examined her with a candid surprise. "I am so glad you do," she said calmly: a little mot which brought the colour to Lady Randolph's cheeks.

"A pupil of the Contessa naturally knows a good many languages," she said, "and would be little at a loss wherever she went. You have come last from Florence, Rome, or perhaps some other capital. The Contessa has friends everywhere—still."

This last little syllable caught the Contessa's fine ear, though it was not directed to her. She gave the Dowager a very gracious smile across the table. "Still," she repeated, "everywhere! People are so kind. My invitations are so many it was with difficulty I managed to accept that of our excellent Tom. But I had made up my mind not to disappoint him nor his dear young wife. I was not prepared for the pleasure of finding your ladyship here."

"How fortunate that you were able to manage it! I have been complimenting Mademoiselle on her English. She does credit to her instructors. Tell me, is this your first visit," Lady Randolph said, turning to the young lady "to England?" Even in this innocent question there was more than met the eye. The girl, however, had begun to make a remark to Lucy, and thus evaded it in the most easy way.

"I saw you come home soon after our arrival," she said. "I was at my window. You came with—Monsieur——" She cast a glance at Jock as she spoke, with a smile in her eyes that was not without its effect. There was a little provocation in it, which an older man would have known how to answer. But Jock, in the awkwardness of his youth, blushed fiery red, and turned away his gaze, which, indeed, had been dwelling upon her with an absorbed but shy attention. The boy had never seen anything at all like her before.

"My brother," said Lucy, and the young lady gave him a beaming smile and bow which made Jock's head turn round. He did not know how to reply to it, whether he ought not to get up to answer her salutation; and being so uncertain and abashed and excited, he did nothing at all, but gazed again with an absorption which was not uncomplimentary. She gave him from time to time a little encouraging glance.

"That was what I thought. You drive out always at that early hour in England, and always with—Monsieur?" The girl laughed now, looking at him, so that Jock longed to say something witty and clever. Oh, why was not MTutor here? He would have known the sort of thing to say.

"Oh not, not always with Jock," Lucy answered, with honest matter-of-fact. "He is still at school, and we have him only for the holidays. Perhaps you don't know what that means?"

"The holidays? yes, I know. Monsieur, no doubt, is at one of the great schools that are nowhere but in England, where they stay till they are men."

"We stay," said Jock, making an almost convulsive effort, "till we are nineteen. We like to stay as long as we can."

"How innocent," said the girl with a pretty elderly look of superiority and patronage; and then she burst into a laugh, which neither Lucy nor Jock knew how to take, and turned back again in the twinkling of an eye to Lady Randolph, who had relapsed into silence. "And you drive in the afternoon," she said. "I have already made my observations. And the baby in the middle, between. And Sir Tom always. He goes out and he goes in, and one sees him continually. I already know all the habits of the house."

"You were not so very tired, then, after all. Why did you not come down stairs and join us in what we were doing?"

The young lady did not make any articulate reply, but her answer was clear enough. She cast a glance across the table to the Contessa, and laid her hand upon her own cheek. Lucy was a little mystified by this pantomime, but to Lady Randolph there was no difficulty about it. "That is easily understood," she said, "when one is sur le retour. But the same precautions are not necessary with all."

A smile came upon the girl's lip. "I am sympathetic," she said. "Oh, troppo! I feel just like those that I am with. It is sometimes a trouble, and sometimes it is an advantage." This was to Lucy like the utterance of an oracle, and she understood it not.

"Another time," she said kindly, "you must not only observe us from the window, but come down and share what we are doing. Jock will show you the park and the grounds, and I will take you to the village. It is quite a pretty village, and the cottages are very nice now."

The young stranger's eyes blazed with intelligence. She seemed to perceive everything at a glance.

"I know the village," she said, "it is at the park gates, and Milady takes a great deal of trouble that all is nice in the cottages. And there is an old woman that knows all about the family, and tells legends of it; and a school and a church, and many other objets-de-piete. I know it like that," she cried, holding out the pretty pink palm of her hand.

"This information is preternatural," said Lady Randolph. "You are astonished, Lucy. Mademoiselle is a sorceress. I am sure that Jock thinks so. Nothing save an alliance with something diabolical could have made her so well instructed, she who has never been in England before."

"Do you ask how I know all that?" the girl said laughing. "Then I answer, novels. It is all Herr Tauchnitz and his pretty books."

"And so you really never were in England before—not even as a baby?" Lady Randolph said.

The girl's gaiety had attracted even the pair at the other end of the table, who had so much to say to each other. The Contessa and Sir Tom exchanged a look, which Lucy remarked with a little surprise, and remarked in spite of herself: and the great lady interfered to help her young dependent out.

"How glad I am to give her that advantage, dear lady! It is the crown of the petite's education. In England she finds the most fine manners, as well as villages full of objets-de-piete. It is what is needful to form her," the Contessa said.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE OPENING OF THE DRAMA.

"Come and sit beside me and tell me everything," said the Contessa. She had appropriated the little sofa next the fire where Lady Randolph generally sat in the evening. She had taken Lucy's arm on the way from the dining-room, and drew her with her to this corner. Nothing could be more caressing or tender than her manner. She seemed to be conferring the most delightful of favours as she drew towards her the mistress of the house. "You have been married—how long? Six years! But it is impossible! And you have all the freshness of a child. And very happy?" she said smiling upon Lucy. She had not a fault in her pronunciation, but when she uttered these two words she gave a little roll of the "r" as if she meant to assume a defect which she had not, and smiled with a tender benevolence in which there was the faintest touch of derision. Lucy did not make out what it was, but she felt that something lay under the dazzling of that smile. She allowed the stranger to draw her to the sofa, and sat down by her.

"Yes, it is six years," she said.

"And ver—r—y happy?" the Contessa repeated. "I am sure that dear Tom is a model husband. I have known him a very long time. Has he told you about me?"

"That you were an old friend," said Lucy, looking at her. "Oh yes! The only thing is, that we are so much afraid you will find the country dull."

The Contessa replied only with an eloquent look and a pressure of the hand. Her eyes were quite capable of expressing their meaning without words; and Lucy felt that she had guessed her rightly.

"We wished to have a party to meet you," Lucy said, "but the baby fell ill—and I thought as you had kindly come so far to see Tom, you would not mind if you found us alone."

The lady still made no direct reply. She said after a little pause,

"The country is very dull——" still smiling upon Lucy, and allowed a full minute to pass without another word. Then she added, "And Milady?—is she always with you?"—with a slight shrug of the shoulders. She did not even lower her voice to prevent Lady Randolph from hearing, but gave Lucy's hand a special pressure, and fixed upon her a significant look.

"Oh! Aunt Randolph?" cried Lucy. "Oh no; she is only paying her usual Christmas visit."

The Contessa drew a sigh of relief, and laid her other delicate hand upon her breast. "You take a load off my heart," she said; then gliding gracefully from the subject, "And that excellent Tom——? you met him—in society?"

Lucy did not quite like the questioning, or those emphatic pressures of her hand. She said quickly, "We met at Lady Randolph's. I was living there."

"Oh—I see," the stranger said, and she gave vent to a little gentle laugh. "I see!" Her meaning was entirely unknown to Lucy; but she felt an indefinable offence. She made a slight effort to withdraw her hand; but this the Contessa would not permit. She pressed the imprisoned fingers more closely in her own. "You do not like this questioning. Pardon! I had forgotten English ways. It is because I hope you will let me be your friend too."

"Oh yes," cried Lucy, ashamed of her own hesitation, yet feeling every moment more reluctant. She subdued her rising distaste with an effort. "I hope," she said, sweetly, "that we shall be able to make you feel at home, Madame di Forno-Populo. If there is anything you do not like, will you tell me? Had I been at home I should have chosen other rooms for you."

"They are so pretty, those words, 'at home!' so English," the Contessa said, with smiles that were more and more sweet. "But it will fatigue you to call me all that long name."

"Oh no!" cried Lucy, with a vivid blush. She did not know what to say, whether this meant a little derision of her careful pronunciation, or what it was. She went on, after a little pause, "But if you are not quite comfortable the other rooms can be got ready directly. It was the housekeeper who thought the rooms you have would be the warmest."

The Contessa gave her another gentle pressure of the hand. "Everything is perfect," she said. "The house and the wife, and all. I may call you Lucy? You are so fresh and young. How do you keep that pretty bloom after six years—did you say six years? Ah! the English are always those that wear best. You are not afraid of a great deal of light—no? but it is trying sometimes. Shades are an advantage. And he has not spoken to you of me, that dear Tom? There was a time when he talked much of me—oh, much—constantly! He was young then—and," she said with a little sigh—"so was I. He was perhaps not handsome, but he was distinguished. Many Englishmen are so who have no beauty, no handsomeness, as you say, and English women also, though that is more rare. And you are ver-r-y happy?" the Contessa asked again. She said it with a smile that was quite dazzling, but yet had just the faintest touch of ridicule in it, and rippled over into a little laugh. "When we know each other better I will betray all his little secrets to you," she said.

This was so very injudicious on the part of an old friend, that a wiser person than Lucy would have divined some malign meaning in it. But Lucy, though suppressing an instinctive distrust, took no notice, not even in her thoughts. It was not necessary for her to divine or try to divine what people meant; she took what they said, simply, without requiring interpretation. "He has told me a great deal," she said. "I think I almost know his journeys by heart." Then Lucy carried the war into the enemy's country without realising what she was doing. "You will think it very stupid of me," she said, "but I did not hear Mademoiselle,—the young lady's name?"

The Contessa's eyes dwelt meditatively upon Lucy: she patted her hand and smiled upon her, as if every other subject was irrelevant. "And he has taken you into society?" she said, continuing her examination. "How delightful is that English domesticity. You go everywhere together?" She had no appearance of having so much as heard Lucy's question. "And you do not fear that he will find it dull in the country? You have the confidence of being enough for him? How sweet for me to find the happiness of my friend so assured. And now I shall share it for a little. You will make us all happy. Dear child!" said the lady with enthusiasm, drawing Lucy to her and kissing her forehead. Then she broke into a pretty laugh. "You will work for your poor, and I, who am good for nothing—I shall take out my tapisserie, and he will read to us while we work. What a tableau!" cried the Contessa. "Domestic happiness, which one only tastes in England. The Eden before the fall!"

It was at this moment that the gentlemen, i.e. Sir Tom and Jock, appeared out of the dining-room. They had not lingered long after the ladies. Sir Tom had been somewhat glum after they left. His look of amusement was not so lively. He said sententiously, not so much to Jock as to himself, "That woman is bent on mischief," and got up and walked about the room instead of taking his wine. Then he laughed and turned to Jock, who was musing over his orange skins. "When you get a fellow into your house that is not much good—I suppose it must happen sometimes—that knows too much and puts the young ones up to tricks, what do you do with him, most noble Captain? Come, you find out a lot of things for yourselves, you boys. Tell me what you do."

Jock was a little startled by this demand, but he rose to the occasion. "It has happened," he said. "You know, unless a fellow's been awfully bad, you can't always keep him out."

"And what then?" said Sir Tom. "MTutor sets his great wits to work?"

"I hope, sir," cried Jock, "that you don't think I would trouble MTutor, who has enough on his hands without that. I made great friends with the fellow myself. You know," said the lad, looking up with splendid confidence, "he couldn't harm me——"

Sir Tom looked at him with a little drawing of his breath, such as the experienced sometimes feel as they look at the daring of the innocent—but with a smile, too.

"When he tried it on with me, I just kicked him," said Jock, calmly; "once was enough; he didn't do it again; for naturally he stood a bit in awe of me. Then I kept him that he hadn't a moment to himself. It was the football half, when you've not got much time to spare all day. And in the evenings he had poenas and things. When he got with two or three of the others, one of us would just be loafing about, and call out 'Hallo, what's up?' He never had any time to go wrong, and then he got to find out it didn't pay."

"Philosopher! sage!" cried Sir Tom. "It is you that should teach us; but, alas, my boy, have you never found out that even that last argument fails to tell—and that they don't mind even if it doesn't pay?"

He sighed as he spoke; then laughed out, and added, "I can at all events try the first part of your programme. Come along and let's cry, Hallo! what's up? It simplifies matters immensely, though," said Sir Tom, with a serious face, "when you can kick the fellow you disapprove of in that charming candid way. Guard the privilege; it is invaluable, Jock."

"Well," said Jock, "some fellows think it's brutal, you know. MTutor he always says try argument first. But I just want to know how are you to do your duty, captain of a big house, unless it's known that you will just kick 'em when they're beastly. When it's known, even that does a deal of good."

"Every thing you say confirms my opinion of your sense," said Sir Tom, taking the boy by the arm, "but also of your advantages, Jock, my boy. We cannot act, you see, in that straightforward manner, more's the pity, in the world; but I shall try the first part of your programme, and act on your advice," he said, as they walked into the room where the ladies were awaiting them. The smaller room looked very warm and bright after the large, dimly-lighted one through which they had passed. The Contessa, in her tender conference with Lucy, formed a charming group in the middle of the picture. Lady Randolph sat by, exiled out of her usual place, with an illustrated magazine in her hand, and an air of quick watchfulness about her, opposite to them. She was looking on like a spectator at a play. In the background behind the table, on which stood a large lamp, was the Contessa's companion, with her back turned to the rest, lightly flitting from picture to picture, examining everything. She had been entirely careless of the action of the piece, but she turned round at the voices of the new-comers, as if her attention was aroused.

"You are going to take somebody's advice?" said the Contessa. "That is something new; come here at once and explain. To do so is due to your—wife; yes, to your wife. An Englishman tells every thought to his wife; is it not so? Oh yes, mon ami, your sweet little wife and I are the best of friends. It is for life," she said, looking with inexpressible sentiment in Lucy's face, and pressing her hands. Then, was it possible? a flash of intelligence flew from her eyes to those of Sir Tom, and she burst into a laugh and clapped her beautiful hands together. "He is so ridiculous, he makes one laugh at everything," she cried.

Lucy remained very serious, with a somewhat forced smile upon her face, between these two, looking from one to another.

"Nay, if you have come the length of swearing eternal friendship——" said Sir Tom.

Jock did not know what to do with himself. He began by stumbling over Lady Randolph's train, which though carefully coiled about her, was so long and so substantial that it got in his way. In getting out of its way he almost stumbled against the slim, straight figure of the girl, who stood behind surveying the company. She met his awkward apology with a smile. "It doesn't matter," she said, "I am so glad you are come. I had nobody to talk to." Then she made a little pause, regarding him with a bright, impartial look, as if weighing all his qualities. "Don't you talk?" she said. "Do you prefer not to say anything? because I know how to behave: I will not trouble you if it is so. In England there are some who do not say anything?" she added with an inquiring look. Jock, who was conscious of blushing all over from top to toe, ventured a glance at her, to which she replied by a peal of laughter, very merry but very subdued, in which, in spite of himself, he was obliged to join.

"So you can laugh!" she said; "oh, that is well; for otherwise I should not know how to live. We must laugh low, not to make any noise and distract the old ones; but still, one must live. Tell me, you are the brother of Madame—Should I say Milady? In my novels they never do, but I do not know if the novels are just or not."

"The servants say my lady, but no one else," said Jock.

"How fine that is," the young lady said admiringly, "in a moment to have it all put right. I am glad we came to England; we say mi-ladi and mi-lord as if that was the name of every one here; but it is not so in the books. You are, perhaps Sir? like Sir Tom—or you are——"

"I am Trevor, that is all," said Jock with a blush; "I am nobody in particular: that is, here"—he added with a momentary gleam of natural importance.

"Ah!" cried the young lady, "I understand—you are a great person at home."

Jock had no wish to deceive, but he could not prevent a smile from creeping about the corners of his mouth. "Not a great person at all," he said, not wishing to boast.

The young stranger, who was so curious about all her new surroundings, formed her own conclusion. She had been brought up in an atmosphere full of much knowledge, but also of theories which were but partially tenable. She interpreted Jock according to her own ideas, which were not at all suited to his case; but it was impossible that she could know that.

"I am finding people out," she said to him. "You are the only one that is young like me. Let us form an alliance—while the old ones are working out all their plans and fighting it out among themselves."

"Fighting it out! I know some that are not likely to fight," cried Jock, bewildered.

"Was not that right?" said the girl, distressed. "I thought it was an idiotisme, as the French say. Ah! they are always fighting. Look at them now! The Contessa, she is on the war-path. That is an American word. I have a little of all languages. Madame, you will see—ah, that is what you meant!—does not understand, she looks from one to another. She is silent, but Sir Tom, he knows everything. And the old lady, she sees it too. I have gone through so many dramas, I am blasee. It wearies at last, but yet it is exciting too. I ask myself what is going to be done here? You have heard perhaps of the Contessa in England, Mr.——"

"Trevor," said Jock.

"And you pronounce it just like this—Mis-ter? I want to know; for perhaps I shall have to stay here. There is not known very much about me. Nor do I know myself. But if the Contessa finds for me—— I am quite mad," said the girl suddenly. "I am telling you—and of course it is a secret. The old lady watches the Contessa to see what it is she intends. But I do not myself know what the Contessa intends—except in respect to me."

Jock was too shy to inquire what that was: and he was confused with this unusual confidence. Young ladies had not been in the habit of opening to him their secrets; indeed he had little experience of these kind of creatures at all. She looked at him as she spoke as if she wished to provoke him to inquiry—with a gaze that was very open and withal bold, yet innocent too. And Jock, on his side, was as entirely innocent as if he had been a Babe in the Wood.

"Don't you want to know what she is going to do with me, and why she has brought me?" the girl said, talking so quickly that he could scarcely follow the stream of words. "I was not invited, and I am not introduced, and no one knows anything of me. Don't you want to know why I am here?"

Jock followed the movements of her lips, the little gestures of her hands, which were almost as eloquent, with eyes that were confused by so great a call upon them. He could not make any reply, but only gazed at her, entranced, as he had never been in his life before, and so anxious not to lose the hurried words, the quick flash of the small white hands against her dark dress, that his mind had not time to make out what she meant.

Lucy on her side sat between her husband and the Contessa for some time, listening to their conversation. That was more rapid, too, than she was used to, and it was full of allusions, understood when they were half-said by the others, which to her were all darkness. She tried to follow them with a wistful sort of smile, a kind of painful homage to the Contessa's soft laugh and the ready response of Sir Tom. She tried too, to follow, and share the brightening interest of his face, the amusement and eagerness of his listening; but by and by she got chilled, she knew not how—the smile grew frozen upon her face, her comprehension seemed to fail altogether. She got up softly after a while from her corner of the sofa, and neither her husband nor her guest took any particular notice. She came across the room to Lady Randolph, and drew a low chair beside her, and asked her about the pictures in the magazine which she was still holding in her hand.



CHAPTER XX.

AN ANXIOUS CRITIC.

In a few days after the arrival of Madame di Forno-Populo, there was almost an entire change of aspect at the Hall. Nobody could tell how this change had come about. It was involuntary, unconscious, yet complete. The Contessa came quietly into the foreground. She made no demonstration of power, and claimed no sort of authority. She never accosted the mistress of the house without tender words and caresses. Her attitude towards Lucy, indeed, was that of an admiring relation to a delightful and promising child. She could not sufficiently praise and applaud her. When she spoke, her visitor turned towards her with the most tender of smiles. In whatsoever way the Contessa was occupied, she never failed when she heard Lucy's voice to turn round upon her, to bestow this smile, to murmur a word of affectionate approval. When they were near enough to each other, she would take her hand and press it with affectionate emotion. The other members of the household, except Sir Tom, she scarcely noticed at all. The Dowager Lady Randolph exchanged with her now and then a few words of polite defiance, but that was all. And she had not been long at the Hall before her position there was more commanding than that of Lady Randolph. Insensibly all the customs of the house changed for her. There was no question as to who was the centre of conversation in the evening. Sir Tom went to the sofa from which she had so cleverly ousted his aunt, as soon as he came in after dinner, and leaning over her with his arm on the mantelpiece, or drawing a chair beside her, would laugh and talk with endless spirit and amusement. When he talked of the people in the neighbourhood who afforded scope for satire, she would tap him with her fan and say, "Why do I not see these originals? bring them to see me," to Lucy's wonder and often dismay. "They would not amuse you at all," Sir Tom would reply, upon which the lady would turn and call Lucy to her. "My little angel! he pretends that it is he that is so clever, that he creates these characters. We do not believe him, my Lucy, do we? Ask them, ask them, cara, then we shall judge."

In this way the house was filled evening after evening. A reign of boundless hospitality seemed to have begun. The other affairs of the house slipped aside, and to provide amusement for the Contessa became the chief object of life. She had everybody brought to see her, from the little magnates of Farafield to the Duchess herself, and the greatest people in the county. The nursery, which had been so much, perhaps too much, in the foreground, regulating the whole great household according as little Tom was better or worse, was thrust altogether into the shadow. If neglect was wholesome, then he had that advantage. Even his mother could do no more than run furtively to him, as she did about a hundred times a day in the intervals of her duties. His little mendings and fallings back ceased to be the chief things in the house. His father, indeed, would play with his child in the mornings when he was brought to Lucy's room; but the burden of his remarks was to point out to her how much better the little beggar got on when there was less fuss made about him. And Lucy's one grievance against her visitor, the only one which she permitted herself to perceive, was that she never took any notice of little Tom. She never asked for him, a thing which was unexampled in Lucy's experience. When he was produced she smiled, indeed, but contemplated him at a distance. The utmost stretch of kindness she had ever shown was to touch his cheek with a finger delicately when he was carried past her. Lucy made theories in her mind about this, feeling it necessary to account in some elaborate way for what was so entirely out of nature. "I know what it must be—she must have lost her own," she said to her husband. Sir Tom's countenance was almost convulsed by one of those laughs, which he now found it expedient to suppress, but he only replied that he had never heard of such an event. "Ah! it must have been before you knew her; but she has never got it out of her mind," Lucy cried. That hypothesis explained everything. At this time it is scarcely necessary to say Lucy was with her whole soul trying to be "very fond," as she expressed it, of the Contessa. There were some things about her which startled young Lady Randolph. For one thing, she would go out shooting with Sir Tom, and was as good a shot as any of the gentlemen. This wounded Lucy terribly, and took her a great effort to swallow. It went against all her traditions. With her bourgeois education she hated sport, and even in her husband with difficulty made up her mind to it; but that a woman should go forth and slay was intolerable.

There were other things besides which were a mystery to her. Lady Randolph's invariably defiant attitude for one, and the curious aspect of the Duchess when suddenly brought face to face with the stranger. It appeared that they were old friends, which astonished Lucy, but not so much as the great lady's bewildered look when Madame di Forno-Populo went up to her. It seemed for a moment as if the shock was too much for her. She stammered and shook through all her dignity and greatness, as she exclaimed. "You! here?" in two distinct outcries, gazing appalled into the smiling and beautiful face before her. But then the Duchess came to, after a while. She seemed to get over her surprise, which was more than surprise. All these things disturbed Lucy. She did not know what to make of them. She was uneasy at the change that had been wrought upon her own household, which she did not understand. Yet it was all perfectly simple, she said to herself. It was Tom's duty to devote himself to the stranger. It was the duty of both as hosts to procure for her such amusement as was to be found. These were things of which Lucy convinced herself by various half unconscious processes of argument. But it was necessary to renew these arguments from time to time, to keep possession of them in order to feel their force as she wished to do. She said nothing to her husband on the subject, with an instinctive sense that it would be very difficult to handle. And Sir Tom, too, avoided it. But it was impossible to pursue the same reticence with Lady Randolph, who now and then insisted on opening it up. When the end of her visit arrived she sent for Lucy into her own room, to speak to her seriously. She said—

"My dear, I am due to-morrow at the Maltravers', as you know. It is a visit I like to pay, they are always so nice; but I cannot bear the thought of going off, Lucy, to enjoy myself and leaving you alone."

"Alone, Aunt Randolph!" cried Lucy, "when Tom is at home!"

"Oh, Tom! I have no patience with Tom," cried the Dowager. "I think he must be mad to let that woman come upon you so. Of course you know very well, my dear, it is of her that I want to speak. In the country it does not so much matter; but you must not let her identify herself with you, Lucy, in town."

"In town!" Lucy said with a little dismay; "but, dear Aunt Randolph, it will be six weeks before we go to town; and, surely, long before that——" She paused, and blushed with a sense of the inhospitality involved in her words, which made Lucy ashamed of herself.

"You think so?" said Lady Randolph, smiling somewhat grimly. "Well, we shall see. For my part, I think she will find Park Lane a very desirable situation, and if you do not take the greatest care—— But why should I speak to you of taking care? Of course, if Tom wished it, you would take in all Bohemia, and never say a word——"

"Surely," said Lucy, looking with serene eyes in the elder lady's face, "I do not know what you mean by Bohemia, Aunt Randolph; but if you think it possible that I should object when Tom asks his friends——"

"Oh—his friends! I have no patience with you, either the one or the other," said the old lady. "When Sir Robert was living, do you think it was he who invited my guests? I should think not indeed! especially the women. If that was to be the case, marriage would soon become an impossibility. And is it possible, Lucy, is it possible that you, with your good sense, can like all that petting and coaxing, and the way she talks to you as if you were a child?"

As a matter of fact Lucy had not been able to school herself into liking it; but when the objection was stated so plainly, she coloured high with a vexation and annoyance which were very grievous and hard to bear. It seemed to her that it would be disloyal both to her husband and her guest if she complained, and at the same time Lady Randolph's shot went straight to the mark. She did her best to smile, but it was not a very easy task.

"You have always taught me, Aunt Randolph," she said with great astuteness, "that I ought not to judge of the manners of strangers by my own little rules—especially of foreigners," she added, with a sense of her own cleverness which half comforted her amid other feelings not agreeable. It was seldom that Lucy felt any sense of triumph in her own powers.

"Foreigners?" said Lady Randolph, with disdain. But then she stopped short with a pause of indignation. "That woman," she said, which was the only name she ever gave the visitor, "has some scheme in her head you may be sure. I do not know what it is. It would not do her any good that I can see to increase her hold upon Tom."

"Upon Tom!" cried Lucy. It was her turn now to be indignant. "I don't know what you mean, Aunt Randolph," she said. "I cannot think that you want to make me—uncomfortable. There are some things I do not like in Madame di Forno-Populo. She is—different; but she is my husband's friend. If you mean that they will become still greater friends seeing more of each other, that is natural. For why should you be friends at all unless you like each other? And that Tom likes her must be just a proof that I am wrong. It is my ignorance. Perhaps the wisest way would be to say nothing more about it," young Lady Randolph concluded, briskly, with a sudden smile.

The Dowager looked at her as if she were some wonder in natural history, the nature of which it was impossible to divine. She thought she knew Lucy very well, but yet had never understood her, it being more difficult for a woman of the world to understand absolute straightforwardness and simplicity than it is even for the simple to understand the worldly. She was silent for a moment and stared at Lucy, not knowing what to make of her. At last she resumed as if going on without interruption. "But she has some scheme in hand, perhaps in respect to the girl. The girl is a very handsome creature, and might make a hit if she were properly managed. My belief is that this has been her scheme all through. But partly the presence of Tom—an old friend as you say of her own—and partly the want of opportunity, has kept it in abeyance. That is my idea, Lucy; you can take it for what it is worth. And your home will be the headquarters, the centre from which the adventuress will carry on——"

"Aunt Randolph!" Lucy's voice was almost loud in the pain and indignation that possessed her. She put out her hands as if to stop the other's mouth. "You want to make me think she is a wicked woman," she said. "And that Tom—Tom——"

Lucy had never permitted suspicion to enter her mind. She did not know now what it was that penetrated her innocent soul like an arrow. It was not jealousy. It was the wounding suggestion of a possibility which she would not and could not entertain.

"Lucy, Tom has no excuse at all," said the Dowager solemnly. "You'll believe nothing against him, of course, and I can't possibly wish to turn you against him; but I don't suppose he meant all that is likely to come out of it. He thought it would be a joke—and in the country what could it matter? And then things have never gone so far as that people could refuse to receive her, you know. Oh no! the Contessa has her wits too much about her for that. But you saw for yourself that the Duchess was petrified; and I—not that I am an authority, like her Grace. One thing, Lucy, is quite clear, and that I must say; you must not take upon yourself to be answerable—you so young as you are and not accustomed to society—for that woman, before the world. You must just take your courage in both hands, and tell Tom that though you give in to him in the country, in town you will not have her. She means to take advantage of you, and bring forward her girl, and make a grand coup. That is what she means—I know that sort of person. It is just the greatest luck in the world for them to get hold of some one that is so unexceptionable and so unsuspicious as you."

Lady Randolph insisted upon saying all this, notwithstanding the interruptions of Lucy. "Now I wash my hands of it," she said. "If you won't be advised, I can do no more." It was the day after the great dinner when the Duchess had met Madame di Forno-Populo with so much surprise. The elder lady had been in much excitement all the evening. She had conversed with her Grace apart on several occasions, and from the way in which they laid their heads together, and their gestures, it was clear enough that their feeling was the same upon the point they discussed. All the best people in the county had been collected together, and there could be no doubt that the Contessa had achieved a great success. She sang as no woman had ever been heard to sing for a hundred miles round, and her beauty and her grace and her diamonds had been enough to turn the heads of both men and women. It was remarked that the Duchess, though she received her with a gasp of astonishment, was evidently very well acquainted with the fascinating foreign lady, and though there was a little natural and national distrust of her at first, as a person too remarkable, and who sang too well for the common occasions of life, yet not to gaze at her, watch her, and admire, was impossible. Lucy had been gratified with the success of her visitor. Even though she was not sure that she was comfortable about her presence there at all, she was pleased with the effect she produced. When the Contessa sang there suddenly appeared out of the midst of the crowd a slim, straight figure in a black gown, which instantly sat down at the piano, played the accompaniments, and disappeared again without a word. The spectators thronging round the piano saw that this was a girl, as graceful and distinguished as the Contessa herself, who passed away without a word, and disappeared when her office was accomplished, with a smile on her face, but without lingering for a moment or speaking to any one; which was a pretty bit of mystery too.

All this had happened on the night before Lady Randolph's summons to Lucy. It was in the air that the party at the Hall was to break up after the great entertainment; the Dowager was going, as she had said, to the Maltravers'; Jock was going back to school; and though no limit of Madame di Forno-Populo's visit had been mentioned, still it was natural that she should go when the other people did. She had been a fortnight at the Hall. That is long for a visit at a country house where generally people are coming and going continually. And Lucy had begun to look forward to the time when once more she would be mistress of her own house and actions, with all visitors and interruptions gone. She had been looking forward to the happy old evenings, the days in which baby should be set up again on his domestic throne. The idea that the Contessa might not be going away, the suggestion that she might still be there when it was time to make the yearly migration to town, chilled the very blood in her veins. But it was a thought that she would not dwell upon. She would not betray her feeling in this respect to any one. She returned the kiss which old Lady Randolph bestowed upon her at the end of their interview, very affectionately; for, though she did not always agree with her, she was attached to the lady who had been so kind to her when she was a friendless little girl. "Thank you, Aunt Randolph, for telling me," she said very sweetly, though, indeed, she had no intention of taking the Dowager's advice. Lady Randolph went off in the afternoon of the next day, for it was a very short journey to the Maltravers', where she was going. All the party came out into the hall to see her away, the Contessa herself as well as the others. Nothing, indeed, could be more cordial than the Contessa. She caught up a shawl and wound it round her, elaborately defending herself against the cold, and came out to the steps to share in the last farewells.

When Lady Randolph was in the carriage with her maid by her side, and her hot-water footstool under her feet, and the coachman waiting his signal to drive away, she put out her hand amid her furs to Lucy. "Now remember!" Lady Randolph said. It was almost as solemn as the mysterious reminder of the dying king to the bishop. But unfortunately, what is solemn in certain circumstances may be ludicrous in others. The party in the Hall scarcely restrained its merriment till the carriage had driven away.

"What awful compact is this between you, Lucy?" Sir Tom said. "Has she bound you by a vow to assassinate me in my sleep?"

The Contessa unwound herself out of her shawl, and putting her arm caressingly round Lucy, led her back to the drawing-room. "It has something to do with me," she said. "Come and tell me all about it." Lucy had been disconcerted by Lady Randolph's reminder. She was still more disconcerted now.

"It is—something Aunt Randolph wishes me to do in the spring, when we go to town," she said.

"Ah! I know what that is," said the Contessa. "They see that you are too kind to your husband's friend. Milady would wish you to be more as she herself is. I understand her very well. I understand them all, these women. They cannot endure me. They see a meaning in everything I do. I have not a meaning in everything I do," she added, with a pathetic look, which went to Lucy's heart.

"No, no, indeed you are mistaken. It was not that. I am sure you have no meaning," said Lucy, vehement and confused.

The Contessa read her innocent distraite countenance like a book, as she said—or at least she thought so. She linked her own delicate arm in hers, and clasped Lucy's hand. "One day I will tell you why all these ladies hate me, my little angel," she said.



CHAPTER XXI.

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER.

In the meantime something had been going on behind-backs of which nobody took much notice. It had been discovered long before this, in the family, that the Contessa's young companion had a name like other people—that is to say, a Christian name. She was called by the Contessa, in the rare moments when she addressed her, Bice—that is to say, according to English pronunciation, Beeshee (you would probably call it Beetchee if you learned to speak Italian in England, but the Contessa had the Tuscan tongue in a Roman mouth, according to the proverb), which, as everybody knows, is the contraction of Beatrice. She was called Miss Beachey in the household, a name which was received—by the servants at least—as a quite proper and natural name; a great deal more sensible than Forno-Populo. Her position, however, in the little party was a quite peculiar one. The Contessa took her for granted in a way which silenced all inquisitive researches. She gave no explanation who she was, or what she was, or why she carried this girl about with her. If she was related to herself, if she was a dependent, nobody knew; her manner gave no clue at all to the mystery. It was very seldom that the two had any conversation whatsoever in the presence of the others. Now and then the Contessa would send the girl upon an errand, telling her to bring something, with an absence of directions where to find it that suggested the most absolute confidence in her young companion. When the Contessa sang, Bice, as a matter of course, produced herself at the right moment to play her accompaniments, and got herself out of the way, noiselessly, instantly, the moment that duty was over. These accompaniments were played with an exquisite skill and judgment, an exact adaptation to the necessities of the voice, which could only have been attained by much and severe study; but she never, save on these occasions, was seen to look at a piano. For the greater part of the time the girl was invisible. She appeared in the Contessa's train, always in her closely-fitting, perfectly plain, black frock, without an ornament, at luncheon and dinner, and was present all the evening in the drawing-room. But for the rest of the day no one knew what became of this young creature, who nevertheless was not shy, nor showed any appearance of feeling herself out of place, or uncomfortable in her strange position. She looked out upon them all with frank eyes, in which it was evident there was no sort of mist, either of timidity or ignorance, understanding everything that was said, even allusions which puzzled Lucy; always intelligent and observant, though often with a shade of that benevolent contempt which the young with difficulty prevent themselves from feeling towards their elders. The littleness of their jokes and their philosophies was evidently quite apparent to this observer, who sat secure in the superiority of sixteen taking in everything; for she took in everything, even when she was not doing the elder people the honour of attending to what they were saying, with a faculty which belongs to that age. Opinions were divided as to Bice's beauty. The simpler members of the party, Lucy and Jock, admired her least; but such a competent critic as Lady Randolph, who understood what was effective, had a great opinion and even respect for her, as of one whose capabilities were very great indeed, and who might "go far," as she had herself said. As there was so much difference of opinion it is only right that the reader should be able to judge, as much as is possible, from a description. She was very slight and rather tall, with a great deal of the Contessa's grace, moving lightly as if she scarcely touched the ground, but like a bird rather than a cat. There was nothing in her of the feline grace of which we hear so much. Her movements were all direct and rapid; her feet seemed to skim, not to tread, the ground with an airy poise, which even when she stood still implied movement, always light, untiring, full of energy and impulse. Her eyes were gray—if it is possible to call by the name of the dullest of tints those two globes of light, now dark, now golden, now liquid with dew, and now with flame. Her hair was dusky, of no particular colour, with a crispness about the temples; but her complexion—ay, there was the rub. Bice had no complexion at all. By times in the evening, in artificial light, or when she was excited, there came a little flush to her cheeks, which miraculously chased away the shadows from her paleness, and made her radiant; but in daylight there could be no doubt that she was sallow, sometimes almost olive, though with a soft velvety texture which is more often seen on the dark-complexioned through all its gradations than on any but the most delicate of white skins. A black baby has a bloom upon its little dusky cheek like a purple peach, and this was the quality which gave to Bice's sallowness a certain charm. Her hands and arms were of the same indefinite tint—not white, whatever they might be called. Her throat was slender and beautifully-formed, but shared the same deficiency of colour. It is impossible to say how much disappointed Lucy was in the young stranger's appearance after the first evening. She had thought her very pretty, and she now thought her plain. To remember what the girl had said of her chances if she turned out beautiful filled her with a sort of pitying contempt.

But the more experienced people were not of Lucy's opinion. They thought well, on the contrary, of Bice's prospects. Lady Randolph, as has been said, regarded her with a certain respectfulness. She was not offended by the saucy speeches which the girl might now and then make. She went so far as to say even that if introduced under other auspices than those of the Contessa, there was no telling what such a girl might do. "But the chances now are that she will end on the stage," Lady Randolph said.

This strange girl unfolded herself very little in the family. When she spoke, she spoke with the utmost frankness, and was afraid of nobody. But in general she sat in the regions behind the table, with its big lamp, and said little or nothing. The others would all be collected about the fire, but Bice never approached the fire. Sometimes she read, sitting motionless, till the others forgot her presence altogether. Sometimes she worked at long strips of Berlin-wool work, the tapisserie to which, by moments, the Contessa would have recourse. But she heard and saw everything, as has been said, whether she attended or not, in the keenness of her youthful faculties. When the Contessa rose to sing, she was at the piano without a word; and when anything was wanted she gave an alert mute obedience to the lady who was her relation or her patroness, nobody knew which, almost without being told what was wanted. Except in this way, however, they seldom approached or said a word to each other that any one saw. During the long morning, which the Contessa spent in her room, appearing only at luncheon, Bice too was invisible. Thus she lived the strangest life of retirement and seclusion, such as a crushed dependent would find intolerable in the midst of a family, but without the least appearance of anything but enjoyment, and a perfect and dauntless freedom.

Bice, however, had one confidant in the house, and this, as is natural, was the very last person who would have seemed probable—it was Jock. Jock, it need scarcely be said, had no tendency at all to the society of girls. Deep as he was in MTutor's confidence, captain of his house, used to live in a little male community, and to despise (not unkindly) the rest of the world, it is not likely that he would care much for the antagonistic creatures who invariably interfered, he thought, with talk and enjoyment wherever they appeared. Making an exception in favour of Lucy and an older person now and then, who had been soothing to him when he was ill or out of sorts, Jock held that the feminine part of the creation was a mistake, and to be avoided in every practicable way. He had been startled by the young stranger's advances to him on the first evening, and her claim of fellowship on the score that he was young like herself. But when Bice first appeared suddenly in his way, far down in the depths of the winterly park, the boy's impulse would have been, had that been practicable, to turn and flee. She was skimming along, singing to herself, leaping lightly over fallen branches and the inequalities of the humid way, when he first perceived her; and Jock had a moment's controversy with himself as to what he ought to do. If he took to flight across the open park she would see him and understand the reason why—besides, it would be cowardly to fly from a girl, an inferior creature, who probably had lost her way, and would not know how to get back again. This reflection made him withdraw a little deeper into the covert, with the intention of keeping her in sight lest she should wander astray altogether, but yet keeping out of the way, that he might exercise this secret protecting charge of his, which Jock felt was his natural attitude even to a girl without the embarrassment of her society. He tried to persuade himself that she was a lower boy, of an inferior kind no doubt, but yet possessing claims upon his care; for MTutor had a great idea of influence, and had imprinted deeply upon the minds of his leading pupils the importance of exercising it in the most beneficial way for those who were under them.

Jock accordingly stayed among the brushwood watching where she went. How light she was! her feet scarcely made a dint upon the wet and spongy grass, in which his own had sunk. She went over everything like a bird. Now and then she would stop to gather a handful of brown rustling brambles, and the stiff yellow oak leaves, and here and there a rusty bough to which some rays of autumn colour still hung, which at first Jock supposed to mean botany, and was semi-respectful of, until she took off her hat and arranged them in it, when he was immediately contemptuous, saying to himself that it was just like a girl. All the same, it was interesting to watch her as she skipped and skimmed along with an air of enjoyment and delight in her freedom, which it was impossible not to sympathise with. She sang, not loudly, but almost under her breath, for pure pleasure, it seemed, but sometimes would break off and whistle, at which Jock was much shocked at first, but gradually got reconciled to, it was so clear and sweet. After awhile, however, he made an incautious step upon the brushwood, and the crashing of the branches betrayed him. She stopped suddenly with her head to the wind like a fine hound, and caught him with her keen eyes. Then there occurred a little incident which had a very strange effect—an effect he was too young to understand—upon Jock. She stood perfectly still, with her face towards the bushes in which he was, her head thrown high, her nostrils a little dilated, a flush of sudden energy and courage on her face. She did not know who he was or what he wanted watching her from behind the covert. He might be a tramp, a violent beggar, for anything she knew. These things are more tragic where Bice came from, and it was likely enough that she took him for a brigand. It was a quick sense of alarm that sprang over her, stringing all her nerves, and bringing the colour to her cheeks. She never flinched or attempted to flee, but stood at bay, with a high valour and proud scorn of her pursuer. Her attitude, the flush which made her fair in a moment, the expanded nostrils, the fulness which her panting breath of alarm gave to her breast, made an impression upon the boy which was ineffable and beyond words. It was his first consciousness that there was something in the world—not boy, or man, or sister, something which he did not understand, which feared yet confronted him, startled but defiant. He too paused for a moment, gazing at her, getting up his courage. Then he came slowly out from under the shade of the bushes and went towards her. There were a few yards of the open park to traverse before he reached her, so that he thought it necessary to relieve her anxiety before they met. He called out to her, "Don't be afraid, it is only me." For a moment more that fine poise lasted, and then she clapped her hands with a peal of laughter that seemed to fill the entire atmosphere and ring back from the clumps of wintry wood. "Oh," she cried, "it is you!" Jock did not know whether to be deeply affronted or to laugh too.

"I——thought you might have lost your way," he said, knitting his brows and looking as forbidding as he knew how, by way of correcting the involuntary sentiment that had stolen into his boyish heart.

"Then why did not you come to me?" she said, "is not that what you call to spy—to watch when one does not know you are there?"

Jock's countenance flushed at this word. "Spy! I never spied upon any one. I thought perhaps you might not be able to get back—so I would not go away out of reach."

"I see," she cried, "you meant to be kind but not friendly. Do I say it right? Why will not you be friendly? I have so many things I want to say, and no one, no one! to say them to. What harm would it do if you came out from yourself, and talked with me a little? You are too young to make it any—inconvenience," the girl said. She laughed a little and blushed a little as she said this, eyeing him all the time with frank, open eyes. "I am sixteen; how old are you?" she added, with a quick breath.

"Sixteen past," said Jock, with a little emphasis, to show his superiority in age as well as in other things.

"Sixteen in a boy means no more than nine or so," she said, with a light disdain, "so you need not have any fear. Oh, come and talk! I have a hundred and more of things to say. It is all so strange. How would you like to plunge in a new world like the sea, and never say what you think of it, or ask any questions, or tell when it makes you laugh or cry?"

"I should not mind much. I should neither laugh nor cry. It is only girls that do," said Jock, somewhat contemptuous too.

"Well! But then I am a girl. I cannot change my nature to please you," she said. "Sometimes I think I should have liked better to be a boy, for you have not to do the things we have to do—but then when I saw how awkward you were, and how clumsy, and not good for anything"—she pointed these very plain remarks with a laugh between each and a look at Jock, by which she very plainly applied what she said. He did not know at all how to take this. The instinct of a gentleman to betray no angry feeling towards a girl, who was at the same time a lady, contrasted in him with the instinct of a child, scarcely yet aware of the distinctions of sex, to fight fairly for itself; but the former prevailed. And then it was scarcely possible to resist the contagion of the laugh which the damp air seemed to hold suspended, and bring back in curls and wreaths of pleasant sound. So Jock commanded himself and replied with an effort—

"We are just as good for things that we care about as you—but not for girls' things," he added, with another little fling of the mutual contempt which they felt for each other. Then after a pause: "I suppose we may as well go home, for it is getting late; and when it is dark you would be sure to lose your way——"

"Do you think so?" she said. "Then I will come, for I do not like to be lost. What should you do if we were lost? Build me a hut to take shelter in? or take off your coat to keep me warm and then go and look for the nearest village? That is what happens in some of the Contessa's old books—but, ah, not in the Tauchnitz now. But it would be nonsense, of course, for there are the red chimneys of the Hall staring us in the face, so how could we be lost?"

"When it is dark," said Jock, "you can't see the red always; and then you go rambling and wandering about, and hit yourself against the trees, and get up to the ankles in the wet grass and—don't like it at all." He laughed himself a little, with a laugh that was somewhat like a growl at his own abrupt conclusion, to which Bice responded cordially.

"How nice it is to laugh," she said, "it gets the air into your lungs and then you can breathe. It is to breathe I want—large—a whole world full," she cried, throwing out her arms and opening her mouth. "Because you know the rooms are small here, and there is so much furniture, the windows closed with curtains, the floors all hot with carpets. Do they shut you up as if in a box at night, with the shutters shut and all so dark? They do me. But as soon as they are gone I open. I like far better our rooms with big walls, and marble that is cool, and large, large windows that you can lie and look out at, when you wake, all painted upon the sky."

"I should think," said Jock, with the impulse of contradiction, "they would not be at all comfortable——"

"Comfortable," she cried in high disdain, "does one want to be comfortable? One wants to live, and feel the air, and everything that is round."

"That's what we do at school," said Jock, waking up to a sense of the affinities as he had already done to the diversities between them.

"Tell me about school," she cried, with a pretty imperious air; and Jock, who never desired any better, obeyed.



CHAPTER XXII.

A PAIR OF FRIENDS.

After this it came to be a very common occurrence that Jock and Bice should meet in the afternoon. He for one thing had lost his companionship with Lucy, and had been straying forth forlorn not knowing what to do with himself, taking long walks which he did not care for, and longing for the intellectual companionship of MTutor, or even of the other fellows who, if not intellectual, at least were acquainted with the same things, and accustomed to the same occupations as himself. It worked in him a tremor and commotion of a kind in which he was wholly inexperienced, when he saw the slim figure of the girl approaching him, through the paths of the shrubberies, or across the glades of the park. He said to himself once or twice, "What a bore;" but those words did not express his feelings. It was not a bore, it was something very different. He could not explain the mingled reluctance and pleasure of his own mood, the little tumult that arose in him when he saw her. He wanted to turn his back and rush away, and yet he wanted to be there waiting for her, seeing her approach step by step. He had no notion what his own mingled sentiments meant. But Bice to all appearance had neither the reluctance nor the excitement. She came running to her playmate whenever she saw him with frank satisfaction. "I was looking for you," she would say, "Let us go out into the park where nobody can see us. Run, or some one will be coming," and then she would fly over stock and stone, summoning him after her. There were many occasions when Jock did not approve, but he always followed her, though with internal grumblings, in which he indulged consciously, making out his own annoyance to be very great. "Why can't she let me alone?" he said to himself; but when it occurred that Bice did leave him alone, and made no appearance, his sense of injury was almost bitter. On such occasions he said cutting things within himself, and was very satirical as to the stupidity of girls who were afraid to wet their feet, and estimated the danger of catching a cold as greater than any natural advantage. For Jock had all that instinctive hostility to womankind, which is natural to the male bosom, except perhaps at one varying period of life. They had no place in the economy of his existence at school, and he knew nothing of them nor wanted to know. But Bice, though, when he was annoyed with her, she became to him the typical girl, the epitome of offending woman, had at other times a very different position. It stirred his entire being, he did not know how, when she roamed with him about the woods talking of everything, from a point of view which was certainly different from Jock's. Occasionally, even, he did not understand her any more than if she had been speaking a foreign language. She had never any difficulty in penetrating his meaning as he had in penetrating hers, but there were times when she did not understand him any more than he understood her. She was by far the easiest in morals, the least Puritanical. It was not easy to shock Bice, but it was not at all difficult to shock Jock, brought up as he was in the highest sentiments under the wing of MTutor, who believed in moral influence. But the fashion of the intercourse held between these two, was very remarkable in its way. They were like brother and sister, without being brother and sister. They were strangers to each other, yet living in the most entire intimacy, and likely to be parted for ever to-morrow. They were of the same age, yet the girl was, in experience of life, a world in advance of the boy, who, notwithstanding, had the better of her in a thousand ways. In short, they were a paradox, such as youth, more or less, is always, and the careless close companionship that grew up between them was at once the most natural and the most strange alliance. They told each other everything by degrees, without being at all aware of the nature of their mutual confidence; Bice revealing to Jock the conditions on which she was to be brought out in England, and Jock to Bice the unusual features of his own and his sister's position, to the unbounded astonishment and scepticism of each.

"Beautiful?" said Jock, drawing a long breath. "But beautiful's not a thing you can go in for, like an exam: You're born so, or you're born not so; and you know you're not—I mean, you know you're—— Well, it isn't your fault. Are you going to be sent away for just being—not pretty?"

"I told you," said the girl, with a little impatience. "Being pretty is of no consequence. I am pretty, of course," she added regretfully. "But it is only if I turn out beautiful that she will take the trouble. And at sixteen, I am told, one cannot yet know."

"But—" cried Jock with a sort of consternation, "you don't mind, do you? I don't mean anything unkind, you know; I don't think it matters—and I am sure it isn't your fault; you are not even—good-looking," candour compelled the boy to say, as to an honest comrade with whom sincerity was best.

"Ah!" cried Bice, with a little excitement. "Do you think so? Then perhaps there is more hope."

Jock was confounded by this utterance, and he began to feel that he had been uncivil. "I don't mean," he said, "that you are not—I mean that it is not of the least consequence. What does it matter? I am sure you are clever, which is far better. I think you could get up anything faster than most fellows if you were to try."

"Get up! What does that mean? And when I tell you that it does matter to me—oh much,—very much!" she cried. "When you are beautiful, everything is before you—you marry, you have whatever you wish, you become a great lady; only to be pretty—that does nothing for you. Ugly, however," said the girl reflectively; "if I am ugly, then there is some hope."

"I did not say that," cried Jock, shocked at the suggestion. "I wouldn't be so uncivil. You are—just like other people," he added encouragingly, "not much either one way or another—like the rest of us," Jock said, with the intention of soothing her ruffled feelings. At sixteen decorum is not always the first thing we think of; and though Bice was not an English girl, she was very young. She threw out a vigorous arm and pushed him from her, so that the astonished critic, stumbling over some fallen branches, measured his length upon the dewy sod.

"That was not I," she said demurely, as he picked himself up in great surprise—drawing a step away, and looking at him with wide-open eyes, to which the little fright of seeing him fall, and the spark of malice that took pleasure in it, had given sudden brilliancy. Jock was so much astonished that he uttered no reproach, but went on by her side, after a moment, pondering. He could not see how any offence could have lurked in the encouraging and consolatory words he had said.

But when they reached the other chapter, which concerned his fortunes, Bice was not more understanding. Her gray eyes absolutely flamed upon him when he told her of his father's will, and the conditions upon which Lucy's inheritance was held. "To give her money away! But that is impossible—it would be to prove one's self mad," the girl said.

"Why? You forget it's my father you're speaking of. He was not mad, he was just," said Jock, reddening. "What's mad in it? You've got a great fortune—far more than you want. It all came out of other people's pockets somehow. Oh, of course, not in a dishonest way. That is the worst of speaking to a girl that doesn't understand political economy and the laws of production. Of course it must come out of other people's pockets. If I sell anything and get a profit (and nobody would sell anything if they didn't get a profit), of course that comes out of your pocket. Well, now, I've got a great deal more than I want, and I say you shall have some of it back."

"And I say," cried Bice, making him a curtsey, "Merci Monsieur! Grazia Signor! oh thank you, thank you very much—as much as you like, sir, as much as you like! but all the same I think you are mad. Your money! all that makes you happy and great——"

"Money," said Jock, loftily, "makes nobody happy. It may make you comfortable. It gives you fine houses, horses and carriages, and all that sort of thing. So it will do to the other people to whom it goes; so it is wisdom to divide it, for the more good you can get out of it the better. Lucy has money lying in the bank—or somewhere—that she does not want, that does her no good; and there is some one else" (a fellow I know, Jock added in a parenthesis), "who has not got enough to live upon. So you see she just hands over what she doesn't want to him, and that's better for both. So far from being mad, it's"—Jock paused for a word—"it's philosophy, it's wisdom, it's statesmanship. It is just the grandest way that was ever invented for putting things straight."

Bice looked at him with a sort of incredulous cynical gaze—as if asking whether he meant her to believe this fiction—whether perhaps he was such a fool as to think that she could be persuaded to believe it. It was evident that she did not for a moment suppose him to be serious. She laughed at last in ridicule and scorn. "You think," she said, "I know so little. Ah, I know a great deal more than that. What are you without money? You are nobody. The more you have, so much more have you everything at your command. Without money you are nobody. Yes, you may be a prince or an English milord, but that is nothing without money. Oh yes! I have known princes that had nothing and the people laughed at them. And a milord who is poor—the very donkey-boys scorn him. You can do nothing without money," the girl said with almost fierce derision, "and you tell me you will give it away!" She laughed again angrily, as if such a brag was offensive and insulting to her own poverty. The boy who had never in his life known what it was to want anything that money could procure for him, treated the whole question lightly, and undervalued its importance altogether. But the girl who knew by experience what was involved in the want of it, heard with a sort of wondering fury this slighting treatment of what was to her the universal panacea. Her cynicism and satirical unbelief grew into indignation. "And you tell me it is wise to give it away!"

"Lucy has got to do it, whether it is wise or not," said Jock, almost overawed by this high moral disapproval. "We went to the lawyer about it the day you came. He is settling it now. She is giving away—well, a good many thousand pounds."

"Pounds are more than francs, eh?" said Bice quickly.

"More than francs! just twenty-five times more," cried Jock, proud of his knowledge, "a thousand pounds is——"

"Then I don't believe you!" cried the girl in an outburst of passion, and she fled from him across the park, catching up her dress and running at a pace which even Jock with his long legs knew he could not keep up with. He gazed with surprise, standing still and watching her with the words arrested on his lips. "But she can't keep it up long like that," after a moment Jock said.

The time, however, approached when the two friends had to part. Jock left the Hall a few days after Lady Randolph, and he was somehow not very glad to go. The family life had been less cheerful lately, and conversation languished when the domestic party were alone together. When the Contessa was present she kept up the ball, maintaining at least with Sir Tom an always animated and lively strain of talk; but at breakfast there was not much said, and of late a little restraint had crept even between the master and mistress of the house, no one could tell how. The names of the guests were scarcely mentioned between them. Sir Tom was very attentive and kind to his wife, but he was more silent than he used to be, reading his letters and his newspapers. Lucy had been quite satisfied when he said, though it must be allowed with a laugh not devoid of embarrassment, that it was more important he should master all the papers and see how public opinion was running, now when it was so near the opening of Parliament. But a little veil of silence had fallen over Lucy too. It cost her an effort to speak even to Jock of common subjects and of his going away. She had thought him looking a little disturbed, however, on the last morning, and with the newspaper forming a sort of screen between them and Sir Tom, Lucy made an attempt to talk to her brother as of old.

"I shall miss you very much, Jock. We have not had so much time together as we thought."

"We have had no time together, Lucy."

"You must not say that, dear. Don't you recollect that drive to Farafield? We have not had so many walks, it is true; but then I have been—occupied."

"Is it ever finished yet, that business?" Jock said suddenly.

It was all Lucy could do not to give him a warning look. "I have had some letters about it. A thing cannot be finished in a minute like that." Instinctively she spoke low to escape her husband's ear; he had never referred to the subject, and she avoided it religiously. It gave her a thrill of alarm to have it thus reintroduced. To escape it, she said, raising her voice a little: "The Contessa's letters have not been sent to her. You must ring the bell, Jock. There are a great many for her." The name of the Contessa always moved Sir Tom to a certain attention. He seemed to be on the alert for what might be said of her. He looked round the corner of the paper with a short laugh, and said, jocularly, with mock gravity—

"It is a great thing to keep up your correspondence, Lucy. You never can know when it may prove serviceable. If it had not been for that, she most likely never would have come here."

Lucy smiled, though with a little restraint. "Perhaps she is sorry now," she said, "for it must be dull." Then she hurriedly changed the subject, afraid lest she might seem ill-natured. "Poor Miss Bice has never any letters," she said; "she must have very few friends."

"Oh, she has nobody at all," said Jock, "She hasn't got a relation. She has always lived like this, in different places; and never been to school, or—anywhere; though she has been nearly round the world."

"Poor little thing! and she is fond of children too," said Lucy. "I found her one day with baby on her shoulder, a wet day when he could not get out, racing up and down the long gallery with him crowing and laughing. It was so pretty to see him——"

"Or to see her, Lucy, most people would say," said Sir Tom, interrupting again.

"Would they? Oh, yes. But I thought naturally of baby," said the young mother. Then she made a pause and added softly, "I hope—they—are always kind to her."

There was a little silence. Sir Tom was behind his newspaper. He listened, but he did not say anything, and Jock was not aware that he was listening.

"Oh, I don't think she minds," said Jock. "She is rather jolly when you come to know her. I say, Lucy, it will be awfully dull for her, you know, when——"

"When what, Jock?"

"When I am gone," the boy intended to have said, but some gleam of consciousness came over him that made him pause. He did not say this, but grew a little red in the effort to think of something else that he could say.

"Well, I mean here," he said, "for she hasn't been used to it. She has been in places where there was always music playing and that sort of thing. She never was in the country. There's plenty of books, to be sure; but she's not very fond of reading. Few people, are, I think. You never open a book——"

"Oh yes, Jock! I read the books from Mudie's," Lucy said, with some spirit, "and I always send them upstairs."

Jock had it on his lips to say something derogatory of the books from Mudie's; but he checked himself, for he remembered to have seen MTutor with one of those frivolous volumes, and he refrained from snubbing Lucy. "I believe she can't read," he said. "She can do nothing but laugh at one. And she thinks she's pretty," he added, with a little laugh yet sense of unfaithfulness to the trust reposed in him, which once more covered his face with crimson.

Lucy laughed too, with hesitation and doubt. "I cannot see it," she said, "but that is what Lady Randolph thought. It is strange that she should talk of such things; but people are very funny who have been brought up abroad."

"All girls are like that," said Jock, authoritatively. "They think so much of being pretty. But I tell her it doesn't matter. What difference could it make? Nobody will suppose it was her fault. She says——"

"Hallo, young man," said Sir Tom. "It is time you went back to school, I think. What would MTutor say to all these confidences with young ladies, and knowledge of their ways!"

Jock gave his brother-in-law a look, in which defiant virtue struggled with a certain consciousness; but he scorned to make any reply.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE BREAKFAST TABLE.

Lucy found her life much changed when Jock had gone, and she was left alone to face the change of circumstances which had tacitly taken place. The Contessa said not a word of terminating her visit. The departure of Lady Randolph apparently suggested nothing to her. She could scarcely have filled up the foreground more entirely than she did before—but she was now uncriticised, unremarked upon. There seemed even to be no appropriation of more than her due, for it was very natural that a person of experience and powers of conversation like hers should take the leading place, and simple Lucy, so much younger and with so much less acquaintance with the world, fall into the background. And accordingly this was what happened. Madame di Forno-Populo knew everybody. She had a hundred mutual acquaintances to tell Sir Tom about, and they seemed to have an old habit of intercourse, which by this time had been fully resumed. The evenings were the time when this was most apparent. Then the Contessa was at her brightest. She had managed to introduce shades upon all the lamps, so as to diffuse round her a softened artificial illumination such as is favourable to beauty that has passed its prime: and in this ruddy gloom she sat half seen, Sir Tom sometimes standing by her, sometimes permitted to take the other corner of her sofa—and talked to him, sometimes sinking her voice low as her reminiscences took some special vein, sometimes calling sweetly to her pretty Lucy to listen to this or that. These extensions of confidence, generally, were brought in to make up for a long stretch of more private communications, and the aspect of the little domestic circle was on such occasions curious enough. By the table, in a low chair, with the full light of the lamp upon her, sat Lucy, generally with some work in her hands; she did not read or write (exercises to which, to tell the truth, she was not much addicted) out of politeness, lest she should seem to be withdrawing her attention from her guest, but sat there with her slight occupation, so as to be open to any appeal, and ready if she were wanted. On the other side of the table, the light making a sort of screen and division between them, sat Bice, generally with a book before her, which, as has been said, did not at all interfere with her power of giving a vivid attention to what was going on around her. These two said nothing to each other, and were often silent for the whole evening, like pieces of still life. Bice sat with her book upon the table, so that only the open page and the hands that held the book were within the brightness of the light, which on the other side streamed down upon Lucy's fair shoulders and soft young face, and upon the work in her hands. In the corner was the light continuous murmur of talk; the half-seen figure of the Contessa, generally leaning back, looking up to Sir Tom, who stood with his arm on the mantelpiece with much animation, gesticulation of her hands and subdued laughter, the most lively current of sound, soft, intensified by little eloquent breaks, by emphatic gestures, by sentences left incomplete, but understood all the better for being half said. There were many evenings in which Lucy sat there with a little wonder, but no other active feeling in her mind. It is needless to say that it was not pleasant to her. She would sit and wonder wistfully whether her husband had forgotten she was there, but then reminded herself that of course it was his duty to think of the Contessa first, and consoled herself that by and by the stranger would go away, and all would be as it had been. As time went on, the desire that this should happen, and longing to have possession of her home again, grew so strong that she could scarcely subdue it, and it was with the greatest difficulty that she kept all expression of it from her lips. And by and by, the warmth of this restrained desire so absorbed Lucy that she scarcely dared allow herself to speak lest it should burst forth, and there seemed to herself to be continually going on in her mind a calculation of the chances, a scrutiny of everything the Contessa said which seemed to point at such a movement. But, indeed, the Contessa said very little upon which the most sanguine could build. She said nothing of her arrangements at all, nor spoke of what she was going to do, and answered none of Lucy's ardent and innocent fishings after information. The evenings became more and more intolerable to Lady Randolph as they went on. She was glad that anybody should come, however little she might care for their society, to break these private conferences up.

And this was not all, nor even perhaps the worst, of the vague evils not yet defined in her mind, and which she was so very reluctant to define, which Lucy had to go through. At breakfast, when she was alone with her husband, matters were almost worse. Sir Tom, it was evident, began to feel the tete-a-tete embarrassing. He did not know what to say to his little wife when they were alone. The presence of the Dowager and Jock had freed him from any necessity of explanation, had kept him in his usual easy way; but now that Lucy alone sat opposite to him, he was more silent than his wont, and with no longer any of the little flow of simple observations which had once been so delightful to her. Sir Tom was more uneasy than if she had been a stern and jealous Eleanor, a clear-sighted critic seeing through and through him. The contest was so unequal, and the weaker creature so destitute of any intention or thought of resistance, that he felt himself a coward and traitor for thus deserting her and overclouding her home and her life. Then he took to asking himself, Did he overcloud her? Was she sensible of any difference? Did she know enough to know that this was not how she ought to be treated, or was she not quite contented with her secondary place? Such a simple creature, would she not cry—would she not show her anger if she was conscious of anything to be grieved or angry about? He took refuge in those newspapers which, he gave out, it was so necessary he should study, to understand the mind of the country before the opening of Parliament. And thus they would sit, Lucy dutifully filling out the tea, taking care that he had the dish he liked for breakfast, swallowing her own with difficulty yet lingering over it, always thinking that perhaps Tom might have something to say. While he, on the other hand, kept behind his newspaper, feeling himself guilty, conscious that another sort of woman would make one of those "scenes" which men dread, yet despising Lucy a little in spite of himself for the very quality he most admired in her, and wondering if she were really capable of feeling at all. Sometimes little Tom would be brought downstairs to roll about the carpet and try his unsteady little limbs in a series of clutches at the chairs and table; and on these occasions the meal was got through more easily. But little Tom was not always well enough to come downstairs, and sometimes Lucy thought that her husband might have something to say to her which the baby's all-engrossing presence hindered. Thus it came about that the hours in which the Contessa was present and in the front of everything, were really less painful than those in which the pair were alone with the shadow of the intruder, more powerful even than her presence holding them apart.

One of these mornings, however, Lucy's anticipations and hopes seemed about to be realised. Sir Tom laid down his paper, looked at her frankly without any shield, and said, as she had so often imagined him saying, "I want to talk to you, Lucy." How glad she was that little Tom was not downstairs that morning!

She looked at him across the table with a brightening countenance, and said, "Yes, Tom!" with such warm eagerness and sudden pleasure that her look penetrated his very heart. It implied a great deal more than Sir Tom intended and thought, and he was a man of very quick intelligence. The expectation in her eyes touched him beyond a thousand complaints.

"I had an interview yesterday, in which you were much concerned," he said; then made a pause, with such a revolution going on within him as seldom happens in a mature and self-collected mind. He had begun with totally different sentiments from those which suddenly came over him at the sight of her kindling face. When he said, "I want to talk to you, Lucy," he had meant to speak of her interview with Mr. Rushton, to point out to her the folly of what she was doing, and to show her how it was that he should be compelled to do everything that was in his power to oppose her. He did not mean to go to the root of the matter, as he had done before, when he was obliged to admit to himself that he had failed—but to address himself to the secondary view of the question, to the small prospect there was of doing any good. But when he caught her eager, questioning look, her eyes growing liquid and bright with emotion, her face full of restrained anxiety and hope, Sir Tom's heart smote him. What did she think he was going to say? Not anything about money, important as that subject was in their life—but something far more important, something that touched her to the quick, a revelation upon which her very soul hung. He was startled beyond measure by this disclosure. He had thought she did not feel, and that her heart unawakened had regarded calmly, with no pain to speak of, the new state of affairs of which he himself was guiltily conscious; but that eager look put an end in a moment to his delusion. He paused and swerved mentally as if an angel had suddenly stepped into his way.

"It is about—that will of your father's," he said.

Lucy, gazing at him with such hope and expectation, suddenly sank, as it were, prostrate in the depth of a disappointment that almost took the life out of her. She did not indeed fall physically or faint, which people seldom do in moments of extreme mental suffering. It was only her countenance that fell. Her brightening, beaming, hopeful face grew blank in a moment, her eyes grew utterly dim, a kind of mist running over them: a sound—half a sob, half a sigh, came from her breast. She put up her hand trembling to support her head, which shook too with the quiver that went over her. It took her at least a minute to get over the shock of the disappointment. Then commanding herself painfully, but without looking at him, which, indeed, she dared not do, she said again, "Yes, Tom?" with a piteous quiver of her lip.

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