The Three Miss Kings: An Australian Story (2024)

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Title: The Three Miss Kings: An Australian Story

Author: Ada Cambridge

Release date: November 18, 2015 [eBook #50476]
Most recently updated: April 2, 2024

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Clare Graham and Marc D'Hooghe (Images generously made available by the Internet Archive.]


The Three Miss Kings: An Australian Story (1)

An Australian Story










On the second of January, in the year 1880, three newly-orphanedsisters, finding themselves left to their own devices, with an incomeof exactly one hundred pounds a year a-piece, sat down to consulttogether as to the use they should make of their independence.

The place where they sat was a grassy cliff overlooking a wide bayof the Southern Ocean—a lonely spot, whence no sign of human lifewas visible, except in the sail of a little fishing boat far away.The low sun, that blazed at the back of their heads, and threw theirshadows and the shadow of every blade of grass into relief, touchedthat distant sail and made it shine like bridal satin; while a certainisland rock, the home of sea-birds, blushed like a rose in the samenecromantic light. As they sat, they could hear the waves breaking andseething on the sands and stones beneath them, but could only see thelevel plain of blue and purple water stretching from the toes of theirboots to the indistinct horizon. That particular Friday was a terriblyhot day for the colony, as weather records testify, but in thisfavoured spot it had been merely a little too warm for comfort, and,the sea-breeze coming up fresher and stronger as the sun went down, itwas the perfection of an Australian summer evening at the hour of whichI am writing.

"What I want," said Patty King (Patty was the middle one), "is tomake a dash—a straight-out plunge into the world, Elizabeth—noshilly-shallying and dawdling about, frittering our money away beforewe begin. Suppose we go to London—we shall have enough to cover ourtravelling expenses, and our income to start fair with—surely we couldlive anywhere on three hundred a year, in the greatest comfort—andtake rooms near the British Museum?—or in South Kensington?—orsuppose we go to one of those intellectual German towns, and studymusic and languages? What do you think, Nell? I am sure we could do iteasily if we tried."

"Oh," said Eleanor, the youngest of the trio, "I don't care so long aswe go somewhere, and do something."

"What do you think, Elizabeth?" pursued the enterprising Patty, alertand earnest. "Life is short, and there is so much for us to see andlearn—all these years and years we have been out of it so utterly! Oh,I wonder how we have borne it! How have we borne it—to hear aboutthings and never to know or do them, like other people! Let us getinto the thick of it at once, and recover lost time. Once in Europe,everything would be to our hand—everything would be possible. What doyou think?"

"My dear," said Elizabeth, with characteristic caution, "I think we aretoo young and ignorant to go so far afield just yet."

"We are all over twenty-one," replied Patty quickly, "and though wehave lived the lives of hermits, we are not more stupid than otherpeople. We can speak French and German, and we are quite sharp enoughto know when we are being cheated. We should travel in perfect safety,finding our way as we went along. And we do know something of thoseplaces—of Melbourne we know nothing."

"We should never get to the places mother knew—the sort of life wehave heard of. And Mr. Brion and Paul are with us here—they will tellus all we want to know. No, Patty, we must not be reckless. We mightgo to Europe by-and-bye, but for the present let Melbourne content us.It will be as much of the world as we shall want to begin with, andwe ought to get some experience before we spend our money—the littlecapital we have to spend."

"You don't call two hundred and thirty-five pounds a little, do you?"interposed Eleanor. This was the price that a well-to-do storekeeper inthe neighbouring township had offered them for the little house whichhad been their home since she was born, and to her it seemed a fortune.

"Well, dear, we don't quite know yet whether it is little or much,for, you see, we don't know what it costs to live as other people do.We must not be reckless, Patty—we must take care of what we have, forwe have only ourselves in the wide world to depend on, and this isall our fortune. I should think no girls were ever so utterly withoutbelongings as we are now," she added, with a little break in her gentlevoice.

She was half lying on the grass, leaning on her elbow and propping herhead in her hand. The light behind her was growing momentarily lessfierce, and the breeze from the quiet ocean more cool and delicious;and she had taken off her hat in order to see and breathe in freedom.A noble figure she was, tall, strong, perfect in proportion, fine intexture, full of natural dignity and grace—the product of severalgenerations of healthy and cultured people, and therefore a trulywell-bred woman. Her face was a little too grave and thoughtful forher years, perhaps—she was not quite eight-and-twenty—and it wasnot at all handsome, in the vulgar sense of the word. But a sweeter,truer, kinder face, with its wide, firm mouth and its open brows, andits candid grey eyes, one could not wish to see. She had smooth brownhair of excessive fineness and brightness (a peculiarity of good bloodshared by all the sisters), and it was closely coiled in a knot ofbraids at the back of her head, without any of those curls and fringesabout the temples that have since become the prevailing fashion. Andshe was dressed in a very common, loosely-made, black print gown,with a little frill of crape at her throat, and a leather belt roundher by no means slender waist. Her feet were encased in large andclumsy boots, and her shapely hands, fine-skinned and muscular, werenot encased at all, but were brown with constant exposure to sun andwind, and the wear and tear of miscellaneous housework. The impetuousPatty, who sat bolt upright clasping her knees, was like her, but withmarked differences. She was smaller and slighter in make, though shehad the same look of abundant health and vigour. Her figure, though ithad never worn stays, was more after the pattern of modern womanhoodthan Elizabeth's, and her brilliant little face was exquisite inoutline, in colour, in all the charms of bright and wholesome youth.Patty's eyes were dark and keen, and her lips were delicate and red,and her hair had two or three ripples in it, and was the colour ofa half-ripe chestnut. And altogether, she was a very striking andunmistakeably handsome girl. She, too, wore a black print gown, and astraw sailor hat, with a black ribbon, tilted back on her bead, andthe same country-made boots, and the same brown and gloveless hands.Eleanor, again, with the general family qualities of physical healthand refinement, had her own characteristics. She was slim and tall—asslim as Patty, and nearly as tall as Elizabeth, as was shown in herattitude as she lay full length on the grass, with her feet on theedge of the cliff, and her head on her elder sister's knee. She had apure white skin, and sentimental blue eyes, and lovely yellow hair,just tinged with red; and her voice was low and sweet, and her mannersgentle and graceful, and altogether she was one of the most pleasingyoung women that ever blushed unseen like a wild flower in the savagesolitudes of the bush. This young person was not in black—because, shesaid, the weather was too hot for black. She wore an old blue ginghamthat had faded to a faint lavender in course of numerous washings, andshe had a linen handkerchief loosely tied round her neck, and cottongloves on her hands. She was the only one of the sisters to whom it hadoccurred that, having a good complexion, it was worth while to preserveit.

The parents of these three girls had been a mysterious couple, aboutwhose circ*mstances and antecedents people knew just as much as theyliked to conjecture, and no more. Mr. King had been on the diggingsin the old days—that much was a fact, to which he had himself beenknown to testify; but where and what he had been before, and why hehad lived like a pelican in the wilderness ever since, nobody knew,though everybody was at liberty to guess. Years and years ago, hecame to this lone coast—a region of hopeless sand and scrub, whichno squatter or free selector with a grain of sense would look at—andhere on a bleak headland he built his rude house, piece by piece, ingreat part with his own hands, and fenced his little paddock, and madehis little garden; and here he had lived till the other day, a moroserecluse, who shunned his neighbours as they shunned him, and never wasknown to have either business or pleasure, or commerce of any kindwith his fellow-men. It was supposed that he had made some money atthe diggings, for he took up no land (there was none fit to take up,indeed, within a dozen miles of him), and he kept no stock—except afew cows and pigs for the larder; and at the same time there was neverany sign of actual poverty in his little establishment, simple andhumble as it was. And it was also supposed—nay, it was confidentlybelieved—that he was not, so to speak, "all there." No man who was not"touched" would conduct himself with such preposterous eccentricity asthat which had marked his long career in their midst—so the neighboursargued, not without a show of reason. But the greatest mystery inconnection with Mr. King was Mrs. King. He was obviously a gentleman,in the conventional sense of the word, but she was, in every sense,the most beautiful and accomplished lady that ever was seen, accordingto the judgment of those who knew her—the women who had nursed her inher confinements, and washed and scrubbed for her, and the tradesmenof the town to whom she had gone in her little buggy for occasionalstores, and the doctor and the parson, and the children whom she hadbrought up in such a wonderful manner to be copies (though, it wasthought, poor ones) of herself. And yet she had borne to live allthe best years of her life, at once a captive and an exile, on thatdesolate sea-shore—and had loved that harsh and melancholy man withthe most faithful and entire devotion—and had suffered her solitudeand privations, the lack of everything to which she must have beenonce accustomed, and the fret and trouble of her husband's bittermoods—without a murmur that anybody had ever heard.

Both of them were gone now from the cottage on the cliff where they hadlived so long together. The idolised mother had been dead for severalyears, and the harsh, and therefore not much loved nor much mourned,father had lain but a few weeks in his grave beside her; and they hadleft their children, as Elizabeth described it, more utterly withoutbelongings than ever girls were before. It was a curious positionaltogether. As far as they knew, they had no relations, and they hadnever had a friend. Not one of them had left their home for a nightsince Eleanor was born, and not one invited guest had slept thereduring the whole of that period. They had never been to school, or hadany governess but their mother, or any experience of life and the waysof the world save what they gained in their association with her, andfrom the books that she and their father selected for them. Accordingto all precedent, they ought to have been dull and rustic and stupid(it was supposed that they were, because they dressed themselves sobadly), but they were only simple and truthful in an extraordinarydegree. They had no idea what was the "correct thing" in costume ormanners, and they knew little or nothing of the value of money; butthey were well and widely read, and highly accomplished in all thehousehold arts, from playing the piano to making bread and butter, andas full of spiritual and intellectual aspirations as the most advancedamongst us.



"Then we will say Melbourne to begin with. Not for a permanence, butuntil we have gained a little more experience," said Patty, withsomething of regret and reluctance in her voice. By this time the sunhad set and drawn off all the glow and colour from sea and shore. Theisland rock was an enchanted castle no longer, and the sails of thefishing-boats had ceased to shine. The girls had been discussing theirschemes for a couple of hours, and had come to several conclusions.

"I think so, Patty. It would be unwise to hurry ourselves in makingour choice of a home. We will go to Melbourne and look about us. PaulBrion is there. He will see after lodgings for us and put us in theway of things generally. That will be a great advantage. And then theExhibition will be coming—it would be a pity to miss that. And weshall feel more as if we belonged to the people here than elsewhere,don't you think? They are more likely to be kind to our ignorance andhelp us."

"Oh, we don't want anyone to help us."

"Someone must teach us what we don't know, directly or indirectly—andwe are not above being taught."

"But," insisted Patty, "there is no reason why we should be beholdento anybody. Paul Brion may look for some lodgings for us, if helikes—just a place to sleep in for a night or two—and tell us wherewe can find a house—that's all we shall want to ask of him or ofanybody. We will have a house of our own, won't we?—so as not to beoverlooked or interfered with."

"Oh, of course!" said Eleanor promptly. "A landlady on the premises isnot to be thought of for a moment. Whatever we do, we don't want to beinterfered with, Elizabeth."

"No, my dear—you can't desire to be free from interference—unpleasantinterference—more than I do. Only I don't think we shall be able to beso independent as Patty thinks. I fancy, too, that we shall not care tobe, when we begin to live in the world with other people. It will be socharming to have friends!"

"Oh—friends!" Patty exclaimed, with a little toss of the head. "It istoo soon to think about friends—when we have so much else to thinkabout! We must have some lessons in Melbourne, Elizabeth. We will goto that library every day and read. We will make our stay there apreparation for England and Germany and Italy. Oh, Nell, Nell! think ofseeing the great Alps and the Doge's Palace before we die!"

"Ah!" responded Eleanor, drawing a long breath.

They all rose from the grass and stood still an instant, side by side,for a last look at the calm ocean which had been the background oftheir simple lives. Each was sensible that it was a solemn moment, inview of the changes to come, but not a word was spoken to imply regret.Like all the rest of us, they were ungrateful for the good things ofthe present and the past, and were not likely to understand how muchthey loved the sea, that, like the nurse of Rorie Mhor, had lulled themto sleep every night since they were born, while the sound of its manywaters was still in their ears.

"Sam Dunn is out late," said Eleanor, pointing to a dark dot far away,that was a glittering sail a little while ago.

"It is a good night for fishing," said Patty.

And then they turned their faces landward, and set forth on their roadhome. Climbing to the top of the cliff on the slope of which they hadbeen sitting, they stood upon a wide and desolate heath covered in alldirections with a short, stiff scrub, full of wonderful wild-flowers(even at this barren season of the year), but without a tree of anysort; a picturesque desert, but still a desert, though with fertilecountry lying all around it—as utterly waste as the irreclaimableSahara. Through this the girls wended their way by devious tracksamongst the bushes, ankle deep in the loose sand; and then againstriking the cliff, reached a high point from which they had a distantview of human habitations—a little township, fringing a little bay;a lighthouse beyond it, with its little star shining steadily throughthe twilight; a little pier, running like a black thread through thesilvery surf; and even a little steamer from Melbourne lying at thepier-head, veiling the rock-island, that now frowned like a fortressbehind it, in a thin film of grey smoke from its invisible littlefunnels. But they did not go anywhere near these haunts of theirfellow-men. Hugging the cliff, which was here of a great height,and honeycombed with caves in which the green sea-water rumbled andthundered like a great drum in the calm weather, and like a furiousbombardment in a storm, they followed a slender track worn in the scantgrass by their own light feet, until they came to a little depressionin the line of the coast—a hollow scooped out of the great headlandas if some Titanic monster of a prehistoric period had risen up out ofthe waves and bitten it—where, sheltered and hidden on three sides bygrassy banks, sloping gently upward until they overtopped the chimneys,and with all the great plain of the sea outspread beneath the frontverandah, stood the house which had been, but was to be no more, theirhome.

It was well worth the money that the storekeeper had offered for it. Itwas a really charming house, though people had not been accustomed tolook at it in that light—though it was built of roughest weatherboardthat had never known a paint-brush, and heavily roofed with greatsheets of bark that were an offence to the provincial eye, accustomedto the chaste elegance of corrugated zinc. A strong, and sturdy,and genuine little house—as, indeed, it had to be to hold its ownagainst the stormy blasts that buffeted it; mellowed and tanned withtime and weather, and with all its honest, rugged features softenedunder a tender drapery of hardy English ivy and climbing plants thatpatient skill and care had induced to grow, and even to thrive inthat unfriendly air. The verandah, supported on squat posts, was acontinuation of the roof; and that roof, with green leaves curlingupward over it, was so conspicuously solid, and so widely overspreadand over-shadowed the low walls, that it was about all that could beseen of the house from the ridges of the high land around it. Butlower down, the windows—nearly all set in rude but substantial doorframes—opened like shy eyes in the shadow of the deep eaves of theverandah, like eyes that had expression in them; and the retiringwalls bore on numerous nails and shelves a miscellaneous but orderlycollection of bird-cages, flower boxes, boating and fishing apparatus,and odds and ends of various kinds, that gave a charming homelypicturesqueness to the quaint aspect of the place. The comparativelyspacious verandah, running along the front of the house (which had beenmade all front, as far as possible), was the drawing-room and generalliving room of the family during the greater part of the year. Itsfloor, of unplaned hardwood, dark with age and wear, but as exquisitelyclean as sweeping and scrubbing could make it, was one of the loveliestterraces in the country for the view that it afforded—so our girlswill maintain, at any rate, to their dying day. Now that they see it nomore, they have passionate memories of their beloved bay, seen througha frame of rustling leaves from that lofty platform—how it looked inthe dawn and sunrise, in the intensely blue noon, in the moonlightnights, and when gales and tempests were abroad, and how it soundedin the hushed darkness when they woke out of their sleep to listento it—the rhythmic fall of breaking waves on the rocks below, thetremulous boom that filled the air and seemed to shake the foundationsof the solid earth. They have no wish to get back to their early homeand their hermit life there now—they have tasted a new wine that isbetter than the old; but, all the same, they think and say that fromthe lonely eyrie where they were nursed and reared they looked outupon such a scene as the wide world would never show them any more.In the foreground, immediately below the verandah, a little grass, afew sturdy shrubs, and such flowers as could keep their footing in soexposed a place, clothed the short slope of the edge of the cliff,down the steep face of which a breakneck path zig-zagged to the beach,where only a narrow strip of white sand, scarcely more than a couple ofyards wide, was uncovered when the tide was out. Behind the house was awell-kept, if rather sterile, kitchen garden; and higher up the cliff,but still partly sheltered in the hollow, a very small farm-yard andone barren little paddock.

Through a back gate, by way of the farm-yard and kitchen garden, thesisters entered their domain when it was late enough to be callednight, though the twilight lingered, and were welcomed with effusionby an ugly but worthy little terrier which had been bidden to keephouse, and had faithfully discharged that duty during their absence. Asthey approached the house, a pet opossum sprang from the dairy roof toEleanor's shoulder, and a number of tame magpies woke up with a sleepyscuffle and gathered round her. A little monkey-bear came cautiouslydown from the only gum tree that grew on the premises, grunting andwhimpering, and crawled up Patty's skirts; and any quantity of catsand kittens appealed to Elizabeth for recognition. The girls spoke tothem all by name, as if they had been so many children, cuffed themplayfully for their forward manners, and ordered them to bed or towhatever avocations were proper to the hour. When a match was struckand the back-door opened, the opossum took a few flying leaps roundthe kitchen, had his ears boxed, and was flung back again upon thedairy roof. The little bear clung whining to his mistress, but wasalso put outside with a firm hand; and the cats and magpies were sweptover the threshold with a broom. "Brats!" cried Patty with ferociousvehemence, as she closed the kitchen door sharply, at the risk ofcutting off some of their noses; "what are we to do with them? Theyseem as if they knew we were going away, the aggravating littlewretches. There, there"—raising the most caressing voice in answerto the whine of the monkey-bear—"don't cry, my pet! Get up your tree,darling, and have a nice supper and go to sleep."

Then, having listened for a few seconds at the closed door, shefollowed Elizabeth through the kitchen to the sitting-room, and, whileher sister lit the lamp, stepped through the French window to sniffthe salt sea air. For some time the humble members of the family wereheard prowling disconsolately about the house, but none of them, exceptthe terrier, appeared upon the verandah, where the ghost of their evilgenius still sat in his old armchair with his stick by his side. Theyhad been driven thence so often and with such memorable indignitiesthat it would never occur to them to go there any more. And so thesisters were left in peace. Eleanor busied herself in the kitchen forawhile, setting her little batch of bread by the embers of the hearth,in view of a hot loaf for their early breakfast, while she sang someGerman ballads to herself with an ear for the refinements of bothlanguage and music that testified to the thoroughness of her mother'sculture, and of the methods by which it had been imparted. Patty wentto the dairy for a jug of milk for supper, which frugal meal wasotherwise prepared by Elizabeth's hands; and at nine o'clock the triogathered round the sitting-room table to refresh themselves with thickslices of bread and jam, and half-an-hour's gossip before they went tobed.

A pretty and pathetic picture they made as they sat round thattable, with the dim light of one kerosene lamp on their strikinglyfair faces—alone in the little house that was no longer theirs,and in the wide world, but so full of faith and hope in the unknownfuture—discussing ways and means for getting their furnitureto Melbourne. That time-honoured furniture, and their immediatesurroundings generally, made a poor setting for such a group—a long,low, canvas-lined room, papered with prints from the IllustratedLondon News (a pictorial European "history of our own times"), fromthe ceiling to the floor, the floor being without a carpet, and theglass doors furnished only with a red baize curtain to draw againstthe sea winds of winter nights. The tables and chairs were of thesame order of architecture as the house; the old mahogany bureau,with its brass mounting and multitudinous internal ramifications, wasridiculously out of date and out of fashion (as fashion was understoodin that part of the world); the ancient chintz sofa, though as easyas a feather bed, and of a capacity equal to the accommodation ofGiant Blunderbore, was obviously home-made and not meant to betoo closely criticised; and even the piano, which was a modern andbeautiful instrument in itself, hid its music in a stained deal casethan which no plain egg of a nightingale could be plainer. And yet thisodd environment for three beautiful and cultured women had a certaindignity and harmoniousness about it—often lacking in later and moreluxurious surroundings. It was in tune with those simple lives, andwith the majestic solitude of the great headland and the sea.



Melbourne people, when they go to bed, chain up their doors carefully,and bar all their windows, lest the casual burglar should molest them.Bush people, no more afraid of the night than of the day, are oftenquite unable to tell you whether there is such a thing as an effectivelock upon the premises. So our girls, in their lonely dwelling on thecliff, slept in perfect peace and security, with the wind from the seablowing over their faces through the open door-windows at the foot oftheir little beds. Dan Tucker, the terrier, walked softly to and froover their thresholds at intervals in the course of the night, and keptaway any stray kitten that had not yet learned its proper place; thatwas all the watch and ward that he or they considered necessary.

At five o'clock in the morning, Elizabeth King, who had a little slipof a room to herself, just wide enough to allow the leaves of theFrench window at the end of it to be held back, when open, by buttonsattached to the side walls, stirred in her sleep, stretched herself,yawned, and then springing up into a sitting posture, propped herselfon her pillows to see the new day begin. It was a sight to see, indeed,from that point of view; but it was not often that any of them wokefrom their sound and healthy slumber at this time of the year, untilthe sun was high enough to shoot a level ray into their eyes. At fiveo'clock the surface of the great deep had not begun to shine, but itwas light enough to see the black posts and eaves of the verandah, andthe stems and leaves that twined about them, outlined sharply upon thedim expanse. Elizabeth's bed had no footrail, and there was no chairor dressing-table in the way to impede a clear view of sea and sky.As she lay, the line of the horizon was drawn straight across thedoorway, about three feet above the edge of the verandah floor; andthere a faint pink streak, with fainter flushes on a bank of cloudsabove it, showed where the sun was about to rise. The waves splashedheavily on the beach, and boomed in the great caves of the rocks below;the sea-gulls called to each other with their queer little cry, atonce soft and shrill; and the magpies piped and chattered all aroundthe house, and more co*cks than could anyhow be accounted for croweda mutual defiance far and near. And yet, oh, how still—how solemnlystill—it was! I am not going to describe that sunrise, though I sawone exactly like it only this very morning. I have seen people take outtheir tubes and brushes, and sit down with placid confidence to paintsun-kissed hills, and rocks, and seas; and, if you woke them up earlyenough, they would "sketch" the pink and golden fire of this flamingdawn without a moment's hesitation. But I know better.

Ere the many-coloured transformation scene had melted in dazzleof daylight, Elizabeth was dressing herself by her still openwindow—throwing long shadows as she moved to and fro about the nowsun-flooded room. Patty was busy in her dairy churning, with a numberof her pets round the door, hustling each other to get at the milkdish set down for their breakfast—the magpies tugging at the cats andkittens by ears and tail, and the cats and kittens cuffing the magpiessmartly. Eleanor, singing her German ballads still, was hard at workin the kitchen, baking delicate loaves for breakfast, and attending tokitchen matters generally. The elder sister's office on this occasionwas to let out and feed the fowls, to sweep and dust, and to preparethe table for their morning meal. Never since they had grown out ofchildhood had they known the sensation of being waited upon by aservant, and as yet their system of education had been such that theydid not know what the word "menial" meant. To be together with no oneto interfere with them, and independent of everybody but themselves,was a habit whose origin was too remote for inquiry, and that hadbecome a second nature and a settled theory of life—a sort of instinctof pride and modesty, moreover, though an instinct too natural to beaware of its own existence.

When the little loaves were done and the big ones put in the oven,Eleanor fetched a towel, donned a broad hat, and, passing out at thefront of the house, ran lightly down the steep track on the face ofthe cliff to their bath-house on the beach—a little closet of roughslabs built in the rock above high water; whence she presently emergedin a scanty flannel garment, with her slender white limbs bare, andflung herself like a mermaid into the sea. There were sharks in thatbay sometimes, and there were devil-fish too (Sam Dunn had spread oneout, star-wise, on a big boulder close by, and it lay there still,with its horrible arms dangling from its hideous bag of a body, to bea warning to these venturesome young ladies, who, he fully expected,would be "et up" some day like little flies by a spider); but theyfound their safety in the perfect transparency of the water, comingin from the great pure ocean to the unsullied rocks, and kept a warywatch for danger. While Eleanor was disporting herself, Patty joinedher, and after Patty, Elizabeth; and one by one they came up, glowingand dripping, like—no, I won't be tempted to make that familiarclassical comparison—like nothing better than themselves for artisticpurposes. As Elizabeth, who was the last to leave the water, walkedup the short flight of steps to her little dressing closet, straightand stately, with her full throat and bust and her nobly shaped limbs,she was the very model that sculptors dream of and hunt for (asmany more might be, if brought up as she had been), but seldom arefortunate enough to find. In her gown and leather belt, her beauty offigure, of course, was not so obvious: the raiment of civilisation,however simple, levelled it from the standard of Greek art to that ofconventional comparison with other dressed-up women—by which, it mustbe confessed, she suffered.

Having assumed this raiment, she followed her sisters up the cliffpath to the house; and there she found them talking volubly with Mrs.Dunn, who had brought them, with Sam's best respects, a freshly caughtschnapper for their breakfast. Mrs. Dunn was their nearest neighbour,their only help in domestic emergencies, and of late days their devotedand confidential friend. Sam, her husband, had for some years been aministering angel in the back yard, a purveyor of firewood and mutton,a killer of pigs, and so on; and he also had taken the orphan girlsunder his protection, so far as he could, since they had been "left."

"Look at this!" cried Eleanor, holding it up—it took both hands tohold it, for it weighed about a dozen pounds; "did you ever see sucha fish, Elizabeth? Breakfast indeed! Yes, we'll have it to breakfastto-day and to-morrow too, and for dinner and tea and supper. Oh, howstupid Sam is! Why didn't he send it to market? Why didn't he take itdown to the steamer? He's not a man of business a bit, Mrs. Dunn—he'llnever make his fortune this way. Get the pan for me, Patty, and set thefat boiling. We'll fry a bit this very minute, and you shall stay andhelp us to eat it, Mrs. Dunn."

"Oh, my dear Miss Nelly—"

"Elizabeth, take charge of her, and don't let her go. Don't listen toher. We have not seen her for three whole days, and we want her totell us about the furniture. Keep her safe, and Patty and I will havebreakfast ready in a minute."

And in a short time the slice of schnapper was steaming on the table—amost simply appointed breakfast table, but very clean and dainty inits simplicity—and Mrs. Dunn sat down with her young protégées, andsipped her tea and gave them matronly advice, with much enjoyment ofthe situation.

Her advice was excellent, and amounted to this—"Don't you go for totake a stick o' that there furniture out o' the place." They wereto have an auction, she said; and go to Melbourne with the proceedsin their pockets. Hawkins would be glad o' the beds, perhaps, withhis large family; as Mrs. Hawkins had a lovely suite in green rep,she wouldn't look at the rest o' the things, which, though verycomf'able, no doubt—very nice indeed, my dears—were not what ladiesand gentlemen had in their houses now-a-days. "As for that therebureau"—pointing to it with her teaspoon—"if you set that up in aMelbourne parlour, why, you'd just have all your friends laughing atyou."

The girls looked around the room with quick eyes, and then looked ateach other with half-grave and half amused dismay. Patty spoke up withher usual promptness.

"It doesn't matter in the least to us what other people like to havein their houses," said she. "And that bureau, as it happens, is veryvaluable, Mrs. Dunn: it belonged to one of the governors before we hadit, and Mr. Brion says there is no such cabinet work in these days. Hesays it was made in France more than a hundred years ago."

"Yes, my dear. So you might say that there was no such stuff now-a-daysas what them old gowns was made of, that your poor ma wore when she wasa girl. But you wouldn't go for to wear them old gowns now. I daresaythe bureau was a grand piece o' furniture once, but it's out o' fashionnow, and when a thing is out o' fashion it isn't worth anything. Sellit to Mr. Brion if you can; it would be a fine thing for a lawyer'soffice, with all them little shelves and drawers. He might give youa five-pound note for it, as he's a friend like, and you could buy ahandsome new cedar chiffonnier for that."

"Mrs. Dunn," said Eleanor, rising to replenish the worthy matron'splate, with Patty's new butter and her own new bread, "we are not goingto sell that bureau—no, not to anybody. It has associations, don't youunderstand?—and also a set of locks that no burglar could pick if hetried ever so. We are not going to sell our bureau—nor our piano—"

"Oh, but, my dear Miss Nelly—"

"My dear Mrs. Dunn, it cost ninety guineas, I do assure you, only fiveyears ago, and it is as modern and fashionable as heart could wish."

"Fashionable! why, it might as well be a cupboard bedstead, in thatthere common wood. Mrs. Hawkins gave only fifty pounds for hers, and itis real walnut and carved beautiful."

"We are not going to sell that piano, my dear woman." Though Nellyappeared to wait meekly upon her elder sisters' judgment, it oftenhappened that she decided a question that was put before them in thisprompt way. "And I'll tell you for why," she continued playfully. "Youshut your eyes for five minutes—wait, I'll tie my handkerchief overthem"—and she deftly blindfolded the old woman, whose stout frameshook with honest giggles of enjoyment at this manifestation of MissNelly's fun. "Now," said Nelly, "don't laugh—don't remember that youare here with us, or that there is such a thing as a cupboard bedsteadin the world. Imagine that you are floating down the Rhine on amoonlight night—no, by the way, imagine that you are in a drawing-roomin Melbourne, furnished with a lovely green rep suite, and a handsomenew cedar chiffonnier, and a carved walnut piano—and that a beautiful,fashionable lady, with scent on her pocket-handkerchief, is sitting atthat piano. And—and listen for a minute."

Whereupon, lifting her hands from the old woman's shoulders, shecrossed the room, opened the piano noiselessly, and began to play herfavourite German airs—the songs of the people, that seem so muchsweeter and more pathetic and poetic than the songs of any otherpeople—mixing two or three of them together and rendering them with atouch and expression that worked like a spell of enchantment upon themall. Elizabeth sat back in her chair and lost herself in the visionsthat appeared to her on the ceiling. Patty spread her arms over thetable and leaned towards the piano, breathing a soft accompanimentof German words in tender, sighing undertones, while her warm pulsesthrobbed and her eyes brightened with the unconscious passion that wasstirred in her fervent soul. Even the weather-beaten old charwoman fellinto a reverent attitude as of a devotee in church.

"There," said Eleanor, taking her hands from the keys and shutting upthe instrument, with a suddenness that made them jump. "Now I ask you,Mrs. Dunn, as an honest and truthful woman—can you say that that isa piano to be sold?"

"Beautiful, my dear, beautiful—it's like being in heaven to hear thelike o' that," the old woman responded warmly, pulling the bandagefrom her eyes. "But you'd draw music from an old packing case, Ido believe." And it was found that Mrs. Dunn was unshaken in herconviction that pianos were valuable in proportion to their externalsplendour, and their tone sweet and powerful by virtue solely of theskill of the fingers that played upon them. If Mr. King had givenninety guineas for "that there"—about which she thought there must besome mistake—she could only conclude that his rural innocence had beenimposed upon by wily city tradesmen.

"Well," said Nelly, who was now busy collecting the crockery on thebreakfast table, "we must see if we can't furbish it up, Mrs. Dunn.We can paint a landscape on the front, perhaps, and tie some pinksatin ribbons on the handles. Or we might set it behind a curtain, orin a dark corner, where it will be heard and not seen. But keep itwe must—both that and the bureau. You would not part with those twothings, Elizabeth?"

"My dear," said Elizabeth, "it would grieve me to part with anything."

"But I think," said Patty, "Mrs. Dunn may be right about the otherfurniture. What would it cost to take all our things to Melbourne, Mrs.Dunn?"

"Twice as much as they are worth, Miss Patty—three times as much.Carriage is awful, whether by sea or land."

"It is a great distance," said Patty, thoughtfully, "and it would bevery awkward. We cannot take them with us, for we shall want firstto find a place to put them in, and we could not come back to fetchthem. I think we had better speak to Mr. Hawkins, Elizabeth, and, ifhe doesn't want them, have a little auction. We must keep some things,of course; but I am sure Mr. Hawkins would let them stay till we couldsend for them, or Mr. Brion would house them for us."

"We should feel very free that way, and it would be nice to buy newthings," said Eleanor.

"Or we might not have to buy—we might put this money to the other,"said Patty. "We might find that we did not like Melbourne, and then wecould go to Europe at once without any trouble."

"And take the pianner to Europe along with you?" inquired Mrs. Dunn."And that there bureau?"



They decided to sell their furniture—with the exception of the pianoand the bureau, and sundry treasures that could bestowed away in thelatter capacious receptacle; and, on being made acquainted with thefact, the obliging Mr. Hawkins offered to take it as it stood for alump sum of £50, and his offer was gratefully accepted. Sam Dunn wasvery wroth over this transaction, for he knew the value of the dairyand kitchen utensils and farm-yard appliances, which went to the newtenant along with the household furniture that Mrs. Dunn, as a candidfriend, had disparaged and despised; and he reproached Elizabeth,tenderly, but with tears in his eyes, for having allowed herself tobe "done" by not taking Mr. Brion's advice upon the matter, and shookhis head over the imminent fate of these three innocent and helplesslambs about to fling themselves into the jaws of the commercialwolves of Melbourne. Elizabeth told him that she did not like to bealways teasing Mr. Brion, who had already done all the legal businessnecessary to put them in possession of their little property, and hadrefused to take any fee for his trouble; that, as they had nothing moreto sell, no buyer could "do" them again; and that, finally, they allthought fifty pounds a great deal of money, and were quite satisfiedwith their bargain. But Sam, as a practical man, continued to shake hishead, and bade her remember him when she was in trouble and in needof a faithful friend—assuring her, with a few strong seafaring oaths(which did not shock her in the least, for they were meant to emphasisethe sincerity of his protestations), that she and her sisters shouldnever want, if he knew it, while he had a crust of bread and a breathin his body.

And so they began to pack up. And the fuss and confusion of thatoccupation—which becomes so irksome when the charm of novelty ispast—was full of enjoyment for them all. It would have done thetravel-worn cynic good to see them scampering about the house, aslightly as the kittens that frisked after them, carrying armfuls ofhouse linen and other precious chattels to and fro, and prattling thewhile of their glorious future like so many school children about topay a first visit to the pantomime. It was almost heartless, Mrs.Dunn thought—dropping in occasionally to see how they were gettingon—considering what cause had broken up their home, and that theirfather had been so recently taken from them that she (Mrs. Dunn) couldnot bring herself to walk without hesitation into the house, stillfancying she should see him sitting in his arm-chair and looking at herwith those hard, unsmiling eyes, as if to ask her what business she hadthere. But Mr. King had been a harsh father, and this is what harshfathers must expect of children who have never learned how to dissemblefor the sake of appearances. They reverenced his memory and held itdear, but he had left them no associations that could sadden them likethe sight of their mother's clothes folded away in the long unopeneddrawers of the wardrobe in her room—the room in which he had slept anddied only a few weeks ago.

These precious garments, smelling of lavender, camphor, and sandalwood,were all taken out and looked at, and tenderly smoothed afresh, andlaid in a deep drawer of the bureau. There were treasures amongst themof a value that the girls had no idea of—old gowns of faded brocadeand embroidered muslin, a yellow-white Indian shawl so soft that itcould be drawn through a wedding ring, yellower lace of still morewonderful texture, and fans, and scarfs, and veils, and odds and endsof ancient finery, that would have been worth considerably more thantheir weight in gold to a modern art collector. But these reminiscencesof their mother's far-off girlhood, carefully laid in the bottom of thedrawer, were of no account to them compared with the half-worn gownsof cheap stuff and cotton—still showing the print of her throat andarms—that were spread so reverently on the top of them; and comparedwith the numerous other memorials of her last days—her workbox, withits unfinished bit of needlework, and scissors and thimble, and tapesand cottons, just as she had left it—her Prayer-Book and Bible—herfavourite cup, from which she drank her morning tea—her shabby velvetslippers, her stiff-fingered gardening gloves—all the relics that herchildren had cherished of the daily, homely life that they had beenprivileged to share with her; the bestowal of which was carried on insilence, or with tearful whispers, while all the pets were locked outof the room, as if it had been a religious function. When this drawerwas closed, and they had refreshed their saddened spirits with a longwalk, they set themselves with light hearts to fill the remainder ofthe many shelves and niches of the bureau with piles of books andmusic, painting materials, collections of wild flowers and shells andseaweeds, fragments of silver plate that had lain there always, asfar as they knew, along with some old miniatures and daguerreotypesin rusty leather cases, and old bundles of papers that Mr. Brion hadwarned them to take care of—and with their own portfolios of sketchesand little personal treasures of various kinds, their father's watch,and stick, and spurs, and spectacles—and so on, and so on.

After this, they had only to pack up their bed and table linen andknives and forks, which were to go with them to Melbourne, and toarrange their own scanty wardrobes to the best advantage.

"We shall certainly want some clothes," said Eleanor, surveying theirunited stock of available wearing apparel on Elizabeth's bedroom floor."I propose that we appropriate—say £5—no, that might not be enough;say £10—from the furniture money to settle ourselves up each with anice costume—dress, jacket, and bonnet complete—so that we may looklike other people when we get to Melbourne."

"We'll get there first," said Patty, "and see what is worn, and theprice of things. Our black prints are very nice for everyday, and wecan wear our brown homespuns as soon as we get away from Mrs. Dunn. Shesaid it was disrespectful to poor father's memory to put on anythingbut black when she saw you in your blue gingham, Nelly. Poor old soul!one would think we were a set of superstitious heathen pagans. I wonderwhere she got all those queer ideas from?"

"She knows a great deal more than we do, Patty," said wise Elizabeth,from her kneeling posture on the floor.

They packed all their clothes into two small but weighty brass-boundtrunks, leaving out their blue ginghams, their well-worn water-proofs,and their black-ribboned sailor hats to travel in. Then they turnedtheir attention to the animals, and suffered grievous trouble in theirefforts to secure a comfortable provision for them after their owndeparture. The monkey-bear, the object of their fondest solicitude,was entrusted to Sam Dunn, who swore with picturesque energy that hewould cherish it as his own child. It was put into a large cage withabout a bushel of fresh gum leaves, and Sam was adjured to restoreit to liberty as soon as he had induced it to grow fond of him. ThenPatty and Eleanor took the long walk to the township to call on Mrs.Hawkins, in order to entreat her good offices for the rest of theirpets. But Mrs. Hawkins seized the precious opportunity that theyoffered her for getting the detailed information, such as only womencould give, concerning the interior construction and capabilities ofher newly-acquired residence, and she had no attention to spare foranything else. The girls left, after sitting on two green rep chairsfor nearly an hour, with the depressing knowledge that their house wasto be painted inside and out, and roofed with zinc, and verandahed withgreen trellis-work; and that there was to be a nice road made to it, sothat the family could drive to and from their place of business; andthat it was to have "Sea View Villa" painted on the garden gate posts.But whether their pets were to be allowed to roam over the transformedpremises (supposing they had the heart to do so) was more than theycould tell. So they had an anxious consultation with Elizabeth, allthe parties concerned being present, cuddled and fondled on arms andknees; and the result was a determination not to leave the preciousdarlings to the tender mercies of the Hawkins family. Sam Dunn was totake the opossum in a basket to some place where there were trees,a river, and other opossums, and there turn him out to unlearn hiscivilisation and acquire the habits and customs of his unsophisticatedkinsfolk—a course of study to which your pet opossum submits himselfvery readily as a rule. The magpies were also to be left to shift forthemselves, for they were in the habit of consorting with other magpiesin a desultory manner, and they could "find" themselves in board andlodging. But the cats—O, the poor, dear, confiding old cats! O, thesweet little playful kitties!—the girls were distracted to know whatto do for them. There were so many of them, and they would never beinduced to leave the place—that rocky platform so barren of littlebirds, and those ancient buildings where no mouse had been allowed somuch as to come into the world for years past. They would not be fed,of course, when their mistresses were gone. They would get into thedairy and the pantry, and steal Mrs. Hawkins's milk and meat—and itwas easy to conjecture what would happen then. Mrs. Hawkins had boysmoreover—rough boys who went to the State school, and looked capableof all the fiendish atrocities that young animals of their age and sexwere supposed to delight in. Could they leave their beloved ones to themercy of boys? They consulted Sam Dunn, and Sam's advice was——

Never mind. Cats and kittens disappeared. And then only Dan Tuckerwas left. Him, at any rate, they declared they would never part with,while he had a breath in his faithful body. He should go with them toMelbourne, bless his precious heart!—-or, if need were, to the ends ofthe earth.

And so, at last, all their preparations were made, and the day camewhen, with unexpected regrets and fears, they walked out of the oldhouse which had been their only home into the wide world, where theywere utter strangers. Sam Dunn came with his wood-cart to carry theirluggage to the steamer (the conveyance they had selected, in preferenceto coach and railway, because it was cheaper, and they were morefamiliar with it); and then they shut up doors and windows, sobbing asthey went from room to room; stood on the verandah in front of the seato solemnly kiss each other, and walked quietly down to the township,hand in hand, and with the terrier at their heels, to have tea with Mr.Brion and his old housekeeper before they went on board.



Late in the evening when the sea was lit up with a young moon, Mr.Brion, having given them a great deal of serious advice concerningtheir money and other business affairs, escorted our three girls tothe little jetty where the steamer that called in once a week lay ather moorings, ready to start for Melbourne and intermediate portsat five o'clock next morning. The old lawyer was a spare, grave,gentlemanly-looking old man, and as much a gentleman as he looked, withthe kindest heart in the world when you could get at it: a man whowas esteemed and respected, to use the language of the local paper,by all his fellow-townsmen, whether friends or foes. They Anglicisedhis name in speaking it, and they wrote it "Bryan" far more often thannot, though nothing enraged him more than to have his precious vowelstampered with; but they liked him so much that they never cast it up tohim that he was a Frenchman.

This good old man, chivalrous as any paladin, in his shy and secretway, always anxious to hide his generous emotions, as the traditionalFrenchman is anxious to display them, had done a father's part byour young orphans since their own father had left them so strangelydesolate. Sam Dunn had compassed them with sweet observances, as wehave seen; but Sam was powerless to unravel the web of difficulties,legal and otherwise, in which Mr. King's death had plunged them. Mr.Brion had done all this, and a great deal more that nobody knew of,to protect the girls and their interests at a critical juncture, andto give them a fair and clear start on their own account. And in theprocess of thus serving them he had become very much attached to themin his old-fashioned, reticent way; and he did not at all like havingto let them go away alone in this lonely-looking night.

"But Paul will be there to meet you," he said, for the twentieth time,laying his hand over Elizabeth's, which rested on his arm. "You maytrust to Paul—as soon as the boat is telegraphed he will come to meetyou—he will see to everything that is necessary—you will have nobother at all. And, my dear, remember what I say—let the boy adviseyou for a little while. Let him take care of you, and imagine it isI. You may trust him as absolutely as you trust me, and he will notpresume upon your confidence, believe me. He is not like the young menof the country," added Paul's father, putting a little extra stiffnessinto his upright figure. "No, no—he is quite different."

"I think you have instructed us so fully, dear Mr. Brion, that we shallget along very well without having to trouble Mr. Paul," interposedPatty, in her clear, quick way, speaking from a little distance.

The steamer, with her lamps lit, was all in a clatter and bustle,taking in passengers and cargo. Sam Dunn was on board, having seen theboxes stowed away safely; and he came forward to say good-bye to hisyoung ladies before driving his cart home.

"I'll miss ye," said the brawny fisherman, with savage tenderness; "andthe missus'll miss ye. Darned if we shall know the place with you goneout of it. Many's the dark night the light o' your winders has beenbetter'n the lighthouse to show me the way home."

He pointed to the great headland lying, it seemed now, so far, faroff, ghostly as a cloud. And presently he went away; and they couldhear him, as he drove back along the jetty, cursing his old horse—towhich he was as much attached as if it had been a human friend—withblood-curdling ferocity.

Mr. Brion stayed with them until it seemed improper to stay anylonger—until all the passengers that were to come on board had housedthemselves for the night, and all the baggage had been snugly stowedaway—and then bade them good-bye, with less outward emotion than Samhad displayed, but with almost as keen a pang.

"God bless you, my dears," said he, with paternal solemnity. "Take careof yourselves, and let Paul do what he can for you. I will send youyour money every quarter, and you must keep accounts—keep accountsstrictly. And ask Paul what you want to know. Then you will get alongall right, please God."

"O yes, we shall get along all right," repeated Patty, whose sturdyoptimism never failed her in the most trying moments.

But when the old man was gone, and they stood on the tiny slip of deckthat was available to stand on, feeling no necessity to cling to therailings as the little vessel heaved up and down in the wash of thetide that swirled amongst the piers of the jetty—when they looked atthe lights of the town sprinkled round the shore and up the hillsides,at their own distant headland, unlighted, except by the white haze ofthe moon, at the now deserted jetty, and the apparently illimitablesea—when they realised for the first time that they were alone in thisgreat and unknown world—even Patty's bold heart was inclined to sink alittle.

"Elizabeth," she said, "we must not cry—it is absurd. What is thereto cry for? Now, all the things we have been dreaming and longing forare going to happen—the story is beginning. Let us go to bed and geta good sleep before the steamer starts so that we are fresh in themorning—so that we don't lose anything. Come, Nelly, let us see ifpoor Dan is comfortable, and have some supper and go to bed."

They cheered themselves with the sandwiches and the gooseberry winethat Mr. Brion's housekeeper had put up for them, paid a visit to Dan,who was in charge of an amiable cook (whom the old lawyer had tippedhandsomely), and then faced the dangers and difficulties of gettingto bed. Descending the brass-bound staircase to the lower regions,they paused, their faces flushed up, and they looked at each other asif the scene before them was something unfit for the eyes of modestgirls. They were shocked, as by some specific impropriety, at thenoise and confusion, the rough jostling and the impure atmosphere,in the morsel of a ladies' cabin, from which the tiny slips of bunksprepared for them were divided only by a scanty curtain. This was theirfirst contact with the world, so to speak, and they fled from it. Tospend a night in that suffocating hole, with those loud women theirfellow passengers, was a too appalling prospect. So Elizabeth went tothe captain, who knew their story, and admired their faces, and wasinclined to be very kind to them, and asked his permission to occupya retired corner of the deck. On his seeming to hesitate—they beingdesperately anxious not to give anybody any trouble—they assured himthat the place above all others where they would like to make their bedwas on the wedge-shaped platform in the bows, where they would be outof everybody's way.

"But, my dear young lady, there is no railing there," said the captain,laughing at the proposal as a joke.

"A good eight inches—ten inches," said Elizabeth. "Quite enough foranybody in the roughest sea."

"For a sailor perhaps, but not for young ladies who get giddy andfrightened and seasick. Supposing you tumbled off in the dark, and Ifound you gone when I came to look for you in the morning."

"We tumble off!" cried Eleanor. "We never tumbled off anythingin our lives. We have lived on the cliffs like the goats and thegulls—nothing makes us giddy. And I don't think anything will make usseasick—or frightened either."

"Certainly not frightened," said Patty.

He let them have their way—taking a great many (as they thought)perfectly unnecessary precautions in fixing up their quarters in caseof a rough sea—and himself carried out their old opossum rug and anarmful of pillows to make their nest comfortable. So, in this quietand breezy bedchamber, roofed over by the moonlit sky, they lay downwith much satisfaction in each other's arms, unwatched and unmolested,as they loved to be, save by the faithful Dan Tucker, who found hisway to their feet in the course of the night. And the steamer left hermoorings and worked out of the bay into the open ocean, puffing andclattering, and danced up and down over the long waves, and they knewnothing about it. In the fresh air, with the familiar voice of the seaaround them, they slept soundly under the opossum rug until the sun washigh.



They slept for two nights on the tip of the steamer's nose, and theydid not roll off. They had a long, delightful day at sea, no moretroubled with seasickness than were the gulls to which they hadcompared themselves, and full of inquiring interest for each of theports they touched at, and for all the little novelties of a firstvoyage. They became great friends with the captain and crew, and withsome children who were amongst the passengers (the ladies of the partywere indisposed to fraternise with them, not being able to reconcilethemselves to the cut and quality of the faded blue gingham gowns,or to those eccentric sleeping arrangements, both of which seemed topoint to impecuniosity—which is so closely allied to impropriety, aseverybody knows). They sat down to their meals in the little cabin withwonderful appetites; they walked the deck in the fine salt wind withfeet that were light and firm, and hearts that were high and hopefuland full of courage and enterprise. Altogether, they felt that thestory was beginning pleasantly, and they were eager to turn over thepages.

And then, on the brightest of bright summer mornings, they came toMelbourne.

They did not quite know what they had expected to see, but what theydid see astonished them. The wild things caught in the bush, andcarried in cages to the Eastern market, could not have felt moresurprised or dismayed by the novelty of the situation than did theseintrepid damsels when they found themselves fairly launched into theworld they were so anxious to know. For a few minutes after theirarrival they stood together silent, breathless, taking it all in; andthen Patty—yes, it was Patty—exclaimed:

"Oh, where is Paul Brion?"

Paul Brion was there, and the words had no sooner escaped her lipsthan he appeared before them. "How do you do, Miss King?" he said, notholding out his hand, but taking off his hat with one of his father'sformal salutations, including them all. "I hope you have had a pleasantpassage. If you will kindly tell me what luggage you have, I will takeyou to your cab; it is waiting for you just here. Three boxes? Allright. I will see after them."

He was a small, slight, wiry little man, with decidedly brusque, thoughperfectly polite manners; active and self-possessed, and, in a certainway of his own, dignified, notwithstanding his low stature. He was nothandsome, but he had a keen and clever face—rather fierce as to theeyes and mouth, which latter was adorned with a fierce little moustachecurling up at the corners—but pleasant to look at, and one thatinspired trust.

"He is not a bit like his father," said Patty, following him withEleanor, as he led Elizabeth to the cab. Patty was angry with him foroverhearing that "Where is Paul Brion?"—as she was convinced he haddone—and her tone was disparaging.

"As the mother duck said of the ugly duckling, if he is not pretty hehas a good disposition," said Eleanor. "He is like his father in that.It was very kind of him to come and help us. A press man must always beterribly busy."

"I don't see why we couldn't have managed for ourselves. It is nothingbut to call a cab," said Patty with irritation.

"And where could we have gone to?" asked her sister, reproachfully.

"For the matter of that, where are we going now? We haven't the leastidea. I think it was very stupid to leave ourselves in the hands of achance young man whom we have hardly ever seen. We make ourselves looklike a set of helpless infants—as if we couldn't do without him."

"Well, we can't," said Eleanor.

"Nonsense. We don't try. But," added Patty, after a pause, "we mustbegin to try—we must begin at once."

They arrived at the cab, in which Elizabeth had seated herself, withthe bewildered Dan in her arms, her sweet, open face all smiles andsunshine. Paul Brion held the door open, and, as the younger sisterspassed him, looked at them intently with searching eyes. This was afresh offence to Patty, at whom he certainly looked most. Impressionsnew and strange were crowding upon her brain this morning thick andfast. "Elizabeth," she said, unconscious that her brilliant littlecountenance, with that flush of excitement upon it, was enough tofascinate the gaze of the dullest man; "Elizabeth, he looks at us asif we were curiosities—he thinks we are dowdy and countryfied and itamuses him."

"My dear," interposed Eleanor, who, like Elizabeth, was (as she herselfexpressed it) reeking with contentment, "you could not have seen hisface if you think that. He was as grave as a judge."

"Then he pities us, Nelly, and that is worse. He thinks we are queeroutlandish creatures—frights. So we are. Look at those women on theother side of the street, how differently they are dressed! We oughtnot to have come in these old clothes, Elizabeth."

"But, my darling, we are travelling, and anything does to travel in.We will put on our black frocks when we get home, and we will buyourselves some new ones. Don't trouble about such a trifle now,Patty—it is not like you. Oh, see what a perfect day it is! And thinkof our being in Melbourne at last! I am trying to realise it, but italmost stuns me. What a place it is! But Mr. Paul says our lodgingsare in a quiet, airy street—not in this noisy part. Ah, here he is!And there are the three boxes all safe. Thank you so much," she saidwarmly, looking at the young man of the world, who was some fiveyears older than herself, with frankest friendliness, as a benevolentgrandmamma might have looked at an obliging schoolboy. "You are verygood—we are very grateful to you."

"And very sorry to have given you so much trouble," added Patty, withthe air of a young duch*ess.

He looked at her quickly, and made a slight bow. He did not say thatwhat he had done had been no trouble at all, but a pleasure—he did notsay a word, indeed; and his silence made her little heart swell withmortification. He turned to Elizabeth, and, resting his hands on thedoor-frame, began to explain the nature of the arrangements that he hadmade for them, with business-like brevity.

"Your lodgings are in Myrtle Street, Miss King. That is in EastMelbourne, you know—quite close to the gardens—quite quiet andretired, and yet within a short walk of Collins Street, and handy forall the places you want to see. You have two bedrooms and a smallsitting-room of your own, but take your meals with the other people ofthe house; you won't mind that, I hope—it made a difference of aboutthirty shillings a week, and it is the most usual arrangement. Ofcourse you can alter anything you don't like when you get there. Thelandlady is a Scotchwoman—I know her very well, and can recommend herhighly—I think you will like her."

"But won't you come with us?" interposed Elizabeth, putting out herhand. "Come and introduce us to her, and see that the cabman takes usto the right place. Or perhaps you are too busy to spare the time?"

"I—I will call on you this afternoon, if you will permit me—whenyou have had your lunch and are rested a little. Oh, I know thecabman quite well, and can answer for his taking you safely. This isyour address"—hastily scribbling it on an envelope he drew from hispocket—"and the landlady is Mrs. M'Intyre. Good morning. I will domyself the pleasure of calling on you at four or five o'clock."

He thereupon bowed and departed, and the cab rattled away in anopposite direction. Patty deeply resented his not coming with them,and wondered and wondered why he had refused. Was he too proud, or tooshy, or too busy, or too indifferent? Did he feel that it was a troubleto him to have to look after them? Poor Paul! He would have likedto come, to see them comfortably housed and settled; but the simpledifficulty was that he was afraid to risk giving them offence by payingthe cab fare, and would not ride with them, a man in charge of threeladies, without paying it. And Patty was not educated to the point ofappreciating that scruple. His desertion of them in the open street wasa grievance to her. She could not help thinking of it, though there wasso much else to think of.

The cab turned into Collins Street and rattled merrily up that busythoroughfare in the bright sunshine. They looked at the brilliantshop windows, at the gay crowd streaming up and down the pavements,and the fine equipages flashing along the road-way at the Town Hall,and the churches, and the statues of Burke and Wills—and were filledwith admiration and wonder. Then they turned into quieter roads, andthere was the Exhibition in its web of airy scaffolding, destined to bethe theatre of great events, in which they would have their share—aninspiring sight. And they went round a few corners, catching refreshingglimpses of green trees and shady alleys, and presently arrived atMyrtle Street—quietest of suburban thoroughfares, with its rows oftrim little houses, half-a-dozen in a block, each with its tiny patchof garden in front of it—where for the present they were to dwell.

Mrs. M'Intyre's maid came out to take the parcels, and the landladyherself appeared on the doorstep to welcome the new-comers. Theywhispered to themselves hurriedly, "Oh, she has a nice face!"—and thenPatty and Elizabeth addressed themselves to the responsible business ofsettling with the cabman.

"How much have we to pay you?" asked Patty with dignity.

"Twelve shillings, please, miss," the man gaily replied.

Elizabeth looked at her energetic sister, who had boasted that theywere quite sharp enough to know when they were being cheated. Uponwhich Patty, with her feathers up, appealed to the landlady. Mrs.M'Intyre said the proper sum due to him was just half what he hadasked. The cabman said that was for one passenger, and not for three.Mrs. M'Intyre then represented that eighteen-pence apiece was as muchas he could claim for the remaining two, that the luggage was a merenothing, and that if he didn't mind what he was about, &c. So the sumwas reduced to nine shillings, which Elizabeth paid, looking very graveover it, for it was still far beyond what she had reckoned on.

Then they went into the house—the middle house of a smart littleterrace, with a few ragged fern trees in the front garden—and Mrs.M'Intyre took them up to their rooms, and showed them drawers andcupboards, in a motherly and hospitable manner.

"This is the large bedroom, with the two beds, and the small one opensoff it; so that you will all be close together," said she, displayingthe neat chambers, one of which was properly but a dressing-closet;and our girls, who knew no luxury but absolute cleanliness, took noteof the whiteness of the floors and bedclothes, and were more thansatisfied. "And this is your sitting-room," she proceeded, leading theway to an adjoining apartment pleasantly lighted by a French window,which opened upon a stone (or, rather, what looked like a stone)balcony. It had a little "suite" in green rep like Mrs. Hawkins's, andMrs. Dunn's ideal cedar-wood chiffonnier; it had also a comfortablesolid table with a crimson cloth, and a print of the ubiquitous Cenciover the mantelpiece. The carpet was a bed of blooming roses andlilies, the effect of which was much improved by the crumb cloth thatwas nailed all over it. It was a tiny room, but it had a cosy look, andthe new lodgers agreed at once that it was all that could be desired."And I hope you will be comfortable," concluded the amiable landlady,"and let me know whenever you want anything. There's a bathroom downthat passage, and this is your bell, and those drawers have got keys,you see, and lunch will be ready in half-an-hour. The dining-room isthe first door at the bottom of the stairs, and—phew! that tobaccosmoke hangs about the place still, in spite of all my cleaning andairing. I never allow smoking in the house, Miss King—not in thegeneral way; but a man who has to be up o' nights writing for thenewspapers, and never getting his proper sleep, it's hard to grudge himthe comfort of his pipe—now isn't it? And I have had no ladies here tobe annoyed by it—in general I don't take ladies, for gentlemen are somuch the most comfortable to do for; and Mr. Brion is so considerate,and gives so little trouble—"

"What! Is Mr. Paul Brion lodging here?" broke in Patty impetuously,with her face aflame.

"Not now," Mrs. M'Intyre replied. "He left me last week. These roomsthat you have got were his—he has had them for over three years. Hewanted you to come here, because he thought you would be comfortablewith me"—smiling benignly. "He said a man could put up anywhere."

She left them, presently; and as soon as the girls found themselvesalone, they hurriedly assured each other that nothing should inducethem to submit to this. It was not to be thought of for a moment. PaulBrion must be made to remove the mountainous obligation that he had putthem under, and return to his rooms instantly. They would not put somuch as a pocket handkerchief in the drawers and cupboards until thispoint had been settled with him.

At four o'clock, when they had visited the bathroom, arranged theirpretty hair afresh, and put on the black print gowns—when they had hada quiet lunch with Mrs. M'Intyre (whose other boarders being gentlemenin business, did not appear at the mid-day meal), prattling cheerfullywith the landlady the while, and thinking that the cold beef and saladsof Melbourne were the most delicious viands ever tasted—when they hadexamined their rooms minutely, and tried the sofas and easy-chairs, andstood for a long while on the balcony looking at the other houses inthe quiet street—at four o'clock Paul Brion came; and the maid broughtup his card, while he gossiped with Mrs. M'Intyre in the hall. He hadno sooner entered the girls' sitting-room than Elizabeth hastened tounburden herself. Patty was burning to be the spokeswoman for theoccasion, but she knew her place, and she remembered the small effectshe had produced on him in the morning, and proudly held aloof. In hersweet and graceful way, but with as much gravity and earnestness as ifit were a matter of life and death, Elizabeth explained her view of thesituation. "Of course we cannot consent to such an arrangement," shesaid gently; "you must have known we could never consent to allow youto turn out of your own rooms to accommodate us. You must please comeback again, Mr. Brion, and let us go elsewhere. There seem to be plentyof other lodgings to be had—even in this street."

Paul Brion's face wore a pleasant smile as he listened. "Oh, thankyou," he replied lightly. "But I am very comfortable where I am—quiteas much so as I was here—rather more, indeed. For the people at No. 6have set up a piano on the other side of that wall"—pointing to thecedar chiffonnier—"and it bothered me dreadfully when I wanted towrite. It was the piano drove me out—not you. Perhaps it will driveyou out too. It is a horrible nuisance, for it is always out of tune;and you know the sort of playing that people indulge in who use pianosthat are out of tune."

So their little demonstration collapsed. Paul had gone away to pleasehimself. "And has left us to endure the agonies of a piano out oftune," commented Patty.

As the day wore on, reaction from the mood of excitement and exaltationwith which it began set in. Their spirits flagged. They felt tired anddesolate in this new world. The unaccustomed hot dinner in the evening,at which they sat for nearly an hour in company with strange men whoasked them questions, and pressed them to eat what they didn't want,was very uncongenial to them. And when, as soon as they could, theyescaped to their own quarters, their little sitting-room, lighted withgas and full of hot upstairs air, struck them with its unsympatheticand unhomelike aspect. The next door piano was jingling its music-hallditties faintly on the other side of the wall, and poor Dan, who hadbeen banished to the back yard, was yelping so piteously that theirhearts bled to hear him. "We must get a house of our own at once,Elizabeth—at once," exclaimed Eleanor—"if only for Dan's sake."

"We will never have pets again—never!" said Patty, with something likean incipient sob in her voice, as she paced restlessly about the room."Then we shall not have to ill-treat them and to part from them." Shewas thinking of her little bear, and the opossum, and the magpies, whowere worse off than Dan.

And Elizabeth sat down at the table, and took out pencil and note-bookwith a careworn face. She was going to keep accounts strictly, asMr. Brion had advised her, and they not only meant to live withintheir income, as a matter of course, but to save a large part ofit for future European contingencies. And, totting up the items oftheir expenditure for three days—cost of passage by steamer, cost ofprovisions on board, cab fare, and the sum paid for a week's board andlodging in advance—she found that they had been living for that periodat the rate of about a thousand a year.

So that, upon the whole, they were not quite so happy as they hadexpected to be, when they went to bed.



But they slept well in their strange beds, and by morning all theirlittle troubles had disappeared. It was impossible not to supposethat the pets "at home" were making themselves happy, seeing how thesun shone and the sea breezes blew; and Dan, who had reached years ofdiscretion, was evidently disposed to submit himself to circ*mstances.Having a good view of the back yard, they could see him lollingluxuriously on the warm asphalte, as if he had been accustomed to bechained up, and liked it. Concerning their most pressing anxiety—therapid manner in which money seemed to melt away, leaving so little toshow for it—it was pointed out that at least half the sum expended wasfor a special purpose, and chargeable to the reserve fund and not totheir regular income, from which at present only five pounds had beentaken, which was to provide all their living for a week to come.

So they went downstairs in serene and hopeful spirits, and gladdenedthe eyes of the gentlemen boarders who were standing about thedining-room, devouring the morning's papers while they waited forbreakfast. There were three of them, and each placed a chair promptly,and each offered handsomely to resign his newspaper. Elizabeth took anArgus to see what advertisem*nts there were of houses to let; andthen Mrs. M'Intyre came in with her coffee-pot and her cheerful face,and they sat down to breakfast. Mrs. M'Intyre was that rare exceptionto the rule, a boarding-house keeper who had private means as well asthe liberal disposition of which the poorest have their share, and soher breakfast was a good breakfast. And the presence of strangers attable was not so unpleasant to our girls on this occasion as the last.

After breakfast they had a solemn consultation, the result being thatthe forenoon was dedicated to the important business of buying theirclothes and finding their way to and from the shops.

"For we must have bonnets," said Patty, "and that immediately.Bonnets, I perceive, are the essential tokens of respectability. And wemust never ride in a cab again."

They set off at ten o'clock, escorted by Mrs. M'Intyre, who chancedto be going to the city to do some marketing. The landlady, being avery fat woman, to whom time was precious, took the omnibus, accordingto custom; but her companions with one consent refused to squanderunnecessary threepences by accompanying her in that vehicle. They had astraight road before them all the way from the corner of Myrtle Streetto the Fishmarket, where she had business; and there they joined herwhen she had completed her purchases, and she gave them a fair start atthe foot of Collins Street before she left them.

In Collins Street they spent the morning—a bewildering, exciting,anxious morning—going from shop to shop, and everywhere findingthat the sum they had brought to spend was utterly inadequate forthe purpose to which they had dedicated it. They saw any quantity ofpretty soft stuffs, that were admirably adapted alike to their tasteand means, but to get them fashioned into gowns seemed to treble theirprice at once; and, as Patty represented, they must have one, at anyrate, that was made in the mode before they could feel it safe tomanufacture for themselves. They ended by choosing—as a measure ofcomparative safety, for thus only could they know what they were doing,as Patty said—three ready-made costumes that took their fancy, thecombined cost of which was a few shillings over the ten pounds. Theywere merely morning dresses of black woollen stuff; lady-like, and witha captivating style of "the world" about them, but in the lowest classof goods of that kind dispensed in those magnificent shops. Of coursethat was the end of their purchases for the day; the selection ofmantles, bonnets, gloves, boots, and all the other little odds and endson Elizabeth's list was reserved for a future occasion. For the idea ofbuying anything on twenty-four hours' credit was never entertained fora moment. To be sure, they did ask about the bonnets, and were shown agreat number, in spite of their polite anxiety not to give unprofitabletrouble; and not one that they liked was less than several pounds inprice. Dismayed and disheartened, they "left it" (Patty's suggestionagain); and they gave the rest of their morning to the dressmaker, whoundertook to remodel the bodices of the new gowns and make them fitproperly. This fitting was not altogether a satisfactory business,either; for the dressmaker insisted that a well-shaped corset wasindispensable—especially in these days, when fit was everything—andthey had no corsets and did not wish for any. She was, however, adressmaker of decision and resource, and she sent her assistant for abundle of corsets, in which she encased her helpless victims before shewould begin the ripping and snipping and pulling and pinning process.When they saw their figures in the glass, with their fashionable tightskirts and unwrinkled waists, they did not know themselves; and I amafraid that Patty and Eleanor, at any rate, were disposed to regardcorsets favourably and to make light of the discomfort they weresensibly conscious of in wearing them. Elizabeth, whose natural shapewas so beautiful—albeit she is destined, if the truth must be told, tobe immensely stout and heavy some day—was not seduced by this speciousappearance. She ordered the dressmaker, with a quiet peremptorinessthat would have become a carriage customer, to make the waists of thethree gowns "free" and to leave the turnings on; and she took off theborrowed corset, and drew a long breath, inwardly determining never towear such a thing again, even to have a dress fitted—fashion or nofashion.

It was half-past twelve by this time, and at one o'clock Mrs. M'Intyrewould expect them in to lunch. They wanted to go home by way of thosegreen enclosures that Paul Brion had told them of, and of which theyhad had a glimpse yesterday—which the landlady had assured them wasthe easiest thing possible. They had but to walk right up to the top ofCollins Street, turn to the right, where they would see a gate leadinginto gardens, pass straight through those gardens, cross a road andgo straight through other gardens, which would bring them within afew steps of Myrtle Street—a way so plain that they couldn't missit if they tried. Ways always do seem so to people who know them. Ourthree girls were self-reliant young women, and kept their wits aboutthem very creditably amid their novel and distracting surroundings.Nevertheless they were at some loss with respect to this obvious route.Because, in the first place, they didn't know which was the top ofCollins Street and which the bottom.

"Dear me! we shall be reduced to the ignominious necessity of askingour way," exclaimed Eleanor, as they stood forlornly on the pavement,jostled by the human tide that flowed up and down. "If only we had PaulBrion here."

It was very provoking to Patty, but he was there. Being a small man,he did not come into view till he was within a couple of yards of them,and that was just in time to overhear this invocation. His ordinarilyfierce aspect, which she had disrespectfully likened to that of Danwhen another terrier had insulted him, had for the moment disappeared.The little man showed all over him the pleased surprise with which hehad caught the sound of his own name.

"Have you got so far already?" he exclaimed, speaking in his sharp andrapid way, while his little moustache bristled with such a smile asthey had not thought him capable of. "And—and can I assist you in anyway?"

Elizabeth explained their dilemma; upon which he declared he washimself going to East Melbourne (whence he had just come, after hismorning sleep and noontide breakfast), and asked leave to escort themthither. "How fortunate we are!" Elizabeth said, turning to walk up thestreet by his side; and Eleanor told him he was like his father in theopportuneness of his friendly services. But Patty was silent, and ragedinwardly.

When they had traversed the length of the street, and were come to theopen space before the Government offices, where they could fall againinto one group, she made an effort to get rid of him and the burden ofobligation that he was heaping upon them.

"Mr. Brion," she began impetuously, "we know where we are now quitewell—"

"I don't think you do," he interrupted her, "seeing that you were neverhere before."

"Our landlady gave us directions—she made it quite plain to us. Thereis no necessity for you to trouble yourself any further. You were notgoing this way when we met you, but exactly in the opposite direction."

"I am going this way now, at any rate," he said, with decision. "I amgoing to show your sisters their way through the gardens. There are agood many paths, and they don't all lead to Myrtle Street."

"But we know the points of the compass—we have our generaldirections," she insisted angrily, as she followed him helplesslythrough the gates. "We are not quite idiots, though we do come from thecountry."

"Patty," interposed Elizabeth, surprised, "I am glad of Mr. Brion'skind help, if you are not."

"Patty," echoed Eleanor in an undertone, "that haughty spirit of yourswill have a fall some day."

Patty felt that it was having a fall now. "I know it is very kind ofMr. Brion," she said tremulously, "but how are we to get on and do forourselves if we are treated like children—I mean if we allow ourselvesto hang on to other people? We should make our own way, as others haveto do. I don't suppose you had anyone to lead you about when youfirst came to Melbourne"—addressing Paul.

"I was a man," he replied. "It is a man's business to take care ofhimself."

"Of course. And equally it is a woman's business to take care ofherself—if she has no man in her family."

"Pardon me. In that case it is the business of all the men with whomshe comes in contact to take care of her—each as he can."

"Oh, what nonsense! You talk as if we lived in the time of theTroubadours—as if you didn't know that all that stuff about womenhas had its day and been laughed out of existence long ago."

"What stuff?"

"That we are helpless imbeciles—a sort of angelic wax baby, goodfor nothing but to look pretty. As if we were not made of the samesubstance as you, with brains and hands—not so strong as yours,perhaps, but quite strong enough to rely upon when necessary. Oh!"exclaimed Patty, with a fierce gesture, "I do so hate that man's cantabout women—I have no patience with it!"

"You must have been severely tried," murmured Paul (he was beginningto think the middle Miss King a disagreeable person, and to feelvindictive towards her). And Eleanor laughed cruelly, and said, "Oh,no, she's got it all out of books."

"A great mistake to go by books," said he, with the air of a father."Experience first—books afterwards, Miss Patty." And he smiled coollyinto the girl's flaming face.



Patty and her sisters very nearly had their first quarrel over PaulBrion. Patty said he was impertinent and patronising, that he presumedupon their friendless position to pay them insulting attentions—that,in short, he was a detestable young man whom she, for one, would havenothing more to do with. And she warned Elizabeth, in an hysterical,high-pitched voice, never to invite him into their house unlessshe wished to see her (Patty) walk out of it. Elizabeth, supportedby Eleanor, took up the cudgels in his defence, and assured Patty,kindly, but with much firmness, that he had behaved with dignityand courtesy under great provocation to do otherwise. They alsopointed out that he was his father's representative; that it would beungracious and unladylike to reject the little services that it wascertainly a pleasure to him to render, and unworthy of them to assumean independence that at present they were unable to support. Which wascoming as near to "words" as was possible for them to come, and muchnearer than any of them desired. Patty burst into tears at last, whichwas the signal for everything in the shape of discord and division tovanish. Her sisters kissed and fondled her, and assured her that theysympathised with her anxiety to be under obligations to nobody from thebottom of their hearts; and Patty owned that she had been captious andunreasonable, and consented to forgive her enemy for what he hadn'tdone and to be civil to him in future.

And, as the days wore on, even she grew to be thankful for Paul Brion,though, of course, she would never own to it. Their troubles were manyand various, and their helpless ignorance more profound and humiliatingthan they could have believed possible. I will not weary the readerby tracing the details of the process by which they became acquaintedwith the mode and cost of living "as other people do," and with theways of the world in general; it would be too long a story. How Pattydiscovered that the cleverest fingers cannot copy a London bonnetwithout some previous knowledge of the science of millinery; how sheand her sisters, after supplying themselves grudgingly with the merenecessaries of a modern outfit, found that the remainder of their"furniture money," to the last pound note, was spent; how, after wearytrampings to and fro in search of a habitable house in a wholesomeneighbourhood, they learned the ruinous rates of rent and taxes and(after much shopping and many consultations with Mrs. M'Intyre) thealarming prices of furniture and provisions; how they were driven toadmit, in spite of Patty, that that landlady on the premises, whomEleanor had declared was not to be thought of, might be a necessarysafeguard against worse evils; and how they were brought to ask eachother, in surprise and dismay, "Is it possible that we are poor peopleafter all, and not rich, as we supposed?"—all these things can bebetter imagined than described. Suffice it to say, they passed throughmuch tribulation and many bitter and humbling experiences during theearly months of their sojourn in Melbourne; but when at last theyreached a comparatively safe haven, and found themselves once moresecure under their own control, able to regulate their needs andtheir expenditure, and generally to understand the conditions andpossibilities of their position, Elizabeth and Eleanor made a solemndeclaration that they were indebted for this happy issue to the goodoffices and faithful friendship of Paul Brion alone, and Patty—thoughshe turned up her nose and said "Pooh!"—though she hated to beindebted to him, or to anybody—agreed with them.

They settled down to their housekeeping by very slow degrees. Forsome time they stayed with Mrs. M'Intyre, because there really seemednothing else to do that was at all within their means; and fromthis base of operations they made all those expeditions of inquiryinto city habits and customs, commercial and domestic, which weresuch conspicuous and ignominious failures. As the sense of theirhelplessness grew upon them, they grudgingly admitted the young man(who was always at hand, and yet never intruded upon or pesteredthem) to their counsels, and accepted, without seeming to accept, hisadvice; and the more they condescended in this way the better theygot on. Gradually they fell into the habit of depending on him, bytacit consent—which was the more easy to do because, as his fatherhad promised, he did not presume upon their confidence in him. He wassharp and brusque, and even inclined to domineer—to be impertinent, asPatty called it—when they did submit their affairs to his judgment;but not the smallest suspicion of an unauthorised motive for hisevident devotion to their interests appeared in his face, or voice, ormanner, which were those of the man of business, slightly suggestingoccasionally the imperious and impartial "nearest male relative."They grew to trust him—for his father's sake, they said, but therewas nothing vicarious about it; and that they had the rare fortuneto be justified in doing so, under such unlikely circ*mstances, madeup to them for whatever ill luck they might otherwise have seemed toencounter in these days. It was he who finally found them their home,after their many futile searches—half a house in their own street andterrace, vacated by the marriage and departure to another colony of thelady who played the piano that was out of tune. No. 6, it appeared,had been divided into flats; the ground floor was occupied by theproprietor, his wife, and servant; and the upper, which had a gas stoveand other kitchen appliances in a back room, was let unfurnished for£60 a year. Paul, always poking about in quest of opportunities, heardof this one and pounced upon it. He made immediate inquiries into thecharacter and antecedents of the landlord of No. 6, the state of thedrains and chimneys, and paint and paper, of the house; and, havingsatisfied himself that it was as nearly being what our girls wantedas anything they would be likely to find, called upon Elizabeth, andadvised her to secure it forthwith. The sisters were just then addingup their accounts—taking stock of their affairs generally—and comingto desperate resolutions that something must be done; so the suggestedarrangement, which would deliver them from bondage and from many oftheir worst difficulties, had quite a providential opportuneness aboutit. They took the rooms at once—four small rooms, including theimprovised kitchen—and went into them, in defiance of Mrs. M'Intyre'sprotestations, before they had so much as a bedstead to sleep upon;and once more they were happy in the consciousness that they hadrecovered possession of themselves, and could call their souls theirown. Slowly, bit by bit, the furniture came in—the barest necessariesfirst, and then odds and ends of comfort and prettiness (not a fewof them discovered by Paul Brion in out-of-the-way places, where he"happened" to be), until the new little home grew to look as homelikeas the old one. They sent for the bureau and the piano, which wenta long way towards furnishing the sitting-room; and they bought acomfortable second-hand table and some capacious, cheap, wickerworkchairs; and they laid a square of matting on the floor, and made somechintz curtains for the window, and turned a deal packing-case intoan ottoman, and another into a set of shelves for their books; andover all these little arrangements threw such an air of taste, sucha complexion of spotless cleanliness and fastidious neatness, as areonly seen in the homes of "nice" women, that it takes nice people tounderstand the charm of.

One day, when their preparations for regular domestic life were fairlycompleted, Patty, tired after a long spell of amateur carpentering,sat down to the piano to rest and refresh herself. The piano hadbeen tuned on its arrival in Melbourne; and the man who tuned it hadstared at her when she told him that it had been made to her mother'sorder, and showed him the famous name above the key-board. He wouldhave stared still more had he heard what kind of magic life she couldsummon into the exquisite mechanism boxed up in that poor-lookingdeal case. All the sisters were musicians, strange to say; taught bytheir mother in the noble and simple spirit of the German school, andinheriting from her the sensitive ear and heart to understand thedignity and mystery, if not the message (which nobody understands) ofthat wonderful language which begins where words leave off. To "playthe piano" was no mere conventional drawing-room performance with them,as they themselves were no conventional drawing-room misses; a "piece"of the ordinary pattern would have shocked their sense of art andharmony almost as much as it might have shocked Mozart and Mendelssohn,and Schubert and Schumann, and the other great masters whose pupilsthey were; while to talk and laugh, either when playing or listening,would have been to them like talking and laughing over their prayers.But, of the three, Patty was the most truly musical, in the seriousmeaning of the word, inasmuch as her temperament was warmer than thoseof her sisters, her imagination more vivid, her senses generally moresusceptible to delicate impressions than theirs. The "spirits of theair" had all their supernatural power over her receptive and responsivesoul, and she thrilled like an Æolian harp to the west wind under thespell of those emotions that have no name or shape, and for which noimagery supplies a comparison, which belong to the ideal world, intowhich those magic spirits summon us, and where the sacred hours of ourlives—the sweetest, the saddest, the happiest—are spent.

To-day she sat down, suddenly prompted by the feeling that she wasfa*gged and tired, and began to play mechanically a favourite Beethovensonata; but in five minutes she had played her nerves to rest, and wasas steeped in dreams as the great master himself must have been whenhe conceived the tender passages that only his spiritual ears couldhear. Eleanor, who had been sewing industriously, by degrees let herfingers falter and her work fall into her lap; and Elizabeth, who hadbeen arranging the books in the new book-shelves, presently put downher duster to come and stand behind the music-stool, and laid herlarge, cool hands on Patty's head. None of them spoke for some time,reverencing the Presence in their quiet room; but the touch of hersister's palms upon her hair brought the young musician out of herabstractions to a sense of her immediate surroundings again. She laidher head back on Elizabeth's breast and drew a long sigh, and left offplaying. The gesture said, as plainly as words could have said it, thatshe was relieved and revived—that the spirit of peace and charity haddescended upon her.

"Elizabeth," she said presently, still keeping her seat on themusic-stool, and stroking her cheek with one of her sister's handswhile she held the other round her neck, "I begin to think that PaulBrion has been a very good friend to us. Don't you?"

"I am not beginning," replied Elizabeth. "I have thought it everyday since we have known him. And I have wondered often how you coulddislike him so much."

"I don't dislike him," said Patty, quite amiably.

"I have taken particular notice," remarked Eleanor from the hearthrug,"and it is exactly three weeks since you spoke to him, and three weeksand five days since you shook hands."

Patty smiled, not changing her position or ceasing to caress her cheekwith Elizabeth's hand. "Well," she said, "don't you think it would bea graceful thing to ask him to come and have tea with us some night?We have made our room pretty"—looking round with contentment—"andwe have all we want now. We might get our silver things out of thebureau, and make a couple of little dishes, and put some candles about,and buy a bunch of flowers—for once—what do you say, Nelly? He hasnever been here since we came in—never farther than the downstairspassage—and wouldn't it be pleasant to have a little house warming,and show him our things, and give him some music, and—and try to makehim enjoy himself? It would be some return for what he has done forus, and his father would be pleased."

That she should make the proposition—she who, from the first, had notonly never "got on" with him, but had seemed to regard him with activedislike—surprised both her sisters not a little; but the propositionitself appeared to them, as to her, to have every good reason torecommend it. They thought it a most happy idea, and adopted it withenthusiasm. That very evening they made their plans. They designed thesimple decorations for their little room, and the appropriate dishesfor their modest feast. And, when these details had been settled, theyremembered that on the following night no Parliament would be sitting,which meant that Paul would probably come home early (they knew histimes of coming and going, for he was back at his old quarters now,having returned in consequence of the departure of the discordantpiano, and to oblige Mrs. M'Intyre, he said); and that decided them tosend him his invitation at once. Patty, while her complaisant mood wason her, wrote it herself before she went to bed, and gave it over thegarden railing to Mrs. M'Intyre's maid.

In the morning, as they were asking which of them should go to town tofetch certain materials for their little fête, they heard the doorbang and the gate rattle at No. 7, and a quick step that they knew. Andthe slavey of No. 6 came upstairs with Paul Brion's answer, which hehad left as he passed on his way to his office. The note was addressedto "Miss King," whose amanuensis Patty had carefully explained herselfto be when writing her invitation.

"MY DEAR MISS KING,—You are indeed very kind, but I fearI must deny myself the pleasure you propose—than which, Iassure you, I could have none greater. If you will allowme, I will come in some day with Mrs. M'Intyre, who is veryanxious to see your new menage. And when I come, I hope youwill let me hear that new piano, which is such an amazingcontrast to the old one.—Believe me, yours very truly,


This was Paul Brion's note. When the girls had read it, they stoodstill and looked at each other in a long, dead silence. Eleanor wasthe first to speak. Half laughing, but with her delicate face dyed inblushes, she whispered under her breath, "Oh—oh, don't you see what hemeans?"

"He is quite right—we must thank him," said Elizabeth, gentle as ever,but grave and proud. "We ought not to have wanted it—that is all I amsorry for."

But Patty stood in the middle of the room, white to the lips, andbeside herself with passion. "That we should have made such amistake!—and for him to rebuke us!" she cried, as if it were morethan she could bear. "That I should have been the one to write thatletter! Elizabeth, I suppose he is not to blame—"

"No, my dear—quite the contrary."

"But, all the same, I will never forgive him," said poor Patty in thebitterness of her soul.



There was no room for doubt as to what Paul Brion had meant. Whenthe evening of the next day came—on which there was no Parliamentsitting—he returned to No. 7 to dinner, and after dinner it wasapparent that neither professional nor other engagements would haveprevented him from enjoying the society of his fair neighbours if hehad had a mind for it. His sitting-room opened upon the balcony—sodid theirs; there was but a thin partition between them, and the girlsknew not only when he was at home, but to a great extent what he wasdoing, by the presence and pungency of the odour from his pipe. Whenonly faint whiffs stole into their open window from time to time,he was in his room, engaged—it was supposed—upon those wonderfulleading articles which were, to them, the great feature of the paperto whose staff he belonged. At such times—for the houses in MyrtleStreet were of a very lath-and-plastery order—they were careful tomake no noise, and especially not to open their piano, that he mightpursue his arduous labours undisturbed. But sometimes on these "off"nights he sat outside his window or strolled up and down the few feetof space allotted to him; and they would hear the rustle of the leavesof books on the other side of the partition, and the smell of his pipewould be very strong. This indicated that he had come home to rest andrelax himself; on which occasions, prompted by some subtle feminineimpulse, they would now and then indulge themselves with some of theirbest music—tacitly agreeing to select the very finest movements fromthe works of those best-beloved old masters whose majestic chimes rangout the dark evening of the eighteenth century and rang in the new ageof art and liberty whose morning light we see—so as not to suggest,except by extreme comparison, the departed lady who played conventionalrubbish on the instrument that was out of tune. That Paul Brion did notknow Bach and Spohr, even by name and fame (as he did not), never fora moment occurred to them. How were they to know that the science andliterature of music, in which they had been so well instructed, werenot the usual study of educated people? They heard that he ceased towalk up and down his enclosure when they began to play and sing, andthey smelt that his pipe was as near their window as it could get untilthey left off. That was enough.

To-night, then, he was strolling and sitting about his section of thebalcony. They heard him tramping to and fro for a full hour afterdinner, in a fidgetty manner; and then they heard him drag a chairthrough his window, and sit down on it heavily. It occurred to themall that he was doing nothing—except, perhaps, waiting for a chanceto see and speak to them. A little intercourse had taken place of latein this way—a very little. One night, when Elizabeth had gone outto remonstrate with Dan for barking at inoffensive dogs that went byin the street below, Paul, who had been leaning meditatively on hisbalustrade, bent his head a little forward to ask her if she found thesmell of his tobacco unpleasant. She assured him that none of themminded it at all, and remarked that the weather was warm. Upon whichhe replied that the thermometer was so and so, and suggested that shemust miss the sea breezes very much. She said they missed them verymuch indeed, and inquired if he had heard from his father lately, andwhether he was well. He was glad to inform her that his father, fromwhom he had just heard, was in excellent health, and further, thathe had made many inquiries after her and her sisters. She thankedMr. Brion sincerely, and hoped he (Mr. Paul) would give him theirkindest regards when he wrote again and tell him they were getting onadmirably. Mr. Paul said he would certainly not forget it. And theybade each other a polite good-night. Since then, both Elizabeth andEleanor had had a word to say to him occasionally, when he and theysimultaneously took the air after the day was over, and simultaneouslyhappened to lean over the balustrade. Patty saw no harm in their doingso, but was very careful not to do it herself or to let him supposethat she was conscious of his near neighbourhood. She played to himsometimes with singular pleasure in her performance, but did not onceput herself in the way of seeing or speaking to him.

To-night, not only she, but all of them, made a stern though unspokenvow that they would never—that they could never—so much as saygood-night to him on the balcony any more. The lesson that he hadtaught them was sinking deeply into their hearts; they would neverforget it again while they lived. They sat at their needlework in thebright gaslight, with the window open and the venetian blind down, andlistened to the sound of his footstep and the dragging of his chair,and clearly realised the certainty that it was not because he was toobusy that he had refused to spend the evening with them, but becausehe had felt obliged to show them that they had asked him to do a thingthat was improper. Patty's head was bent down over her sewing; her facewas flushed, her eyes restless, her quick fingers moving with nervousvehemence. Breaking her needle suddenly, she looked up and exclaimed,"Why are we sitting here so dull and stupid, all silent, like threescolded children? Play something, Nellie. Put away that horrid skirt,and play something bright and stirring—a good rousing march, orsomething of that sort."

"The Bridal March from 'Lohengrin,'" suggested Elizabeth, softly.

"No," said Patty; "something that will brace us up, and not make usfeel small and humble and sat upon." What she meant was "something thatwill make Paul Brion understand that we don't feel small and humble andsat upon."

Eleanor rose, and laid her long fingers on the keyboard. She was not inthe habit of taking things much to heart herself, and she did not quiteunderstand her sister's frame of mind. The spirit of mischief promptedher to choose the saddest thing in the way of a march that she couldrecall on the spur of the moment—that funeral march of Beethoven'sthat Patty had always said was capable of reducing her to dust andashes in her most exuberant moments. She threw the most heartbreakingexpression that art allowed into the stately solemnity of her alwaysperfectly balanced execution, partly because she could never rendersuch a theme otherwise than reverently, but chiefly for the playfulpurpose of working upon Patty's feelings. Poor Patty had "kept up"and maintained a superficial command of herself until now, but thisunexpected touch of pathos broke her down completely. She laid her armon the table, and her pretty head upon her arm, and broke into a briefbut passionate fit of weeping, such as she had never indulged in inall her life before. At the sound of the first sob Eleanor jumped upfrom the music-stool, contrite and frightened—Elizabeth in anothermoment had her darling in her arms; and both sisters were seized withthe fear that Patty was sickening for some illness, caught, probably,in the vitiated atmosphere of city streets, to which she had never beenaccustomed.

In the stillness of the night, Paul Brion, leaning over the balustradeof the verandah, and whitening his coat against the partition thatdivided his portion of it from theirs, heard the opening bars ofthe funeral march, the gradually swelling sound and thrill of itsimpassioned harmonies, as of a procession tramping towards him alongthe street, and the sudden lapse into untimely silence. And thenhe heard, very faintly, a low cry and a few hurried sobs, and itwas as if a lash had struck him. He felt sure that it was Patty whohad been playing (he thought it must always be Patty who made thatbeautiful music), and Patty who had fallen a victim to the spirit ofmelancholy that she had invoked—simply because she always did seemto him to represent the action of the little drama of the sisters'lives, and Elizabeth and Eleanor to be the chorus merely; and he hada clear conviction, in the midst of much vague surmise, that he wasinvolved in the causes that had made her unhappy. For a little whilehe stood still, fixing his eyes upon a neighbouring street lamp andscowling frightfully. He heard the girls' open window go down with asharp rattle, and presently heard it open again hastily to admit Dan,who had been left outside. Then he himself went back, on tiptoe, tohis own apartment, with an expression of more than his usual alertdetermination on his face.

Entering his room, he looked at his watch, shut his window and boltedit, walked into the adjoining bedchamber, and there, with the gasflaring noisily so as to give him as much light as possible, made arapid toilet, exchanging his loose tweeds for evening dress. In lessthan ten minutes he was down in the hall, with his latch key in hispocket, shaking himself hurriedly into a light overcoat; and in lessthan half an hour he was standing at the door of a good-sized andrather imposing-looking house in the neighbouring suburb, banging itin his peremptory fashion with a particularly loud knocker.

Within this house its mistress was receiving, and she was a friendof his, as might have been seen by the manner of their greeting whenthe servant announced him, as also by the expression of certain facesamongst the guests when they heard his name—as they could not wellhelp hearing it. "Mr.—Paul—BRION," the footman shouted, with threedistinct and well-accentuated shouts, as if his lady were entertainingin the Town Hall. It gave Mrs. Aarons great pleasure when her domestic,who was a late acquisition, exercised his functions in this impressivemanner.

She came sailing across the room in a very long-tailed and brilliantgown—a tall, fair, yellow-haired woman, carefully got up in the beststyle of conventional art (as a lady who had her clothes from Parisregardless of expense was bound to be)—flirting her fan coquettishly,and smiling an unmistakeable welcome. She was not young, but she lookedyoung, and she was not pretty, but she was full of sprightly confidenceand self-possession, which answered just as well. Least of all wasshe clever, as the two or three of her circle, who were, unwillinglyrecognised; but she was quick-witted and vivacious, accomplished inthe art of small talk, and ready to lay down the law upon any subject,and somehow cleverness was assumed by herself and her world in generalto be her most remarkable and distinguishing characteristic. And,finally, she had no pretensions to hereditary distinction—very muchthe contrary, indeed; but her husband was rich (he was standing in aretired corner, a long-nosed man with dark eyes rather close together,amongst a group of her admirers, admiring her as much as any ofthem), and she had known the social equivalent for money obtainableby good management in a community that must necessarily make a tableof precedence for itself; and she had obtained it. She was a womanof fashion in her sphere, and her friends were polite enough to haveno recollection of her antecedents, and no knowledge of the familyconnections whose existence she found it expedient to ignore. It mustbe said of her that her reputation, subject to the usual attacks ofscandal-loving gossips who were jealous of her success, was perfectlyuntarnished; she was too cold and self-contained to be subject to thedangers that might have beset a less worldly woman in her position (forthat Mr. Aarons was anything more than the minister to her ambitionsand conveniences nobody for a moment supposed). Nevertheless, to havea little court of male admirers always hanging about her was the chiefpleasure, and the attracting and retaining of their admiration themost absorbing pursuit of her life. Paul Brion was the latest, and atpresent the most interesting, of her victims. He had a good positionin the press world, and had recently been talked of "in society" inconnection with a particularly striking paper signed "P. B.," whichhad appeared in the literary columns of his journal. Wherefore, in thecharacter of a clever woman, Mrs. Aarons had sought him out and addedhim to the attractions of her salon and the number of sympatheticfriends. And, in spite of his hawk eyes, and his keen discernmentgenerally, our young man had the ordinary man's belief that he stoodon a pedestal among his rivals, and thought her the kindest and mostdiscriminating and most charming of women.

At least he had thought so until this moment. Suddenly, as she cameacross the room to meet him, with her long train rustling over thecarpet in a queenly manner, and a gracious welcome in her pale blueeyes, he found himself looking at her critically—comparing hercomplacent demeanour with the simple dignity of Elizabeth King, andher artificial elegance with the wild-flower grace of Eleanor, who wasalso tall and fair—and her studied sprightliness with Patty's inspiredvigour—and her countenance, that was wont to be so attractive, withPatty's beautiful and intellectual face.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Aarons, shaking hands with him impressively, "you haveremembered my existence, then, at last! Do you know how many weeks itis since you honoured me with your company?—five. And I wonder youcan stand there and look me in the face."

He said it had been his misfortune and not his fault—that he had beenso immersed in business that he had had no time to indulge in pleasure.

"Don't tell me. You don't have business on Friday evenings," said Mrs.Aarons promptly.

"Oh, don't I?" retorted Mr. Brion (the fact being that he had spentseveral Friday evenings on his balcony, smoking and listening to hisneighbours' music, in the most absolute and voluptuous idleness)."You ladies don't know what a press-man's life is—his nose to thegrindstone at all hours of the night and day."

"Poor man! Well, now you are here, come and sit down and tell me whatyou have been doing."

She took a quick glance round the room, saw that her guests were in afair way to support the general intercourse by voluntary contributions,set the piano and a thin-voiced young lady and some "Claribel" dittiesgoing, and then retired with Paul to a corner sofa for a chat. She wasinclined to make much of him after his long absence, and he was in amood to be more effusive than his wont. Nevertheless, the young mandid not advance, as suspicious observers supposed him to be doing, inthe good graces of his charming friend—ready as she was to meet himhalf-way.

"Of course I wanted very much to see you—it seems an awful time sinceI was here—but I had another reason for coming to-night," said Paul,when they had comfortably settled themselves (he was the descendantof countless gentlefolk and she had not even a father that she couldconveniently call her own, yet was she constrained to blush for his badmanners and his brutal deficiency in delicacy and tact). "I want to aska favour of you—you are always so kind and good—and I think you willnot mind doing it. It is not much—at least to you—but it would bevery much to them—"

"To whom?" inquired Mrs. Aarons, with a little chill of disappointmentand disapproval already in her voice and face. This was not whatshe felt she had a right to expect under the present combination ofcirc*mstances.

"Three girls—three sisters, who are orphans—in a kind of way, wardsof my father's," explained Paul, showing a disposition to stammerfor the first time. "Their name is King, and they have come to livein Melbourne, where they don't know anyone—not a single friend. Ithought, perhaps, you would just call in and see them some day—itwould be so awfully kind of you, if you would. A little notice from awoman like you would be just everything to them."

"Are they nice?—that is to say, are they the sort of people whom onewould—a—care to be responsible for—you know what I mean? Are theyladies?" inquired Mrs. Aarons, who, by virtue of her own extraction,was bound to be select and exclusive in her choice of acquaintances.

"Most certainly," replied Paul, with imprudent warmth. "There can be nomanner of doubt about that. Born ladies."

"I don't ask what they were born," she said quickly, with a toss of thehead. "What are they now? Who are their connections? What do theylive on?"

Paul Brion gave a succinct and graphic sketch of the superficialhistory and circ*mstances of his father's "wards," omitting variousdetails that instinct warned him might be accounted "low"—such, forinstance, as the fact that the single maidservant of the house theylived in was nothing more to them than their medium of communicationwith the front door. He dwelt (like the straightforward blundererthat he was) on their personal refinement and their high culture andaccomplishments, how they studied every day at the Public Library,taking their frugal lunch at the pastry-cook's—how they could talkFrench and German like "natives"—how they played the piano in a waythat made all the blood in one's veins tingle—how, in short, they werein all things certain to do honour and credit to whoever would spreadthe wing of the matron and chaperon over them. It seemed to him a veryinteresting story, told by himself, and he was quite convinced that itmust touch the tender woman's heart beating under that pretty dressbeside him.

"You are a mother yourself," he said (as indeed she was—the motherof four disappointing little Aaronses, who were all long-nosed andnarrow-eyed and dark, each successive infant more the image of itsfather than the last), "and so you can understand their position—youknow how to feel for them." He thought this an irresistible plea,and was unprepared for the dead silence with which it was received.Glancing up quickly, he saw that she was by no means in the meltingmood that he had looked for.

"Of course, if you don't wish it—if it will be troubling you toomuch—" he began, with his old fierce abruptness, drawing himselftogether.

"It is not that," said she, looking at her fan. "But now I know why youhave stayed away for five weeks."

"Why I have stayed away—oh! I understand. But I told you they wereliving alone, did I not? Therefore I have never been into theirhouse—it is quite impossible for me to have the pleasure of theirsociety."

"Then you want me to take them up, so that you can have it here? Isthat it?"

The little man was looking so ferocious, and his departure from herside appeared so imminent, that she changed her tone quickly afterputting this question. "Never mind," she said, laying her jewelledfingers on his coat sleeve for a moment, "I will not be jealous—atleast I will try not to be. I will go and call on them to-morrow, andas soon as they have called on me I will ask them to one of my Fridays.Will that do?"

"I don't wish you for a moment to do what would be at all unpleasant toyourself," he said, still in a hurt, blunt tone, but visibly softening.

"It won't be unpleasant to me," she said sentimentally, "if it willplease you."

And Paul went home at midnight, well satisfied with what he had done,believing that a woman so "awfully kind" as Mrs. Aarons would be ashield and buckler to those defenceless girls.



Mrs. Aarons kept her promise, and called upon the Kings on Saturday.Mrs. M'Intyre saw her get down at the gate of No. 6, at about fouro'clock in the afternoon, watched the brougham which had brought hertrundling slowly up and down the street for half-an-hour, and then sawher get into it and drive off; which facts, communicated to Paul Brion,gave him the greatest satisfaction.

He did not see his neighbours for several days after. He heard theirpiano, and their footsteps and voices on the verandah; but, wheneverhe essayed to go outside his own room for a breath of fresh air, theywere sure to retire into theirs immediately, like mice into a hole whenthe cat has frightened them. At last he came across them in an alley ofthe Fitzroy Gardens, as he and they were converging upon Myrtle Streetfrom different points. They were all together as usual—the majesticElizabeth in the middle, with her younger sisters on either side ofher; and they were walking home from an organ recital in the Town Hallto their tea, and a cosy evening over a new book, having spent mostof the morning at the Public Library, and had their mid-day dinner atGunsler's. As he caught sight of them, he was struck by the changein their outward appearance that a few weeks of Melbourne experiencehad brought about, and pleased himself with thinking how much theirdistinguished aspect must have impressed that discerning woman ofthe world, who had so kindly condescended to take them up. They weredressed in their new gowns, and bonneted, booted, and gloved, in theneatest manner; a little air of the mode pervaded them now, while theprimitive purity of their taste was still unadulterated. They had neverlooked more charming, more obviously "born ladies" than to-day, as hesaw them after so long an interval.

The three black figures stood the shock of the unexpected meetingwith admirable fortitude. They came on towards him with no falteringof that free and graceful gait that was so noticeable in a city fullof starched and whale-boned women, and, as he lifted his hat, bowedgravely—Elizabeth only giving him a dignified smile, and wishing hima good evening as she went by. He let them pass him, as they seemedto wish to pass him; then he turned sharply and followed them. It wasa chance he might not get again for months, perhaps, and he could notafford to let it slip.

"Miss King," he called in his imperative brusque way; and at the soundof his voice Elizabeth looked back and waited for him to join her,while her younger sisters, at a sign from Patty, walked on at a briskpace, leaving her in command of the situation. "Miss King," said Paulearnestly, "I am so glad to have an opportunity of speaking to you—Ihave been wanting all the week to see you, that I might thank you foryour kindness in asking me to tea."

"Oh," said Elizabeth, whose face was scarlet, "don't mention it, Mr.Brion. We thought of it merely as a—a little attention—a sort ofacknowledgment—to your father; that it might please him, perhaps,for you to see that we had settled ourselves, as he could not do sohimself."

"It would have pleased me, beyond everything in the world, Miss King.Only—only—"

"Yes, I know. We forgot that it was not quite de rigueur—or, rather,we had not learned about those things. We have been so out of theworld, you see. We were dreadfully ashamed of ourselves," she addedcandidly, with a little embarrassed laugh, "but you must set it downto our ignorance of the laws of propriety, and not suppose that weconsciously disregarded them."

"The laws of propriety!" repeated Paul hotly, his own face red andfierce. "It is Schiller, I think, who says that it is the experienceof corruption which originated them. I hate to hear you speak ofimpropriety, as if you could even conceive the idea of it!"

"Well, we are not in Arcadia now, and we must behave ourselvesaccordingly," said Elizabeth, who was beginning to feel glad in hergentle heart that she had been able to make this explanation. "I thinkwe are getting corrupted with wonderful rapidity. We have even beencalled upon, quite as if we were people of fashion and consequence,by a lady who was dressed in the most magnificent manner, and who camein her carriage. Her name was Aarons—Mrs. Aarons. She said she hadheard of of our being here, and thought she would like to make ouracquaintance."

"Did she?" responded Paul warmly, thinking how nice and delicate itwas of Mrs. Aarons to respect his anxious wish that his name andinterposition should not be mentioned, which was certainly more than hehad expected of her. "And were you all at home when she called?"

"As it happened—yes. It was on Saturday afternoon, when we aregenerally rather busy."

"And have you returned her call yet?"

"No. We don't mean to return it," said Elizabeth composedly; "we didnot like her enough to wish to make an acquaintance of her. It is nogood to put ourselves out, and waste our own time and theirs, forpeople whom we are sure not to care about, and who would not care aboutus, is it?"

"But I think you would like her if you knew her, Miss King," pleadedPaul, much disturbed by this threatened downfall of his schemes. "Iam sure—at least, I have always heard, and I can speak a little frompersonal knowledge—that she is a particularly nice woman; thoroughlykind and amiable, and, at the same time, having a good positionin society, and a remarkably pleasant house, where you might meetinteresting people whom you would like. Oh, don't condemn her atfirst sight in that way! First impressions are so seldom to be trusted.Go and call, at any rate—indeed, you know, you ought to do that, ifonly for form's sake."

"For politeness, do you mean? Would it be rude not to return her call?"

"It would be thought so, of course."

"Ah, I was not sure—I will call then. I don't mind calling in theleast. If she has done us a kindness, it is right to acknowledge it inwhatever is the proper way. It was my sisters—especially Patty—whotook a dislike to her, and particularly wished not to see her again.Patty thought she asked too many questions, and that she came from somemotive of curiosity to pry into our affairs. She was certainly a littleimpertinent, I thought. But then, perhaps, ladies in 'the world' don'tlook at these things as we have been accustomed to do," added Elizabethhumbly.

"I don't think they do," said Paul.

By this time they had reached the gate through which Patty and Eleanorhad passed before them out of the gardens. As they silently emergedinto the road, they saw the pair flitting along the pavement aconsiderable distance ahead of them, and when they turned the cornerinto Myrtle Street both the slender black figures had disappeared. Paulwondered to see himself so irritated by this trifling and inevitablecirc*mstance. He felt that it would have done him good to speak toPatty, if it were only to quarrel with her.

Elizabeth bade him good-night when she reached the gate of No. 6, wherethe hall door stood open—putting her warm, strong hand with motherlybenevolence into his.

"Good-night, Miss King. I am so glad to have seen you," he responded,glaring fiercely at the balcony and the blank window overhead."And—and you will return that call, won't you?"

"O yes—of course. We will walk there on Monday, as we come home fromthe Library. We are able to find our way about in Melbourne very wellnow, with the help of the map you were so kind as to give us when wefirst came. I can't tell you how useful that has been."

So, with mutual friendship and goodwill, they parted—Elizabeth to joinher sisters upstairs, where one was already setting the tea-kettle toboil on the gas stove, and the other spreading a snow-white cloth onthe sitting-room table—Paul Brion to get half-an-hour's work and ahasty dinner before repairing to the reporters' gallery of "the House."

He did not see them again for a long time, and the first news he heardof them was from Mrs. Aarons, whom he chanced to meet when she wasshopping one fine morning in Collins Street.

"You see, I remembered my promise," she said, when matters ofmore personal moment had been disposed of; "I went to see thoseextraordinary protégées of yours."

"Extraordinary—how extraordinary?" he inquired stiffly.

"Well, I put it to you—are they not extraordinary?"

He was silent for a few seconds, and the points of his moustache wentup a little. "Perhaps so—now you mention it," he said. "Perhaps theyare unlike the—the usual girl of the period with whom we arefamiliar. But I hope you were favourably impressed with your visit.Were you?"

"No, I wasn't. I will be frank with you—I wasn't. I never expected tofind people living in that manner—and dressing in that manner. It isnot what I am used to."

"But they are very lady-like—if I am any judge—and that is the chiefthing. Very pretty too. Don't you think so?"

"O dear no! The middle one has rather nice eyes perhaps—thoughshe gives herself great airs, I think, considering her position. Andthe youngest is not bad looking. Miss King is plain, decidedly.However, I told you I would do something for them, and I have kept myword. They are coming to my next Friday. And I do hope," proceededMrs. Aarons, with an anxious face, "that they will dress themselvesrespectably for the reputation of my house. Do you know anyone whocould speak to them about it? Could you give them a hint, do you think?"

"I!—good gracious! I should like to see myself at it," said Paul,grimly. "But I don't think," he added, with a fatuity really pitiablein a man of his years and experience, "that there is any danger oftheir not looking nice. They must have had their old frocks on when yousaw them."



How they should dress themselves for Mrs. Aarons's Friday was aquestion as full of interest for our girls as if they had been broughtup in the lap of wealth and fashion. They were not so ignorant of thehabits and customs of "the world" as not to know that evening dresswas required of them on this occasion, and they had not seen so manyshop windows and showrooms without learning something of its generalfeatures as applied to their sex and to the period. Great were thediscussions that went on over the momentous subject. Even their studiesat the Public Library lost their interest and importance, it is to befeared, for a day or two, while they were anxiously hesitating, first,whether they should accept the invitation, and, secondly, in whatcostume they should make their first appearance in polite society.The former of these questions was settled without much trouble.Elizabeth's yearning for "friends," the chance of discovering whommight be missed by missing this unusual opportunity; Patty's thirstfor knowledge and experience in all available fields, and Eleanor'shabit of peaceably falling in with her sisters' views, overcame therepugnance that all of them entertained to the idea of being patronisedby, or beholden for attentions that they could not reciprocate to, Mrs.Aarons, against whom they had conceived a prejudice on the first day ofcontact with her which a further acquaintance had not tended to lessen.But the latter question was, as I have said, a matter of much debate.Could they afford themselves new frocks?—say, black grenadines thatwould do for the summer afterwards. This suggestion was inquired intoat several shops and of several dressmakers, and then relinquished,but not without a struggle. "We are just recovering ourselves," saidElizabeth, with her note-book before her and her pencil in her hand;"and if we go on as we are doing now we shall be able to save enough totake us to Europe next year without meddling with our house-money. Butif we break our rules—well, it will throw us back. And it will be abad precedent, Patty."

"Then we won't break them," said Patty valiantly. "We will go in ourblack frocks. Perhaps," she added, with some hesitation, "we can findsomething amongst our mother's things to trim us up a little."

"She would like to see us making ourselves look pretty with herthings," said Eleanor.

"Yes, Nelly. That is what I think. Come along and let us look atthat bundle of lace that we put in the bottom drawer of the bureau.Elizabeth, does lace so fine as that go with woollen frocks, do youthink? We must not have any incongruities if we can help it."

Elizabeth thought that plain white ruffles would, perhaps, be best,as there was so much danger of incongruities if they trusted to theiruntrained invention. Whereupon Patty pointed out that they would haveto buy ruffles, while the lace would cost nothing, which consideration,added to their secret wish for a little special decoration, now thatthe occasion for it had arisen—the love of adornment being, thoughrefined and chastened, an ingredient of their nature as of every otherwoman's—carried the day in favour of "mother's things."

"And I think," said Patty, with dignity, when at last Friday cameand they had spread the selected finery on their little beds, "Ithink that ladies ought to know how to dress themselves better thanshop-people can tell them. When they want to make themselves smart,they should think, first, what they can afford and what will besuitable to their position and the occasion, and then they should thinkwhat would look pretty in a picture. And they should put on that."

Patty, I think, was well aware that she would look pretty in a picture,when she had arrayed herself for the evening. Round the neck of herblack frock she had loosely knotted a length of fine, yellow-whiteBrussels lace, the value of which, enhanced by several darns thatwere almost as invisibly woven as the texture itself, neither she norher sisters had any idea of. Of course it did not "go" with the blackfrock, even though the latter was not what mourning was expected tobe, but its delicacy was wonderfully thrown up by its contrast withthat background, and it was a most becoming setting for the wearer'sbrilliant face. Patty had more of the priceless flounce sewn on herblack sleeves (the little Vandal had cut it into lengths on purpose),half of it tucked in at the wrists out of sight; and the ends thathung over her breast were loosely fastened down with a quaint oldsilver brooch, in which a few little bits of topaz sparkled. Elizabethwas not quite so magnificent. She wore a fichu of black lace over hershoulders—old Spanish, that happened just then to be the desire anddespair of women of fashion, who could not get it for love or money;it was big enough to be called a shawl, and in putting it on Patty hadto fold and tack it here and there with her needle, to keep it wellup in its proper place. This was fastened down at the waist with ashawl-pin shaped like a gold arrow, that her grandmother had used topin her Paisley over her chest; and, as the eldest daughter, Elizabethwore her mother's slender watch-chain wound round and round her neck,and, depending from it, an ancient locket of old red gold, containingon its outward face a miniature of that beautiful mother as a girl,with a beading of little pearls all round it. Eleanor was dressed upin frills of soft, thick Valenciennes, taken from the bodice of oneof the brocaded gowns; which lace, not being too fragile to handle,Elizabeth, ignorant as yet of the artistic excellence of the genuinecoffee-colour of age, had contrived to wash to a respectable whiteness.And to Eleanor was given, from the little stock of family trinkets,a string of pearls, fastened with an emerald clasp—pearls the sizeof small peas, and dingy and yellow from never having been laid outon the grass, as, according to a high authority, pearls should be.Upon the whole, their finery, turned into money, would probably havebought up three of the most magnificent costumes worn in Melbourne thatnight; yet it can scarcely be said to have been effective. Neither Mrs.Aarons nor her lady friends had the requisite experience to detectit* quality and understand what we may call its moral value. Only oneperson amongst the company discovered that Eleanor's pearls were real,and perhaps only that one had been educated in lace, save rudimentally,in the Melbourne shops. And amongst the nouveaux riches, as poorgentlefolks well know, to have no claims to distinction but such as areout of date is practically to have none.

Late in the evening, Paul Brion, who had not intended to go to thisparticular Friday, lest his presence should betray to the sisters whathe was so anxious to conceal from them, found that he could not resistthe temptation to see with his own eyes how they were getting on; andwhen he had entered the room, which was unusually crowded, and hadprowled about for a few minutes amongst the unpleasantly tall men whoobstructed his view in all directions, he was surprised and enragedto see the three girls sitting side by side in a corner, lookingneglected and lonely, and to see insolent women in long-tailed satingowns sweeping past them as if they had not been there. One glancewas enough to satisfy him that there had been no fear of their notlooking "nice." Patty's bright and flushed but (just now) severelittle face, rising so proudly from the soft lace about her throat andbosom, seemed to him to stand out clear in a surrounding mist, apartand distinct from all the faces in the room—or in the world, for thatmatter. Elizabeth's dignified serenity in an uncomfortable positionwas the perfection of good breeding, and made a telling contrast tothe effusive manners of those about her; and fair Eleanor, sitting somodestly at Elizabeth's side, with her hands, in a pair of white silkmittens, folded in her lap, was as charming to look at as heart of mancould desire. Other men seemed to be of his opinion, for he saw severalhovering around them and looking at them with undisguised interest; butthe ladies, who, he thought, ought to have felt privileged to take themup, appeared to regard them coldly, or to turn their backs upon themaltogether, literally as well as metaphorically. It was plain that Mrs.Aarons had introduced them to nobody, probably wishing (as was indeedthe case—people of her class being morbidly sensitive to the disgraceof unfashionable connections) not to own to them more than she couldhelp.

He withdrew from their neighbourhood before they saw him, and went toseek his hostess, swelling with remonstrant wrath. He found her on asofa at the other end of the room, talking volubly (she was alwaysvoluble, but now she was breathless in her volubility) to a lady whohad never before honoured her Fridays, and who, by doing so to-night,had gratified an ambition that had long been paramount amongst the manyambitions which, enclosed in a narrow circle as they were, served tomake the interest and occupation of Mrs. Aarons's life. She looked upat Paul as he approached her, and gave him a quick nod and smile, as ifto say, "I see you, but you must be perfectly aware that I am unableto attend to you just now." Paul understood her, and, not having thehonour of Mrs. Duff-Scott's acquaintance himself, fell back a littlebehind the sofa and waited for his opportunity. As he waited, he couldnot help overhearing the conversation of the two ladies, and deriving alittle cynical amusem*nt therefrom.

"And, as soon as I heard of it, I begged my husband to go and see ifit was really a genuine example of Derby-Chelsea; and, you see, itwas," said Mrs. Aarons, with subdued enthusiasm—almost with tears ofemotion.

"It was, indeed," assented Mrs. Duff-Scott earnestly. "There was thetrue mark—the capital D, with the anchor in the middle of it. It isextremely rare, and I had no hope of ever possessing a specimen."

"I knew you would like to have it. I said to Ben. 'Do go and snatchit up at once for Mrs. Duff-Scott's collection.' And he was so pleasedto find he was in time. We were so afraid someone might have beenbefore us. But the fact is, people are so ignorant that they have noidea of the value of things of that sort—fortunately."

"I don't call it fortunate at all," the other lady retorted, a littlebrusquely. "I don't like to see people ignorant—I am quite ready toshare and share." Then she added, with a smile, "I am sure I can neverbe sufficiently obliged to Mr. Aarons for taking so much trouble on myaccount. I must get him into a corner presently, and find out how muchI am in his debt—though, of course, no money can represent the trueworth of such a treasure, and I shall always feel that I have robbedhim."

"Oh, pray, pray don't talk of payment," the hostess implored, with agesture of her heavily-ringed hands. "You will hurt him dreadfullyif you think of such a thing. He feels himself richly paid, I assureyou, by having a chance to do you a little service. And such a meretrifle as it is!"

"No, indeed, it is not a trifle, Mrs. Aarons—very far from it. Thething is much too valuable for me to—to"—Mrs. Duff-Scott hesitated,and her face was rather red—"to deprive you of it in that way. I don'tfeel that I can take it as a present—a bit of real Derby-Chelseathat you might never find a specimen of again—really I don't."

"Oh, please"—and Mrs. Aarons's voice was at once reproachful andpersuasive—"please! I know you wouldn't wish to hurt us."

A little more discussion ensued, which Paul watched with an amusedsmile; and Mrs. Duff-Scott gave in.

"Well, if you insist—but you are really too good. It makes me quiteuncomfortable to take such a treasure from you. However, perhaps, someday I may be able to contribute to your collection."

Like her famous model, Mrs. Ponsonby de Tompkins, Mrs. Aarons stalkedher big game with all kinds of stratagems, and china was the lure withwhich she had caught Mrs. Duff-Scott. This was a lady who possessednot only that most essential and valuable qualification of a lady,riches, but had also a history that was an open page to all men. Ithad not much heraldic emblazonment about it, but it showed a fairand honourable record of domestic and public circ*mstances that noself-respecting woman could fail to take social credit for. By virtueof these advantages, and of a somewhat imperious, though generousand unselfish, nature, she certainly did exercise that right to be"proud" which, in such a case, the most democratic of communities willcheerfully concede. She had been quite inaccessible to Mrs. Aarons,whom she was wont to designate a "person," long after that accomplishedwoman had carried the out-works of the social citadel in which shedwelt, and no doubt she would have been inaccessible to the last. Onlyshe had a weakness—she had a hobby (to change the metaphor a little)that ran away with her, as hobbies will, even in the case of the mostcirc*mspect of women; and that hobby, exposed to the seductions of akindred hobby, broke down and trampled upon the barriers of caste. Itwas the Derby-Chelsea specimen that had brought Mrs. Duff-Scott tooccupy a sofa in Mrs. Aarons's drawing-room—to their mutual surprise,when they happened to think of it.

She rose from that sofa now, slightly perturbed, saying she must goand find Mr. Aarons and acknowledge the obligation under which he hadplaced her, while all the time she was cudgelling her brains to thinkby what means and how soon she could discharge it—regretting verykeenly for the moment that she had put herself in the way of peoplewho did not understand the fine manners which would have made such adilemma impossible. Her hostess jumped up immediately, and the twoladies passed slowly down the room in the direction of the cornerwhere our neglected girls were sitting. Paul followed at a respectfuldistance, and was gratified to see Mrs. Duff-Scott stop at the piano,in place of hunting for her host (who was never a conspicuous featureof these entertainments), and shake hands cordially with a tall Germanin spectacles who had just risen from the music-stool. He had cometo Mrs. Aarons's Friday in a professional capacity, but he was asufficiently great artist for a great lady to make an equal of him.

"Ah, my dear Herr Wüllner," she said, in a very distinct voice, "Iwas listening, and I thought I could not be mistaken in your touch.Heller's Wanderstunden, wasn't it?" And they plunged head first intomusical talk such as musical people (who never care in the least howmuch unmusical people may be bored by it) love to indulge in wheneveran occasion offers, while Mrs. Aarons stood by, smiling vaguely, andnot understanding a word of it. Paul Brion listened to them for a fewminutes, and a bright idea came into his head.



Our girls still sat in their corner, but a change had come over themwithin the last few minutes. A stout man sitting near them was talkingto Elizabeth across Eleanor's lap—Eleanor lying back in her seat, andsmiling amiably as she listened to them; and Miss King was lookinganimated and interested, and showed some signs of enjoying herself atlast. Patty also had lost her air of angry dignity, and was leaning alittle forward, with her hands clasped on her knees, gazing at HerrWüllner's venerable face with rapt enthusiasm. Paul, regarding her fora moment, felt himself possessed of sufficient courage to declare hispresence, and, waiting until he could catch her eye, bowed pleasantly.She looked across at him with no recognition at first, then gave alittle start, bent her head stiffly, and resumed her attentive perusalof Herr Wüllner's person. "Ah," thought Paul, "the old fellow has wokeher up. And she wants him to play again." Mrs. Duff-Scott had droppedinto a chair by the piano, and sat there contentedly, talking to thedelighted musician, who had been as a fish out of water since he cameinto the room, and was now swimming at large in his native elementagain. She was a distinguished looking matron of fifty or thereabouts,with a handsome, vivacious, intelligent face and an imposing presencegenerally; and she had an active and well-cultivated mind whichconcerned itself with many other things than china. Having no necessityto work, no children on whom to expend her exuberant energies, andbeing incapable of finding the ordinary woman's satisfaction in theordinary routine of society pleasures, she made ardent pursuits forherself in several special directions. Music was one. Herr Wüllnerthought she was the most enlightened being in female shape that hehad ever known, because she "understood" music—what was really musicand what was not (according to his well-trained theories). She had,in the first place, the wonderful good sense to know that she couldnot play herself, and she held the opinion that people in general hadno business to set themselves up to play, but only those who had been"called" by Divine permission and then properly instructed in thescience of their art. "We won't look at bad pictures, nor read trashybooks," she would say. "Why should our artistic sense be depraved anddemoralised through our ears any more than through our eyes? Mothersshould know better, my dear Herr Wüllner, and keep the incapables inthe background. All girls should learn, if they like learning—inwhich case it does them good, and delights the domestic circle; butif at sixteen they can't play—what we call play—after having hadevery chance given them, they should leave off, so as to use thetime better, or confine their performances to a family audience."And Mrs. Duff-Scott had the courage of her convictions, and crushedunrelentingly those presumptuous amateurs (together with theirinfatuated mammas) who thought they could play when they couldn't, andwho regarded music as a mere frivolous drawing-room amusem*nt for theencouragement of company conversation. Herr Wüllner delighted in her.The two sat talking by the piano, temporarily indifferent to what wasgoing on around them, turning over a roll of music sheets that had hada great deal of wear and tear, apparently. Mrs. Aarons sat beside them,fanning herself and smiling, casting about her for more entertainingconverse. And Paul Brion stood near his hostess, listening and watchingfor his opportunity. Presently it came.

Mrs. Duff-Scott lifted up a sheet of crabbed manuscript as yellowed bytime as Patty's Brussels lace, and said: "This is not quite the thingfor a mixed audience, is it?"

"Ah, no, you are right; it is the study of Haydn that a friend of mineasked of me yesterday, and that I propose to read to him to-night,"said Herr Wüllner, in that precise English and with that delicatepronunciation with which the cultivated foreigner so often puts us toshame. "It is, you perceive, an arrangement for one violin and a pianoonly—done by a very distinguished person for a lady who was for ashort time my pupil, when I was a young man. You have heard it withthe four-stringed instruments at your house; that was bad—bad! Ach!that second violin squeaked like the squeaking of a pig, and it wasalways in the wrong place. But in good hands it is sublime. This"—andhe sighed as he added more sheets to the one she held and was steadilyperusing—"this is but a crippled thing, perhaps; the piano, whichshould have none of it, has it all—and no one can properly translatethat piano part—not one in ten thousand. But it is well done. Yes, itis very well done. And I have long been wanting my friend to try itwith me."

"And what about the young lady for whom it was written?—which part didshe take?"

"The piano—the piano. But then she had a wonderful execution andsympathy—it was truly wonderful for a lady, and she so young. Womenplay much better now, as a rule, but I never hear one who is an amateurplay as she did. And so quick—so quick! It was an inspiration withher. Yes, this was written on purpose for that lady—I have had it eversince—it has never been published. The manuscript is in her own hand.She wrote out much of her music in her own hand. It was many, manyyears ago, and I was a young man then. We were fellow-pupils before Ibecame her master, and she was my pupil only for a few weeks. It was afarce—a farce. She did not play the violin, but in everything else shewas better than I. Ah, she was a great genius, that young lady. She wasa great loss to the world of art."

"Did she die, Herr Wüllner?"

"She eloped," he said softly, "she ran away with a scapegrace. And theship she sailed in was lost at sea."

"Dear me! How very sad. Well, you must make your friend try it over,and, if you manage it all right, bring him with you to my house onMonday evening and let me hear it."

"That shall give me great pleasure," said the old man, bowing low.

"You have your violin with you, I suppose?" she asked.

"It is in the hall, under my cloak. I do not bring it into this room,"he replied.

"Why not?" she persisted. "Go and fetch it, Herr Wüllner, and let Mrs.Aarons hear you play it"—suddenly bethinking herself of her hostessand smiling upon that lady—"if she has never had that treat before."

Mrs. Aarons was eager to hear the violin, and Herr Wüllner wenthimself, though reluctantly, to fetch his treasure from the old casethat he had hidden away below. When he had tuned up his strings alittle, and had tucked the instrument lovingly under his chin, helooked at Mrs. Duff-Scott and said softly, "What?"

"Oh," cried Mrs. Aarons, striking in, "play that—you know—what youwere talking of just now—what Mrs. Duff-Scott wanted so much to hear.I want to hear it too."

"Impossible—impossible," he said quickly, almost with a shudder. "Ithas a piano part, and there is no one here to take that."

Then Paul Brion broke in, conscious that he was running heavy risks ofall sorts, but resolved to seize his chance.

"I think there is someone who could play it," he said to Mrs. Aarons,speaking with elaborate distinctness. "The Miss Kings—one of them, atany rate—"

"Nonsense," interrupted Mrs. Aarons, sharply, but under her breath."Not at all likely." She was annoyed by the suggestion, and wished totreat it as if unheard (it was unreasonable, on the face of it, ofcourse); but Mrs. Duff-Scott caught at it in her direct way. "Who arethey? Which are the Miss Kings?" she asked of Paul, putting up hereye-glass to see what manner of man had taken upon himself to interfere.

"My dear lady," sighed Herr Wüllner, dropping his bow dejectedly, "itis out of the question, absolutely. It is not normal music at itsbest—and I have it only in manuscript. It is impossible that any ladycan attempt it."

"She will not attempt it if she cannot do it, Herr Wüllner," said Paul."But you might ask her."

Mrs. Duff-Scott had followed the direction of his eyes, and herattention was violently arrested by the figures of the three girlssitting together, who were so remarkably unlike the majority of Mrs.Aarons's guests. She took note of all their superficial peculiaritiesin a moment, and the conviction that the lace and the pearls were realflashed across her like an inspiration. "Is it the young lady with thebright eyes?" she inquired. "What a charming face! Yes, Herr Wüllner,we will ask her. Introduce her to me, Mrs. Aarons, will you?"

She rose as she spoke and sailed towards Patty, Mrs. Aarons following;and Paul Brion held his breath while he waited to see how his recklessenterprise would turn out. In a few minutes Patty came towards thepiano, with her head up and her face flushed, looking a little defiant,but as self-possessed as the great lady who convoyed her across theroom. The events of the evening had roused her spirit, and strung upher nerves like Herr Wüllner's fiddle-strings, and she, too, was in adaring and audacious mood.

"This is it," said the old musician, looking at her critically as hegave a sheet of manuscript into her hand. It was a wonderful chance, ofcourse, but Patty had seen the facsimile of that manuscript many timesbefore, and had played from it. It is true she had never played withthe violin accompaniment—had never so much as seen a violin until shecame to Melbourne; but her mother had contrived to make her understandhow the more delicate and sensitive instrument ought to be deferred toin the execution of the piano part, and what the whole should soundlike, by singing the missing air in her flexible trilling voice; andjust now she was in that peculiar mood of exaltation that she feltinspired to dare anything and assured that she should succeed. "Youwill not be able to read it?" Herr Wüllner suggested persuasively,drawing hope from her momentary silence.

"Oh, yes," she said, looking up bravely: "I think so. You will stop me,please, if I do not play it right." And she seated herself at the pianowith a quiet air of knowing what she was doing that confounded the twoladies who were watching her and deeply interested Mrs. Duff-Scott.Paul Brion's heart was beating high with anticipated triumph. HerrWüllner's heart, on the contrary, sank with a mild despair.

"Well, we will have a few bars," he sighed. "And pray, my dear younglady, don't bang the piano—I mean don't play over me. And try to keeptime. But you will never do it—with the best intentions, my dear, youwill never be able to read it from such a manuscript as that."

Patty looked up at him with a sort of radiant calmness, and saidgently, "Go on. You see you have an opening movement to yourself."

Bewildered, the old man dropped his bow upon the strings, and set forthon his hopeless task. And at exactly the right moment the piano glidedin, so lightly, so tenderly, and yet with such admirable precision anddelicate clearness, that it justified, for once, its trespass uponground that belonged to more aerial instruments. It was just what PaulBrion had counted on—though Paul Brion had not the least idea whata wild chance had brought about the fulfilment of his expectations.Patty was able to display her chief accomplishment to the very bestadvantage, and the sisters were thereby promoted to honour. The coldshade of neglect and obscurity was to chill them no more from thishappy moment. It was a much greater triumph than Patty herself had anyidea of, or than anybody had had the least reason to expect. Sheknew that piles of music, all in this self-same handwriting (she hadnever seen any other and supposed that all manuscript music was alike),were stowed away in the old bureau at home, and in the ottoman whichshe had constructed out of a packing-case, and that long familiarityhad made it as easy to her to read as print; but Herr Wüllner was notin a position to make the faintest guess at such a circ*mstance. WhenElizabeth moved her seat nearer to the piano, as if to support hersister, though he was close enough to see it, he did not recognise inthe miniature round her neck the face of that young lady of genius whoeloped with a scapegrace, and was supposed to have been drowned atsea with her husband. And yet it was that lady's face. Such wonderfulcoincidences are continually happening in our small world. It was notmore wonderful than that Herr Wüllner, Mrs. Duff-Scott, Paul Brion, andPatty King should have been gathered together round one piano, and thatpiano Mrs. Aarons's.

The guests were laughing and talking and flirting, as they were wont todo under cover of the music that generally prevailed at these Fridayreceptions, when an angry "Hush!" from the violinist, repeated by Mrs.Duff-Scott, made a little circle of silence round the performers. Andin this silence Patty carried through her responsible undertakingwith perfect accuracy and the finest taste—save for a shadowy mistakeor two, which, glancing over them as if they were mere phantoms ofmistakes, and recovering herself instantly, only served to show moreclearly the finished quality of her execution, and the thoroughness ofher musical experience. She was conscious herself of being in her verybest form.

"Ah!" said Herr Wüllner, drawing a long breath as he uttered theexclamation, and softly laying down his violin, "I was mistaken. Mydear young lady, allow me to beg your pardon, and to thank you." And hebowed before Patty until his nose nearly touched his knees.

Mrs. Duff-Scott, who was a woman of impulses, as most nice women are,was enthusiastic. Not only had she listened to Patty's performance withall her intelligent ears, but she had at the same time investigatedand appraised the various details of her personal appearance, and beenparticularly interested in that bit of lace about her neck.

"My dear," she said, putting out her hand as the girl rose from themusic-stool, "come here and sit by me and tell me where you learned toplay like that."

Patty went over to her readily, won by the kind voice and motherlygesture. And, in a very few minutes, Paul had the pleasure of seeingthe great lady sitting on a sofa with all three sisters around her,talking to them, and they to her, as if they had known one another foryears.

Leaving them thus safe and cared for, he bade good-night to hishostess, and went home to his work, in a mood of high contentment.



When Paul Brion bade Mrs. Aarons good-night, he perceived that she wasa little cold to him, and rather wondered at himself that he did notfeel inclined either to resent or to grieve over that unprecedentedcirc*mstance.

"I am going to steal away," he said in an airy whisper, coming acrossher in the middle of the room as he made his way to the door. "I have agood couple of hours' work to get through to-night."

He was accustomed to speak to her in this familiar and confidentialfashion, though she was but a recent acquaintance, and she had alwaysresponded in a highly gratifying way. But now she looked at himlistlessly, with no change of face, and merely said, "Indeed."

"Yes," he repeated; "I have a lot to do before I can go to bed. Itis delightful to be here; but I must not indulge myself any longer.Good-night."

"Good-night," she said, still unsmiling, as she gave him her hand. "Iam sorry you must go so soon." But she did not look as if she weresorry; she looked as if she didn't care a straw whether he went orstayed. However, he pressed her hand with the wonted friendly pressure,and slipped out of the room, unabashed by her assumed indifference andreal change of manner, which he was at no great trouble to interpret;and he took a cab to his office—now a humming hive of busy beesimproving the shining hours of the gaslit night—and walked backfrom the city through the shadowy gardens to his lodgings, singing atuneless air to himself, which, if devoid of music, was a pleasantexpression of his frame of mind.

When he reached Myrtle Street the town clocks were striking twelve.He looked up at his neighbours' windows as he passed the gate of No.6, and saw no light, and supposed they had returned from their revelsand gone peaceably to bed. He opened his own door softly, as if afraidof waking them, and went upstairs to his sitting-room, where Mrs.M'Intyre, who loved to make him comfortable, had left him a bit ofsupper, and a speck of gas about the size of a pea in the burner at thehead of his arm-chair; and he pulled off his dress coat, and kickedaway his boots, and got his slippers and his dressing-gown, and histobacco and his pipe, and took measures generally for making himself athome. But before he had quite settled himself the idea occurred to himthat his neighbours might not have returned from Mrs. Aarons's, butmight, indeed (for he knew their frugal and unconventional habits), beeven then out in the streets, alone and unprotected, walking home bynight as they walked home by day, unconscious of the perils and dangersthat beset them. He had not presumed to offer his escort—he had noteven spoken to them during the evening, lest he should seem to takethose liberties that Miss Patty resented so much; but now he angrilyreproached himself for not having stayed at Mrs. Aarons's until theirdeparture, so that he could, at least, have followed and watched overthem. He put down his pipe hastily, and, opening the window, steppedout on the balcony. It was a dark night, and a cold wind was blowing,and the quarter-hour after midnight was chiming from the tower of thePost Office. He was about to go in for his boots and his overcoat, whenhe was relieved to hear a cab approaching at a smart pace, and to seeit draw up at the gate of No. 6. Standing still in the shadow of thepartition that divided his enclosure from theirs, he watched the girlsdescend upon the footpath, one by one, fitfully illuminated from theinterior of the vehicle. First Eleanor, then Elizabeth, then Patty—whoentered the gate and tapped softly at her street door. He expected tosee the driver dismissed, with probably double the fare to which he wasentitled; but to his surprise, the cab lingered, and Elizabeth stood atthe step and began to talk to someone inside. "Thank you so much foryour kindness," she said, in her gentle but clear tones, which wereperfectly audible on the balcony. A voice from the cab answered, "Don'tmention it, my dear. I am very glad to see as much of you as possible,for I want to know you. May I come and have a little gossip to-morrowafternoon?" It was the voice of Mrs. Duff-Scott, who, after keepingthem late at Mrs. Aarons's, talking to them, had frustrated theirintention of making their own way home. That powerful woman had "takenthem up," literally and figuratively, and she was not one to drop themagain—as fine ladies commonly drop interesting impecunious protégéeswhen the novelty of their acquaintance has worn off—save for causes intheir own conduct and circ*mstances that were never likely to arise.Paul Brion, thoroughly realising that his little schemes had beencrowned with the most gratifying success, stole back to his rooms, shutthe window softly, and sat down to his pipe and his manuscripts. And hewrote such a maliciously bitter article that, when he took it to theoffice, his editor refused to print it without modifications, on theground that it would land the paper in an action for libel.

Meanwhile our girls parted from their new friend with affectionategood-nights, and were let into their house by the landlady, who hadherself been entertaining company to a late hour. They went upstairswith light feet, too excited to feel tired, and all assembled inElizabeth's meagrely-appointed bedchamber to take off their fineryand to have a little happy gossip before they went to rest. Elizabethherself, who was not a gushing person, had the most to say at first,pouring out her ingenuous heart in grateful reminiscences of theunparalleled kindness of Mrs. Duff-Scott. "What a dear, dear woman!"she murmured, with soft rapture, as she unwound the watch-chain andlocket from her neck and disembarrassed herself of her voluminousfichu. "You can see that what she does and says is real andtruthful—I am certain you can trust her. I do not trust Mrs. Aarons—Ido not understand her ways. She wanted us to go and see her, and whenwe went she was unkind to us; at least, she was not polite. I was verysorry we had gone to her house—until Mrs. Duff-Scott came to our sofato speak to us. But now I feel so glad! For it has given us her. Andshe is just the kind of friend I have so often pictured to myself—sooften longed to know."

"I think it was Patty's playing that gave us Mrs. Duff-Scott,"said Eleanor, who was sitting by the dressing table with her frockunbuttoned. "She is fond of music, and really there was no one whocould play at all except Herr Wüllner—which was a very strange thing,don't you think? And the singing was worse—such sickly, silly sort ofsongs, with such eccentric accompaniments. I could not understand it,unless the fashion has changed since mother was a girl. I suppose ithas. But when Patty and Herr Wüllner got together it was like anotheratmosphere in the room. How did you come to play so well, Patty?—to beso collected and quiet when there was so much to frighten you? I was sonervous that my hands shook, and I had to squeeze them to keep myselfstill."

"I was nervous, too, at first," said Patty, who, divested of herdress and laces, was lying all along on Elizabeth's bed, with herpretty bare arms flung up over the pillows, and her hands claspedone over the other at the back of her head. "When we got there, thatimpudent maid in the room where we took our things off upset me; shelooked at our old hats and water-proofs as if she had never seen suchthings before—and they did seem very shabby amongst all the prettycloaks and hoods that the other ladies were taking off. And then itwas so ignominious to have to find our way to the drawing-room byfollowing other people, and to have our names bawled out as if to calleverybody's attention to us, and then not to have attentions. When wetrailed about the room, so lost and lonely, with all those fine peoplewatching us and staring at us, my knees were shaking under me, and Ifelt hot and cold—I don't know how I felt. The only comfort I had wasseeing how calm Elizabeth was. She seemed to stand up for us all, andto carry us through it. I felt—I hate to think I could be such anidiot—so nervous and so unhinged, and so miserable altogether, thatI should have liked to go away somewhere and have a good cry. But,"added Patty, suddenly sitting up in the bed, and removing her handsfrom the back of her head to her knees, "but after a little while itgot too horrid. And then I got angry, and that made me feel muchbetter. And by-and-bye, when they began to play and sing, and I saw howridiculous they made themselves, I brightened up, and was not nervousany more—for I saw that they were rather ignorant people, in spiteof their airs and their fine clothes. When the girl in that beautifulcreamy satin dress sang her whining little song about parting and dyinghalf a note flat, while she dashed her hands up and down the keyboard,and they all hung round her when she had done and said how charmingit was, I felt that really—" Patty paused, and stared into theobscurity of the room with brilliant, humorous, disdainful eyes, whichexpressed her sentiments with a distinctness that made further wordsunnecessary.

"But, you see, if people don't know that you are superior to them—"suggested Eleanor, folding up Elizabeth's best gloves, and wrappingthem in tissue paper, with a reflective air.

"Who would care about their knowing?" interposed Elizabeth. "We shouldnot be very much superior to anyone if we could indulge in a poorambition to seem so. That is not one of Patty's feelings, I think."

"But it is, then," Patty confessed, with honest promptness. "I foundit out to-night, Elizabeth. When I saw those conceited people sweepingabout in their splendid trains and looking as if all Melbourne belongedto them—when I heard that girl singing that preposterous twaddle,and herself and all her friends thinking she was a perfect genius—Ifelt that I would give anything, anything, just to rise up and bevery grand and magnificent for a little while and crush them all intovulgarity and insignificance."

"Patty!" murmured Elizabeth.

"Yes, my dear, it shocks you, I know. But you wouldn't have me disguisethe truth from you, would you? I wanted to pay them out. I saw theywere turning up their noses at us, and I longed—I raged—to be ina position to turn up my nose at them, if only for five minutes. Ithought to myself, oh, if the door should suddenly open and that bigfootman shout out, 'His Grace the Duke of So and So;' and they shouldall be ready to drop on their knees before such a grand person—asyou know they would be, Elizabeth; they would grovel, simply—and heshould look with a sort of gracious, ducal haughtiness over their headsand say to Mrs. Aarons, 'I am told that I shall find here the daughtersof my brother, who disappeared from home when he was young, along withhis wife, the Princess So and So.' You know, Elizabeth, our father, whonever would talk about his family to anybody, might have been a dukeor an earl in disguise, for anything we know, and our mother was thevery image of what a princess ought to be—"

"We should have been found out before this, if we had been suchillustrious persons," said Elizabeth, calmly.

"Yes, of course—of course. But one needn't be so practical. You arefree to think what you like, however improbable it may be. And that iswhat I thought of. Then I thought, suppose a telegram should be broughtin, saying that some enormously wealthy squatter, with several millionsof money and no children, had left us all his fortune—"

"I should think that kind of news would come by post," suggestedEleanor.

"It might and it mightn't, Nelly. The old squatter might have been thatqueer old man who comes to the Library sometimes, and seems to takesuch interest in seeing us reading so hard. He might have thought thatgirls who were so studious would have serious views of life and thevalue of money. Or he might have overheard us castle-building aboutEurope, and determined to help us to realise our dreams. Or he mighthave fallen in love with Elizabeth—at a distance, you know, and in ahumble, old-fashioned, hopeless way."

"But that doesn't account for the telegram, Patty."

"And have felt himself dying, perhaps," continued Patty, quitesolemnly, with her bright eyes fixed on her invisible drama, "and havethought he would like to see us—to speak to Elizabeth—to give somedirections and last wishes to us—before he went. No," she added,checking herself with a laugh and shaking herself up, "I don't think itwas that. I think the lawyer came himself to tell us. The lawyer hadopened the will, and he was a friend of Mrs. Aarons's, and he came totell her of the wonderful thing that had happened. 'Everyone has beenwondering whom he would leave his money to,' he says to her, 'but noone ever expected this. He has left it to three poor girls whom no onehas ever heard of, and whom he never spoke to in his life. I am nowgoing to find them out, for they are living somewhere in Melbourne.Their name is King, and they are sisters, without father or mother, orfriends or fortune—mere nobodies, in fact. But now they will be therichest women in Australia.' And Mrs. Aarons suddenly remembers us,away there in the corner of the room, and it flashes across her thatwe are the great heiresses. And she tells the other ladies, and theyall flock round us, and—and—"

"And you find yourself in the position to turn up your nose at them,"laughed Eleanor. "No one would have guessed your thoughts, Patty,seeing you sitting on that sofa, looking so severe and dignified."

"But I had other thoughts," said Patty, quickly. "These were justpassing ideas, of course. What really did take hold of me was anintense desire to be asked to play, so that I might show them how muchbetter we could play than they could. Especially after I heard HerrWüllner. I knew he, at least, would appreciate the difference—andI thought Mrs. Duff-Scott looked like a person who would, also. Andperhaps—perhaps—Paul Brion."

"Oh, Patty!" exclaimed Elizabeth, smiling, but reproachful. "Didyou really want to go to the piano for the sake of showing off yourskill—to mortify those poor women who had not been taught as well asyou had?"

"Yes," said Patty, hardily. "I really did. When Mrs. Duff-Scott cameand asked me to join Herr Wüllner in that duet, I felt that, failingthe duke and the lawyer, it was just the opportunity that I had beenlooking and longing for. And it was because I felt that I was going todo so much better than they could that I was in such good spirits, andgot on—as I flatter myself I did—so splendidly."

"Well, I don't believe you," said Elizabeth. "You could neverhave rendered that beautiful music as you did simply from purevindictiveness. It is not in you."

"No," said Patty, throwing herself back on the bed and flinging upher arms again, "no—when I come to think of it—I was not vindictiveall the time. At first I was savage—O yes, there is no doubt aboutit. Then Herr Wüllner's fears and frights were so charming that Igot amused a little; I felt jocose and mischievous. Then I felt Mrs.Duff-Scott looking at me—studying me—and that made me seriousagain, and also quieted me down and steadied me. Then I was a littleafraid that I might blunder over the music—it was a long time sinceI had played that thing, and the manuscript was pale and smudged—andso I had to brace myself up and forget about the outside people. Andas soon as Herr Wüllner reached me, and I began safely and found thatwe were making it, oh, so sweet! between us—then I lost sight of lotsof things. I mean I began to see and think of lots of other things. Iremembered playing it with mother—it was like the echo of her voice,that violin!—and the sun shining through a bit of the red curtaininto our sitting-room at home, and flickering on the wall over thepiano, where it used to stand; and the sound of the sea under thecliffs—whish-sh-sh-sh—in the still afternoon—" Patty broke offabruptly, with a little laugh that was half a sob, and flung herselffrom the bed with vehemence. "But it won't do to go on chattering likethis—we shall have daylight here directly," she said, gathering up herfrock and shoes.



Mrs. Duff-Scott came for her gossip on Saturday afternoon, and itwas a long one, and deeply interesting to all concerned. The girlstook her to their trustful hearts, and told her their past historyand present circ*mstances in such a way that she understood them evenbetter than they did themselves. They introduced her to their entiresuite of rooms, including the infinitesimal kitchen and its gas stove;they unlocked the drawers and cupboards of the old bureau to show hertheir own and their mother's sketches, and the family miniatures, andeven the jewels they had worn the night before, about which she wasfrankly curious, and which she examined with the same discriminatingintelligence that she brought to bear upon old china. They chatteredto her, they played to her, they set the kettle on the gas-stove andmade tea for her, with a familiar and yet modest friendliness thatwas a pleasant contrast to the attitude in which feminine attentionswere too often offered to her. In return, she put off that armour ofself-defence in which she usually performed her social duties, fearingno danger to pride or principle from an unreserved intercourse withsuch unsophisticated and yet singularly well-bred young women; and sherevelled in unguarded and unlimited gossip as freely as if they hadbeen her own sisters or her grown-up children. She gave them a greatdeal of very plain, but very wholesome, advice as to the necessitythat lay upon them to walk circ*mspectly in the new life they hadentered upon; and they accepted it in a spirit of meek gratitude thatwould have astonished Paul Brion beyond measure. All sorts of delicatedifficulties were touched upon in connection with the non-existentchaperon and the omnipotent and omnipresent Mrs. Grundy, and not onlytouched upon, but frankly discussed, between the kindly woman of theworld who wished to serve them and the proud but modest girls who werebut too anxious to learn of one who they felt was authorised to teachthem. In short, they sat together for more than two hours, and learnedin that one interview to know and trust each other better than some ofus will do after living for two years under the same roof. When at lastthe lady called her coachman, who had been mooning up and down MyrtleStreet, half asleep upon his box, to the gate of No. 6, she had made acompact with herself to "look after" the three sweet and pretty sisterswho had so oddly fallen in her way with systematic vigilance; andthey were unconsciously of one mind, that to be looked after by Mrs.Duff-Scott was the most delightful experience, by far, that Melbournehad yet given them.

On the following Monday they went to her house, and spent a ravishingevening in a beautiful, cosy, stately, deeply-coloured, softly-lightedroom, that was full of wonderful and historical bric-à-brac such asthey had never seen before, listening to Herr Wüllner and three brotherartists playing violins and a violoncello in a way that brought tearsto their eyes and unspeakable emotions into their responsive hearts.Never had they had such a time as this. There was no Mr. Duff-Scott—hewas away from home just now, looking after property in Queensland;and no Mrs. Aarons—she was not privileged to join any but large andcomprehensive parties in this select "set." There were no conceitedwomen to stare at and to snub them, and no girls to sing sicklyballads, half a note flat. Only two or three unpretentious music-lovingladies, who smiled on them and were kind to them, and two or threequiet men who paid them charmingly delicate attentions; nothing thatwas unpleasant or unharmonious—nothing to jar with the exquisite musicof a well-trained quartette, which was like a new revelation to themof the possibilities of art and life. They went home that night in acab, escorted by one of the quiet men, whose provincial rank was suchthat the landlady curtsied like an English rustic, when she openedthe door to him, and paid her young lodgers marked attentions for daysafterwards in honour of their acquaintance with such a distinguishedindividual. And Paul Brion, who was carefully informed by Mrs. M'Intyreof their rise and progress in the world that was not his world, saidhow glad he was that they had been recognised and appreciated for whatthey were, and went on writing smart literary and political and socialcriticisms for his paper, that were continually proving too smart forprudent journalism.

Then Mrs. Duff-Scott left Melbourne for a visit to some relationsin Brisbane, and to join her husband on his homeward journey, andthe girls fell back into their old quiet life for a while. It was anexceedingly simple and homely life. They rose early every morning—notmuch after the hour at which their neighbour on the other side of thewall was accustomed to go to bed—and aired, and swept, and scrubbedtheir little rooms, and made their beds, and polished their furniture,and generally set their dwelling in an exquisite order that is not atall universal with housewives in these days, but must always be theinstinct of really well-bred women. They breakfasted frugally after themost of this was done, and took a corresponding meal in the evening,the staple of both being bread and butter; and at mid-day they saved"messing" and the smell of cooking about their rooms, and saved alsothe precious hours of the morning for their studies, by dining at arestaurant in the city, where they enjoyed a comfortable and abundantrepast for a shilling apiece. Every day at about ten o'clock theywalked through the leafy Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens, and the brightand busy streets that never lost their charm of novelty, to the PublicLibrary, where with pencils and note-books on the table before them,they read and studied upon a systematic principle until the clockstruck one; at which hour they closed their books and set off withnever-failing appetites in search of dinner. After dinner, if it wasThursday, they stayed in town for the organ recital at the Town Hall;but on other days they generally sauntered quietly home, with a newnovel from Mullen's (they were very fond of novels), and made up theirfire, and had a cup of tea, and sat down to rest and chat over theirneedlework, while one read aloud or practised her music, until the timecame to lay the cloth for the unfashionable tea-supper at night-fall.And these countrified young people invariably began to yawn at eighto'clock, and might have been found in bed and asleep, five nights outof six, at half-past nine.

So the days wore on, one very much like another, and all very gentleand peaceful, though not without the small annoyances that beset themost flowery paths of this mortal life, until October came—untilthe gardens through which they passed to and from the city, morningand afternoon (though there were other and shorter routes to choosefrom), were thick with young green leaves and odorous with innumerableblossoms—until the winter was over, and the loveliest month of theAustralian year, when the brief spring hurries to meet the voluptuoussummer, made even Melbourne delightful. And in October the greatevent that was recorded in the annals of the colony inaugurated a newdeparture in their career.

On the Thursday immediately preceding the opening of the Exhibitionthey did not go to the Library as usual, nor to Gunsler's for theirlunch. Like a number of other people, their habits were deranged andthemselves demoralised by anticipations of the impending festival. Theystayed at home to make themselves new bonnets for the occasion, andtook a cold dinner while at their work, and two of them did not stiroutside their rooms from morn till dewy eve for so much as a glanceinto Myrtle Street from the balcony.

But in the afternoon it was found that half a yard more of ribbon wasrequired to complete the last of the bonnets, and Patty volunteered to"run into town" to fetch it. At about four o'clock she set off aloneby way of an adjoining road which was an omnibus route, intending toexpend threepence, for once, in the purchase of a little precious time,but every omnibus was full, and she had to walk the whole way. Thepavements were crowded with hurrying folk, who jostled and obstructedher. Collins Street, when she turned into it, seemed riotous withabnormal life, and she went from shop to shop and could not get waitedon until the usual closing hour was past, and the evening beginningto grow dark. Then she got what she wanted, and set off home by wayof the Gardens, feeling a little daunted by the noise and bustle ofthe streets, and fancying she would be secure when once those greenalleys, always so peaceful, were reached. But to-night even the gardenswere infested by the spirit of unrest and enterprise that pervaded thecity. The quiet walks were not quiet now, and the sense of her belatedisolation in the growing dusk seemed more formidable here instead ofless. For hardly had she passed through the gates into the Treasuryenclosure than she was conscious of being watched and peered at bystrange men, who appeared to swarm all over the place; and by the timeshe had reached the Gardens nearer home the appalling fact was forcedupon her that a tobacco-scented individual was dogging her steps, as ifwith an intention of accosting her. She was bold, but her imaginationwas easily wrought upon; and the formless danger, of a kind in whichshe was totally inexperienced, gave a shock to her nerves. So that whenpresently, as she hurriedly pattered on, hearing the heavier tread andan occasional artificial cough behind her, she suddenly saw a stillmore expeditious pedestrian hastening by, and recognised Paul's lightfigure and active gait, the words seemed to utter themselves withoutconscious effort of hers—"Mr. Brion!—oh, Mr. Brion, is that you?"

He stopped at the first sound of her voice, looked back and saw her,saw the man behind her, and comprehended the situation immediately.Without speaking, he stepped to her side and offered his arm, whichshe took for one happy moment when the delightful sense of hisprotection was too strong for her, and then—reacting violently fromthat mood—released. "I—I am mortified with myself for being sucha fool," she said angrily; "but really that person did frighten me. Idon't know what is the matter with Melbourne to-night—I suppose it isthe Exhibition." And she went on to explain how she came to be abroadalone at that hour, and to explain away, as she hoped, her apparentsatisfaction in meeting him. "It seems to promise for a fine day, doesit not?" she concluded airily, looking up at the sky.

Paul Brion put his hands in his pockets. He was mortified, too. When hespoke, it was with icy composure.

"Are you going to the opening?"

"Yes," said Patty. "Of course we are."

"With your swell friends, I suppose?"

"Whom do you mean by our swell friends? Mrs. Duff-Scott is not inMelbourne, I believe—if you allude to her. But she is not swell. Theonly swell person we know is Mrs. Aarons, and she is not our friend."

He allowed the allusion to Mrs. Aarons to pass. "Well, I hope you willhave good seats," he said, moodily. "It will be a disgusting crush andscramble, I expect."

"Seats? Oh, we are not going to have seats," said Patty. "We are goingto mingle with the common herd, and look on at the civic functions,humbly, from the outside. We are not swell"—dwelling upon theadjective with a malicious enjoyment of the suspicion that he had notmeant to use it—"and we like to be independent."

"O yes, I know you do. But you'll find the Rights of Woman not muchgood to you to-morrow in the Melbourne streets, I fancy, if you gothere on foot without an escort. May I ask how you propose to take careof yourselves?"

"We are going," said Patty, "to start very early indeed, and to takeup a certain advantageous position that we have already selectedbefore the streets fill. We shall have a little elevation above theheads of the crowd, and a wall at our backs, and—the three of ustogether—we shall see the procession beautifully, and be quite safeand comfortable."

"Well, I hope you won't find yourself mistaken," he replied.

A few minutes later Patty burst into the room where her sisters weresitting, placidly occupied with their bonnet-making, her eyes shiningwith excitement. "Elizabeth, Elizabeth," she cried breathlessly, "PaulBrion is going to ask you to let him be our escort to-morrow. But youwon't—oh, you won't—have him, will you?"

"No, dear," said Elizabeth, serenely; "not if you would rather not. Whyshould we? It will be broad daylight, when there can be no harm in ourbeing out without an escort. We shall be much happier by ourselves."

"Much happier than with him," added Patty, sharply.

And they went on with their preparations for the great day that hadbeen so long desired, little thinking what it was to bring forth.



They had an early breakfast, dressed themselves with great care intheir best frocks and the new bonnets, and, each carrying an umbrella,set forth with a cheerful resolve to see what was to be seen of theceremonies of the day, blissfully ignorant of the nature of theirundertaking. Paul Brion, out of bed betimes, heard their voices and theclick of their gate, and stepped into his balcony to see them start.He took note of the pretty costumes, that had a gala air about them,and of the fresh and striking beauty of at least two of the threesweet faces; and he groaned to think of such women being hustled andbattered, helplessly, in the fierce crush of a solid street crowd. Butthey had no fear whatever for themselves.

However, they had not gone far before they perceived that the idea ofsecuring a good position early in the day had occurred to a great manypeople besides themselves. Even sleepy Myrtle Street was awake andactive, and the adjoining road, when they turned into it, was teemingwith holiday life. They took their favourite route through the Fitzroyand Treasury Gardens, and found those sylvan glades alive with traffic:and, by the time they got into Spring Street, the crowd had thickenedto an extent that embarrassed their progress and made it devious andslow. And they had scarcely passed the Treasury buildings when Eleanor,who had been suffering from a slight sore throat, began to cough andshiver, and aroused the maternal anxiety of her careful elder sister."O, my dear," said Elizabeth, coming to an abrupt standstill on thepavement, "have you nothing but that wisp of muslin round your neck?And the day so cold—and looking so like rain! It will never do for youto stand about for hours in this wind, with the chance of getting wet,unless you are wrapped up better. We must run home again and fix youup. And I think it would be wiser if we were all to change our thingsand put on our old bonnets."

"Now, look here, Elizabeth," said Patty, with strong emphasis; "you seethat street, don't you?"—and she pointed down the main thoroughfare ofthe city, which was already gorged with people throughout its length."You see that, and that"—and she indicated the swarming road ahead ofthem and the populous valley in the opposite direction. "If there issuch a crowd now, what will there be in half-an-hour's time? And wecouldn't do it in half-an-hour. Let us make Nelly tie up her throatin our three pocket-handkerchiefs, and push on and get our places.Otherwise we shall be out of it altogether—we shall see nothing."

But the gentle Elizabeth was obdurate on some occasions, and this wasone of them. Eleanor was chilled with the cold, and it was not to bethought of that she should run the risk of an illness from imprudentexposure—no, not for all the exhibitions in the world. So theycompromised the case by deciding that Patty and Eleanor should "run"home together, while the elder sister awaited their return, keepingpossession of a little post of vantage on the Treasury steps—wherethey would be able to see the procession, if not the Exhibition—incase the crowd should be too great by-and-bye to allow of their gettingfarther.

"Well, make yourself as big as you can," said Patty, resignedly.

"And, whatever you do," implored Eleanor, "don't stir an inch fromwhere you are until we come back, lest we should lose you."

Upon which they set off in hot haste to Myrtle Street.

Elizabeth, when they were gone, saw with alarm the rapid growth ofthe crowd around her. It filled up the street in all directions, andcondensed into a solid mass on the Treasury steps, very soon absorbingthe modest amount of space that she had hoped to reserve for hersisters. In much less than half-an-hour she was so hopelessly wedgedin her place that, tall and strong as she was, she was almost liftedoff her feet; and there was no prospect of restoring communicationswith Patty and Eleanor until the show was over. In a fever of anxiety,bitterly regretting that she had consented to part from them, she kepther eyes turned towards the gate of the Gardens, whence she expectedthem to emerge; and then she saw, presently, the figure of their goodgenius and deliverer from all dilemmas, Paul Brion, fighting his waytowards her. The little man pursued an energetic course through thecrowd, which almost covered him, hurling himself along with a velocitythat was out of all proportion to his bulk; and from time to time shesaw his quick eyes flashing over other people's shoulders, and that hewas looking eagerly in all directions. It seemed hopeless to expect himto distinguish her in the sea of faces around him, but he did. Sunk inthe human tide that rose in the street above the level of his head,he made desperately for a footing on a higher plane, and in so doingcaught sight of her and battled his way to her side. "Oh, here youare!" he exclaimed, in a tone of relief. "I have been so anxious aboutyou. But where is Miss Patty? Where are your sisters?"

"Oh, Mr. Brion," she responded, "you always seem to turn up to help usas soon as we get into trouble, and I am so thankful to see you! Thegirls had to go home for something, and were to meet me here, and Idon't know what will become of them in this crowd."

"Which way were they to come?" he inquired eagerly.

"By the Gardens. But the gates are completely blocked."

"I will go and find them," he said. "Don't be anxious about them. Theywill be in there—they will be all right. You will come too, won't you?I think I can manage to get you through."

"I can't," she replied. "I promised I would not stir from this place,and I must not, in case they should be in the street, or we should missthem."

"'The boy stood on the burning deck,'" he quoted, with a laugh. Hecould afford a little jest, though she was so serious, for he was happyin the conviction that the girls had been unable to reach the street,that he should find them disconsolate in the gardens, and compel MissPatty to feel, if not to acknowledge, that he was of some use andcomfort to her, after all. "But I hate to leave you here," he added,glaring upon her uncomfortable but inoffensive neighbours, "all aloneby yourself."

"Oh, don't mind me," said Elizabeth, cheerfully. "If you can only findPatty and Nelly, and be so good as to take care of them, I shall beall right."

And so, with apparent reluctance, but the utmost real alacrity, he lefther, flinging himself from the steps into the crowd like a swimmerdiving into the sea, and she saw him disappear with an easy mind.

Then began the tramp of the procession, first in sections, then inimposing columns, with bands playing, and flags flying, and horsesprancing, and the people shouting and cheering as it went by. Therewere the smart men of the Naval Reserve and the sailors of thewarships—English and French, German and Italian, eight or nine hundredstrong—with their merry buglers in the midst of them; and there werethe troops of the military, with their music and accoutrements; and allthe long procession of the trades' associations, and the fire brigades,with the drubbing of drums and the blare of trumpets and the shrillwhistle of innumerable fifes accompanying their triumphal progress.And by-and-bye the boom of the saluting guns from the Prince's Bridgebattery, and the seven carriages from Government House rolling slowlyup the street and round the corner, with their dashing cavalry escort,amid the lusty cheers of Her Majesty's loyal subjects on the line ofroute assembled.

But long before the Queen's representative made his appearance uponthe scene, Elizabeth had ceased to see or care for the great spectaclethat she had been so anxious to witness. Moment by moment the crowdabout her grew more dense and dogged, more pitilessly indifferent tothe comfort of one another, more evidently minded that the fittestshould survive in the fight for existence on the Treasury steps. Roughmen pushed her forward and backward, and from side to side, treadingon her feet, and tearing the stitches of her gown, and knocking herbonnet awry, until she felt bruised and sick with the buffetings thatshe got, and the keen consciousness of the indignity of her position.She could scarcely breathe for the pressure around her, though thebreath of all sorts of unpleasant people was freely poured into herface. She would have struggled away and gone home—convinced of thecomforting fact that Patty and Eleanor were safely out of it in PaulBrion's protection—but she could not stir an inch by her own volition.When she did stir it was by some violent propelling power in anotherperson, and this was exercised presently in such a way as to completelyoverbalance her. A sudden wave of movement broke against a stoutwoman standing immediately behind her, and the stout woman, quiteunintentionally, pushed her to the edge of the step, and flung her uponthe shoulder of a brawny larrikin who had fought his way backwards andupwards into a position whence he could see the pageant of the streetto his satisfaction. The larrikin half turned, struck her savagelyin the breast with his elbow, demanding, with a roar and an oath,where she was a-shoving to; and between her two assailants, faint andfrightened, she lost her footing, and all but fell headlong into theseething mass beneath her.

But as she was falling—a moment so agonising at the time, and sodelightful to remember afterwards—some one caught her round the waistwith a strong grip, and lifted her up, and set her safely on her feetagain. It was a man who had been standing within a little distance ofher, tall enough to overtop the crowd, and strong enough to maintain anupright position in it; she had noticed him for some time, and that hehad seemed not seriously incommoded by the bustling and scuffling thatrendered her so helpless; but she had not noticed his gradual approachto her side. Now, looking up with a little sob of relief, her instantrecognition of him as a gentleman was followed by an instinctiveidentification of him as a sort of Cinderella's prince.

In short, there is no need to make a mystery of the matter. Athalf-past ten o'clock in the morning of the first of October in theyear 1880, when she was plunged into the most wretched and terrifyingcirc*mstances of her life—at the instant when she was struck by thelarrikin's elbow and felt herself about to be crushed under the feet ofthe crowd—Elizabeth King met her happy fate. She found that friend forwhom, hungrily if unconsciously, her tender heart had longed.



"Stand here, and I can shelter you a little," he said, in a quiet tonethat contrasted refreshingly with the hoarse excitement around them.He drew her close to his side by the same grip of her waist that hadlifted her bodily when she was off her feet, and, immediately releasingher, stretched a strong left arm between her exposed shoulder and thecrush of the crowd. The arm was irresistibly pressed upon her ownarm, and bent across her in a curve that was neither more nor lessthan a vehement embrace, and so she stood in a condition of deliciousastonishment, one tingling blush from head to foot. It would have beenhorrible had it been anyone else.

"I am so sorry," he said, "but I cannot help it. If you don't mindstanding as you are for a few minutes, you will be all right directly.As soon as the procession has passed the crowd will scatter to followit."

They looked at each other across a space of half-a-dozen inches orso, and in that momentary glance, upon which everything that mutuallyconcerned them depended, were severally relieved and satisfied. He wasnot handsome—he had even a reputation for ugliness; but there aresome kinds of ugliness that are practically handsomer than many kindsof beauty, and his was of that sort. He had a leathery, sun-dried,weather-beaten, whiskerless, red moustached face, and he had aroughly-moulded, broad-based, ostentatious nose; his mouth was large,and his light grey eyes deeply set and small. Yet it was a strikinglydistinguished and attractive face, and Elizabeth fell in love with itthere and then. Similarly, her face, at once modest and candid, was anopen book to his experienced glance, and provisionally delighted him.He was as glad as she was that fate had selected him to deliver her inher moment of peril, out of the many who might have held out a helpinghand to her and did not.

"I am afraid you cannot see very well," he remarked presently. Therewere sounds in the distance that indicated the approach of thevice-regal carriages, and people were craning their necks over eachother's shoulders and standing on tiptoe to catch the first glimpse ofthem. Just in front of her the exuberant larrikin was making himself astall as possible.

"Oh, thank you—I don't want to see," she replied hastily.

"But that was what you came here for—like the rest of us—wasn't it?"

"I did not know what I was coming for," she said, desperately,determined to set herself right in his eyes. "I never saw anything likethis before—I was never in a crowd—I did not know what it was like."

"Some one should have told you, then."

"We have not any one belonging to us to tell us things."


"My sisters and I have lived in the bush always, until now. We have noparents. We have not seen much yet. We came out this morning, thinkingwe could stand together in a corner and look on quietly—we did notexpect this."

"And your sisters—?"

"They went home again. They are all right, I hope."

"And left you here alone?"

Elizabeth explained the state of the case more fully, and by the timeshe had done so the Governors' carriages were in sight. The peoplewere shouting and cheering; the larrikin was dancing up and down inhis hob-nailed boots, and bumping heavily upon the arm that shieldedher. Shrinking from him, she drew her feet back another inch or two;upon which the right arm as well as the left was firmly folded roundher. And the pressure of those two arms, stretched like iron bars todefend her from harm, the throbbing of his heart upon her shoulder, thesound of his deep-chested breathing in her ear—no consideration ofthe involuntary and unromantic necessity of the situation could calmthe tremulous excitement communicated to her by these things. Oh, howhideous, how simply insupportable it would have been, had she been thuscast upon another breast and into other arms than HIS! As it was, itwas all right. He said he feared she was terribly uncomfortable, but,though she did not contradict him, she felt in the secret depths of herprimitive soul that she had never been more comfortable. To be caredfor and protected was a new sensation, and, though she had had to bearanxious responsibilities for herself and others, she had no naturalvocation for independence. Many a time since have they spoken of thisfirst half hour with pride, boasting of how they trusted each other atsight, needing no proofs from experience like other people—a foolishboast, for they were but a man and woman, and not gods. "I took you tomy heart the first moment I saw you," he says. "And I knew, even assoon as that, that it was my own place," she calmly replies. Whereasgood luck, and not their own wisdom, justified them.

He spoke to her with studied coldness while necessarily holding herembraced, as it were, to protect her from the crowd; at the sametime he put himself to some trouble to make conversation, which wasless embarrassing to her than silence. He remarked that he was fondof crowds himself—found them intensely interesting—and spoke ofThackeray's paper on the crowd that went to see the man hanged (whichshe had never read) as illustrating the kind of interest he meant.He had lately seen the crowd at the opening of the Trocadero Palace,and that which celebrated the completion of Cologne Cathedral; factswhich proclaimed him a "globe-trotter" and new arrival in Melbourne.The few words in which he described the festival at Cologne fired herimagination, fed so long upon dreams of foreign travel, and made herforget for the moment that he was not an old acquaintance.

"It was at about this hour of the day," he said, "and I stood with thethrong in the streets, as I am doing now. They put the last stone onthe top of the cross on one of the towers more than six hundred yearsafter the foundation stone was laid. The people were wild with joy, andhung out their flags all over the place. One old fellow came up to meand wanted to kiss me—he thought I must be as overcome as he was."

"And were you not impressed?"

"Of course I was. It was very pathetic," he replied, gently. And shethought "pathetic" an odd word to use. Why pathetic? She did not liketo ask him. Then he made the further curious statement that this crowdwas the tamest he had ever seen.

"I don't call it tame," she said, with a laugh, as the yells of thelarrikin and his fellows rent the air around them.

He responded to her laugh with a pleasant smile, and his voice wasfriendlier when he spoke again. "But I am quite delighted with it,unimpressive as it is. It is composed of people who are not wantinganything. I don't know that I was ever in a crowd of that sort before.I feel, for once, that I can breathe in peace."

"Oh, I wish I could feel so!" she cried. The carriages, in their slowprogress, were now turning at the top of Collins Street, and the hubbubaround them had reached its height.

"It will soon be over now," he murmured encouragingly.

"Yes," she replied. In a few minutes the crush would lessen, and heand she would part. That was what they thought, to the exclusion of allinterest in the passing spectacle. Even as she spoke, the noise andconfusion that had made a solitude for their quiet intercourse sensiblysubsided. The tail of the procession was well in sight; the heavingcrowd on the Treasury steps was swaying and breaking like a huge waveupon the street; the larrikin was gone. It was time for the unknowngentleman to resume the conventional attitude, and for Elizabeth toremember that he was a total stranger to her.

"You had better take my arm," he said, as she hastily disengagedherself before it was safe to do so, and was immediately caught in theeddy that was setting strongly in the direction of the Exhibition. "Ifyou don't mind waiting here for a few minutes longer, you will be ableto get home comfortably."

She struggled back to his side, and took his arm, and waited; but theydid not talk any more. They watched the disintegration and dispersionof the great mass that had hemmed them in together, until at last theystood in ease and freedom almost alone upon that coign of vantage whichhad been won with so much difficulty—two rather imposing figures,if anyone had cared to notice them. Then she withdrew her hand, andsaid, with a little stiff bow and a bright and becoming colour in herface—"Thank you."

"Don't mention it," he replied, with perfect gravity. "I am very happyto have been of any service to you."

Still they did not move from where they stood.

"Don't you want to see the rest of it?" she asked timidly.

"Do you?" he responded, looking at her with a smile.

"O dear no, thank you! I have had quite enough, and I am very anxiousto find my sisters."

"Then allow me to be your escort until you are clear of the streets."He did not put it as a request, and he began to descend the stepsbefore she could make up her mind how to answer him. So she foundherself walking beside him along the footpath and through the Gardens,wondering who he was, and how she could politely dismiss him—or howsoon he would dismiss her. Now and then she snatched a sidelong glanceat him, and noted his great stature and the easy dignity with which hecarried himself, and transferred one by one the striking features ofhis countenance to her faithful memory. He made a powerful impressionupon her. Thinking of him, she had almost forgotten how anxious shewas to find her sisters until, with a start, she suddenly caught sightof them sitting comfortably on a bench in an alley of the FitzroyGardens, Eleanor and Patty side by side, and Paul Brion on the otherside of Eleanor. The three sprang up as soon as they saw her coming,with gestures of eager welcome.

"Ah!" said Elizabeth, her face flaming with an entirely unnecessaryblush, "there are my sisters. I—I am all right now. I need not troubleyou any further. Thank you very much."

She paused, and so did he. She bent her head without lifting her eyes,and he took off his hat to her with profound respect. And so theyparted—for a little while.



When he had turned and left her, Elizabeth faced her sisters withthat vivid blush still on her cheeks, and a general appearance ofembarrassment that was too novel to escape notice. Patty and Eleanorstared for a moment, and Eleanor laughed.

"Who is he?" she inquired saucily.

"I don't know," said Elizabeth. "Where have you been, dears? How haveyou got on? I have been so anxious about you."

"But who is he?" persisted Eleanor.

"I have not the least idea, I tell you. Perhaps Mr. Brion knows."

"No," said Mr. Brion. "He is a perfect stranger to me."

"He is a new arrival, I suppose," said Elizabeth, stealing a backwardglance at her hero, whom the others were watching intently as he walkedaway. "Yes, he can have but just arrived, for he saw the last stone putto the building of Cologne Cathedral, and that was not more than six orseven weeks ago. He has come out to see the Exhibition, probably. Heseems to be a great traveller."

"Oh," said Eleanor, turning with a grimace to Patty, "here have we beenmooning about in the gardens, and she has been seeing everything, andhaving adventures into the bargain!"

"It is very little I have seen," her elder sister remarked, "and thiswill tell you the nature of my adventures"—and she showed them a rentin her gown. "I was nearly torn to pieces by the crowd after you left.I am only too thankful you were out of it."

"But we are not at all thankful," pouted Eleanor. "Are we, Patty?"(Patty was silent, but apparently amiable.) "It is only the stitchingthat is undone—you can mend it in five minutes. We wouldn't haveminded little trifles of that sort—not in the least—to have seen theprocession, and made the acquaintance of distinguished travellers. Werethere many more of them about, do you suppose?"

"O no," replied Elizabeth, promptly. "Only he."

"And you managed to find him! Why shouldn't we have found himtoo—Patty and I? Do tell us his name, Elizabeth, and how you happenedon him, and what he has been saying and doing."

"He took care of me, dear—that's all. I was crushed almost into apulp, and he allowed me to—to stand beside him until the worst of itwas over."

"How interesting!" ejacul*ted Eleanor. "And then he talked to you aboutCologne Cathedral?"

"Yes. But never mind about him. Tell me where Mr. Brion found you, andwhat you have been doing."

"Oh, we have not been doing anything—far from it. I wish you knewhis name, Elizabeth."

"But, my dear, I don't. So leave off asking silly questions. I daresaywe shall never see or hear of him again."

"Oh, don't you believe it! I'm certain we shall see him again. Hewill be at the Exhibition some day when we go there—to-morrow, verylikely."

"Well, well, never mind. What are we going to do now?"

They consulted with Paul for a few minutes, and he took them where theycould get a distant view of the crowds swarming around the Exhibition,and hear the confused clamour of the bands—which seemed to gratifythe two younger sisters very much, in the absence of more pronouncedexcitement. They walked about until they saw the Royal Standard hoistedover the great dome, and heard the saluting guns proclaim that theExhibition was open; and then they returned to Myrtle Street, with asense of having had breakfast in the remote past, and of having spentan enormously long morning not unpleasantly, upon the whole.

Mrs. M'Intyre was standing at her gate when they reached home, andstopped them to ask what they had seen, and how they had enjoyedthemselves. She had stayed quietly in the house, and busied herselfin the manufacture of meringues and lemon cheese-cakes—having, sheexplained, superfluous eggs in the larder, and a new lodger coming in;and she evidently prided herself upon her well-spent time. "And ifyou'll stay, you shall have some," she said, and she opened the gatehospitably. "Now, don't say no, Miss King—don't, Miss Nelly. It's pastone, and I've got a nice cutlet and mashed potatoes just coming on thetable. Bring them along, Mr. Brion. I'm sure they'll come if you askthem."

"We'll come without that," said Eleanor, walking boldly in. "At least,I will. I couldn't resist cutlets and mashed potatoes under presentcirc*mstances—not to speak of lemon cheese-cakes and meringues—andyour society, Mrs. M'Intyre."

Paul held the gate open, and Elizabeth followed Eleanor, and Pattyfollowed Elizabeth. Patty did not look at him, but she was in apeaceable disposition; seeing which, he felt happier than he had beenfor months. They lunched together, with much enjoyment of the viandsplaced before them, and of each other's company, feeling distinctlythat, however small had been their share in the demonstrations of theday, the festival spirit was with them; and when they rose from thetable there was an obvious reluctance to separate.

"Now, I'll tell you what," said Eleanor; "we have had dinner with you,Mrs. M'Intyre, and now you ought to come and have afternoon tea withus. You have not been in to see us for years."

She looked at Elizabeth, who hastened to endorse the invitation, andMrs. M'Intyre consented to think about it.

"And may not I come too?" pleaded Paul, not daring to glance at hislittle mistress, but appealing fervently to Elizabeth. "Mayn't I comewith Mrs. M'Intyre for a cup of tea, too?"

"Of course you may," said Elizabeth, and Eleanor nodded acquiescence,and Patty gazed serenely out of the window. "Go and have your smokecomfortably, and come in in about an hour."

With which the sisters left, and, as soon as they reached theirown quarters, set to work with something like enthusiasm to makepreparations for their expected guests. Before the hour was up, abright fire was blazing in their sitting-room, and a little tablebeside it was spread comfortably with a snow-white cloth, and twinklingcrockery and spoons. The kettle was singing on the hearth, and aplate of buttered muffins reposed under a napkin in the fender. Thewindow was open; so was the piano. Patty was flying from place toplace, with a duster in her hand, changing the position of the chairs,and polishing the spotless surfaces of the furniture generally, withanxious industry. She had not asked Paul Brion to come to see them,but since he was coming they might as well have the place decent, shesaid.

When he came at last meekly creeping upstairs at Mrs. M'Intyre's heels,Patty was nowhere to be seen. He looked all round as he crossed thethreshold, and took in the delicate air of cheerfulness, the almostaustere simplicity and orderliness that characterised the little room,and made it quite different from any room he had ever seen; and thenhis heart sank, and a cloud of disappointment fell over his eager face.He braced himself to bear it. He made up his mind at once that hehad had his share of luck for that day, and must not expect anythingmore. However, some minutes later, when Mrs. M'Intyre had made herselfcomfortable by unhooking her jacket, and untying her bonnet strings,and when Elizabeth was preparing to pour out the tea, Patty saunteredin with some needlework in her hand—stitching as she walked—and tooka retired seat by the window. He seized upon a cup of tea and carriedit to her, and stood there as if to secure her before she could escapeagain. As he approached she bent her head lower over her work, anda little colour stole into her face; and then she lifted herself updefiantly.

"Here is your tea, Miss Patty," he said, humbly.

"Thanks. Just put it down there, will you?"

She nodded towards a chair near her, and he set the cup down on itcarefully. But he did not go.

"You are very busy," he remarked.

"Yes," she replied, shortly. "I have wasted all the morning. Now I musttry to make up for it."

"Are you too busy to play something—presently, I mean, when you havehad your tea? I must go and work too, directly. I should so enjoy tohear you play before I go."

She laid her sewing on her knee, reached for her cup, and began tosip it with a relenting face. She asked him what kind of music hepreferred, and he said he didn't care, but he thought he liked "softthings" best. "There was a thing you played last Sunday night," hesuggested; "quite late, just before you went to bed. It has beenrunning in my head ever since."

She balanced her teaspoon in her hand, and puckered her browsthoughtfully. "Let me think—what was I playing on Sunday night?" shemurmured to herself. "It must have been one of the Lieder surely—or,perhaps, a Beethoven sonata? Or Batiste's andante in G perhaps?"

"Oh, I don't know the name of anything. I only remember that it wasvery lovely and sad."

"But we shouldn't play sad things in the broad daylight, when peoplewant to gossip over their tea," she said, glancing at Mrs. M'Intyre,who was energetically describing to Elizabeth the only proper way ofmaking tomato sauce. But she got up, all the same, and went over to thepiano, and began to play the andante just above a whisper, caressingthe soft pedal with her foot.

"Was that it?" she asked gently, smiling at him as he drew up a lowwicker chair and sat down at her elbow to listen.

"Go on," he murmured gratefully. "It was like that."

And she went on—while Mrs. M'Intyre, having concluded her remarks upontomato sauce, detailed the results of her wide experience in orangemarmalade and quince jelly, and Elizabeth and Eleanor did their bestto profit by her wisdom—playing to him alone. It did not last verylong—a quarter of an hour perhaps—but every moment was an ecstasyto Paul Brion. Even more than the music, delicious as it was, Patty'sgentle and approachable mood enchanted him. She had never been likethat to him before. He sat on his low chair, and looked up at hertender profile as she drooped a little over the keys, throbbing witha new sense of her sweetness and beauty, and learning more about hisown heart in those few minutes than all the previous weeks and monthsof their acquaintance had taught him. And then the spell that had beenweaving and winding them together, as it seemed to him, was suddenlyand rudely broken. There was a clatter of wheels and hoofs along thestreet, a swinging gate and a jangling door bell; and Eleanor, runningto the window, uttered an exclamation that effectually wakened him fromhis dreams.

"Oh, Elizabeth—Patty—it is Mrs. Duff-Scott!"

In another minute the great lady herself stood amongst them, rustlingover the matting in her splendid gown, almost filling the little roomwith her presence. Mrs. M'Intyre gave way before her, and edged towardsthe door with modest, deprecatory movements, but Paul stood wherehe had risen, as stiff as a poker, and glared at her with murderousferocity.

"You see I have come back, my dears," she exclaimed, cordially, kissingthe girls one after the other. "And I am so sorry I could not get toyou in time to make arrangements for taking you with me to see theopening—I quite intended to take you. But I only returned last night."

"Oh, thank you," responded Elizabeth, with warm gratitude, "it is treatenough for us to see you again." And then, hesitating a little as shewondered whether it was or was not a proper thing to do, she looked ather other guests and murmured their names. Upon which Mrs. M'Intyremade a servile curtsey, unworthy of a daughter of a free country, andPaul a most reluctant inclination of the head. To which again Mrs.Duff-Scott responded by a slight nod and a glance of good-humouredcuriosity at them both.

"I'll say good afternoon, Miss King," said Mr. Brion haughtily.

"Oh, good afternoon," replied Elizabeth, smiling sweetly. And she andher sisters shook hands with him and with his landlady, and the pairdeparted in some haste, Paul in a worse temper than he had ever knownhimself to indulge in; and he was not much mollified by the suddenappearance of Elizabeth, as he was fumbling with the handle of thefront door, bearing her evident if unspoken apologies for having seemedto turn him out.

"You will come with Mrs. M'Intyre another time," she suggested kindly,"and have some more music? I would have asked you to stay longerto-day, but we haven't seen Mrs. Duff-Scott for such a long time—"

"Oh, pray don't mention it," he interrupted stiffly. "I should have hadto leave in any case, for my work is all behind-hand."

"Ah, that is because we have been wasting your time!"

"Not at all. I am only too happy to be of use—in the absence of yourother friends."

She would not notice this little sneer, but said good-bye and turnedto walk upstairs. Paul, ashamed of himself, made an effort to detainher. "Is there anything I can do for you, Miss King?" he asked, grufflyindeed, but with an appeal for forbearance in his eyes. "Do you wantyour books changed or anything?"

She stood on the bottom step of the stairs, and thought for a moment;and then she said, dropping her eyes, "I—I think you have a bookthat I should like to borrow—if I might."

"Most happy. What book is it?"

"It is one of Thackeray's. I think you told us you had a completeedition of Thackeray that some one gave you for a birthday present.I scarcely know which volume it is, but it has something in it abouta man being hanged—and a crowd—" She broke off with an embarrassedlaugh, hearing how oddly it sounded.

"You must mean the 'Sketches,'" he said. "There is a paper entitled'Going to See a Man Hanged' in the 'London Sketches'—"

"That is the book I mean."

"All right—I'll get it and send it in to you at once—with pleasure."

"Oh, thank you. I'm so much obliged to you. I'll take the greatestcare of it," she assured him fervently.



Elizabeth went upstairs at a run, and found Patty and Eleanor tryingto make Mrs. Duff-Scott understand who Paul Brion was, what his fatherwas, and his profession, and his character; how he had never beeninside their doors until that afternoon, and how he had at last by mereaccident come to be admitted and entertained. And Mrs. Duff-Scott,serene but imperious, was delivering some of her point-blank opinionsupon the subject.

"Don't encourage him, my dears—don't encourage him to come again," shewas saying as Elizabeth entered the room. "He and his father are twovery different people, whatever they may think."

"We cannot help being grateful to him," said Patty sturdily. "He hasdone so much for us."

"Dear child, that's nonsense. Girls can't be grateful to youngmen—don't you see? It is out of the question. And now you have gotme to do things for you."

"But he helped us when we had no one else."

"Yes, that's all right, of course. No doubt it was a pleasure to him—aprivilege—for him to be grateful for rather than you. But—well,Elizabeth knows what I mean"—turning an expressive glance towards thediscreet elder sister. Patty's eyes went in the same direction, andElizabeth answered both of them at once.

"You must not ask us to give up Paul Brion," she said, promptly.

"I don't," said Mrs. Duff-Scott. "I only ask you to keep him in hisplace. He is not the kind of person to indulge with tea and music, youknow—that is what I mean."

"You speak as if you knew something against him," murmured Patty, withheightened colour.

"I know this much, my dear," replied the elder woman, gravely; "he isa friend of Mrs. Aarons's."

"And is not Mrs. Aarons—"

"She is very well, in her way. But she likes to have men dangling abouther. She means no harm, I am sure," added Mrs. Duff-Scott, who, inthe matter of scandal, prided herself on being a non-conductor, "butstill it is not nice, you know. And I don't think that her men friendsare the kind of friends for you. You don't mind my speaking frankly,my love? I am an old woman, you know, and I have had a great deal ofexperience."

She was assured that they did not mind it, but were, on the contrary,indebted to her for her good advice. And the subject of Paul Brion wasdropped. Patty was effectually silenced by that unexpected referenceto Mrs. Aarons, and by the rush of recollections, embracing him andher together, which suddenly gave form and colour to the horribleidea of him as a victim to a married woman's fascinations. She turnedaway abruptly, with a painful blush that not only crimsoned her fromthroat to temples, but seemed to make her tingle to her toes; and,like the headlong and pitiless young zealot that she was, determinedto thrust him out for ever from the sacred precincts of her regard.Mrs. Duff-Scott was satisfied too. She was always sure of her own powerto speak plainly without giving offence, and she found it absolutelynecessary to protect these ingenuous maidens from their own ignorance.Needless to say that, since she had adopted them into her socialcircle, she had laid plans for their ultimate settlement therein. Inher impulsive benevolence she had even gone the length of markingdown the three husbands whom she considered respectively appropriateto the requirements of the case, and promised herself a great deal ofinterest and pleasure in the vicarious pursuit of them through theensuing season. Wherefore she was much relieved to have come acrossthis obscure writer for the press, and to have had the good chance, atthe outset of her campaign, to counteract his possibly antagonisticinfluence. She knew her girls quite well enough to make sure that herhint would take its full effect.

She leaned back in her chair comfortably, and drew off her gloves,while they put fresh tea in the teapot, and cut her thin shavings ofbread and butter; and she sat with them until six o'clock, gossipingpleasantly. After giving them a history of the morning's ceremonies,as witnessed by the Government's invited guests inside the Exhibitionbuilding, she launched into hospitable schemes for their enjoyment ofthe gay time that had set in. "Now that I am come back," she said, "Ishall take care that you shall go out and see everything there is to beseen. You have never had such a chance to learn something of the world,and I can't allow you to neglect it."

"Dear Mrs. Duff-Scott," said Elizabeth, "we have already been indulgingourselves too much, I am afraid. We have done no reading—at least noneworth doing—for days. We are getting all behind-hand. The whole ofyesterday and all this morning—"

"What did you do this morning?" Mrs. Duff-Scott interrupted quickly.

They gave her a sketch of their adventures, merely suppressingthe incident of the elder sister's encounter with the mysteriousperson whom the younger ones had begun to style "Elizabeth's youngman"—though why they suppressed that none of them could have explained.

"Very well," was her comment upon the little narrative, which told herfar more than it told them. "That shows you that I am right. There area great many things for you to learn that all the books in the PublicLibrary could not teach you. Take my advice, and give up literarystudies for a little while. Give them up altogether, and come and learnwhat the world and your fellow-creatures are made of. Make a school ofthe Exhibition while it lasts, and let me give you lessons in—a—whatshall I call it—social science?—the study of human nature?"

Nothing could be more charming than to have lessons from her, they toldher; and they had intended to go to school to the Exhibition as oftenas they could. But—but their literary studies were their equipment forthe larger and fuller life that they looked forward to in the greatworld beyond the seas. Perhaps she did not understand that?

"I understand this, my dears," the matron replied, with energy. "Thereis no greater mistake in life than to sacrifice the substance of thepresent for the shadow of the future. We most of us do it—until weget old—and then we look back to see how foolish and wasteful wehave been, and that is not much comfort to us. What we've got, we'vegot; what we are going to have nobody can tell. Lay in all the storeyou can, of course—take all reasonable precautions to insure assatisfactory a future as possible—but don't forget that the Present isthe great time, the most important stage of your existence, no matterwhat your circ*mstances may be."

The girls listened to her thoughtfully, allowing that she might beright, but suspending their judgment in the matter. They were all tooyoung to be convinced by another person's experience.

"You let Europe take care of itself for a bit," their friend proceeded,"and come out and see what Australia in holiday time is like, and whatthe fleeting hour will give you. I will fetch you to-morrow for a longday at the Exhibition to begin with, and then I'll—I'll—" She brokeoff and looked from one to another with an unwonted and surprisingembarrassment, and then went on impetuously.

"My dears, I don't know how to put it so as not to hurt or burden you,but you won't misunderstand me if I express myself awkwardly—youwon't have any of that absurd conventional pride about not beingunder obligations—it is a selfish feeling, a want of trust and truegenerosity, when it is the case of a friend who—" She stammered andhesitated, this self-possessed empress of a woman, and was obviously ata loss for words wherein to give her meaning. Elizabeth, seeing what itwas that she wanted to say, sank on her knees before her, and took herhands and kissed them. But over her sister's bent head Patty stood upstiffly, with a burning colour in her face. Mrs. Duff-Scott, absentlyfondling Elizabeth, addressed herself to Patty when she spoke again.

"As an ordinary rule," she said, "one should not accept thingsfrom another who is not a relation—I know that. Not because itis improper—it ought to be the most proper thing in the world forpeople to help each other—but because in so many cases it can neverhappen without bitter mortifications afterwards. People are so—sosuperficial? But I—Patty, dear, I am an old woman, and I have a greatdeal of money, and I have no children; and I have never been able tofill the great gap where the children should be with music and china,or any interest of that sort. And you are alone in the world, and Ihave taken a fancy to you—I have grown fond of you—and I havemade a little plan for having you about me, to be a sort of adopteddaughters for whom I could feel free to do little motherly things inreturn for your love and confidence in me. You will indulge me, and letme have my way, won't you? It will be doing more for me, I am sure,than I could do for you."

"O no—no—no!" said Patty, with a deep breath, but stretching herhands with deprecating tenderness towards their guest. "You woulddo everything for us, and we could do nothing for you. You wouldoverwhelm us! And not only that; perhaps—perhaps, by-and-bye, youwould not care about us so much as you do now—we might want to dosomething that you didn't like, something we felt ourselves obligedto do, however much you disliked it—and if you got vexed with us, ortired of us—oh, think what that would be! Think how you would regretthat you had—had—made us seem to belong to you. And how we shouldhate ourselves."

She looked at Mrs. Duff-Scott with a world of ardent apology in hereyes, before which the matron's fell, discouraged and displeased.

"You make me feel that I am an impulsive and romantic girl, and thatyou are the wise old woman of the world," she said with a proud sigh.

But at this, Patty, pierced to the heart, flung her arms round Mrs.Duff-Scott's neck, and crushed the most beautiful bonnet in Melbourneremorselessly out of shape against her young breast. That settled thequestion, for all practical purposes. Mrs. Duff-Scott went home at sixo'clock, feeling that she had achieved her purpose, and entered intosome of the dear privileges of maternity. It was more delightful thanany "find" of old china. She did not go to sleep until she had talkedboth her husband and herself into a headache with her numerous plansfor the welfare of her protégées, and until she had designed down tothe smallest detail the most becoming costumes she could think of forthem to wear, when she took them with her to the Cup.



Paul Brion was wakened from his sleep next morning by the sound of Mrs.Duff-Scott's carriage wheels and prancing horses, and sauntering tohis sitting-room window about ten minutes later, had the satisfactionof seeing his young neighbours step into the distinguished vehicle anddrive away. There was Elizabeth reposing by her chaperon's side, asserene as a princess who had never set foot on common earth; and therewere Patty and Eleanor, smiling and animated, lovelier than their wont,if that could be, nestling under the shadow of two tall men-servantsin irreproachable liveries, with co*ckades upon their hats. It was apretty sight, but it spoiled his appetite for his breakfast. He couldno longer pretend that he was thankful for the fruition of his desireson their behalf. He could only feel that they were gone, and that hewas left behind—that a great gulf had suddenly opened between them andhim and the humble and happy circ*mstances of yesterday, with no bridgeacross it that he could walk over.

The girls, for their part, practically forgot him, and enjoyed thedifference between to-day and yesterday in the most worldly andwomanly manner. The sensation of bowling along the streets in aperfectly-appointed carriage was as delicious to them as it is to mostof us who are too poor to indulge in it as a habit; for the time beingit answered all the purposes of happiness as thoroughly as if they hadnever had any higher ambition than to cut a dash. They went shoppingwith the fairy godmother before they went to the Exhibition, and that,too, was absorbingly delightful—both to Elizabeth, who went in withMrs. Duff-Scott to assist her in her purchases, and to the youngersisters, who reposed majestically in the carriage at the door. Patty'squick eyes caught sight of Mrs. Aarons and a pair of her long-nosedchildren walking on the pavement, and she cheerfully owned herself asnob and gloried in it. It gave her unspeakable satisfaction, she said,to sit there and look down upon Mrs. Aarons.

As they passed the Melbourne Club on their way to the Exhibition, thecoachman was hailed by the elder of two gentlemen who were saunteringdown the steps, and they were introduced for the first time to thefairy godmother's husband. Major Duff-Scott, an ex-officer of dragoonsand a late prominent public man of his colony (he was prominentstill, but for his social, and not his official qualifications), wasa well-dressed and well-preserved old gentleman, who, having sown alarge and miscellaneous crop of wild oats in the course of a longcareer, had been rewarded with great wealth and all the privilegesof the highest respectability. He had been a prodigal, but he hadenjoyed it—never knowing the bitterness of either hunger or husks.He had tasted dry bread at times, as a matter of course, but onlyjust enough of it to give a proper relish to the abundant cakes andale that were his portion; and the proverb which says you cannot eatyour cake and have it was a perfectly dead letter in his case. He hadbeen eating his all his life, and he had got it still. In person hewas the most gentle-looking little man imaginable—about half the sizeof his imposing wife, thin and spare, and with a little stoop in hisshoulders; but there was an alertness in his step and a brightness inhis eye, twinkling remotely between the shadow of his hat brim and abulging mass of white moustache that covered all the lower part ofhis small face, which had suggestions of youth and vigour about themthat were lacking in the figure and physiognomy of the young man athis side. When he came up to the carriage door to be introduced to hiswife's protégées, whom he greeted with as much cordiality as Mrs.Duff-Scott could have desired, they did not know why it was that theyso immediately lost the sense of awe with which they had contemplatedthe approach of a person destined to have so formidable a relation tothemselves. They shook hands with him, they made modest replies to hispolite inquiries, they looked beyond his ostensible person to the eyesthat looked at them; and then their three grave faces relaxed, and inhalf a minute were brimming over with smiles. They felt at home withMajor Duff-Scott at once.

"Come, come," said the fairy godmother rather impatiently, whensomething like a fine aroma of badinage was beginning to perfumethe conversation, "you must not stop us now. We want to have a longmorning. You can join us at the Exhibition presently, if you like,and bring Mr. Westmoreland." She indicated the young man who hadbeen talking to her while her spouse made the acquaintance of hercompanions, and who happened to be one of the three husbands whom shehad selected for those young ladies. He was the richest of them all,and the most stupid, and therefore he seemed to be cut out for Patty,who, being so intellectual and so enterprising, would not only makea good use of his money, but would make the best that was to be madeof him. "My dears," she said, turning towards the girls, "let meintroduce Mr. Westmoreland to you. Mr. Westmoreland, Miss King—MissEleanor King—Miss Patty King."

The heavy young man made a heavy bow to each, and then stared straightat Eleanor, and studied her with calm attention until the carriage boreher from his sight. She, with her tender blue eyes and her yellow hair,and her skin like the petals of a blush rose, was what he was pleasedto call, in speaking of her a little later to a confidential friend,the "girl for him." Of Patty he took no notice whatever.

Mrs. Duff-Scott, on her way to Carlton, stopped to speak to anacquaintance who was driving in an opposite direction, and by the timeshe reached the Exhibition, she found that her husband's hansom hadarrived before her, and that he and Mr. Westmoreland were waiting atthe entrance to offer their services as escort to the party. The majorwas the best of husbands, but he was not in the habit of paying herthese small attentions; and Mr. Westmoreland had never been known,within her memory of him, to put himself to so much trouble for alady's convenience. Wherefore the fairy godmother smiled upon themboth, and felt that the Fates were altogether propitious to her littleschemes. They walked up the pathway in a group, fell necessarily intosingle file in the narrow passage where they received and returnedtheir tickets, and collected in a group again under the great dome,where they stood to look round on the twenty acres of covered spaceheaped with the treasures of those nations which Victoria welcomed ingreat letters on the walls. Mrs. Duff-Scott hooked her gold-rimmedglasses over her nose, and pointed out to her husband wherein thebuilding was deficient, and wherein superfluous, in its internalarrangements and decorations. In her opinion—which placed the matterbeyond discussion—the symbolical groups over the arches were all outof drawing, the colouring of the whole place vulgar to a degree, andthe painted clouds inside the cupola enough to make one sick. Themajor endorsed her criticisms, perfunctorily, with amused little nods,glancing hither and thither in the directions she desired. "Ah, mydear," said he, "you mustn't expect everybody to have such good tasteas yours." Mr. Westmoreland seemed to have exhausted the Exhibition,for his part; he had seen it all the day before, he explained, and hedid not see what there was to make a fuss about. With the exceptionof some mysteries in the basem*nt, into which he darkly hinted adesire to initiate the major presently, it had nothing about it tointerest a man who, like him, had just returned from Europe and hadseen the Paris affair. But to our girls it was an enchanted palace ofdelights—far exceeding their most extravagant anticipations. Theygave no verbal expression to their sentiments, but they looked at eachother with faces full of exalted emotion, and tacitly agreed that theywere perfectly satisfied. The fascination of the place, as a storehouseof genuine samples of the treasures of that great world which theyhad never seen, laid hold of them with a grip that left a lastingimpression. Even the rococo magnificence of the architecture and itsadornments, which Mrs. Duff-Scott, enlightened by a large experience,despised, affected their untrained imaginations with all the force ofthe highest artistic sublimity. A longing took possession of them allat the same moment to steal back to-morrow—next day—as soon as theywere free again to follow their own devices—and wander about the greatand wonderful labyrinth by themselves and revel unobserved in theirsecret enthusiasms.

However, they enjoyed themselves to-day beyond all expectation. Afterskimming the cream of the many sensations offered to them, saunteringup and down and round and round through the larger thoroughfares ina straggling group, the little party, fixing upon their place ofrendezvous and lunching arrangements, paired themselves for a closerinspection of such works of art as they were severally inclined to.Mrs. Duff-Scott kept Patty by her side, partly because Mr. Westmorelanddid not seem to want her, and partly because the girl was such aninteresting companion, being wholly absorbed in what she had cometo see, and full of intelligent appreciation of everything that waspointed out to her; and this pair went a-hunting in the wildernesses ofmiscellaneous pottery for such unique and precious "bits" as might besecured, on the early bird principle, for Mrs. Duff-Scott's collection.Very soon that lady's card was hanging round the necks of all sorts ofquaint vessels that she had greedily pounced upon (and which furtherresearches proved to be relatively unworthy of notice) in her anxietyto outwit and frustrate the birds that would come round presently;while Patty was having her first lesson in china, and showing herself adelightfully precocious pupil. Mr. Westmoreland confined his attentionsexclusively to Eleanor, who by-and-bye found herself interested inbeing made so much of, and even inclined to be a little frivolous. Shedid not know whether to take him as a joke or in earnest, but eitherway he was amusing. He strolled heavily along by her side for awhilein the wake of Mrs. Duff-Scott and Patty, paying no attention to thedazzling wares around him, but a great deal to his companion. He keptturning his head to gaze at her, with solemn, ruminating eyes, until atlast, tired of pretending she did not notice it, she looked back at himand laughed. This seemed to put him at his ease with her at once.

"What are you laughing at?" he asked, with more animation than shethought him capable of.

"Nothing," said she.

"Oh, but you were laughing at something. What was it? Was it because Iwas staring at you?"

"Well, you do stare," she admitted.

"I can't help it. No one could help staring at you."

"Why? Am I such a curiosity?"

"You know why. Don't pretend you don't."

She blushed at this, making herself look prettier than ever; it was notin her to pretend she didn't know—nor yet to pretend that his crudeflattery displeased her.

"A cat may look at a king," he remarked, his heavy face quite lit upwith his enjoyment of his own delicate raillery.

"O yes, certainly," she retorted. "But you see I am not a king, and youare not a cat."

"'Pon my word, you're awfully sharp," he rejoined, admiringly. Andhe laughed over this little joke at intervals for several minutes.Then by degrees they dropped away from their party, and went strayingup and down the nave tête-à-tête amongst the crowd, looking at theexhibits and not much understanding what they looked at; and theycarried on their conversation in much the same style as they began it,with, I grieve to say, considerable mutual enjoyment. By-and-bye Mr.Westmoreland took his young companion to the German tent, where theHanau jewels were, by way of giving her the greatest treat he couldthink of. He betted her sixpence that he could tell her which necklaceshe liked the best, and he showed her the several articles (worthsome thousands of pounds) which he should have selected for his wife,had he had a wife—declaring in the same breath that they were verypoor things in comparison with such and such other things that he hadseen elsewhere. Then they strolled along the gallery, glancing at thepictures as they went, Eleanor making mental notes for future study,but finding herself unable to study anything in Mr. Westmoreland'scompany. And then suddenly came a tall figure towards them—agentlemanly man with a brown face and a red moustache—at sight of whomshe gave a a little start of delighted recognition.

"Hullo!" cried Mr. Westmoreland, "there's old Yelverton, I do declare.He said he'd come over to have a look at the Exhibition."

Old Yelverton was no other than "Elizabeth's young man."



Meanwhile, Major Duff-Scott took charge of Elizabeth, and he wasvery well satisfied with the arrangement that left her to his care.He always preferred a mature woman to a young girl, as being a moreinteresting and intelligent companion, and he admired her when on agenerous scale, as is the wont of small men. Elizabeth's frank faceand simple manners and majestic physical proportions struck him as anadmirable combination. "A fine woman," he called her, speaking of herlater to his wife: "reminds me of what you were when I married you,my dear." And when he got to know her better he called her "a finecreature"—which meant that he recognised other good qualities in herbesides that of a lofty stature.

As soon as Mrs. Duff-Scott stated her intention of going to see "whatshe could pick up," the major waved his hand and begged that he mightbe allowed to resign all his responsibilities on her behalf. "Buy whatyou like, my dear, buy what you like," he said plaintively, "but don'task me to come and look on while you do it. Take Westmoreland—I'm surehe would enjoy it immensely."

"Don't flatter yourselves that I shall ask either of you," retorted hiswife. "You would be rather in the way than otherwise. I've got Patty."

"Oh, she's got Patty!" he repeated, looking with gentle mournfulness atthe young lady in question, while his far-off eyes twinkled under hishat brim. "I trust you are fond of china, Miss Patty."

"I am fond of everything," Patty fervently replied.

"Oh, that's right. You and Mrs. Duff-Scott will get on togetheradmirably, I foresee. Come, Miss King"—turning to Elizabeth—"let usgo and see what we can discover in the way of desirable bric-à-brac.We'll have a look at the Murano ware for you, my dear, if youlike"—again addressing his wife softly—"and come back and tell youif there is anything particularly choice. I know they have a lovelybonnet there, all made of the sweetest Venetian glass and trimmed withblue velvet. But you could take the velvet off, you know, and trim itwith a mirror. Those wreaths of leaves and flowers, and beautiful pinkbraids—"

"Oh, go along!" she interrupted impatiently. "Elizabeth, take care ofhim, and don't let him buy anything, but see what is there and tell me.I'm not going to put any of that modern stuff with my sixteenth centurycup and bottle," she added, looking at nobody in particular, with asudden brightening of her eyes; "but if there is anything pretty thatwill do for my new cabinet in the morning room—or for the table—Ishould like to have the first choice."

"Very well," assented her husband, meekly. "Come along, Miss King.We'll promise not to buy anything." He and Elizabeth then set off ontheir own account, and Elizabeth found herself led straight to the footof a staircase, where the little major offered his arm to assist her inthe ascent.

"But the Murano Court is not upstairs, is it?" she asked, hesitating.

"O no," he replied; "it is over there," giving a little backward nod.

"And are we not going to look at the glass?"

"Not at present," he said, softly. "That will keep. We'll look at itby-and-bye. First, I am going to show you the pictures. You are fond ofpictures, are you not?"

"I am, indeed."

"Yes, I was certain of it. Come along, then, I can show you a fewtolerably good ones. Won't you take my arm?"

She took his arm, as he seemed to expect it, though it would havebeen more reasonable if he had taken hers; and they marched upstairs,slowly, in face of the crowd that was coming down.

"My wife," said the major, sententiously, "is one of the best womenthat ever breathed."

"I am sure she is," assented Elizabeth, with warmth.

"No," he said, "you can't be sure; that is why I tell you. I haveknown her a long time, and experience has proved it to me. She is oneof the best women that ever lived. But she has her faults. I think Iought to warn you, Miss King, that she has her faults."

"I think you ought not," said Elizabeth, with instinctive propriety.

"Yes," he went on, "it is a point of honour. I owe it to you, as thehead of my house—the nominal head, you understand—the responsiblehead—not to let you labour under any delusion respecting us. Itis best that you should know the truth at once. Mrs. Duff-Scott isenergetic. She is fearfully, I may say abnormally, energetic."

"I think," replied Elizabeth, with decision, "that that is one of thefinest qualities in the world."

"Ah, do you?" he rejoined sadly. "That is because you are young. Iused to think so, too, when I was young. But I don't now—experiencehas taught me better. What I object to in my wife is that experiencedoesn't teach her anything. She won't learn. She persists in keepingall her youthful illusions, in the most obstinate and unjustifiablemanner."

Here they reached the gallery and the pictures, but the major saw twoempty chairs, and, sitting down on one of them, bade his companionrest herself on the other until she had recovered from the fatigue ofgetting upstairs.

"There is no hurry," he said wearily; "we have plenty of time." Andthen he looked at her with that twinkle in his eye, and said gently,"Miss King, you are very musical, I hear. Is that a fact?"

"We are very, very fond of music," she said, smiling. "It is rather ahobby with us, I think."

"A hobby! Ah, that's delightful. I'm so glad it is a hobby. You don't,by happy chance, play the violin, do you?"

"No. We only know the piano."

"You all play the piano?—old masters, and that sort of thing?"

"Yes. My sister Patty plays best. Her touch and expression arebeautiful."

"Ah!" he exclaimed again, softly, as if with much inward satisfaction.He was sitting languidly on his chair, nursing his knee, and gazingthrough the balustrade of the gallery upon the crowd below. Elizabethwas on the point of suggesting that they might now go and look at thepictures, when he began upon a fresh topic.

"And about china, Miss King? Tell me, do you know anything about china?"

"I'm afraid not," said Elizabeth.

"You don't know the difference between Chelsea and Derby-Chelsea, forinstance?"


"Nor between old Majolica and modern?"


"Nor between a Limoges enamel of the sixteenth century—everythinggood belongs to the sixteenth century, you must remember—and whatthey call Limoges now-a-days?"


"Ah, well, I think very few people do," said the major, resignedly."But, at any rate"—speaking in a tone of encouragement—"you do knowSèvres and Dresden when you see them?—you could tell one of themfrom the other?"

"Really," Elizabeth replied, beginning to blush for her surpassingignorance, "I am very sorry to have to confess it, but I don't believeI could."

The major softly unclasped his knees and leaned back in his chair, andsighed.

"But I could learn," suggested Elizabeth.

"Ah, so you can," he responded, brightening. "You can learn, of course.Will you learn? You can't think what a favour it would be to me ifyou would learn. Do promise me that you will."

"No, I will not promise. I should do it to please myself—and, ofcourse, because it is a thing that Mrs. Duff-Scott takes an interestin," said Elizabeth.

"That is just what I mean. It is because Mrs. Duff-Scott takes suchan interest in china that I want you to cultivate a taste for it.You see it is this way," he proceeded argumentatively, again, stillclasping his knees, and looking up at her with a quaint smile fromunder his hat brim. "I will be frank with you, Miss King—it is thisway. I want to induce you to enter into an alliance with me, offensiveand defensive, against that terrible energy which, as I said, is mywife's alarming characteristic. For her own good, you understand—formy comfort incidentally, but for her own good in the first place, Iwant you to help me to keep her energy within bounds. As long as sheis happy with music and china we shall be all right, but if she goesbeyond things of that sort—well, I tremble for the consequences. Theywould be fatal—fatal!"

"Where are you afraid she should go to?" asked Elizabeth.

"I am afraid she should go into philanthropy," the major solemnlyrejoined. "That is the bug-bear—the spectre—the haunting terror ofmy life. I never see a seedy man in a black frock coat, nor an elderlyfemale in spectacles, about the house or speaking to my wife in thestreet, that I don't shake in my shoes—literally shake in my shoes, Ido assure you. I can't think how it is that she has never taken up theCause of Humanity," he proceeded reflectively. "If we had not settleddown in Australia, she must have done it—she could not have helpedherself. But even here she is beset with temptations. I can see themin every direction. I can't think how it is that she doesn't see themtoo."

"No doubt she sees them," said Elizabeth.

"O no, she does not. The moment she sees them—the moment she castsa serious eye upon them—that moment she will be a lost woman, and Ishall be a desperate man."

The major shuddered visibly, and Elizabeth laughed at his distress."Whenever it happens that Mrs. Duff-Scott goes into philanthropy," shesaid, a little in joke and a great deal in earnest, "I shall certainlybe proud to accompany her, if she will have me." And, as she spoke,there flashed into her mind some idea of the meaning of certain littlesentences that were breathed into her ear yesterday. The major talkedon as before, and she tried to attend to what he said, but she foundherself thinking less of him now than of her unknown friend—lessoccupied with the substantial figures upon the stage of action aroundher than with the delusive scene-painting in the background of her ownimagination. Beyond the crowd that flowed up and down the gallery, shesaw a dim panorama of other crowds—phantom crowds—that graduallyabsorbed her attention. They were in the streets of Cologne, lookingup at those mighty walls and towers that had been six centuriesa-building, shouting and shaking hands with each other; and in themidst of them he was standing, grave and critical, observing theirexcitement and finding it "pathetic"—nothing more. They were inLondon streets in the early daylight—daylight at half-past threein the morning! that was a strange thing to think of—a "gentle andgood-humoured" mob, yet full of tragic interest for the philosopherwatching its movements, listening to its talk, speculating upon itspotential value in the sum of humankind. It was the typical crowd thathe was in the habit of studying—not like the people who throngedthe Treasury steps this time yesterday. Surely it was the Cause ofHumanity that had laid hold of him. That was the explanation of theinterest he took in some crowds, and of the delight that he found inthe uninterestingness of others. That was what he meant when he toldher she ought to read Thackeray's paper to help her to understand him.

Pondering over this thought, fitfully, amid the distractions of theconversation, she raised her head and saw Eleanor coming towards her.

"There's Westmoreland and your sister," said the major. "And one ofthose strangers who are swarming all about the place just now, andcrowding us out of our club. It's Yelverton. Kingscote Yelverton hecalls himself. He is rather a swell when he's at home, they tell me;but Westmoreland has no business to foist his acquaintance on yoursister. He'll have my wife about him if he is not more careful thanthat."

Elizabeth saw them approaching, and forgot all about the crowd underCologne Cathedral and the crowd that went to see the man hanged.She remembered only the crowd of yesterday, and how that statelygentleman—could it be possible?—had stood with her amid the crush andclamour, holding her in his arms. For the first time she was able tolook at him fairly and see what he was like; and it seemed to her thatshe had never seen a man of such a noble presence. His eyes were fixedupon her as she raised hers to his face, regarding her steadily, butwith inscrutable gravity and absolute respect. The major rose to salutehim in response to Mr. Westmoreland's rather imperious demand. "My oldfriend, whom I met in Paris," said Mr. Westmoreland; "come over to havea look at us. Want you to know him, major. We must do our best to makehim enjoy himself, you know."

"Didn't I tell you?" whispered Eleanor, creeping round the back of hersister's chair. "Didn't I tell you he would be here?"

And at the same moment Elizabeth heard some one murmur over her head,"Miss King, allow me to introduce Mr. Yelverton—my friend, whom I knewin Paris—"

And so he and she not only met again, but received Mrs. Grundy'sgracious permission to make each other's acquaintance.



Out of the many Cup Days that have gladdened the hearts of countlessholiday-makers on the Flemington course assembled, perhaps that of1880 was the most "all round" satisfactory and delightful to everybodyconcerned—except the bookmakers, and nobody grieves much over theirdisasters (though there are several legitimate and highly respectedlines of business that are conducted on precisely the same system asgoverns their nefarious practices). It was, indeed, considered thatthe discomfiture of the bookmakers was a part of the brilliant successof the occasion. In the capricious spring-time of the year, when coldwinds, or hot winds, or storms of rain, or clouds of dust, might any ofthem have been expected, this second of November displayed a perfectpattern of the boasted Australian climate to the foreigners of allnations who had been invited to enjoy it—a sweet blue sky, a fresh anddelicate air, a broad glow of soft and mellow sunshine, of a qualityto sufficiently account for the holiday-making propensities of theAustralian people, and for the fascination that draws them home, inspite of all intentions to the contrary, when they have gone to lookfor happiness in other lands. The great racing-ground was in its finestorder, the running track sanded and rolled, the lawns watered to avelvet greenness, the promenade level and speckless and elastic to thefeet as a ball-room floor; and by noon more than a hundred thousandspectators, well-dressed and well-to-do—so orderly in their comingand going, and when congregated in solid masses together, that thepoliceman, though doubtless ubiquitous, was forgotten—were waitingto see the triumph of Grand Flâneur. At which time, and throughoutthe afternoon, Melbourne city was as a city of the dead; shops andwarehouses deserted, and the empty streets echoing to a passingfootfall with the hollow distinctness of midnight or the early hours ofSunday morning.

While a full half of the crowd was being conveyed to the course byinnumerable trains, the sunny road was alive with vehicles of everydescription—spring-carts and lorries, cabs and buggies, broughamsand landaus, and four-in-hand coaches—all filled to their utmostcapacity, and displaying the sweetest things in bonnets and parasols.And amongst the best-appointed carriages Major Duff-Scott's wasconspicuous, not only for its build and finish, and the excellence ofthe horses that drew it, and the fit of the livery of the coachmanwho drove it, but for the beauty and charming costumes of the ladiesinside. The major himself, festive in light grey, with his member'scard in his button-hole and his field-glass slung over his shoulder,occupied the place of the usual footman on the box seat in order thatall the three sisters should accompany his wife; and Mrs. Duff-Scott,having set her heart on dressing her girls for the occasion, had beenallowed to have her own way, with the happiest results. The good womansat back in her corner, forgetting her own Parisian elegance and howit would compare with the Cup Day elegance of rival matrons in thevan of rank and fashion, while she revelled in the contemplation ofthe young pair before her, on whom her best taste had been exercised.Elizabeth, by her side, was perfectly satisfactory in straw-colouredIndian silk, ruffled with some of her own fine old lace, and wearinga delicate French bonnet and parasol to match, with a bunch ofCamille de Rohan roses at her throat for colour; but Elizabeth wasnot a striking beauty, nor of a style to be experimented on. Pattyand Eleanor were; and they had been "treated" accordingly. Patty wasa harmony in pink—the faintest shell-pink—and Eleanor a study inthe softest, palest shade of china-blue; both their dresses being ofmuslin, lightly frilled, and tied round the waist with sashes; whilethey wore bewitching little cap-like bonnets, with swathes of tulleunder their chins. The effect—designed for a sunny morning, and tobe set off by the subdued richness of her own olive-tinted robes—wasall that Mrs. Duff-Scott anticipated. The two girls were exquisitelysylph-like, and harmonious, and refined—looking prettier than they hadever done in their lives, because they knew themselves that they werelooking so—and it was confidently expected by their chaperon that theywould do considerable execution before the day was over. At the backof the carriage was strapped a hamper containing luncheon sufficientfor all the potential husbands that the racecourse might produce, andMrs. Duff-Scott was prepared to exercise discriminating but extensivehospitality.

It was not more than eleven o'clock when they entered the carriageenclosure and were landed at the foot of the terrace steps, and alreadymore carriages than one would have imagined the combined colonies couldproduce were standing empty and in close order in the paddock on onehand, while on the other the grand stand was packed from end to end.Lawn and terrace were swarming with those brilliant toilets which arethe feature of our great annual fête day, and the chief subject ofinterest in the newspapers of the day after.

"Dear me, what a crowd!" exclaimed Mrs. Duff-Scott, as her horses drewup on the smooth gravel, and she glanced eagerly up the steps. "Weshall not be able to find anyone."

But they had no sooner alighted and shaken out their skirts thandown from the terrace stepped Mr. Westmoreland, the first and mostsubstantial instalment of expected cavaliers, to assist the major toconvoy his party to the field. Mr. Westmoreland was unusually alertand animated, and he pounced upon Eleanor, after hurriedly salutingthe other ladies, with such an open preference that Mrs. Duff-Scottreadjusted her schemes upon the spot. If the young man insisted uponchoosing the youngest instead of the middle one, he must be allowed todo so, was the matron's prompt conclusion. She would rather have begunat the top and worked downwards, leaving fair Eleanor to be disposed ofafter the elder sisters were settled; but she recognised the wisdom oftaking the goods the gods provided as she could get them.

"I do declare," said Mr. Westmoreland, looking straight at the girl'sface, framed in the soft little bonnet, and the pale blue disc of herparasol, "I do declare I never saw anybody look so—so—"

"Come, come," interrupted the chaperon, "I don't allow speeches ofthat sort." She spoke quite sharply, this astute diplomatist, so thatthe young man who was used to being allowed, and even encouraged, tomake speeches of that sort, experienced the strange sensation of beingsnubbed, and was half inclined to be sulky over it; and at the samemoment she quietly seconded his manoeuvres to get to Eleanor's side,and took care that he had his chances generally for the rest of the day.

They joined the two great streams of gorgeous promenaders slowly pacingup and down the long green lawn. Every seat in the stand was occupiedand the gangways and gallery so tightly packed that when the Governorarrived presently, driving his own four-in-hand, with the Duke ofManchester beside him, there was some difficulty in squeezing out apath whereby he and his party might ascend to their box. But there werefrequent benches on the grass, and it was of far more consequence tohave freedom to move and display one's clothes, and opportunities ofmeeting one's friends, and observing the social aspect of the affairgenerally, than it was to see the racing to the best advantage—sinceone had to choose between the two. At least, that was understood tobe the opinion of the ladies present; and Cup Day, notwithstandingits tremendous issues, is a ladies' day. The major, than whom no manbetter loved a first-class race, had had a good time at the Derby onthe previous Saturday, and looked forward to enjoying himself as a manand a sportsman when Saturday should come again; but to-day, thoughsharing a warm interest in the great event with those who throngedthe betting and saddling paddock, he meekly gave himself up to be hiswife's attendant and to help her to entertain her protégées. He didnot find this task a hard one, nor wanting in abundant consolations. Hetook off Elizabeth, in the first place, to show her the arrangementsof the course, of which, by virtue of the badge in his button-hole, hewas naturally proud; and it pleased him to meet his friends at everystep, and to note the grave respect with which they saluted him out ofcompliment to the lady at his side—obviously wondering who was thatfine creature with Duff-Scott. He showed her the scratching-house, withits four-faced clock in its tall tower, and made erasures on his owncard and hers from the latest corrected lists that it displayed; and hetaught her the rudiments of betting as practised by her sex. Then heinitiated her into the mysteries of the electric bells and telegraphs,and all the other V.R.C. appliances for conducting business in anenlightened manner; showed her the bookmakers noisily pursuing theirill-fated enterprises; showed her the beautiful horses pacing up anddown and round and round, fresh and full of enthusiasm for their day'swork. And he had much satisfaction in her intelligent and cheerfulappreciation of these new experiences.

Meanwhile Mrs. Duff-Scott, in the care of Mr. Westmoreland, awaitedtheir return on the lawn, slowly sweeping to and fro, with her trainrustling over the grass behind her, and feeling that she had neverenjoyed a Cup Day half so much before. Her girls were admired to herheart's content, and she literally basked in the radiance of theirsuccess. She regarded them, indeed, with an enthusiasm of affection andinterest that her husband felt to be the most substantial safeguardagainst promiscuous philanthropy that had yet been afforded her. Howhungrily had she longed for children of her own! How she had enviedother women their grown-up daughters!—always with the sense that herswould have been, like her cabinets of china, so much more choice andso much better "arranged" than theirs. And now that she had discoveredthese charming orphans, who had beauty, and breeding, and culture,and not a relative or connection in the world, she did not know howto restrain the extravagance of her satisfaction. As she rustledmajestically up and down the lawn, with one fair girl on one side ofher and one on the other, while men and women turned at every step tostare at them, her heart swelled and throbbed with the long-latentpride of motherhood, and a sense that she had at last stumbled uponthe particular "specimen" that she had all her life been hunting for.The only drawback to her enjoyment in them was the consciousness that,though they were nobody else's, they were not altogether hers. Shewould have given half her fortune to be able to buy them, as she wouldbuy three bits of precious crockery, for her absolute possession, bodyand soul—to dress, to manage, to marry as she liked.

The major kept Elizabeth walking about with him until the hourapproached for the Maiden Plate race and luncheon. And when at lastthey joined their party they found that Mrs. Duff-Scott was alreadygetting together her guests for the latter entertainment. She wasseated on a bench, between Eleanor and Patty, and before her stood agroup of men, in various attitudes of animation and repose, conspicuousamongst whom was the tall form of Mr. Kingscote Yelverton. Elizabethhad only had distant glimpses of him during the four weeks that hadpassed since he was introduced to her, her chaperon not having seemedinclined to cultivate his acquaintance—probably because she had notsought it for herself; but now the girl saw, with a quickened pulse,that the happiness of speaking to him again was in store for her. Heseemed to be aware of her approach as soon as she was within sight,and lifted his head and turned to watch her—still sustaining hisdialogue with Mrs. Duff-Scott, who had singled him out to talk to; andElizabeth, feeling his eyes upon her, had a sudden sense of discomfortin her beautiful dress and her changed surroundings. She was sure thathe would draw comparisons, and she did not feel herself elevated by thenew dignities that had been conferred upon her.

Coming up to her party, she was introduced to severalstrangers—amongst others, to the husband Mrs. Duff-Scott had selectedfor her, a portly widower with a grey beard—and in the conversationthat ensued she quite ignored the only person in the group of whosepresence she was distinctly conscious. She neither looked at him norspoke to him, though aware of every word and glance and movement ofhis; until presently they were all standing upon the slope of grassconnecting the terrace with the lawn to see the first race as bestthey could, and then she found herself once more by his side. And notonly by his side, but, as those who could not gain a footing upon thestand congregated upon the terrace elevation, gradually wedged againsthim almost as tightly as on the former memorable occasion. Below themstood Mrs. Duff-Scott, protected by Mr. Westmoreland, and Patty andEleanor, guarded vigilantly by the little major. It was Mr. Yelvertonhimself who had quietly seen and seized upon his chance of renewing hisoriginal relations with Elizabeth.

"Miss King," he said, in a low tone of authority, "take my arm—it willsteady you."

She took his arm, and felt at once that she was in shelter and safety.Strong as she was, her impulse to lean on him was almost irresistible.

"Now, give me your parasol," he said. The noonday sun was pouring down,but at this critical juncture the convenience of the greatest numberhad to be considered, and unselfish women were patiently exposing theirbest complexions to destruction. Of course Elizabeth declared sheshould do very well until the race was over. Whereupon her companiontook her parasol gently from her hand, opened it, and held it—as fromhis great height he was able to do—so that it shaded her withoutincommoding other people. And so they stood, in silent enjoyment,both thinking of where and how something like this—and yet somethingso very different—had happened before, but neither of them saying aword to betray their thoughts, until the first race was run, and theexcitement of it cooled down, and they were summoned by Mrs. Duff-Scottto follow her to the carriage-paddock for lunch.

Down on the lawn again they sauntered side by side, finding themselvestête-à-tête without listeners for the first time since they had beenintroduced to each other. Elizabeth made a tremendous effort to ignorethe secret intimacy between them. "It is a lovely day, is it not?" shelightly remarked, from under the dome of her straw-coloured parasol. "Idon't think there has been such a fine Cup Day for years."

"Lovely," he assented. "Have you often been here before?"

"I?—oh, no. I have never been here before."

He was silent a moment, while he looked intently at what he could seeof her. She had no air of rustic inexperience of the world to-day. "Youare beginning to understand crowds," he said.

"Yes—I am, a little." Then, glancing up at him, she said, "How doesthis crowd affect you? Do you find it all interesting?"

He met her eyes gravely, and then lifted his own towards the hill abovethe grand stand, which was now literally black with human beings, likea swarming ant-hill.

"I think it might be more interesting up yonder," he said; and thenadded, after a pause—"if we could be there."

Eleanor was walking just in front of them, chatting airily with heradmirer, Mr. Westmoreland, who certainly was making no secret ofhis admiration; and she turned round when she heard this. "Ah, Mr.Yelverton," she said, lightly, "you are very disappointing. You don'tcare for our great Flemington show. You are not a connoisseur inladies' dresses, I suppose."

"I know when a lady's dress is becoming, Miss Eleanor," he promptlyresponded, with a smile and bow. At which she blushed and laughed, andturned her back again. For the moment he was a man like other men whoenjoy social success and favour—ready to be all things to all women;but it was only for the moment. Elizabeth noted, with a swelling senseof pride and pleasure, that he was not like that to her.

"I am out of my element in an affair of this kind," he said, in theundertone that was meant for her ear alone.

"What is your element?"

"Perhaps I oughtn't to call it my element—the groove I have gotinto—my 'walk of life,' so to speak."


"I'll tell you about it some day—if I ever get the chance. I can'there."

"I should like to know. And I can guess a little. You don't spend lifewholly in getting pleasure for yourself—you help others."

"What makes you think that?"

"I am sure of it."

"Thank you."

Elizabeth blushed, and could not think of a remark to make, though shetried hard.

"Just at present," he went on, "I am on pleasure bent entirely. I amtaking several months' holiday—doing nothing but amusing myself."

"A holiday implies work."

"I suppose we all work, more or less."

"Oh, no, we don't. Not voluntarily—not disinterestedly—in that way."

"You mean in my way?"


"Ah, I see that Westmoreland has been romancing."

"I have not heard a word from Mr. Westmoreland—he has never spoken ofyou to me."

"Who, then?"


"These are your own conjectures?"

She made no reply, and they crossed the gravelled drive and entered thelabyrinth of carriages where the major's servants had prepared luncheonin and around his own spacious vehicle, which was in a position tolend itself to commissariat purposes. They all assembled there, theladies in the carriage, the gentlemen outside, and napkins and plateswere handed round and champagne uncorked; and they ate and dranktogether, and were a very cheerful party. Mr. Yelverton contributedwitty nothings to the general entertainment—with so much happy tactthat Mrs. Duff-Scott was charmed with him, and said afterwards thatshe had never met a man with finer manners. While the other men waitedupon their hostess and the younger sisters, he stood for the most partquietly at Elizabeth's elbow, joining freely in the badinage round himwithout once addressing her—silently replenishing her plate and herglass when either required it with an air of making her his specialcharge that was too unobtrusive to attract outside attention, butwhich was more eloquent than any verbal intercourse could have been tothemselves. Elizabeth attempted no analysis of her sweet and strangesensations. She took them from his hand, as she took her boned turkeyand champagne, without question or protest. She only felt that she washappy and satisfied as she had never been before.

Later in the afternoon, when the great Cup race and all the excitementof the day was over, Mrs. Duff-Scott gathered her brood together andtook leave of her casual male guests.

"Good-bye, Mr. Yelverton," she said cordially, when his turn came tobid her adieu; "you will come and see me at my own house, I hope?"

Elizabeth looked up at him when she heard the words. She could nothelp it—she did not know what she did. And in her eyes he read theinvitation that he declared gravely he would do himself the honour toaccept.



While Elizabeth was thus happily absorbed in her "young man," andEleanor making an evident conquest of Mr. Westmoreland, Patty, who wasrather accustomed to the lion's share of whatever interesting thingwas going on, had very little enjoyment. For the first hour or two shewas delighted with the beauty of the scene and the weather and her ownpersonal circ*mstances, and she entered into the festive spirit of theday with the ardour of her energetic temperament. But in a little whilethe glamour faded. A serpent revealed itself in Paradise, and all herinnocent pleasure was at an end.

That serpent was Mrs. Aarons. Or, rather, it was a hydra-headedmonster, consisting of Mrs. Aarons and Paul Brion combined. Poor Paulhad come to spend a holiday afternoon at the races like everybodyelse, travelling to the course by train along with the undistinguishedmultitude, with the harmless intention of recruiting his mind, and, atthe same time, storing it with new impressions. He had meant to enjoyhimself in a quiet and independent fashion, strolling amongst the crowdand studying its various aspects from the point of view of a writerfor the press to whom men and women are "material" and "subjects," andthen to go home as soon as the Cup race was over, and, after an earlydinner, to spend a peaceful solitary evening, embodying the results ofhis observations in a brilliant article for his newspaper. But, beforehe had well thought out the plan of his paper, he encountered Mrs.Aarons; and to her he was a helpless captive for the whole live-longafternoon. Mrs. Aarons had come to the course in all due state, attiredin one of the few real amongst the many reputed Worth dresses of theday, and reclining in her own landau, with her long-nosed husbandat her side. But after her arrival, having lost the shelter of hercarriage, and being amongst the many who were shut out from the grandstand, she had felt just a little unprotected and uncared-for. Thefirst time she stopped to speak to a friend, Mr. Aarons took theopportunity to slip off to the saddling paddock, where the astutespeculator was speedily absorbed in a more congenial occupation thanthat of idling up and down the promenade; and the other gentlemen whowere so assiduous in their attendance upon her in the ordinary wayhad their own female relatives to look after on this extraordinaryoccasion. She joined one set and then another of casual acquaintanceswhom she chanced to meet, but her hold upon them all was more or lessprecarious; so that when by-and-bye she saw Paul Brion, threading hisway alone amongst the throng, she pounced upon him thankfully, andconfided herself to his protection. Paul had no choice but to acceptthe post of escort assigned to him under such circ*mstances, nor washe at all unwilling to become her companion. He had been rather outin the cold lately. Patty, though nominally at home in Myrtle Street,had been practically living with Mrs. Duff-Scott for the last fewweeks, and he had scarcely had a glimpse of her, and he had left offgoing to Mrs. Aarons's Fridays since the evening that she snubbed himfor Patty's sake. The result was that he was in a mood to appreciatewomen's society and to be inclined to melt when the sunshine of his oldfriend's favour was poured upon him again.

They greeted each other amicably, therefore, and made up the intangiblequarrel that was between them. Mrs. Aarons justified her reputation asa clever woman by speedily causing him to regard her as the injuredparty, and to wonder how he could have been such a brute as to woundher tender susceptibilities as he had done. She insinuated, withthe utmost tact, that she had suffered exceedingly from the absenceof his society, and was evidently in a mood to revive the slightlysentimental intercourse that he had not found disagreeable in earlierdays. Paul, however, was never less inclined to be sentimental in hercompany than he was to-day, in spite of his cordial disposition. Hewas changed from what he was in those earlier days; he felt it as soonas she began to talk to him, and perfectly understood the meaning ofit. After a little while she felt, too, that he was changed, and sheadapted herself to him accordingly. They fell into easy chat as theystrolled up and down, and were very friendly in a harmless way. Theydid not discuss their private feelings at all, but only the topics thatwere in every-day use—the weather, the races, the trial of Ned Kelly,the wreck of the Sorata, the decay of Berryism—anything that happenedto come into their heads or to be suggested by the scene around them.Nevertheless, they had a look of being very intimate with each otherto the superficial eye of Mrs. Grundy. People with nothing better todo stared at them as they meandered in and out amongst the crowd, heand she tête-à-tête by their solitary selves; and those who knew theywere legally unrelated were quick to discover a want of conventionaldiscretion in their behaviour. Mrs. Duff-Scott, for instance, whoabhorred scandal, made use of them to point a delicate moral for theedification of her girls.

Paul, who was a good talker, was giving his companion an animatedaccount of the French plays going on at one of the theatres justthen—which she had not yet been to see—and describing with greatwarmth the graceful and finished acting of charming Madame Audrée,when he was suddenly aware of Patty King passing close beside him.Patty was walking at her chaperon's side, with her head erect, and herwhite parasol, with its pink lining, held well back over her shoulder,a vision of loveliness in her diaphanous dress. He caught his breathat sight of her, looking so different from her ordinary self, and wasabout to raise his hat, when—to his deep dismay and surprise—sheswept haughtily past him, meeting his eyes fairly, with a cold disdain,but making no sign of recognition.

The blood rushed into his face, and he set his teeth, and walked onsilently, not seeing where he went. For a moment he felt stunned withthe shock. Then he was brought to himself by a harsh laugh from Mrs.Aarons. "Dear me," said she, in a high tone, "the Miss Kings havebecome so grand that we are beneath their notice. You and I are notgood enough for them now, Mr. Brion. We must hide our diminished heads."

"I see," he assented, with savage quietness. "Very well. I am quiteready to hide mine."

Meanwhile Patty, at the farther end of the lawn, was overwhelmedwith remorse for what she had done. At the first sight of him, inclose intercourse with that woman who, Mrs. Duff-Scott again remindedher, was not "nice"—who, though a wife and mother, liked men to"dangle" round her—she had arraigned and judged and sentenced himwith the swift severity of youth, that knows nothing of the complextrials and sufferings which teach older people to bear and forbearwith one another. But when it was over, and she had seen his shockedand bewildered face, all her instinctive trust in him revived, andshe would have given anything to be able to make reparation for hercruelty. The whole afternoon she was looking for him, hoping for achance to show him somehow that she did not altogether "mean it," but,though she saw him several times—eating his lunch with Mrs. Aaronsunder the refreshment shed close by the Duff-Scott carriage, watchingGrand Flâneur win the greatest of his half-dozen successive victoriesfrom the same point of view as that taken by the Duff-Scott party—henever turned his head again in her direction or seemed to have thefaintest consciousness that she was there.

And next day, when no longer in her glorious apparel, but walkingquietly home from the Library with Eleanor, she met him unexpectedly,face to face, in the Fitzroy Gardens. And then he cut her—dead.



On a Thursday evening in the race week—two days after the "Cup,"Mrs. Duff-Scott took her girls to the Town Hall to one of a series ofconcerts that were given at that time by Henri Ketten, the Hungarianpianist, and the Austrian band that had come out to Melbourne to giveéclat to the Exhibition.

It was a fine clear night, and the great hall was full when theyarrived, notwithstanding the fact that half-a-dozen theatres wereopen and displaying their most attractive novelties, for music-lovingsouls are pretty numerous in this part of the world, taking all thingsinto consideration. Australians may not have such an enlightenedappreciation of high-class music as, say, the educated Viennese,who live and breathe and have their being in it. There are, indeed,sad instances on record of a great artist, or a choice combinationof artists, having appealed in vain for sympathy to the Melbournepublic—that is to say, having found not numbers of paying andapplauding listeners, but only a select and fervent few. But suchinstances are rare, and to be accounted for as the result, not ofindifference, but of inexperience. The rule is—as I think most ofour distinguished musical visitors will testify—that we are a peoplepeculiarly ready to recognise whatever is good that comes to us, andto acknowledge and appreciate it with ungrudging generosity. And sothe Austrian band, though it had many critics, never played to a thinaudience or to inattentive ears; and no city in Europe (accordingto his own death-bed testimony) ever offered such incense of lovingenthusiasm to Ketten's genius as burnt steadily in Melbourne from themoment that he laid his fingers on the keyboard, at the Opera House,until he took his reluctant departure. This, I hasten to explain (lestI should be accused of "blowing"), is not due to any exceptional virtueof discrimination on our part, but to our good fortune in havinginherited an enterprising and active intelligence from the brave menwho had the courage and energy to make a new country, and to thatcountry being such a land of plenty that those who live in it have easytimes and abundant leisure to enjoy themselves.

Mrs. Duff-Scott sailed into the hall, with her girls around her, andmany eyes were turned to look at them and to watch their progress totheir seats. By this time "the pretty Miss Kings" had become well-knownand much talked about, and the public interest in what they wore,and what gentlemen were in attendance on them, was apt to be keen onthese occasions. To-night the younger girls, with their lovely hairlifted from their white necks and coiled high at the back of theirheads, wore picturesque flowered gowns of blue and white stuff, whilethe elder sister was characteristically dignified in black. And thegentlemen in attendance upon them were Mr. Westmoreland, still devotedto Eleanor, and the portly widower, whom Mrs. Duff-Scott had intendedfor Elizabeth, but who was perversely addicted to Patty. The littleparty took their places in the body of the hall, in preference to thegallery, and seated themselves in two rows of three—the widower behindMrs. Duff-Scott, Patty next him behind Eleanor, and Elizabeth behindMr. Westmoreland. And when the concert began there was an empty chairbeside Elizabeth.

By-and-bye, when the overture was at an end—when the sonorous tinklingand trumpeting of the orchestra had ceased, and she was listening, insoft rapture, to Ketten's delicate improvisation, at once echo andprelude, reminiscent of the idea that the band had been elaborating,and prophetic of the beautiful Beethoven sonata that he was thustenderly approaching, Elizabeth was aware that the empty chair wastaken, and knew, without turning her head, by whom. She tried not toblush and feel fluttered—she was too old, she told herself, for thatnonsense—but for half a minute or so it was an effort to controlthese sentimental tendencies. He laid his light overcoat over the backof his chair, and sat down quietly. Mrs. Duff-Scott looked over hershoulder, and gave him a pleasant nod. Mr. Westmoreland said, "Hullo!Got back again?" And then Elizabeth felt sufficiently composed to turnand hold out her hand, which he took in a strong clasp that was notfar removed from a squeeze. They did not speak to each other; nor didthey look at each other, though Mr. Yelverton was speedily informed ofall the details of his neighbour's appearance, and she took no time toascertain that he looked particularly handsome in his evening dress(but she always thought him handsome; big nose, leather cheeks, redmoustache, and all), and that his well-cut coat and trousers were notin their first freshness. Then the concert went on as before—butnot as before—and they sat side by side and listened. Elizabeth'sprogramme lay on her knee, and he took it up to study it, and laid itlightly on her knee again. Presently she pointed to one and another ofthe selections on the list, about which she had her own strong musicalfeelings, and he looked down at them and nodded, understanding whatshe meant. And again they sat back in their chairs, and gazed serenelyat the stage under the great organ, at Herr Wildner cutting the airwith his baton, or at poor Ketten, with his long, white, solemn face,sitting at the piano in a bower of votive wreaths and bouquets, raininghis magic finger-tips like a sparkling cascade upon the keyboard,and wrinkling the skin of his forehead up and down. But they had noaudible conversation throughout the whole performance. When, betweenthe two divisions of the programme, the usual interval occurred for therelaxation and refreshment of the performers and their audience, Mr.Westmoreland turned round, with his elbow over the back of his chair,and appropriated an opportunity to which they had secretly been lookingforward. "So you've got back?" he remarked for the second time. "Ithought you were going to make a round of the country?"

"I shall do it in instalments," replied Mr. Yelverton.

"You won't have time to do much that way, if you are going home againnext month. Will you?"

"I can extend my time a little, if necessary."

"Can you? Oh, I thought there was some awfully urgent business that youhad to get back for—a new costermonger's theatre to open, or a streetArab's public-house—eh?"

Mr. Westmoreland laughed, as at a good joke that he had got holdof, but Mr. Yelverton was imperturbably grave. "I have business inAustralia just now," he said, "and I'm going to finish that first."

Here the portly widower, who had overheard the dialogue, leaned overPatty to join in the conversation. He was a wealthy person of thename of Smith, who, like Mr. Phillips's father in the UndiscoveredCountry, had been in business "on that obscure line which dividesthe wholesale merchant's social acceptability from the lost conditionof the retail trader," but who, on his retirement with a fortune, hadsafely scaled the most exclusive heights of respectability. "I say," hecalled out, addressing Mr. Yelverton, "you're not going to write a bookabout us, I hope, like Trollope and those fellows? We're suspiciousof people who come here utter strangers, and think they can learn allabout us in two or three weeks."

Mr. Yelverton reassured him upon this point, and then Mrs. Duff-Scottbroke in. "You have not been to call on me yet, Mr. Yelverton."

"No. I hope to have that pleasure to-morrow," he replied. "I am toldthat Friday is your reception day."

"Oh, you needn't have waited for that. Any day before four. Cometo-morrow and dine with us, will you? We are going to have a fewfriends and a little music in the evening. I suppose you are fond ofmusic—being here."

Mr. Yelverton said he was very fond of music, though he did notunderstand much about it, and that he would be very happy to dine withher next day. Then, after a little more desultory talk, the orchestrareturned to the stage and began the second overture—from Mozart thistime—and they all became silent listeners again.

When at last the concert was over, Elizabeth and her "young man" foundthemselves once more navigating a slow course together through acrowd. Mrs. Duff-Scott, with Mr. Westmoreland and Eleanor, moved offin advance; Mr. Smith offered his arm to Patty and followed; and so,by the favour of fate and circ*mstances, the remaining pair were leftwith no choice but to accompany each other. "Wait a moment," said Mr.Yelverton, as she stepped out from her seat, taking her shawl—a softwhite Rampore chuddah, that was the fairy godmother's latest gift—fromher arms. "You will feel it cold in the passages." She stood stillobediently, and he put the shawl over her shoulders and folded one endof it lightly round her throat. Then he held his arm, and her handwas drawn closely to his side; and so they set forth towards the door,having put a dozen yards between themselves and the rest of their party.

"You are living with Mrs. Duff-Scott, are you not?" he asked abruptly.

"Not quite that," she replied. "Mrs. Duff-Scott would like us to bethere always, but we think it better to be at home sometimes."

"Yes—I should think it is better," he replied.

"But we are with her very often—nearly every day," she added.

"Shall you be there to-morrow?" he asked, not looking at her. "Shall Isee you there in the evening?"

"I think so," she replied rather unsteadily. And, after a little while,she felt emboldened to ask a few questions of him. "Are you really onlymaking a flying visit to Australia, Mr. Yelverton?"

"I had intended that it should be very short," he said; "but I shallnot go away quite yet."

"You have many interests at home—to call you back?" she ventured tosay, with a little timidity about touching on his private affairs.

"Yes. You are thinking of what Westmoreland said? He is a scoffer—hedoesn't understand. You mustn't mind what he says. But I should like,"he added, as they drew near the door and saw Mrs. Duff-Scott lookingback for them, "I should very much like to tell you something about itmyself. I think—I feel sure—it would interest you. Perhaps I may havean opportunity to-morrow night."

Here Mrs. Duff-Scott's emissary, Mr. Smith, who had been sent backto his duty, claimed Elizabeth on her chaperon's behalf. She and herlover had no time to say anything more, except good-night. But thatgood-night—and their anticipations—satisfied them.

On reaching Mrs. Duff-Scott's house, where the girls were to sleep,they found the major awaiting their return, and were hospitablyinvited—along with Mr. Westmoreland, who had been allowed to "see themsafely home," on the box-seat of the carriage—into the library, wherethey found a bright little fire in the grate, and refreshments on thetable. The little man, apparently, was as paternal in his dispositionstowards the orphans as his wife could desire, and was becoming quiteweaned from his bad club habits under the influence of his newdomestic ties.

"Dear me, how nice!—how comfortable!" exclaimed Mrs. Duff-Scott,sailing up to the hearth and seating herself in a deep leather chair."Come in, Mr. Westmoreland. Come along to the fire, dears." And shecalled her brood around her. Eleanor, who had caressing ways, kneltdown at her chaperon's feet on the soft oriental carpet, and she pulledout the frills of lace round the girl's white neck and elbows with amotherly gesture.

"Dear child!" she ejacul*ted fondly, "doesn't she"—appealing to herhusband—"remind you exactly of a bit of fifteenth century Nankin?"

"I should like to see the bit of porcelain, Nankin or otherwise, thatwould remind me exactly of Miss Nelly," replied the gallant major,bowing to the kneeling girl. "I would buy that bit, whatever price itwas."

"That's supposing you could get it," interrupted Mr. Westmoreland, witha laugh.

"It is the very shade of blue, with that grey tinge in it," murmuredMrs. Duff-Scott. But at the same time she was thinking of a new topic."I have asked Mr. Yelverton to dine with us to-morrow, my dear," sheremarked, suddenly, to her spouse. "We wanted another man to make upour number."

"Oh, have you? All right. I shall be very glad to see him. He's agentlemanly fellow, is Yelverton. Very rich, too, they tell me. But wedon't see much of him."

"No," said Mr. Westmoreland, withdrawing his eyes from thecontemplation of Eleanor and her æsthetic gown, "he's not a societyman. He don't go much into clubs, Yelverton. He's one of the richestcommoners in Great Britain—give you my word, sir, he's got a princelyfortune, all to his own cheek—and he lets his places and lives inchambers in Piccadilly, and spends nearly all his time when he's athome in the slums and gutters of Whitechapel. He's got a mania forphilanthropy, unfortunately. It's an awful pity, for he really wouldbe a good fellow."

At the word "philanthropy," the major made a clandestine grimace toElizabeth, but composed his face immediately, seeing that she was notregarding him, but gazing with serious eyes at the narrator of Mr.Yelverton's peculiarities.

"He's been poking into every hole and corner," continued Mr.Westmoreland, "since he came here, overhauling the factory places, andfinding out the prices of things, and the land regulations, and I don'tknow what. He's just been to Sandhurst, to look at the mines—doing alittle amateur emigration business, I expect. Seems a strange thing,"concluded the young man, thoughtfully, "for a rich swell of his classto be bothering himself about things of that sort."

Mrs. Duff-Scott had been listening attentively, and at this sheroused herself and sat up in her chair. "It is the rich who shoulddo it," said she, with energy. "And I admire him—I admire him, thathe has given up his own selfish ease to help those whose lives arehard and miserable. I believe the squalid wretchedness of placeslike Whitechapel—though I have never been there—is somethingdreadful—dreadful! I admire him," she repeated defiantly. "I thinkit's a pity a few more of us are not like him. I shall talk to himabout it. I—I shall see if I can't help him."

This time Elizabeth did look at the major, who was making a feint ofputting his handkerchief to his eyes. She smiled at him sweetly, andthen she walked over to Mrs. Duff-Scott, put her strong arms round thematron's shoulders, and kissed her fervently.



Mrs. Duff-Scott's drawing-room, at nine or ten o'clock on Fridayevening, was a pleasant sight. Very spacious, very voluptuous, ina subdued, majestic, high-toned way; very dim—with splashes ofrichness—as to walls and ceilings; very glowing and splendid—withfolds of velvety darkness—as to window curtains and portières.The colouring of it was such as required a strong light to showhow beautiful it was, but with a proud reserve, and to mark itsunostentatious superiority over the glittering salons of theuneducated nouveaux riches, it was always more or less in a warmand mellow twilight, veiling its sombre magnificence from the vulgareye. Just now its main compartment was lit by wax candles in archaiccandlesticks amongst the flowers and bric-à-brac of an étagère overthe mantelpiece, and by seven shaded and coloured lamps, of variousartistic devices, judiciously distributed over the abundant table-spaceso as to suffuse with a soft illumination the occupants of most ofthe wonderfully stuffed and rotund chairs and lounges grouped aboutthe floor; and yet the side of the room was decidedly bad for readingin. "It does not light up well," was the consolation of women of Mrs.Duff-Scott's acquaintance, who still clung to pale walls and primarycolours and cut-glass chandeliers, either from necessity or choice."Pooh!" Mrs. Duff-Scott used to retort, hearing of this just criticism;"as if I wanted it to light up!" But she had compromised with herprinciples in the arrangement of the smaller division of the room,where, between and beyond a pair of vaguely tinted portières, stood thepiano, and all other material appliances for heightening the spiritualenjoyment of musical people. Here she had grudgingly retained thegas-burner of utilitarian Philistinism. It hung down from the ceilingstraight over the piano, a circlet of gaudy yellow flames, that madethe face of every plaque upon the wall to glitter. But the brilliantcorona was borne in no gas-fitter's vehicle; its shrine was of dullbrass, mediæval and precious, said to have been manufactured, in thefirst instance, for either papal or imperial purposes—it didn't matterwhich.

In this bright music-room was gathered to-night a little company ofthe elect—Herr Wüllner and his violin, together with three otherstringed instruments and their human complement. Patty at the piano,Eleanor, Mrs. Duff-Scott, and half-a-dozen more enthusiasts—with amixed audience around them. In the dim, big room beyond, the majorentertained the inartistic, outlawed few who did not care, nor pretendto care, for aught but the sensual comfort of downy chairs and afterdinner chit-chat. And, at the farthest end, in a recess of curtainedwindow that had no lamps about it, sat Elizabeth and Mr. Yelverton,side by side, on a low settee—not indifferent to the pathetic wail ofthe far-distant violins, but finding more entertainment in their owntalk than the finest music could have afforded them.

"I had a friend who gave up everything to go and work amongst theLondon poor—in the usual clerical way, you know, with schools andguilds and all the right and proper things. He used to ask me formoney, and insist on my helping him with a lecture or a reading nowand then, and I got drawn in. I had always had an idea of doingsomething—taking a line of some sort—and somehow this got hold of me.I couldn't see all that misery—you've no idea of it, Miss King—"

"I have read of it," she said.

"You would have to see it to realise it in the least. After I saw it Icouldn't turn my back and go home and enjoy myself as if nothing hadhappened. And I had no family to consider. I got drawn in."

"And that is your work?" said Elizabeth. "I knew it."

"No. My friend talks of 'his work'—a lot of them have 'theirwork'—it's splendid, too—but they don't allow me to use that word,and I don't want it. What I do is all wrong, they say—not onlyuseless, but mischievous."

"I don't believe it," said Elizabeth.

"Nor I, of course—though they may be right. We can only judgeaccording to our lights. To me, it seems that when things are as badas possible, a well meaning person can't make them worse and maymake them better. They say 'no,' and argue it all out as plainly aspossible. Yet I stick to my view—I go on in my own line. It doesn'tinterfere with theirs, though they say it does."

"And what is it?" she asked, with her sympathetic eyes.

"Well, you'll hardly understand, for you don't know the class—thelowest deep of all—those who can't be dealt with by the Societies—thepoor wretches whom nothing will raise, and who are abandoned ashopeless, outside the pale of everything. They are my line."

"Can there be any abandoned as hopeless?"

"Yes. They really are so, you know. Neither religion nor politicaleconomy can do anything for them, though efforts are made for thechildren. Poor, sodden, senseless, vicious lumps of misery, with thelast spark of soul bred out of them—a sort of animated garbage thatcumbers the ground and makes the air stink—given up as a bad job, andonly wanted out of the way—from the first they were on my mind morethan all the others. And when I saw them left to rot like that, I feltI might have a free hand."

"And can you succeed where so many have failed?"

"Oh, what I do doesn't involve success or failure. It's outside allthat, just as they are. They're only brutes in human shape—hardlyhuman shape either; but I have a feeling for brutes. I love horsesand dogs—I can't bear to see things suffer. So that's all I do—justcomfort them where I can, in their own way; not the parson'sway—that's no use. I wouldn't mock them by speaking of religion—Isuppose religion, as we know it, has had a large hand in making themwhat they are; and to go and tell them that God ordained theirmiserable pariah-dog lot would be rank blasphemy. I leave all that. Idon't bother about their souls, because I know they haven't got any; Isee their wretched bodies, and that's enough for me. It's something notto let them go out of the world without ever knowing what it is to bephysically comfortable. It eases my conscience, as a man who has neverbeen hungry, except for the pleasure of it."

"And do they blame you for that?"

"They say I pauperise them and demoralise them," he answered, witha sudden laugh; "that I disorganise the schemes of the legitimateworkers—that I outrage every principle of political economy. Well, Ido that, certainly. But that I make things worse—that I retard thelegitimate workers—I won't believe. If I do," he concluded, "I can'thelp it."

"No," breathed Elizabeth, softly.

"There's only one thing in which I and the legitimate workers arealike—everybody is alike in that, I suppose—the want of money. Onlyin the matter of beer and tobacco, what interest I could get on a fewhundred pounds! What I could do in the way of filling empty stomachsand easing aches and pains if I had control of large means! What a goodword 'means' is, isn't it? We want 'means' for all the ends we seek—nomatter what they are."

"I thought," said Elizabeth, "that you were rich. Mr. Westmoreland toldus so."

"Well, in a way, I am," he rejoined. "I hold large estates in my ownname, and can draw fifty or sixty thousand a year interest from them ifI like. But there have been events—there are peculiar circ*mstancesin connection with the inheritance of the property, which make mefeel myself not quite entitled to use it freely—not yet. I willuse it, after this year, if nothing happens. I think I ought to;but I have put it off hitherto so as to make as sure as possiblethat I was lawfully in possession. I will tell you how it is," heproceeded, leaning forward and clasping his knee with his big brownhands. "I am used to speaking of the main facts freely, because I amalways in hopes of discovering something as I go about the world. Agood many years ago my father's second brother disappeared, and wasnever heard of afterwards. He and the eldest brother, at that timethe head of the family, and in possession of the property, quarrelledabout—well, about a woman whom both were in love with; and the elderone was found dead—shot dead—in a plantation not far from the houseon the evening of the day of the quarrel, an hour after the totaldisappearance of the other. My uncle Kingscote—I was named after him,and he was my godfather—was last seen going out towards the plantationwith his gun; he was traced to London within the next few days; andit was almost—but just not quite certainly—proved that he had theregone on board a ship that sailed for South America and was lost. Hewas advertised for in every respectable newspaper in the world, atintervals, for twenty years afterwards—during which time the estatewas in Chancery, before they would grant it to my father, from whom itdescended to me—and I should think the agony columns of all countriesnever had one message cast into such various shapes. But he never gavea sign. All sorts of apparent clues were followed up, but they led tonothing. If alive he must have known that it was all right, and wouldhave come home to take his property. He must have gone down in thatship."

"But—oh, surely he would never have come back to take the property ofa murdered brother!" exclaimed Elizabeth, in a shocked voice.

"His brother was not murdered," Mr. Yelverton replied. "Many peoplethought so, of course—people have a way of thinking the worst inthese cases, not from malice, but because it is more interesting—anda tradition to that effect survives still, I am afraid. But myuncle's family never suspected him of such a crime. The thing was notlegally proved, one way or the other. There were strong indicationsin the position of the gun which lay by his side, and in the generalappearance of the spot where he was found, that my uncle, PatrickYelverton, accidentally shot himself; that was the opinion of thecoroner's jury, and the conviction of the family. But poor Kingscoteevidently assumed that he would be accused of murder. Perhaps—it isvery possible—some rough-tempered action of his might have causedthe catastrophe, and his remorse have had the same effect as fear inprompting him to efface himself. Anyway, no one who knew him wellbelieved him capable of doing his brother a mischief wilfully. Hisinnocence was, indeed, proved by the fact that he married the ladywho had been at the bottom of the trouble—by no fault of hers, poorsoul!—after he escaped to London; and, wherever he went to, he tookher with him. She disappeared a few days after he did, and was lostas completely, from that time. The record and circ*mstances of theirmarriage were discovered; and that was all. He would not have marriedher—she would not have married him—had he been a murderer."

"Do you think not?" said Elizabeth. "That is always assumed as amatter of course, in books—that murder and—and other disgraces areirrevocable barriers between those who love each other, when theydiscover them. But I do not understand why. With such an awful miseryto bear, they would want all that their love could give them so muchmore—not less."

"You see," said Mr. Yelverton, regarding her with great interest, "itis a sort of point of honour with the one in misfortune not to drag theother down. When we are married, as when we are dead, 'it is for a longtime.'"

Elizabeth made no answer, but there was a quiet smile about her lipsthat plainly testified to her want of sympathy with this view. Aftera silence of a few seconds, her companion leaned forward and lookeddirectly into her face. "Would you stick to the man you loved if hehad forfeited his good name or were in risk of the gallows?—I mean ifhe were really a criminal, and not only a suspected one?" he asked withimpressive slowness.

"If I had found him worthy to be loved before that," she replied,speaking collectedly, but dismayed to find herself growing crimson,"and if he cared for me—and leant on me—oh, yes! It might be wrong,but I should do it. Surely any woman would. I don't see how she couldhelp herself."

He changed his position, and looked away from her face into the roomwith a light in his deep-set eyes. "You ought to have been ElizabethLeigh's daughter," he said. "I did not think there were any more womenlike her in the world."

"I am like other women," said Elizabeth, humbly, "only more ignorant."

He made no comment—they both found it rather difficult to speakat this point—and, after an expressive pause, she went on, ratherhurriedly, "Was Elizabeth Leigh the lady who married your uncle?"

"Yes," he replied, bringing himself back to his story with an effort,"she was. She was a lovely woman, bright and clever, fond of dress andfun and admiration, like other women; but with a solid foundation toher character that you will forgive my saying is rare to your sex—asfar, at least, as I am able to judge. I saw her when I was a littleschoolboy, but I can picture her now, as if it were but yesterday.What vigour she had! What a wholesome zest for life! And yet she gaveup everything to go into exile and obscurity with the man she loved.Ah, what a woman! She ought not to have died. She should have livedand reigned at Yelverton, and had a houseful of children. It is stillpossible—barely, barely possible—that she did live, and that I shallsome day stumble over a handsome young cousin who will tell me that heis the head of the family."

"O no," said Elizabeth, "not after all these years. Give up thinkingof such a thing. Take your own money now, as soon as you go home,and"—looking up with a smile—"buy all the beer and tobacco that youwant."



Paul Brion, meanwhile, plodded on in his old groove, which no longerfitted him as it used to do, and vexed the soul of his benevolentlandlady with the unprecedented shortness of his temper. She didn'tknow how to take him, she said, he was that cantankerous and"contrairy:" but she triumphantly recognised the result that she hadall along expected would follow a long course of turning night intoday, and therefore was not surprised at the change in him. "Your brainis over-wrought," she said, soothingly, when one day a compunctiousspirit moved him to apologise for his moroseness; "your nervous systemis unstrung. You've been going on too long, and you want a spell. Youjust take a holiday straight off, and go right away, and don't lookat an ink-bottle for a month. It will save you a brain fever, markmy words." But Paul was consistent in his perversity, and refused totake good advice. He did think, for a moment, that he might as wellhave a little run and see how his father was getting on; and forseveral days he entertained the more serious project of "cutting" thecolony altogether and going to seek his fortune in London. All thesame, he stayed on with Mrs. M'Intyre, producing his weekly tale ofpolitical articles and promiscuous essays, and sitting up all night,and sleeping all the morning, with his habitual irregular regularity.But the flavour had gone out of work and recreation alike, and notall Mrs. Aarons's blandishments, which were now exercised upon him foran hour or two every Friday evening, were of any avail to coax it backagain. Those three Miss Kings, whom his father had sent to him, andwhom Mrs. Duff-Scott had taken away from him, had spoiled the tasteof life. That was the fact, though he would not own it. "What care I?They are nothing to me," he used to say to himself when fighting anoccasional spasm of rage or jealousy. He really persuaded himself veryoften that they were nothing to him, and that his bitter feeling wascaused solely by the spectacle of their deterioration. To see themexchanging all their great plans and high aspirations for these vulgarsocial triumphs—giving up their studies at the Library to attenddancing classes, and to dawdle about the Block, and gossip in theExhibition—laying aside their high-bred independence to accept thepatronage of a fine lady who might drop them as suddenly as she tookthem up—was it not enough to make a man's heart bleed?

As for Patty, he made up his mind that he could never forgive her.Now and then he would steal out upon his balcony to listen to aSchubert serenade or a Beethoven sonata in the tender stillness of asummer night, and then he would have that sensation of bleeding at theheart which melted, and unnerved, and unmanned him; but, for the mostpart, every sight and sound and reminiscence of her were so many fierystyptics applied to his wound, scorching up all tender emotions in onegreat angry pain. Outwardly he shunned her, cut her—withered her up,indeed—with his ostentatiously expressed indifference; but secretlyhe spent hours of the day and night dogging her from place to place,when he ought to have been at work or in his bed, merely that he mightget a glimpse of her in a crowd, and some notion of what she was doing.He haunted the Exhibition with the same disregard for the legitimateattractions of that social head-centre as prevailed with the majorityof its visitors, to whom it was a daily trysting-place; and therehe had the doubtful satisfaction of seeing her every now and then.Once she was in the Indian Court, so fragrant with sandalwood, andshe was looking with ardent eyes at gossamer muslins and embroideredcashmeres, while young Westmoreland leaned on the glass case besideher in an attitude of insufferable familiarity. It was an indication,to the jealous lover, that the woman who had elevated her sex fromthe rather low place that it had held in his estimation before heknew her, and made it sacred to him for her sake, was, after all,"no better than the rest of them." He had dreamed of her as a man'strue helpmate and companion, able to walk hand in hand with him onthe high roads of human progress, and finding her vocation and herhappiness in that spiritual and intellectual fellowship; and here shewas lost in the greedy contemplation of a bit of fine embroidery thathad cost some poor creature his eyesight already, and was presentlyto cost again what would perhaps provision a starving family for atwelvemonth—just like any other ignorant and frivolous female whohad sold her soul to the demon of fashion. He marched home to MyrtleStreet with the zeal of the reformer (which draws its inspiration fromsuch unsuspected sources) red-hot in his busy brain. He lit his pipe,spread out his paper, dipped his pen in the ink-bottle, and began todeal with the question of "Woman's Clothes in Relation to her Moraland Intellectual Development" in what he conceived to be a thoroughlyimpersonal and benevolent temper. His words should be brief, he saidto himself, but they should be pregnant with suggestive truth. Hewould lay a light touch upon this great sore that had eaten so deeplyinto one member of the body politic, causing all the members to sufferwith it; but he would diagnose it faithfully, without fear or favour,and show wherein it had hindered the natural advancement of the race,and to what fatal issues its unchecked development tended. It was aserious matter, that had too long been left unnoticed by the leadersof the thought of the day. "It is a problem," he wrote, with asplutter of his pen, charging his grievance full tilt with his mosteffective term; "it is, we conscientiously believe, one of the greatproblems of this problem-haunted and problem-fighting age—one of thewrongs that it is the mission of the reforming Modern Spirit to setright—though the subject is so inextricably entangled and wrapped upin its amusing associations that at present its naked gravity is onlyrecognised by the philosophic few. It is all very well to make fun ofit; and, indeed, it is a very good thing to make fun of it—for everyreform must have a beginning, and there is no better weapon than justand judicious ridicule wherewith Reason can open her attack upon thesolid and solemn front of time-honoured Prejudice. The heavy artilleryof argument has no effect until the enemy has contracted an internalweakness by being made to imbibe the idea that he is absurd. A littlewit, in the early stage of the campaign, is worth a deal of logic. Butstill there it stands—this great, relentless, crushing, cruel CUSTOM(which requires capital letters to emphasise it suitably)—and thereare moments when we can't be witty about it—when our hearts burnwithin us at the spectacle of our human counterpart still, with a fewbright exceptions, in the stage of intellectual childhood, while wefight the battle of the world's progress alone—"

Here the typical strong-minded female, against whom he had fulminatedin frequent wrath, suddenly appeared before him, side by side with avision of Patty in her shell-pink Cup dress; and his sword arm failedhim. He paused, and laid down his pen, and leaned his head on his hand;and he was thereupon seized with a raging desire to be rich, in orderthat he might buy Indian embroideries for his beloved, and clothe herlike a king's daughter in glorious apparel. Somehow that remarkablepaper which was to inaugurate so vast a revolution in the social systemnever got written. At least, it did not for two or three years, andthen it came forth in so mild a form that its original design wasunrecognisable. (N.B.—In this latest contribution to the Dress ReformQuestion, women, to the peril of their immortal intellects, wereinvited to make themselves as pretty as they could, no hard conditionbeing laid upon them, save that they should try to dress to please theeyes of men instead of to rival and outshine each other—that theyshould cultivate such sense of art and reason as might happily havesurvived in them—and, above all, from the high principles of religionand philanthropy, that they should abstain from bringing in newfashions violently—or, indeed, at all—leaving the spirit of beautyand the spirit of usefulness to produce their healthy offspring by thenatural processes. In the composition of this paper he had the greatadvantage of being able to study both his own and the woman's point ofview.)

The next day he went to the Exhibition again, and again he saw Patty,with no happier result than before. She was standing amongst thecarriages with Mr. Smith—popularly believed to have been for years onthe look-out for a pretty young second wife—who was pointing out toher the charms of a seductive little lady's phaeton, painted lake andlined with claret, with a little "dickey" for a groom behind; no doubttempting her with the idea of driving such a one of her own some day.This was even more bitter to Paul than the former encounter. He couldbear with Mr. Westmoreland, whose youth entitled him to place himselfsomewhat on an equality with her, and whom, moreover, his rival (ashe thought himself) secretly regarded as beneath contempt; but thisgrey-bearded widower, whose defunct wife might almost have been hergrandmother, Paul felt he could not bear, in any sort of conjunctionwith his maiden queen, who, though in such dire disgrace, was his queenalways. He went hastily away that he might not see them together, andget bad thoughts into his head—such as, for instance, that Patty mightbe contemplating the incredible degradation of matrimony with thewidower, in order to be able to drive the prettiest pony carriage intown.

He went away, but he came back again in a day or two. And then he sawher standing in the nave, with Mr. Smith again, looking at Kate Kelly,newly robed in black, and prancing up and down, in flowing hair andthree-inch veil, and high heels and furbelows, putting on all sortsof airs and graces because, a few hours before, Ned had crowned hisexploits and added a new distinction to the family by being hung ingaol; and she (Patty) could not only bear that shabby and shamelessspectacle, but was even listening while Mr. Smith cut jokes aboutit—this pitiful demolishment of our imagined Kate Kelly, our GrizellHume of the bush—and smiling at his misplaced humour. The fact beingthat poor Patty was aware of her lover's proximity, and was moved tounnatural and hysteric mirth in order that he might not carry away themistaken notion that she was fretting for him. But Paul, who could seeno further through a stone wall than other men, was profoundly shockedand disgusted.

And yet once more he saw his beloved, whom he tried so hard to hate.On the night of the 17th—a Wednesday night—he had yawned throughan uninteresting, and to him unprofitable, session of the Assembly,dealing with such mere practical matters as the passing in committeeof clauses of railway bills and rabbit bills, which neither enlivenedthe spirits and speeches of honourable members nor left a press criticanything in particular to criticise; and at a few minutes aftermidnight he was sauntering through the streets to his office, andchanced to pass the Town Hall, where the great ball of the Exhibitionyear was going on. It was not chance, perhaps, that led him thatway—along by the chief entrance, round which carriages and cabs werestanding in a dense black mass, and where even the pavements were toomuch crowded by loiterers to be comfortable to the pedestrian abroadon business. But it was chance that gave him a glimpse of Patty atthe only moment of the night when he could have seen her. As hewent by he looked up at the lighted vestibule with a sneer. He wasnot himself of the class which went to balls of that description—hehonestly believed he had no desire to be, and that, as a worker forhis bread, endowed with brains instead of money, he was at an infiniteadvantage over those who did; but he knew that the three Miss Kingswould be numbered with the elect. He pictured Patty in gorgeous array,bare-necked and bare-armed, displaying her dancing-class acquirementsfor the edification of the gilded youth of the Melbourne Club, whirlinground and round, with flushed cheeks and flying draperies, in thearms of young Westmoreland and his brother hosts, intoxicated withflattery and unwholesome excitement, and he made up his mind thatshe was only beginning the orgy of the night, and might be expectedto trail home, dishevelled, when the stars grew pale in the summerdawn. However, as this surmise occurred to him it was dispelled by thevision of Mrs. Duff-Scott coming out of the light and descending theflight of steps in front of him. He recognised her majestic figure inspite of its wraps, and the sound of her voice directing the majorto call the carriage up. She had a regal—or, I should rather say,vice-regal—habit of leaving a ball-room early (generally after havingbeen amongst the first to be taken to supper), as he might have knownhad he known a little more about her. It was one of the trivial littlecustoms that indicated her rank. Paul looked up at her for a moment, tomake sure that she had all her party with her; and then he drew intothe shadow of a group of bystanders to watch them drive off.

First came the chaperon herself, with Eleanor leaning lightly on herarm, and a couple of hosts in attendance. Eleanor was not bare-armedand necked, nor was she dishevelled; she had just refreshed herselfwith chicken and champagne, and was looking as composed and fairand refined as possible in her delicate white gown and unruffledyellow hair—like a tall lily, I feel I ought (and for a moment wastempted) to add, only that I know no girl ever did look like a lilysince the world was made, nor ever will, no matter what the processesof evolution may come to. This pair, or quartette, were followed byElizabeth, escorted on one side by the little major and on the other bybig Mr. Yelverton. She, too, had neither tumbled draperies nor towsledhead, but looked serene and dignified as usual, holding a bouquet toher breast with the one hand, and with the other thriftily guarding herskirts from contact with the pavement. But Mr. Brion took no notice ofher. His attention was concentrated on his Patty, who appeared last ofall, under the charge of that ubiquitous widower (whom he was beginningto hate with a deadly hatred), Mr. Smith. She was as beautifulas—whatever classical or horticultural object the reader likes toimagine—in the uncertain light and in her jealous lover's estimation,when she chanced, after stepping down to his level, to stand within acouple of yards of him to wait for the carriage. No bronze, or deadleaf, or half-ripe chestnut (to which I inadvertently likened it) wasfit to be named in the same breath with that wavy hair that he couldalmost touch, and not all the jewellers' shops in Melbourne could havefurnished a comparison worthy of her lovely eyes. She, too, was dressedin snowy, foamy, feathery white (I use these adjectives in deference toimmemorial custom, and not because they accurately describe the finerqualities of Indian muslin and Mechlin lace), ruffled round her whitethroat and elbows in the most delicately modest fashion; and not ascrap of precious stone or metal was to be seen anywhere to vulgarisethe maidenly simplicity of her attire. He had never seen her look socharming—he had never given himself so entirely to the influence ofher beauty. And she stood there, so close that he could see the riseand fall of the laces on her breast with her gentle breathing, silentand patient, paying no attention to the blandishments of her cavalier,looking tired and pre-occupied, and as far as possible from thecondition in which he had pictured her. Yet, when presently he emergedfrom his obscurity, and strode away, he felt that he had never been insuch a rage of wrath against her. And why, may it be asked? What hadpoor Patty done this time? She had not known that he was there besideher. It was the greatest offence of all that she had committed, andthe culmination of his wrongs.



It was a pity that Paul Brion, looking at Patty's charming figure inthe gaslight, could not have looked into her heart. It is a pity, forus all, that there is no Palace of Truth amongst our sacred edifices,into which we could go—say, once a week—and show ourselves as weare to our neighbours and ourselves. If we could know our friends fromour enemies, whom to trust and whom to shun—if we could vindicateourselves from the false testimony of appearances in the eyes ofthose whom we love and by whom we desire to be loved—not to speak oflarger privileges—what a different world it would be! But we can't,unfortunately. And so Paul carried away with him the impression thathis Patty had become a fine lady—too fine to have any longer a thoughtfor him—than which he had never conceived a baser calumny in his life.

Nor was he the only one who misread her superficial aspect that night.Mrs. Duff-Scott, the most discerning of women, had a fixed beliefthat her girls, all of them, thoroughly enjoyed their first ball.From the moment that they entered the room, a few minutes in advanceof the Governor's party, received by a dozen or two of hosts drawnup in line on either side of the doorway, it was patent to her thatthey would do her every sort of credit; and this anticipation, at anyrate, was abundantly realised. For the greater part of the eveningshe herself was enthroned under the gallery, which roofed a series ofsmall drawing-rooms on this occasion, eminently adapted to matronlyrequirements; and from her arm-chair or sofa corner she looked outthrough curtains of æsthetic hues upon the pretty scene which hadalmost as fresh an interest for her to-night as it had for them. Andno mother could have been more proud than she when one or other wastaken from her side by the most eligible and satisfactory partners,or when for brief minutes they came back to her and gave her anopportunity to pull out a fold or a frill that had become disarranged,or when at intervals during their absence she caught sight of themamongst the throng, looking so distinguished in their expensivelysimple toilettes—those unpretending white muslins upon which she hadnot hesitated to spend the price of her own black velvet and Venetianpoint, whereof the costly richness was obvious to the least instructedobserver—and evidently receiving as much homage and attention as theywell knew what to do with. Now it was Eleanor going by on the arm ofa naval foreigner, to whom she was chatting in that pure German (orequally pure French) that was one of her unaccountable accomplishments,or dancing as if she had danced from childhood with a more importantsomebody else. Now it was Patty, sitting bowered in azaleas on thesteps under the great organ, while the Austrian band (bowered almostout of sight) discoursed Strauss waltzes over her head, and Mr. Smithsat in a significant attitude on the crimson carpet at her feet. Andagain it was Elizabeth, up in the gallery, which was a forest of ferntrees to-night, sitting under the shade of the great green fronds withMr. Yelverton, who had such an evident partiality for her society.Strange to say, Mrs. Duff-Scott, acute as she was in such matters, hadnever thought of Mr. Yelverton as a possible husband, and did not sothink of him now—while noting his proceedings. She was taking so deepan interest in him as a philanthropist and social philosopher thatshe forgot he might have other and less exceptional characteristics;and she left off scheming for Elizabeth when Mr. Smith made choiceof Patty, and was fully occupied in her manoeuvres and anxieties forthe welfare of the younger sisters. That Patty should be the secondMrs. Smith she had quite made up her mind, and that Eleanor should beMrs. Westmoreland was equally a settled thing. With these two affairsapproaching a crisis together, she had quite enough to think of; and,with the prospect of losing two of her children so soon after becomingpossessed of them, she was naturally in no hurry to deprive herselfof the third. She was beginning to regard Elizabeth as destined tobe her surviving comfort when the others were gone, and thereforeabandoned all matrimonial projects on her behalf. Concerning Patty,the fairy godmother felt that her mind was at rest; half-a-dozen timesin an hour and a half did she see the girl in some sort of associationwith Mr. Smith—who finally took her in to supper, and from supperto the cloak-room and carriage. For her she had reached the questionof the trousseau and whom she would invite for bridesmaids. AboutEleanor she was not so easy. It did not seem that Mr. Westmorelandlived up to his privileges; he did not dance with her at all, and wasremarkably attentive to a plain heiress in a vulgar satin gown anddiamonds. However, that was nothing. The bachelors of the club had allthe roomful to entertain, and were obliged to lay aside their privatepreferences for the occasion. He had made his attentions to Eleanorso conspicuous that his proposal was only required as a matter ofform; and Mrs. Duff-Scott felt that she would rather get the fuss ofone engagement over before another came on. So, when the dissipationsof the night were past, she retired from the field with a pleasantsense of almost unalloyed success, and fondly believed that her prettyprotégées were as satisfied with the situation as she was.

But she was wrong. She was mistaken about them all—and most of allabout Patty. When she first came into the room, and the fairy-landeffect of the decorations burst upon her—when she passed up thelane of bachelor hosts, running the gauntlet of their respectful butadmiring observation, like a young queen receiving homage—when thelittle major took her for a slow promenade round the hall and madeher pause for a moment in front of one of the great mirrors thatflanked the flowery orchestra, to show her herself in full length andin the most charming relief against her brilliant surroundings—thegirl certainly did enjoy herself in a manner that bordered closelyupon intoxication. She said very little, but her eyes were radiantand her whole face and figure rapturous, all her delicate soul spreadout like a flower opened to the sunshine under the sensuous andartistic influences thus suddenly poured upon her. And then, after aninterval of vague wonder as to what it was that was missing from thecompleteness of her pleasure—what it was that, being absent, spoiledthe flavour of it all—there came an overpowering longing for herlover's presence and companionship, that lover without whom few ballsare worth the trouble of dressing for, unless I am much mistaken. Andafter she found out that she wanted Paul Brion, who was not there,her gaiety became an excited restlessness, and her enjoyment of thepretty scene around her changed to passionate discontent. Why washe not there? She curled her lip in indignant scorn. Because he waspoor, and a worker for his bread, and therefore was not accounted theequal of Mr. Westmoreland and Mr. Smith. She was too young and ardentto take into account the multitudes of other reasons which entirelyremoved it from the sphere of social grievances; like many anotherwoman, she could see only one side of a subject at a time, and lookedat that through a telescope. It seemed to her a despicably vulgarthing, and an indication of the utter rottenness of the whole fabricof society, that a high-born man of distinguished attainments shouldby common consent be neglected and despised simply because he was notrich. That was how she looked at it. And if Paul Brion had not beenthought good enough for a select assembly, why had she been invited?Her answer to this question was a still more painful testimony to thegenerally improper state of things, and brought her to long for herown legitimate and humble environment, in which she could enjoy herindependence and self-respect, and (which was the idea that tantalisedher most just now) solace her lover with Beethoven sonatas when hewas tired of writing, and wanted a rest. From the longing to seehim in the ballroom, to have him with her as other girls had theirnatural counterparts, to share with her in the various delights ofthis great occasion, she fell to longing to go home to him—to belongto Myrtle Street and obscurity again, just as he did, and because hedid. Why should she be listening to the Austrian band, eating icesand strawberries, rustling to and fro amongst the flowers and fineladies, flaunting herself in this dazzling crowd of rich and idlepeople, while he plodded at his desk or smoked a lonely pipe on hisbalcony, out of it all, and with nothing to cheer him? Then the memoryof their estrangement, and how it had come about, and how little chancethere seemed now of any return to old relations and those blessedopportunities that she had so perversely thrown away, wrought upon herhigh-strung nerves, and inspired her with a kind of heroism of despair.Poor, thin-skinned Patty! She was sensitive to circ*mstances to adegree that almost merited the term "morbid," which is so convenientas a description of people of that sort. A ray of sunshine would lightup the whole world, and show her her own pathway in it, shining intothe farthest future with a divine effulgence of happiness and success;and the patter of rain upon the window on a dark day could beat downhope and discourage effort as effectually as if its natural missionwere to bring misfortune. At one moment she would be inflated with aproud belief in herself and her own value and dignity, that gave herthe strength of a giant to be and do and suffer; and then, at somelittle touch of failure, some discovery that she was mortal and a womanliable to blunder, as were other women, she would collapse into nothingand fling herself into the abysses of shame and self-condemnation asa worthless and useless thing. When this happened, her only chance ofrescue and restoration in her own esteem was to do penance in somestriking shape—to prove herself to herself as having some genuinenessof moral substance in her, though it were only to own honestly howlittle it was. It was above all things necessary to her to have herown good opinion; what others thought of her was comparatively of noconsequence.

She had been dancing for some time before the intercourse with Mr.Smith, that so gratified Mrs. Duff-Scott, set in. The portly widowerfound her fanning herself on a sofa in the neighbourhood of herchaperon, for the moment unattended by cavaliers; and, approachingher with one of the frequent little plates and spoons that werehanded about, invited her favour through the medium of three colossalstrawberries veiled in sugar and cream.

"I am so grieved that I am not a dancing man," he sighed as she refusedhis offering on the ground that she had already eaten strawberriestwice; "I would ask leave to inscribe my humble name on your programme,Miss Patty."

"I don't see anything to grieve about," she replied, "in not being adancing man. I am sure I don't want to dance. And you may inscribe yourname on my programme and welcome"—holding it out to him. "It will keepother people from doing it."

The delighted old fellow felt that this was indeed meeting him halfway, and he put his name down for all the available round dances thatwere to take place before morning, with her free permission. Then, asthe band struck up for the first of them, and the people about thembegan to crystallise into pairs and groups, and the smart man-o'-warsmen stretched their crimson rope across the hall to divide the crowd,Mr. Smith took his young lady on his arm and went off to enjoy himself.First to the buffet, crowned with noble icebergs to cool the air, andgroaning with such miscellaneous refreshment that supper, in its duecourse, came to her as a surprise and a superfluity, where he insistedthat she should support her much-tried strength (as he did his own)with a sandwich and champagne. Then up a narrow staircase to the grovesabove—where already sat Elizabeth in a distant and secluded bower withMr. Yelverton, lost, apparently, to all that went on around her. HereMr. Smith took a front seat, that the young men might see and envy him,and set himself to the improvement of his opportunity.

"And so you don't care about dancing," he remarked tenderly; "you, withthese little fairy feet! I wonder why that is?"

"Because I am not used to it," said Patty, leaning her white arms onthe ledge in front of her and looking down at the shining sea of headsbelow. "I have been brought up to other accomplishments."

"Music," he murmured; "and—and—"

"And scrubbing and sweeping, and washing and ironing, and churning andbread-making, and cleaning dirty pots and kettles," said Patty, withelaborate distinctness.

"Ha-ha!" chuckled Mr. Smith. "I should like to see you cleaning potsand kettles! Cinderella after twelve o'clock, eh?"

"Yes," said she; "you have expressed it exactly. After twelveo'clock—what time is it now?—after twelve o'clock, or it may be alittle later, I shall be Cinderella again. I shall take off my glassslippers, and go back to my kitchen." And she had an impulse to riseand run round the gallery to beg Elizabeth to get permission for theirreturn to their own lodgings after the ball; only Elizabeth seemed tobe enjoying her tête-à-tête so much that she had not the heart todisturb her. Then she looked up at Mr. Smith, who stared at her in apuzzled and embarrassed way. "You don't seem to believe me," she said,with a defiant smile. "Did you think I was a fine lady, like all theseother people?"

"I have always thought you the most lovely—the most charming—"

"Nonsense. I see you don't understand at all. So just listen, and Iwill tell you." Whereupon Patty proceeded to sketch herself and herdomestic circ*mstances in what, had it been another person, would havebeen a simply brutal manner. She made herself out to be a Cinderellaindeed, in her life and habits, a parasite, a sycophant, a jay inborrowed plumage—everything that was sordid and "low," and calculatedto shock the sensibilities of a "new rich" man; making her statementwith calm energy and in the most terse and expressive terms. It was herpenance, and it did her good. It made her feel that she was genuine inher unworthiness, which was the great thing just now; and it made herfeel, also, that she was set back in her proper place at Paul Brion'sside—or, rather, at his feet. It also comforted her, for some reason,to be able, as a matter of duty, to disgust Mr. Smith.

But Mr. Smith, though he was a "new rich" man, and not given to tellpeople who did not know it what he had been before he got his money,was still a man, and a shrewd man too. And he was not at all disgusted.Very far, indeed, from it. This admirable honesty, so rare in a youngperson of her sex and charms—this touching confidence in him as alover and a gentleman—put the crowning grace to Patty's attractionsand made her irresistible. Which was not what she meant to do at all.



Some hours earlier on the same evening, Eleanor, dressing for dinnerand the ball in her spacious bedroom at Mrs. Duff-Scott's house, feltthat she, at any rate, was arming herself for conquest. No misgivingsof any sort troubled the serene and rather shallow waters of thatyoung lady's mind. While her sisters were tossing to and fro in theperturbations of the tender passion, she had calmly taken her bearings,so to speak, and was sailing a straight course. She had summed up herpossibilities and arranged her programme accordingly. In short, she hadmade up her mind to marry Mr. Westmoreland—who, if not all that couldbe desired in a man and a husband, was well enough—and thereby totake a short cut to Europe, and to all those other goals towards whichher feet were set. As Mr. Westmoreland himself boasted, some yearsafterwards, Eleanor was not a fool; and I feel sure that this negativeexcellence, herein displayed, will not fail to commend itself to thegentle reader of her little history.

She had made up her mind to marry Mr. Westmoreland, and to-night shemeant that he should ask her. Looking at her graceful person in thelong glass, with a soft smile on her face, she had no doubt of herpower to draw forth that necessary question at any convenient moment.It had not taken her long to learn her power; nor had she failed to seethat it had its limitations, and that possibly other and greater menmight be unaffected by it. She was a very sensible young woman, but Iwould not have any one run off with the idea that she was mercenaryand calculating in the sordid sense. No, she was not in love, likeElizabeth and Patty; but that was not her fault. And in arranging hermatrimonial plans she was actuated by all sorts of tender and humanmotives. In the first place, she liked her admirer, who was fond of herand a good comrade, and whom she naturally invested with many idealexcellences that he did not actually possess; and she liked (as willany single woman honestly tell me that she does not?) the thought ofthe dignities and privileges of a wife, and of that dearer and deeperhappiness that lay behind. She was in haste to snatch at them whileshe had the chance, lest the dreadful fate of a childless old maidshould some day overtake her—as undoubtedly it did overtake the veryprettiest girls sometimes. And she was in love with the prospect ofwealth at her own disposal, after her narrow experiences; not from anyvulgar love of luxury and display, but for the sake of the enrichedlife, bright and full of beauty and knowledge, that it would makepossible for her sisters as well as herself. If these motives seempoor and inadequate, in comparison with the great motive of all (asno doubt they are), we must remember that they are at the bottom of aconsiderable proportion of the marriages of real life, and not perhapsthe least successful ones. It goes against me to admit so much, but onemust take things as one finds them.

Elizabeth came in to lace up her bodice—Elizabeth, whose own soft eyeswere shining, and who walked across the floor with an elastic step,trailing her long robes behind her; and Eleanor vented upon her some ofthe fancies which were seething in her small head. "Don't we look likebrides?" she said, nodding at their reflections in the glass.

"Or bridesmaids," said Elizabeth. "Brides wear silks and satins mostly,I believe."

"If they only knew it," said Eleanor reflectively, "muslin and lace aremuch more becoming to the complexion. When I am married, Elizabeth,I think I shall have my dress made of that 'woven dew' that we werelooking at in the Exhibition the other day."

"My dear girl, when you are married you will do nothing sopreposterous. Do you suppose we are always going to let Mrs. Duff-Scottsquander her money on us like this? I was telling her in her room justnow that we must begin to draw the line. It is too much. The lace onthese gowns cost a little fortune. But lace is always family property,and I shall pick it off and make her take it back again. So just bevery careful not to tear it, dear."

"She won't take it back," said Eleanor, fingering it delicately;"she looks on us as her children, for whom nothing is too good. Andperhaps—perhaps some day we may have it in our power to do things forher."

"I wish I could think so. But there is no chance of that."

"How can you tell? When we are married, we may be very well off—"

"That would be to desert her, Nelly, and to cut off all ouropportunities for repaying her."

"No. It would please her more than anything. We might settle downclose to her—one of us, at any rate—and she could advise us aboutfurnishing and housekeeping. To have the choosing of the colours forour drawing-rooms, and all that sort of thing, would give her ecstasiesof delight."

"Bless her!" was Elizabeth's pious and fervent rejoinder.

Then Eleanor laid out her fan and gloves for the evening, and thegirls went down to dinner. Patty was in the music-room, working offher excitement in one of Liszt's rhapsodies, to which Mrs. Duff-Scottwas listening with critical approval—the girl very seldom putting herbrilliant powers of execution to such evident proof; and the major wassmiling to himself as he paced gently up and down the Persian carpetedparquet of the long drawing-room beyond, waiting for the sound of thedinner bell, and the appearance of his dear Elizabeth. As soon as shecame in, he went up to her, still subtly smiling, carrying a beautifulbouquet in his hand. It was composed almost entirely of that flowerwhich is so sweet and lovely, but so rare in Australia, the lily ofthe valley (and lest the reader should say it was impossible, I cantell him or her that I saw it and smelt it that very night, and in thatvery Melbourne ballroom where Elizabeth disported herself, with my owneyes and nose), the great cluster of white bells delicately thinned andveiled in the finest and most ethereal feathers of maiden-hair. "Foryou," said the major, looking at her with his sagacious eyes.

"Oh!" she cried, taking it with tremulous eagerness, and inhaling itsdelicious perfume in a long breath. "Real lilies of the valley, and Ihave never seen them before. But not for me, surely," she added; "Ihave already the beautiful bouquet you told the gardener to cut for me."

"You may make that over to my wife," said the major, plaintively. "Ithought she was above carrying flowers about with her to parties—sheused to say it was bad art—you did, my dear, so don't deny it; youtold me distinctly that that was not what flowers were meant for. Butshe says she will have your bouquet, Elizabeth, so that you may not beafraid of hurting my feelings by taking this that is so much better.Where the fellow got it from I can't imagine. I only know of one placewhere lilies of the valley grow, and they are not for sale there."

Elizabeth looked at him with slowly-crimsoning cheeks. "What fellow?"she asked.

He returned her look with one that only Major Duff-Scott's eyes couldgive. "I don't know," he said softly.

"He does know," his wife broke in; "I can see by his manner that heknows perfectly well."

"I assure you, on my word of honour, that I don't," protested thelittle major, still with a distant sparkle in his quaint eyes. "It wasbrought to the door just now by somebody, who said it was for MissKing—that's all."

"It might be for any of them," said Mrs. Duff-Scott, slightly put outby the liberty that somebody had taken without her leave. "They are allMiss Kings to outside people. It was a very stupid way of sending it."

"Will you take it for yourself?" said Elizabeth, holding it out to herchaperon. "Let me keep my own, and you take this."

"O no," said Mrs. Duff-Scott, flinging out her hands. "That would neverdo. It was meant for one of you, of course—not for me. I think Mr.Smith sent it. It must have been either he or Mr. Westmoreland, and Ifancy Mr. Westmoreland would not choose lilies of the valley, even ifhe could get them. I think you had better draw lots for it, pendingfurther information."

Patty, rising from the piano with a laugh, declared that she wouldnot have it, on any account. Eleanor believed that it was meant forher, and that Mr. Westmoreland had better taste than people gave himcredit for; and she had a mind to put in her claim for it. But themajor set her aside gently. "No," he said, "it belongs to Elizabeth.I don't know who sent it—you may shake your head at me, my dear; Ican't help it if you don't believe me—but I am convinced that it isElizabeth's lawful property."

"As if that didn't prove that you know!" retorted Mrs. Duff-Scott.

He was still looking at Elizabeth, who was holding her lilies of thevalley to her breast. His eyes asked her whether she did not endorsehis views, and when she lifted her face at the sound of the dinnerbell, she satisfied him, without at all intending to do so, that shedid. She knew that the bouquet had been sent for her.

It was carefully set into the top of a cloisonné pot in a cool corneruntil dinner was over, and until the girls were wrapped up and thecarriage waiting for them at the hall door. Then the elder sisterfetched it from the drawing-room, and carried it out into the balmysummer night, still held against her breast as if she were afraid itmight be taken from her; and the younger sister gazed at it smilingly,convinced that it was Mr. Westmoreland's tribute to herself, andmagnanimously determined to beg him not to let Elizabeth know it.Thus the evening began happily for both of them. And by-and-bye theircarriage slowly ploughed its way to the Town Hall entrance, and theywent up the stone stairs to the vestibule and the cloak-room and theball-room, and had their names shouted out so that every ear listeningfor them should hear and heed, and were received by the hospitablebachelors and passed into the great hall that was so dazzlinglysplendid to their unsophisticated eyes; and the first face that Eleanorwas aware of was Mr. Westmoreland's, standing out solidly from thedouble row of them that lined the doorway. She gave him a side-longglance as she bowed and passed, and then stood by her chaperon's sidein the middle of the room, and waited for him to come to her. But hedid not come. She waited, and watched, and listened, with her thanksand explanations all ready, chatting smilingly to her party the whilein perfect ease of mind; but, to her great surprise, she waited invain. Perhaps he had to stand by the door till the Governor came;perhaps he had other duties to perform that kept him from her and hisprivate pursuits; perhaps he had forgotten that he had asked her forthe first dance two days ago; perhaps he had noticed her bouquet, andhad supposed that she had given it away, and was offended with her.She had a serene and patient temperament, and did not allow herself tobe put out; it would all be explained presently. And in the meantimethe major introduced his friends to her, and she began to fill herprogramme rapidly.

The evening passed on. Mrs. Duff-Scott settled herself in theparticular one of the series of boudoirs under the gallery that struckher as having a commanding prospect. The Governor came, the bandplayed, the guests danced, and promenaded, and danced again; and Mr.Westmoreland was nowhere to be seen. Eleanor was beset with otherpartners, and thought it well to punish him by letting them forestallhim as they would; and, provisionally, she captivated a couple of navalofficers by her proficiency in foreign languages, and made various menhappy by her graceful and gay demeanour. By-and-bye, however, she cameacross her recreant admirer—as she was bound to do some time. He wasleaning against a pillar, his dull eyes roving over the crowd beforehim, evidently looking for some one. She thought he was looking for her.

"Well?" she said, archly, pausing before him, on the arm of anExhibition commissioner with whom she was about to plunge into theintricacies of the lancers. Mr. Westmoreland looked at her with a startand in momentary confusion.

"Oh—er," he stammered, hurriedly, "here you are! Where have you beenhiding yourself all the evening?" Then, after a pause, "Got any dancessaved for me?"

"Saved, indeed!" she retorted. "What next? When you don't take thetrouble to come and ask for them!"

"I am so engaged to-night, Miss Eleanor——"

"I see you are. Never mind—I can get on without you." She walked on astep, and turned back. "Did you send me a pretty bouquet just now?" shewhispered, touching his arm. "I think you did, and it was so good ofyou, but there was some mistake about it—" She checked herself, seeinga blank look in his face, and blushed violently. "Oh, it was notyou!" she exclaimed, in a shocked voice, wishing the ball-room floorwould open and swallow her up.

"Really," he said, "I—I was very remiss—I'm awfully sorry." And hegave her to understand, to her profound consternation, that he hadfully intended to send her a bouquet, but had forgotten it in the rushof his many important engagements.

She passed on to her lancers with a wan smile, and presently saw him,under those seductive fern trees upstairs, with the person whom hehad been looking for when she accosted him. "There's Westmoreland andhis old flame," remarked her then partner, a club-frequenting youthwho knew all about everybody. "He calls her the handsomest womanout—because she's got a lot of money, I suppose. All the Westmorelandsare worshippers of the golden calf, father and son—a regular set ofscrews the old fellows were, and he's got the family eye to the mainchance. Trust him! I can't see anything in her; can you? She's asround as a tub, and as swarthy as a gipsy. I like women"—looking athis partner—"to be tall, and slender, and fair. That's my style."

This was how poor Eleanor's pleasure in her first ball was spoiled.I am aware that it looks a very poor and shabby little episode, notworthy of a chapter to itself; but then things are not always what theyseem, and, as a matter of fact, the life histories of a large majorityof us are made up of just such unheroic passages.



When Elizabeth went into the room, watchfully attended by the major,who was deeply interested in her proceedings, she was perhaps thehappiest woman of all that gala company. She was in love, and she wasgoing to meet her lover—which things meant to her something differentfrom what they mean to girls brought up in conventional habits ofthought. Eve in the Garden of Eden could not have been more pure andunsophisticated, more absolutely natural, more warmly human, moreblindly confiding and incautious than she; therefore she had obeyed herstrongest instinct without hesitation or reserve, and had given herselfup to the delight of loving without thought of cost or consequences.Where her affections were concerned she was incapable of compromise orcalculation; it was only the noble and simple rectitude that was thefoundation of her character and education which could "save her fromherself," as we call it, and that only in the last extremity. Justnow she was in the full flood-tide, and she let herself go with itwithout an effort. Adam's "graceful consort" could not have had a moreprimitive notion of what was appropriate and expected of her under thecirc*mstances. She stood in the brilliant ball-room, without a particleof self-consciousness, in an attitude of unaffected dignity, and with aradiance of gentle happiness all over her, that made her beautiful tolook at, though she was not technically beautiful. The major watchedher with profound interest, reading her like an open book; he knew whatwas happening, and what was going to happen (he mostly did), thoughhe had a habit of keeping his own counsel about his own discoveries.He noted her pose, which, besides being so admirably graceful, soevidently implied expectancy; the way she held her flowers to herbreast, her chin just touched by the fringes of maiden-hair, while shegently turned her head from side to side. And he saw her lift her eyesto the gallery, saw at the same moment a light spread over her facethat had a superficial resemblance to a smile, though her sensitivemouth never changed its expression of firm repose; and, chucklingsilently to himself, he walked away to find a sofa for his wife.

Presently Mrs. Duff-Scott, suitably enthroned, and with her youngergirls already carried off by her husband from her side, saw Mr.Yelverton approaching her, and rejoiced at the prospect of securing hissociety for herself and having the tedium of the chaperon's inactivityrelieved by sensible conversation. "Ah, so you are here!" she exclaimedcordially; "I thought balls were things quite out of your line."

"So they are," he said, shaking hands with her and Elizabethimpartially, without a glance at the latter. "But I consider it a dutyto investigate the customs of the country. I like to look all roundwhen I am about it."

"Quite right. This is distinctly one of our institutions, and I am veryglad you are not above taking notice of it."

"I am not above taking notice of anything, I hope."

"No, of course not. You are a true philosopher. There is nodilettantism about you. That is what I like in you," she added frankly."Come and sit down here between Miss King and me, and talk to us. Iwant to know how the emigration business is getting on."

He sat down between the two ladies, Elizabeth drawing back her whiteskirts.

"I have been doing no business, emigration or other," he said; "I havebeen spending my time in pleasure."

"Is it possible? Well, I am glad to hear it. I should very much liketo know what stands for pleasure with you, only it would be too rude aquestion."

"I have been in the country," he said, smiling.

"H—m—that's not saying much. You don't mean to tell me, I see.Talking of the country—look at Elizabeth's bouquet. Did you think wecould raise lilies of the valley like those?"

He bent his head slightly to smell them. "I heard that they did growhereabouts," he said; and his eyes and Elizabeth's met for a momentover the fragrant flowers that she held between them, while Mrs.Duff-Scott detailed the negligent circ*mstances of their presentation,which left it a matter of doubt where they came from and for whom theywere intended.

"I want to find Mr. Smith," said she; "I fancy he can give usinformation."

"I don't think so," said Mr. Yelverton; "he was showing me a lily ofthe valley in his button-hole just now as a great rarity in theseparts."

Then it flashed across Mrs. Duff-Scott that Paul Brion might have beenthe donor, and she said no more.

For some time the trio sat upon the sofa, and the matron and thephilanthropist discussed political economy in its modern developments.They talked about emigration; they talked about protection—and whereina promising, but inexperienced, young country was doing its best toretard the wheels of progress—as if they were at a committee meetingrather than disporting themselves at a ball. The major found partnersfor the younger girls, but he left Elizabeth to her devices; at leasthe did so for a long time—until it seemed to him that she was beingneglected by her companions. Then he started across the room to rescueher from her obscurity. At the moment that he came in sight, Mr.Yelverton turned to her. "What about dancing, Miss King?" he said,quickly. "May I be allowed to do my best?"

"I cannot dance," said Elizabeth. "I began too late—I can't take toit, somehow."

"My dear," said Mrs. Duff-Scott, "that is nonsense. All you want ispractice. And I am not going to allow you to become a wall-flower." Sheturned her head to greet some newly-arrived friends, and Mr. Yelvertonrose and offered his arm to Elizabeth.

"Let us go and practise," he said, and straightway they passed down theroom, threading a crowd once more, and went upstairs to the gallery,which was a primeval forest in its solitude at this comparativelyearly hour. "There is no reason why you should dance if you don't likeit," he remarked; "we can sit here and look on." Then, when she wascomfortably settled in her cushions under the fern trees, he leanedforward and touched her bouquet with a gesture that was significant ofthe unacknowledged but well-understood intimacy between them. "I am soglad I was able to get them for you," he said; "I wanted you to knowwhat they were really like—when you told me how much your mother hadloved them."

"I can't thank you," she replied.

"Do not," he said. "It is for me to thank you for accepting them. Iwish you could see them in my garden at Yelverton. There is a darkcorner between two gables of the house where they make a perfect carpetin April."

She lifted those she held to her face, and sniffed luxuriously.

"There is a room in that recess," he went on, "a lady's sitting-room.Not a very healthy spot, by the way, it is too dank and dark. It wasfitted up for poor Elizabeth Leigh when my two uncles, Patrick andKingscote, expected her to come and live there, each wanting her forhis wife—so my grandmother used to say. It has never been altered,though nearly all the rest of the house has been turned inside out. Ithink the lilies of the valley were planted there for her. I wish youcould see that room. You would like sitting by the open window—it isone of those old diamond-paned casem*nts, and has got some interestingstained glass in it—and seeing the sun shine on the grey wallsoutside, and smelling the lilies in that green well that the sun cannotreach down below. It is just one of those things that would suit you."

She listened silently, gazing at the great organ opposite, towering outof the groves of flowers at its base, without seeing what it was shelooked at. After a pause he went on, still leaning forward, with hisarms resting on his knees. "I can think of nothing now but how much Iwant you to see and know everything that makes my life at home," hesaid.

"Tell me about it," she said, with the woman's instinctive desire fordelay at this juncture, not because she didn't want to hear the rest,but to prolong the sweetness of anticipation; "tell me what your lifeat Yelverton is like."

"I have not had much of it at present," he replied, after a briefpause. "The place was let for a long while. Then, when I took it overagain, I made it into a sort of convalescent home, and training-place,and general starting-point for girls and children—protégées of myfriend who does slumming in the orthodox way. Though he disapprovesof me he makes use of me, and, of course, I don't disapprove of him,and am very glad to help him. The house is too big for me alone, andit seems the best use I can put it to. Of course I keep control ofit; I take the poor things in on the condition that they are to bedisciplined after my system and not his—his may be the best, but theydon't enjoy it as they do mine—and when I am at home I run down once aweek or so to see how they are getting on."

"And how is it now?"

"Now the house is just packed, I believe, from top to bottom. I gota letter a few days ago from my faithful lieutenant, who looks afterthings for me, to say that it couldn't hold many more, and that thefunds of the institution are stretched to their utmost capacity toprovide supplies."

"The funds? Oh, you must certainly use that other money now!"

"Yes, I shall use it now. I have, indeed, already appropriated a smallinstalment. I told Le Breton to draw on it, rather than let one childgo that we could take—rather than let one opportunity be lost."

"You have other people working with you, then?"

"A good many—yes, and a very miscellaneous lot you would think them.Le Breton is the one I trust as I do myself. I could not have been herenow if it had not been for him. He is my right hand."

"Who is he?" she asked, fascinated, in spite of her preoccupations, bythis sketch of a life that had really found its mission in the world,and one so beneficent and so satisfying.

"He is a very interesting man," said Mr. Yelverton, who still leanedtowards her, touching her flowers occasionally with a tender audacity;"a man to respect and admire—a brave man who would have been burnt atthe stake had he lived a few centuries ago. He was once a clergyman,but he gave that up."

"He gave it up!" repeated Elizabeth, who had read "Thomas à Kempis" andthe Christian Year daily since she was a child, as her mother haddone before her.

"He couldn't stand it," said Mr. Yelverton, simply. "You see he was aman with a very literal, and straight-going, and independent mind—amind that could nohow bend itself to the necessities of the case. Idon't suppose he ever really gave himself up out of his own control,but, at any rate, when he got to know the world and the kind of timethat we had come to, he couldn't pretend to shut his eyes. He couldn'tmake-believe that he was all the same as he had been when a mere ladof three-and-twenty, and that nothing had happened to change thingswhile he had been learning and growing. And once he fell out withhis conscience there was no patching up the breach with compromisesfor him. He tried it, poor fellow—he had a tough tussle before hegave in. It was a great step to take, you know—a martyrdom with allthe pain and none of the glory—that nobody could sympathise with orunderstand."

Elizabeth was sitting very still, watching with unseeing eyes theglitter of a conspicuous diamond tiara in the moving crowd below. She,at any rate, could neither sympathise nor understand.

"He was in the thick of his troubles when I first met him," Mr.Yelverton went on. "He was working hard in one of the East Endparishes, doing his level best, as the Yankees say, and tormented allthe time, not only by his own scruples and self-accusations, but by aperfect hornet's nest of ecclesiastical persecutors. I said to him. 'Bean honest man, and give up being a parson—'"

"Isn't it possible to be both?" Elizabeth broke in.

"No doubt it is. But it was not possible for him. Seeing that, Iadvised him to let go, and leave those that could to hold on—as I amglad they do hold on, for we want the brake down at the rate we aregoing. He was in agonies of dread about the future, because he had awife and children, so I offered him a salary equal to the emolumentsof his living to come and work with me. 'You and I will do what goodwe can together,' I said, 'without pretending to be anything more thanwhat we know we are.' And so he cast in his lot with me, and we haveworked together ever since. They call him all sorts of bad names, buthe doesn't care—at least not much. It is such a relief to him to beable to hold his head up as a free man—and he does work with such azest compared to what he did!"

"And you," said Elizabeth, drawing short breaths, "what are you?—areyou a Dissenter, too?"

"Very much so, I think," he said, smiling at a term that to him, anEnglishman, was obsolete, while to her, an Australian born, it hadstill its ancient British significance (for she had been born andreared in her hermit home, the devoutest of English-churchwomen).

"And yet, in one sense, no one could be less so."

"But what are you?" she urged, suddenly revealing to him that she wasfrightened by this ambiguity.

"Really, I don't know," he replied, looking at her gravely. "I thinkif I had to label my religious faith in the usual way, with a motto, Ishould say I was a Humanitarian. The word has been a good deal batteredabout and spoiled, but it expresses my creed better than any other."

"A Humanitarian!" she ejacul*ted with a cold and sinking heart. "Isthat all?" To her, in such a connection, it was but another word for aninfidel.



A little group of their male attendants stood in the lobby, while Mrs.Duff-Scott and the girls put on their wraps in the cloak-room. When theladies reappeared, they fell into the order in which Paul, unseen inthe shadows of the street, saw them descend the steps to the pavement.

"May I come and see you to-morrow morning?" asked Mr. Yelverton ofElizabeth, whom he especially escorted.

"Not—not to-morrow," she replied. "We shall be at Myrtle Street, andwe never receive any visitors there."

"At Myrtle Street!" exclaimed the major, who also walked beside her."Surely you are not going to run off to Myrtle Street to-morrow?"

"We are going there now," said she, "if we can get in. Mrs. Duff-Scottknows."

"Let them alone," said the chaperon, looking back over her shoulder."If they have a fancy to go home they shall go. I won't have thempersuaded." She was as reluctant to leave them at Myrtle Street as themajor could be, but she carefully abstained, as she always did, frominterfering with their wishes when nothing of importance was involved.She was wise enough to know that she would have the stronger hold onthem by seeming to leave them their liberty.

They were put into the carriage by their attentive cavaliers, the majortaking his now frequent box seat in order to accompany them; and Mr.Smith and Mr. Yelverton were left standing on the pavement. Arrivedat Myrtle Street, it was found that the house was still open, and thegirls bade the elder couple an effusively affectionate and compunctiousgood-night.

"And when shall I see you again?" Mrs. Duff-Scott inquired, with acarefully composed smile and cheerful air.

"To-morrow," said Elizabeth, eagerly; "to-morrow, of course, some ofus will come." All three girls had a painful feeling that they wereungrateful, while under obligations to be grateful, in spite of theirfriend's effort to prevent it, as they stood a moment in the warm nightat their street door, and watched the carriage roll away. And yet theywere so glad to be on their own "tauri" to-night—even Eleanor, who hadgrown more out of tune with the old frugal life than any of them.

They were let in by the ground-floor landlady, with whom they chattedfor a few minutes, arranging about the materials for their breakfast;then they went upstairs to their lonely little bedrooms, where theylit their candles and began at once to prepare for bed. They were deadtired, they said, and wanted to sleep and not to talk.

But a full hour after their separation for the night, each one was aswide awake as she had been all day. Elizabeth was kneeling on the floorby her bedside, still half-dressed—she had not changed her attitudefor a long time, though the undulations of her body showed how far frompassive rest she was—when Patty, clothed only in her night-gown, creptin, making no noise with her bare feet.

"Elizabeth," she whispered, laying her hand on her sister's shoulder,"are you asleep?—or are you saying your prayers?"

Elizabeth, startled, lifted up her head, and disclosed to Patty's gazein the candle-light a pale, and strained, and careworn face, "I wassaying my prayers," she replied, with a dazed look. "Why are you out ofbed, my darling? What is the matter?"

"That is what I want to know," said Patty, sitting down on the bed."What is the matter with us all? What has come to us? Nelly has beencrying ever since I put the light out—she thought I couldn't hear her,but she was mistaken—sobbing and sniffing under the bedclothes, andblowing her nose in that elaborately cautious way—"

"Oh, poor, dear child!" interrupted the maternal elder sister, making astart towards the door.

"No, don't go to her," said Patty, putting out her hand; "leave heralone—she is quiet now. Besides, you couldn't do her any good. Do youknow what she is fretting about? Because Mr. Westmoreland has beenneglecting her. Would you believe it? She is caring about it, afterall—and we thought it was only fun. She doesn't care about him, shecouldn't do that—"

"We can't tell," interrupted Elizabeth. "It is not for us to say.Perhaps she does, poor child!"

"Oh, she couldn't," Patty scornfully insisted. "That is quiteimpossible. No, she has got fond of this life that we are living nowwith Mrs. Duff-Scott—I have seen it, how it has laid hold of her—andshe would like to marry him so that she could have it always. That iswhat she has come to. Oh, Elizabeth, don't you wish we had gone toEurope at the very first, and never come to Melbourne at all!" HerePatty herself broke down, and uttered a little shaking, hysterical sob."Everything seems to be going wrong with us here! It does not look so,I know, but at the bottom of my heart I feel it. Why did we turn asideto waste and spoil ourselves like this, instead of going on to the lifethat we had laid out—a real life, that we should never have had to beashamed of?"

Elizabeth was silent for a few minutes, soothing her sister'sexcitement with maternal caresses, and at the same time thinking withall her might. "We must try not to get confused," she said presently."Life is life, you know, Patty, wherever you are—all the other thingsare incidental. And we need not try to struggle with everything atonce. I think we have done our best, when we have had anything todo—any serious step to take—since we came to Melbourne; and in Europewe could have done no more. It seemed right to please Mrs. Duff-Scott,and to accept such a treasure as her friendship when it came to us inwhat seemed such a providential way—did it not? It seemed so to me. Itwould have been ungenerous to have held out against her—and we werealways a little given to be too proud of standing alone. It makes herhappy to have us. I don't know what work we could have done that wouldhave been more profitable than that. Patty"—after another thoughtfulpause—"I don't think it is that things are going wrong, dear. It isonly that we have to manage them, and to steer our way, and to takecare of ourselves, and that is so trying and perplexing. God knows Ifind it difficult! So, I suppose, does everyone."

"You, Elizabeth? You always seem to know what is right. And you areso good that you never ought to have troubles."

"If Nelly is susceptible to such a temptation as Mr. Westmoreland—Mr.Westmoreland, because he is rich—she would not have gone far with us,in any case," Elizabeth went on, putting aside the allusion to herself."Europe would not have strengthened her. It would have been all thesame. While, as for you, my darling—"

"I—I!" broke in Patty excitedly. "I should have been happy now, andnot as I am! I should have been saved from making a fool of myself if Ihad gone to Europe! I should have been worth something, and able to dosomething, there!"

"How can you tell, dear child? And why do you suppose you have beenfoolish? I don't think so. On the contrary, it has often seemed to methat you have been the sensible one of us all."

"O, Elizabeth, don't laugh at me!" wailed Patty, reproachfully.

"I laugh at you, my darling! What an idea! I mean it, every word. Yousee everything in a distorted and exaggerated way just now, becauseyou are tired and your nerves are over-wrought. You are not yourselfto-night, Patty. You will cheer up—we shall all cheer up—when wehave had a good sleep and a little quiet time to think things over."

"No, I am not myself, indeed," assented Patty, with moody passion. "Iam not myself at all—to be made to feel so weak and miserable!" Sheput her face down in her hands and began to cry with more abandonmentat the thought of how weak she had become.

"But Patty, dearest, there must be something the matter with you," hermotherly elder sister cried, much distressed by this abnormal symptom."Are you feeling ill? Don't frighten me like this."

The girl laid her head upon her sister's shoulder, and there letherself loose from all restraint. "You know what is the matter," shesobbed; "you know as well as I do what is the matter—that it is PaulBrion who worries me so and makes me so utterly wretched."

"Paul Brion! He worry you, Patty—he make you wretched?"

"You have always been delicate and considerate, Elizabeth—you havenever said anything—but I know you know all about it, and how spoiledI am, and how spoiled everything is because of him. I hate to talk ofit—I can't bear even you to see that I am fretting about him—but Ican't help it! and I know you understand. When I have had just one goodcry," she concluded, with a fresh and violent burst of tears, "perhapsI shall get on better."

Elizabeth stared at the wall over her sister's head in dumb amazement,evidently not deserving the credit for perspicacity accorded to her."Do you mean," she said slowly, "do you really mean—"

"Yes," sobbed Patty, desperate, for the moment dead to shame.

"Oh, how blind—how wickedly blind—how stupid—how selfish I havebeen!" Elizabeth exclaimed, after another pause in which to collecther shocked and bewildered faculties. "I never dreamt about it, mydarling—never, for a single moment. I thought—I always had thesettled impression that you did not like him."

"I don't like him," said Patty, fiercely, lifting herself up. "I lovehim—I love him! I must say it right out once, if I never speakanother word," and she bent her head back a little, and stretched outher arms with an indescribable gesture as if she saw him standingbefore her. "He is a man—a real, true, strong man—who works, andthinks, and lives—lives! It is all serious with him, as I wantedit to be with me—and I might have been worthy of him! A littlewhile ago we were so near to each other—so near that we almosttouched—and now no two people could be farther apart. I have donehim wrong—I have been a wicked fool, but I am punished for it out ofall proportion. He flirt with a married woman! What could I havebeen dreaming of? Oh, how disgusting I must be to have allowed suchan idea to come into my head! And yet it was only a little thing,Elizabeth, when you come to think of it relatively—the only time Iever really did him injustice, and it was only for a moment. No one canalways do what is right and fair without making a mistake sometimes—itwas just a mistake for want of thinking. But it has taken him from meas completely as if I had committed suicide, and was dead and buriedand done with. It has made him hate me. No wonder! If he cared aboutme, I wouldn't be too proud to beg his pardon, but he doesn't—hedoesn't! And so I must face it out, or else he will think I am runningafter him, and he will despise me more than he does already."

"But if he was doing no harm," said Elizabeth, soothingly, "he couldnot suppose that you thought he was."

"No," said Patty, "he will never think I was so disgusting as to thinkthat of him. But it is as bad as if he did. That at least was agreat, outrageous, downright wrong, worth fighting about, and not thepitiful shabby thing that it appears to him. For, of course, he thinksI did it because I was too grand to notice him while I was wearing afine dress and swelling about with great people. It never occurredto me that it would be possible for him or anybody to suspect me ofthat," said Patty, proudly, drawing herself up; "but afterwards Isaw that he could not help doing it. And ever since then it has beengetting worse and worse—everything has seemed to point to its beingso. Haven't you noticed? I never see him except I am with people whoare above noticing him; and Mr. Smith—oh, what I have suffered fromMr. Smith to-night, Elizabeth!—has all this time been thinking I wasgoing to marry him, and I can see now how it must have looked to otherpeople as if I was. Just think of it!"—with a gesture of intensedisgust. "As if any girl could stoop to that, after having had such acontrast before her eyes! No wonder he hates me and despises me—nowonder he looks at me as if I were the dirt beneath his feet. I wish Iwere," she added, with reckless passion; "oh, my dear love, I only wishI were!"

When she was about it, Patty cleansed her stuffed bosom thoroughly.It was not her way to do things by halves. She rhapsodised about herlove and her lover with a wild extravagance that was proportionateto the strained reserve and restraint that she had so long put uponher emotions. After which came the inevitable reaction. The fit beingover, she braced herself up again, and was twice as strong-minded andself-sufficient as before. When the morning came, and she and Elizabethbusied themselves with housework—Eleanor being relegated to the sofawith a sick headache—the girl who had dissolved herself in tears andgiven way to temporary insanity, as she chose herself to call it, sorecently, was bright, and brusque, and cheerful, in spite of sultryweather; and not only did she pretend, even to her confidante, that theyoung man on the other side of the wall had no place in her thoughts,but she hardened her heart to adamant against him, for having beenthe cause of her humiliating lapse from dignity. It was quite a luckychance, indeed, that she did not straightway go and accept the handand fortune of Mr. Smith, by way of making reparation for the outragecommitted vicariously by Paul Brion on her self-respect.



The weather was scorchingly hot and a thunderstorm brewing when thegirls sat down to their frugal lunch at mid-day. It was composed ofbread and butter and pickled fish, for which, under the circ*mstances,they had not appetite enough. They trifled with the homely viands forawhile, in a manner quite unusual with them, in whatever state of theatmosphere; and then they said they would "make up" at tea time, ifweather permitted, and cleared the table. Eleanor was sent to lie downin her room, Patty volunteered to read a pleasant novel to the invalid,and Elizabeth put on her bonnet to pay her promised visit to Mrs.Duff-Scott.

She found her friend in the cool music-room, standing by the piano, onwhich some loose white sheets were scattered. The major sat on a sofa,surveying the energetic woman with a sad and pensive smile.

"Are you looking over new music?" asked Elizabeth, as she walked in.

"O my dear, is that you? How good of you to venture out in thisheat!—but I knew you would," exclaimed the lady of the house, comingforward with outstretched arms of welcome. "Music, did you say?—Odear no!" as if music were the last thing likely to interest her. "Itis something of far more importance."

"Yelverton has been here," said the major, sadly; "and he has beensketching some plans for Whitechapel cottages. My wife thinks they aremost artistic."

"So they are," she insisted, hardly, "though I don't believe I used theword; for things are artistic when they are suitable for the purposethey are meant for, and only pretend to be what they are. Look atthis, Elizabeth. You see it is of no use to build Peabody houses inthese frightfully low neighbourhoods, where half-starved creatures arepacked together like herrings in a barrel—Mr. Yelverton has explainedthat quite clearly. The better class of poor come to live in them, andthe poorest of all are worse off instead of better, because they haveless room than they had before. You must take into considerationthat there is only a certain amount of space, and if you build modellodgings here, and a school there, and a new street somewhere else, youdo good, of course, but you herd the poor street-hawkers and people ofthat class more and more thickly into their wretched dens, where theyhaven't enough room to breathe as it is—"

"I think I'll go, my dear, if you'll excuse me," interrupted the major,humbly, in tones of deep dejection.

"And therefore," proceeded Mrs. Duff-Scott, taking no notice of herhusband, "the proper and reasonable thing to do—if you want to helpthose who are most in need of help—is to let fine schemes alone. Mr.Yelverton expects to come into a large property soon, and he means tobuy into those wretched neighbourhoods, where he can, and to buildfor one-room tenants—for cheapness and low rents. He will get aboutfour per cent. on his money, but that he will use to improve with—Imean for putting them in the way of sanitary habits, poor creatures.He makes a great point of teaching them sanitation. He seems to thinkmore of that than about teaching them the Bible, and really onecan hardly wonder at it when one sees the frightful depravity andgeneral demoralisation that come of ignorance and stupidity in thosematters—and he sees so much of it. He seems to be always rootingabout in those sewers and dunghills, as he calls them—he is ratheraddicted to strong expressions, if you notice—and turning things outfrom the very bottom. He is queer in some of his notions, but he is agood man, Elizabeth. One can forgive him his little crotchets, for thesake of all the good he does—it must be incalculable! He shrinks fromnothing, and spends himself trying to better the things that are so badthat most people feel there is nothing for it but to shut their eyes tothem—without making any fuss about it either, or setting himself upfor a saint. Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Duff-Scott, throwing a contemptuousglance around her museum of precious curiosities, "how inconceivablypetty and selfish it seems to care for rubbish like this, when thereare such miseries in the world that we might lighten, as he does, if wewould only set ourselves to it in the same spirit."

Rubbish!—those priceless pots and plates, those brasses and ivoriesand enamels, those oriental carpets and tapestries, those uniquemiscellaneous relics of the mediæval prime! Truly the Cause of Humanityhad taken hold of Mrs. Duff-Scott at last.

She sat down in an arm-chair, having invited Elizabeth to take offher hat and make herself as comfortable as the state of the weatherpermitted, and began to wave a large fan to and fro while she lookedinto vacant space with shining eyes.

"He is a strange man," she said musingly. "A most interesting,admirable man, but full of queer ideas—not at all like any man I evermet before. He has been lunching with us, Elizabeth—he came quiteearly—and we have had an immense deal of talk. I wish you had beenhere to listen to him—though I don't know that it would have been verygood for you, either. He is extremely free, and what you might callrevolutionary, in his opinions; he treats the most sacred subjects asif they were to be judged and criticised like common subjects. He talksof the religions of the world, for instance, as if they were all onthe same foundation, and calls the Bible our Veda or Koran—says theyare all alike inspired writings because they respectively express thereligious spirit, craving for knowledge of the mystery of life and theunseen, that is an integral part of man's nature, and universal inall races, though developed according to circ*mstances. He says allmankind are children of God, and brothers, and that he declines to makeinvidious distinctions. And personal religion to him seems nothing morethan the most rudimentary morality—simply to speak the truth and tobe unselfish—just as to be selfish or untrue are the only sins hewill acknowledge that we are responsible for out of the long catalogueof sins that stain this unhappy world. He won't call it an unhappyworld, by the way, in spite of the cruel things he sees; he is the mostoptimistic of unbelievers. It will all come right some day—and ourtime will be called the dark ages by our remote descendants. Ever sincemen and women came first, they have been getting better and higher—theworld increases in human goodness steadily, and will go on doing so aslong as it is a world—and that because of the natural instincts andaspirations of human nature, and not from what we have always supposedall our improvement came from—rather in spite of that, indeed."

Mrs. Duff-Scott poured out this information, which had been seething inher active mind, volubly and with a desire to relieve herself to someone; but here she checked herself, feeling that she had better haveleft it all unsaid, not less for Elizabeth's sake than for her own. Shegot up out of her seat and began to pace about the room with a restlessair. She was genuinely troubled. It was as if a window in a closedchamber had been opened, letting in a too strong wind that was blowingthe delicate furniture all about; now, with the woman's instinctivetimidity and fear (that may be less a weakness than a safeguard), shewas eager to shut it to again, though suspecting that it might betoo late to repair the damage done. Now that she took time to thinkabout it, she felt particularly guilty on Elizabeth's account, who hadnot had her experience, and was not furnished with her ripe judgmentand powers of discrimination as a preservative against the danger ofcontact with heterodox ideas.

"I ought not to repeat such things," she exclaimed, vexedly, beginningto gather up the plans of the Whitechapel cottages, but observingonly her companion's strained and wistful face. "The mere independenthypotheses and speculations of one man, when no two seem ever to thinkalike! I suppose those who study ancient history and literatures,and the sciences generally, get into the habit of pulling things topieces—"

"Those who learn most ought to know most," suggested Elizabeth.

"They ought, my dear; but it doesn't follow."

"Not when they are so earnest in trying to find out?"

"No; that very earnestness is against them—they over-reach themselves.They get confused, too, with learning so much, and mixing so manythings up together." Mrs. Duff-Scott was a little reckless as to meansso long as she could compass the desired end—which was the shuttingof that metaphorical window which she had incautiously set (or left)open.

"Well, he believes in God—that all men are God's children," thegirl continued, clinging where she could. "That seems like religionto me—it is a good and loving way to think of God, that He gave Hisspirit to all alike from the beginning—that He is so just and kind toall, and not only to a few."

"Yes, he believes in God. He believes in the Bible, too, in a sort ofa way. He says he would have the lessons of the New Testament and thelife of Christ disseminated far and wide, but not as they are now, withthe moral left out, and not as if those who wrote them were wise enoughfor all time. But, whatever his beliefs may be," said Mrs. Duff-Scott,"they are not what will satisfy us, Elizabeth. You and I must hold fastto our faith in Christ, dear child, or I don't know what would becomeof us. We will let 'whys' alone—we will not trouble ourselves to tryand find out mysteries that no doubt are wisely withheld from us, andthat anyhow we should never be able to understand."

Here the servant entered with a gliding step, opened a littleSutherland table before his mistress's chair, spread the æstheticcloth, and set out the dainty tea service. Outside the storm had burst,and was now spending itself and cooling the hot air in a steady showerthat made a rushing sound on the gravel. Mrs. Duff-Scott, who hadreseated herself, leant back silently with an air of reaction after herstrong emotion in the expression of her handsome face and form, andElizabeth mechanically got up to pour out the tea. Presently, as stillin silence they began to sip and munch their afternoon repast, the girlsaw on the piano near which she stood a photograph that arrested herattention. "What is this?" she asked. "Did he bring this too?" It was acopy of Luke Fildes' picture of "The Casuals." Mrs. Duff-Scott took itfrom her hand.

"No, it is mine," she said. "I have had it here for some time, in aportfolio amongst others, and never took any particular notice of it. Ijust had an idea that it was an unpleasant and disagreeable subject. Inever gave it a thought—what it really meant—until this morning, whenhe was talking to me, and happened to mention it. I remembered that Ihad it, and I got it out to look at it. Oh!" setting down her teacupand holding it fairly in both hands before her—"isn't it a terriblesermon? Isn't it heartbreaking to think that it is true? And he saysthe truth is understated."

Like the great Buddha, when he returned from his first excursion beyondhis palace gates, Elizabeth's mind was temporarily darkened by the newknowledge of the world that she was acquiring, and she looked at thepicture with a fast-beating heart. "Sphinxes set up against that deadwall," she quoted from a little printed foot-note, "and none likely tobe at the pains of solving them until the general overthrow." She wasleaning over her friend's shoulder, and the tears were dropping fromher eyes.

"They are Dickens's words," said Mrs. Duff-Scott.

"Why is it like this, I wonder?" the girl murmured, after a long,impressive pause. "We must not think it is God's fault—that can'tbe. It must be somebody else's fault. It cannot have been intendedthat a great part of the human race should be forced, from no fault oftheir own, to accept such a cruel lot—to be made to starve, when somany roll in riches—to be driven to crime because they cannot helpit—to be driven to hell when they need not have gone there—ifthere is such a place—if there is any truth in what we have beentaught. But"—with a kind of sad indignation—"if religion has beendoing its best for ever so many centuries, and this is all that thereis to show for it—doesn't that seem to say that he may be right,and that religion has been altogether misinterpreted—that we have allalong been making mistakes—" She checked herself, with a feeling ofdismay at her own words; and Mrs. Duff-Scott made haste to put awaythe picture, evidently much disturbed. Both women had taken the "shortviews" of life so often advocated, not from philosophical choice, butfrom disinclination, and perhaps inability, to take long ones; andthey had the ordinary woman's conception of religion as exclusivelyan ecclesiastical matter. This rough disturbance of old habits ofthought and sentiments of reverence and duty was very alarming; butwhile Elizabeth was rashly confident, because she was inexperienced,and because she longed to put faith in her beloved, Mrs. Duff-Scottwas seized with a sort of panic of remorseful misgiving. To shut thatwindow had become an absolute necessity, no matter by what means.

"My dear," she said, in desperation, "whatever you do, you must notbegin to ask questions of that sort. We can never find out the answers,and it leads to endless trouble. God's ways are not as our ways—weare not in the secrets of His providence. It is for us to trust Himto know what is best. If you admit one doubt, Elizabeth, you will seethat everything will go. Thousands are finding that out now-a-days,to their bitter cost. Indeed, I don't know what we are coming to—the'general overthrow,' I suppose. I hope I, at any rate, shall not liveto see it. What would life be worth to us—any of us, even the bestoff—if we lost our faith in God and our hope of immortality? Just tryto imagine it for a moment."

Elizabeth looked at her mentor, who had again risen and was walkingabout the room. The girl's eyes were full of solemn thought. "Notmuch," she replied, gravely. "But I was never afraid of losing faith inGod."

"It is best to be afraid," replied Mrs. Duff-Scott, with decision."It is best not to run into temptation. Don't think about thesedifficulties, Elizabeth—leave them, leave them. You would onlyunsettle yourself and become wretched and discontented, and you wouldnever be any the wiser."

Elizabeth thought over this for a few minutes, while Mrs. Duff-Scottmechanically took up a brass lota and dusted it with her handkerchief.

"Then you think one ought not to read books, or to talk to people—totry to find out the ground one stands on——"

"No, no, no—let it alone altogether. You know the ground you ought tostand on quite well. You don't want to see where you are if you canfeel that God is with you. Blessed are they that have not seen andyet have believed!" she ended in a voice broken with strong feeling,clasping her hands with a little fervent, prayerful gesture.

Elizabeth drew a long breath, and in her turn began to walk restlesslyup and down the room. She had one more question to ask, but the askingof it almost choked her. "Then you would say—I suppose you thinkit would be wrong—for one who was a believer to marry one who wasnot?—however good, and noble, and useful he or she might be—howeverreligious practically—however blameless in character?"

Mrs. Duff-Scott, forgetting for the moment that there was such a personas Mr. Yelverton in the world, sat down once more in an arm-chair,and addressed herself to the proposition on its abstract merits. Shehad worked herself up, by this time, into a state of highly fervidorthodoxy. Her hour of weakness was past, and she was fain to put forthand test her reserves of strength. Wherefore she had very clear viewsas to the iniquity of an unequal yoking together with unbelievers, andthe peril of touching the unclean thing; and she stated them plainlyand with all her wonted incisive vigour.

When it was all over, Elizabeth put on her hat and walked back throughthe pattering rain to Myrtle Street, heavy-hearted and heavy-footed, asif a weight of twenty years had been laid on her since the morning.

"Patty," she said, when her sister, warmly welcoming her return,exclaimed at her pale face and weary air, and made her take the sofathat Eleanor had vacated, "Patty, let us go away for a few weeks, shallwe? I want a breath of fresh air, and to be in peace and quiet for alittle, to think things over."

"So do I," said Patty. "So does Nelly. Let us write to Sam Dunn to findus lodgings."



"Is it possible that we have only been away for nine months?"murmured Elizabeth, as the little steamer worked its way up to thewell-remembered jetty, and she looked once more on surf and headland,island rock and scattered township, lying under the desolate moorlandsalong the shore. "Doesn't it seem at least nine years?"

"Or ninety," replied Patty. "I feel like a new generation. How exactlythe same everything is! Here they have all been going on as they alwaysdid. There is Mrs. Dunn, dear old woman!—in the identical gown thatshe had on the day we went away."

Everything was the same, but they were incredibly changed. There was nosleeping on the nose of the vessel now; no shrinking from associationwith their fellow-passengers. The skipper touched his cap to them,which he never used to do in the old times; and the idlers on thepier, when the vessel came in, stared at them as if they had indeedbeen away for ninety years. Mrs. Dunn took in at a glance the detailsof their travelling costumes, which were of a cut and quality notoften seen in those parts; and, woman-like, straightway readjusted hersmiles and manners, unconsciously becoming at once more effusive andmore respectful than (with the ancient waterproofs in her mind's eye)she had prepared herself to be. But Sam saw only the three fair faces,that were to him as unchanged as his own heart; and he launched himselffearlessly into the boat as soon as it came alongside, with horny handoutstretched, and boisterous welcomes.

"So y'are come back again?" he cried, "and darn glad I am to see yer,and no mistake." He added a great deal more in the way of greetingand congratulation before he got them up the landing stage and intothe capacious arms of Mrs. Dunn—who was quite agreeably surprised tobe hugged and kissed by three such fashionable young ladies. Then heproceeded to business with a triumphant air. "Now, Miss 'Lisbeth, yersee here's the cart—that's for the luggage. Me and the old hoss isgoing to take it straight up. And there is a buggy awaiting for you.And Mr. Brion told me to say as he was sorry he couldn't come down tothe boat, but it's court day, yer see, and he's got a case on, and he'sobliged to stop till he's done wi' that."

"Oh," exclaimed Elizabeth, hastily, "did you tell Mr. Brion that wewere coming?"

"Why, of course, miss. I went and told him the very first thing—'twasonly right, him being such a friend—your only friend here, as one maysay."

"Oh, no, Sam, we have you."

"Me!"—with scornful humility—"I'm nothing. Yes, of course I went andtold him. And he wouldn't let us get no lodgings; he said you was justto go and stay wi' Mrs. Harris and him. He would ha' wrote to tell yer,but there worn't time."

"And much more comfortable you'll be than at them lodging places," putin Mrs. Dunn. "There's nothing empty now that's at all fit for you. Theseason is just a-coming on, you see, and we're like to be pretty fullthis year."

"But we wanted to be away from the town, Mrs. Dunn."

"And so you will be away from the town. Why, bless me, you can't bemuch farther away—to be anywhere at all—than up there," pointing tothe headland where their old home was dimly visible in the Novembersunshine. "There's only Mrs. Harris and the gal, and they won'tinterfere with you."

"Up there!" exclaimed the sisters in a breath. And Mr. and Mrs. Dunnlooked with broad grins at one another.

"Well, I'm blowed!" exclaimed the fisherman. "You don't mean as MasterPaul never let on about his pa and him buying the old place, do you?Why, they've had it, and the old man has been living there—he comesdown every morning and goes up every night—walks both ways, he do,like a young chap—this two or three months past. Mrs. Hawkins shecouldn't bear the lonesomeness of it when the winter come on, and wasright down glad to get out of it. They gave Hawkins nearly double whatyou got for it. I told yer at the time that yer was a-throwing of itaway."

The girls tried to look as if they had known all about it, while theydigested their surprise. It was a very great surprise, almost amountingto a shock.

"And how is Mr. Paul?" asked Mrs. Dunn of Patty. "Dear young man,it's a long time since we've seen anything of him! I hope he's keepinghis health well!"

"I think so—I hope so," said Patty gently. "He works very hard, youknow, writing things for the papers. He is wanted too much to be ableto take holidays like ordinary people. They couldn't get on withouthim."

Elizabeth turned round in astonishment: she had expected to see hersister in a blaze of wrath over Sam's unexpected communications. "I'mafraid you won't like this arrangement, dearie," she whispered. "Whathad we better do?"

"Oh, go—go," replied Patty, with a tremulous eagerness that she vainlytried to hide. "I don't mind it. I—I am glad to see Mr. Brion. It willbe very nice to stay with him—and in our own dear old house too. Oh, Iwouldn't refuse to go for anything! Besides we can't."

"No, I don't see how we can," acquiesced Elizabeth, cheerfully. Pattyhaving no objection, she was delighted with the prospect.

They walked up the little pier in a group, the "hoss" following themwith the reins upon his neck; and, while Elizabeth and Patty mountedthe buggy provided by Mr. Brion, Eleanor gratified the old fishermanand his wife by choosing to stay with them and ride up in the cart. Itwas a lovely morning, just approaching noon, the sky as blue as—no,not as a turquoise or a sapphire—but as nothing save itself can bein a climate like ours, saturated with light and lucent colour, andgiving to the sea its own but an intenser hue. I can see it all in mymind's eye—as my bodily eyes have seen it often—that dome above, thatplain below, the white clouds throwing violet shadows on the water, thewhite gulls dipping their red legs in the shining surf and reflectingthe sunlight on their white wings; but I cannot describe it. It isbeyond the range of pen and ink, as of brush and pigments. As the buggylightly climbed the steep cliff, opening the view wider at every step,the sisters sat hand in hand, leaning forward to take it all in; butthey, too, said nothing—only inhaled long draughts of the delicioussalt air, and felt in every invigorated fibre of them that they haddone well to come. Reaching the crest of the bluff, and descending intothe broken basin—or saucer, rather—in which Seaview Villa nestled,they uttered simultaneously an indignant moan at the spectacle of Mrs.Hawkins's devastations. There was the bright paint, and the whitewash,and the iron roof, and the fantastic trellis; and there was not theivy that had mantled the eaves and the chimney stacks, nor the creepersthat had fought so hard for existence, nor the squat verandah postswhich they had bountifully embraced—nor any of the features that hadmade the old house distinct and characteristic.

"Never mind," said Patty, who was the first to recover herself. "Itlooks very smart and tidy. I daresay it wanted doing up badly. Afterall, I'd sooner see it look as unlike home as possible, now that itisn't home."

Mrs. Harris came out and warmly welcomed them in Mr. Brion's name.She took them into the old sitting-room, now utterly transformed, butcosy and inviting, notwithstanding, with the lawyer's substantial oldleather chairs and sofas about it, and a round table in the middleset out for lunch, and the sea and sky shining in through the openverandah doors. She pressed them to have wine and cake to "stay" themtill Eleanor and lunch time arrived; and she bustled about with them intheir rooms—their own old bedrooms, in one of which was a collectionof Paul's schoolboy books and treasures, while they took off their hatsand washed their hands and faces; and was very motherly and hospitable,and made them feel still more pleased that they had come. They feasted,with fine appetites, on fish and gooseberry-fool at one o'clock, whileSam and Mrs. Dunn were entertained by the housekeeper in the kitchen;and in the afternoon, the cart and "hoss" having departed, they sat onthe verandah in basket chairs, and drank tea, and idled, and enjoyedthe situation thoroughly. Patty got a dog's-eared novel of MayneReid's from the book-case in her bedroom, and turned over the pageswithout reading them to look at the pencil marks and thumb stains; andEleanor dozed and fanned herself; and Elizabeth sewed and thought. Andthen their host came home, riding up from the township on a fast andpanting steed, quite thrown off his balance by emotion. He was abjectin his apologies for having been deterred by cruel fate and businessfrom meeting them at the steamer and conducting them in person to hishouse, and superfluous in expressions of delight at the honour they hadconferred on him.

"And how did you leave my boy?" he asked presently, when due inquiriesafter their own health and welfare had been satisfied. He spoke asif they and Paul had all been living under one roof. "And when is hecoming to see his old father again?"

Patty, who was sitting beside her host—"in his pocket," Nellydeclared—and was simply servile in her affectionate demonstrations,undertook to describe Paul's condition and circ*mstances, and sheimplied a familiar knowledge of them which considerably astonished hersisters. She also gave the father a full history of all the son's gooddeeds in relation to themselves—described how he had befriended themin this and that emergency, and asserted warmly, and with a grave face,that she didn't know what they should have done without him.

"That's right—that's right!" said the old man, laying her hand on hisknee and patting it fondly. "I was sure he would—I knew you'd find outhis worth when you came to know him. We must write to him to-morrow,and tell him you have arrived safely. He doesn't know I have got you,eh? We must tell him. Perhaps we can induce him to take a littleholiday himself—I am sure it is high time he had one—and join us fora few days. What do you think?"

"Oh, I am sure he can't come away just now," protested Patty, palewith eagerness and horror. "In the middle of the Exhibition—and aparliamentary crisis coming on—it would be quite impossible!"

"I don't know—I don't know. I fancy 'impossible' is not a word youwill find in his dictionary," said the old gentleman encouragingly."When he hears of our little arrangement, he'll want to take a hand, asthe Yankees say. He won't like to be left out—no, no."

"But, dear Mr. Brion," Patty strenuously implored—for this was reallya matter of life and death, "do think what a critical time it is! Theynever can spare him now."

"Then they ought to spare him. Because he is the best man they have,that is no reason why they should work him to death. They don'tconsider him sufficiently. He gives in to them too much. He is not amachine."

"Perhaps he would come," said Patty, "but it would be against hisjudgment—it would be at a heavy cost to his country—it would be justto please us—oh, don't let us tempt him to desert his post, which noone could fill in his absence! Don't let us unsettle and disturb him atsuch a time, when he is doing so much good, and when he wants his mindkept calm. Wait for a little while; he might get away for Christmasperhaps."

"But by Christmas, I am afraid, you would be gone."

"Never mind. We see him in Melbourne. And we came here to get away fromall Melbourne associations."

"Well, well, we'll see. But I am afraid you will be very dull with onlyan old fellow like me to entertain you."

"Dull!" they all exclaimed in a breath. It was just what they wanted,to be so peaceful and quiet—and, above all things, to have him (Mr.Brion, senior) entirely to themselves.

The polite old man looked as if he were scarcely equal to the weightof the honour and pleasure they conferred upon him. He was excessivelyhappy. As the hours and days went on, his happiness increased. Hispunctilious courtesy merged more and more into a familiar and paternaldevotion that took all kinds of touching shapes; and he felt moreand more at a loss to express adequately the tender solicitude andprofound satisfaction inspired in his good old heart by the sojourn ofsuch charming guests within his gates. To Patty he became especiallyattached; which was not to be wondered at, seeing how susceptible hewas and how lavishly she exercised her fascinations upon him. Shewalked to his office with him in the morning; she walked to meet himwhen he came hastening back in the afternoon; she read the newspaper(containing Paul's peerless articles) to him in the evening, and mixedhis modest glass of grog for him before he went to bed. In short,she made him understand what it was to have a charming and devoteddaughter, though she had no design in doing so—no motive but togratify her affection for Paul in the only way open to her. So the oldgentleman was very happy—and so were they. But still it seemed tohim that he must be happier than they were, and that, being a totalreversal of the proper order of things, troubled him. He had a pangevery morning when he wrenched himself away from them—leaving them,as he called it, alone—though loneliness was the very last sensationlikely to afflict them. It seemed so inhospitable, so improper, thatthey should be thrown upon their own resources, and the company of ahousekeeper of humble status, for the greater part of the day—thatthey should be without a male attendant and devotee, while a manexisted who was privileged to wait on them. If only Paul had been athome! Paul would have taken them for walks, for drives, for boatingexcursions, for pic-nics; he would have done the honours of SeaviewVilla as the best of hosts and gentlemen. However, Paul, alas! was tiedto his newspaper in Melbourne, and the old man had a business that hewas cruelly bound to attend to—at any rate, sometimes. But at othertimes he contrived to shirk his business and then he racked his brainsfor projects whereby he might give them pleasure.

"Let's see," he said one evening, a few days after their arrival; "Isuppose you have been to the caves too often to care to go again?"

"No," said Elizabeth; "we have never been to the caves at all."

"What—living within half-a-dozen miles of them all your lives! Well,I believe there are many more like you. If they had been fifty milesaway, you would have gone about once a twelvemonth."

"No, Mr. Brion; we were never in the habit of going sight-seeing. Myfather seldom left the house, and my mother only when necessary; and wehad no one else to take us."

"Then I'll take you, and we will go to-morrow. Mrs. Harris shall packus a basket for lunch, and we'll make a day of it. Dear, dear, what apity Paul couldn't be here, to go with us!"

The next morning, which was brilliantly fine, brought the girls ananxiously-expected letter from Mrs. Duff-Scott. Sam Dunn, who was anoccasional postman for the solitary house, delivered it, along witha present of fresh fish, while Mr. Brion was absent in the township,negotiating for a buggy and horses for his expedition. The fairygodmother had given but a grudging permission for this villeggiaturaof theirs, and they were all relieved to have her assurance that shewas not seriously vexed with them. Her envelope was inscribed to "MissKing," but the long letter enclosed was addressed to her "dearestchildren" collectively, tenderly inquiring how they were gettingon and when they were coming back, pathetically describing her ownsolitude—so unlike what it was before she knew the comfort of theircompanionship—and detailing various items of society news. Folded inthis, however, was the traditional lady's postscript, scribbled ona small half-sheet and marked "private," which Elizabeth took awayto read by herself. She wondered, with a little alarm, what seriousmatter it was that required a confidential postscript, and this waswhat she read:—

"I have been thinking over our talk the other day, dear. Perhaps Ispoke too strongly. One is apt to make arbitrary generalisations on thespur of the moment, and to forget how circ*mstances may alter cases.There is another side to the question that should not be overlooked.The believing wife or husband may be the salvation of the other, andwhen the other is honest and earnest, though mistaken, there isthe strongest hope of this. It requires thinking of on all sides, mydarling, and I fear I spoke without thinking enough. Consult your ownheart—I am sure it will advise you well."

Elizabeth folded up the note, and put it into her pocket. Then—forshe was alone in her own little bedroom—she sat down to think of it;to wonder what had reminded Mrs. Duff-Scott of their conversation the"other day"—what had induced her to temporise with the convictionswhich then appeared so sincere and absolute. But she could make nothingof it. It was a riddle without the key.

Then she heard the sound of buggy wheels, hurried steps on theverandah, and the voice of Mr. Brion calling her.

"My dear," said the old man when she went out to him, speaking in somehaste and agitation, "I have just met at the hotel a friend of yoursfrom Melbourne—Mr. Yelverton. He came by the coach last night. Hesays Mrs. Duff-Scott sent him up to see how you are getting on, and toreport to her. He is going away again to-morrow, and I did not like toput off our trip, so I have asked him to join us. I hope I have notdone wrong"—looking anxiously into her rapidly changing face—"I hopeyou won't think that I have taken a liberty, my dear."



He was talking to Patty and Eleanor in the garden when Elizabeth wentout to him, looking cool and colonial in a silk coat and a solartopee. The girls were chatting gaily; the old lawyer was sketching aprogramme of the day's proceedings, and generally doing the honoursof his neighbourhood with polite vivacity. Two buggies, one singleand one double, in charge of a groom from the hotel, were drawn up bythe gate, and Mrs. Harris and "the gal" were busily packing them withluncheon baskets and rugs. There was a cloudless summer sky overhead—amiracle of loveliness spread out before them in the shining plain ofthe sea; and the delicate, fresh, salt air, tremulous with the boom ofsubterranean breakers, was more potent than any wine to make glad theheart of man and to give him a cheerful countenance.

Very cheerfully did Mr. Yelverton come forward to greet his beloved,albeit a little moved with the sentiment of the occasion. He had partedfrom her in a ball-room, with a half-spoken confession of—somethingthat she knew all about quite as well as he did—on his lips; and hehad followed her now to say the rest, and to hear what she had to replyto it. This was perfectly understood by both of them, as they shookhands, with a little conventional air of unexpectedness, and he toldher that he had come at Mrs. Duff-Scott's orders.

"She could not rest," he said, gravely, "until she was sure that youhad found pleasant quarters, and were comfortable. She worried aboutyou—and so she sent me up."

"It was troubling you too much," Elizabeth murmured, evading his directeyes, but quite unable to hide her agitation from him.

"You say that from politeness, I suppose? No, it was not troublingme at all—quite the contrary. I am delighted with my trip. And I amglad," he concluded, dropping his voice, "to see the place where youwere brought up. This was your home, was it not?" He looked all roundhim.

"It was not like this when we were here," she replied. "The house wasold then—now it is new. They have done it up."

"I see. Have you a sketch of it as it used to be? You draw, I know.Mrs. Duff-Scott has been showing me your drawings."

"Yes, I have one. It hangs in the Melbourne sitting-room."

Mr. Brion broke in upon this dialogue. "Now, my dears, I think we areall ready," he said. "Elizabeth, you and I will go in the little buggyand lead the way. Perhaps Mr. Yelverton will be good enough to takecharge of the two young ladies. Will you prefer to drive yourself, Mr.Yelverton?"

Mr. Yelverton said he preferred to be driven, as he was not acquaintedwith the road; and Elizabeth, throned in the seat of honour in thelittle buggy, looked back with envious eyes to watch his arrangementsfor her sisters' comfort. He put Patty beside the groom on the frontseat, and carefully tucked her up from the dust; and then he placedEleanor at the back, climbed to her side, and opened a large umbrellawhich he held so that it protected both of them. In this order thetwo vehicles set forth, and for the greater part of the way, owing tothe superior lightness of the smaller one, they were not within sightof each other; during which time Elizabeth was a silent listener toher host's amiable prattle, and reproaching herself for not feelinginterested in it. She kept looking through the pane of glass behindher, and round the side of the hood, and wondering where the otherswere, and whether they were keeping the road.

"Oh, they can't miss it," was Mr. Brion's invariable comment. "Theywill follow our tracks. If not, the man knows our destination."

For the old lawyer was making those short cuts which are so dear toall Jehus of the bush; preferring a straight mile of heavy sand to adevious mile and a quarter of metal, and ploughing through the stiffscrub that covered the waste moors of the district rather by the sun'sthan by the surveyor's direction. It made the drive more interesting,of course. The bushes that rustled through the wheels and scratched thehorses' legs were wonderful with wild flowers of every hue, and theorchids that were trampled into the sand, and gathered by handfuls todie in the buggy, were remarkable for their fantastic variety. And thenthere were lizards and butterflies, and other common objects of thecountry, not so easily discerned on a beaten track. But Elizabeth couldnot bring herself to care much for these things to-day.

They reached high land after a while, whence, looking back, they sawthe other buggy crawling towards them a mile or two away, and, lookingforward, saw, beyond a green and wild foreground, the brilliant seaagain, with a rocky cape jutting out into it, sprinkled with a fewwhite houses on its landward shoulder—a scene that was too beautiful,on such a morning, to be disregarded. Here the girl sat at ease, whilethe horses took breath, thoroughly appreciating her opportunities;wondering, not what Mr. Yelverton was doing or was going to do, but howit was that she had never been this way before. Then Mr. Brion turnedand drove down the other side of the hill, and exclaimed "Here we are!"in triumph.

It was a shallow basin of a dell, in the midst of romantic glens,sandy, and full of bushes and wild flowers, and bracken and tussockygrass, and shady with tall-stemmed gum trees. As the buggy bumpedand bounced into the hollow, shaving the dead logs that lay about ina manner which reflected great credit upon the lawyer's navigation,Elizabeth, feeling the cool shadows close over her head, and awarethat they had reached their destination, looked all round her for theyawning cavern that she had specially come to see.

"Where are the caves?" she inquired—to Mr. Brion's intensegratification.

"Ah, where are they?" he retorted, enjoying his little joke. "Well, wehave just been driving over them."

"But the mouth, I mean?"

"Oh, the mouth—the mouth is here. We were very nearly driving overthat too. But we'll have lunch first, my dear, before we investigatethe caves—if it's agreeable to you. I will take the horses out, andwe'll find a nice place to camp before they come."

Presently the other buggy climbed over the ridge and down into thehollow; and Mr. Yelverton beheld Elizabeth kneeling amongst the brackenfronds, with the dappled sun and shade on her bare head and her bluecotton gown, busily trying to spread a table-cloth on the least unevenpiece of ground that she could find, where it lay like a miniaturesnow-clad landscape, all hills except where the dishes weighed it tothe earth. He hastened to help her as soon as he had lifted Patty andEleanor from their seats.

"You are making yourself hot," he said, with his quiet air of authorityand proprietorship. "You sit down, and let me do it. I am quite usedto commissariat business, and can set a table beautifully." He tooksome tumblers from her hand, and, looking into her agitated face, saidsuddenly, "I could not help coming, Elizabeth—I could not leave itbroken off like that—I wanted to know why you ran away from me—andMrs. Duff-Scott gave me leave. You will let me talk to you presently?"

"Oh, not now—not now!" she replied, in a hurried, low tone, turningher head from side to side. "I must have time to think—"

"Time to think!" he repeated, with just a touch of reproach in hisgrave surprise. And he put down the tumblers carefully, got up, andwalked away. Upon which, Elizabeth, reacting violently from the moodin which she had received him, had an agonising fear that he wouldimpute her indecision to want of love for him, or insensibility to hislove for her—though, till now, that had seemed an impossibility. Ina few minutes he returned with her sisters and Mr. Brion, all bearingdishes and bottles, and buggy cushions and rugs; and, when the luncheonwas ready, and the groom had retired to feed and water his horses, shelifted her eyes to her tall lover's face with a look that he understoodfar better than she did. He quietly came round from the log on which hehad been about to seat himself, and laid his long limbs on the sand andbracken at her side.

"What will you have?" he asked carelessly; "roast beef and salad, orchicken pie? I can recommend the salad, which has travelled remarkablywell." And all the time he was looking at her with happy contentment, alittle smile under his red moustache; and her heart was beating so thatshe could not answer him.

The luncheon was discussed at leisure, and, as far as Mr. Brion couldjudge, was a highly successful entertainment. The younger girls,whatever might be going to happen to-morrow, could not help enjoyingthemselves to-day—could not help getting a little intoxicated with thesweetness of the summer air and the influences of the scene generally,and breaking out in fun and laughter; even Elizabeth, with herdesperate anxieties, was not proof against the contagion of their goodspirits now and then. The travelled stranger, who talked a great deal,was the most entertaining of guests, and the host congratulated himselfcontinually on having added him to the party. "We only want Paul nowto make it all complete," said the happy old man, as he gave Patty,who had a dreadful appetite after her long drive, a second helping ofchicken pie.

When the sylvan meal was ended, and the unsightly remnants clearedaway, the two men smoked a soothing cigarette under the trees, whilethe girls tucked up their clean gowns a little and tied handkerchiefsover their heads, and then Mr. Brion, armed with matches and a poundof candles, marched them off to see the caves. He took them but alittle way from where they had camped, and disclosed in the hillsidewhat looked like a good-sized wombat or rabbit hole. "Now, you stayhere while I go and light up a bit," he said, impressively, and hestraightway slid down and disappeared into the hole. They stooped andpeered after him, and saw a rather muddy narrow shaft slanting downinto the earth, through which the human adult could only pass "end on."The girls were rather dismayed at the prospect.

"It is a case of faith," said Mr. Yelverton. "We must trust ourselvesto Mr. Brion entirely or give it up."

"We will trust Mr. Brion," said Elizabeth.

A few minutes later the old man's voice was heard from below. "Now,come along! Just creep down for a step or two, and I will reach yourhand. Who is coming first?"

They looked at each other for a moment, and Patty's quick eye caughtsomething from Mr. Yelverton's. "I will go first," she said; "and youcan follow me, Nelly." And down she went, half sliding, half sitting,and when nearly out of sight stretched up her arm to steady her sister."It's all right," she cried; "there's plenty of room. Come along!"

When they had both disappeared, Mr. Yelverton took Elizabeth'sunlighted candle from her hand and put it into his pocket. "There is noneed for you to be bothered with that," he said: "one will do for us."And he let himself a little way down the shaft, and put up his hand todraw her after him.

In a few seconds they stood upright, and were able, by the light ofthe three candles just dispersing into the interior, to see whatkind of place they had come to. They were limestone caves, ramifyingunderground for a quarter of a mile or so in direct length, andspreading wide on either side in a labyrinth of chambers and passages.The roof was hung with a few stalactites, but mostly crusted with softbosses, like enormous cauliflowers, that yielded to the touch; loftyin places, so that the candle-light scarcely reached it, and in placesso low that one could not pass under it. The floor, if floor it couldbe called, was a confusion of hills and vales and black abysses, stonyhere, and dusty there, and wet and slippery elsewhere—altogether anuncanny place, full of weird suggestions. The enterprising and fearlessPatty was far ahead, exploring on her own account, and Mr. Brion,escorting Eleanor, dwindling away visibly into a mere pin's point,before Mr. Yelverton and Elizabeth had got their candle lighted andbegun their investigations. A voice came floating back to them throughthe immense darkness, duplicated in ever so many echoes: "Are you allright, Elizabeth?"

"Yes," shouted Mr. Yelverton instantly, like a soldier answering to theroll-call. Then he took her hand, and, holding the candle high, led hercarefully in the direction of the voice. She was terribly nervous andexcited by the situation, which had come upon her unawares, and shehad an impulse to move on hastily, as if to join her sisters. Bat herlover held her back with a turn of his strong wrist.

"Don't hurry," he said, in a tone that revealed to her how heappreciated his opportunity, and how he would certainly turn it toaccount; "it is not safe in such a place as this. And you can trustme to take care of you as well as Mr. Brion, can't you?"

She did not answer, and he did not press the question. They creptup, and slid down, and leapt over, the dark obstructions in theirdevious course for a little while in silence—two lonely atoms in thevast and lifeless gloom. Fainter and fainter grew the voices in thedistance—fainter and fainter the three tiny specks of light, whichseemed as far away as the stars in heaven. There was something dreadfulin their isolation in the black bowels of the earth, but an unspeakablypoignant bliss in being thus cast away together. There was no room forthought of anything outside that.

Groping along hand in hand, they came to a chasm that yawned,bridgeless, across their path. It was about three feet wide, andperhaps it was not much deeper, but it looked like the bottomless pit,and was very terrifying. Bidding Elizabeth to wait where she was,Mr. Yelverton leaped over by himself, and, dropping some tallow on aboulder near him, fixed his candle to the rock. Then he held out hisarms and called her to come to him.

For a moment she hesitated, knowing what awaited her, and then sheleaped blindly, fell a little short, and knocked the candle from itsinsecure socket into the gulf beneath her. She uttered a sharp cry asshe felt herself falling, and the next instant found herself dragged upin her lover's strong arms, and folded with a savage tenderness to hisbreast. This time he held her as if he did not mean to let her go.

"Hush!—you are quite safe," he whispered to her in the pitch darkness.



The girls were boiling a kettle and making afternoon tea, while the menwere getting their horses and buggy furniture together, at about fouro'clock. Elizabeth was on her knees, feeding the gipsy fire with drysticks, when Mr. Yelverton came to her with an alert step.

"I am going to drive the little buggy back," he said, "and you arecoming with me. The others will start first, and we will follow."

She looked up with a startled expression that puzzled and disappointedhim.

"What!" he exclaimed, "do you mean to say that you would rather not?"

"Oh, no, I did not mean that," she faltered hurriedly; and into heraverted face, which had been deadly pale since she came out of thecave, the hot blood flushed, remembering how long he and she had stoodthere together in a profound and breathless solitude, and the veryblackest night that ever Egypt knew, after he took her into his arms,and before they remembered that they had a second candle and matchesto light it with. In that interval, when she laid her head upon hisshoulder, and he his red moustache upon her responsive lips, she hadvirtually accepted him, though she had not meant to do so. "No," sherepeated, as he silently watched her, "you know it is not that."

"What then? Do you think it is improper?"

"Of course not."

"You would really like it, Elizabeth?"

"Yes—yes. I will come with you. We can talk as we go home."

"We can. That was precisely my object in making the arrangement."

Eleanor, presiding over her crockery at a little distance, called tothem to ask whether the water boiled—and they perceived that it did.Mr. Yelverton carried the kettle to the teapot, and presently busiedhimself in handing the cups—so refreshing at the close of a summerpicnic, when exercise and sun and lunch together have resulted ininevitable lassitude and incipient headaches—and doling out slices ofthin bread and butter as Patty deftly shaved them from the loaf. Theysquatted round amongst the fern fronds and tussocks, and poured theirtea vulgarly into their saucers—being warned by Mr. Brion that theyhad no time to waste—and then packed up, and washed their hands, andtied on their hats, and shook out their skirts, and set forth homeagain, declaring they had had the most beautiful time. The large buggystarted first, the host driving; and Mr. Yelverton was informed thatanother track would be taken for the return journey, and that he wasto be very careful not to lose himself.

"If we do lose ourselves," said Mr. Yelverton, as his escortdisappeared over the crest of the hill, and he still stood in thevalley—apparently in no haste to follow—tucking a light rug over hiscompanion's knees, "it won't matter very much, will it?"

"Oh, yes, it will," she replied anxiously. "I don't know the way atall."

"Very well; then we will keep them in sight. But only just in sight—nomore. Will you have the hood up or down?"

"Down," she said. "The day is too lovely to be shut out."

"It is, it is. I think it is just about the most lovely day I everknew—not even excepting the first of October."

"The first of October was not a lovely day at all. It was cold anddismal."

"That was its superficial appearance." He let down the hood andclimbed to his seat beside her, taking the reins from her hand. He hadcompletely laid aside his sedate demeanour, and, though self-containedstill, had a light in his eyes that made her tremble. "On yourconscience," he said, looking at her, "can you say that the first ofOctober was a dismal day? We may as well begin as we mean to go on,"he added, as she did not answer; "and we will make a bargain, in thefirst place, never to say a word that we don't mean, nor to keep backone that we do mean from each other. You will agree to that, won't you,Elizabeth?"—his disengaged arm was round her shoulder and he had drawnher face up to his. "Elizabeth, Elizabeth,"—repeating the syllablesfondly—"what a sweet and honest name it is! Kiss me, Elizabeth."

Instead of kissing him she began to sob. "Oh, don't, don't!" she cried,making a movement to free herself—at which he instantly releasedher. "Let us go on—they will be wondering where we are. I am veryfoolish—I can't help it—I will tell you presently!"

She took out her handkerchief, and tried to calm herself as she satback in the buggy; and he, without speaking, touched his horseswith his whip and drove slowly out of the shady dell into the clearsunshine. For a mile or more of up-and-down tracking, where the wheelsof the leading vehicle had left devious ruts in sand and grass toguide them, they sat side by side in silence—she fighting with andgradually overcoming her excitement, and he gravely waiting, with anot less strong emotion, until she had recovered herself. And thenhe turned to her, and laid his powerful hand on hers that had droppeddejectedly into her lap, and said gently, though with decision—"Nowtell me, dear. What is the matter? I must know. It is not—it isnot"—contracting his fingers sharply—"that you don't mean what youhave been telling me, after all? For though not in words, you havebeen telling me, have you not?"

"No," she sighed; "it is not that."

"I knew it. I was sure it could not be. Then what else canmatter?—what else should trouble you? Is it about your sisters? Youknow they will be all right. They will not lose you—they will gainme. I flatter myself they will be all the better for gaining me,Elizabeth. I hoped you would think so?"

"I do think so."

"What then? Tell me."

"Mr. Yelverton, it is so hard to tell you—I don't know how to do it.But I am afraid—I am afraid—"

"Of what? Of me?"

"Oh, no! But I want to do what is right. And it seems to me that to letmyself be happy like this would be wrong—"

"Wrong to let yourself be happy? Good heavens! Who has been teachingyou such blasphemy as that?"

"No one has taught me anything, except my mother. But she was so good,and she had so many troubles, and she said that she would never havebeen able to bear them—to have borne life—had she not been stayedup by her religious faith. She told us, when it seemed to her that wemight some day be cast upon the world to shift for ourselves, neverto let go of that—to suffer and renounce everything rather than betempted to give up that."

"Who has asked you to give it up?" he responded, with grave and gentleearnestness. "Not I. I would be the last man to dream of such a thing."

"But you—you have given up religion!" she broke forth, despairingly.

"Have I? I don't think so. Tell me what you mean by religion?"

"I mean what we have been brought up to believe."

"By the churches?"

"By the Church—the English Church—which I have always held to be thetrue Church."

"My dear child, every Church holds itself to be the true Church, andall the others to be false ones. Why should yours be right any morethan other people's?"

"My mother taught us so," said Elizabeth.

"Yes. Your mother made it true, as she would have made any other true,by the religious spirit that she brought into it. They are alltrue—not only those we know of, but Buddhism and Mohammedanism, andeven the queer faiths and superstitions of barbarian races, for theyall have the same origin and object; and at the same time they are allso adulterated with human errors and vices, according to the sort ofpeople who have had the charge of them, that you can't say any one ofthem is pure. No more pure than we are, and no less. For you to saythat the rest are mistaken is just the pot calling the kettle black,Elizabeth. You may be a few degrees nearer the truth than those are whoare less educated and civilised, but even that at present does not lookso certain that you are justified in boasting about it—I mean yourChurch, you know, not you."

"But we go by our Bible—we trust, not in ourselves, but in that."

"So do the 'Dissenters,' as you call them."

"Yes, I am speaking of all of us—all who are Christian people. Whatguide should we have if we let our Bible go?"

"Why should you let it go? I have not let it go. If you read itintelligently it is truly a Holy Scripture—far more so than when youmake a sort of charm and fetish of it. You should study its originand history, and try to get at its meaning as you would at that ofany other book. It has a very wonderful history, which in its turn isderived from other wonderful histories, which people will perverselyshut their eyes to; and because of this undiscriminating ignorance,which is the blindness of those who won't see or who are afraid to see,it remains to this day the least understood of all ancient records.Some parts of it, you know, are a collection of myths and legends,which you will find in the same shape in older writings—the first dimforms of human thought about God and man and the mysteries of creation;and a great many good people read these as gospel truth, in spiteof the evidence of all their senses to the contrary, and take themas being of the same value and importance as the beautiful books ofthe later time. And there are other Bibles in the world besides ours,whether we choose to acknowledge them or not."

Elizabeth listened with terror. "And do you say it is not the lightof the world after all?" she cried in a shaken voice.

"There should be no preaching to the heathen, and spreading the goodtidings over all lands?"

"Yes, there should," he replied; "oh, yes, certainly there should.But it should be done as it was by Christ, to whom all were with Himwho were not against Him, and with a feeling that we should share allwe know, and help each other to find out the best way. Not by rudelywrenching from the heathen, as we call him, all his immemorial moralstandards, which, if you study them closely, are often found, rough asthey are, to be thoroughly effective and serviceable, and giving himnothing in their places except outworn myths, and senseless hymns, anda patter of Scripture phrases that he can't possibly make head or tailof. That, I often think, is beginning the work of salvation by turninghim from a religious man into an irreligious one. Your Church creed,"he went on, "is just the garment of religion, and you wear finely-wovenstuffs while the blacks wear blankets and 'possum-skins; they are alllittle systems that have their day and cease to be—that change andchange as the fashion of the world changes. But the spirit of man—theindestructible intelligence that makes him apprehend the mystery of hisexistence and of the great Power that surrounds it—which in the earlystages makes him cringe and fear, and later on to love and trust—thatis the body. That is religion, as I take it. It is in the nature ofman, and not to be given or taken away. Only the more freely we letthat inner voice speak and guide us, the better we are, and the betterwe make the world and help things on. That's my creed, Elizabeth. Youconfuse things," he went on, after a pause, during which she kept anattentive silence, "when you confound religion and churchism together,as if they were identical. I have given up churchism, in your sense,because, though I have hunted the churches through and through, oneafter another, I have found in them no adequate equipment for thework of my life. The world has gone on, and they have not gone on.The world has discovered breechloaders, so to speak, and they go tothe field with the old blunderbusses of centuries ago. Centuries!—ofthe prehistoric ages, it seems, now. My dear, I have lived over fortyyears—did you know I was so old as that?—seeking and striving to gethold of what I could in the way of a light and a guide to help me tomake the best of my life and to do what little I might to better theworld and brighten the hard lot of the poor and miserable. Is thatgiving up religion? I am not a churchman—I would be if I could, itis not my fault—but if I can't accept those tests, which revolt thereason and consciousness of a thinking man, am I therefore irreligious?Am I, Elizabeth?"

"You bewilder me," she said; "I have never made these distinctions. Ihave been taught in the Church—I have found comfort there and help. Iam afraid to begin to question the things that I have been taught—Ishould get lost altogether, trying to find a new way."

"Then don't begin," he said. "I will not meddle with your faith—Godforbid! Keep it while you can, and get all possible help and comfortout of it."

"But you have meddled with it already," she said, sighing. "The littlethat you have said has shaken it like an earthquake."

"If it is worth anything," he responded, "it is not shaken so easily."

"And you may be able to do good in your own strength," she went on,"but how could I?—a woman, so weak, so ignorant as I?"

"Do you want a policeman to keep you straight? I have a better opinionof you. Oh, you will be all right, my darling; don't fear. If you onlyhonestly believe what you do believe, and follow the truth as itreveals itself to you, no matter in what shape, and no matter where itleads you, you will be all right. Be only sincere with yourself, anddon't pretend—don't, whatever you do, pretend to anything. Surelythat is the best religion, whether it enables you to keep within churchwalls or drives you out into the wilderness. Doesn't it stand toreason? We can only do our best, Elizabeth, and leave it." He put hisarm round her again, and drew her head down to his shoulder. They weredriving through a lone, unpeopled land, and the leading buggy was but aspeck on the horizon.

"Oh!" she sighed, closing her eyes wearily, "if I only knew what wasbest!"

"Well," he said, "I will not ask you to trust me since you don't seemequal to it. You must decide for yourself. But, Elizabeth, if youknew what a life it was that I had planned! We were to be marriedat once—within a few weeks—and I was to take you home to my home.Patty and Nelly were to follow us later on, with Mrs. Duff-Scott, whowants to come over to see my London work, which she thinks will helpher to do something here when she returns. You and I were to go awayalone—wouldn't you have liked that, my love?—to be always with me,and taken care of and kept from harm and trouble, as I kept you to-dayand on that Exhibition morning. Yes, and we were to take up thatfortune that has been accumulating so long, and take Yelverton, andmake our home and head-quarters there; and we were to live a great dealin London, and go backwards and forwards and all about amongst thoseunhappy ones, brightening up their lives because our own were so brightand sweet. You were to help me, as only a woman like you—the womanI have been looking for all my life—could help; but I was not goingto let you work too hard—you were to be cared for and made happy,first of all—before all the world. And I could make you happy—Icould, I could—if you would let me try." He was carried away for themoment with the rush of his passionate desire for that life that he wascontemplating, and held her and kissed her as if he would compel her tocome to him. Then with a strong effort he controlled himself, and wenton quietly, though in a rather unsteady voice: "Don't you think we canbe together without harming each other? We shall both have the sameaims—to live the best life and do the most good that we can—what willthe details matter? We could not thwart each other really—it would beimpossible. The same spirit would be in us; it is only the letter weshould differ about."

"If we were together," she said, "we should not differ about anything.Spirit or letter, I should grow to think as you did."

"I believe you would, Elizabeth—I believe you would. And I should growto think as you did. No doubt we should influence each other—it wouldnot be all on one side. Can't you trust me, my dear? Can't we trusteach other? You will have temptations, wherever you go, and with me,at least, you will always know where you are. If your faith is a truefaith it will stand all that I shall do to it, and if your love for meis a true love—"

He paused, and she looked up at him with a look in her swimming eyesthat settled that doubt promptly.

"Then you will do it, Elizabeth?"

"Oh," she said, "you know you can make me do it, whether it is rightor wrong!"

It was a confession of her love, and of its power over her thatappealed to every sentiment of duty and chivalry in him. "No," he said,very gravely and with a great effort, "I will not make you do anythingwrong. You shall feel that it is not wrong before you do it."

An hour later they had reached the shore again, and were in sight ofthe headland and the smoke from the kitchen chimney of Seaview Villa,and in sight of their companions dismounting at Mr. Brion's gardengate. They had not lost themselves, though they had taken so littleheed of the way. The sun was setting as they climbed the cliff, andflamed gloriously in their faces and across the bay. Sea and sky werebathed in indescribable colour and beauty. Checking their tired horsesto gaze upon the scene, on the eve of an indefinite separation, thelovers realised to the full the sweetness of being together and what itwould be to part.



Mr. Brion stood at his gate when the little buggy drove up, beamingwith contentment and hospitality. He respectfully begged that Mr.Yelverton would grant them the favour of his company a littlelonger—would take pot-luck and smoke an evening pipe before hereturned to his hotel in the town, whither he, Mr. Brion, would beonly too happy to drive him. Mr. Yelverton declared, and with perfecttruth, that nothing would give him greater pleasure. Whereupon thehotel servant was dismissed in charge of the larger vehicle, and thehorses of the other were put into the stable. The girls went in to washand dress, and the housekeeper put forth her best efforts to raise thecharacter of the dinner from the respectable to the genteel in honourof a guest who was presumably accustomed to genteel dining.

The meal was served in the one sitting-room of the house, by thelight of a single lamp on the round table and a flood of moonlightthat poured in from the sea through the wide-open doors. After thefeasts and fatigues of the day, no one had any appetite to speak offor the company dishes that Mrs. Harris hastily compounded, course bycourse, in the kitchen; but everyone felt that the meal was a pleasantone, notwithstanding. Mr. Yelverton, his host, and Patty, who wasunusually sprightly, had the conversation to themselves. Patty talkedincessantly. Nelly was amiable and charming, but decidedly sleepy;and Elizabeth, at her lover's side, was not, perhaps, unhappy, butvisibly pale and noticeably silent. After dinner they went out uponthe verandah, and sat there in a group on the comfortable old chairsand about the floor, and drank coffee, and chatted in subdued tones,and looked at the lovely water shining in the moonlight, and listenedto it booming and splashing on the beach below. The two men, by virtueof their respective and yet common qualities, "took to" each other,and, by the time the girls had persuaded them to light the soothingcigarette, Mr. Brion was talking freely of his clever lad in Melbourne,and Mr. Yelverton of the mysterious disappearance of his uncle, as ifit were quite a usual thing with them to confide their family affairsto strangers. Eleanor meanwhile swayed herself softly to and fro ina ragged rocking chair, half awake and half asleep; Elizabeth, stillirresistibly attracted to the neighbourhood of her beloved, sat in theshadow of his large form, listening and pondering, with her eyes fixedon the veiled horizon, and all her senses on the alert; Patty squattedon the edge of the verandah, leaning against a post and looking up intothe sky. She was the leading spirit of the group to-night. It was along time since she had been so lively and entertaining.

"I wonder," she conjectured, in a pause of the conversation, "whetherthe inhabitants of any of those other worlds are sitting out on theirverandahs to-night, and looking at us. I suppose we are not soabsolutely insignificant but that some of them, our own brotherand sister planets, at any rate, can see us if they use their besttelescopes—are we, Mr. Yelverton?"

"We will hope not," said Mr. Yelverton.

"To think that the moon—miserable impostor that she is!—shouldbe able to put them out," continued Patty, still gazing at thepalely-shining stars. "The other Sunday we heard a clergyman liken herto something or other which on its appearance quenched the ineffectualfires of the lesser luminaries—"

"He said the sun," corrected Elizabeth.

"Well, it's all the same. What's the sun? The stars he hides arebetter suns than he is—not to speak of their being no end to them. Itshows how easily we allow ourselves to be taken in by mere superficialappearances."

"The sun and moon quench the stars for us, Patty."

"Pooh! That's a very petty parish-vestry sort of way to look at things.Just what you might expect in a little bit of a world like this. InJupiter now"—she paused, and turned her bright eyes upon a deep-setpair that were watching her amusedly. "Mr. Yelverton, I hope you arenot going to insist upon it that Jupiter is too hot to do anything butblaze and shine and keep life going on his little satellites—are you?"

"O dear no!" he replied. "I wouldn't dream of such a thing."

"Very well. We will assume, then, that Jupiter is a habitable world, asthere is no reason why he shouldn't be that I can see—-just for thesake of enlarging Elizabeth's mind. And, having assumed that, the leastwe can suppose—seeing that a few billions of years are of no accountin the chronology of the heavenly bodies—is that a world on such asuperior scale was fully up to our little standard before we began.I mean our present standard. Don't you think we may reasonably supposethat, Mr. Yelverton?"

"In the absence of information to the contrary, I think we may," hesaid. "Though I would ask to be allowed to reserve my own opinion."

"Certainly. I don't ask for anybody's opinion. I am merely throwingout suggestions. I want to extend Elizabeth's vision in these mattersbeyond the range of the sun and moon. So I say that Jupiter—and if notJupiter, one of the countless millions of cooler planets, perhaps everso much bigger than he is, which lie out in the other sun-systems—waswell on with his railways and telegraphs when we began to get a crust,and to condense vapours. You will allow me to say as much as that, forthe sake of argument?"

"I think you argue beautifully," said Mr. Yelverton.

"Very well then. Millions of years ago, if you had lived in Jupiter,you could have travelled in luxury as long as your life lasted, andseen countries whose numbers and resources never came to an end. Thinkof the railway system, and the shipping interest, of a world of thatsize!"

"Don't, Patty," interposed Elizabeth. "Think what a little, littlelife it would have been, by comparison! If we can't make it do us now,what would its insufficiency be under such conditions?"

Patty waved her hand to indicate the irrelevancy of the suggestion."In a planet where, we are told, there are no vicissitudes of climate,people can't catch colds, Elizabeth; and colds, all the doctors say,are the primary cause of illness, and it is because they get ill thatpeople die. That is a detail. Don't interrupt me. So you see, Mr.Yelverton, assuming that they knew all that we know, and did all thatwe do, before the fire and the water made our rocks and seas, and thechalk beds grew, and the slimy things crawled, and primitive man beganto chip stones into wedges to kill the saurians with—just imagine fora moment the state of civilisation that must exist in Jupiter, now.Not necessarily our own Jupiter—any of the older and more improvedJupiters that must be spinning about in space."

"I can't," said Mr. Yelverton. "My imagination is not equal to such atask."

"I want Elizabeth to think of it," said Patty. "She is a littleinclined to be provincial, as you see, and I want to elevate her ideas."

"Thank you, dear," said Elizabeth.

"It is a pity," Patty went on, "that we can't have a FederalConvention. That's what we want. If only the inhabited planetscould send representatives to meet and confer together somewhereoccasionally, then we should all have broad views—then we might findout at once how to set everything right, without any more trouble."

"Space would have to be annihilated indeed, Miss Patty."

"Yes, I know—I know. Of course I know it can't be done—at anyrate, not yet—not in the present embryonic stage of things. If ameteor takes a million years to travel from star to star, going atthe rate of thousands of miles per second—and keeps on paying visitsindefinitely—Ah, what was that?"

She sprang from her low seat suddenly, all her celestial fanciesscattered to the mundane winds, at the sound of a wakeful magpiebeginning to pipe plaintively on the house roof. She thought sherecognised one of the dear voices of the past. "Can it be Peter?" shecried, breathlessly. "Oh, Elizabeth, I do believe it is Peter! Do comeout and let us call him down!"

They hurried, hand in hand, down to the shelving terrace that dividedthe verandah from the edge of the cliff, and there called and cooed andcoaxed in their most seductive tones. The magpie looked at them for amoment, with his head co*cked on one side, and then flew away.

"No," said Patty, with a groan, "it is not Peter! They are all gone,every one of them. I have no doubt the Hawkins boys shot them—littlebloodthirsty wretches! Come down to the beach, Elizabeth."

They descended the steep and perilous footpath zig-zagging down theface of the cliff, with the confidence of young goats, and reaching thelittle bathing-house, sat down on the threshold. The tide was high, andthe surf seething within a few inches of the bottom step of the shortladder up and down which they had glided bare-footed daily for so manyyears. The fine spray damped their faces; the salt sea-breezes fannedthem deliciously. Patty put her arms impulsively round her sister'sneck.

"Oh, Elizabeth," she said, "I am so glad for you—I am so glad! Ithas crossed my mind several times, but I was never sure of it tillto-day, and I wouldn't say anything until I was sure, or until you toldme yourself."

"My darling," said Elizabeth, responding to the caress, "don't be sureyet. I am not sure."

"You are not!" exclaimed Patty, with derisive energy. "Don't try tomake me believe you are a born idiot, now, because I know you too well.Why, a baby in arms could see it!"

"I see it, dear, of course; both of us see it. We understand eachother. But—but I don't know yet whether I shall accept him, Patty."

"Don't you?" responded Patty. She had taken her arms from her sister'sneck, and was clasping her knees with them in a most unsympatheticattitude. "Do you happen to know whether you love him, Elizabeth?"

"Yes," whispered Elizabeth, blushing in the darkness; "I know that."

"And whether he loves you?"


"Of course you do. You can't help knowing it. Nobody could. And if,"proceeded Patty sternly, fixing the fatuous countenance of the man inthe moon with a baleful eye, "if, under those circ*mstances, you don'taccept him, you deserve to be a miserable, lonely woman for all therest of your wretched life. That's my opinion if you ask me for it."

Elizabeth looked at the sea in tranquil contemplation for a fewseconds. Then she told Patty the story of her perplexity from thebeginning to the end.

"Now what would you do?" she finally asked of her sister, who hadlistened with the utmost interest and intelligent sympathy. "If it wereyour own case, my darling, and you wanted to do what was right, howwould you decide?"

"Well, Elizabeth," said Patty; "I'll tell you the truth. I should notstop to think whether it was right or wrong."


"No. A year ago I would not have said so—a year ago I might have beenable to give you the very best advice. But now—but now"—the girlstretched out her hands with the pathetic gesture that Elizabeth hadseen and been struck with once before—"now, if it were my own case, Ishould take the man I loved, no matter what he was, if he would takeme."

Elizabeth heaved a long sigh from the bottom of her troubled heart. Shefelt that Patty, to whom she had looked for help, had made her burdenof responsibility heavier instead of lighter. "Let us go up to thehouse again," she said wearily. "There is no need to decide to-night."

When they reached the house, they found Eleanor gone to bed, and thegentlemen sitting on the verandah together, still talking of Mr.Yelverton's family history, in which the lawyer was professionallyinterested. The horses were in the little buggy, which stood at thegate.

"Ah, here they are!" said Mr. Brion. "Mr. Yelverton is waiting to saygood-night, my dears. He has to settle at the hotel, and go on boardto-night."

Patty bade her potential brother-in-law an affectionate farewell, andthen vanished into her bedroom. The old man bustled off at her heels,under pretence of speaking to the lad-of-all-work who held the horses;and Elizabeth and her lover were left for a brief interval alone.

"You will not keep me in suspense longer than you can help, will you?"Mr. Yelverton said, holding her hands. "Won't a week be long enough?"

"Yes," she said; "I will decide it in a week."

"And may I come back to you here, to learn my fate? Or will you come toMelbourne to me?"

"Had I not better write?"

"No. Certainly not."

"Then I will come to you," she said.

He drew her to him and kissed her forehead gravely. "Good-night, mylove," he said. "You will be my love, whatever happens."

And so he departed to the township, accompanied by his hospitable host,and she went miserable to bed. And at the first pale streak of dawnthe little steamer sounded her whistle and puffed away from the littlejetty, carrying him back to the world, and she stood on the cliff, amile away from Seaview Villa, to watch the last whiff of smoke from itsfunnels fade like a breath upon the horizon.



If we could trace back the wonderful things that happen to us "byaccident," or, as some pious souls believe, by the operation of aspecial Providence or in answer to prayer, to their remote origin,how far should we not have to go? Into the mists of antiquity, andbeyond—even to the primal source whence the world was derived, andthe consideration of the accident of its separation from its parentglobe; nay, of the accident which separated our sun itself from thecountless dust of other suns that strew the illimitable ether—stillleaving the root of the matter in undiscoverable mystery. The chain ofcauses has no beginning for us, as the sequence of effects has no end.These considerations occurred to me just now, when I sat down, cheerfuland confident, to relate how it came to pass (and what multitudinoustrifles could have prevented it from coming to pass) that anextraordinary accident happened to the three Miss Kings in the courseof the week following Mr. Yelverton's departure. Thinking it over, Ifind that I cannot relate it. It would make this chapter like the firsthalf-dozen in the book of Chronicles, only much worse. If Mr. Kinghad not inherited a bad temper from his great-great-grandfathers—Icould get as far as that. But the task is beyond me. I give it up,and content myself with a narration of the little event (in theimmeasurable chain of events) which, at this date of which I amwriting—in the ephemeral summer time of these three brief littlelives—loomed so large, and had such striking consequences.

It happened—or, as far as my story is concerned, it began tohappen—while the steamer that carried away Mr. Yelverton was stillploughing the ocean waves, with that interesting passenger on board.Seaview Villa lay upon the headland, serene and peaceful in thesunshine of as perfect a morning as visitors to the seaside couldwish to see, all its door-windows open to the south wind, and thesibilant music of the little wavelets at its feet. The occupants ofthe house had risen from their beds, and were pursuing the trivialround and common task of another day, with placid enjoyment of itsatmospheric charms, and with no presentiment of what was to befallthem. The girls went down to their bath-house before breakfast, andspent half an hour in the sunny water, diving, and floating, andplaying all the pranks of childhood over again; and then they attackeda dish of fried flathead with appetites that a schoolboy might haveenvied. After breakfast the lawyer had to go to his office, and hisguests accompanied him part of the way. On their return, Sam Dunncame to see them, with the information that his best boat, which borethe inappropriate title of "The Rose in June," was moored on thebeach below, and an invitation to his young ladies to come out fora sail in her while the sea was so calm and the wind so fair. Thisinvitation Elizabeth declined for herself; she was still wondering inwhich direction the right path lay—whether towards the fruition ofher desires or the renunciation of all that now made life beautifuland valuable to her—and finding no solution to the problem either inmeditation or prayer; and she had little inclination to waste any ofthe short time that remained to her for making up her mind. But toPatty and Eleanor it was irresistible. They scampered off to theirbedrooms to put on their oldest frocks, hats, and boots, rushed intothe kitchen to Mrs. Harris to beg for a bundle of sandwiches, and setforth on their expedition in the highest spirits—as if they had neverbeen away from Sam Dunn and the sea, to learn life, and love, andtrouble, and etiquette amongst city folks.

When they were gone, the house was very still for several hours.Elizabeth sat on the verandah, sewing and thinking, and watching thewhite sail of "The Rose in June" through a telescope; then she had herlunch brought to her on a white-napkined tray; after eating which insolitude she went back to her sewing, and thinking, and watching again.So four o'clock—the fateful hour—drew on. At a little before four,Mr. Brion came home, hot and dusty from his long walk, had a bath andchanged his clothes, and sat down to enjoy himself in his arm-chair.Mrs. Harris brought in the afternoon tea things, with some newly-bakedcakes; Elizabeth put down her work and seated herself at the table tobrew the refreshing cup. Then home came Patty and Eleanor, happy andhungry, tanned and draggled, and in the gayest temper, having beensailing Sam's boat for him all the day and generally roughing it withgreat ardour. They were just in time for the tea and cakes, and satdown as they were, with hats tilted back on their wind-roughened heads,to regale themselves therewith.

When Patty was in the middle of her third cake, she suddenly rememberedsomething. She plunged her hand into her pocket, and drew forth asmall object. It was as if one touched the button of that wonderfulelectric apparatus whereby the great ships that are launched byprincesses are sent gliding out of dock into the sea. "Look," she said,opening her hand carefully, "what he has given me. It is a Queenslandopal. A mate of his, he says, gave it to him, but I have a terriblesuspicion that the dear fellow bought it. Mates don't give such thingsfor nothing. Is it not a beauty?"—and she held between her thumb andfinger a silky-looking flattened stone, on which, when it caught thelight, a strong blue sheen was visible. "I shall have it cut and madeinto something when we go back to town, and I shall keep it for ever,in memory of Sam Dunn," said Patty with enthusiasm.

And then, when they had all examined and appraised it thoroughly, shecarried it to the mantelpiece, intending to place it there in safetyuntil she went to her own room. But she had no sooner laid it down,pushing it gently up to the wall, than there was a little click and afaint rattle, and it was gone.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "what shall I do? It has fallen behind themantelpiece! I quite forgot that old hole—and it is there still.Surely," she continued angrily, stamping her foot, "when Mr. Hawkinstook the trouble to do all this"—and she indicated the surface of thewoodwork, which had been painted in a wild and ghastly imitation ofmarble—"he might have taken a little more, and fixed the thing closeup to the wall?"

Mr. Brion examined the mantelpiece, pushed it, shook it, peeredbehind it with one eye, and said that he had himself lost a valuablepaper-knife in the same distressing manner, and had long intended tohave the aperture closed up. "And I will get a carpenter to-morrowmorning, my dear," he boldly declared, "and he shall take the wholething to pieces and fix it again properly. Yes, I will—as well now asany other time—and we will find your opal."

Having pledged himself to which tremendous purpose, he and theyfinished their tea, and afterwards had their dinner, and afterwards saton the verandah and gossiped, and afterwards went to bed—and in duetime got up again—as if nothing out of the common way had happened!

In the morning Fate sent another of her humble emissaries from thetownship to Seaview Villa, with a bag of tools over his shoulder—toolsthat were keys to unlock one of her long-kept secrets. And half anhour after his arrival they found the opal, and several thingsbesides. When, after Mrs. Harris had carefully removed the furnitureand hearthrug, and spread cornsacks over the carpet, the carpenterwrenched the mantelpiece from its fastenings, such a treasure-trovewas discovered in the rough hollows of the wall and floor as none ofthem had dreamed of. It did not look much at the first glance. Therewere the opal and the paper-knife, half a dozen letters (circulars andhousehold bills of Mrs. King's), several pens and pencils, a pair ofscissors, a silver fruit-knife, a teaspoon, a variety of miscellaneoustrifles, such as bodkins and corks, and a vast quantity of dust. Thatseemed all. But, kneeling reverently to grope amongst these humblerelics of the past, Elizabeth found, quite at the bottom of everything,a little card. It was an old, old card, dingy and fretted with age,and dried and curled up like a dead leaf, and it had a little pictureon it that had almost faded away. She carefully wiped the dust from itwith her handkerchief, and looked at it as she knelt; it was a crudeand youthful water-colour drawing of an extensive Elizabethan house,with a great many gables and fluted chimney-stacks, and much exuberanceof architectural fancy generally. It had been minutely outlined bya hand trained to good draughtsmanship, and then coloured much as achild would colour a newspaper print from a sixpenny paint-box, andless effectively, because there was no light and shade to go upon.It was flat and pale, like a builder's plan, only that it had somewashy grass and trees about it, and a couple of dogs running a racein the foreground, which showed its more ambitious pretensions; andthe whole thing had evidently been composed with the greatest care.Elizabeth, studying it attentively, and thinking that she recognisedher father's hand in certain details, turned the little picture overin search of the artist's signature. And there, in a corner, writtenvery fine and small, but with elaborate distinctness, she read thesewords:—"Elizabeth Leigh, from Kingscote Yelverton, Yelverton, June,1847."

She stared at the legend—in which she recognised a peculiar capitalK of his own invention that her father always used—with the utmostsurprise, and with no idea of its tremendous significance. "Why—why!"she gasped, holding it up, "it belongs to him—it has Mr. Yelverton'sname upon it! How in the world did it come here? What does it mean?Did he drop it here the other day? But, no, that is impossible—it wasquite at the bottom—it must have been lying here for ages. Mr. Brion,what does it mean?"

The old man was already stooping over her, trying to take it from herhand. "Give it to me, my dear, give it to me," he cried eagerly. "Don'ttear it—oh, for God's sake, be careful!—let me see what it is first."He took it from her, read the inscription over and over and over again,and then drew a chair to the table and sat down with the card beforehim, his face pale, and his hands shaking. The sisters gathered roundhim, bewildered; Elizabeth still possessed with her first impressionthat the little picture was her lover's property, Eleanor scarcelyaware of what was going on, and Patty—always the quickest to reachthe truth—already beginning dimly to discern the secret of theirdiscovery. The carpenter and the housekeeper stood by, open-mouthed andopen-eyed; and to them the lawyer tremulously addressed himself.

"You had better go for a little while," he said; "we will put themantelpiece up presently. Yet, stay—we have found a very importantdocument, as I believe, and you are witnesses that we have done so. Youhad better examine it carefully before you go, that you may know itwhen you see it again." Whereupon he solemnly proceeded to print thesaid document upon their memories, and insisted that they should eachtake a copy of the words that made its chief importance, embodying itin a sort of affidavit, to which they signed their names. Then he sentthem out of the room, and confronted the three sisters, in a state ofgreat excitement. "I must see Paul," he said hurriedly. "I must have myson to help me. We must ransack that old bureau of yours—there must bemore in it than we found that time when we looked for the will. Tellme, my dears, did your father let you have the run of the bureau, whenhe was alive?"

No, they told him; Mr. King had been extremely particular in allowingno one to go to it but himself.

"Ah," said the old man, "we must hunt it from top to bottom—we mustbreak it into pieces, if necessary. I will telegraph to Paul. We mustgo to town at once, my dears, and investigate this matter—before Mr.Yelverton leaves the country."

"He will not leave the country yet," said Elizabeth. "What is it, Mr.Brion?"

"I think I see what it is," broke in Patty. "Mr. Brion thinksthat father was Mr. Yelverton's uncle, who was lost so long ago.King—King—Mr. Yelverton told us the other day that they called him'King,' for short—and he was named Kingscote Yelverton, like hisuncle. Mother's name was Elizabeth. I believe Mr. Brion is right And,if so—"

"And, if so," Patty repeated, when that wonderful, bewildering daywas over, and she and her elder sister were packing for their returnto Melbourne in the small hours of the next morning—"if so, we arethe heiresses of all those hundreds of thousands that are supposedto belong to our cousin Kingscote. Now, Elizabeth, do you feel likedepriving him of everything, and stopping his work, and leaving hispoor starved costermongers to revert to their original condition—or doyou not?"

"I would not take it," said Elizabeth, passionately.

"Pooh!—as if we should be allowed to choose! People can't do as theylike where fortunes and lawyers are concerned. For Nelly's sake—not tospeak of mine—they will insist on our claim, if we have one; and thendo you suppose he would keep your money? Of course not—it's a mostinsulting idea. Therefore the case lies in a nutshell. You will have tomake up your mind quickly, Elizabeth."

"I have made up my mind," said Elizabeth, "if it is a question of whichof us is most worthy to have wealth, and knows best how to use it."



They did not wait for the next steamer, but hurried back to Melbourneby train and coach, and reached Myrtle Street once more at a littlebefore midnight, the girls dazed with sleep and weariness and thestrain of so much excitement as they had passed through. They had sentno message to Mrs. Duff-Scott at present, preferring to make theirinvestigations, in the first place, as privately as possible; and Mr.Brion had merely telegraphed to his son that they were returning withhim on important business. Paul was at the house when they arrived,but Mrs. M'Intyre had made hospitable preparations at No. 6 as wellas at No. 7; and the tired sisters found their rooms aired and theirbeds arranged, a little fire lit, gas burning, kettle boiling, anda tempting supper laid out for them when they dragged their wearylimbs upstairs. Mrs. M'Intyre herself was there to give them welcome,and Dan, who had been reluctantly left behind when they went into thecountry, was wild with rapture, almost tearing them to pieces in thevehemence of his delight at seeing them again, long past the age ofgambols as he was. Mr. Brion was consoled for the upsetting of hisown arrangements, which had been to take his charges to an hotel forthe night, and there luxuriously entertain them; and he bade theman affectionate good-night, and went off contentedly to No. 7 underthe wing of Paul's landlady, to doze in Paul's arm-chair until thatbrilliant ornament of the press should be released from duty.

Cheered by their little fire—for, summer though it was, their fatigueshad made them chilly—and by Mrs. M'Intyre's ham and chicken and hotcoffee, the girls sat, talking and resting, for a full hour before theywent to bed; still dwelling on the strange discovery of the littlepicture behind the mantelpiece, which Mr. Brion had taken possessionof, and wondering if it would really prove them to be the three MissYelvertons instead of the three Miss Kings, and co-heiresses of one ofthe largest properties in England.

As they passed the old bureau on their way to their rooms, Elizabethpaused and laid her hand on it thoughtfully. "It hardly seems to mepossible," she said, "that father should have kept such a secretall these years, and died without telling us of it. He must haveseen the advertisem*nts—he must have known what difficulties he wasmaking for everybody. Perhaps he did not write those names on thepicture—handwriting is not much to go by, especially when it is soold as that; you may see whole schools of boys or girls writing in onestyle. Perhaps father was at school with Mr. Yelverton's uncle. Perhapsmother knew Elizabeth Leigh. Perhaps she gave her the sketch—orshe might have come by it accidentally. One day she must have foundit—slipped in one of her old music-books, maybe—and taken it out toshow father; and she put it up on the mantelpiece, and it slipped downbehind, like Patty's opal. If it had been of so much consequence as itseems to us—if they had desired to leave no trace of their connectionwith the Yelverton family—surely they would have pulled the house downbut what they would have recovered it. And then we have hunted thebureau over—we have turned it out again and again—and never foundanything."

"Mr. Brion thinks there are secret drawers," said Eleanor, who, of allthe three, was most anxious that their golden expectations should berealised. "It is just the kind of cabinet work, he says, that is alwaysfull of hidden nooks and corners, and he is blaming himself that he didnot search it more thoroughly in the first instance."

"And he thinks," continued Patty, "that father seemed like a man withthings on his mind, and believes he would have told us had he hadmore warning of his death. But you know he was seized so suddenly, andcould not speak afterwards."

"Poor father—poor father!" sighed Elizabeth, pitifully. They thoughtof his sad life, in the light of this possible theory, with more tendercompassion than they had ever felt for him before; but the idea thathe might have murdered his brother, accidentally or otherwise—and forthat reason had effaced himself and done bitter penance for the rest ofhis days—never for a moment occurred to them. "Well, we shall know byto-morrow night," said the elder sister, gently. "If the bureau doesnot yield fresh evidence, there is none that we can allow Mr. Brion, oranyone else, to act upon. The more I think it over, the more I see howeasily the whole thing could be explained—to mean nothing so importantas Mr. Brion thinks. And, for myself, I should not be disappointed ifwe found ourselves only Miss Kings, without fortune or pedigree, as wehave always been. We are very happy as we are."

"That is how I felt at first," said Patty. "But I must say I am growingmore and more in love with the idea of being rich. The delightfulthings that you can do with plenty of money keep flashing into my mind,one after the other, till I feel that I never understood what beingpoor meant till now, and that I could not content myself with a hundreda year and Mrs. Duff-Scott's benefactions any more. No; the wish may befather to the thought, Elizabeth, but I do think it, honestly, thatwe shall turn out to be Mr. Yelverton's cousins—destined to supersedehim, to a certain extent."

"I think so, too," said Eleanor, anxiously. "I can't—Iwon't—believe that Mr. Brion is mistaken."

So they went, severally affected by their strange circ*mstances, tobed. And in the morning they were up early, and made great haste to gettheir breakfast over, and their sitting-room in order, in readiness forthe lawyer's visit. They were very much agitated by their suspense andanxiety, especially Patty, to whom the impending interview with Paulhad become of more pressing consequence, temporarily, than even theinvestigations that he was to assist. She had had no communicationwith him whatever since she cut him on the racecourse when he wasinnocently disporting himself with Mrs. Aarons; and her nerves wereshaken by the prospect of seeing and speaking to him again, and bythe vehemence of her conflicting hopes and fears. She grew cold andhot at the recollection of one or two accidental encounters that hadtaken place since Cup Day, and at the picture of his contemptuous,unrecognising face that rose up vividly before her. Elizabeth noticedher unusual pallor and restless movements, and how she hovered aboutthe window, straining her ears to catch a chance sound of the men'svoices next door, and made an effort to divert her thoughts. "Come andhelp me, Patty," she said, putting her hand on her sister's shoulder."We have nothing more to do now, so we may as well turn out some of thedrawers before they come. We can look over dear mother's clothes, andsee if they have any marks on them that we have overlooked. Mr. Brionwill want to have everything examined."

So they began to work at the bureau with solemn diligence, and a freshset of emotions were evolved by that occupation, which counteracted,without effacing, those others that were in Patty's mind. She becameabsorbed and attentive. They took out all Mrs. King's gowns, and herlinen, and her little everyday personal belongings, searched themcarefully for indications of ownership, and, finding none, laid themaside in the adjoining bedroom. Then they exhumed all those relics ofan olden time which had a new significance at the present juncture—thefine laces, the faded brocades, the Indian shawl and Indian muslins,the quaint fans and little bits of jewellery—and arranged themcarefully on the table for the lawyer's inspection.

"We know now," said Patty, "though we didn't know a few mouths ago,that these are things that could only belong to a lady who had beenrich once."

"Yes," said Elizabeth. "But there is another point to be considered.Elizabeth Leigh ran away with her husband secretly and in haste, andunder circ*mstances that make it seem most unlikely that she shouldhave hampered herself and him with luggage, or bestowed a thought onsuch trifles as fans and finery."

The younger sisters were a little daunted for a moment by this view ofthe case. Then Eleanor spoke up. "How you do love to throw cold wateron everything!" she complained, pettishly. "Why shouldn't she thinkof her pretty things? I'm sure if I were going to run away—no matterunder what circ*mstances—I should take all mine, if I had halfan hour to pack them up. So would you. At least, I don't know aboutyou—but Patty would. Wouldn't you, Patty?"

"Well," said Patty, thoughtfully, sitting back on her heels and foldingher hands in her lap, "I really think I should, Elizabeth. If you cometo think of it, it is the heroines of novels who do those things. Theythrow away lovers, and husbands, and fortunes, and everything else, onthe slightest provocation; it is a matter of course—it is the correctthing in novels. But in real life girls are fond of all nice things—atleast, that is my experience—and they don't feel like throwing themaway. Girls in novels would never let Mrs. Duff-Scott give them gownsand bonnets, for instance—they would be too proud; and they wouldburn a bureau any day rather than rummage in it for a title to moneythat a nice man, whom they cared for, was in possession of. Don't tellme. You are thinking of the heroines of fiction, Elizabeth, and not ofElizabeth Leigh. She, I agree with Nelly—however much she might havebeen troubled and bothered—did not leave her little treasures for theservants to pawn. Either she took them with her, or someone able tokeep her destination a secret sent them after her."

"Well, well," said Elizabeth, who had got out her mother's jewelleryand was gazing fondly at the miniature in the pearl-edged locket, "weshall soon know. Get out the books and music, dear."

They were turning over a vast pile of music, which required at leasthalf a day to examine properly, when the servant of the house tappedat the door to ask, with Mr. Brion's compliments, when it would beconvenient to Miss King to receive that gentleman. In a few minutesfather and son were in the room, the former distributing hasty andpaternal greetings all around, and the latter quietly shaking handswith an air of almost aggressive deliberation. Paul was quite polite,and to a certain extent friendly, but he was terribly, uncompromisinglybusiness-like. Not a moment did he waste in mere social amenities,after shaking hands with Patty—which he did as if he were a woodenautomaton, and without looking at her—but plunged at once into thematter of the discovered picture, as if time were money and nothingelse of any consequence. Patty's heart sank, but her spirit rose;she determined not to "let herself down" or in any way to "make anexhibition of herself," if she could help it. She drew a little asidefrom the bureau, and went on turning over the music—which presentlyshe was able to report valueless as evidence, except negative evidence,the name, wherever it had been written at the head of a sheet, havingbeen cut out or erased; while Elizabeth took the remaining articlesfrom their drawers and pigeon-holes, and piled them on the table and inNelly's arms.

For some time they were all intent upon their search, and very silent;and it still seemed that they were to find nothing in the shape of thatpositive proof which Elizabeth, as the head of the family, demandedbefore she would give permission for any action to be taken. There wereno names in the old volumes of music, and the fly-leaves had been tornfrom the older books. Some pieces of ancient silver plate—a pair ofcandlesticks, a pair of salt-cellars, a teapot and sugar basin (nowin daily use), a child's mug, some Queen Anne spoons and ladles—wereall unmarked by crest or monogram; and two ivory-painted miniaturesand three daguerreotypes, representing respectively one old lady inhigh-crowned cap and modest kerchief, one young one with puffs allover her head, and a classic absence of bodice to her gown, one littlefair-haired child, similarly scanty in attire, and one middle-agedgentleman with a large shirt frill and a prodigious quantity ofneck-cloth—likewise failed to verify themselves by date or inscriptionwhen carefully prised out of their frames and leather cases with PaulBrion's pen-knife. These family portraits, understood by the girls tobelong to the maternal side of the house, were laid aside, however,along with the pearl-rimmed locket and other jewels, and the picturethat was found behind the mantelpiece; and then, nothing else beingleft, apparently, the two men began an inspection of the papers.

While this was going on, Patty, at a sign from Elizabeth, set upthe leaves of a little tea-table by the window, spread it with awhite cloth, and fetched in such a luncheon as the slender larderafforded—the remains of Mrs. M'Intyre's chicken and ham, some breadand butter, a plate of biscuits, and a decanter of sherry—for it waspast one o'clock, and Mr. Brion and Paul had evidently no intentionof going away until their investigations were complete. The room wasquite silent. Her soft steps and the brush of her gown as she passedto and fro were distinctly audible to her lover, who would not so muchas glance at her, but remained sternly intent upon the manuscriptsbefore him. These were found to be very interesting, but to have nomore bearing upon the matter in hand than the rest of the relics thathad been overhauled; for the most part, they were studies in variousarts and sciences prepared by Mr. and Mrs. King for their daughtersduring the process of their education, and such odds and ends ofliterature as would be found in a clever woman's common-place books.They had all been gone over at the time of Mr. King's death, in a vainhunt for testamentary documents; and Elizabeth, looking into the nowbare shelves and apertures of the bureau, began to think how she couldconsole her sisters for the disappointment of their hopes.

"Come and have some lunch," she said to Paul (Mr. Brion was already atthe table, deprecating the trouble that his dear Patty was taking). "Idon't think you will find anything more."

The young man stood up with his brows knitted over his keen eyes,and glanced askance at the group by the window. "We have not doneyet," he said decisively; "and we have learned quite enough, in whatwe haven't found, to justify us in consulting Mr. Yelverton'ssolicitors."

"No," she said, "I'll have nothing said to Mr. Yelverton, unless thewhole thing is proved first."

Never thinking that the thing would be proved, first or last, sheadvanced to the extemporised lunch table, and dispensed the modesthospitalities of the establishment with her wonted simple grace. Mr.Brion was accommodated with an arm-chair and a music-book to layacross his knees, whereon Patty placed the tit-bits of the chickenand the knobby top-crust of the loaf, waiting upon him with thattender solicitude to which he had grown accustomed, but which was soastonishing, and so interesting also, to his son.

"She has spoiled me altogether," said the old man fondly, laying hishand on her bright head as she knelt before him to help him to mustardand salt. "I don't know how I shall ever manage to get along withouther now."

"Has this sad fate overtaken you in one short week?" inquired Paul,rather grimly. "Your sister should be labelled like an explosivecompound, Miss King—'dangerous,' in capital letters." Paul was sittingin a low chair by Elizabeth, with his plate on his knee, and he thaweda good deal, in spite of fierce intentions to the contrary, under theinfluence of food and wine and the general conversation. He looked atPatty now and then, and by-and-bye went so far as to address a remarkto her. "What did she think of the caves?" he asked, indifferently,offering her at the same moment a glass of sherry, which, thoughunaccustomed to fermented liquors, she had not the presence of mindto refuse—and which she took with such a shaking hand that shespilled some of it over her apron. And she plunged at once into rapidand enthusiastic descriptions of the caves and the delights of theirexpedition thereto, absurdly uplifted by this slight token of interestin her proceedings.

When luncheon was over, Elizabeth culled Eleanor—who, too restlessto eat much herself, was hovering about the bureau, tapping it hereand there with a chisel—to take her turn to be useful by clearingthe table; and then, as if business were of no consequence, bade herguests rest themselves for a little and smoke a cigarette if they feltinclined.

"Smoke!" exclaimed Paul, with a little sarcastic laugh. "Oh, no, MissKing, that would never do. What would Mrs. Duff-Scott say if she wereto smell tobacco in your sitting-room?"

"Well, what would she say?" returned Elizabeth, gently—she was verygentle with Paul to-day. "Mrs. Duff-Scott, I believe, is rather fond ofthe smell of tobacco, when it is good."

Mr. Brion having satisfied the demands of politeness with profuseprotestations, suffered himself to indulge in a mild cigarette; butPaul would not be persuaded. He resumed his study of the manuscriptswith an air of determination, as of a man who had idled away precioustime. He conscientiously endeavoured to fix his attention on theimportant business that he had undertaken, and to forget everythingelse until he had finished it. For a little while Patty wandered up anddown in an aimless manner, making neat heaps of the various articlesscattered about the room and watching him furtively; then she softlyopened the piano, and began to play, just above a whisper, the "SonataPathetique."



It was between two and three o'clock; Mr. Brion reposed in hisarm-chair, smoking a little, talking a little to Elizabeth who satbeside him, listening dreamily to the piano, and feeling himselfmore and more inclined to doze and nod his head in the sleepy warmthof the afternoon, after his glass of sherry and his recent severefatigues. Elizabeth, by way of entertaining him, sat at his elbow,thinking, thinking, with her fingers interlaced in her lap and hergaze fixed upon the floor. Patty, intensely alert and wakeful, butalmost motionless in her straight back and delicately poised head,drooped over the keyboard, playing all the "soft things" that she couldremember without notes; and Paul, who had resisted her enchantmentsas long as he could, leaned back in his chair, with his hand over hiseyes, having evidently ceased to pay any attention to his papers. And,suddenly, Eleanor, who was supposed to be washing plates and dishes inthe kitchen, flashed into the room, startling them all out of theirdreams.

"Elizabeth, dear," she exclaimed tremulously, "forgive me for meddlingwith your things. But I was thinking and thinking what else there wasthat we had not examined, and mother's old Bible came into my head—thelittle old Bible that she always used, and that you kept in your topdrawer. I could not help looking at it, and here"—holding out a smallleather-bound volume, frayed at the corners and fastened with silverclasps—"here is what I have found. The two first leaves are stucktogether—I remembered that—but they are only stuck round the edges;there is a little piece in the middle that is loose and rattles, and,see, there is writing on it." The girl was excited and eager, andalmost pushed the Bible into Paul Brion's hands. "Look at it, lookat it," she cried. "Undo the leaves with your knife and see what thewriting is."

Paul examined the joined leaves attentively, saw that Eleanor wascorrect in her surmise, and looked at Elizabeth. "May I, Miss King?" heasked, his tone showing that he understood how sacred this relic mustbe, and how much it would go against its present possessor to see ittampered with.

"I suppose you had better," said Elizabeth.

He therefore sat down, laid the book before him, and opened his sharpknife. A sense that something was really going to happen now—thatthe secret of all this careful effacement of the little chroniclescommon and natural to every civilised family would reveal itself in thelong-hidden page which, alone of all the records of the past, theirmother had lacked the heart to destroy—fell upon the three girls; andthey gathered round to watch the operation with pale faces and beatinghearts. Paul was a long time about it, for he tried to part the leaveswithout cutting them, and they were too tightly stuck together. He hadat last to make a little hole in which to insert his knife, and thenit was a most difficult matter to cut away the plain sheet withoutinjuring the written one. Presently, however, he opened a little doorin the middle of the page, held the flap up, glanced at what was behindit for a moment, looked significantly at his father, and silentlyhanded the open book to Elizabeth. And Elizabeth, trembling withexcitement and apprehension, lifting up the little flap in her turn,read this clear inscription—

"To my darling child, ELIZABETH,
From her loving mother,
Bradenham Abbey. Christmas, 1839.
Psalm xv., 1, 2."

There was a dead silence while they all looked at the fine brownwriting—that delicate caligraphy which, like fine needlework, wentout of fashion when our grandmothers passed away—of which everyletter, though pale, was perfectly legible. A flood of recollectionpoured into the minds of the three girls, especially the elder ones,at the sight of those two words, "Bradenham Abbey," in the corner ofthe uncovered portion of the page. "Leigh" and "D'Arcy" were bothunfamiliar names—or had been until lately—but Bradenham had a placein the archives of memory, and came forth at this summons from itsdusty and forgotten nook. When they were children their mother usedto tell them stories by the firelight in winter evenings, and amongstthose stories were several whose scenes were laid in the tapestriedchambers and ghostly corridors, and about the parks and deer-drivesand lake-shores of a great "place" in an English county—a place thathad once been a famous monastery, every feature and aspect of whichMrs. King had at various times described so minutely that they werealmost as familiar with it as if they had seen it for themselves.These stories generally came to an untimely end by the narratorfalling into an impenetrable brown study or being overtaken by anunaccountable disposition to cry—which gave them, of course, a specialand mysterious fascination for the children. While still little thingsin pinafores, they were quick enough to perceive that mother had apersonal interest in that wonderful place of which they never tiredof hearing, and which evidently did not belong to the realms ofMake-believe, like the palace of the Sleeping Beauty and Blue-beard'scastle; and therefore they were always, if unconsciously, trying tounderstand what that interest was. And when, one day when she waspainting a wreath of forget-me-nots on some little trifle intended fora bazaar, and, her husband coming to look over her, she said to himimpulsively, "Oh, do you remember how they grew in the sedges round theSwan's Pool at Bradenham?"—and when he sternly bade her hush, and notspeak of Bradenham unless she wished to drive him mad—then Patty andElizabeth, who heard them both, knew that Bradenham was the name of thegreat house where monks had lived, in the grounds of which, as theyhad had innumerable proofs, pools and swans abounded. It was the firsttime they had heard it, but it was too important a piece of informationto be forgotten. On this memorable day, so many years after, when theyread "Bradenham Abbey" in the well-worn Bible, they looked at eachother, immediately recalling that long-ago incident; but their heartswere too full to speak. It was Mr. Brion who broke the silence that hadfallen upon them all.

"This, added to our other discoveries, is conclusive, I think,"said the old lawyer, standing up in order to deliver his opinionimpressively, and resting his hands on the table. "At any rate, Imust insist on placing the results of our investigation before Mr.Yelverton—yes, Elizabeth, you must forgive me, my dear, if I takethe matter into my own hands. Paul will agree with me that we havepassed the time for sentiment. We will have another look into thebureau—because it seems incredible that any man should deliberatelyrob his children of their rights, even if he repudiated his own, andtherefore I think there must be legal instruments somewhere; but,supposing none are with us, it will not be difficult, I imagine, tosupply what is wanting to complete our case from other sources—fromother records of the family, in fact. Mr. Yelverton himself, infive minutes, would be able to throw a great deal of light upon ourdiscoveries. It is absolutely necessary to consult him."

"I would not mind so much," said Elizabeth, who was deadly pale, "if itwere to be fought out with strangers. But he would give it all up atonce, without waiting to see—without asking us to prove—that we had astrictly legal title."

"Don't you believe it," interposed Paul sententiously.

She rose from her chair in majestic silence, and moved towards thebureau. She would not bandy her lover's name nor discuss his characterwith those who did not know him as she did. Paul followed her, with hischisel in his hand.

"Let us look for that secret drawer, at any rate," he said. "I feelpretty certain there must be one, now. Mr. King took great pains toprevent identification during his lifetime, but, as my father says,that is a very different thing from disinheriting you. If you willallow me, I'll take every moveable part out first."

He did so, while she watched and assisted him. All the brass-handleddrawers, and sliding shelves, and partitions were withdrawn from theirclosely-fitting sockets, leaving a number of holes and spaces eachdiffering in size and shape from the rest. Then he drew up a chair infront of the exposed skeleton, and gazed at it thoughtfully; afterwhich he began to make careful measurements inside and out, to tap thewoodwork in every direction, and to prise some of its strong jointsasunder. This work continued until four o'clock, when, notwithstandingthe highly stimulating excitement of the day's proceedings, the girlsbegan to feel that craving for a cup of tea which is as strong upon theaverage woman at this time as the craving for a nobbler of whisky isupon the—shall I say average man?—when the sight of a public-houseappeals to his nobler appetite. Not that they wanted to eat anddrink—far from it; the cup of tea was the symbol of rest and relieffor a little while from the stress and strain of labour and worry, andthat was what they were in need of. Elizabeth looked at her watch andthen at Patty, and the two girls slipped out of the room together,leaving Eleanor to watch operations at the bureau. Reaching theirlittle kitchen, they mechanically lit the gas in the stove, and setthe kettle on to boil; and then they went to the open window, whichcommanded an unattractive view of the back yard, and stood there sideby side, leaning on each other.

"In 1839," said Patty, "she must have been a girl, a child, and livingat Bradenham at home. Think of it, Elizabeth—with a mother lovingher and petting her as she did us. She was twenty-five when shemarried; she must have been about sixteen when that Bible was givento her—ever so much younger than any of us are now. She lived inthose beautiful rooms with the gold Spanish leather on the walls—shedanced in that long gallery with the painted windows and the slipperyoak floor and the thirty-seven family portraits all in a row—no doubtshe rode about herself with those hunting parties in the winter, androwed and skated on the lake—I can imagine it, what a life it musthave been. Can't you see her, before she grew stout and careworn,and her bright hair got dull, and her pretty hands rough with hardwork—young, and lovely, and happy, and petted by everybody—wearingbeautiful clothes, and never knowing what it was to have to do anythingfor herself? I can. And it seems dreadful to think that she had toremember all that, living as she did afterwards. If only he had made itup to her!—but I don't think he did, Elizabeth—I don't think he did.He used to be so cross to her sometimes. Oh, bless her, bless her! Whydidn't she tell us, so that we could have done more to comfort her?"

"I don't think she ever repented," said Elizabeth, who remembered moreabout her mother than Patty could do. "She did it because she loved himbetter than Bradenham and wealth and her own personal comfort; and sheloved him like that always, even when he was cross. Poor father! Nowonder he was cross!"

"Why didn't he go back—for her sake, if not for ours—when he saw theadvertisem*nts? Elizabeth, my idea is that the death of his brothergave a permanent shock to his brain. I think he could never have beenquite himself afterwards. It was a sort of mania with him to disconnecthimself from everything that could suggest the tragedy—to get as faraway as possible from any association with it."

"I think so, too," said Elizabeth.

Thus they talked by the kitchen window until the kettle bubbled on thestove; and then, recalled to the passing hour and their own personalaffairs, they collected cups and saucers, sugar-basin and milk-jug,and cut bread and butter for the afternoon repast. Just as theirpreparations were completed, Eleanor came flying along the passage fromthe sitting-room. "They have found a secret drawer," she cried in anexcited whisper. "At least not a drawer, but a double partition thatseems to have been glued up; and Mr. Brion is sure, by the dull soundof the wood, that there are things in it. Come and see!"

She flew back again, not even waiting to help her sisters with the tea.Silently Elizabeth took up the tray of cups and saucers, and Patty theteapot and the plate of bread and butter; and they followed her withbeating hearts. This was the crisis of their long day's trial. Paulwas tearing at the intestines of the bureau like a cat at the wainscotthat has just given sanctuary to a mouse, and his father was too muchabsorbed in helping him to notice their return.

"Now, pull, pull!" cried the old man, at the moment when the sistersclosed the door behind them. "Break it, if it won't come. A—a—ah!" asa sudden crash of splintered wood resounded through the room, "therethey are at last! I thought they must be here somewhere!"

"What is it?" inquired Elizabeth, setting down her tea-tray, andhastily running to his side. He was stripping a pink tape from a thinbundle of blue papers in a most unprofessional state of excitement andagitation.

"What is it?" he echoed triumphantly. "This is what it is, mydear"—and he began in a loud voice to read from the outside of theblue packet, to which he pointed with a shaking finger—"The willof Kingscote Yelverton, formerly of Yelverton, in the county ofKent—Elizabeth Yelverton, sole executrix."



Yes, it was their father's will—the will they had vainly hunted fora year ago, little thinking what manner of will it was; executed whenEleanor was a baby in long clothes, and providing for their inheritanceof that enormous English fortune. When they were a little recoveredfrom the shock of this last overwhelming surprise, Mr. Brion brokethe seal of the document, and formally and solemnly read it to them.It was very short, but perfectly correct in form, and the testator(after giving to his wife, in the event of her surviving him, the solecontrol of the entire property, which was unentailed, for her lifetime)bequeathed to his younger daughters, and to any other children whomight have followed them, a portion of thirty thousand pounds apiece,and left the eldest, Elizabeth, heiress of Yelverton and residuarylegatee. Patty and Eleanor were thus to be made rich beyond theirdreams of avarice, but Elizabeth, who had been her father's favourite,was to inherit a colossal fortune. That was, of course, supposing suchwealth existed in fact as well as in the imagination of this incrediblemadman. Paul and his father found themselves unable to conceive of sucha thing as that any one in his senses should possess these rare andprecious privileges, so passionately desired and so recklessly soughtand sinned for by those who had them not, and should yet abjure, themvoluntarily, and against every natural temptation and moral obligationto do otherwise. It was something wholly outside the common course ofhuman affairs, and unintelligible to men of business. Both of themfelt that they must get out of the region of romance and into thepractical domain of other lawyers' offices before they could copeeffectively with the anomalies of the case. As it stood, it was beyondtheir grasp. While the girls, sitting together by the table, strove todigest the meaning of the legal phrases that had fallen so strangely ontheir ears, Mr. Brion and Paul exchanged sotto voce suggestions andopinions over the parchment spread out before them. Then presently theold man opened a second document, glanced silently down the first page,cleared his throat, and looking over his spectacles, said solemnly, "Mydears, give me your attention for a few minutes."

Each changed her position a little, and looked at him steadily. Paulleaned back in his chair, and put his hand over his eyes.

"What I have just been reading to you," said Mr. Brion, "is yourfather's last will and testament, as I believe. It appears that hissurname was Yelverton, and that King was only an abbreviation of hisChristian name—assumed as the surname for the purpose of eluding thesearch made for him by his family. Now, certain circ*mstances have cometo our knowledge lately, referring, apparently, to this inexplicableconduct on your father's part." He paused, coughed, and nervouslysmoothed out the sheets before him, glancing hither and thitherover their contents. "Elizabeth, my dear," he went on, "I think youheard Mr. Yelverton's account of his uncle's strange disappearanceafter—ahem—after a certain unfortunate catastrophe?"

"Yes," said Elizabeth. "We all know about that."

"Well, it seems—of course we must not jump at conclusions too hastily,but still it appears to me a reasonable conjecture—that your fatherand Mr. Yelverton's lost uncle were one and the same person. Theaffair altogether is so extraordinary, so altogether unaccountable, onthe face of it, that we shall require a great deal of proof—and ofcourse Mr. Yelverton himself will require the very fullest and mostabsolute legal proof—before we can accept the theory as an establishedfact—"

"Did I not say so?" Elizabeth interrupted eagerly, surprised bythe old man's sudden assumption of scepticism now that all doubtand uncertainty seemed to be over. "I wish that nothing should bedone—that no steps of any sort should be taken—until it is all provedto the last letter."

"Well," said Mr. Brion, at once abandoning his cautious attitude, "wemust take steps to obtain proof before we can obtain it. And, as itprovidentially happens, we have received the most opportune and, as Ibelieve, the most unimpeachable testimony from Mr. Yelverton himself,who is the loser by our gain, and who gave us the information which isso singularly corroborated in these documents before the existence ofsuch documents was known to anybody. But if more were wanted—"

"More is wanted," urged Elizabeth. "We cannot take advantage of hisown admissions to ruin him."

"If more were wanted," Mr. Brion repeated, with growing solemnityof manner, "we have here a paper under your father's hand, and dulywitnessed by the same persons who witnessed the will—where are yougoing, Paul?" For at this point Paul rose and walked quietly towardsthe door.

"Go on," said the young man. "I will come back presently."

"But where are you going?" his father repeated with irritation. "Can'tyou wait until this business is finished?"

"I think," said Paul, "that the Miss Kings—the Miss Yelvertons, Isuppose I ought to say—would rather be by themselves while you readthat paper. It is not just like the will, you know; it is a privatematter—not for outsiders to listen to."

Elizabeth rose promptly and went towards him, laying her hand onhis arm. "Do you think we consider you an outsider?" she said,reproachfully. "You are one of us—you are in the place of ourbrother—we want you to help us now more than we have ever done. Comeand sit down—that is, of course, if you can spare time for our affairswhen you have so many important ones of your own."

He went and sat down, taking the seat by Patty to which Elizabethpointed him. Patty looked up at him wistfully, and then leaned herelbows on the table and put her face in her hands. Her lover laid hisarm gently on the back of her chair.

"Shall I begin, my dear?" asked the lawyer hesitatingly. "I am afraidit will be painful to you, Elizabeth. Perhaps, as Paul says, it wouldbe better for you to read it by yourselves. I will leave it with youfor a little while, if you promise faithfully to be very careful withit."

But Elizabeth wished it to be read as the will was read, and the oldman, vaguely suspecting that she might be illegally generous to thesuperseded representative of the Yelverton name and property, wasglad to keep the paper in his own hands, and proceeded to recite itscontents. "I, Kingscote Yelverton, calling myself John King, do herebydeclare," &c.

It was the story of Kingscote Yelverton's unfortunate life, put onrecord in the form of an affidavit for the benefit of his children,apparently with the intention that they should claim their inheritancewhen he was gone. The witnesses were an old midwife, long sincedead, and a young Scripture reader, now a middle-aged and prosperousecclesiastic in a distant colony; both of whom the lawyer rememberedas features of the "old days" when he himself was a new-comer to theout-of-the-world place that counted Mr. King as its oldest inhabitant.It was a touching little document, in the sad story that it toldand the severe formality of the style of telling it. KingscoteYelverton, it was stated, was the second of three brothers, sons ofa long line of Yelvertons of Yelverton, of which three, however,according to hereditary custom, only one was privileged to inheritthe ancestral wealth. This one, Patrick, a bachelor, had already comeinto his kingdom; the youngest, a briefless barrister in comfortablecirc*mstances, had married a farmer's daughter in very early youth(while reading for university honours during a long vacation spent inthe farmer's house), and was the father of a sturdy schoolboy whilehimself not long emancipated from the rule of pastors and masters;and Kingscote was a flourishing young captain in the Guards—whenthe tragedy which shattered the family to pieces, and threw its vastproperty into Chancery, took place. Bradenham Abbey was neighbour toYelverton, and Cuthbert Leigh of Bradenham was kin to the Yelvertons ofYelverton. Cuthbert Leigh had a beautiful daughter by his first wife,Eleanor D'Arcy; when this daughter was sixteen her mother died, and astepmother soon after took Eleanor D'Arcy's place; and not long afterthe stepmother came to Bradenham Cuthbert Leigh himself died, leavingan infant son and heir; and not long after that Mrs. Cuthbert Leighmarried again, and her new husband administered Bradenham—in theinterest of the heir eventually, but of himself and his own children inthe meantime. So it happened that Elizabeth Leigh was rather elbowedout of her rights and privileges as her father's daughter; which beingthe case, her distant cousin and near friend, Mrs. Patrick Yelverton,mother of the ill-fated brothers (who lived, poor soul, to see herhouse left desolate), fetched the girl away from the home which washers no more, and took her to live under her own wing at Yelverton.Then the troubles began. Elizabeth was young and fair; indeed, allaccounts of her agreed in presenting the portrait of a woman who musthave been irresistible to the normal and unappropriated man broughtinto close contact with her. At Yelverton she was the daily companionof the unwedded master of the house, and he succumbed accordingly.As an impartial chronicler, I may hazard the suggestion that sheenjoyed a flirtation within lady-like limits, and was not without someresponsibility in the matter. It was clear also that the dowager Mrs.Patrick, anxious to see her first-born suitably married and settled,and placed safely beyond the reach of designing farmers' daughters,contrived her best to effect a union between the two. But whilePatrick was over head and ears in love, and Elizabeth was dallyingwith him, and the old mother planning new furniture for the statelyrooms where the queen was to reign who should succeed her, Kingscotethe guardsman—Kingscote, the handsome, strong-willed, fiery-temperedsecond son—came home. To him the girl's heart, with the immemorial andincurable perversity of hearts, turned forthwith, like a flower to thesun; and a very short furlough had but half run out when she was asdeeply over head and ears in love with Kingscote as Patrick was withher. Kingscote also loved her passionately—on his own testimony, heloved her as never man loved before, though he made a proud confessionthat he had still been utterly unworthy of her; and so the materialsfor the tragedy were laid, like a housemaid's fire, ready for the matchthat kindled them. Elizabeth found her position untenable amid thestrenuous and conflicting attentions bestowed on her by the mother andsons, and went away for a time to visit some of her other relatives;and when her presence and influence were withdrawn from Yelverton, thesmothered enmity of the brothers broke out, and they had their firstand last and fatal quarrel about her. She had left a miniature ofherself hanging in their mother's boudoir; this miniature Patrick laidhands on, and carried off to his private rooms; wherefrom Kingscote,in a violent passion (as Elizabeth's accepted lover), abstracted it byforce. Then the master of the house, always too much inclined to asserthimself as such, being highly incensed in his turn at the liberty thathad been taken with him, marched into his brother's bedroom, wherethe disputed treasure was hidden, found it, and put it in his breastuntil he could discover a safer place for it. They behaved like apair of ill-regulated schoolboys, in short, as men do when love andjealousy combine to derange their nervous systems, and wrought theirown irreparable ruin over this miserable trifle. Patrick, flushed witha lurid triumph at his temporary success, strolled away from the housefor an aimless walk, but afterwards went to a gamekeeper's cottage togive some instructions that occurred to him. The gamekeeper was not athome, and the squire returned by way of a lonely track through a thickplantation, where some of the keeper's work had to be inspected. Herehe met Kingscote, striding along with his gun over his shoulder. Theguardsman had discovered his loss, and was in search of his brother,intending to make a calm statement of his right to the possession ofthe picture by virtue of his rights in the person of the fair original,but at the same time passionately determined that this sort of thingshould be put a stop to. There was a short parley, a brief but fiercealtercation, a momentary struggle—on one side to keep, on the otherto take, the worthless little bone of contention—and it was all over.Patrick, sent backward by a sweep of his strong brother's arm, fellover the gun that had been carelessly propped against a sapling; thestock of the gun, flying up, was caught by a tough twig which draggedacross the hammers, and as the man and the weapon tumbled to the groundtogether one hammer fell, and the exploded charge entered the squire'sneck, just under the chin, and, passing upward to the brain, killedhim. It was an accident, as all the family believed; but to the authorof the mischance it was nothing less than murder. He was guilty of hisbrother's blood, and he accepted the portion of Cain—to be a fugitiveand a vagabond on the face of the earth—in expiation of it. Partlywith the idea of sparing pain and disgrace to his family (believingthat the only evidence available would convict him of murder in a courtof law), and partly because he felt that, if acquitted, it would betoo horrible and impossible to take an inheritance that had come tohim by such means, in the overwhelming desperation of his remorse anddespair he took that determination to blot himself out which was neverafterwards revoked. Returning to the house, he collected some moneyand a few valuables, and, unsuspected and unnoticed, took leave of hishome, and his name, and his place in the world, and was half way toLondon, and beyond recall, before the dead body in the plantation wasdiscovered. In London Elizabeth Leigh was staying with an old MissD'Arcy, quietly studying her music and taking a rest while the societywhich was so fond of her was out of town; and the stricken man couldnot carry out his resolve without bidding farewell to his beloved. Hehad a clandestine interview with Elizabeth, to whom alone he confidedthe circ*mstances of his wretched plight. The girl, of course, advisedhim to return to Yelverton, and bravely meet and bear whatever mightbefall; and it would have been well for him and for her if he had takenthat advice. But he would not listen to it, nor be turned from hisfixed purpose to banish and efface himself, if possible, for the restof his life; seeing which, the devoted woman chose to share his fate.Whether he could and should have spared her that enormous sacrifice,or whether she was happier in making it than she would otherwise havebeen, only themselves ever knew. She did her woman's part in helpingand sustaining and consoling him through all the blighted years that hewas suffered to live and fret her with his brooding melancholy and hisbroken-spirited moroseness, and doubtless she found her true vocationin that thorny path of love.

The story, as told by himself for the information of his children (who,as children ever do, came in time to have interests of their own thattranscended in importance those that were merely personal to theirparents), was much more brief and bald than this, and the reading of itdid not take many minutes. When he had finished it, in dead silence,the lawyer took from the packet of papers a third and smaller document,which he also proceeded to read aloud to those whom it concerned. Thisproved to be a certificate of the marriage of Kingscote Yelverton andElizabeth Leigh, celebrated in an obscure London parish by a curatewho had been the bridegroom's Eton and Oxford chum, and witnessed bya pair of humble folk who had had great difficulty in composing theirrespective signatures, on the 25th of November in the year 1849. And,finally, half-folded round the packet, there was a slip of paper, onwhich was written—"Not to be opened until my death."

"And it might never have been opened until you were all dead!"exclaimed the lawyer, holding up his hands. "He must have meant to giveit to you at the last, and did not reckon on being struck helpless in amoment when his time came."

"Oh, poor father!" sobbed Elizabeth, whose head lay on the table,crushed down in her handkerchief. And the other sisters put their armsabout her, Patty with a set white face and Eleanor whimpering a little.But Mr. Brion and Paul were incensed with the dead man, and could notpity him at present.

It was late before the two friendly advisers, summoned to dinner bytheir landlady, went back to No. 7, and they did not like going. Itdid not seem to them at all right that the three girls should beleft alone under present circ*mstances. Mr. Brion wanted to summonMrs. Duff-Scott, or even Mrs. M'Intyre, to bear them company and seethat they did not faint, or have hysterics, or otherwise "give way,"under the exceptional strain put upon their nervous systems. Then hewanted them to come next door for that dinner which he felt they mustcertainly stand much in need of, and for which they did not seem tohave adequate materials; or to let him take them to the nearest hotel,or to Mrs. Duff-Scott's; or, at least, to permit him to give them somebrandy and water; and he was genuinely distressed because they refusedto be nourished and comforted and appropriately cared for in any ofthese ways.

"We want to be quiet for a little, dear Mr. Brion, that we may talkthings over by ourselves—if you don't mind," Elizabeth said; andthe tone of her voice silenced all his protests. The old man kissedthem, for the first time in his life, uttering a few broken words ofcongratulation on the wonderful change in their fortunes; and Paulshook hands with great gravity and without saying anything at all, eventhough Patty, looking up into his inscrutable face, mutely asked forhis sympathy with her wistful, wet eyes. And they went away.

As they were letting themselves out of the house, assisted by theground-floor domestic, who, scenting mystery in the air, politelyvolunteered to open the hall door in order that she might investigatethe countenances of the Miss Kings' visitors and perchance gather someenlightenment therefrom, Patty, dry-eyed and excited, came flyingdownstairs, and pounced upon the old man.

"Mr. Brion, Mr. Brion, Elizabeth says she hopes you will be surenot to divulge what we have discovered to anybody," she pantedbreathlessly (at the same time glancing at her lover's back as he stoodon the door-step). "It is of the utmost consequence to her to keep itquiet for a little longer."

"But, my dear, what object can Elizabeth have in waiting now? Surelyit is better to have it over at once, and settled. I thought of walkingup to the club by-and-bye, with the papers, and having a word with Mr.Yelverton."

"Of course it is better to have it over," assented Patty.

"I know your time is precious, and I myself am simply frantic till Ican tell Mrs. Duff-Scott. So is Elizabeth. But there is something shemust do first—I can't tell you the particulars—but she must have afew hours' start—say till to-morrow evening—before you speak to Mr.Yelverton or take any steps. I am sure she will do whatever you wish,after that."

The lawyer hesitated, suspicious of the wisdom of the delay, but notseeing how much harm could happen, seeing that he had all the preciousdocuments in his own breast pocket; then he reluctantly granted Patty'srequest, and the girl went upstairs again with feet not quite so lightas those that had carried her down. Upstairs, however, she subordinatedher own interests to the consideration of her sister's more pressingaffairs.

"Elizabeth," she said, with fervid and portentous solemnity, "thisis a crisis for you, and you must be bold and brave. It is no timefor shilly-shallying—you have twenty-four hours before you, and youmust act. If you don't, you will see that he will just throw upeverything, and be too proud to take it back. He will lose all hismoney and the influence for good that it gives him, and you will losehim."

"How shall I act?" asked Elizabeth, leaning instinctively upon thismore courageous spirit.

"How?" echoed Patty, looking at her sister with brilliant eyes. "Oh!"drawing a long breath, and speaking with a yearning passion that it wasbeyond the power of good grammar to express—"oh, if it was only me!"



That evening Mr. Yelverton was leisurely finishing his dinner at theclub when a note was brought to him. He thought he knew the writing,though he had never seen it before, and put it into his pocket until hecould politely detach himself from three semi-hosts, semi-guests, withwhom he was dining. Then he went upstairs rather quickly, tearing openhis letter as he went, and, arrived at the reading-room, sat down ata table, took pen in hand, and dashed off an immediate reply. "I willcertainly be there," he wrote, in a hand more vigorous than elegant."I will wait for you in the German picture gallery. Come as early aspossible, while the place is quiet." And, having closed his missiveand consigned it to the bag, he remained in a comfortable arm-chairin the quiet room, all by himself, meditating. He felt he had a greatdeal to think about, and it indisposed him for convivialities. The weeksince his parting with Elizabeth, long as it had seemed to him, hadnot quite run out, and she had made an assignation which, though itmight have appeared unequivocal to the casual eye, was to him extremelyperplexing. She had come back, and she wanted to see him, and shewanted to see him alone, and she asked him if he would meet her at theExhibition in the morning. And she addressed him as her dearest friend,and signed herself affectionately his. He tried very hard, but he couldnot extract his expected comfort from such a communication, made undersuch circ*mstances.

In the morning he was amongst the first batch of breakfasters in theclub coffee-room, and amongst the first to represent the public atthe ticket-windows of the Carlton Palace. When he entered the greatbuilding, it was in the possession of officials and workmen, andechoed in a hollow manner to his solid footfall. Without a glance toright or left, he walked upstairs to the gallery and into that cosiestnook of the whole Exhibition, the German room, and there waited forhis mistress. This restful room, with its carpeted floor and velvetysettees (so grateful to the weary), its great Meissen vases in themiddle, and casts of antique statues all round, was quite empty ofvisitors, and looked as pleasant and convenient a place of rendezvousas lovers could desire. If only Elizabeth would come quickly, hethought, they might have the most delicious quiet talk, sitting sideby side on a semi-circular ottoman opposite to Lindenschmidt's "Deathof Adonis"—not regarding that unhappy subject, of course, nor anyother object but themselves. He would not sit down until she came,but strolled round and round, pausing now and then to investigate apicture, but thinking of nothing but his beloved, for whose light stephe was listening. If his bodily eyes were fixed on the "Cloister Pond"or "Evening," or any other of the tranquil landscapes pictured on thewall, he thought of Elizabeth resting with him under green trees, farfrom the madding crowd's ignoble strife, absolutely his own, and in aworld that (practically) held nobody but him and her. If he looked atautumnal rain slanting fiercely across the canvas, he thought how hewould protect and shield her in all the storms that might visit herlife—"My plaidie to the angry airt, I'd shelter thee, I'd shelterthee!" And visions of a fair morning in Thuringia, of a lake in theBavarian mountains, of a glacier in the Engadine, and of Venice infour or five aspects of sunlight and moonlight, suggested his weddingjourney and how beautiful the world she had so longed to see—the worldthat he knew so well—would look henceforth, if—if—

There was a step upon the corridor outside, and he turned sharply fromhis contemplation of a little picture of an Isle of Wight sunrise tomeet her as she came in. She had been walking hurriedly, but in thedoorway she paused, seeing him striding towards her, and stood for amoment confused and hesitating, overcome with embarrassment. It was abright morning, and she had dressed herself in a delicate linen gown,fitting easily to the sweeping curves of her noble figure—a gownover which Mrs. Duff-Scott had spent hours of careful thought and aconsiderable amount of money, but which was so simple and unpretendingin its effects as to suggest the domestic needle and the judiciousoutlay of a few shillings to those admirable critics of the other sexwho have so little knowledge of such matters and so much good taste;and all the details of her costume were in harmony with this centralfeature—her drooping straw hat, tied with soft Indian muslin underthe chin, her Swedish gloves, her neat French shoes, her parasol—andthe effect was insidious but impressive. She had got herself upcarefully for her lover's eyes, and nobody could have looked less gotup than she. Mr. Yelverton thought how much more charming was a homelyevery-day style than the elaborate dressing of the ball-room and theblock, and that it was certainly evident to any sensible person thata woman like Elizabeth needed no arts of the milliner to make herattractive. He took her hand in a strong clasp, and held it in silencefor a moment, his left hand laid over her fine unwrinkled glove, whilehe looked into her downcast face for some sign of the nature of hererrand.

"Well, my love," he murmured eagerly, "what is it? Don't keep me insuspense. Is it yes or no, Elizabeth?"

Her embarrassment melted away before the look he bent upon her, as amorning mist before the sun. She lifted her eyes to his—those honesteyes that he could read like a book—and her lips parted in an effortto speak. The next instant, before a word was said, he had her inhis arms, and her mouth met his under the red moustache in a long,and close, and breathless kiss; and both of them knew that they wereto part no more till their lives' end. While that brief ceremony ofbetrothal lasted, they might have been in the black grotto where theykissed each other first, so oblivious were they of their surroundings;but they took in presently the meaning of certain sounds in the galleryon the other side of the curtain, and resumed their normal attitudes."Come and sit down," said Mr. Yelverton, drawing her into the room."Come and let's have a talk." And he set her down on the velvet ottomanand took a seat beside her—leaning forward with an arm on his kneeto barricade her from an invasion of the public as far as possible.His thoughts turned, naturally enough, to their late very importantinterview in the caves.

"We will go back there," he said, expressing his desire frankly. "Whenwe are married, Elizabeth, we will go to your old home again together,before we set out on longer travels, and you and I will have a picnicto the caves all alone by ourselves, in that little buggy that we drovethe other day. Shall we?"

"We might tumble into one of those terrible black holes," she replied,"if we went there again."

"True—we might. And when we are married we must not run anyunnecessary risks. We will live together as long as we possibly can,Elizabeth."

She had drawn off her right glove, and now slipped her hand intohis. He grasped it fervently, and kneaded it like a lump of stiffdough (excuse the homely simile, dear reader—it has the merit ofappropriateness, which is more than you can say for the lilies andjewellery) between his two strong palms. How he did long for that darkcave!—for any nook or corner that would have hidden him and her fromsight for the next half hour.

"Why couldn't you have told me a week ago?" he demanded, with a thrillin his deep voice. "You must have known you would take me then, oryou would not have come to me like this to-day. Why didn't you giveyourself to me at first? Then we should have been together all thistime—all these precious days that we have wasted—and we should havebeen by the sea at this moment, sitting under those big rocks, orwandering away into the bush, where nobody could interfere with us."

As he spoke, a party of ladies strolled into the court, and he leanedback upon his cushioned seat to wait until they were gone again. Theylooked at the pictures, with one eye on him, dawdled up and down forfive minutes, trying to assert their right to be there if they chose;and then, too uncomfortably conscious of being de trop, departed.After which the lovers were alone again for a little while. Mr.Yelverton resumed possession of Elizabeth's hand, and repeated hisrather cruel question.

"Didn't you know all along that it must come to this?"

"A week ago I did not know what I know now," she replied.

"Ah, my dear, you knew it in your heart, but you would not listen toyour heart."

He thought he understood it all, perfectly. He pictured her regret andhungry longing for him after he was gone, how she had fought againstit for a time, and how it had precipitately driven her to Melbourne atlast, and driven her to summon him in this importunate fashion to herside. It was exactly what he would have done, he thought, had he beenin her place.

"Mr. Yelverton—"

She was beginning to speak seriously, but he stopped her. "No," hesaid, "I am not going to be called Mr. Yelverton by you. Never again,remember. My name is Kingscote, if you wish to know. My people at home,when I had any people, called me King. I think you might as well callme King—it will keep your dear name alive in the family when you nolonger answer to it yourself. Now"—as she paused, and was looking athim rather strangely—"what were you going to say?"

"I was going to say that I have not wasted this week since you wentaway. A great deal has happened—a great many changes—and I was helpedby something outside myself to make up my mind."

"I don't believe it—I don't believe it, Elizabeth. You know you loveme, and you know that, whatever your religious sentiments may be,you would not do violence to them for anything less than that. Youare taking me because you love me too well to give me up—for anyconsideration whatever. So don't say you are not."

She touched his shoulder for a moment with her cheek. "Oh, I do loveyou, I do love you!" she murmured, drawing a long, sighing breath.

He knew it well, and he did not know how to bear to sit there, unableto respond to her touching confession. He could only knead her handbetween his palms.

"And you are going to trust me, my love—me and yourself? You are notafraid now?"

"No, I don't think I am afraid." She caught her breath a little, andlooked grave and anxious as she said it, haunted still by the feelingthat duty meant sacrifice and that happiness meant sin in some more orless insidious shape; a habit of thought in which she, like so manymore of us, had been educated until it had taken the likeness of anatural instinct. "I don't think I am afraid. Religion, as you say,is a living thing, independent of the creeds that it is dressed in.And—and—you must be a good man!"

"Don't begin by making that an article of faith," he returned promptly."To set up for being a good man is the last thing I would dream of.Like other men, I am good as far as I was born and have been made so,and neither more nor less. All I can take credit for on my own accountis that I try to live up to the light that has been given me."

"What can anyone do more?" she said, eagerly. "It is better thanbelieving at haphazard and not trying at all—which is what so manygood people are content with."

"It seems better to me," he said.

"I will trust you—I will trust you," she went on, leaning towardshim as he sat beside her. "You are doing more good in the world thanI had even thought of until I knew you. It is I who will not be up tothe mark—not you. But I will help you as much as you will let me—Iam going to give my life to helping you. And at least—at least—youbelieve in God," she concluded, yearning for some tangible and definiteevidence of faith, as she had understood faith, wherewith to comforther conscientious soul. "We are together in that—the chief thing ofall—are we not?"

He was a scrupulously truthful man, and he hesitated for a moment."Yes, my dear," he said, gravely. "I believe in God—that is to say,I feel Him—I lean my littleness on a greatness that I know is allaround me and upholding me, which is Something that even God seems aword too mean for. I think," he added, "that God, to me, is not what Hehas been taught to seem to you."

"Never mind," she said, in a low voice, responding to the spirit ratherthan the letter of his words. "Whatever you believe you are sure tobelieve thoroughly, and if you believe in God, your God must be a trueGod. I feel it, though I don't know it."

"You feel that things will all come right for us if we have faith inour own hearts, and love and trust each other. So do I, Elizabeth."There was nobody looking, and he put his arm round her shoulder for amoment. "And we may consider our religious controversy closed then? Weneed not trouble ourselves about that any more?"

"I would not say 'closed.' Don't you think we ought to talk of allour thoughts—and especially those that trouble us—to each other?"

"I do—I do, indeed. And so we shall. Ours is going to be a realmarriage. We shall be, not two, but one. Only for the present we mayput this topic aside, as being no longer an obstruction in the way ofour arrangements, mayn't we?"

"Yes," she said. And the die was cast.

"Very well, then." He seemed to pull himself together at this point,and into his fine frame and his vigorous face a new energy was infused,the force of which seemed to be communicated to the air around her, andmade her heart beat more strongly to the quicker pulse of his. "Verywell, then. Now tell me, Elizabeth—without any formality, while youand I are here together—when shall we be married?"

The question had a tone of masterful command about it, for, thoughhe knew how spontaneous and straightforward she was, her naturaldelicacy unspoiled by artificial sentiment, he yet prepared himselfto encounter a certain amount of maidenly reluctance to meet a man'sreasonable views upon this matter. But she answered him without delayor hesitation, impelled by the terrors that beset her and thinking ofPatty's awful warnings and prophesyings—"I will leave you to say when."

"Will you really? Do you mean you will really?" His deep-set eyesglowed, and his voice had a thrilling tremor in it as he made thisincredulous inquiry. "Then I say we will be married soon—verysoon—so as not to lose a day more than we can help. Will you agree tothat?"

She looked a little frightened, but she stood her ground. "If youwish," she whispered, all the tone shaken out of her voice.

"If I wish!" A palpitating silence held them for a moment. Then "Whatdo you say to to-morrow?" he suggested.

She looked up at him, blushing violently.

"Ah, you are thinking how forward I am!" she exclaimed, drawing herhand from his.

"Elizabeth," he remonstrated, with swift energy, "did I not askyou, ever so long ago, not to be conventional? Why should I thinkyou forward? How can you be forward—with me? You are the mostdelicate-minded woman I ever knew, and I think you are showing yourselfso at this moment—when anything short of perfect truth and candourwould have disappointed me. Now, I am quite serious—will you marryme to-morrow? There is no reason why you should not, that I can see.Just think of it, calmly. Mrs. Duff-Scott gave her consent a fortnightago—yes, she gave it privately, to me; and Patty and Nelly, I know,would be delighted. As for you and me, what have we—honestly, whathave we—to wait for? Each of us is without any tie to be broken byit. Those who look to us will all be better off. I want to get homesoon, and you have taken me, Elizabeth—it will be all the same in theend—you know that no probation will prove us unfit or unwilling tomarry—the raison d'être of an engagement does not exist for us. AndI am not young, my love, and life is short and uncertain; while you—"

"I am not young either," she interrupted. "I shall soon be thirty."

"Shall you? I am glad of it. Well, think of it then—why should wenot do it, so exceptionally circ*mstanced as we are? We can take theafternoon train to somewhere—say to Macedon, to live up there amongstthe mountains for a little while—till we decide what next to do, whileour sisters enjoy themselves with Mrs. Duff-Scott. I can make allarrangements to-day, except for wedding cake and bridesmaids—and wewould rather be without them. Come here to-morrow morning, my darling,as soon as the place is open, in that same pretty gown that you havegot on now; and we will take a cab and go and get married peaceably,without all the town staring at us. I will see Mrs. Duff-Scott and makeit all right. She shall meet us at the church, with the girls, and themajor to give you away. Will you? Seriously, will you?"

She was silent for some time, while he leaned forward and watched herface. He saw, to his surprise, that she was actually thinking overit, and he did not interrupt her. She was, indeed, possessed by theidea that this wild project offered safety to them both in face of theimpending catastrophe. If she could not secure him in the possession ofhis property before he was made aware that he had lost it, she mightanticipate his possible refusal to let her be his benefactor, and thehindrances and difficulties that seemed likely to sunder them afterhaving come so near to each other. She lifted her eyes from the carpetpresently, and looked into his.

"Do you mean that you will?" he exclaimed, the fierceness of hisdelight tempered by a still evident incredulity.

"I will," she said, "if—"

"Hush—hush! Don't let there be any ifs, Elizabeth!"

"Yes—listen. If Mrs. Duff-Scott will freely consent and approve—"

"You may consider that settled, anyhow. I know she will."

"And if you will see Mr. Brion to-night—"

"Mr. Brion? What do we want with Mr. Brion? Settlements?"

"No. But he has something to tell you about me—about myfamily—something that you must know before we can be married."

"What is it? Can't you tell me what it is?" He looked surprised anduneasy. "Don't frighten me, Elizabeth—it is nothing to matter, is it?"

"I don't know. I hope not. I cannot tell you myself. He will explaineverything if you will see him this evening. He came back to Melbournewith us, and he is waiting to see you."

"Tell me this much, at any rate," said Mr. Yelverton, anxiously; "it isno just cause or impediment to our being married to-morrow, is it?"

"No. At least, I don't think so. I hope you won't."

"I shan't if you don't, you may depend upon that." He made uphis mind on the spot that there were some shady pages in her familyhistory that a sense of honour prompted her to reveal to him beforehe married her, and congratulated himself that she was not like theconventional heroine, who would have been too proud to make him happyunder such circ*mstances. "I am not afraid of Mr. Brion, if you arenot," he repeated. "And we will shunt him for the present, with yourpermission. Somehow I can't bring myself to think of anybody just nowexcept you and me." The picture galleries were pretty full by thistime, and the public was invading the privacy of the German Courtrather freely. "Come and let us walk about a little," he said, risingfrom the ottoman, "and enjoy the sensation of being alone in a crowd."And they sauntered out into the corridor, and down the stairs, and upand down the long nave, side by side—a distinguished and imposing ifnot strictly handsome couple—passing shoals of people, and bowing nowand then to an acquaintance; mixing unsuspected with the common herd,and hugging the delicious consciousness that in secret they were aloneand apart from everybody. They talked with more ease and freedom thanwhen tête-à-tête on their settee upstairs.

"And so, by this time to-morrow, we shall be man and wife," Mr.Yelverton said, musingly. "Doesn't your head swim a little when youthink of that, Elizabeth? I feel as if I had been drinking, and Iam terribly afraid of finding myself sober presently. No, I am notafraid," he continued, correcting himself. "You have given me yourpromise, and you won't go back on it, as the Yankees say, will you?"

"If either of us goes back," said Elizabeth, unblushingly; "it won't beme."

"You seem to think it possible that I may go back? Don't you flatteryourself, my young friend. When you come here to-morrow, as you will,in that pretty cool gown—I stipulate for that gown remember—"

"Even if it is a cold day?—or pouring with rain?"

"Well, I don't know. Couldn't you put a warm jacket over it? When youcome here to-morrow, I say, you will find me waiting for you, theembodiment of relentless fate, with the wedding ring in my pocket. Bythe way—that reminds me—how am I to know the size of your finger? Andyou have not got your engagement ring yet! I'll tell you what we'll do,Elizabeth; we'll choose a ring out of the Exhibition, and we'll cheatthe customs for once. The small things are smuggled out of the placeall day long, and every day, as you may see by taking stock of the showcases occasionally. We'll be smugglers too—it is in a good cause—andI'll go so far as to use bribery and corruption, if necessary, to getpossession of that ring to-day. I'll say, 'Let me have it now, or Iwon't have it at all,' and you will see they'll let me have it. I willthen put it on your finger, and you shall wear it for a little while,and then I will borrow it to get the size of your wedding ring from it.By-and-bye, you know, when we are at home at Yelverton—years hence,when we are old people—"

"Oh, don't talk of our being old people!" she interrupted, quickly.

"No, I won't—it will be a long time yet, dear. By-and-bye, when we areat home at Yelverton, you will look at your ring, and think of thisday, and of the German picture gallery—of the dear Exhibition whichbrought us together, and where you gave yourself to me—long after Ihad given myself to you, Elizabeth! It is most appropriate that yourengagement ring should be got here. Come along and let us choose it.What stones do you like best?"

They spent nearly an hour amongst the jewellery of all nations beforeMr. Yelverton could decide on what he liked. At last he selected froma medley of glittering trinkets a sober ring that did not glitter,and yet was rare and valuable—a broad, plain band of gold set witha lovely cameo carved out of an opal stone. "There is some littleoriginality about it," he said, as he tried it on her finger, which itfitted perfectly, "and, though the intaglio looks so delicate, it willstand wear and tear, and last for ever. That is the chief thing. Do youlike it? Or would you rather have diamonds?"

She had no words to say how much she liked it, and how much shepreferred it to diamonds. And so, after a few severe struggles, carriedon in a foreign tongue, he obtained immediate possession of hispurchase, and she carried it away on her finger.

"Now," said he, looking at his watch, "are you in any great hurry toget home?"

She thought of her non-existent trousseau, and the packing of herportmanteau for her wedding journey; nevertheless, she intimated herwillingness to stay a little while longer.

"Very well. We will go and have our lunch then. We'll join the tabled'hôte of the Exhibition, Elizabeth—that will give us a foretasteof our Continental travels. To-morrow we shall have lunch—where? AtMrs. Duff-Scott's, I suppose—it would be too hard upon her to leaveher literally at the church door. Yes, we shall have lunch at Mrs.Duff-Scott's, and I suppose the major will insist our drinking ourhealths in champagne, and making us a pretty speech. Never mind, wewill have our dinner in peace. To-morrow evening we shall be at home,Elizabeth, and you and I will dine tête-à-tête, without even a singleparlourmaid to stand behind our chairs. I don't quite know yet whereI shall discover those blessed four walls that we shall dine in, norwhat sort of dinner it will be—but I will find out before I sleepto-night."



Prosaic as were their surroundings and their occupation—sitting ata long table, he at the end and she at the corner on his left hand,amongst a scattered crowd of hungry folk, in the refreshment room ofthe Exhibition, eating sweetbreads and drinking champagne and sodawater—it was like a dream to Elizabeth, this foretaste of Continentaltravels. In the background of her consciousness she had a sense ofhaving acted madly, if not absurdly, in committing herself to theprogramme that her audacious lover had drawn out; but the thoughts andfancies floating on the surface of her mind were too absorbing for thepresent to leave room for serious reflections. Dreaming as she was,she not only enjoyed the homely charm of sitting at meat with him inthis informal, independent manner, but she enjoyed her lunch as well,after her rather exhausting emotions. It is commonly supposed, I know,that overpowering happiness takes away the appetite; but experience hastaught me that it is not invariably the case. The misery of suspenseand dread can make you sicken at the sight of food, but the bliss ofrest and security in having got what you want has an invigoratingeffect, physically as well as spiritually, if you are a healthy person.So I say that Elizabeth was unsentimentally hungry, and enjoyed hersweetbreads. They chatted happily over their meal, like truant childrenplaying on the edge of a precipice. Mr. Yelverton had the lion's sharein the conversation, and talked with distracting persistence of thejourney to-morrow, and the lighter features of the stupendous schemethat they had so abruptly adopted. Elizabeth smiled and blushed andlistened, venturing occasionally upon a gentle repartee. Presently,however, she started a topic on her own account "Tell me," she said,"do you object to first cousins marrying?"

"Dear child, I don't object to anything to-day," he replied. "As longas I am allowed to marry you, I am quite willing to let other menplease themselves."

"But tell me seriously—do you?"

"Must I be serious? Well, let me think. No, I don't know that Iobject—there is so very little that I object to, you see, in the wayof things that people want to do—but I think, perhaps, that, allthings being equal, a man would not choose to marry so near a bloodrelation."

"You do think it wrong, then?"

"I think it not only wrong but utterly preposterous and indefensible,"he said, "that it should be lawful and virtuous for a man to marry hisfirst cousin and wicked and indecent to marry his sister-in-law—orhis aunt-in-law for the matter of that—or any other free woman whohas no connection with him except through other people's marriages.If a legal restriction in such matters can ever be necessary orjustifiable, it should be in the way of preventing the union of peopleof the same blood. Sense and the laws of physiology have something tosay to that—they have nothing whatever to say to the relations thatare of no kin to each other. Them's my sentiments, Miss King, if youparticularly wish to know them."

Elizabeth put her knife and fork together on her plate softly. It was agesture of elaborate caution, meant to cover her conscious agitation."Then you would not—if it were your own case—marry your cousin?" sheasked, after a pause, in a very small and gentle voice. He was studyingthe menu on her behalf, and wondering if the strawberries and creamwould be fresh. Consequently he did not notice how pale she had grown,all of a sudden.

"Well," he said, "you see I have no cousin, to begin with. And if I hadI could not possibly want to marry her, since I am going to marry youto-morrow, and a man is only allowed to have one wife at a time. So myown case doesn't come in."

"But if I had been your cousin?" she urged, breathlessly, but withher eyes on her plate. "Supposing, for the sake of argument, that Ihad been of your blood—would you still have had me?"

"Ah!" he said, laughing, "that is, indeed, a home question."

"Would you?" she persisted.

"Would I?" he echoed, putting a hand under the table to touch hers. "Ireally think I would, Elizabeth. I'm afraid that nothing short of yourhaving been my own full sister could have saved you."

After that she regained her colour and brightness, and was able toenjoy the early strawberries and cream—which did happen to be fresh.

They did not hurry themselves over their lunch, and when they left therefreshment-room they went and sat down on two chairs by the Brinsmeadpianos and listened to a little music (in that worst place that everwas for hearing it). Then Mr. Yelverton took his fiancée to get a cupof Indian tea. Then he looked at his watch gravely.

"Do you know," he said, "I really have an immense deal of business toget through before night if we are to be married to-morrow morning."

"There is no reason why we should be married to-morrow morning," washer immediate comment "Indeed—indeed, it is far too soon."

"It may be soon, Elizabeth, but I deny that it is too soon, reluctantas I am to contradict you. And, whether or no, the date is fixed,irrevocably. We have only to consider"—he broke off, and consultedhis watch again, thinking of railway and telegraph arrangements. "Am Iobliged to see Mr. Brion to-day?" he asked, abruptly. "Can't I put himoff till another time? Because, you know, he may say just whatever helikes, and it won't make the smallest particle of difference."

"Oh," she replied earnestly, "you must see him. I can't marryyou till he has told you everything. I wish I could!" she added,impulsively.

"Well, if I must I must—though I know it doesn't matter the least bit.Will he keep me long, do you suppose?"

"I think, very likely, he will."

"Then, my darling, we must go. Give me your ring—you shall have itback to-night. Go and pack your portmanteau this afternoon, so that youhave a little spare time for Mrs. Duff-Scott. She will be sure to wantyou in the evening. You need not take much, you know—just enough for aweek or two. She will be only too delighted to look after your clotheswhile you are away, and"—with a smile—"we'll buy the trousseau inParis on our way home. I am credibly informed that Paris is the properplace to go to for the trousseau of a lady of quality."

"Trousseaus are nonsense," said Elizabeth, who perfectly understoodhis motives for this proposition, "in these days of rapidly changingfashions, unless the bride cannot trust her husband to give her enoughpocket money."

"Precisely. That is just what I think. And I don't want to be deprivedof the pleasure of dressing you. But for a week or two, Elizabeth, weare going out of the world just as far as we can get, where you won'twant much dressing. Take only what is necessary for comfort, dear,enough for a fortnight—or say three weeks. That will do. And tell mewhere I shall find Mr. Brion."

They were passing out of the Exhibition building—passing that noblegroup of listening hounds and huntsman that stood between the frontentrance and the gate—and Elizabeth was wondering how she shouldfind Mr. Brion at once and make sure of that evening interview, whenshe caught sight of the old lawyer himself coming into the floweryenclosure from the street. "Why, there he is!" she exclaimed. "And mysisters are with him."

"We are taking him out for an airing," exclaimed Eleanor, who wasglorious in her Cup-day costume, and evidently in an effervescence ofgood spirits, when she recognised the engaged pair. "Mr. Paul was toobusy to attend to him, and he had nobody but us, poor man! So we aregoing to show him round. Would you believe that he has never seen theExhibition, Elizabeth?"

They had scarcely exchanged greetings with each other when, out of anopen carriage at the gate, stepped Mrs. Duff-Scott, on her way to thatextensive kettle-drum which was held in the Exhibition at this hour.When she saw her girls, their festive raiment, and their cavaliers, thefairy godmother's face was a study.

"What!" she exclaimed, with heart-rending reproach, "you are back inMelbourne! You are walking about with—with your friends"—hooking onher eye-glass the better to wither poor Mr. Brion, who wasted upon hera bow that would have done credit to Lord Chesterfield—"and I am nottold!"

Patty came forward, radiant with suppressed excitement. "She must betold," exclaimed the girl, breathlessly. "Elizabeth, we are all herenow. And it is Mrs. Duff-Scott's right to know what we know. And Mr.Yelverton's too."

"You may tell them now," said Elizabeth, who was as white as the muslinround her chin. "Take them all to Mrs. Duff-Scott's house, and explaineverything, and get it over—while I go home."



"I don't think you know Mr. Brion," said Mr. Yelverton, first liftinghis hat and shaking hands with Mrs. Duff-Scott, and then, with an airyand audacious cheerfulness, introducing the old man (whose name andassociation with her protégées she immediately recalled to mind);"Mr. Brion—Mrs. Duff-Scott."

The fairy godmother bowed frigidly, nearly shutting her eyes as shedid so, and for a moment the little group kept an embarrassed silence,while a sort of electric current of intelligence passed between Pattyand her new-found cousin. Mr. Yelverton was, as we say, not the sameman that he had been a few hours before. Quiet in his manner, as heever was, there was yet an aspect of glowing energy about him, an airof being at high pressure, that did not escape the immediate notice ofthe girl's vigilant and sympathetic eyes. I have described him verybadly if I have not made the reader understand the virile breadth andstrength of his emotional nature, and how it would be affected by hispresent situation. The hot blue blood and superfine culture of thatardent young aristocrat who became his father at such an early age,and the wholesome physical and moral solidity of the farmer's fair andrustic daughter who was his mother, were blended together in him; withthe result that he was a man at all points, having all the strongesthuman instincts alive and active in him. He was not the orthodoxphilanthropist, the half-feminine, half-neuter specialist with a hobby,the foot-rule reformer, the prig with a mission to set the worldright; his benevolence was simply the natural expression of a sense ofsympathy and brotherhood between him and his fellows, and the spiritwhich produced that was not limited in any direction. From the samesource came a passionately quick and keen apprehension of the nature ofthe closest bond of all, not given to the selfish and narrow-hearted.Amongst his abstract brothers and sisters he had been looking alwaysfor his own concrete mate, and having found her and secured her, he wasas a king newly anointed, whose crown had just been set upon his head.

"Will you come?" said Patty to him, trying not to look too consciousof the change she saw in him. "It is time to have done with all oursecrets now."

"I agree with you," he replied. "And I will come with pleasure." Mrs.Duff-Scott was accordingly made to understand, with some difficulty,that the mystery which puzzled her had a deep significance, and thatshe was desired to take steps at once whereby she might be madeacquainted with it. Much bewildered, but without relaxing her offendedair—for she conceived that no explanation would make any difference inthe central fact that Mr. Yelverton and Mr. Brion had taken precedenceof her in the confidence of her own adopted daughters—she returned toher carriage, all the little party following meekly at her heels. Thegirls were put in first—even Elizabeth, who, insisting upon detachingherself from the assembling council, had to submit to be conveyed toMyrtle Street; and the two men, lifting their hats to the departingvehicle, were left on the footpath together. The lawyer was very grave,and slightly nervous and embarrassed. To his companion he had all theair of a man with a necessary but disagreeable duty to perform.

"What is all this about?" Mr. Yelverton demanded with a little anxiousirritation in his tone. "Nothing of any great consequence, is it?"

"I—I'm afraid you will think it rather a serious matter," the lawyerreplied, with hesitation. "Still," he added, earnestly, "if youare their friend, as I believe you are—knowing that they have noresponsibility in the matter—you will not let it make any differencein your feeling for them—"

"There is not the faintest danger of that," Mr. Yelverton promptlyand haughtily interposed.

"I am sure of it—I am sure of it. Well, you shall know all in halfan hour. If you will kindly find Major Duff-Scott—he has constitutedhimself their guardian, in a way, and ought to be present—I will justrun round to my lodgings in Myrtle Street."

"Are you going to fetch your son?" asked Mr. Yelverton, quickly. "Don'tyou think that, under the circ*mstances—supposing matters have to betalked of that will be painful to the Miss Kings—the fewer present thebetter?"

"Certainly. I am not going to fetch my son, who, by the way, alreadyknows all there is to know, but some documents relating to the affair,which he keeps in his strong-box for safety. Major Duff-Scott is theonly person whose presence we require, since—"

"Since what?"

Mr. Brion was going to say, "Since your solicitors are not at hand,"but checked himself. "Never mind," he said, "never mind. I cannot sayany more now."

"All right. I'll go and find the major. Thank Heaven, he's no gossip,and I think he is too real a friend of the Miss Kings to care what hehears any more than I do." But Mr. Yelverton got anxious about thispoint after it occurred to him, and went off thoughtfully to the club,congratulating himself that, thanks to his sweetheart's reasonableness,he was in a position which gave him the privilege of protecting themshould the issue of this mysterious business leave them in need ofprotection.

At the club he found the major, talking desultory politics with otherex-guardians of the State now shelved in luxurious irresponsibilitywith him; and the little man was quite ready to obey his friend'ssummons to attend the family council.

"The Miss Kings are back," said Mr. Yelverton, "and old Brion, thelawyer, is with them, and there are some important matters to be talkedover this afternoon, and you must come and hear."

The major said that he was at the Miss Kings' service, and got hishat. He asked no questions as he passed through the lobby and downthe steps to Mr. Yelverton's cab, which waited in the street. In hisown mind he concluded that Elizabeth's engagement had "come off," andthis legal consultation had some more or less direct reference tosettlements, and the relations of the bride-elect's sisters to hernew lot in life. What chiefly occupied his thoughts was the fear thathe was going to be asked to give up Patty and Eleanor, and all theway from the club to his house he was wondering how far his and hiswife's rights in them extended, and how far his energetic better halfmight be relied upon to defend and maintain them. At the house theyfound that Mr. Brion had already arrived, and that Mrs. Duff-Scott wasassembling her party in the library, as being an appropriate place forthe discussion of business in which men were so largely concerned. Itwas a spacious, pleasant room; the books ranging all round from thefloor to about a third of the way up the wall, like a big dado; the topshelf supporting bric-à-brac of a stately and substantial order, andthe deep red walls, which had a Pompeian frieze that was one of theartistic features of the house, bearing those pictures in oils whichwere the major's special pride as a connoisseur and man of family, andwhich held their permanent place of honour irrespective of the waves offashion that ebbed and flowed around them. There was a Turkey carpeton the polished floor, and soft, thick oriental stuffs on the chairsand sofas and in the drapery of the wide bow-window—stuffs of dim butrichly-coloured silk and wool, with tints of gold thread where thelight fell. There was a many-drawered and amply-furnished writing tablein that bow-window, the most comfortable and handy elbow tables by thehearth, and another and substantial one for general use in the centreof the floor. And altogether it was a pleasant place both to use and tolook at, and was particularly pleasant in its shadowed coolness thissummer afternoon. At the centre table sat the lady of the house, withan air of reproachful patience, talking surface talk with the girlsabout their country trip. Eleanor stood near her, looking very charmingin her pale blue gown, with her flushed cheeks, and brightened eyes.Patty supported Mr. Brion, who was not quite at home in this strangeatmosphere, and she watched the door with a face of radiant excitement.

"Where is Elizabeth?" asked the major, having hospitably shaken handswith the lawyer, whom he had never seen before.

"Elizabeth," said Mr. Yelverton, using the name familiarly, as if hehad never called her by any other, "is not coming."

"Oh, indeed. Well, I suppose we are to go on without her, eh?"

"Yes, I suppose so." They were all seating themselves at the table,and as he took a chair by Patty's side he looked round and caught asignificant glance passing between the major and his wife. "It is notof my convening, this meeting," he explained; "whatever business ison hand, I know nothing of it at present."

"Don't you?" cried his hostess, opening her eyes.

The major smiled; he, too, was thrown off the scent and puzzled, butdid not show it as she did.

"No," said Mr. Brion, clearing his throat and putting his hand into hisbreast pocket to take out his papers, "what Mr. Yelverton says is true.He knows nothing of it at present. I am very sorry, for his sake, thatit is so. I may say I am very sorry for everybody's sake, for it is avery painful thing to—"

Here Mr. Yelverton rose to his feet abruptly, nipping the exordium inthe bud. "Allow me one moment," he said with some peremptoriness. "Idon't know what Mr. Brion means by saying he is sorry for my sake. Idon't know whether he alludes to a—a special attachment on my part,but I cannot conceive how any revelation he may make can affect me. Asfar as I am concerned—"

"My dear sir," interrupted the lawyer in his turn, "if you will waituntil I have made my explanation, you will understand what I mean."

"Sit down," said Patty, putting a hand on his arm. "You have no ideawhat he is going to say. Sit down and listen."

"I do not want to listen, dear," he said, giving her a quick look. "Itcannot be anything painful to me unless it is painful to you, and if itis painful to you I would rather not hear it."

The major was watching them all, and ruminating on the situation."Wait a bit, Yelverton," he said in his soft voice. "If it's theirdoing there's some good reason for it. Just hear what it is that Mr.Brion has to say. I see he has got some legal papers. We must payattention to legal papers, you know."

"Oh, for goodness sake, go on!" cried Mrs. Duff-Scott, whose nerveswere chafed by this delay. "If anything is the matter, let us know theworst at once."

"Very well. Mr. Brion shall go on. But before he does so," said Mr.Yelverton, still standing, leaning on the table, and looking roundon the little group with glowing eyes, "I will ask leave to make astatement. I am so happy—Mrs. Duff-Scott would have known it in anhour or two—I am so happy as to be Miss King's promised husband, and Ihope to be her husband actually by this time to-morrow." Patty gave alittle hysterical cry, and snatched at her handkerchief, in which herface was immediately buried. Mrs. Duff-Scott leaned back in her chairwith a stoical composure, as if inured to thunderbolts, and waited forwhat would happen next. "I know it is very short notice," he went on,looking at the elder lady with a half-tender, half-defiant smile, "butmy available time here is limited, and Elizabeth and I did not begin tocare for each other yesterday. I persuaded her this morning to consentto an early and quiet marriage, for various reasons that I do not needto enter into now; and she has given her consent—provided only thatMrs. Duff-Scott has no objection."

"But I have the greatest objection," said that lady, emphatically."Not to your marrying Elizabeth—you know I am quite agreeable tothat—but to your doing it in such an unreasonable way. To-morrow!you must be joking. It is preposterous, on the face of it."

"You are thinking of clothes, of course."

"No, I am not thinking of clothes. I am thinking of what people willsay. You can have no idea of the extraordinary tales that will getabout. I must consider Elizabeth."

"I consider Elizabeth," he said. "And before Mr. Brion makes hiscommunication, whatever it may be, I should like to have it settled andunderstood that the arrangements she and I have made will be permittedto stand." He paused, and stood looking at Mrs. Duff-Scott, with an airthat impressed her with the hopelessness of attempting to oppose such aman as that.

"I don't know what to say," she said. "We will talk it over presently."

"No, I want it settled now. Elizabeth will do whatever you desire, butI want her to please me." The major chuckled, and, hearing him, Mr.Yelverton laughed for a moment, and then bent his emphatic eyes uponthe old man sitting silent before his unopened papers. "I want you andeverybody to understand that whatever is to be said concerns my wifeand sisters, Mr. Brion."

"Very good, sir," said Mr. Brion. "I am delighted to hear it. At thesame time I would suggest that it might be wiser not to hurry thingsquite so much."

At this point Patty, who had been laughing and crying in herhandkerchief, and clinging to Eleanor, who had come round the tableand was hanging over her, suddenly broke into the discussion. "Oh, letthem, let them, let them!" she exclaimed eagerly, to the bewildermentof the uninitiated, who were quite sure that some social disabilitywas about to be attached to the bride elect, from which her loverwas striving to rescue her. "Do let them be married to-morrow, dearMrs. Duff-Scott, if Mr. Yelverton wishes it. Elizabeth knows why sheconsents—I know, too—so does Nelly. Give them your permission now, ashe says, before Mr. Brion goes on—how can anyone say anything againstit if you approve? Let it be all settled now—absolutely settled—sothat no one can undo it afterwards." She turned and looked at themajor with such a peculiar light and earnestness in her face thatthe little man, utterly adrift himself, determined at once to anchorhimself to her. "Look here," he said, in his gentle way, but with nosign of indecision, "I am the head of the house, and if anybody has anyauthority over Elizabeth here, it is I. Forgive me, my dear"—to hiswife at the other end of the table—"if I seem to take too much uponmyself, but it appears to me that I ought to act in this emergency. Mr.Yelverton, we have every reason to trust your motives and conduct, andElizabeth's also; and she is her own mistress in every way. So you maytell her from my wife and me that we hope she will do whatever seemsright to herself, and that what makes her happy will make us so."

Mrs. Duff-Scott got up from her chair proudly, as if to leave the roomwhere this outrage had been put upon her; but she sat down again andwept a few tears instead. At the unwonted sight of which Patty flewround to her and took her majestic head into her young arms. "Ah! howungrateful we seem to hurt and vex you," she murmured, in the tone ofa mother talking to a suffering child, "but you don't know how it isall going to turn out. If you give them your consent now, you will seehow glad you will be in a little while."

"It doesn't seem that anybody cares much whether I give my consent ornot," said Mrs. Duff-Scott. But she wiped away her tears, kissed herconsoler, and made an effort to be cheerful and business-like. "There,there—we have wasted enough time," she said, brusquely. "Go on, Mr.Brion, or we shall have dinner time here before we begin."

"Shall I go on?" asked Mr. Brion, looking round.

Mr. Yelverton, who was very grave, nodded.

And Mr. Brion went on.



It was not much after three o'clock when Elizabeth walked slowlyupstairs to her room, bearing single-handed her own responsibilities.Now that she was alone and undisturbed, she began to realise howgreat they were. She sat down on her little bed to think what she wasdoing—to look back upon the past, and forward into the future—untilher head spun round. When she could think no more, she slid downupon her knees and prayed a fervent, wordless prayer—rested herover-weighted soul on the pillars of the universe, which bore up thestrange little world in which she was but an infinitesimal atom—and,feeling that there was a strong foundation somewhere, and perhapseven feeling dimly that she had touched her point of contact with itonly just now when she touched her true love's lips, she felt lessintolerably burdened with the charge of herself. She rose up with hernerves steadied and her brain composed. What was done was done, andit had been done for the best. "We can but do our best, and leaveit," he had said; and, thinking of his words, a sense of his robustfaith, which she did not call faith, permeated her unsettled mindand comforted her with the feeling that she would have support andstrength in him. She could not repent. She could not wish anything tobe altered. She loved him and needed him; and he loved and needed her,and had a right to her. Yes, he had a right to her, independently ofthat fortune which was hers and which she dared not take away from himwhile he was using it so much better than she could, he was her mateand lord, and she belonged to him. What reason was there against hermarrying him? Only one; Mrs. Duff-Scott's reason, which even she hadabandoned, apparently—one obligation of duty, which conscience, leftto its own delicate sense of good and evil, refused to insist upon assuch. And what reason was there against marrying him to-morrow, if hedesired it, and by doing which, while they would be made so happy, noone else could be made unhappy? She was unlearned in the social viewsand customs concerning such matters, and said in her simple heart therewas no reason whatever—none, none.

So she set to work on her preparations, her eyes shining and her handstrembling with the overwhelming bliss of her anticipations, whichawed and dazzled her; beset at intervals with chill misgivings, andthrills of panic, dread and fear, as to what effect upon her blessedfortune that afternoon's work at Mrs. Duff-Scott's house might have.She took off her pretty gown, which he had sanctified by his approval,and laid it tenderly on the bed; put on a loose wrapper, pulled outdrawers and opened cupboards, and proceeded to pack her portmanteaufor that wedding journey which she still could not believe was to betaken to-morrow. If such a sudden demand upon the resources of herwardrobe had been made a few months ago, she would have been greatlyperplexed to meet it. Now she had, not only a commodious portmanteau(procured for their country visit), but drawers full of fine linen,piles of handkerchiefs, boxes of gloves, everything that she could needfor an indefinite sojourn either in the world or out of it. When Mrs.Duff-Scott had gained their consent to be allowed to become a motherto them, she had lost no time in fitting them all out as became heradopted daughters, in defiance of any scruples or protests that theymight make. Elizabeth's trousseau, it seemed to her, as she filled oneside of the portmanteau with dainty underclothes delicately stitchedand embroidered and frilled with lace, had been already provided forher, and while her heart went out in gratitude to her munificentfriend, she could not help feeling that one of the dearest privilegesof being rich was to have the power to acknowledge that munificencesuitably. Only that very day, for the first time, she had seen anindication that tended to confirm her and Patty's instinctive sensethat they had made a mistake in permitting themselves to accept somany favours. Eleanor, feeling herself already rich and the potentialpossessor of unlimited fine clothes, had put on her Cup dress andbonnet to walk out with Mr. Brion; and Mrs. Duff-Scott, when shemet her in the Exhibition grounds, and while thrown for a moment offher usual even balance, had looked at the girl with a disapprovingeye, which plainly accused her of extravagance—in other words, ofwasting her (Mrs. Duff-Scott's) substance in riotous living. Thatlittle incident, so slight and momentary as it was, would have beenas terrible a blow to them as was Paul Brion's refusal of theirinvitation to tea, had it not been that they were no longer poor, butin a position to discharge their obligations. She thought how Mrs.Duff-Scott would come to Yelverton by-and-bye, and to the London house,and how she (Elizabeth) would lavish the best of everything upon her.It was a delightful thought.

While she was building air castles, she sorted and folded her clothesmethodically, and with motherly care turned over those belonging toher sisters, to see that they were well provided for and in needof nothing for the time of her brief absence. While investigatingPatty's wardrobe, she thought much of her dear companion and thatnext-door neighbour, still in their unreconciled trouble, and stillso far from the safe haven to which she was drawing nigh; and she wasnot too selfish in her own happiness to be unable to concern herselfanxiously about theirs. Well, even this was to be set right now. Sheand Kingscote, with their mutually augmented wisdom and power, wouldbe able to settle that matter, one way or another, when they returnedfrom their wedding journey. Kingscote, who was never daunted by anydifficulties, would find a way to solve this one, and to do whatwas best for Patty. Then it occurred to her that if Patty and Paulwere married, Paul might want to keep his wife in Australia, and thesisters, who had never been away from each other, might be doomedto live apart. But she persuaded herself that this also would beprevented, and that Paul, stiff-necked as he was, would not let Pattybe unhappy, as she certainly would be if separated by the width of theworld from herself—not if Kingscote were at hand, to point it outto him in his authoritative and convincing manner. As for Nelly, shewas to comfort Mrs. Duff-Scott for awhile, and then she was to come,bringing the fairy godmother with her, to Yelverton, to live under herbrother-cousin's protection until she, too, was married—to someonebetter, far better, than Mr. Westmoreland. Perhaps the Duff-Scottsthemselves would be tempted (by the charms of West-End and Whitechapelsociety, respectively) to settle in England too. In which case therewould be nothing left to wish for.

At five o'clock she had finished her packing, put on her dress—notthe wedding dress, which was laid smoothly on a cupboard shelf—andsat down by the sitting-room window to wait for her sisters, or forsomebody, to come to her. This half-hour of unoccupied suspense wasa very trying time; all her tremulous elation died down, all herblissful anticipations became overcast with chill forebodings, asa sunny sky with creeping clouds, while she bent strained eyes andears upon the street, watching for the news that did not come. Inuncontrollable excitement and restlessness, she abandoned her posttowards six o'clock, and set herself to prepare tea in the expectationof her sisters' return. She spread the cloth and set out the cups andsaucers, the bread and butter, the modest tin of sardines. As the warmday was manifestly about to close with a keen south wind, she thoughtshe would light a fire in the sitting-room and make some toast. Itwas better to have something to do to distract her from her fierceanxieties, and, moreover, she wished the little home nest to be as cosyand comfortable as possible to-night, which might be the last nightthat the sisters would be there together—the closing scene of theirindependent life. So she turned up her cuffs, put on gloves and apron,and fetched wood and coals from their small store in the back-yard;and then she laid and lit a fire, blew it into as cheerful a blaze asthe unsatisfactory nature of city fuel and a city grate permitted,and, having shaken down her neat dress and washed her hands, proceededto make the toast. She was at this work, kneeling on the hearthrug,and staring intently into the fire over a newly-cut slice of breadthat she had just put upon the fork, when she heard a sound that madeher heart stand still. It was the sound of a cab rattling into thestreet and bumping against the kerb at her own gate. Springing to herfeet and listening breathlessly, she heard the gate open to a quiet,strong hand that belonged to neither of her sisters, and a solid treadon the flags that paved a footpath through the little garden to thedoor. At the door a quick rapping, at once light and powerful, broughtthe servant from her underground kitchen, and a sonorous, low voicespoke in the hall and echoed up the stairs—the well-known voice ofKingscote Yelverton. Kingscote Yelverton, unaccompanied by anybodyelse—paying his first visit to this virgin retreat, where, as he knewvery well, his sweetheart at this moment was alone, and where, as healso knew, the unchaperoned male had no business to be. Evidently hispresence announced a crisis that transcended all the circ*mstances andconventionalities of every-day life.

He walked upstairs to her sitting-room, and rapped at the door. Shecould not tell him to come in, for her heart seemed to be beating inher throat, and she felt too suffocated to speak; she stumbled acrossto the door, and, opening it, looked at him dumbly, with a face aswhite as the white frills of her gown. He, for his part, neither spoketo her nor kissed her; his whole aspect indicated strong emotion,but he was so portentously grave, and almost stern, that her heart,which had fluttered so wildly at the sight of him, collapsed and sank.Taking her hand gently, he shut the door, led her across the room tothe hearthrug, and stood, her embodied fate, before her. She was sooverwhelmed with fear of what he might be going to say that she turnedand hid her face in her hands against the edge of the mantelpiece, thatshe might brace herself to bear it without showing him how stricken shewas.

"Well," he said, after a little pause, "I have been having a greatsurprise, Elizabeth. I little thought what you were letting me in forwhen you arranged that interview with Mr. Brion. I never was so utterlyout of my reckoning as I have found myself to-day."

She did not speak, but waited in breathless anguish for the sentencethat she foreboded was to be passed upon her—condemning her to keepthat miserable money in exchange for him.

"I know all about the great discovery now," he went on. "I have readall the papers. I can testify that they are perfectly genuine. I haveseen the marriage register that that one was copied from—I can verifyall those dates, and names, and places—there is not a flaw anywherein Mr. Brion's case. You are really my cousins, and you—you,Elizabeth—are the head of the family now. There was no entail—it wascut off before my uncle Patrick's time, and he died before he made awill: so everything is yours." After a pause, he added, brokenly, "Iwish you joy, my dear. I should be a hypocrite if I said I was glad,but—but I wish you joy all the same."

She gave a short, dry sob, keeping her face hidden; evidently, even tohim, she was not having much joy in her good fortune just now. He movedcloser to her, and laid his hand on her shoulder.

"I have come now to fetch you," he said, in a low, grave tone, that wasstill unsteady. "Mrs. Duff-Scott wanted to come herself, but I askedher to let me come alone, because I have something to say to you thatis only between ourselves."

Then her nervous terrors found voice. "Oh, tell me what it is!" shecried, trembling like a leaf. "Don't keep me in suspense. If you haveanything cruel to say, say it quickly."

"Anything cruel?" he repeated. "I don't think you are really afraidof that—from me. No, I haven't anything cruel to say—only a simplequestion to ask—which you will have to answer me honestly, Elizabeth."

She waited in silence, and he went on. "Didn't you tellme"—emphasising each word heavily—"that you had been induced bysomething outside yourself to decide in my favour?"

"Not altogether induced," she protested; "helped perhaps."

"Helped, then—influenced—by outside considerations?"

"Yes," she assented, with heroic truthfulness.

"You were alluding to this discovery, of course?"


"And you have consented to marry me in order that I may not be deprivedof my property?" She did not speak immediately, from purely physicalincapacity, and he went on with a hardening voice. "I will not bemarried on those grounds, Elizabeth. You must have known that I wouldnot."

For a moment she stood with her face hidden, struggling with a risingtide of tears that, when these terrible words were spoken, would notbe kept in check; then she lifted her head, and flung out her arms,and clasped him round his great shoulders. (It is not, I own, what aheroine should have done, whose duty was to carry a difficulty of thissort through half a volume at least, but I am nevertheless convincedthat my real Elizabeth did it, though I was not there to see—standing,as she did, within a few inches of her lover, and with nothing toprevent their coming to a reasonable understanding.) "Oh," she cried,between her long-drawn sobs, "don't cast me off because of thathorrid money! I could not bear it now!"

"What!" he responded, stooping over her and holding her to his breast,speaking in a voice as shaken as her own, "is it really so? Is it forlove of me only, my darling, my darling?"—pouring his long pent-uppassion over her with a force that seemed to carry her off her feet andmake the room spin round. "Would you have me if there was no propertyin the question, simply because you feel, as I do, that we could not dowithout each other? Then we will be married to-morrow, Elizabeth, andall the world shall be welcome to brand me a schemer and fortune-hunterif it likes."

She got her breath in a few seconds, and recovered sufficientconsciousness to grasp the vanishing tail of those last words.

"A fortune-hunter! Oh, how preposterous! A fortune-hunter!"

"That is what I shall seem," he insisted, with a smile, "to that worthypublic for whose opinion some people care so much."

"But you don't care?"

"No; I don't care."

She considered a moment, with her tall head at rest on his tallshoulder; then new lights dawned on her. "But I must care for you," shesaid, straightening herself. "I must not allow anything so unjust—sooutrageous—to be said of you—of you, and through my fault. Lookhere"—very seriously—"let us put off our marriage for a while—forjust so long as may enable me to show the world, as I very easily can,that it is I who am seeking you—"

"Like a queen selecting her prince consort?"

"No, like Esther—seeking favour of her king. I would not be too proudto run after you—" She broke off, with a hysterical laugh, as sherealised the nature of her proposal.

"Ah, my darling, that would be very sweet," said he, drowning heronce more in ineffable caresses, "but to be married to-morrow willbe sweeter still. No, we won't wait—I can't—unless there is anabsolute necessity for it. That game would certainly not be worth thecandle. What is the world to me if I have got you? I said we would bemarried to-morrow; I told Mrs. Duff-Scott so, and got her consent—notwithout some difficulty, I must own—before Mr. Brion opened hisbudget. I would not hear what he had to say—little thinking what itwas I was going to hear!—until I had announced my intentions and thedate of our wedding. Think of my cheek! Conceive of such unparalleledimpudence! But now that everything is square between us, that dateshall be kept—it shall be faithfully kept. Come, then, I must take youaway. Have you done your packing? Mrs. Duff-Scott says we are to bringthat portmanteau with us, that she may see for herself if you havefurnished it properly. And you are not to come back here—you are notto come to me to the Exhibition to-morrow. She was terribly scandalisedat that item in our programme."

"In yours," said Elizabeth, ungenerously.

"In mine. I accept it cheerfully. So she is going to take charge of youfrom this hour until you are Mrs. Yelverton, and in my sole care forthe rest of your life—or mine. Poor woman, she is greatly cut up bythe loss of that grand wedding that she would have had if we had lether."

"I am sure she must be cut up," said Elizabeth, whose face was suffusedwith blushes, and whose eyes looked troubled. "She must be shocked andvexed at such—such precipitancy. It really does not seem decorous,"she confessed, with tardy scrupulousness; "do you think it does?"

"Oh, yes, I think it is quite decorous. It may not be conventional, butthat is quite another thing."

"It is like a clandestine marriage—almost like an elopement. It mustvex her to see me acting so—so—"

"So what? No, I don't think it does. She was a little vexed at first,but she has got over it. In her heart of hearts I believe she would bedisappointed now if we didn't do it. She likes a little bit of innocentunconventionalism as well as anybody, and the romance of the wholething has taken hold of her. Besides," added Mr. Yelverton, "you knowshe intended us for each other, sooner or later."

"You have said as much before, but I don't know anything about it,"laughed Elizabeth.

"Yes, she told me I might have you—weeks ago."

"She was very generous."

"She was. She was more generous than she knew. Well"—catching himselfup suddenly—"we really must go to her now, Elizabeth. I told her Iwould only come in here, where I have no business to be to-day, forhalf a minute, and I have stayed more than half an hour. It is nearlydinner time, and I have a great deal to do this evening. I have more todo even than I bargained for."

"Why more?" she asked, apprehensively.

"I am going to have some papers prepared by Mr. Brion and the major'slawyers, which you will have to sign before you surrender yourindependence to-morrow."

"I won't sign anything," said Elizabeth.

"Oh, won't you! We'll see about that."

"I know what it means. You will make me sign away your freedom to usethat money as your own—and I won't do it."

"We'll see," he repeated, smiling with an air which said plainly thatif she thought herself a free agent she was very much mistaken.



"Now, where is that portmanteau?"

"It is in my room."

"Strapped up?"


"Let me take it down to the cab. Have you anything else to do?"

"Only to change my dress."

"Don't be long about it; it is seven o'clock. I will wait for youdownstairs."

Mr. Yelverton walked into the passage, possessed himself of theportmanteau, and descended the stairs to the little hall below. Thewide-eyed maid-of-all-work hastened to offer her services. She hadnever volunteered to carry luggage for the Miss Kings, but she seemedhorrified at the sight of this stalwart gentleman making a porter ofhimself. "Allow me, sir," she said, sweetly, with her most engagingsmile.

"Thank you, my girl; I think I am better able to carry it than youare," he said, pleasantly. But he scrutinised her face with his keeneyes for a moment, and then took a sovereign from his pocket andslipped it into her hand. "Go and see if you can help Miss King," hesaid. "And ask her if there is anything you can do for her while she isaway from home."

"Oh, sir"—simpering and blushing—"I'm sure—anything—" andshe rushed upstairs and offered her services to Elizabeth in suchacceptable fashion that the bride-elect was touched almost to tears, asby the discovery of a new friend. It seemed to her that she had neverproperly appreciated Mary Ann before.

Mr. Yelverton meanwhile paced a few steps to and fro on the footpathoutside the gate, looking at his watch frequently. Paul Brion was athome, listening to his father's account of the afternoon's events andthe news of the imminent marriage, with moody brow and heavy heart; itwas the end of the romance for him, he felt, and he was realisingwhat a stale and flat residuum remained in his cup of life. He had seenMr. Yelverton go to No. 6 with fierce resentment of the liberty thatthe fortunate lover permitted himself to take with those sacred rightsof single womanhood which he, Paul, had been so scrupulous to observe;now he watched the tall man pacing to and fro in the street below,waiting for his bride, with a sense of the inequalities of fortune thatmade him almost bloodthirsty. He saw the portmanteau set on end by thecabdriver's seat; he saw Elizabeth come forth with a bag in one handand an umbrella in the other, followed by the servant with an ulsterand a bonnet-box. He watched the dispossessed master of Yelverton, who,after all, had lost nothing, and had gained so much, and the greatheiress who was to know Myrtle Street and obscurity no more, as theytook their seats in the vehicle, she handed in by him with such tenderand yet masterful care. He had an impulse to go out upon the balconyto bid her good-bye and God-speed, but he checked it proudly; and,surveying her departure from the window of his sitting-room, convincedhimself that she was too much taken up with her own happiness to somuch as remember his existence. It was the closing scene of the MyrtleStreet drama—the last chapter of the charming little homely storywhich had been the romance of his life. No more would he see the girlsgoing in and out of the gate of No. 7, nor meet them in the gardensand the street, nor be privileged to offer them his assistance andadvice. No more would he sit on his balcony of nights to listen toBeethoven sonatas and Schubert serenades. The sponge had been passedover all those pleasant things, and had wiped them out as if they hadnever been. There were no longer any Miss Kings. And for Paul therewas no longer anything left in life but arid and flavourless newspaperwork—the ceaseless grinding of his brains in the great mill of thePress, which gave to the world its daily bread of wisdom, but had noguerdon for the producers of that invaluable grist.

In truth, Elizabeth did forget all about him. She did not lift hereyes to the window where he sat; she could see and think of nothing butherself and her lover, and the wonderful circ*mstances that immediatelysurrounded them. When the cabman closed the door upon them, and theyrattled away down the quiet street, it was borne in upon her that shereally was going to be married on the morrow; and that circ*mstancewas far more than enough to absorb her whole attention. In the suburbsthrough which they passed it was growing dusk, and the lamps werelighted. A few carriages were taking people out to dinner. It wasalready evening—the day was over. Mrs. Duff-Scott was standing on herdoorstep as they drove up to the house, anxiously looking out for them.She had not changed her morning dress; nor had Patty, who stood besideher. All the rules of daily life were suspended at this crisis. A gravefootman came to the door of the cab, out of which Mr. Yelverton helpedElizabeth, and then led her into the hall, where she was received inthe fairy godmother's open arms.

"Take care of her," he said to Patty, "and make her rest herself. Iwill come back about nine or ten o'clock."

Patty nodded. Mrs. Duff-Scott tried to keep him to dinner, but hesaid he had no time to stay. So the cab departed with him, and hisbetrothed was hurried upstairs to her bedroom, where there ensued agreat commotion. Even Mrs. Duff-Scott, who had tried to stand uponher dignity a little, was unable to do so, and shared the feverishexcitement that possessed the younger sisters. They were all a littleoff their heads—as, indeed, they must have been more than womennot to be. The explanations and counter-explanations, the fervidcongratulations, the irrepressible astonishment, the loving curiosity,the tearful raptures, the wild confusion of tongues and miscellaneouscaresses, were very bewildering and upsetting. They did, in fact, bringon that attack of hysterics, the first and last in Elizabeth's life,which had been slowly generating in her healthy nervous system underthe severe and various trials of the day. This little accident soberedthem down, and reminded them of Mr. Yelverton's command that Elizabethwas to be made to rest herself. The heiress was accordingly laid upona sofa, much against her wish, and composed with sal-volatile, andeau-de-cologne, and tea, and fans, and a great deal of kissing andpetting.

"But I cannot understand this excessive, this abnormal haste," Mrs.Duff-Scott said, when the girl seemed strong enough to bear beingmildly argued with. "Mr. Yelverton explains it very plausibly, butstill I can't understand it, from your point of view. Patty's theoryis altogether untenable."

"I don't understand it either," the bride-elect replied. "I think I hadan idea that it might prevent him from knowing or realising that I wasgiving him the money instead of his giving it to me—I wanted to bebeforehand with Mr. Brion. But of course that was absurd. And if youcan persuade him to put it off for a few weeks—"

"O dear no!—I know him too well. He is not a man to be persuaded.Well, I am thankful he is going to let you be married in church. Iexpected he would insist on the registry office. And he has promised tobring you back to me at the end of a fortnight or so, to stay here allthe time till you go home. That is something." The fairy godmother wascertainly a little huffy—for all these wonderful things had come topass without her permission or assistance—but in her heart of hearts,as Mr. Yelverton had suspected, she was charmed with the situation, andas brimful of sympathy for the girl in her extraordinary circ*mstancesas her own mother could have been.

They had a quiet dinner at eight o'clock, for which the major, who hadbeen despatched to his solicitors (to see about the drawing up of that"instrument" which Miss Yelverton's fiancé and cousin required her tosign on her own behalf before her individuality was irrevocably mergedin his), returned too late to dress, creeping into the house gentlyas if he had no business to be there; and Elizabeth sat at her host'sright hand, the recipient of the tenderest attentions and tit-bits.The little man, whose twinkling eye had lost its wonted humour, wasprofoundly touched by the events that had transpired, and saddened bythe prospect of losing that sister of the three whom he had made hisown particular chum, and with the presentiment that her departure wouldmean the loss of the others also. He could not even concern himselfabout the consequences to his wife of their removal from the circleof her activities, so possessed was he by the sad vision of his houseleft desolate. Perhaps the major felt himself getting old at last, andrealised that cakes and ale could not be heaped upon his board forever. He was certainly conscious of a check in his prosperous career,by the translation of the Miss Kings, and a feeling of injury in thatProvidence had not given him children that he could have kept aroundhim for the solace of his declining years. It was hard to have justlearned what it was to have charming daughters, and then to be bereavedof them like this, at a moment's notice. Yet he bore his disappointmentwith admirable grace; for the little major, despite all the traditionsof his long-protracted youth, was the most unselfish of mortals, and agentleman to the marrow of his bones.

In the evening he went to town again, to find Mr. Yelverton. Mrs.Duff-Scott, when dinner was over, had a consultation with her cook,and made arrangements for a festive luncheon for the following day.The girls went upstairs again, and thither their adopted motherpresently followed them, and they spent an hour together in Elizabeth'sbedroom, absorbed in the sad but delightful business of overhaulingher portmanteau. By this time they were able to discuss the situationwith sobriety—a sobriety infused with much chastened emotion, to besure, but still far removed from the ferment of hysterics. Patty, inparticular, had a very bracing air about her.

"Now I call this life," she said, flourishing open the skirt of oneof Elizabeth's dresses to see if it was fit to be worn on a weddingjourney; "I call this really living. One feels as if one's facultieswere given for some purpose. After all, it is not necessary to goto Europe to see the world. It is not necessary to travel to gainexperience and to have adventures. Is not this frock too shabby, Mrs.Duff-Scott—all things considered?"

"Certainly," assented that lady, promptly. "Put in her new cashmere andthe Indian silk, and throw away those old things now."

"Go and get the Indian silk, Nelly. It is in the wardrobe. And don'thang over Elizabeth in that doleful manner, as if she were going tohave her head cut off, like Lady Jane Grey. She is one of the happiestwomen on the face of the earth—or, if she isn't, she ought to be—withsuch a prospect before her. Think of it! It is enough to make one gnashone's teeth with envy."

"Let us hope she will indeed realise her prospects," said Mrs.Duff-Scott, feeling called upon to reprove and moderate the paganspirit that breathed in Patty's words. "Let us hope she will be ashappy in the future as she is now."

"Oh, she will—she will! Let us hope she will have enough troubles tokeep her from being too happy—too happy to last," said the girlaudaciously; "that is the danger she will want preserving from."

"You may say what you like, but it is a rash venture," persisted thematron, shaking her head. "She has known him but for such a veryshort time. Really, I feel that I am much to blame to let her run intoit like this—with so little knowledge of what she is undertaking.And he has a difficult temperament, Elizabeth. There is no denyingit—good and nice as he is, he is terribly obstinate about gettinghis own way. And if he is so now, what will he be, do you suppose,presently?"

Patty, sitting on her heels on the floor, with her sister's clothesspread around her, looked up and laughed.

"Ah! that is one safeguard against too much happiness, perhaps. I dothink, with Mrs. Duff-Scott, that you have met your master, my dear."

"I don't think it," replied Elizabeth, serenely. "I know I have."

"And you are quite content to be mastered?"

"Yes—by him."

"Of course you are. Who would marry a chicken-hearted milksop if shecould get a splendid tyrant like that?" exclaimed Patty, fervently,for the moment forgetting there were such things as woman's rightsin the world. "I wouldn't give a straw for a man who let you haveyour own way—unless, of course, he was no wiser than you. A man whosets up to domineer when he can't carry it out thoroughly is the mostdetestable and contemptible of created beings, but there is no want ofthoroughness about him. To see him standing up at the table in thelibrary this afternoon and defying Mrs. Duff-Scott to prevent him frommarrying you to-morrow did one's heart good. It did indeed."

"I daresay," said the fairy godmother. "But I should like to see youwith a man like that to deal with. It is really a pity he did not taketo you instead of Elizabeth. I should have liked to see what would havehappened. The 'Taming of the Shrew' would have been a trifle to it."

"Well," said Patty, "he will be my brother and lawful guardianto-morrow, and I suppose I shall have to accept his authority to acertain extent. Then you will see what will happen." She was silentfor a few minutes, folding the Indian silk into the portmanteau, and aslow smile spread over her face. "We shall have some fights," she said,laughing softly. "But it will be worth while to fight with him."

"Elizabeth will never fight with him," said Eleanor.

"Elizabeth!" echoed Patty. "She will be wax—she will bebutter—simply. She would spoil him if he could be spoiled. But I don'tthink he is spoilable. He is too tough. He is what we may call an ashtree man. And what isn't ash-tree is leather."

"You are not complimentary," said Nelly, fearing that Elizabeth'sfeelings might be hurt by what seemed an allusion to the bridegroom'scomplexion.

"Pooh! He is not the sort of man to compliment. Elizabeth knows whatI mean. I feel inclined to puff myself out when I think of his beingour own kith and kin—a man like that. I shall have ever so much moreconfidence in myself now that I know I have his blood in my veins;one can't be so near a relation without sharing some of the virtue ofit—and a little of that sort ought to go a long way. Ha!"—lifting herfinger for silence as she heard a sound in the hall below—"there heis."

Mrs. Duff-Scott's maid came running upstairs to say, "Please'm, couldyou and the young ladies come down to the library for a few minutes?"She was breathless and fluttered, scenting mystery in the air, and shelooked at Elizabeth with intense interest. "The major and Mr. Yelvertonis 'ome," she added, "and some other gentlemen 'ave come. Shall I justput your 'air straight, Miss?"

She was a little co*ckney who had waited on fine ladies in London, andwas one of Mrs. Duff-Scott's household treasures. In a twinkling shehad "settled up" Elizabeth's rather dishevelled braids and twitchedher frills and draperies into trim order; then, without offering tostraighten any one else, she withdrew into the background until shecould safely watch them go downstairs to the hall, where she knew Mr.Yelverton was waiting. Looking over the balustrade presently, shesaw the four ladies join him; three of them were passing on to thelibrary, as feeling themselves de trop, but were called back. Shecould not hear what was said, but she saw what was done, to the verybest advantage. Mr. Yelverton fitted a substantial wedding-ring uponMiss King's finger, and then, removing it, put another ring in itsplace; a deeply-interested and sympathetic trio standing by to witnessthe little ceremony. The maid slipped down by the back-stairs to theservants' hall, and communicated the result of her observations toher fellow-servants. Mr. Yelverton meanwhile led Elizabeth into thelibrary, where were seated at the same table where Mr. Brion had readhis documents earlier in the day, three sedate gentlemen, Mr. Brionbeing one of them, with other documents spread out before them. Themajor was languidly fetching pens and ink from the writing-table in thewindow, and smiling furtively. He seemed to be amused by this latestphase of the Yelverton affair. His eyes twinkled with sagacious humourpolitely repressed, when he saw the betrothed couple enter the roomtogether.

He hastened forward to put a chair for the interesting "client,"for this one night his ward, at the head of the table; the girls andMrs. Duff-Scott grouped themselves before the hearth to watch theproceedings, and whisper their comments thereupon. The bridegroom tookhis stand at Elizabeth's elbow, and intimated that it was his part todirect her what to do.

"Why should I do anything?" she inquired, looking round her from faceto face with a vague idea of seeking protection in legal quarters. "Itcannot make the least difference. I know that a woman's property, ifyou don't meddle with it, is her husband's when she is married"—thiswas before the late amendment of the law on this matter, and she was,as one of the lawyers advised her, correctly informed—"and if ever itshould be so, it should be so in our case. I cannot, I will not, haveany separate rights. No"—as Mr. Yelverton laid a paper before her—"Idon't want to read it."

"Well, you need not read it," he said, laughing. "Mr. Brion does thatfor you. But I want you to sign. It is nothing to what you will have todo before we get this business settled."

"Mr. Yelverton is an honourable man, my dear," said Mr. Brion, withsome energy—and his brother lawyers nodded in acquiescence—as he gaveher a pen.

"You need not tell me that," she replied, superbly. And, seeing no helpfor it, she took the pen and signed "Elizabeth Yelverton" (having tobe reminded of her true name on each occasion) with the most recklessunconcern, determined that if she had signed away her husband's libertyto use her property as he liked, she would sign it back again when shehad married him.

And this was the last event of that eventful day. At midnight, lawyersand lover went away, and the tired girls to bed, and Elizabeth andPatty spent their last night together in each other's arms.



After all, Elizabeth's wedding ceremonies, though shorn of muchcustomary state, were not so wildly unconventional as to shock thefeelings of society. Save in the matter of that excessive haste—whichMr. Yelverton took pains to show was not haste at all, seeing that,on the one hand, his time was limited, and that, on the other, therewas absolutely nothing to wait for—all things were done decentlyand in order; and Mrs. Duff-Scott even went so far as to confess,when the bride and bridegroom had departed, that the fashion of theirnuptials was "good art;" and that these were not the days to followstereotyped customs blindfold. There was no unnecessary secrecy aboutit. Overnight, just, and only just, before she went to bed, themistress of the house had explained the main facts of the case to herhead servants, who, she knew, would not be able to repeat the storyuntil too late for the publication of it to cause any inconvenience.She told them how the three Miss Kings—who had never been Miss Kingsafter all—had come in for large fortunes, under a will that had beenlong mislaid and accidentally recovered; and how Miss Elizabeth, whohad been engaged for some considerable time (O, mendacious matron!),was to be married to her cousin, Mr. Yelverton, in the morning—veryquietly, because both of them had a dislike to publicity and fuss. Andin the morning the little co*ckney lady's-maid, bringing them theirtea, brought a first instalment of congratulations to the bride andher sisters, who had to hold a levée in the servants' hall as soonas they went downstairs. The household, if not boiling over with theexcitement inseparable from a marriage à la mode, was in a pleasantsimmer of decorous enjoyment; and the arrangements for the domesticcelebration of the event lacked nothing in either completeness ortaste. The gardener brought his choicest flowers for the table andfor the bride's bouquet, which was kept in water until her returnfrom church; and the cook surpassed himself in his efforts to providea wedding breakfast that should be both faultless and unique. Themen servants wore bits of strong-scented orange blossom in theirbutton-holes, and the women white ribbons in their caps. They did whatthey could, in short, to honour the occasion and the young lady who hadwon their affection before she came into her inheritance of wealth, andthe result to themselves and the family was quite satisfactory.

There was a great deal of cold weather in the last month of 1880,summer time though it was, and this special morning was very cold.Elizabeth had not the face to come down to the early breakfast anda blazing fire in the gown she had worn the day before, and Mrs.Duff-Scott would not hear of her going to church in it. "Do yousuppose he is quite an idiot?" she indignantly demanded (forgettingthe absolute indifference to weather shown in the conventional bridalcostume), when the bride gave an excuse for her own unreasonableness."Do you suppose he wants you to catch your death of cold on yourwedding day?"

"What does it matter?" said Patty. "He won't care what you have on. Putit in the portmanteau and wear it at dinner every night, if he likes tosee you in it. This morning you had better make yourself warm. He neverexpected the day to turn out so cold as this."

And while they were talking of it Mr. Yelverton himself appeared,contrary to etiquette and his own arrangements. "Good morning," hesaid, shaking hands impartially all round. "I just came in to tell youthat it is exceedingly cold, and that Elizabeth had better put a warmdress on. One would think it was an English December day by the feel ofthe wind."

She got up from the breakfast-table and went out of the room, hurriedaway by Mrs. Duff-Scott; but in a minute she came back again.

"Did you come for anything in particular?" she asked, anxiously.

"No," he said, "only to take care that you did not put on that thindress. And to see that you were alive," he added, dropping his voice.

"And we really are to be married this morning?"

"We really are, Elizabeth. In three quarters of an hour, if you can beat the church so soon. I am on my way there now. I am just going roundto Myrtle Street to pick up old Brion."

"Pick up young Brion, too," she urged earnestly, thinking of Patty."Tell him I specially wished it."

"He won't come," said Mr. Yelverton; "I asked him yesterday. His fathersays his liver must be out of order, he has grown so perverse andirritable lately. He won't do anything that he is wanted to do."

"Ah, poor boy! We must look after him, you and I, when we come back.Where are we going, Kingscote?"

"My darling, I fear you will think my plans very prosaic. I think weare just going to Geelong—till to-morrow or next day. You see it isso cold, and I don't want you to be fa*gged with a long journey. MountMacedon would have been charming, but I could not get accommodation.At Geelong, where we are both strangers, we shall be practically toourselves, and it is better to make sure of a good hotel than ofromantic scenery, if you have to choose between the two—for thepresent, at any rate—vulgar and sordid as that sentiment may appear.We can go where we like afterwards. I have just got a telegram to saythat things will be ready for us. You left it to me, you know."

"I am only too happy to leave everything to you," she said, at once."And I don't care where we go—-it will be the same everywhere."

"I think it will, Elizabeth—I think we shall be more independentof our circ*mstances than most people. Still I am glad to have madesure of a warm fire and a good dinner for you at your journey's end.We start at twenty minutes past four, I may tell you, and we are toget home—home, my dear, which will be wherever you and I can betogether, henceforth—at about half-past six. That will give you timeto rest before dinner. And you will not be very tired, after such alittle journey, will you?"

"Elizabeth!" called a voice from the corridor above their heads, "sendMr. Yelverton away, and come upstairs at once."

So Mr. Yelverton departed in his cab, to pick up old Brion and awaithis bride at the nearest church; and he was presently followed bythe major in his brougham, and a little later by Mrs. Duff-Scott'scapacious open carriage, containing herself and the three sisters, allin woollen walking dresses and furs. And Elizabeth really was married,still to her own great surprise. She stood in the cold and silentchurch, and took Kingscote, her lover, to be her lawful husband, andlegally ratified that irrevocable contract in the clearest handwriting.He led her out into the windy road, when it was over, and put her intothe brougham—the major taking her place in the other carriage, and ontheir way back both bride and bridegroom were very serious over theirexploit.

"You have the most wonderful trust in me," he said to her, holdingher still ungloved hand, and slipping the wedding ring round on herfinger—"the most amazing trust."

"I have," she assented, simply.

"It rather frightens me," he went on, "to see you taking me soabsolutely for granted. Do you really think I am quite perfect,Elizabeth?"

"No," she replied, promptly.

"Well, I am glad of that. For I am far from it, I assure you." Then headded, after a pause, "What are the faults you have to find with me,then?"

"None—none," she responded fervently. "Your faults are no faults tome, for they are part of you. I don't want you perfect—I only want youto be always as I know you now."

"I think I am rather a tyrant," he said, beginning to criticise himselffreely, now that she showed no disposition to do it, "and perhaps Ishall bully you if you allow me too much latitude. I am too fond ofdriving straight at everything I want, Elizabeth—I might drive overyou, without thinking, some day, if you give me my own way always."

"You may drive over me, if you like, and welcome," she said, smiling.

"You have no consideration for your rights as a woman and a matron?—noproper pride?—no respect for your dignity, at all?"

"None whatever—now."

"Ah, well, after all, I think it is a good thing for you that I havegot you. You might have fallen into worse hands. You are just made tobe a victim. And you will be better off as my victim than you mighthave been as another man's victim."

"Much better," she said. "But I don't think I should have been anotherman's victim."

When they reached Mrs. Duff-Scott's house, Patty and Eleanor, who hadarrived a few minutes earlier, met their brother and sister, kissedthem both, and took Elizabeth upstairs, where they tenderly drewoff her furs and her bonnet, and waited upon her with a reverentialrecognition of her new and high estate. During their absence, Mr.Yelverton, Mr. Brion, and their host and hostess stood round thedrawing-room fire, talking over a plan they had hatched between them,prior to taking leave of the old lawyer, who had to depart for hiscountry home and business by an afternoon boat. This plan provided fora temporary disposal of that home and business at an early date, inorder that Mr. Brion might accompany the entire party—the major andhis wife, Mr. Yelverton and the three sisters—to England as the legaladviser of the latter, it having been deemed expedient to take thesemeasures to facilitate the conveyance and distribution of the greatYelverton property. The old man was delighted at the prospect of histrip, which it was intended should be made both profitable and pleasantto him, and at the certainty of being identified for some time longerwith the welfare of his young friends. Mrs. Duff-Scott was also ardentin her anticipation of seeing Elizabeth installed at Yelverton, ofinvestigating the philanthropical enterprises of Elizabeth's husband,and of keeping, during the most critical and most interesting periodof their career, the two unappropriated heiresses under her wing. Themajor was pleased to join this family party, and looked forward withsome avidity to the enjoyment of certain London experiences that he hadmissed from his cup of blessings of late years.

"And the dear girls will not be separated, except for this little weekor two," said the fairy godmother, wiping away a surreptitious tear."How happy that will make them!"

They entered the room as she spoke, clinging together; and they satdown round the hearthrug, and were drawn into the discussion. Yes, itdid make them happy, they said; it was the sweetest and brightest ofplans and prospects. Only Patty, thinking of Elizabeth and Nelly goingand Paul Brion left behind, felt her heart torn in two.

The wedding breakfast was the mid-day lunch, to which they weresummoned by the butler with his bridal favour in his button-hole. Thelittle party of seven, when they went into the dining-room, foundthat apartment decorated with flowers and evergreens in a mannerwonderful to behold, considering the short notice that had been given.The table was glorious with white blossoms of every description, theorange predominating and saturating the air with its almost too strongfragrance; and the dishes and the wines would have done honour to thebridal banquet of a princess. Little did anyone care for dishes andwines, except the host and hostess, who would have been less thanmortal had they not felt interested therein; and most of them were gladto get the meal over. Some healths were drunk in the major's best drychampagne, and three little speeches were delivered; and then Mr. Brionrespectfully begged to be excused, said good-bye all round, made hisGrandisonian bow, and departed.

"Tell Paul," said Elizabeth (she could call him Paul now), "that wehave missed him to-day."

"I will, my dear, I will," said the old man. And when he delivered thatmessage half-an-hour later, he was hurt to see in what a bad spirit itwas received. "I daresay!" was Paul's cynical comment.

When Mr. Brion was gone, the little family returned to thedrawing-room, and again sat round the bright fire, and behavedthemselves as if nothing had happened. Elizabeth spread out her handsto the warmth, and gazed at her thick wedding ring meditatively: andthe girls, who hung about her, gazed at it also with fascinated eyes.Mr. Yelverton sat a little apart, and watched his wife furtively. Mrs.Duff-Scott chatted, recalling the topography and notable features ofGeelong. They had afternoon tea, as usual (only earlier than usual),in the familiar precious teacups, out of the familiar Queen Anneteapot. There was an every-day homeliness about this quiet hour, andyet it seemed that years had come and gone since yesterday. PresentlyMr. Yelverton's watch-case was heard to shut with a sharp click, andthe bride turned her head quickly and looked at him. He nodded. Andas she rose from her low chair, holding out her hand to the faithfulPatty, the wheels of the brougham crunched over the gravel in front ofthe windows. It was time to go.

And in ten minutes more they were gone. Like that monarch who wentinto his own kingdom and shut the door, Elizabeth went into hers—toassume the crown and sceptre of a sovereignty than which no womancan boast a greater, let her be who she may—passing wholly into herstrong husband's keeping without one shadow of regret or mistrust leftin her heart, either for herself or him. They were driven to SpencerStreet, where, while they waited a few minutes for their train, peoplewho knew them stared at them, recognising the situation. They pacedup and down the platform, side by side, she in her modest cloth dressand furs; and, far from avoiding observation, they rather courted itunconsciously, in a quiet way. They were so proud of belonging to eachother, and from the enclosure of their own kingdom the outside worldseemed such an enormous distance off. They went to Geelong in a salooncar full of people—what did it matter to them?—and at the seasidestation found a carriage waiting for them. And by half-past six, asher husband said, Elizabeth reached home. There was a bright and cosysitting-room, with a table prettily set for their tête-à-tête dinner,and a bright fire (of wood and not coal—a real bush fire) cracklingon the hearth. In an inner room there was a fire too; and here, whenher portmanteau had been unstrapped, and while Kingscote was consultingwith the landlord, she hastily threw off her wraps and travellingdress, twisted up her fine hair afresh, put on that delicate gown thatshe had worn yesterday morning—could it possibly, she asked herself,have been only yesterday morning?—and made herself as fair to lookupon as she knew how. And, when she opened the door softly, tremblingwith excitement and happiness, he was waiting for her, standing on thehearthrug, with his back to the fire—looking at her as he had lookedthat day, not so very long ago, when they were in the cave together,he on one side of the gulf and she on the other. He held out his armsagain, and this time she sprang into them, and lifted her own to clasphis neck. And so they stood, without moving or speaking—"restingbefore dinner"—until the waiter, heralding his approach by a discreettap at the door, came in with the soup-tureen.



The bride and bridegroom did not return to Melbourne until the daybefore Christmas—Friday the 24th, which was a warm, and bright, andproper summer day, but working up for a spell of north winds and bushfires before the year ran out. They had been wandering happily amongstthe lovely vales and mountains of that sequestered district of Victoriawhich has become vaguely known as the "Kelly Country," and finding outbefore they left it, to their great satisfaction, that Australia couldshow them scenery so variously romantic as to put the charms of thebest hotels into the shade. Even that terrestrial paradise on the fernyslopes of Upper Macedon was, if not eclipsed, forgotten, in the beautyof the wilder woodland of the far Upper Murray, which was beyond thereach of railways. They had also been again to visit the old house bythe sea and Mr. Brion; had dawdled along the familiar shore in twilightand moonlight; had driven to the caves and eaten lunch once more in thegreen dell among the bracken fronds; had visited the graves of thatother pair of married lovers—that Kingscote and Elizabeth of the lastgeneration—and made arrangements for the perpetual protection fromdisturbance and desecration of that sadly sacred spot. And it was onlyon receipt of an urgent telegram from Mrs. Duff-Scott, to remind themthat Christmas was approaching, and that she had devised festivitieswhich were to be more in honour of them than of the season, that theyremembered how long they had been away, and that it had become time toreturn to their anxious relatives.

They arrived in Melbourne by the 3.41 train from Ballarat, wherethey had broken a long journey the evening before, and found Pattyand Eleanor and the major's servants waiting for them at SpencerStreet. The meeting between the sisters, after their first separation,was silent, but intensely impressive. On the platform though theywere, they held each other's hands and gazed into each other's eyes,unconscious of the attention they attracted, unable to find wordsto express how much they had missed each other and how glad theywere to be reunited. They drove home together in a state of absolutehappiness; and at home Mrs. Duff-Scott and the major were standing ontheir doorstep as the carriage swept up the broad drive to the house,as full of tender welcomes for the bride as any father or mother couldhave been, rejoicing over a recovered child. Elizabeth thought ofthe last Christmas Eve which she and her sisters, newly orphaned andalone in the world, poor in purse and destitute of kith and kin, spentin that humble little bark-roofed cottage on the solitary cliff; andshe marvelled at the wonderful and dazzling changes that the year hadbrought. Only one year out of twenty-nine!—and yet it seemed to haveheld the whole history of her life. She was taken into the drawing-roomand put into a downy chair, and fed with bread and butter and tea andchoice morsels of news, while Patty knelt on the floor beside her,and her husband stood on the hearthrug watching her, with, his airof quiet but proud proprietorship, as he chatted of their travels tothe major. It was very delightful. She wondered if it were reallyherself—Elizabeth King that used to be—whose lines had fallen onthese pleasant places.

While the afternoon tea was in progress, Eleanor fidgetted impatientlyabout the room. She was so graceful and undulating in her movementsthat her fidgetting was only perceived to be such by those who knewher ways; but Elizabeth marked her gentle restlessness, in spite ofpersonal preoccupations.

"Do you want me to go upstairs with you?" she inquired with her kindeyes, setting down her teacup; and Nelly almost flew to escort her outof the room. There was to be a large dinner party at Mrs. Duff-Scott'sto-night, to "meet Mr. and Mrs. Yelverton on their return," allMelbourne having been made acquainted with the romance of theircousinship and marriage, and the extent of their worldly possessions,during their absence.

"It is to be so large," said Patty, as her brother-in-law shut thedrawing-room door upon the trio, "that even Mrs. Aarons will beincluded in it."

"Mrs. Aarons!" echoed Elizabeth, who knew that the fairy godmother hadrepaid that lady's hospitality and attentions with her second-bestbit of sang-de-boeuf crackle and her sole specimen of genuine Rosedu Barry—dear and precious treasures sacrificed to the demands ofconscience which proclaimed Mrs. Aarons wronged and insulted by beingexcluded from the Duff-Scott dinner list. "And she is really coming?"

"She really is—though it is her own right to receive, as Ithink Mrs. Duff-Scott perfectly remembered when she sent herinvitation—accompanied, of course, by Mr. Aarons."

"And now," said Nelly, looking back, "Patty has got her old wish—shereally is in a position to turn up her nose, at last."

"Oh," said Patty, vehemently, "don't remind me of that wicked, vulgar,indecent speech! Poor woman, who am I that I should turn up my nose ather? I am very glad she is coming—I think she ought to have been askedlong ago. Why not? She is just as good as we are, every bit."

Eleanor laughed softly. "Ah, what a difference in one's sentiments doesa large fortune make—doesn't it, Elizabeth? Patty doesn't want toturn up her nose at Mrs. Aarons, because, don't you see, she knows shecan crush her quite naturally and comfortably by keeping it down. And,besides, when one has got one's revenge—when one has paid off one'sold score—one doesn't want to be mean and barbarous. Oh," exclaimedNelly, rapturously, "I never thought that being rich was so deliciousas it is!"

"I hope it won't spoil you," said Elizabeth.

"I hope it won't spoil you," retorted the girl, saucily. "You are infar greater danger than I am."

By this time they had reached the top of the stairs, and Eleanor, whohad led the way, opened the door, not of Elizabeth's old bedroom, butof the state guest-chamber of the house; and she motioned the brideto enter with a low bow. Here was the explanation of that impatienceto get her upstairs. Elizabeth took a few steps over the thresholdand then stood still, while the tears rushed into her eyes. The roomhad been elaborately dressed in white lace and white ribbons; thedressing-table was decorated with white flowers; the bed was coveredwith an æsthetic satin quilt, and on the bed was spread out a bridalrobe—white brocade, the bodice frilled with Brussels lace—with whiteshoes, white gloves, white silk stockings, white feather fan, whiteeverything en suite.

"This is your dress for to-night," said Patty, coaxing it with softhands. "And you will find lots more in the wardrobe. Mrs. Duff-Scotthas been fitting you up while you have been away."

Upon which Nelly threw open the doors of the wardrobe and pulled outthe drawers, and displayed with great pride the piles and layers of newclothes that the fairy godmother had laboriously gathered together;the cream, or, to speak more correctly (if less poetically), thebutter, churned from the finest material that the Melbourne shopscould produce, and "made up" by a Collins Street mademoiselle, whosehandiwork was as recognisable to the local initiated as that of Eliseherself. The bride had been allowed no choice in the matter of her owntrousseau, but she did not feel that she had missed anything by that.She stood and gazed at the beautiful garments, which were all dim andmisty as seen through her tears, with lips and hands trembling, and asense of misgiving lest such extravagant indulgence of all a woman'spossible desires should tempt Fate to lay hands prematurely upon her.Then she went to find her friend—who had had so much enjoyment in thepreparation of her surprise—and did what she could by dumb caresses toexpress her inexpressible sentiments.

Then in course of time these upsetting incidents were got over, andcheerful calmness supervened. As the night drew on, Mrs. Duff-Scottretired to put on her war paint. Nelly also departed to arrange herown toilet, which was a matter of considerable importance to her inthese days. The girl who had worn cotton gloves to keep the sun fromher hands, a year ago, had developed a great faculty for taking care ofher beauty and taking pains with her clothes. Patty lingered behind towait on Elizabeth. And in the interval before the bridegroom came up,these two had a little confidential chat. "What have you been doing, mydarling," said the elder sister, "while I have been away?"

"Oh, nothing much," said Patty, rather drearily. "Shopping about yourthings most of the time, and getting ready for our voyage. They saywe are to go as far as Italy next month, because January is the besttime for the Red Sea. And they want the law business settled. It isdreadfully soon, isn't it?" This was not the tone of voice in whichItaly was talked of a year ago.

"And you haven't—seen anybody?"

"No, I haven't seen anybody. Except once—and then he took off his hatwithout looking at me."

Elizabeth sighed. She was herself so safe and happy with her belovedthat she could not bear to think of this other pair estranged andapart, making themselves so miserable.

"And what about Nelly and Mr. Westmoreland?" she inquired presently.

"Nelly is a baby," said Patty, with lofty scorn, "and Mr. Westmorelandis a great lout. You have no idea what a spectacle they are making ofthemselves."

"What—is it going on again?"

"Yes, it is going on—but not in the old style. Mr. Westmorelandhas fallen in love with her really now—as far as such a brainlesshippopotamus is capable of falling in love, that is to say. I suppose,the fact of her having a great fortune and high connections makes allthe difference. And she is really uncommonly pretty. It is only inthese last weeks that I have fully understood how much prettier sheis than other girls, and I believe he, to do him justice, has alwaysunderstood it in his stupid, coarse way."

"And Nelly?"

"Nelly," said Patty, "has been finding out a great deal lately. Sheknows well enough how pretty she is, and she knows what money and allthe other things are worth. She is tasting the sweets of power, andshe likes it—she likes it too much, I think—she will grow into abit of a snob, if she doesn't mind. She is 'coming the swell' overMr. Westmoreland, to use one of his own choice idioms—not exactlyrudely, because she has such pretty manners, but with the most superbimpertinence, all the same—and practising coquetry as if she had beenbeset with abject lovers all her life. She sits upon him and teases himand aggravates him till he doesn't know how to contain himself. It istoo ridiculous."

"I should have thought he was the last man to let himself be sat upon."

"So should I. But he courts it—he obtrudes his infatuatedservility—he goes and asks her, as it were, to sit upon him. It hasthe charm of novelty and difficulty, I suppose. People must get tiredof having their own way always."

"But I can't understand Nelly."

"You soon will. You will see to-night how she goes on, for he is comingto dinner. She will tantalise him till he will forget where he is, andlose all sense of decency, and be fit to stamp and roar like a greatbuffalo. She says it is 'taking it out of him.' And she will look atthe time so sweet and serene and unconscious—bah! I could box herears," concluded Patty.

"And Mrs. Duff-Scott encourages him still, then?"

"No. That is another change. Mrs. Duff-Scott has withdrawn her graciousfavour. She doesn't want him now. She thinks she will make a pairof duch*esses of us when she gets us to London, don't you see? Dearwoman, I'm afraid she will be grievously disappointed, so far as I amconcerned. No, ever since the day you went away—which was the very daythat Mr. Westmoreland began to come back—she has given him the coldshoulder. You know what a cold shoulder it can be! There is not a manalive who could stand up against it, except him. But he doesn't care.He can't, or won't, see that he is not wanted. I suppose it doesn'toccur to him that he can possibly be unwelcome anywhere. He loafsabout the house—he drops on us at Alston and Brown's—he turns upat the theatre—at the Exhibition—at Mullen's—everywhere. We can'tescape him. Nelly likes it. If a day passes without her seeing him, shegets quite restless. She is like a horrid schoolboy with a co*ckroachon a pin—it is her great amusem*nt in life to see him kicking andstruggling."

"Perhaps she really does care about him, Patty."

"Not she. She is just having her revenge—heartless little monkey!I believe she will be a duch*ess, after all, with a miserable oldtoothless creature for her husband. It would be no more than shedeserves. Oh, Elizabeth!"—suddenly changing her voice from sharps toflats—"how beautiful you do look! Nelly may be a duch*ess, and somight I, and neither of us would ever beat you for presence. I heardMrs. Duff-Scott the other day congratulating herself that the prettiestof her three daughters were still left to dispose of. I don't believewe are the prettiest, but, if we are, what is mere prettiness comparedwith having a head set on like yours and a figure like a Greek statue?"

Elizabeth had been proceeding with her toilet, in order to haveleisure to gossip with her husband when he came up; and now she stoodbefore her long glass in her bridal dress, which had been composed byMrs. Duff-Scott with an unlimited expenditure of taste and care. Thematerial of it was exceptionally, if not obtrusively, rich—like athick, dull, soft silk cloth, covered all over with a running patternof flowers severely conventionalised; and it was made as plain as plaincould be, falling straight to her feet in front, and sweeping back ingreat heavy folds behind, and fitting like a pliant glove to the curvesof her lovely shape. Only round the bodice, cut neither low nor high,and round her rather massive elbows, had full ruffles of the lace thatwas its sole trimming been allowed; and altogether Mrs. Yelverton'sstrong points were brought out by her costume in a marvellouslyeffective manner.

There was a sound at this moment in the adjoining room, on hearingwhich Patty abruptly departed; and the bride stood listening to herlord's footsteps, and still looking at herself in the glass. Heentered her room, and she did not turn or raise her eyes, but a softsmile spread over her face as if a sun had risen and covered her withsudden light and warmth. She tried to see if the waist of her gown waswrinkled, or the set of it awry, but it was no use. When he came closeto her and stooped to kiss her white neck, she lost all recollection ofdetails.

"You want," he said, about ten minutes afterwards, when he had himselfturned her round and round, and fingered the thick brocade and the lacecritically, "you want diamonds with such a stately dress."

"Oh, no," she said; "I won't have any diamonds."

"You won't, did you say? This language to me, Elizabeth!"

"The diamonds shall go in beer and tobacco, Kingscote."

"My dear, they can't."

"Why not?"

"Because the Yelverton diamonds are heirlooms."

"Oh, dear me! Are there Yelverton diamonds too?"

"There are, I grieve to say. They have been laid up under lock and keyfor about forty years, and they must be very old-fashioned. But theyare considered rather fine, and they are yours for the present, and asyou can't make any use of them they may as well fulfil their purpose ofbeing ornamental. You must wear them by-and-by, you know, when you goto Court."

"To Court?" reproachfully. "Is that the kind of life we are going tolead?"

"Just occasionally. We are going to combine things, and our duties toourselves and to society. It is not going to be all Buckingham Palace,nor yet all Whitechapel, but a judicious blending of the two."

"And Yelverton?"

"And Yelverton of course. Yelverton is to be always there—our place ofrest—our base of operations—our workshop—our fortress—our home witha capital H."

"Oh," she said, "we seem to have the shares of so many poor peoplebesides our own. It overwhelms me to think of it."

"Don't think of it," he said, as she laid her head on his shoulder, andhe smoothed her fine brown hair with his big palm. "Don't be afraidthat we are destined to be too happy. We shall be handicapped yet."

They did not go down until the carriages had begun to arrive, and thenthey descended the wide stairs dawdlingly, she leaning on him, with hertwo white-gloved hands clasped round his coat sleeve, and he bendinghis tall head towards her—talking still of their own affairs, andquite indifferent to the sensation they were about to make. When theyentered the dim-coloured drawing-room, which was suffused with a lowmurmur of conversation, and by the mild radiance of many wax candlesand coloured lamps, Elizabeth was made to understand by hostess andguests the exceptional position of Mrs. Yelverton of Yelverton, andwherein and how enormously it differed from that of Elizabeth King.But she was not so much taken up with her own state and circ*mstanceas to forget those two who had been her charge for so many years. Shesearched for Nelly first. And Nelly was in the music-room, sitting atthe piano, and looking dazzlingly fair under the gaslight in the whitedress that she had worn at the club ball, and with dark red roses ather throat and in her yellow hair. She was playing Schubert's A MinorSonata ravishingly—for the benefit of Mr. Smith, apparently, who sat,the recipient of smiles and whispers, beside her, rapt in ecstasiesof appreciation; and she was taking not the slightest notice of Mr.Westmoreland, who, leaning over the other end of the piano on hisfolded arms, was openly sighing his soul into his lady's face. ThenElizabeth looked for Patty. And Patty she found on that settee withinthe alcove at the opposite end of the big room—also in her white balldress, and also looking charming—engaged in what appeared to be aninteresting and animated dialogue with the voluble Mrs. Aarons.

The young matron sighed as she contrasted her own blessed lot withtheirs—with Nelly's, ignorant of what love was, and with Patty's,knowing it, and yet having no comfort in the knowing. She did not knowwhich to pity most.



The dinner party on Christmas Eve was the first of a series ofbrilliant festivities, extending all through the hot last week of1880, and over the cool new year (for which fires were lighted andfurs brought out again), and into the sultry middle of January, and upto the memorable anniversary of the day on which the three Miss Kingshad first arrived in Melbourne; and when they were over this was thestate of the sisters' affairs:—Elizabeth a little tired with so muchdissipation, but content to do all that was asked of her, since she wasnot asked to leave her husband's side; Eleanor, still revelling in thedelights of wealth and power, and in Mr. Westmoreland's accumulatingtorments; and Patty worn and pale with sleepless nights and heart-sickwith hope deferred, longing to set herself straight with Paul Brionbefore she left Australia, and seeing her chances of doing so dwindlingand fading day by day. And now they were beginning to prepare for theirvoyage to a world yet larger and fuller than the one in which they hadlived and learned so much.

One afternoon, while Mrs. Duff-Scott and Eleanor paid calls, Elizabethand Patty went for the last time to Myrtle Street, to pack up thebureau and some of their smaller household effects in preparationfor the men who were to clear the rooms on the morrow. Mr. Yelvertonaccompanied them, and lingered in the small sitting-room for awhile,helping here and there, or pretending to do so. For his entertainmentthey boiled the kettle and set out the cheap cups and saucers, and theyhad afternoon tea together, and Patty played the Moonlight Sonata; andthen Elizabeth bade her husband go and amuse himself at his club andcome back to them in an hour's time. He went, accordingly; and the twosisters pinned up their skirts and tucked up their sleeves, and workedwith great diligence when he was no longer there to distract them. Theyworked so well that at the end of half an hour they had nothing leftto do, except a little sorting of house linen and books. Elizabethundertaking this business, Patty pulled down her sleeves and walked tothe window; and she stood there for a little while, leaning her arm onthe frame and her head on her arm.

"Paul Brion is at home, Elizabeth," she said, presently.

"Is he, dear?" responded the elder sister, who had begun to think(because her husband thought it) that it was a pity Paul Brion, beingso hopelessly cantankerous, should be allowed to bother them any more.

"Yes. And, Elizabeth, I hope you won't mind—it is very improper, Iknow—but I shall go and see him. It is my last chance. I will go andsay good-bye to Mrs. M'Intyre, and then I will run up to his room andspeak to him—just for one minute. It is my last chance," she repeated;"I shall never have another."

"But, my darling—"

"Oh, don't be afraid"—drawing herself up haughtily—"I am not going tobe quite a fool. I shall not throw myself into his arms. I am simplygoing to apologise for cutting him on Cup Day. I am simply going to setmyself right with him before I go away—for his father's sake."

"It is a risky experiment, my dear, whichever way you look at it. Ithink you had better write."

"No. I have no faith in writing. You cannot make a letter say whatyou mean. And he will not come to us—he will not share his father'sfriendship for Kingscote—he was not at home when you and Kingscotecalled on him—he was not even at Mrs. Aarons's on Friday. There is noway to get at him but to go and see him now. I hear him in his room,and he is alone. I will not trouble him long—I will let him see thatI can do without him quite as well as he can do without me—but I mustand will explain the horrible mistake that I know he has fallen intoabout me, before I lose the chance for the rest of my life."

"My dear, how can you? How can you tell him your true reason forcutting him? How can you do it at all, without implying more than youwould like to imply? You had better leave it, Patty. Or let me go foryou, my darling."

But Patty insisted upon going herself, conscientiously assuring hersister that she would do it in ten minutes, without saying anythingimproper about Mrs. Aarons, and without giving the young man thesmallest reason to suppose that she cared for him any more than shecared for his father, or was in the least degree desirous of beingcared for by him. And this was how she did it.

Paul was sitting at his table, with papers strewn before him. He hadbeen writing since his mid-day breakfast, and was half way througha brilliant article on "Patronage in the Railway Department," whenthe sound of the piano next door, heard for the first time after along interval, scattered his political ideas and set him dreaming andmeditating for the rest of the afternoon. He was leaning back in hischair, with his pipe in his mouth, his hands in his pockets, and hislegs stretched out rigidly under the table, when he heard a tap at thedoor. He said "Come in," listlessly, expecting Betsy's familiar face;and when, instead of an uninteresting housemaid, he saw the beautifulform of his beloved standing on the threshold, he was so stunned withastonishment that at first he could not speak.

"Miss—Miss Yelverton!" he exclaimed, flinging his pipe aside andstruggling to his feet.

"I hope I am not disturbing you," said Patty, very stiffly. "I haveonly come for a moment—because we are going away, and—and—and I hadsomething to say to you before we went. We have been so unfortunate—mysister and brother-in-law were so unfortunate—as to miss seeing youthe other day. I—we have come this afternoon to do some packing,because we are giving up our old rooms, and I thought—I thought—"

She was stammering fearfully, and her face was scarlet with confusionand embarrassment. She was beginning already to realise the difficultyof her undertaking.

"Won't you sit down?" he said, wheeling his tobacco-scented arm-chairout of its corner. He, too, was very much off his balance andbewildered by the situation, and his voice, though grave, was shaken.

"No, thank you," she replied, with what she intended to be a haughtyand distant bow. "I only came for a moment—as I happened to be sayinggood-bye to Mrs. M'Intyre. My sister is waiting for me. We are goinghome directly. I just wanted—I only wanted"—she lifted her eyes, fullof wistful appeal, suddenly to his—"I wanted just to beg your pardon,that's all. I was very rude to you one day, and you have never forgivenme for it. I wanted to tell you that—that it was not what you thoughtit was—that I had a reason you did not know of for doing it, and thatthe moment after I was sorry—I have been sorry every hour of my lifesince, because I knew I had given you a wrong impression, and I havenot been able to rectify it."

"I don't quite understand—" he began.

"No, I know—I know. And I can't explain. Don't ask me to explain.Only believe," she said earnestly, standing before him and leaningon the table, "that I have never, never been ungrateful for all thekindness you showed us when we came here a year ago—I have alwaysbeen the same. It was not because I forgot that you were our bestfriend—the best friend we ever had—that I—that I"—her voice wasbreaking, and she was searching for her pocket-handkerchief—"that Ibehaved to you as I did."

"Can't you tell me how it was?" he asked, anxiously. "You have nothingto be grateful for, Miss Patty—Miss Yelverton, I ought to say—andI cannot feel that I have anything to forgive. But I should like toknow—yes, now that you have spoken of it, I think you ought to tellme—why you did it."

"I cannot—I cannot. It was something that had been said of you. Ibelieved it for a moment, because—because it looked as if it weretrue—but only for a moment. When I came to think of it I knew it wasimpossible."

Paul Brion's keen face, that had been pale and strained, clearedsuddenly, and his dark eyes brightened. He was quite satisfied withthis explanation. He knew what Patty meant as well as if there had beenbut one word for a spade, and she had used it—as well, and even betterthan she could have imagined; for she forgot that she had no right orreason to resent his shortcomings, save on the ground of a specialinterest in him, and he was quick to remember it.

"Oh, do sit down a moment," he said, pushing the arm-chair a few inchesforward. He was trying to think what he might dare to say to her toshow how thankful he was. It was impossible for her to help seeing thechange in him.

"No," she replied, hastily pulling herself together. "I must gonow. I had no business to come here at all—it was only because itseemed the last chance of speaking to you. I have said what I came tosay, and now I must go back to my sister." She looked all round thewell-remembered room—at the green rep suite, and the flowery carpet,and the cedar chiffonnier, and the Cenci over the fire-place—at Paul'sbookshelves and littered writing-table, and his pipes and letters onthe chimney-piece, and his newspapers on the floor; and then she lookedat him with eyes that would cry, though she did her very best to helpit. "Good-bye," she said, turning towards the door.

He took her outstretched hand and held it "Good-bye—if it must be so,"he said. "You are really going away by the next mail?"


"And not coming back again?"

"I don't know."

"Well," he said, "you are rich, and a great lady now. I can only wishwith all my heart for your happiness—I cannot hope that I shall everbe privileged to contribute to it again. I am out of it now, MissPatty."

She left her right hand in his, and with the other put her handkerchiefto her eyes. "Why should you be out of it?" she sobbed. "Your fatheris not out of it. It is you who have deserted us—we should never havedeserted you."

"I thought you threw me over that day on the racecourse, and I haveonly tried to keep my place."

"But I have told you I never meant that."

"Yes, thank God! Whatever happens, I shall have this day toremember—that you came to me voluntarily to tell me that you had neverbeen unworthy of yourself. You have asked me to forgive you, but it isI that want to be forgiven—for insulting you by thinking that moneyand grandeur and fine clothes could change you."

"They will never change me," said Patty, who had broken downaltogether, and was making no secret of her tears. In fact, they werepast making a secret of. She had determined to have no tender sentimentwhen she sought this interview, but she found herself powerless toresist the pathos of the situation. To be parting from Paul Brion—andit seemed as if it were really going to be a parting—was tooheartbreaking to bear as she would have liked to bear it.

"When you were poor," he said, hurried along by a very strong currentof emotions of various kinds, "when you lived here on the other side ofthe wall—if you had come to me—if you had spoken to me, and treatedme like this then—"

She drew her hand from his grasp, and tried to collect herself."Hush—we must not go on talking," she said, with a flurried air; "youmust not keep me here now."

"No, I will not keep you—I will not take advantage of you now," hereplied, "though I am horribly tempted. But if it had been as it usedto be—if we were both poor alike, as we were then—if you were PattyKing instead of Miss Yelverton—I would not let you out of this roomwithout telling me something more. Oh, why did you come at all?" heburst out, in a sudden rage of passion, quivering all over as he lookedat her with the desire to seize her and kiss her and satisfy hisstarving heart.

"You have been hard to me always—from first to last—but this is thevery cruellest thing you have ever done. To come here and drive mewild like this, and then go and leave me us if I were Mrs. M'Intyre orthe landlord you were paying off next door. I wonder what you thinkI am made of? I have stood everything—I have stood all your snubs,and slights, and hard usage of me—I have been humble and patient asI never was to anybody who treated me so in my life before—but thatdoesn't mean that I am made of wood or stone. There are limits toone's powers of endurance, and though I have borne so much, I can'tbear this. I tell you fairly it is trying me too far." He stood atthe table fluttering his papers with a hand as unsteady as that ofa drunkard, and glaring at her, not straight into her eyes—which,indeed, were cast abjectly on the floor—but all over her pretty,forlorn figure, shrinking and cowering before him. "You are kind enoughto everybody else," he went on; "you might at least show some commonhumanity to me. I am not a coxcomb, I hope, but I know you can't havehelped knowing what I have felt for you—no woman can help knowing whena man cares for her, though he never says a word about it. A dog wholoves you will get some consideration for it, but you are having noconsideration for me. I hope I am not rude—I'm afraid I am forgettingmy manners, Miss Patty—but a man can't think of manners when he isdriven out of his senses. Forgive me, I am speaking to you too roughly.It was kind of you to come and tell me what you have told me—I am notungrateful for that—but it was a cruel kindness. Why didn't you sendme a note—a little, cold, formal note? or why did you not send Mrs.Yelverton to explain things? That would have done just as well. Youhave paid me a great honour, I know; but I can't look at it like that.After all, I was making up my mind to lose you, and I think I couldhave borne it, and got on somehow, and got something out of life inspite of it. But now how can I bear it?—how can I bear it now?"

Patty bowed like a reed to this unexpected storm, which, nevertheless,thrilled her with wild elation and rapture, through and through. Shehad no sense of either pride or shame; she never for a moment regrettedthat she had not written a note, or sent Mrs. Yelverton in herplace. But what she said and what she did I will leave the reader toconjecture. There has been too much love-making in these pages of late.Tableau. We will ring the curtain down.

Meanwhile Elizabeth sat alone when her work was done, wondering whatwas happening at Mrs. M'Intyre's, until her husband came to tell herthat it was past six o'clock, and time to go home to dress for dinner."The child can't possibly be with him," said Mr. Yelverton, ratherseverely. "She must be gossiping with the landlady."

"I think I will go and fetch her," said Elizabeth. But as she waspatting on her bonnet, Patty came upstairs, smiling and preening herfeathers, so to speak—bringing Paul with her.



When Mrs. Duff-Scott came to hear of all this, she was terribly vexedwith Patty. Indeed, no one dared to tell her the whole truth, and tothis day she does not know that the engagement was made in the youngbachelor's sitting-room, whither Patty had sought him because he wouldnot seek her. She thinks the pair met at No. 6, under the lax andinjudicious chaperonage of Elizabeth; and, in the first blush of herdisappointment and indignation, she was firmly convinced, though toowell bred to express her conviction, that the son had taken advantageof the father's privileged position to entrap the young heiress forthe sake of her thirty thousand pounds. Things did not go smoothlywith Patty, as they had done with her sister. Elizabeth herself was arock of shelter and a storehouse of consolation from the moment thatthe pair came up to the dismantled room where she and her husband werehaving a lovers' tête-à-tête of their own, and she saw that the longmisunderstanding was at an end; but no one else except Mrs. M'Intyre(who, poor woman, was held of no account), took kindly to the allianceso unexpectedly proposed. Quite the contrary, in fact. Mr. Yelverton,notwithstanding his late experiences, had no sympathy whatever forthe young fellow who had flattered him by following his example. Thephilanthropist, with all his full-blown modern radicalism, was also aman of long descent and great connections, and some subtle instinctof race and habit rose up in opposition to the claims of an obscurepress writer to enter his distinguished family. It was one thing for aYelverton man to marry a humbly-circ*mstanced woman, as he had himselfbeen prepared to do, but quite another thing for a humbly-circ*mstancedman to aspire to the hand of a Yelverton woman, and that woman rich andbeautiful, his own ward and sister. He was not aware of this strongsentiment, but believed his objections arose from a proper solicitudefor Patty's welfare. Paul had been rude and impertinent, wanting inrespect for her and hers; he had an ill-conditioned, sulky temper;he lived an irregular life, from hand to mouth; he had no money; hehad no reputable friends. Therefore, when Paul (with some defiance ofmien, as one who knew that it was a merely formal courtesy) requestedthe consent of the head of the house to his union with the lady of hischoice, the head of the house, though elaborately polite, was veryhigh and mighty, and—Patty and Elizabeth being out of the way, shutup together to kiss in comfort in one of the little bedrooms at theback—made some very plain statements of his views to the ineligiblesuitor, which fanned the vital spark in that young man's ardent spiritto a white heat of wrath. By-and-by Mr. Yelverton modified those views,like the just and large-hearted student of humanity that he was, andwas brought to see that a man can do no more for a woman than loveher, be he who he may, and that a woman, whether queen or peasant,millionaire or pauper, can never give more than value for that "valuereceived." And by-and-by Paul learned to respect his brother-in-law fora man whose manhood was his own, and to trust his motives absolutely,even when he did not understand his actions. But just at first thingswere unpleasant. Mr. Yelverton touched the young man's sensitive pride,already morbidly exercised by his consciousness of the disparitybetween Patty's social position and fortunes and his own, by someindirect allusion to that painful circ*mstance, and brought uponhimself a revengeful reminder that his (Mr. Yelverton's) marriage withElizabeth might not be considered by superficial persons to be entirelyabove suspicion. Things were, indeed, very unpleasant. Paul, irritatedin the first rapture of happiness, used more bad language (in thoughtif not in speech) than he had done since Cup Day, when he went back tohis unfinished article on Political Patronage; Patty drove home with aburning sense of being of age and her own mistress; and Elizabeth satin the carriage beside her, silent and thoughtful, feeling that thefirst little cloud (that first one which, however faint and small, isso incredible and so terrible) had made its appearance on the hithertostainless horizon of her married life.

Mrs. Duff-Scott, when they got home, received the blow with a sternfortitude that was almost worse than Mr. Yelverton's prompt resistance,and much worse than the mild but equally decided opposition of thatpunctilious old gentleman at Seaview Villa, who, by-and-by, used allhis influence to keep the pair apart whom he would have given hisheart's blood to see united, out of a fastidious sense of what heconceived to be his social and professional duty. Between them all,they nearly drove the two high-spirited victims into further followingthe example of the head of the house—the imminent danger of whichbecame apparent to Patty's confidante Elizabeth, who gave timelywarning of it to her husband. This latter pair, who had themselvescarried matters with such a very high hand, were far from desiringthat Paul and Patty should make assignations at the Exhibition with aview to circumventing their adversaries by a clandestine or otherwiseuntimely marriage (such divergence of opinion with respect to one's ownaffairs and other people's being very common in this world, the gentlereader may observe, even in the case of the most high-minded people).

"Kingscote," said Elizabeth, when one night she sat brushing her hairbefore the looking-glass, and he, still in his evening dress, loungedin an arm-chair by the dressing-table, talking to her, "Kingscote, Iam afraid you are too hard on Patty—you and the Duff-Scotts—keepingher from Paul still, though she has but three days left, and I don'tbelieve she will stand it."

"My dear, we are not hard upon her, are we? It is for her sake. If wecan tide over these few days and get her away all right, a year or twoof absence, and all the new interests that she will find in Europe andin her changed position, will probably cure her of her fancy for afellow who is not good enough for her."

"That shows how little you know her," said Elizabeth, with a melancholysmile. "She is not a girl to take 'fancies' in that direction, andhaving given her heart—and she has not given it so easily as youimagine—she will be as faithful to him—as faithful"—casting aboutfor an adequate illustration—"as I should have been to you, Kingscote."

"Perhaps so, dear. I myself think it very likely. And in such a caseno harm is done. They will test each other, and if they both stand thetest it will be better and happier for them to have borne it, and weshall feel then that we are justified in letting them marry. But atpresent they know so little of each other—she has had no fair choiceof a husband—and she is too good to be thrown away. I feel responsiblefor her, don't you see? And I only want her to have all her chances. Iwill be the last to hinder the course of true love when once it provesitself to be true love."

"We did not think it necessary to prove our love—and I don't thinkwe should have allowed anybody else to prove it—by a long probation,Kingscote."

"My darling, we were different," he said, promptly.

She did not ask him to explain wherein they were different, he and she,who had met for the first time less than four months ago; she sharedthe usual unconscious prejudice that we all have in favour of our ownsincerity and trustworthiness, and wisdom and foresight, and assumed asa matter of course that their case was an exceptional one. Still shehad faith in others as well as in herself and her second self.

"I know Patty," she said, laying her hair brush on her knee andlooking with solemn earnestness into her husband's rough-hewn butimpressive face—a face that seemed to her to contain every elementof noble manhood, and that would have been weakened and spoiled bymere superficial beauty—"I know Patty, Kingscote, better than anyoneknows her except herself. She is like a little briar rose—sweet andtender if you are gentle and sympathetic with her, but certain toprick if you handle her roughly. And so strong in the stem—so toughand strong—that you cannot root her out or twist her any way that shedoesn't feel naturally inclined to grow—not if you use all your powerto make her."

"Poor little Patty!" he said, smiling. "That is a very pathetic imageof her. But I don't like to figure in your parable as the blindgenius of brute force—a horny-handed hedger and ditcher with a smockfrock and a bill-hook. I am quite capable of feeling the beauty, andunderstanding the moral qualities of a wild rose—at least, I thought Iwas. Perhaps I am mistaken. Tell me what you would do, if you were inmy place?"

Elizabeth slipped from her chair and down upon her knees beside him,with her long hair and her long dressing-gown flowing about her, andlaid her head where it was glad of any excuse to be laid—a localityat this moment indicated by the polished and unyielding surface ofhis starched shirt front. "You know I never likened you to a hedgerand ditcher," she said, fondly. "No one is so wise and thoughtfuland far-sighted as you. It is only that you don't know Patty quiteyet—you will do soon—and what might be the perfect management ofsuch a crisis in another girl's affairs is likely not to succeed withher—just simply and only for the reason that she is a little peculiar,and you have not yet had time to learn that."

"It is time that I should learn," he said, lifting her into a restfulposition and settling himself for a comfortable talk. "Tell me what youthink and know yourself, and what, in your judgment, it would be bestto do."

"In my judgment, then, it would be best," said Elizabeth, briefinterval given up to the enjoyment of a wordless tête-à-tête, "tolet Patty and Paul be together a little before they part. For thisreason—that they will be together, whether they are let or not.Isn't it preferable to make concessions before they are ignominiouslyextorted from you? And if Patty has much longer to bear seeing herlover, as she thinks, humiliated and insulted, by being ignored as herlover in this house, she will go to the other extreme—she will go awayfrom us to him—by way of making up to him for it. It is like what yousay of the smouldering, poverty-bred anarchy in your European nationallife—that if you don't find a vent for the accumulating electricitygenerating in the human sewer—how do you put it?—it is no use to tryto draw it off after the storm has burst."

"Elizabeth," said her husband, reproachfully, "that is worse than beingcalled a hedger and ditcher."

"Well, you know what I mean."

"Tell me what you mean in the vulgar tongue, my dear. Do you want me togo and call on Mr. Paul Brion and tell him that we have thought betterof it?"

"Not exactly that. But if you would persuade Mrs. Duff-Scott to benice about it—no one can be more enchantingly nice than she, when shelikes, but when she doesn't like she is enough to drive a man—a proudman like Paul Brion—simply frantic. And Patty will never stand it—shewill not hold out—she will not go away leaving things as they are now.We could not expect it of her."

"Well? And how should Mrs. Duff-Scott show herself nice to Mr. Brion?"

"She might treat him as—as she did you, Kingscote, when you werewanting me."

"But she approved of me, you see. She doesn't approve of him."

"You are both gentlemen, anyhow—though he is poor. I would havebeen the more tender and considerate to him, because he is poor. He isnot too poor for Patty—nor would he have been if she had no fortuneherself. As it is, there is abundance. And, Kingscote, though I don'tmean for a moment to disparage you—"

"I should hope not, Elizabeth."

"Still I can't help thinking that to have brains as he has is to beessentially a rich and distinguished man. And to be a writer for ahigh-class newspaper, which you say yourself is the greatest and besteducator in the world—to spend himself in making other men see what isright and useful—in spreading light and knowledge that no money couldpay for, and all the time effacing himself, and taking no reward ofhonour or credit for it—surely that must be the noblest profession,and one that should make a man anybody's equal—even yours, my love!"

She lifted herself up to make this eloquent appeal, and dropped back onhis shoulder again, and wound her arm about his neck and his bent headwith tender deprecation. He was deeply touched and stirred, and did notspeak for a moment. Then he said gruffly, "I shall go and see him inthe morning, Elizabeth. Tell me what I shall say to him, my dear."

"Say," said Elizabeth, "that you would rather not have a fixedengagement at first, in order that Patty may be unhampered duringthe time she is away—in order that she may be free to make othermatrimonial arrangements when she gets into the great world, if shelikes—but that you will leave that to him. Tell him that if love isnot to be kept faithful without vows and promises, it is not love norworth keeping—but I daresay he knows that. Tell him that, except forbeing obliged to go to England just now on the family affairs, Patty isfree to do exactly as she likes—which she is by law, you know, for sheis over three-and-twenty—and that we will be happy to see her happy,whatever way she chooses. And then let him come here and see her. AskMrs. Duff-Scott to be nice and kind, and to give him an invitation—shewill do anything for you—and then treat them both as if they wereengaged for just this little time until we leave. It will comfort themso much, poor things! It will put them on their honour. It will drawoff the electricity, you know, and prevent catastrophes. And it willmake not the slightest difference in the final issue. But, oh," sheadded impulsively, "you don't want me to tell you what to do, you areso much wiser than I am."

"I told you we should give and take," he responded; "I told you weshould teach and lead each other—sometimes I and sometimes you. Thatis what we are doing already—it is as it should be. I shall go and seePaul Brion in the morning. Confound him!" he added, as he got up out ofhis chair to go to his dressing-room.

And so it came to pass that the young press writer, newly risen fromhis bed, and meditating desperate things over his coffee and cutlet,received a friendly embassy from the great powers that had taken uparms against him. Mr. Yelverton was the bearer of despatches fromhis sovereign, Mrs. Duff-Scott, in the shape of a gracious note ofinvitation to dinner, which—after a long discussion of the situationwith her envoy—Mr. Paul Brion permitted himself to accept politely.The interview between the two men was productive of a strong senseof relief and satisfaction on both sides, and it brought about thecessation of all open hostilities.



Mr. Yelverton did not return home from his mission until Mrs.Duff-Scott's farewell kettle-drum was in full blast. He found the twodrawing-rooms filled with a fashionable crowd; and the hum of sprightlyconversation, the tinkle of teaspoons, the rustle of crisp draperies,the all-pervading clamour of soft feminine voices, raised in staccatoexclamations and laughter, were such that he did not see his way togetting a word in edgeways. Round each of the Yelverton sisters thepress of bland and attentive visitors was noticeably great. They wereswallowed up in the compact groups around them. This I am tempted toimpute to the fact of their recent elevation to rank and wealth, and toa certain extent it may be admitted that that fact was influential. Andwhy not? But in justice I must state that the three pretty Miss Kingshad become favourites in Melbourne society while the utmost ignoranceprevailed as to their birth and antecedents, in conjunction with themost exact knowledge as to the narrowness of their incomes. Melbournesociety, if a little too loosely constituted to please the tastes ofa British prig, born and bred to class exclusiveness, is, I honestlybelieve, as free as may be from the elaborate snobbishness with whichthat typical individual (though rather as his misfortune than hisfault) must be credited.

In Mrs. Duff-Scott's drawing-room were numerous representatives ofthis society—its most select circle, in fact—numbering amongst themwomen of all sorts; women like Mrs. Duff-Scott herself, who busiedthemselves with hospitals and benevolent schemes, conscious of naturalaspirations and abilities for better things than dressing and gossipingand intriguing for social triumphs; women like Mrs. Aarons, who hadhad to struggle desperately to rise with the "cream" to the top of thecup, and whose every nerve was strained to retain the advantages sohardly won; women to whom scandal was the breath of their nostrils,and the dissemination thereof the occupation of their lives; womenwhose highest ambition was to make a large waist into a small one;women with the still higher ambition to have a house that was morepleasant and popular than anybody else's. All sorts and conditions ofwomen, indeed; including a good proportion of those whose womanhoodwas unspoiled and unspoilable even by the deteriorating influencesof luxury and idleness, and whose intellect and mental culture andcharming qualities generally were such as one would need to hunt wellto find anything better in the same line elsewhere. These people hadall accepted the Miss Kings cordially when Mrs. Duff-Scott brought theminto their circle and enabled the girls to do their duty therein bydressing well, and looking pretty, and contributing a graceful elementto fashionable gatherings by their very attractive manners. That wasall that was demanded of them, and, as Miss Kings only, they woulddoubtless have had a brilliant career and never been made to feel thewant of either pedigree or fortune. Now, as representatives of a greatfamily and possessors of independent wealth, they were overwhelmed withattentions; but this, I maintain, was due to the interesting natureof the situation rather than to that worship of worldly prosperitywhich (because he has plenty of it) is supposed to characterise thesuccessful colonist.

Mr. Yelverton looked round, and dropped into a chair near the door,to talk to a group of ladies with whom he had friendly relationsuntil he could find an opportunity to rejoin his family. The hostesswas dispensing tea, with Nelly's assistance—Nelly being herselfattended by Mr. Westmoreland, who dogged her footsteps with patient andabject assiduity—other men straying about amongst the crowd with theprecious little fragile cups and saucers in their hands. Elizabeth wassurrounded by young matrons fervently interested in her new condition,and pouring out upon her their several experiences of European life,in the form of information and advice for her own guidance. The bestshops, the best dressmakers, the best hotels, the best travellingroutes, and generally the best things to do and see, were emphaticallyand at great length impressed upon her, and she made notes of them onthe back of an envelope with polite gratitude, invariably convincedthat her husband knew all about such things far better than anybodyelse could do. Patty was in the music-room, not playing, but sittingat the piano, and when Kingscote turned his head in her direction hemet a full and glowing look of inquiry from her bright eyes that toldhim she knew or guessed the nature of his recent errand. There was suchan invitation in her face that he found himself drawn from his chairas by a strong magnet. He and she had already had those "fights" whichshe had prophetically anticipated. Lately their relations had been suchthat he had permitted himself to call her a "spitfire" in speaking ofher to her own sister. But they were friends, tacitly trusting eachother at heart even when most openly at war, and the force that drewthem apart was always returned in the rebound that united them whentheir quarrels were over. They seemed to be all over for the present.As he approached her she resumed her talk with the ladies beside her,and dropped her eyes as if taking no notice of him; but she had thegreatest difficulty to keep herself down on the music-stool and resistan inclination to kiss him that for the first time beset her. Shedid, indeed, suddenly put out her hand to him—her left hand—with avigour of intention that called faint smiles to the faces of the fairspectators; who concluded that Mr. Yelverton had been out of town andwas receiving a welcome home after a too long absence. Then Patty wasseized with an ungovernable restlessness. She quivered all over; shefidgetted in her seat; she did not know who spoke to her or what shewas talking about; her fingers went fluttering up and down the keyboard.

"Play us something, dear Miss Yelverton," said a lady sitting by. "Letus hear your lovely touch once more."

"I don't think I can," said Patty, falteringly—the first time she hadever made such a reply to such a demand. She got up and began to turnover some loose music that lay about on the piano. Her brother-in-lawessayed to help her; he saw what an agony of suspense and expectationshe was in.

"You know where I have been?" he inquired in a careless tone, speakinglow, so that only she could hear.

"Yes"—breathlessly—"I think so."

"I went to take an invitation from Mrs. Duff-Scott."


"I had a pleasant talk. I am very glad I went. He is coming to dinehere to-night."

"Is he?"

"Mrs. Duff-Scott thought you would all like to see him before you wentaway. Let us have the 'Moonlight Sonata,' shall we? Beauty fades andmere goodness is apt to pall, as Mrs. Ponsonby de Tompkins would say,but one never gets tired of the 'Moonlight Sonata,' when it is playedas you play it. Don't you agree with me, Mrs. Aarons?"

"I do, indeed," responded that lady, fervently. She agreed witheverybody in his rank of life. And she implored Patty to give them the"Moonlight Sonata."

Patty did—disdaining "notes," and sitting at the piano like ayoung queen upon her throne. She laid her fingers on the keyboardwith a touch as light as thistle-down, but only so light becauseit was so strong, and played with a hushed passion and subduedpower that testified to the effect on her of her brother-in-law'scommunication—her face set and calm, but radiant in its suddenpeacefulness. Her way, too, as well as Elizabeth's, was opening beforeher now. She lost sight of the gorgeous ladies around her for a littlewhile, and saw only the comfortable path which she and Paul would treadtogether thenceforth. She played the "Moonlight Sonata" to him,sitting in his own chamber corner, with his pipe, resting himself afterhis work. "I will never," she said to herself, with a little remotesmile that nobody saw, "I will never have a room in my house that heshall not smoke in, if he likes. When he is with me, he shall enjoyhimself." In those sweet few minutes she sketched the entire programmeof her married life.

The crowd thinned by degrees, and filtered away; the drawing-roomswere deserted, save for the soft-footed servants who came in to setthem in order, and light the wax candles and rosy lamps, and thegreat gas-burner over the piano, which was as the sun amongst hisplanet family. Night came, and the ladies returned in their prettydinner costumes; and the major stole downstairs after them, and smiledand chuckled silently over the new affair as he had done over theold—looking on like a benevolent, superannuated Jove upon these simplelittle romances from the high Olympus of his own brilliant past; andthen (preceded by no carriage wheels) there was a step on the graveland a ring at the door bell, and the guest of the evening was announced.

When Paul came in, correctly appointed, and looking so fierce andcommanding that Patty's heart swelled with pride as she gazed at him,seeing how well—how almost too well, indeed—he upheld his dignityand hers, which had been subjected to so many trials, he found himselfreceived with a cordiality that left him nothing to find fault with.Mrs. Duff-Scott was an impulsive, and generous, and well-bred woman,not given to do things by halves. She still hoped that Patty would notmarry this young man, and did not mean to let her if she could help it;but, having gone the length of inviting him to her house, she treatedhim accordingly. She greeted him as if he were an old friend, and shechatted to him pleasantly while they waited for dinner, questioning himwith subtle flattery about his professional affairs, and implying thatreverence for the majesty of the press which is so gratifying to allenlightened people. Then she took his arm into dinner, and continuedto talk to him throughout the meal as only one hostess in a hundred,really nice and clever, with a hospitable soul, and a warm heart, andabundant tact and good taste, can talk, and was surprised herself tofind how much she appreciated it. She intended to make the poor youngfellow enjoy his brief taste of Paradise, since she had given herselfleave to do so, and Paul responded by shining for her entertainmentwith a mental effulgence that astonished and charmed her. He put forthhis very best wares for her inspection, and at the same time, in adifficult position, conducted himself with irreproachable propriety. Bythe time she left the table she was ready to own herself heartily sorrythat fickle fortune had not endowed him according to his deserts.

"I do so like really interesting and intellectual young men, whodon't give themselves any airs about it," she said to nobody inparticular, when she strolled back to the drawing-room with her threegirls; "and one does so very seldom meet with them!" She threwherself into a low chair, snatched up a fan, and began to fan herselfvigorously. The discovery that a press writer of Paul Brion's standingmeant a cultured man of the world impressed her strongly; the thoughtof him as a new son for herself, clever, enterprising, active-mindedas she was—a man to be governed, perhaps, in a motherly way, andto be proud of whether he let himself be governed or not—dancedtantalisingly through her brain. She felt it necessary to put a verystrong check upon herself to keep her from being foolish.

She escaped that danger, however. A high sense of duty to Patty heldher back from foolishness. Still she could not help being kind tothe young couple while she had the opportunity; turning her headwhen they strolled into the conservatory after the men came in fromthe dining-room, and otherwise shutting her eyes to their jointproceedings. And they had a peaceful and sad and happy time, by hergracious favour, for two days and a half—until the mail ship carriedone of them to England, and left the other behind.



Patty went "home," and stayed there for two years; but it was neverhome to her, though all her friends and connections, save one, werewith her—because that one was absent. She saw "the great Alps and theDoge's palace," and all the beauty and glory of that great world thatshe had so ardently dreamed of and longed for; travelling in comfortand luxury, and enjoying herself thoroughly all the while. She waspresented at Court—"Miss Yelverton, by her sister, Mrs. KingscoteYelverton"—and held a distinguished place in the Court Journal andin the gossip of London society for the better part of two seasons. Shewas taught to know that she was a beauty, if she had never known itbefore; she was made to understand the value of a high social positionand the inestimable advantage of large means (and she did understand itperfectly, being a young person abundantly gifted with common sense);and she was offered these good things for the rest of her life, and acoronet into the bargain. Nevertheless, she chose to abide by her firstchoice, and to remain faithful to her penniless press writer under alltemptations. She passed through the fire of every trying ordeal thatthe ingenuity of Mrs. Duff-Scott could devise; her unpledged constancyunderwent the severest tests that, in the case of a girl of her tastesand character, it could possibly be subjected to; and at the end of ayear and a half, when the owner of the coronet above-mentioned raisedthe question of her matrimonial prospects, she announced to him, andsubsequently to her family, that they had been irrevocably settledlong ago; that she was entirely unchanged in her sentiments andrelations towards Paul Brion; and that she intended, moreover, if theyhad no objection, to return to Australia to marry him.

It was in September when she thus declared herself—after keepinga hopeful silence, for the most part, concerning her love affairs,since she disgraced herself before a crowd of people by weeping inher sweetheart's arms on the deck of the mail steamer at the momentwhen she was bidden by a cruel fate to part from him. The Yelvertonfamily had spent the previous winter in the South of Europe, "doing"the palaces, and churches, and picture galleries that were such anold story to most people of their class, but to the unsophisticatedsisters so fresh and wonderful an experience—an experience thatfulfilled all expectations, moreover, which such realisations of youngdreams so seldom do. Generally, when at last one has one's wish ofthis sort, the spirit that conceived the charms and pleasures of itis quenched by bodily wearinesses and vexations and the thousand andone petty accidents that circumvent one's schemes. One is burdenedand fretted with uncongenial companions, perhaps, or one is worriedand hampered for want of money; or one is nervous or bilious, or oneis too old and careworn to enjoy as one might once have done; in someway or other one's heart's desire comes to one as if only to show the"leanness withal" in the soul that seemed (until thus proved) to havesuch power to assimilate happiness and enrich itself thereby. But withthe Yelverton sisters there was no disillusionment of this sort. Theyhad their little drawbacks, of course. Elizabeth was not always ingood health; Patty pined for her Paul; Eleanor sprained her ankle andhad to lie on Roman sofas while the others were exploring Roman ruinsout of doors; and there were features about the winter, even in thosefamous climes, which gave them sensible discomfort and occasionallyset them on the verge of discontent. But, looking back upon theirtravels, they have no recollection of these things. Young, and strong,and rich, with no troubles to speak of and the keenest appetites tosee and learn, they had as good a time as pleasure-seeking mortalscan hope for in this world; the memories of it, tenderly stored up tothe smallest detail, will be a joy for ever to all of them. On theirreturn to England they took up their abode in the London house, and forsome weeks they revelled delightedly in balls, drums, garden parties,concerts, and so on, under the supervision and generalship of Mrs.Duff-Scott; and they also made acquaintance with the widely-ramifyingWhitechapel institutions. Early in the summer Elizabeth and her husbandwent to Yelverton, which in their absence had been prepared for "thefamily" to live in again. A neighbouring country house and severalcottages had been rented and fitted up for the waifs and strays, wherethey had been made as comfortable as before, and were still under theeye of their protector; and the ancestral furniture that had beenremoved for their convenience and its own safety was put back in itsplace, and bright (no, not bright—Mrs. Duff-Scott undertook the taskof fitting them up—but eminently artistic and charming) rooms werenewly decorated and made ready for Elizabeth's occupation.

She went there early in June—she and her husband alone, leaving Mrs.Duff-Scott and the girls in London. Mr. Yelverton had always a littlejealousy about keeping his wife to himself on these specially sacredoccasions, and he invited no one to join them during their first daysat home, and instructed Mr. Le Breton to repress any tendency thatmight be apparent in tenants or protégés to make a public festival oftheir arrival there. The rôle of squire was in no way to his taste,nor that of Lady Bountiful to hers. And yet he had planned for theirhome-coming with the utmost care and forethought, that nothing shouldbe wanting to make it satisfying and complete—as he had planned fortheir wedding journey on the eve of their hurried marriage.

It is too late in my story to say much about Yelverton. It merits adescription, but a description would be out of place, and serve nopurpose now. Those who are familiar with old Elizabethan country seats,and the general environment of a hereditary dweller therein, willhave a sufficient idea of Elizabeth's home; and those who have neverseen such things—who have not grown up in personal association withthe traditions of an "old family"—will not care to be told about it.In the near future (for, though his brother magnates of the county,hearing of the restoration of the house, congratulated themselves thatYelverton's marriage had cured him of his crack-brained fads, he onlydelivered her property intact to his wife in order that they might becrack-brained together, at her instance and with her legal permissionin new and worse directions afterwards) Yelverton will lose many ofits time-honoured aristocratic distinctions; oxen and sheep will takethe place of its antlered herds, and the vulgar plough and ploughmanwill break up the broad park lawns, where now the pheasant walks inthe evening, and the fox, stealing out from his cover, haunts for hisdainty meal. But when Elizabeth saw it that tender June night, justwhen the sun was setting, as in England it only sets in June, all itsold-world charm of feudal state and beauty, jealously walled off fromthe common herd outside as one man's heritage by divine right and forhis exclusive enjoyment, lay about it, as it had lain for generationspast. Will she ever forget that drive in the summer evening from thelittle country railway station to her ancestral home?—the silent road,with the great trees almost meeting overhead; the snug farm-houses, oldand picturesque, and standing behind their white gates amongst theirhollyhocks and bee-hives; the thatched cottages by the roadside, withgroups of wide-eyed children standing at the doors to see the carriagepass; the smell of the hay and the red clover in the fields, and thehoneysuckle and the sweet-briar in the hedges; the sound of the woodpigeons cooing in the plantations; the first sight of her own lodgegates, with their great ramping griffins stonily pawing the air, and ofthose miles and miles of shadow-dappled sward within, those mysteriousdark coverts, whence now and then a stag looked out at her and wentcrashing back to his ferny lair, and those odorous avenues of beechand lime, still haunted by belated bees and buzzing co*ckchafers, underwhich she passed to the inner enclosure of lawns and gardens where theold house stood, with open doors of welcome, awaiting her. What an oldhouse! She had seen such in pictures—in the little prints that adornedold-fashioned pocket-books of her mother's time—-but the reality, asin the case of the Continental palaces, transcended all her dreams.White smoke curled up to the sky from the fluted chimney-stacks; thediamond-paned casem*nts—little sections of the enormous mullionedwindows—were set wide to the evening breezes and sunshine; on thesteps before the porch a group of servants, respectful but notobsequious, stood ready to receive their new mistress, and to effacethemselves as soon as they had made her welcome.

"It is more than my share," she said, almost oppressed by all theseevidences of her prosperity, and thinking of her mother's differentlot. "It doesn't seem fair, Kingscote."

"It is not fair," he replied. "But that is not your fault, nor mine.We are not going to keep it all to ourselves, you and I—because aking happened to fall in love with one of our grandmothers, who wasno better than she should be—which is our title to be great folks, Ibelieve. We are going to let other people have a share. But just fora little while we'll be selfish, Elizabeth; it's a luxury we don'tindulge in often."

So he led her into the beautiful house, after giving her a solemn kissupon the threshold; and passing through the great hall, she was takento a vast but charming bedroom that had been newly fitted up for heron the ground floor, and thence to an adjoining sitting-room, lookingout upon a shady lawn—a homely, cosy little room that he had himselfarranged for her private use, and which no one was to be allowed tohave the run of, he told her, except him.

"I want to feel that there is one place where we can be together,"he said, "whenever we want to be together, sure of being alwaysundisturbed. It won't matter how full the house is, nor how much bustleand business goes on, if we can keep this nest for ourselves, to cometo when we are tired and when we want to talk. It is not your boudoir,you know—that is in another place—and it is not your morning room; itis a little sanctuary apart, where nobody is to be allowed to set foot,save our own two selves and the housemaid."

"It shall be," said his wife, with kindling eyes. "I will take care ofthat."

"Very well. That is a bargain. We will take possession to-night. Wewill inaugurate our occupation by having our tea here. You shall not befatigued by sitting up to dinner—you shall have a Myrtle Street tea,and I will wait on you."

She was placed in a deep arm-chair, beside a hearth whereon burned thefirst wood fire that she had seen since she left Australia—billetsof elm-wood split from the butts of dead and felled giants that hadlived their life out on the Yelverton acres—with her feet on a rugof Tasmanian opossum skins, and a bouquet of golden wattle blossoms(procured with as much difficulty in England as the lilies of thevalley had been in Australia) on a table beside her, scenting the roomwith its sweet and familiar fragrance. And here tea was brought in—adainty little nondescript meal, with very little about it to remind herof Myrtle Street, save its comfortable informality; and the servant wasdismissed, and the husband waited upon his wife—helping her from thelittle savoury dishes that she did not know, nor care to ask, the nameof—pouring the cream into the cup that for so many years had held herstrongest beverage, dusting the sugar over her strawberries—all thetime keeping her at rest in her soft chair, with the sense of beingat home and in peace and safety under his protection working like adelicious opiate on her tired nerves and brain.

This was how they came to Yelverton. And for some days thereafter theyindulged in the luxury of selfishness—they took their happiness inboth hands, and made all they could of it, conscious they were wellwithin their just rights and privileges—gaining experiences that allthe rest of their lives would be the better for, and putting off fromday to day, and from week to week, that summons to join them, which thematron and girls in London were ready to obey at a moment's notice.Husband and wife sat in their gable room, reading, resting, talking,love-making. They explored all the nooks and corners of their oldhouse, investigated its multifarious antiquities, studied its bygonehistory, exhumed the pathetic memorials of the Kingscote and Elizabethwhose inheritance had come to them in so strange a way. They rambledin the beautiful summer woods, she with her needlework, he with hisbook—sometimes with a luncheon basket, when they would stay out allday; and they took quiet drives, all by themselves in a light buggy,as if they were in Australia still—apparently with no consciousnessof that toiling and moiling world outside their park-gates which hadonce been of so much importance to them. And then one day Elizabethcomplained of feeling unusually tired. The walks and drives came to anend, and the sitting-room was left empty. There was a breathless hushall over the great house for a little while; whispers and rustlings toand fro; and then a little cry—which, weak and small as it was, andshut in with double doors and curtains, somehow managed to make itselfheard from the attic to the basem*nt—announced that a new generationof Yelvertons of Yelverton had come into the world.

Mrs. Duff-Scott returned home from a series of Belgravianentertainments, with that coronet of Patty's capture on her mind,in the small hours of the morning following this eventful day; andshe found a telegram on her hall table, and learned, to her intenseindignation, that Elizabeth had dared to have a baby without her (Mrs.Duff-Scott) being there to assist at the all-important ceremony.

"It's just like him," she exclaimed to the much-excited sisters, whowere ready to melt into tears over the good news. "It is just what Iexpected he would do when he took her off by herself in that way. Itis the marriage over again. He wants to manage everything in his ownfashion, and to have no interference from anybody. But this is reallycarrying independence too far. Supposing anything had gone wrongwith Elizabeth? And how am I to know that her nurse is an efficientperson?—and that the poor dear infant will be properly looked after?"

"You may depend," said Patty, who did not grudge her sister her newhappiness, but envied it from the bottom of her honest woman's heart,"You may depend he has taken every care of that. He is not a man toleave things to chance—at any rate, not where she is concerned."

"Rubbish!" retorted the disappointed matron, who, though she had hadno children of her own—perhaps because she had had none—had lookedforward to a vicarious participation in Elizabeth's experiences atthis time with the strongest interest and eagerness; "as if a man hasany business to take upon himself to meddle at all in such matters! Itis not fair to Elizabeth. She has a right to have us with her. I gaveway about the wedding, but here I must draw the line. She is in herown house, and I shall go to her at once. Tell your maid to pack up,dears—we will start to-morrow."

But they did not. They stayed in London, with what patience they could,subsisting on daily letters and telegrams, until the season there wasover, and the baby at Yelverton was three weeks old. Then, though noexplanations were made, they became aware that they would be no longerconsidered de trop by the baby's father, and rushed from the town tothe country house with all possible haste.

"You are a tyrant," said Mrs. Duff-Scott, when the master came forth tomeet her. "I always said so, and now I know it."

"I was afraid she would get talking and exerting herself too much ifshe had you all about her," he replied, with his imperturbable smile.

"And you didn't think that we might possibly have a grain of sense,as well as you?"

"I didn't think of anything," he said coolly, "except to make sure ofher safety as far as possible."

"O yes, I know"—laughing and brushing past him—"all you think of isto get your own way. Well, let us see the poor dear girl now we arehere. I know how she must have been pining to show her baby to hersisters all this while, when you wouldn't let her."

The next time he found himself alone with his wife, Mr. Yelverton askedher, with some conscientious misgiving, whether she had been piningfor this forbidden pleasure, and whether he really was a tyrant.Of course, Elizabeth scouted any suggestion of such an idea as mosthorrible and preposterous, but the fact was—

Never mind. We all have our little failings, and the intelligent readerwill not expect to find the perfect man any more than the perfectwoman in this present world. And if he—or, I should say, she—couldfind him, no doubt she would be dreadfully disappointed, and not likehim half so well as the imperfect ones. Elizabeth, who, as Patty hadpredicted, was "butter" in his hands, would not have had her husbandless fond of his own way on any account.

For some time everybody was taken up with the baby, who was felt to bethe realisation of that ideal which Dan and the magpies had faintlytypified in the past. Dan himself lay humbly on the hem of the mother'sskirts, or under her chair, resting his disjointed nose on his paws,and blinking meditatively at the rival who had for ever supersededhim. Like a philosophical dog as he was, he accepted superannuationwithout a protest as the inevitable and universal lot, and, when no onetook any notice of him, coiled himself on the softest thing he couldfind and went to sleep, or if he couldn't go to sleep, amused himselfsnapping at the English flies. The girls forgot, or temporarily laidaside, their own affairs, in the excitement of a constant strugglefor possession of the person of the little heir, whom they regardedwith passionate solicitude or devouring envy and jealousy accordingas they were successful or otherwise. The nurse's post was a sinecureat this time. The aunts hushed the infant to sleep, and kept watch byhis cradle, and carried him up and down the garden terraces with aparasol over his head. The mother insisted upon performing his toilet,and generally taking a much larger share of him than was proper fora mother in her rank of life; and even Mrs. Duff-Scott, for whomchina had lost its remaining charms, assumed privileges as a deputygrandmother which it was found expedient to respect. In this absorbingdomesticity the summer passed away. The harvest of field and orchardwas by-and-by gathered in; the dark-green woods and avenues turnedred, and brown, and orange under the mellow autumn sun; the wildfruits in the hedgerows ripened; the swallows took wing. To Yelvertoncame a party of guests—country neighbours and distinguished publicmen, of a class that had not been there a-visiting for years past;who shot the well-stocked covers, and otherwise disported themselvesafter the manner of their kind. And amongst the nobilities was thatcoronet, that incarnation of dignity and magnificence, which had beensingled out as an appropriate mate for Patty. It, or he, was offeredin form, and with circ*mstances of state and ceremony befitting thegreat occasion; and Patty was summoned to a consultation with herfamily—every member of which, not even excepting Elizabeth herself,was anxious to see the coronet on Patty's brow (which shows howhereditary superstitions and social prejudices linger in the blood,even after they seem to be eradicated from the brain)—for the purposeof receiving their advice, and stating her own intentions.

"My intention," said Patty, firmly, with her little nose uplifted,and a high colour in her face, "is to put an end to this useless andculpable waste of time. The man I love and am engaged to is working,and slaving, and waiting for me; and I, like the rest of you, amneglecting him, and sacrificing him, as if he were of no consequencewhatever. This shows me how I have been treating him. I will notdo it any more. I did not become Miss Yelverton to repudiate all Iundertook when I was only Patty King. I am Yelverton by name, but I amKing by nature, still. I don't want to be a great swell. I have seenthe world, and I am satisfied. Now I want to go home to Paul—as Iought to have done before. I will ask you, if you please, Kingscote, totake my passage for me at once. I shall go back next month, and I shallmarry Paul Brion as soon as the steamer gets to Melbourne."

Her brother-in-law put out his hand, and drew her to him, and kissedher. "Well done," he said, speaking boldly from his honest heart. "Soyou shall."



Patty softened down the terms in which she made her declaration ofindependence, when she found that it was received in so proper aspirit. She asked them if they had any objection—which, aftertelling them that it didn't matter whether they had or not, was agraceful act, tending to make things pleasant without committinganybody. But if they had objections (as of course they had) theyabandoned them at this crisis. It was no use to fight against PaulBrion, so they accepted him, and made the best of him. The head ofthe family suddenly and forcibly realised that he should have beendisappointed in his little sister-in law if she had acted otherwise;and even Mrs. Duff-Scott, who would always so much rather help thanhinder a generous project, no matter how opposed to the ethics of herclass, was surprised herself by the readiness with which she turned herback on faded old lords and dissipated young baronets, and gave herselfup to the pleasant task of making true lovers happy. Elizabeth repentedswiftly of her own disloyalty to plighted love, temporary and shadowyas it was; and, seeing how matters really stood, acquiesced in thesituation with a sense of great thankfulness that her Patty was provedso incorruptible by the tests she had gone through. Mrs. Yelverton'sonly trouble was the fear of separation in the family, which theratification of the engagement seemed likely to bring about.

But Patty was dissuaded from her daring enterprise, as first proposed;and Paul was written to by her brother and guardian, and adjured todetach himself from his newspaper for a while and come to Englandfor a holiday—which, it was delicately hinted, might take the formof a bridal tour. And in that little sitting-room, sacred to theprivate interviews of the master and mistress of the house, greatschemes were conceived and elaborated for the purpose of seducing Mrs.Brion's husband to remain in England for good and all. They settledhis future for him in what seemed to them an irresistibly attractiveway. He was to rent a certain picturesque manor-house in the Yelvertonneighbourhood, and there, keeping Patty within her sister's reach,take up that wholesome, out-door country life which they were surewould be so good for his health and his temper. He could do a littlehigh farming, and "whiles" write famous books; or, if his tastes andhabits unfitted him for such a humdrum career, he could live in theworld of London art and intellect, and be a "power" on behalf of thosesocial reforms for which his brother-in-law so ardently laboured.Mr. Brion, senior, who had long ago returned to Seaview Villa, was,of course, to be sent for back again, to shelter himself under thebroad Yelverton wing. The plan was all arranged in the most harmoniousmanner, and Elizabeth's heart grew more light and confident every timeshe discussed it.

Paul received his pressing invitation—which he understood to mean,as it did, a permission to go and marry Patty from her sister'shouse—-just after having been informed by Mrs. Aarons, "as a positivefact," that Miss Yelverton was shortly to be made a countess. Hedid not believe this piece of news, though Mrs. Aarons, who had anunaccountably large number of friends in the highest circles of Londonsociety, was ready to vouch for its authenticity with her life, ifnecessary; but, all the same, it made him feel moody, and surly, andill-used, and miserable. It was his dark hour before the dawn. InAustralia the summer was coming on. It was the middle of November. The"Cup" carnival was over for another year. The war in Egypt was alsoover, and the campaign of Murdoch's cricketers in England—two eventswhich it seemed somehow natural to bracket together. The HonourableIvo Bligh and his team had just arrived in Melbourne. The Austral hadjust been sunk in Sydney Harbour. It was early summer with us here,the brightest and gayest time of the whole year. In England the bitterwinter was at hand—that dreaded English winter which the Australianshudders to think of, but which the Yelverton family had agreed tospend in their ancestral house, in order to naturalise and acclimatisethe sisters, and that duty might be done in respect of those who had tobear the full extent of its bitterness, in hunger, and cold, and want.When Mr. Yelverton wrote to Paul to ask him to visit them, Patty wrotealso to suggest that his precious health might suffer by coming over atsuch a season, and to advise him to wait until February or March. Butthe moment her lover had read those letters, he put on his hat and wentforth to his office to demand leave for six months, and in a few dayswas on board the returning mail steamer on his way to England. He didnot feel like waiting now—after waiting for two years—and she was notin the least afraid that he would accept her advice.

Paul's answers arrived by post, as he was himself speeding throughEurope—not so much absorbed in his mission as to neglect note-makingby the way, and able to write brilliant articles on Gambetta's death,and other affairs of the moment, while waiting for boat or train tocarry him to his beloved; and it was still only the first week inJanuary when they received a telegram at Yelverton announcing hisimminent arrival. Mr. Yelverton himself went to London to meet him,and Elizabeth rolled herself in furs and an opossum rug in her snugbrougham and drove to the country railway station to meet them both,leaving Patty sitting by the wood fire in the hall. Mrs. Duff-Scottwas in town, and Eleanor with her, trying to see Rossetti's picturesthrough the murky darkness of the winter days, but in reality bent ongiving the long-divided lovers as much as possible of their own societyfor a little while. The carriage went forth early in the afternoon,with its lamps lighted, and it returned when the cold night had settleddown on the dreary landscape at five o'clock. Paul, ulstered andcomfortered, walked into the dimly-lighted, warm, vast space, hunground with ghostly banners and antlers, and coats of mail, and pictureswhereof little was visible but the frames, and marched straight intothe ruddy circle of the firelight, where the small figure awaited himby the twinkling tea-table, herself only an outline against the duskbehind her; and the pair stood on the hearthrug and kissed each othersilently, while Elizabeth, accompanied by her husband, went to take herbonnet off, and to see how Kingscote junior was getting on.

After that Paul and Patty parted no more. They had a few peacefulweeks at Yelverton, during which the newspaper in Melbourne gotnothing whatever from the fertile brain of its brilliant contributor(which, Patty thought, must certainly be a most serious matter for theproprietors); and in which interval they made compensation for all pastshortcomings as far as their opportunities, which were profuse andvarious, allowed. It delighted Paul to cast up at Patty the severalslights and snubs that she had inflicted on him in the old MyrtleStreet days, and it was her great luxury in life to make atonement forthem all—to pay him back a hundredfold for all that he had suffered onher account. The number of "soft things" that she played upon the pianofrom morning till night would alone have set him up in "Fridays" forthe two years that he had been driven to Mrs. Aarons for entertainment;and the abject meekness of the little spitfire that he used to knowwas enough to provoke him to bully her, if he had had anything of thebully in him. The butter-like consistency to which she melted in thisfreezing English winter time was such as to disqualify her for everfrom sitting in judgment upon Elizabeth's conjugal attitude. She fellso low, indeed, that she became, in her turn, a mark for Eleanor'sscoffing criticism.

"Well, I never thought to see you grovel to any living being—let alonea man—as you do to him," said that young lady on one occasion, withan impudent smile. "The citizens of Calais on their knees to Edward theThird were truculent swaggerers by comparison."

"You mind your own business," retorted Patty, with a flash of herancient spirit.

Whereat Nelly rejoined that she would mind it by keeping her fiancéin his proper place when her time came to have a fiancé. She wouldnot let him put a rope round her neck and tie it to his button-holelike a hat-string. She'd see him farther first.

February came, and Mrs. Duff-Scott returned, and preparations for thewedding were set going. The fairy godmother was determined to make upfor the disappointment she had suffered in Elizabeth's case by making agreat festival of the second marriage of the family, and they let herhave her wish, the result being that the bride of the poor press-writerhad a trousseau worthy of that coronet which she had extravagantlythrown away, and presents the list and description of which filled awhole column of the Yelverton Advertiser, and made the hearts of allthe local maidens to burn with envy. In March they were married inYelverton village church. They went to London for a week, and came backfor a fortnight; and in April they crossed the sea again, bound fortheir Melbourne home.

For all the beautiful arrangements that had been planned for them fellthrough. The Yelvertons had reckoned without their host—as is theincurable habit of sanguine human nature—with the usual result. Paulhad no mind to abandon his chosen career and the country that, as atrue Australian, he loved and served as he could never love and serveanother, because he had married into a great English family; and Pattywould not allow him to be persuaded. Though her heart was torn intwo at the thought of parting with Elizabeth, and with that preciousbaby who was Elizabeth's rival in her affections, she promptly anduncomplainingly tore herself from both of them to follow her husbandwhithersoever it seemed good to him to go.

"One cannot have everything in this world," said Patty philosophically,"and you and I, Elizabeth, have considerably more than our fair share.If we hadn't to pay something for our happiness, how could we expect itto last?"



Eleanor, like Patty, withstood the seductions of English life andmiscellaneous English admirers, and lived to be Miss Yelverton in herturn, unappropriated and independent. And, like both her sisters,though more by accident than of deliberate intention, she remainedtrue to her first love, and, after seeing the world and suppingfull of pleasure and luxury, returned to Melbourne and married Mr.Westmoreland. That is to say, Mr. Westmoreland followed her to England,and followed her all over Europe—dogging her from place to place witha steadfast persistence that certainly deserved reward—until themajor and Mrs. Duff-Scott, returning home almost immediately afterPatty's marriage and departure, brought their one ewe lamb, which theYelvertons had not the conscience to immediately deprive them of, backto Australia with them; when her persevering suitor promptly took hispassage in the same ship. All this time Mr. Westmoreland had beenas much in love as his capacity for the tender passion—much largerthan was generally supposed—permitted. Whether it was that she wasthe only woman who dared to bully him and trample on him, and therebywon his admiration and respect—or whether his passion required thatthe object of it should be difficult of attainment—or whether hergrace and beauty were literally irresistible to him—or whether hewas merely the sport of that unaccountable fate which seems to governor misgovern these affairs, it is not necessary to conjecture. No oneasks for reasons when a man or woman falls a victim to this sort ofinfatuation. Some said it was because she had become rich and grand,but that was not the case—except in so far as the change in hersocial circ*mstances had made her tyrannical and impudent, in whichsense wealth and consequence had certainly enhanced her attractions inhis eyes. Thirty thousand pounds, though a very respectable marriageportion in England, is not sufficient to make a fortune-hunter of anAustralian suitor in his position; and let me do the Australian suitorof all ranks justice and here state that fortune hunting, through themedium of matrimony, is a weakness that his worst enemy cannot accusehim of—whatever his other faults may be. Mr. Westmoreland, being fondof money, as a constitutional and hereditary peculiarity—if youcan call that a peculiarity—was tempted to marry it once, when thatstout and swarthy person in the satin gown and diamonds exercised herfascinations on him at the club ball, and he could have married it atany time of his bachelor life, the above possessor of it being, likeBarkis, "willin'", and even more than "willin'". Her fortune was suchthat Eleanor's thirty thousand was but a drop in the bucket comparedwith it, and yet even he did not value it in comparison with the favourof that capricious young lady. So he followed her about from day today and from place to place, as if he had no other aim in life thanto keep her within sight, making himself an insufferable nuisance toher friends very often, but apparently not offending her by his openand inveterate pursuit. She was not kind, but she was not cruel, andyet she was both in turn to a distracting degree. She made his lifean ecstasy of miserable longing for her, keeping him by her side likea big dog on a chain, and feeding him with stones (in the prettiestmanner) when he asked for bread. But she grew very partial to herbig dog in the process of tormenting him and witnessing his touchingpatience under it. She was "used to him," she said; and when, fromsome untoward circ*mstance over which he had no control, he was for alittle while absent from her, she felt the gap he left. She sensiblymissed him. Moreover, though she trampled on him herself, it hurt herto see others do it; and when Mrs. Duff-Scott and Kingscote Yelvertonrespectively aired their opinions of his character and conduct, sheinstantly went over to his side, and protested in her heart, if not inwords, against the injustice and opprobrium that he incurred for hersake. So, when Elizabeth became the much-occupied mother of a family,and when Patty was married and gone off into the world with her Paul,Eleanor, left alone in her independence, began to reckon up what it wasworth. The spectacle of her sisters' wedded lives gave her pleasantnotions of matrimony, and the state of single blessedness, as such,never had any particular charms for her. Was it worth while, she askedherself, to be cruel any more?—and might she not just as well have ahouse and home of her own as Elizabeth and Patty? Her lover was onlya big dog upon a chain, but then why shouldn't he be? Husbands werenot required to be all of the same pattern. She didn't want to bedomineered over. And she didn't see anybody she liked better. She mightgo farther and fare worse. And—she was getting older every day.

Mrs. Duff-Scott broke in upon these meditations with the demand thatshe (Eleanor) should return with her to Melbourne, if only for a yearor two, so that she should not be entirely bereft and desolate.

"I must start at once," said the energetic woman, suddenly seized witha paroxysm of home sickness and a sense of the necessity to be doingsomething now that at Yelverton there seemed nothing more to do, and inorder to shake off the depressing effect of the first break in theirlittle circle. "I have been away too long—it is time to be lookingafter my own business. Besides, I can't allow Patty to remain in thatyoung man's lodgings—full of dusty papers and tobacco smoke, andwhere, I daresay, she hasn't so much as a peg to hang her dresses on.She must get a house at once, and I must be there to see about it, andto help her to choose the furniture. Elizabeth, my darling, you haveyour husband and child—I am leaving you happy and comfortable—andI will come and see you again in a year or two, or perhaps you andKingscote will take a trip over yourselves and spend a winter with us.But I must go now. And do, do—oh, do let me keep Nelly for a littlewhile longer! You know I will take care of her, and I couldn't bear thesight of my house with none of you in it!"

So she went, and of course she took Eleanor, who secretly longed forthe land of sunshine after her full dose of "that horrid Englishclimate," and who, with a sister at either end of the world, perhapsmissed Patty, who had been her companion by night as well as by day,more than she would miss Elizabeth. The girl was very ready to go. Shewept bitterly when the actual parting came, but she got over it in away that gave great satisfaction to Mrs. Duff-Scott and the major, andrelieved them of all fear that they had been selfish about bringingher away. They joined the mail steamer at Venice, and there found Mr.Westmoreland on board. He had been summoned by his agent at home heexplained; one of his partners wanted to retire, and he had to be thereto sign papers. And since it had so happened that he was obliged togo back by this particular boat, he hoped the ladies would make himuseful, and let him look after their luggage and things. Eleanor wasproperly and conventionally astonished by the curious coincidence,but had known that it would happen just as well as he. The chaperon,for her part, was indignant and annoyed by it—for a little while;afterwards she, too, reflected that Eleanor had spent two unproductiveyears in England and was growing older every day. Also that she mightcertainly go farther and fare worse. So Mr. Westmoreland was acceptedas a member of the travelling party. All the heavy duties of escortwere relegated to him by the major, and Mrs. Duff-Scott sent him hitherand thither in a way that he had never been accustomed to. But he wasmeek and biddable in these days, and did not mind what uses he puthis noble self to for his lady's sake. And she was very gracious. Theconditions of ship life, at once so favourable and so very unfavourablefor the growth of tender relations, suited his requirements in everyway. She could not snub him under the ever-watchful eyes of theirfellow-passengers. She could not send him away from her. She was even alittle tempted, by that ingrained vanity of the female heart, to make adisplay before the other and less favoured ladies of the subject-likehomage which she, queen-like, received. Altogether, things went onin a very promising manner. So that when, no farther than the RedSea—while life seemed, as it does in that charming locality, reducedto its simple elements, and the pleasure of having a man to fan her wasa comparatively strong sensation—when at this propitious juncture,Mr. Westmoreland bewailed his hard fate for the thousandth time, andwondered whether he should ever have the good fortune to find a littlefavour in her sight, it seemed to her that this sort of thing had goneon long enough, and that she might as well pacify him and have donewith it. So she said, looking at him languidly with her sentimentalblue eyes—"Well, if you'll promise not to bother me any more, I'llthink about it."

He promised faithfully not to bother her any more, and he did not. Buthe asked her presently, after fanning her in silence for some minutes,what colour she would like her carriage painted, and she answeredpromptly, "Dark green."

While they were yet upon the sea, a letter—three letters, infact—were despatched to Yelverton, to ask the consent of the head ofthe family to the newly-formed engagement, and not long after the partyarrived in Melbourne the desired permission was received, Mr. and Mrs.Yelverton having learned the futility of opposition in these matters,and having no serious objection to Nelly's choice. And then again Mrs.Duff-Scott plunged into the delight of preparation for trousseau andwedding festivities—quite willing that the "poor dear fellow," asshe now called him (having taken him to her capacious heart), shouldreceive the reward of his devotion without unnecessary delay. The housewas already there, a spick and span family mansion in Toorak, builtby Mr. Westmoreland's father, and inherited by himself ere the firstgloss was off the furniture; there was nothing to do to that but toarrange the chairs and sofas, and scatter Eleanor's wedding presentsover the tables. There was nothing more possible. It was "hopeless,"Mrs. Duff-Scott said, surveying the bright and shining rooms throughher double eye-glass. Unless it were entirely cleared out, and youstarted afresh from the beginning, she would defy you to make anythingof it. So, as the bridegroom was particularly proud of his furniture,which was both new and costly, and would have scouted with indignationany suggestion of replacing it, Mrs. Duff-Scott abandoned Eleanoræsthetically to her fate. There was nothing to wait for, so the pairwere made one with great pomp and ceremony not long after their returnto Australia. Eleanor had the grandest wedding of them all, and reallydid wear "woven dew" on the occasion—with any quantity of lace aboutit of extravagant delicacy and preciousness. And now she has settledherself in her great, gay-coloured, handsome house, and is alreadya very fashionable and much-admired and much-sought-after lady—sooverwhelmed with her social engagements and responsibilities sometimesthat she says she doesn't know what she should do if she hadn't Patty'squiet little house to slip into now and then. But she enjoys it. Andshe enjoys leading her infatuated husband about with her, like a tamebear on a string, to show people how very, very infatuated he is. It isher idea of married happiness—at present.



While Mrs. Westmoreland thus disports herself in the gay world, Mrs.Brion pursues her less brilliant career in much peace and quietness.When she and Paul came back to Australia, a bride and bridegroom, freeto follow their own devices unhampered by any necessity to consider thefeelings of relatives and friends, nothing would satisfy her but to gostraight from the ship to Mrs. M'Intyre's, and there temporarily abidein those tobacco-perfumed rooms which had once been such forbiddenground to her. She scoffed at the Oriental; she turned up her nose atthe Esplanade; she would not hear of any suites of apartments, nomatter how superior they might be. Her idea of perfect luxury was togo and live as Paul had lived, to find out all the little details ofhis old solitary life which aforetime she had not dared to inquireinto, to rummage boldly over his bookshelves and desk and cupboards,which once it would have been indelicate for her to so much as lookat, to revel in the sense that it was improper no longer for her tomake just as free as she liked with his defunct bachelorhood, theexisting conditions of which had had so many terrors for her. When Paulrepresented that it was not a fit place for her to go into, she toldhim that there was no place in the world so fit, and begged so hard tobe taken there, if only for a week or two, that he let her have herway. And a very happy time they spent at No. 7, notwithstanding manylittle inconveniences. And even the inconveniences had their charm.Then Mrs. Duff-Scott and Eleanor came out, when it was felt to be timeto say good-bye to these humble circ*mstances—to leave the flowerycarpet, now faded and threadbare, the dingy rep suite, and the smirkingCenci over the mantelpiece, for the delectation of lodgers to whomsuch things were appropriate; and to select a house and furnish itas befitted the occupation of Miss Yelverton that was and her (now)distinguished husband.

By good fortune (they did not say it was good fortune, but they thoughtit), the old landlord next door saw fit to die at this particularjuncture, and No. 6 was advertised to be let. Mr. and Mrs. Brion atonce pounced upon the opportunity to secure the old house, which,it seemed to them, was admirably suited to their present modestrequirements; and, by the joint exercise of Mrs. Duff-Scott's andPatty's own excellent taste, educated in England to the last degreeof modern perfectibility, the purveyors of art furniture in ourenlightened city transformed the humble dwelling of less than a dozenrooms into a little palace of esoteric delights. Such a subdued,harmonious brightness, such a refined simplicity, such an unpretentiousair of comfort pervades it from top to bottom; and as a study ofcolour, Mrs. Duff-Scott will tell you, it is unique in the Australiancolonies. It does her good—even her—to go and rest her eyes and hersoul in the contemplation of it. Paul has the bureau in his study (andfinds it very useful), and Patty has the piano in her drawing-room,its keyboard to a retired corner behind a portière (draped where oncewas a partition of folding doors), and its back, turned outwards,covered with a piece of South Kensington needlework. In this cosy nestof theirs, where Paul, with a new spur to his energies, works hisspecial lever of the great machine that makes the world go on (whenit would fain be lazy and sit down), doing great things for other menif gaining little glory for himself—and where Patty has afternoonteas and evenings that gather together whatever genuine exponentsof intellectual culture may be going about, totally eclipsing theattractions of Mrs. Aarons's Fridays to serious workers in the fieldsof art and thought, without in any way dimming the brilliancy of thoseentertainments—the married pair seem likely to lead as happy a lifeas can be looked for in this world of compromises. It will not beall cakes and ale, by any means. The very happiest lives are rarelysurfeited with these, perhaps, unwholesome delicacies, and I doubt iftheirs will even be amongst the happiest. They are too much alike to bethe ideal match. Patty is thin-skinned and passionate, too ready to behurt to the heart by the mere little pin-pricks and mosquito bites oflife; and Paul is proud and crotchety, and, like the great Napoleon,given to kick the fire with his boots when he is put out. There willbe many little gusts of temper, little clouds of misunderstanding,disappointments, and bereavements, and sickness of mind and body; but,with all this, they will find their lot so blessed, by reason of themutual love and sympathy that, through all vicissitudes, will surelygrow deeper and stronger every day they live together, that they willnot know how to conceive a better one. And, after all, that is the mostone can ask or wish for in this world.

Mrs. Duff-Scott, being thus deprived of all her children, and findingchina no longer the substantial comfort to her that it used to be,has fulfilled her husband's darkest predictions and "gone in" forphilanthropy. In London she served a short but severe apprenticeship tothat noble cause which seeks to remove the curse of past ignorance andcruelty from those to whom it has come down in hereditary entail—thoseon whose unhappy and degraded lives all the powers of evil heldmortgages (to quote a thoughtful writer) before ever the deeds wereput into their hands—and who are now preached at and punished for thecrimes that, not they, but their tyrants of the past committed. Shetook a lesson in that new political economy which is to the old sciencewhat the spirit of modern religion is to the ecclesiasticism whichhas been its unwilling mother, and has learned that the rich areresponsible for the poor—that, let these interesting debating clubsthat call themselves the people's parliaments say what they like, themoral of the great social problem is that the selfishness of the pastmust be met by unselfishness in the present, if any of us would hope tosee good days in the future.

"It will not do," says Mrs. Duff-Scott to her clergyman, who deploresthe dangerous opinions that she has imbibed, "to leave these matters tolegislation. Of what use is legislation? Here are a lot of ignorant,vain men who know nothing about it, fighting with one another for whatthey can get, and the handful amongst them who are really anxious forthe public good are left nowhere in the scrimmage. It is we who mustput our shoulders to the wheel, my dear sir—and the sooner we setabout it the better. Look at the state of Europe"—she waves her handabroad—"and see what things are coming to! The very heart of thosecountries is being eaten out by the cancer-growths of Nihilism andall sorts of dreadful isms, because the poor are getting educated tounderstand why they are so poor. Look at wealthy England, with morethan a million paupers, and millions and millions that are worse thanpaupers—England is comparatively quiet and orderly under it, and why?Because a number of good people like Mr. Yelverton"—the clergymanshakes his head at the mention of this wicked sinner's name—"havegiven themselves up to struggle honestly and face to face with theevils that nothing but a self-sacrificing and independent philanthropycan touch. I believe that if England escapes the explosion of thisfermenting democracy, which is brewing such a revolution as the worldhas never seen, it will be owing to neither Church nor State—unlessChurch and State both mend their ways considerably—but to theself-denying work that is being done outside of them by those who havea single-hearted desire to help, to really help, their wronged andwretched fellow-creatures."

Thus this energetic woman, in the headlong ardour of her newconversion. And (if a woman, ready to admit her disabilities assuch, may say so) it is surely better to be generous in the cause ofa possibly mistaken conviction of your own, than to be selfish indeference to the opinions of other people, which, though they be theproduct of the combined wisdom of all the legislatures of the world,find no response in the instincts of your human heart. At any rate, Ibelieve we shall be brought to think so some day—that great Somedaywhich looms not far ahead of us, when, as a Cornish proverb puts it,if we have not ruled ourselves by the rudder we shall be ruled bythe rock. And so Mrs. Duff-Scott works, and thinks, and writes and(of course) talks, and bothers her husband and her acquaintances forthe public weal, and leads her clergyman a life that makes him wishsometimes that he had chosen a less harassing profession; economisingher money, and her time, and all she has of this world's goods, thatshe may fulfil her sacred obligations to her fellow-creatures and helpthe fortunate new country in which she lives to keep itself from theevil ways that have wrought such trouble and danger to the old ones.

And the man who set her to this good work pursues it himself, not inhaste or under fitful and feverish impulses of what we call enthusiasm,but with refreshed energy and redoubled power, by reason of the great"means" that are now at his disposal, the faithful companionship thatat once lightens and strengthens the labour of his hands and brain,and the deep passion of love for wife and home which keeps his heartwarm with vital benevolence for all the world. Mr. Yelverton hasnot become more orthodox since his marriage; but that was not to beexpected. In these days orthodoxy and goodness are not synonymousterms. It is doubtful, indeed, if orthodoxy has not rather become thesynonym for the opposite of goodness, in the eyes of those who judgetrees by their fruits and whose ideal of goodness is to love one'sneighbour as one's self. While it is patent to the candid observerthat the men who have studied the new book of Genesis which latter-dayscience has written for us, and have known that Exodus from the land ofbondage which is the inevitable result of such study, conscientiouslypursued, are, as a rule, distinguished by a large-minded justice andcharity, sympathy and self-abnegation, a regard for the sacred tiesof brotherhood binding man with man, which, being incompatible withthe petty meannesses and cruelties so largely practised in sectariancircles, make their unostentatious influence to be felt like sweet andwholesome leaven all around them. Such a man is Elizabeth's husband,and as time goes on she ceases to wish for any change in him save thatwhich means progression in his self-determined course. It was notlightly that he flew in the face of the religious traditions of hisyouth; rather did he crawl heavily and unwillingly away from them, inirresistible obedience to a conscience so sensitive and well-balancedthat it ever pointed in the direction of the truth, like the magneticneedle to the pole, and in which he dared to trust absolutely, nomatter how dark the outlook seemed. And now that, after much search,he has found his way, as far as he may hope to find it in this world,he is too intently concerned to discover what may be ahead of him,and in store for those who will follow him, to trouble himself andothers with irrelevant trifles—to indulge in spites and jealousies,in ambitions that lead nowhere, in quarrels and controversies aboutnothing—to waste his precious strength and faculties in the child'splay that with so many of us is the occupation of life, and like otherchild's play, full of pinches and scratches and selfish squabblingover trumpery toys. To one who has learned that "the hope of nature isin man," and something of what great nature is, and what man shouldbe, there no longer exists much temptation to envy, hatred, malice,and uncharitableness, or any other of the vulgar vices of predatoryhumanity, not yet cured of its self-seeking propensities. He iseducated above that level. His recognition of the brotherhood of men,and their common interests and high destiny, makes him feel for othersin their differences with him, and patient and forbearing with thosewhose privileges have been fewer and whose light is less than his. Hetakes so wide an outlook over life that the little features of theforeground, which loom so large to those who cannot or will not lookbeyond them, are dwarfed to insignificance; or, rather, he can fixtheir just relation to the general design in human affairs, and soreads them with their context, as it were, and by the light of truthand justice spread abroad in his own heart—thus proving how differentthey are in essential value from what they superficially appear. SoMr. Yelverton, despite his constitutional imperiousness, is one ofthe most tolerant, fine-tempered, and generous of men; and he goes onhis way steadily, bending circ*mstances to his will, but hurting noone in the process—rather lifting up and steadying and strengtheningthose with whom he comes in contact by the contagion of his bold spiritand his inflexible and incorruptible honesty; and proving himself inprivate life, as such men mostly do, a faithful exponent and practicalillustration of all the domestic virtues.

Elizabeth is a happy woman, and she knows it well. It seems to herthat all the prosperity and comfort that should have been her mother'shas, like the enormous wealth that she inherits, been accumulatingat compound interest, through the long years representing the lapsedgeneration, for her sole profit and enjoyment. She strolls oftenthrough the old plantation, where, in a remote nook, a moss-growncolumn stands to mark the spot where a little twig, a hair's breadthlack of space, was enough to destroy one strong life and ruin another,and to entail such tremendous consequences upon so many people, livingand unborn; and she frequently drives to Bradenham Abbey to call on orto dine with her step-uncle's wife, and sees the stately environmentof her mother's girlhood—the "beautiful rooms with the gold Spanishleather on the walls," the "long gallery with the painted windows andthe slippery oak floor and the thirty-seven family portraits all in arow"—which she contrasts with the bark-roofed cottage on the sea-cliffwithin whose narrow walls that beautiful and beloved woman afterwardslived and died. And then she goes home to Yelverton to her husband andbaby, and asks what she has done to deserve to be so much better offthan those who went before her?

And yet, perhaps, if all accounts were added up, the sum total of lossand profit on those respective investments that we make, or that aremade for us, of our property in life, would not be found to differso very much, one case with another. We can neither suffer nor enjoybeyond a certain point. Elizabeth is rich beyond the dreams of avaricein all that to such a woman is precious and desirable, and happy in herchoice and lot beyond her utmost expectations. Yet not so happy as tohave nothing to wish for—which we know, as well as Patty, means "toohappy to last." There is that hunger for her absent sisters, whichtries in vain to satisfy itself in weekly letters of prodigious length,left as a sort of hostage to fortune, a valuable if not altogethertrustworthy security for the safety of her dearest possessions.



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