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for ever?" cried he, as he stood gazing at the scene. “I wonder,” thought he, “could Skeffy read her thoughts and tell me how she feels towards me? I wonder will he ever talk to her of me, and what will they say?" His cheek grew hot and red, and he muttered to himself, “Who knows but it may be in pity ?" and with the bitterness of the thought the tears started to his eyes and coursed down his cheeks. That same book—how it rankled, like a barbed arrow, in his side l— that same book said that men are always wrong in their readings of woman—that they cannot understand the finer, nicer, more subtle springs of her action; and in their coarser appreciation they constantly destroy the interest they would give worlds to create. It was as this thought flashed across his memory the car-driver exclaimed aloud, “Ah, Master Tony, did ever ou see as good a pony as yon? he's carried the minister these eighteen years, and look at him, how he jogs along to-day!” He pointed to a little path in the valley where old Doctor Stewart ambled along on his aged palfrey, the long mane and flowing tail of the beast marking him out though nigh half a mile away. “Why didn't I think of that before?" thought Tony. “Dolly Stewart is the very one to help me. She has not been bred and brought up like Alice, but she has plenty of keen woman's wit, and she has all a sister's love for me besides. I'll just go and tell her how we parted, and I'll ask her frankly what she says to it.” Cheered by this bright idea, he pursued his way in better spirits, and soon reached the little path which wound off from the highroad through the fields to the burnside. Not a spot there unassociated with memories, but they were the memories of early, boyhood. The clump of white thorns they used to call the Forest, and where they went to hunt wild beasts; the little stream they fancied a great
and rapid river, swarming with alligators; the grassy slope, where they had their house, and the tiny garden, whose flowers, stuck down at daybreak, were withered before noon l—too faithful emblems of the joys they illustrated “Surely,” thought he, “no boy had ever such a rare playfellow as Dolly; so ready to take her share in all the rough vicissitudes of a boy's pleasures, and yet to bring to them a sort of storied interest and captivation which no mere boy could ever have contributed. What a little romance the whole was— just because she knew how to impart the charm of a story to all they did and all they planned " It was thus thinking that he entered the cottage. So still was everything that he could hear the scratching noise of a pen as a rapid writer's hand moved over the paper. He peeped cautiously in and saw Dolly seated, writing busily at a table all strewn over with manuscript: an open book, supported by other books, lay before her, at which from time to time she glanced. Before Tony had advanced a step she turned round and saw him. “Was it not strange, Tony?" said she, and she flushed as she spoke. “I felt that you were there before I saw you; just like long ago, when | always knew where you were id." “I was just thinking of that same long ago, Dolly,” said he, taking a chair beside her, “as I came up through the fields. There every. thing is the same as it used to be when we went to seek our fortune across the sandy desert, near the Black Lake.” “No,” said she, correcting; “the Black Lake was at the foot o Giant's Rock, beyond the rye field.” “So it was, Dolly; you are right.' “Ah, Master Tony, I suspect have a better memory of those day. than you have. To be sure, I hav not had as many things happening in the meanwhile to trouble thes memories.”
There was a tone of sadness in her voice, very slight, very faint indeed, but still enough to tinge these few words with melancholy. “And what is all this writing about?” said he, moving his hands through the papers. “Are you composing a book, Dolly?" “No," said she, timidly; “I am only translating a little German story. When I was up in London, I was lucky enough to obtain the insertion of a little fairy tale in a small periodical meant for children, and the editor encouraged me to try and render one of Andersen's stories; but I am a very sorry German, and, I fear me, a still sorrier prose writer; and so, Tony, the work goes on as slowly as that bridge of ours used long ago. Do you remember when it was made, we never had the courage to pass over it! Mayhap it will be the same with my poor story, and, when finished, remain unread.” “But why do you encounter such a piece of labour?" said he. “This must have taken a week or more!” “A month yesterday, my good Tony; and very proud I am, too, that I did it in a month.” “And for what, in heaven's name?” “For three bright sovereigns, Master Tony!" said she, blushing. “Oh, I didn't mean that,” said he, in deep shame and confusion. “I meant only, why did you engage on such a hard task.” “I know you didn't mean it, Tony; but I was so proud of my success as an author, it would out. Yes," said she, with a feigned air of importance, “I have just disposed of my copyright; and you know, Tony, Milton did not get a great deal more for “Paradise Lost.’ You see,” added she seriously, “what with poor papa's age and his loneliness, and my own not over-great strength, I don't think I shall try (at least not soon) to be a governess again; and it behoves me to be as little as I can of a burden to him; and after thinking of various things, I have settled upon this as the best."
“What a good girl you are!" said he, and he fixed his eyes full upon her; nor did he know how admiringly till he saw that her face, her forehead, and even her neck, were crimson with 'shame and confusion. “There is no such great goodness in doing what is simply one's duty,” said she, gravely. “I don't know that, Dolly.” “Come, come, Tony, you never fancied yourself a hero, just because you are willing to earn your bread, and ready to do so by some sacrifice of your tastes and habits.” The allusion recalled Tony to himself and his own cares, and after a few seconds of deep thought he said, “I am going to make the venture now, Dolly. I am called away to London by telegraph, and am to leave to-morrow morning.” “And are you fully prepared, Tony, for the examination ?” “Luckily for me, they do not require it. Some accidental want of people has made them call in all the available fellows at a moment's warning, and in this way I may chance to slip into the service unchallenged.” “Nay, but Tony,” said she, reproachsil , “you surely could face the examination?" “I could face it just as I could face being shot at, of course, but with the same certainty of being bowled over. Don't you know, Dolly, that I never knew my grammar long ago till you had dinned it into my head; and as you never come to my assistance now, I know well what my fate would be.” “My dear Tony," said she, “do get rid once for all of the habit of underrating your own abilities: as my dear father says, people very easily make self-depreciation a plea of indolence. There, don't look so dreary; I'm not going to moralise in the few last minutes we are to have together. Talk to me about yourself.” “It was for that I came, Dolly,” said he, rising and taking a turn or two up and down the room; for in truth he was sorely puzzled how to approach the theme that engaged him. “I want your aid; I want your woman's wit to help me in a difficulty. Here's what it is, Dolly,” and he sat down again at her side, and took her hand in his own. “Tell me, Dolly,” said he, suddenly, “is it true, as I have read somewhere, that a woman, after havin made a man in love with her, wil boast that she is not in the least bound to requite his affection if she satisfies herself that she has elevated him in his ambition, given a higher spring to his hope, made him, in fact, something better and nobler than his own uninspired mature had ever taught him to be 2 I'm not sure that I have said what I meant to say; but you'll be able to guess what I intend." “You mean, perhaps, will a woman accept a man's love as a means of serving him without any intention of returning it?” Perhaps he did not like the fashion in which she put his question, for he did not answer, save by a nod. “I say yes; such a thing is possible, and might happen readily enough if great difference of station separated them.” “Do you mean, if one was rich and the other poor?” “Not exactly; because inequalities of fortune may exist between persons of equal condition.” “In which case,” said he, hurriedly, “you would not call their stations unequal, would you?” “That would depend on how far wealth contributed to the habits of the wealthier. Some people are so accustomed to affluence, it is so much the accompaniment of their daily lives, that the world has for them but one aspect." * “Like our neighbours here, the Lyles, for instance?” said he. Dolly gave a slight start, like a sudden pang of pain, and grew deadly pale. She drew away her hand at the same time, and passed it across her brow, “Does your head ache, dear Dolly?" asked he, compassionately.
... so it is seldom quite free of pain. You have chosen a poor guide, Tony, when there is a question of the habits of fine folk. None know so little of their ways as I do. But surely you do not need guidance. Surely you are well capable of understanding them in all their moods." With all her attempts to appear calm and composed, her lip shook and her cheeks trembled as she spoke; and Tony, more struck by her looks than her words, passed his arm around her, and said, in a kind and affectionate voice, “I see }. are not well, my own dear olly; and that I ought not to come here troubling you about my own selfish cares; but I can never help feeling that it's a sister I speak to.” “Yes, a sister,” said she, in a faint whisper—“a sister!" “And that your brother Tony has the right to come to you for counsel and help.” “So he has,” said she, gulping down something like a sob; “but these days, when my head is weary and tired, and when—as to-day, Tony—I am good for nothing Tell me," said she, hastily, “how does your mother bear your going away? Will she let me come and sit with her often? I hope she will.” “That she will, and be so happy to have you, too; and only think Dolly, Alice Lyle—Mrs. Trafford, mean—has offered to come and keep her company sometimes. I hope o meet her there: how you'd ike her, Dolly!” Dolly turned away her head, and the tears, against which she had struggled so long, now burst forth, and slowly fell along her cheek. “You must not fancy, Dolly, that because Alice is rich and great wou will like her less. Heaven knows, if humble fortune could seteus, ours might have done so.” “My head is splitting, Tony, dear. It is one of those sudden attacks of pain. Don't be angry if I say Good-bye; there's nothing for it but a darkroom, and quiet."
“My poor dear Dolly,” said he, pressing her to him, and kissing her twice on the cheek.
“No, no!" cried she, hysterically, as though to something she was answering; and then, dashing away, she rushed from the room, and Tony could hear her door shut and locked as she passed in.
“How changed from what she used to be!” muttered he, as he went his way; “I scarcely can believe she is the same! And, after all, what light has she thrown on the difficulty I put before her? Or
was it that I did not place the matter as clearly as I might? Was I too guarded, or was I too vague? Well, well. I remember the time when, no matter how stupid I was, she would soon have found out my meaning! What a dreary thing that life of a governess must be, when it could reduce one so quick of apprehension and so readywitted as she was to such a state as this! Oh, is she not changed 1" And this was the burden of his musings as he wended his way towards home.
CHAPTER xxxv.–SIR ARTHUR ON LIFE AND THE WORLD IN GENERAL.
“Here it is at last, mother,” said Tony, holding up the “despatch,” as he entered the cottage. “The order for the examination, Tony!” said she, as she turned
“No, but the order to do without it, mother dear!—the order for Anthony Butler to report himself for service, without any other test than his readiness to go wherever they want to send him. It seems that there's a row somewhere—or several rows—just now. Heaven bless the fellows that got them up, for it gives them no time at the office to go into any impertinent inquiries as to one's French, or decimal fractions, or the other qualifications deemed essential to carrying a letter-bag, and so they've sent for me to go off to Japan.” “To Japan, Tony—to Japan?” “I don't mean positively to Japan, for Skeffy says it might be Taganrog, or Timbuctoo, or Tamboff, or some other half-known place. But no matter, mother; it's so much a mile, and something besides per day; and the short and long of it is, I am to show myself on Tuesday, the 9th, at Downing Street, there to be dealt with as the law may direct.” “It's a hasty summons, my poor Tony -“It might be worse, mother. What would we say to it if it
were, ‘Come up and be examined"? I think I'm a good-tempered fellow; but I declare to you frankly, if one of those ‘Dons' were to put a question to me that I couldn't answer—and I'm afraid it would not be easy to put any other—I'd find it very hard not to knock him down! I mean, of course, mother, if he did it offensively, with a chuckle over my ignorance, or something that seemed to say, “There's a blockhead, if ever there
“Yes, it's all very well to say Tony, Tony; but here's how it is. It would be “all up' with me. It would be by that time decided that I was good for nothing, and to be turned back. The moment would be a triumphant one for the fellow that "plucked' me—it always is, I'm told—but I’ll be shot if it should be all triumph to him!” “I won't believe this of you, Tony,” said she, gravely. “It’s not like your father, sir!” “Then I'd not do it, mother—at least if I could help it,” said he, 'growing very red. “I say, mother, is it too late to go up to the Abbey and bid Sir Arthur good-bye? Alice asked me to do it, and I promised her.” “Well, Tony, I don't know how . feel about these things now, ut there was a time that you never thought much what hour of the day or night it was when you went there.” - “It used to be so!" said he, thoughtfully; and then added, “but I'll go, at all events, mother; but I'll not be long away, for I must have a talk with you before bedtime.” “I have a note written to Sir Arthur here; will you just give it to him, Tony, or leave it for him when you're coming away, for it wants no answer?” “All right, mother; don't take tea till I come back, and I'll do my best to come soon.” It was a well-worn path that led from the cottage to Lyle Abbey. There was not an hour of day or night Tony had not travelled it; and as he went now, thoughts of all these long-agos would crowd on his memory, making him ask himself, Was there ever any one had so much happiness as I had in those days? Is it possible that my life to come will ever replace to me such enjoyment as that? He was not a very imaginative youth, but he had that amount of the quality that suffices for small castlebuildings; and he went on, as he walked, picturing to himself what would be the boon he would ask from Fortune if some benevolent fairy were to start out from the tall ferns and grant him his wish. Would it be to be rich and titled and great, so that he might propose to make Alice his wife without any semblance of inordinate pretension ? or would it not be to remain as he was, poor and humble in condition, and that Alice should be in a rank like his own, living in a cottage like Dolly Stewart, with little household cares to look atter? It was a strange labyrinth these thoughts led him into, and he soon lost his way completely, unable to satisfy himself whether Alice might not lose in fascination when no longer surrounded by all the splendid appliances of that high station she
adorned, or whether her native gracefulness would not be far more attractive when her life became ennobled by duties. A continual comparison of Alice and Dolly would rise to his mind; nothing could be less alike, and yet there they were, in incessant, juxtaposition; and while he pictured Alice in the humble manse of the minister, beautiful as he had ever seen her, he wondered whether she would be able to subdue her proud spirit to such lowly ways, and make of that thatched cabin the happy home that Dolly had made it. His experiences of life were not very large, but one lesson they had certainly taught him—it was to recognise in . persons of condition, when well brought up, a great spirit of accommodation. In the varied company of Sir Arthur's house he had constantly found that no one submitted with a better grace to accidental hardships than he whose station had usually elevated him above the risks of their occurrence, and that in the chance roughings of a sportsman life it was the born gentleman—Sybarite it might be at times—whose temper best sustained him in all difficulties, and whose gallant spirit bore him most triumphantly over the crosses and cares that beset him. It might not be a very logical induction that led him to apply this reasoning to Alice, but he did so, and in so doing he felt very little how the time went over, till he found himself on the terrace at Lyle Abbey. Led on by old habit, he passed in without ringing the bell, and was already on his way to the drawing-room when he met Hailes the butler. In the midst of a shower of rejoicings at .."; him again—for he was a great favourite with the household — Hailes hastened to show him into the dining-room, where, dinner over, Sir Arthur sat in an easy-chair at the fire, alone, and sound asleep. Roused by the noise of the opening door, Sir Arthur started and looked up; nor