A Week's Riding

“ MY dear grandfather, why did Mr. Erle start so this evening when he saw my picture ?” I said.

He laughed softly as he answered: “ He will tell you himself to-morrow, if you care to ask him. It is no secret, but you will like the story best as he tells it. A very pretty story, — a very pretty story,” he went on, as he kissed me good-night, “and one my little girl will relish as much as a novel.”

My grandfather was such a fine, whitehaired old gentleman, and looked so handsome in his handsome house ! It was one of the old, square houses which are fading from the land in country as well as in town, ample and generous in every way, with broad, carved stairways, and great, wide hearths for andirons, — a house to make the heart glad, and incline it to all sweet hospitalities. The warm, low rooms were full of furniture, softened and made comfortable by unsparing use ; the walls were hung with good paintings and engravings, some of them real masterpieces. But the glory of the house was its bronzes, gathered by three generations of rarely cultured men, from my great-greatgrandfather, whose rougher purchases were put in more hidden corners every year, to the grandson now in possession, whose pure taste chose the latest gems of French art, and placed them where our eyes might best enjoy their beauty. The library was crimson, and the dining-room beyond two exquisite shades of brown and gold, a curtained doorway between. In these two rooms I spent most of my time when I was with my grandfather, reading with him, and singing to him, and listening to his cynical, witty talk. At dusk we gathered round the fire, he and I and the two tawny setters, three of us on the rug, and he in his long, low chair, and talked of the old family, whose sons were all dead, and of the gay years when we had been in our glory. I thought we were very well off in -worldly possessions as it was, but my dear old hero put such content to speedy flight with his tales of the days that were gone, when, to put implicit trust in him, a regal hospitality had filled the house with great and distinguished guests, glad to be with the family which always had a son leading the right in state and in church, in army and in navy.

I listened with glowing heart, and looked proudly at our men as I walked by their portraits in the halls on my way to bed. Perhaps my faith in their great deeds is not so childlike now; but it was pure and unlimited then, and those library stories can never fade from my memory.

I had been with my grandfather a week when the conversation with which my tale opens occurred, and I was to return to my parents in three days, under the protection of the very gentleman who was the subject of it. The two old friends were very intimate, and Mr. Erle spent every evening at the house; so I knew him well, and had no fear in asking him any question I chose, and I looked forward to the next evening as to a grand festival.

When we came in from dinner, I drew the window-shade, and saw that it was snowing fiercely.

“ Perhaps he will not come,” I said, turning to my grandfather disconsolately.

“ Never fear that,” he answered. “ Mr. Erle is a man who is not kept at home by the weather, or anything else.”

I came to the hearth. The last words had been added in the dry tone which always meant something coming from his lips.

“Has Mr. Erle children ?” I asked.

“ Yes ; the youngest boy is only sixteen.”

“ And he never spends an evening at home ? ”

“ I ’ve not known him to do so for twenty years. Sing the ‘Health to King Charles,’ dear.”

I sat down at the piano, and sang as I was bid.

We were stanch loyalists from tradition, and my list of Stuart songs was so long that I had sung scarcely halt of it when the clock struck nine, and rapid wheels came over the pavements. Opposite our door the horse slipped, and we heard the instantaneous lash singing in the night air and descending unmercifully on the poor animal. An immense stamping and rearing ensued. “That is Erle,sure enough,” my grandfather said, going to the window. I followed him, and lifted the shade in time to see Mr. Erle standing in the trampled snow at the horse’s head, patting him as gently as a woman could have done. In a moment he nodded to his servant, and watched him drive round the corner before turning to ourdoor.

He came in quickly, exquisitely dressed, and courteous, with the beautiful old manner they cannot teach us now. After the first words, my grandfather said, with a superb affectation of seriousness, “The merciful man is merciful to his beast.”

Mr. Erle looked up, with a bright laugh. “ So you heard our little dispute ? The old fellow bears me no malice, you may be sure; he knows that I never sulk.”

“ Perhaps he would like it a little better if you did,” I said.

“ Not at all. He respects me for my quick ways with him.”

I shook my head doubtingly, and then, as if in defence of his theory, he said : “ Did I ever tell you of Lillie Burton ? Her animals did not mind a little discipline.”

My grandfather laughed. “ Oddly enough, we had laid a plot to make you tell that charming history this very evening,” he said.

“ Don’t laugh about it,” Mr. Erle answered. “ I cannot tell you how vividly the sight of Miss Thesta’s picture brought back the old time to me.”

“ I beg your pardon,” the other said, bowing.

At that moment a servant came in with wine, placing the Japanese waiter with the old gilded bottle and glasses at my grandfather’s elbow on the table. He poured out three glasses, and said, very simply : “ We will have our own old way to-night, Erle, while you tell your old story, and drink as our fathers did, not vile alcohols, but the good fruit of the vine. Remember, Thesta, I leave you all my wine, on condition that you drink it, and never let a drop of whiskey come into your house.”

“ I promise,” I said, and sat down at his feet.

“ Perhaps you have heard of Lillie Burton ? ” Mr. Erle began.

I had a confused idea that the name of his wife was Lillie; but it was so confused that I answered, frankly, “ No,

I never heard of her at all.”

“ She is not Lillie Burton now,” he went on with a sigh ; “ but I must begin at the beginning. It is a real horse story, which will tell in its favor with you, I am sure.”

“Yes, indeed,” I answered, with enthusiasm, and then he began anew.

“ I was a gay, happy man of twentyfour, living in London with my dear friend, now dead, Richard Satterlee. We imagined ourselves very tired of town gayeties, and were languidly looking round for some country-place where we could be alone and quiet for a week or so, when the little incident occurred which led to my acquaintance with Lillie Burton. I must tell you that Satterlee and I were used up in more ways than one, — we had been unfortunate at the races that year, and so were well out of pocket, and I had not escaped heart-free from the season’s balls, as Dick had, who, bless his honest soul, was as unmoved as a rock among the fairest women of the land. Not that they were indifferent to him, though. His broad shoulders and downcast eyes made sad havoc among them, Miss Thesta,— so beware of those attractions among the men you meet: there are none more deadly. Well, they loved Dick, and I loved Miss Ferrers. She was not very handsome, but more fascinating to me than any other woman, and as thorough a flirt as ever made a man miserable. Never mind the how and why, but, believe me, I was very hard hit indeed, and sincerely thought myself the most wretched man in all London when I heard that she had gone to Spain with her brother-in-law, Lord West, and his wife. She had treated me shamefully ; but I loved her all the more for it, and was quite desperate, in short. You may not think it of me, but I could neither sleep nor eat. In this state of mind I was walking home one afternoon, determined to tell Satterlee that I should leave him, and go back to my people in America, when I saw a small crowd ahead, and heard them cheer before they broke up and walked away. I should have passed by without a second glance, had I not been struck by the appearance of one of the three men who remained on the spot, — a strong-limbed fellow of thirty, evidently of purest Saxon blood. His whole face was handsome, but his hair was simply superb, and this it was that attracted me. Imagine long yellow locks of brightest gold, not exactly curling, but waving in short, determined waves back from a low forehead. Ah, I cannot describe to you that wonderful hair, how it shone on me through the gloaming, and drew me irresistibly to the man himself! I stopped, and asked one of the others what the row had been about.

“ ‘ O, he pitched into a feller that was kicking a dog, and came near getting kicked hisself,’ was the only answer 1 got. as he walked off with his companion. I turned to my hero, and, as our eyes met, a pleasant smile lighted up his face. ' Can you tell me the nearest place where I can buy a hat ? ’ he said ;

' there ’s not much use in picking up that thing,’ pointing to a mashed heap is the gutter.

“ 'I should think not,’ I said. ' There is no shop near, but if you will come round the corner to my rooms, I can provide vou with a covering of some kind.'

“ 'Thank you,’ he answered, and we walked away together. There was not time for much talk, and he had said nothing of himself when we opened the door. Satterlee was standing with his back to the fire, and no sooner did he see my companion than he sprang forward, in eager welcome. ‘Burton of Darrow, by all the gods! ’ he cried. ‘ Where’s your hat, good friend ? ’

“ He of the golden locks burst into a merry laugh, — what white teeth he had! 'It is gone forever. Do let me know your friend, who has been so kind to me about it.'

We were introduced to each other in due form, and Burton sat down at our hearth like an old friend, chatting merrily, and warming his great fists at the blaze. ‘ I ought not to have stayed so long,’ he said presently, ' my father will have waited for me. Can the hats be marshalled, Mr. Erle?’

“ I brought out all my store, and Satterlee’s too, and, amid much laughter, Burton managed to hide some of his mane under a soft felt, and bade us good night. ‘ I must have you both at Darrow,’ he said, his hand on the latch ; 'remember that, and expect a note in the morning to tell you when to come.'

“ As the door closed I laid my hands on Dick’s shoulders. 'Who is he?’ was all I said.

“ ' Why, Gerald, you're waking up,’ he answered. ' If the male Burton can do this, what will not Lillie do ?'

“ ' But who is he ?’ I repeated.

“ ' He’s the oldest son of John Burton of Darrow, in-shire. They are farmers, and they might be gentlemen, but they are queer, and won't. For generations untold they have cultivated their own land, and are mighty men at the plough and in the saddle. So are the women of the family, for that matter. But you will see when we go down. They are one of the few great yeoman families left in the land. We shall have a jolly time.'

“ ' And who is Lillie ? ’ I asked.

“ ' This man’s sister. If you want to see a woman ride, see her, —it ’s absolute perfection, — hereditary too : they all ride till they marry.’

“ ' And not afterwards ? ’ I said, very much amused.

“ ' Never for mere pleasure, I believe. They have family traditions about all sorts of things, this among others. It is some notion about taking care of their homes and children, if I remember rightly. Miss Lillie will tell you all about it. How lucky that you met Jack this afternoon.’

“ This was all I could get out of Satterlee ; but, dull as you may think it, I was really interested, and waited impatiently for the coming invitation.

“ The next morning arrived a note from Mr. Burton, asking us, in his father’s name, to spend the next week at Darrow, and saying that the farmers’ races were to take place then, and would be our only amusement. Before the day for starting came, I had lost half the enthusiasm which the sight of valiant Jack Burton’s hair had kindled, and tried hard to get off from going; but Satterlee was bent on a week’s riding, as he always called our visit, and we started early one Wednesday morning, and at dusk on Friday found ourselves entering the broad valley which formed the Darrow estate. Satterlee was familiar with the ground, and discoursed eloquently of its beauty and fertility as we drove along; but he failed to interest me, for, to tell the truth, I was sunk in melancholy, and thought only of Miss Ferrers and of that which had passed between us. Why had I come all these miles to see people who were total strangers to me, and would almost certainly prove dull, or even vulgar ? Dick was an enthusiast, and not to be believed, — we might turn back even then.

“Such were my thoughts as we entered the lane at the end of which shone the lights of Harrow House. As we drew near, I could see that it was a mere farm-house, — very large indeed, but otherwise in no way remarkable. We drove up to a side-door, and had hardly stopped when the ringing voice of Jack Burton greeted our ears, and he came striding out, his glorious hair all afloat, as I had seen him in London streets a week before. All my love for the man — and I can use no lesser term — came back on the instant, and I grasped his hand almost as warmly as he did mine, I was so glad to be there.

“ ‘ Come in and see my father,’ he said. ‘ He was afraid we should not see you to-night.’

“ We went into the hall, and then, immediately through an open door at the farther end, into the most homelike room I ever saw, — a large room, exquisitely toned by great brown rafters, and lit by two fires, one at each end. Near one stood an immense wooden table covered with tools of every kind, and with what seemed to me a confused heap of saddles and bridles. Over it bent two men and a woman. I only saw that all three had the same wonderful light hair which so fascinated me ; for Burton led us directly to the other fire, and introduced us to his father. He was a man of seventy, very roughly dressed, but self-possessed and courteous. ' You are welcome to Darrow,’ he said, in low, gentle tones. ‘ I hope I shall be able to give you good sport while you are here.’

“ This seemed to be all we were expected to say with him, for he bowed slightly, and Burton said, ‘Come now to the workshop, as I call it.’ and led us to the other end of the room. Satterlee went forward and shook hands warmly with the two young men and their sister, whose face I did not see, as it was turned away from me ; and then Burton said, ‘ Lillie, this is Mr. Erle, whose hat you found so comfortable.’

“ As he began to speak, she looked round, and held out her hand with a frank smile, saying, ‘ I, too, must thank you for that famous hat, Mr. Erle, for I wore it in a hard rain, day before yesterday, when I had to go out to train my colt for the coming races.’

“ She said this very simply, in a sweet, almost singing tone, not unlike her father’s, looking me full in the face meanwhile. I will try to tell you what she was like, —for I can remember her, after all these years, just as she stood, a saddler’s awl in her hand, by the great table at Darrow. She was tall and broad and perfectly symmetrical in figure. I have never seen a woman who at the first glance gave the idea of elastic strength as she did, and yet she was by no means what you would call a large woman. Her face was like her brother’s, really handsome, and full of sweetness, — the eyes so blue and living that no one could disbelieve their story of a great soul beneath. And, like her brother, she was crowned with a golden glory of hair. It was half brushed from her face, and clung thickly to her head, then wound in shining braids at the back,— waving and rippling just like Jack’s. I never saw such wonderful heads as these four Burtons had. I can give you no idea of them. Her mouth was what I should call abrupt, — that is, shapely, deep-cut at the corners,— the lips smiling without opening widely, or showing more than a white flash of teeth. She so smiled as she spoke to me that first evening, and impressed me even then as no other woman ever had.

“ ‘ I am glad my hat has been so honored, Miss Burton,’ I answered. ‘ I hope the colt for whom you take such trouble may win his race.’

“ ' Help me, then, by taking an interest in this saddle,’ she said. ‘ I have an idea about the girths which these dear brothers of mine will not understand.’

“ We all gathered round the table while Lillie explained her theory. The saddle was an old one, and smelt strongly of the stable ; but they all handled it as if it were a nice, interesting toy; and when the girth question was finally decided by my strong approval, Lillie and the brother George went to work with awl and needle like experienced saddlers, and soon had the necessary alterations made.

“ She looked up at me as she sewed, and said: ‘You may think these are strange ways, but we do all such things for ourselves, especially this week, when we live for our horses. We are thorough yeomen, you know.’

“We talked on until supper was announced. Old Burton opened a small door at his end of the room, and waited with his hand on the latch while we went through, when, to my surprise, I found we were in the kitchen, surrounded by a large number of servants. We sat down at a long table by the fire, and then the servants took their places at the lower end, leaving two to serve us all. Burton stood at the head of the table until all were seated, then bowed, and said in the same gentle tone he had used in greeting us, ‘You are welcome,’ and sat down himself. No grace was said, but each person silently crossed himself.

“ I was placed at the host’s right hand, and we talked during supper of the races, and of horses generally, while Satterlee and Lillie Burton, on the other side of the table, did the same. It was the one subject which interested the Darrow household just then, and the servants even listened, eagerly and silently, to all that was said. Lillie’s colt, it seemed, was entered for one of the races, and she had been training him herself with intense assiduity ; but there was great difficulty in finding a rider, now he was trained.

“‘I know he would win,’she cried, shaking her head disconsolately, ‘ but you are all so heavy.’

“ ‘Ride him yourself, Miss Burton,’ Dick suggested.

“ ‘ They won’t let me.’

“ ‘ Who won’t let you ? ’

“ ‘ O, the Earl. He gives the races, you know, and is a perfect dragon about them.’

“ ' I can’t offer my own services,’ Satterlee went on, ‘ for you know you would n’t have me.’

“The Burtons all smiled at this, and Dick explained to me: ‘ I was on a horse of Miss Burton’s a year or two ago, and did n’t want to put him over a horrid rough gully; but she, on the farther side, cried out, “ Let him break his knees if he is so clumsy,'’ and so he did.’

“‘It was your fault, though,’ the frank young lady answered.

“ I remember that at the end of the meal the servants rose and bowed to their master, he acknowledging the courtesy sitting. Then we did the same, and all went to the other room. After half an hour’s talk round old Mr. Burton’s chair, a peal of bells sounded in some distant part of the house, to my intense surprise, and we thereupon marched off down a long, long corridor to I could not imagine what. Satterlee whispered, ' Philip Burton is in orders, — this is Even-Song,’ just as we entered a little chapel. There were kneelingchairs for all, and the beautiful Burton heads sank devoutly upon them. It was a choral service, Lillie playing a small organ, and Philip chanting with the family and servants.

“As we went out, old Mr. Burton wished each good night; then some one showed me where my room was, and I found myself alone. I was really confused. Where was I, and what had I been doing ? Did all the people in this part of the country have such strange ways ? I looked at my watch, and found it was but just nine o’clock, and yet I seemed to have lived years since the morning. The evening service, so beautifully sung, had quite upset me. It was months since I had been in a church, and this had come so unexpectedly, — the dim light, the low, peculiar voices, the simple fervor. I began to think Darrow was a dream from beginning to end, when Satterlee put his head in at the door with a grin, and said, ‘ Well, how is my Gerry ? ’

“ ‘ A little dazed,’ I answered ; ‘ but come in, man, and prepare me for the morning.’

“ ' No,’ he whispered, ‘not allowable. Bedtime is bedtime here. Good night.’

“ I went to bed in self-defence, and half dreamed, half thought, of horses, and choral services, and golden heads, until sound sleep came to my relief. It could not have been more than seven o’clock when I awoke, and yet on going to the window it was evident that the inhabitants of Darrow had been long up and about, for the farm-yard was in order for the day, the carts gone a-field, and the cattle - sheds empty. George and Philip Burton were busily engaged near the barn door, the one in turning a grindstone, the other in sharpening an axe ; and from the barn itself came the melodious voices of Lillie and her brother Jack. Presently they came out, she leading a long-legged horse which I immediately recognized as answering to the description of the colt. He was of a dull gray color, and at the first glance I set him down as about the ugliest horse I had ever seen, his only good points being a very decent chest, and striding hind-legs of extraordinary length and muscle; otherwise he was utterly commonplace. But evidently there was some great fascination in the beast, for the four Burtons gathered round him and looked him over with that anxious scrutiny we always display when examining our horses, then patted him admiringly, and, as I judged from the expression of their faces, were well pleased with his morning looks.

“As I turned from my window, I glanced beyond the farm-yard to see what kind of a country I was in, and my eyes were greeted with as fair a prospect as rural England can afford. Imagine a green, rolling valley, some five miles broad, shut in on three sides by low hills, and sloping gently to the sea on the fourth. The water was perhaps three miles from Darrow . House, but I could see that two little friths ran up far into the meadow-land. One other large farm-house was in sight, and some twenty or thirty cottages, all looking so bright and cosey in the clear October sunlight, that my heart was filled with joy at the sight, and I began my toilet actually singing a merry old song. I was soon down stairs, and out in the fragrant barnyard.

“ Lillie sat upon a pile of logs, one hand half hidden in her hair, as she leaned lazily back on her elbow, looking at her brothers, who were making the air resound with mighty strokes as they hewed away at a tree which stood near the house door. 'Well done, Philip; you ’re none the worse woodman for being parson too,’ she cried; then, seeing me, she rose with a bright color in her cheeks, and held out her hand in hearty morning greeting. ‘We did not know when you would be rested from your journey,’ she said, ‘and so did not have you called. Will you come in to breakfast now ? ’

“ The three brothers stopped their work as we went in, and bade me a cheerful good-morrow. I have never since seen such men,—so big, so handsome, so modest, with such bright, healthy faces. None of them talked a great deal, not even my favorite Jack ; but I felt then as I should feel now if I met one of them anywhere, that their friendship meant trust and loyalty and service more than most men’s.

“Jack went with us to a little room at the side of the house where breakfast was laid for two ; but when Satterlee joined us, Jack said with a laugh, 'I will leave you to tell all about everything, Lillie, and go back to my chopping,’ and so went out.

“ ' If I must tell about everything,’ Lillie began, ‘ I must tell about the races first, for they are more important than anything else just now. Thursday is the great day, and all the farmers in the neighborhood will have horses there. It is the grand gathering of the year for us, and the gentry come down and walk about among the horses, and are as kind and gracious as can be. They always buy some of the best ; and happy is the man who can sell a beast to the Earl, or to Sir Francis Gilmor, for they are great judges, and have the best stables in the county. There are five races during the day, the first being for ponies, the second for colts, and so on ; and in the evening we have a ball at the Earl’s, and the five riders who win are given presents by the Countess herself. O, it is a great day ! ’ she went on, more and more enthusiastically ; ' there is no other time so pleasant in all the year. George has in his bay mare, and I have entered my colt. Have you seen my colt ? ’

“ ‘Yes,’ I answered, 'I saw him from the window this morning.’

“ Lillie looked me straight in the face a moment, and then said, with a little plaintive shake of the head : ' Ah, I see ! You will laugh at him like all the rest. But you must see him go, — he is almost handsome then.’

“ ' I should think he might be.’ I answered, trying to console her for my lack of admiration.

“ 'They are so mean about him,’ she went on, smiling. ' When he was two years old they were going to give him away because he was so ugly and stupid ; but I begged hard that he might stay at Darrow, and my father gave him to me for my own. I have had him now four years. You don't know how much I have suffered for that horse. But I have never despaired, and have trained him so well that he has great speed already, though they may laugh at his rough looks. O, if I can only win this race ! It will be such a feather in my cap ! ’

“Satterlee laughed merrily at this. ' As zealous a racer as ever, I see, Miss Lillie. How I wish you would let me ride for you ! ’

“ ' Perhaps I may,’ she answered. ' There is no knowing to what straits I may be driven.’

“ Already something in this woman attracted me, dead as I supposed my heart to be. There was an indescribable freshness and vigor about everything she said and did, so different from the manner of the ladies I had lately seen,—a merry, defiant way which invited battle, and made one feel bright and springy. How can I tell what it was ? I loved the woman from that very morning, and I love the memory of her now, — she stood so unembarrassed, so full of life, as we two ate our breakfast in the little, sunny room, — she was so lithe, so symmetrical. When we rose she said, ' My father thought you would like to fish with him, Mr. Satterlee, and Mr. Erle is to ride with me, if he so pleases.’ I murmured a few words of compliment, and she went on : ‘ Come out to the barn and choose a horse, and Mr. Satterlee may have a look at the colt.’ We followed her out of doors, just as we were, — hatless, like herself.

“ ‘ It is no fine stable we have at Darrow, but the horses are well off, and I pass so much time with them that I love the old, dingy place,’ she said, as we crossed the yard.

“ It was a great country barn, in truth, low and warm, with places for cows and sheep as well as horses. A broad floor ran from one great door to the other, covered with loose wisps of hay and straw, and above our heads was the winter’s store of both. A red rushbottomed chair and a table stood at one end, — two little pieces of furniture around which cluster the pleasantest memories of my life, — Lillie’s chair and Lillie’s table, where she sat to sew and sing among her animals. What happy mornings I spent there by her side.

“ As we went in she began to talk to her colt, as a woman generally talks to babies. ‘ Why, my sweet one, my own lamb, my coltikins, was he glad to hear his granny coming to see him ? ’ — and so on.

“The colt, who was in a box at the end of the barn, acknowledged all this tenderness by putting his heavy head over the rail and half pricking up one ear ; but Lillie seemed to think this slight sign of intellect all that could be desired, and went up to him with a thousand caresses.

“ ' How like a woman to love that horse, now,’ said Satterlee.

“ Lillie turned towards him with a brilliant smile. ' I sha'n't take up arms about it, for why should I be ashamed that I have a woman’s heart, and love my own things more because they are unfortunate, and other people make fun of them ? ’

“ From that moment I resolved the colt should win, if it was in mortal riding to make him.

“‘Miss Burton,’ I said boldly, ‘I see great qualities in your horse. May I ride him for you on Thursday ? ’

“She seemed a little startled by the suddenness of the proposal, but answered quickly, ‘ I shall be so much obliged ! Will you think it rude if I ask you to ride him two or three times first ? ’

“ ‘ Of course not. Do you ride him yourself this morning ? ’

“‘Yes, and which horse will you take ? There are three or four there for you to choose from.’

“ I walked down the row of stalls, and decided on an old hunter who turned the whites of his eyes round at me as if he longed for a gallop. Lillie called a man in from the yard, and said, ‘ Saddle the roan and Nathan, and bring them to the east door.’

“ ‘ Eh, Miss Lillie,’ cried Satterlee, ‘what name was that I heard? Nathan ? ’

‘“Well, why not?’ she answered. ‘ Father named him so in fun, and I keep it to show I don’t care how much they laugh at him.’

“ Satterlee seemed intensely amused. ‘ Nathan, Nathan ! ’ he repeated. ‘ Winner of the Earl’s race ! Nathan, Nathan ! ’

“ I went into the house for my hat and spurs, and on coming out found that Dick had gone off with old Mr. Burton, leaving his best wishes for the colt’s success. Presently Lillie came out, clad in a dark habit, with a knot of blue ribbon at the throat, holding in her hand a whip so formidable that I was involuntarily reminded of the knouts of Russia. I suppose the thought was visible in my face, for she said quickly, ‘ I don’t always carry this ; but when Nathan is to do his best, I have to urge him to it, for if I depended on his own ambition we should soon be left behind.’

“‘Indeed,’ I answered. ‘Then you must let me practise well before Thursday.’

As I said these words the horses were brought to the door, and, before I could offer any assistance, Lillie had swung herself from the stump of the felled tree into her saddle. I remembered Satterlee’s words about her perfect horsemanship, and glanced at her as I mounted. Even in that moment, as she sat perfectly still on the awkward colt’s back, I saw how truly he had spoken. She was merely sitting there, without any of the fascination which motion gives, and yet I had never seen such a rider among women. You will think I exaggerate, but, as I am a man of honor, I assure you that an exact copy in marble of Lillie Burton, as she waited for my mounting on that autumn morning, would be a more beautiful equestrian statue than the world has ever seen. Such ease and strength and grace — Ah well ! I shall not let you smile at my enthusiasm by any attempt at describing her. We started, unattended, our faces towards the sea.

“ ‘ Do you want to look at the racecourse ?’ Lillie said.

“ ' Yes.’

“‘Then follow me,’ — and with the word she called cheerily to her horse, and swung her whip with such effect that what was a canter became a gallop, and then a run, so long, so fierce, so reckless, that I held my breath as I looked at her. We went right across country, over fences and ditches by the dozen, and never drew rein until we reached the shore.

“Then she turned in her saddle as I came up, and nodded triumphantly, her face a thousand times brighter and more bewitching than I had seen it yet.

“‘Well, what do you think of Nathan now ? ’ she asked.

“ ‘ He is wonderful,’ I answered.

“ ' But that is by no means his best. You wait here, and I will put him round the course once as well as I can. We are to go down the beach to that white post, then up through the big field, over a bad hedge, which we must leap at a particular spot, then across the lane and through these four last fields home, and then over it all again. You shall try the ground this afternoon if you will.’

“ She said all this rapidly, as if the business of the day had begun, and cantered down the sloping field. Arrived near the starting-point, I heard her give what seemed almost a yell, and lethargic Nathan, well awake, burst into the same tremendous pace, going faster and faster every moment, until he attained a speed which seemed positively terrific, a woman being in the saddle, and then Lillie ceased urging him, and rode unflaggingly, as she only could, over all obstacles, until she reached my side.

“ ‘How can there be any doubt of your winning ? ” I asked.

“‘I sometimes think there is none when Nathan has been going so well; but' — and a cloud came over her face —

‘ there is one colt I am really afraid of, — a little black mare of Harry Dunn’s. O, how that creature flies over the ground ! ’

“ ‘ I am not afraid,’ I answered. ‘ You shall win, Miss Burton, if I die for it.’

“ She laughed at my eager way of saying this, and we rode towards home, she talking all the way of Darrow and of the neighbors, of farming and of sailing, — for she was as much at home in a boat as on horseback. Ah, what a contrast to the dark-eyed, proud Miss Ferrers! I wondered how I could have been in love with any other than Lillie Burton, whose ways were so unaffected, whose whole nature was so healthy. What cared I for the languid accomplishments of city belles? Here was a real woman, kind and strong, and unhurt by the world’s ways. Even in the excitement of the hardest gallop I saw no trace of vulgarity, no sign of unwomanly jockeyship, only a true, unconcealed interest in her horse and his performances, — an interest worthy of her English heartWe rode home in high spirits, feeling sure that the race would be ours, even Nathan entering into the gayety of the moment, and actually shying at a boy who lay asleep by the roadside. Lillie yielded so thely to the sudden jump, that I could not help saying, ' How did you learn to ride so well?’ and she answered, laughing : ' O, it is born in us ; and then I rode recklessly for years before I got a good seat I mean that I folded my arms, and galloped anywhere with tied reins, and half the time no stirrup. That is the best thing to do. Your old roan there has carried me at his own will for many a mile. He was as fast as Nathan at his age, and twice as spirited.’

“ So we chatted as we rode home through the low lanes. The midday sun shone down on us as we came to Darrow House ; and as I left Lillie at the door, to go up and dress for the farm dinner, I felt a new man, warmed with the bright day, and with the new hope which rose so sweetly in my tired heart.

“ I will not weary you with the details of my days at the Burtons’. The old father ruled over his household like a king, and all yielded him loving obedience. Jack and his two stalwart brothers came and went, busy with all sorts of farming operations, and Lillie and I devoted ourselves to Nathan’s further education. On Sunday the farmers and peasants came to church at the chapel in the house, and Philip Burton did for them all a true priest should. On every other day in the week, too, he held school for the children, instructing them just so far and no farther. ‘ Let them know how to read and write and do simple sums,’ he said, ' but don’t let ’s stuff their heads with learning beyond their station. It only makes them discontented, and would upset society in the end.’ And so he let them come until he thought they knew enough, were the time longer or shorter, and after that the door was shut.

“In the mornings, Lillie and I, and often Satterlee, sat in the barn for hours, she sewing and talking with us, stopping sometimes to give directions to a workman, or to listen to some poor neighbor’s tale of woe. For she seemed to attract every one, and, as surely as a child was sick or a cow lost, the whole story must be told to ' Darrow Lillie,’ as they called her. She listened with ready sympathy, and always gave some quick, personal aid. I never saw a more charming picture than that which greeted me one morning as I came in at the-barn door;—Lillie seated at her little table, close by the colt’s stall, two dogs at her feet, and a soft black kitten in her hands, held lovingly against her cheek; beside her stood a peasant woman in a red cloak, wringing her hands, and telling how her husband had deserted her; a big-eyed calf looked in at the door behind, doubtful if he might come in as usual ; and, over all, the October sunlight, mellow with barn-dust. I remember Lillie asked the woman where her husband was, and, learning he was at Plashy, Sir Francis Gilmor’s seat, said she would see him that very day. And I am sure she did, for after dinner she went off alone on the roan hunter, and the next day I saw the same woman, with far happier mien, trudging along the lane by the side of her sheep-faced husband.

“ So the days passed by, and Wednesday evening was come. We sat before the fire, and counted the chances for and against my winning the race, for it was a settled thing now that I should be Nathan’s rider. I was as interested as any Burton of them all, and more so perhaps, for I felt that on my success the next day depended my success in what my whole heart was now determined on,—the winning of Lillie Burton’s hand. I was quick at my conclusions at twenty-four, you see. Satterlee was still incredulous, and really annoyed me by his way of speaking, — offering to pick the yellow hairs out of Nathan’s coat so as to make it shine a little, and otherwise employing his wit at our expense. Lillie laughed goodnaturedly, and said they only made her love the horse the more by their unkind remarks.

“ ' Do you really love him,’ Jack asked.

“ ' Certainly I do,’ she answered.

' I have a deep affection for him.’

“ ' And I hope you will bestow some kind regard on his rider also,’ I whispered, bending over her chair.

“ She looked up in her own quick way, and, as our eyes met, I thought hers were bright with love, as well as mine. As you would say, now-a-days, our souls met; and from that moment a strange, triumphant happiness filled my heart. The short Darrow evening wore to its close, and I neither spoke to Lillie again nor looked at her, but sat silent, rejoicing, until at even-song I poured out my thankfulness to God, and praised him for this great gift,— Lillie Burton, my peerless, truthful Lillie, mine until death should part us, mine in all joy and sorrow, always my own ! With what certainty of peace I went to my rest that night, — with what instinct of some great joy I woke in the morning, — the bright autumn morning which held my fate !

“ The races were to begin at noon, and by eleven o'clock we all set forth from Darrow House, well mounted and gallantly arrayed. There was no unnecessary coddling of the horses. I rode Nathan, and George rode the horse he had entered for the third race ; and the only unusual thing was, that we eschewed fences, and slowly wended our way through the lanes, to the little knoll by the beach, where the rude judge’s stand was erected.

“ Already a crowd of farmers had assembled, some coming in carts with their wives and daughters, some riding rough plough-horses, and some on foot. Not a few children had come too, — red - cheeked boys and girls, mounted on the wiry ponies of the country, riding about and making the air resound with their merry laughter. Every one seemed to know every one else, to judge by the hearty greetings exchanged on all sides, and every one was in the best possible humor. After all these years, the impression I received at this rustic gathering is undimmed. There were only these people. There was no set race-course, no eager betting, but never before or since have I seen a race assemblage so full of honest, interested faces, or showing so thorough an enjoyment of the day.

“As we came up, the little crowd separated, that we might ride to the top of the knoll, for Burton of Darrow was held in high respect, and way was made for him everywhere. We were now the centre of attention, and I was beginning to feel my city assurance giving way under the glance of honest interest directed towards me and my colt, when a murmur arose, ‘ Here come the gentry,’ and, looking up the lane, I saw an open carriage full of ladies, and half a dozen gentlemen on horseback, approaching us. ‘It is the party from Plashy,’ Lillie said, ‘ and there is the Earl in the North Lane,’ pointing out two or three more carriages. All was bustle now, for the horses which were to run must be ridden to a certain, part of the field, and ranged side by side for the Earl’s inspection. I found myself between a little fellow on a bay horse, and a handsome, curly-headed young farmer who sat a beautiful black mare like another Prince Hal.

“ He bowed politely, and said, ‘You ride the Darrow colt, then, sir.’

“‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘and you are Harry Dunn, are you not ? ’

“‘At your service, sir. It will be a hard race between us two.’

“Just then the Earl came up to look at the horses, as his custom was. We had met in London, and he recognized me with some surprise in my novel situation as jockey ; but a few words explained the case, and he turned to young Dunn, saying, with a smile, ' She ’s very handsome, my man ; but it’s an awful temper, if I know a horse’s eye,’ — and indeed the words were hardly out of his Lordship’s mouth when the Witch, as she was called, kicked out savagely at a passing boy, and then reared so high and so long that I feared she would fall back on her rider ; but Harry Dunn was no novice, and in a few minutes she was standing quietly enough, with dilated nostril and glowing eyes.

“‘He’ll ride her in before you, if he kills her,’ the Earl whispered, turning to me. ‘ Darrow Lillie is looking on.’

‘“He loves her, then ? ’ I asked, as calmly as I could.

“ ‘ I should rather think he did,’ the old gentleman answered, shrugging his shoulders, and walking off to some other horses.

“ I looked round to see where Lillie was, and felt reassured when I saw she had not even turned in her saddle while her lover’s life was in danger, but was still talking with Sir Francis Gilmor. I heard him say, ‘ I doubt whether I shall make an offer for that gray colt of yours ’; and she answered, laughing, ‘ You shall have the first chance after the race. Sir Francis. It will break my heart if he does not win.’

“ The pony race was soon called, and I dismounted to stand by Lillie’s side, and watch it. As I stood, my hand upon the roan’s shoulder, ready to seize the reins if he became excited, for Lillie had flung them, as usual, upon his neck, and sat carelessly in the saddle, her hands crossed on her knee, — as I stood there, I say, I heard suddenly, above the loud talk of the farmers, a voice the sound of which made my heart leap up into my throat,—a woman’s voice, cold and clear, — the words merely, ‘ Yes, a perfect day,’ but they were full of horrible meaning to me, I felt that my week’s dream of happiness was at an end, and that my old life personified had come to take me away. My presence of mind enabled me not to turn round at the moment; but as I mounted for the race, half an hour afterwards, I glanced towards the Earl’s carriage, and there, at the Countess’s side, sat Selina Ferrers. At the same instant I was aware of a stifled scream, and the sound of my name ; but I paid no heed, and rode slowly down the field to where Harry Dunn and the other waited my coming at the starting-post. Imagine my feelings as I listened for the signal. Win ! Why I would have won if I had died at Lillie’s feet the moment afterwards.

“ We were well away, we three men, but Harry and I soon got ahead, and flew with the speed of Browning’s couriers over the flashing sand. I obeyed Lillie’s last orders, and spared neither whip nor spur ; but the black mare, almost uncontrolled, gained inch by inch, and leaped the last ditch fully three lengths ahead. We were to go round once again, and I lifted my whip for a desperate blow, just as we reached the bottom of the knoll, knowing that unless I got the colt into his best pace then all was lost; but he, stupid brute, thought the run was over, and swerved with a heavy plunge almost to his mistress’s side. Before I could recover my control, I heard Lillie cry, her voice trembling with vexation, ‘ O, what riding ! ’ and I saw tears in her eyes, as she pulled the frightened roan up on his haunches to make way for me.

“It was enough. Even Nathan felt there was to be no more trifling, and as I tore his side with my heel he broke at last into his great, fearful stride, and before we reached the lane Harry Dunn’s black mare was straining every nerve lengths and lengths behind, and in three minutes more I stood humbly by Lillie’s side, winner of the Earl’s race. I scarcely heard the shouts of the crowd, or even the questions addressed to myself. Once again I was secure. No danger now from Harry Dunn on the one side, or Selina Ferrers on the other. The certain peace of the morning was mine again. It all seems so foolish, as I look back upon it now; but as I stood for those few brief moments by Flury Beach, surrounded by the golden-headed Burtons, the blue sea before me, and the fair green pastures behind, I was a happy man, — happier than I have ever been since.

“ As the crowd separated, while the horses were got ready for the next race, I heard again the voice of Selina Ferrers ; but it did not move me, for just then Lillie bent her beautiful head close by mine, and in her own low, singing tones, so much truer and more touching than the London belle’s, said, ‘ Mr. Erle, what can I do to thank you ? ’

“ I looked up frankly and gladly.

' May I tell you when we are at home to-night ? ’

“ ‘ Not till then ? ’

“ ' No, not till then,’ I answered. And from my very heart I believe she had no idea what I meant, for she turned to Sir Francis Gilmor with an ease she could not have affected, and began to talk with him of Nathan.

“ I stood looking at the racers, with real interest, for George Burton was riding, and I could see his hair shining in the wind far down the beach, and I was thinking of Lillie and Lillie’s happiness, when a servant in livery came up, and said the Countess wished to speak with me. Had he presented a pistol at my head, the shock would not have been greater. As I approached the carriage I looked Selina Ferrers full in the face, and what did I read there ? Great God ! I cannot think of it with calmness even now.

“ I bowed as coldly as politeness would allow, but the Countess put our her hand in cordial greeting, and begged me to take a seat with them for the rest of the morning. I murmured something about owing my time to the Burtons, and, after a few indifferent remarks (explaining how Miss Ferrers had decided not to go to Spain), was on the point of withdrawing, when the Countess said, ‘ At least, Mr. Erle, we shall see you at the castle '; and not until I had promised to come to her the next day would she let me go. As I turned, a light hand was laid upon my arm for an instant, and I heard an eager whisper, ‘ Gerald ! what does this mean ? I am here for your sake ; — but I kept on my way as if I had not heard, and breathed freely again at Lillie’s bridle-rein.

“ Why should I describe the rest of the day to you ? You see already how it had to end. I was with Lillie all day long, as happy as a king, though a little shocked when I heard at dinner that Nathan was sold to Sir Francis. But the day had been full of joy ; and when all its festivities were over, and we drove home from the ball, it seemed as if no cloud hung over me.

“ The Burtons went to the barn to care for the horses, and I was alone with Lillie by the great table. I asked her very simply if she would be my wife, and she told me that I asked in vain.

“ ‘ Even if I loved you, Mr. Erle,’ she went on, — ‘even if I loved you, I could not be your wife. You are a gentleman, and I am a farmer’s daughter ; and you know even better than I do that we could not be happy very long. You will be glad some day that I did not lead you into such sore trial.’

“ Some such words as these were the last words I ever heard from Lillie Burton’s mouth, for the men came in, and she left the room; and as she passed me that night, dressed in a gown of softest white, her exquisite head bent in sorrow and tenderness, her eyes radiant through their tears, I saw her for the last time. We have never met, even for an instant, since.”

Mr. Erle ceased speaking, and I gave a great sigh of relief. His last words had been uttered with so much feeling that neither my grandfather nor I could interrupt the long silence, as he sat looking dreamily into the fire. When at length he spoke, it was of an entirely different subject, and, after half an hour’s conversation, he drank a last glass of the old wine, and bade us good night, wringing my grandfather’s hand with more than usual warmth.

I waited almost impatiently until I heard the house-door close, and then, “ Who is Mrs. Erle ? ” I asked.

“Who do you suppose ?” my grandfather answered.

“ No one. How should I ? ”

“And yet you heard Mr. Erle tell the part about the Countess ? ”

“ Yes.”

“ And you do not guess what happened ? ”

“ No. I dare say I am very stupid ; but do tell me,” I begged.

“ Well, then, my dear, the morning after the races, Erle went to the castle, and the Countess was very kind, as great ladies often are, and he stayed for a week, since she pressed the matter so; and then there was an excursion into Wales, where most untoward things occurred, and the grand finale was a wedding at Lord West’s in London,”

“ Then he married Miss Ferrers ! ” I exclaimed.

“ Yes, my dear, even so. You have never seen the lady, I believe ? ”

“ No, never. Is anything the matter with her ? ”

“ Anything the matter with her ? Yes, she is insane. Quite harmless, you know ; but having been made with the worst temper in England, this climate has developed it into positive insanity.”

“And she lives at home?” I asked, sadly, for it came over me what a tragedy Mr. Erle’s life must be.

“Yes, Gerald is more than faithful to her. Ah, Thesta, child, we do not know all the patient endurance of God’s men and women in this nineteenth century.”

The bells of St. Mary’s rang midnight as I lighted my bedroom candle, and kissed the smooth brow of my white-haired hero. “You do not ask what became of Lillie Burton,” he said.

“ Did you ever hear of her ? ”

“Yes, Satterlee was there years afterwards, and found her Lillie Dunn, with three children clinging to her skirts.”

“ And Nathan ? ”

“ O, Nathan turned out splendidly, and led the Flury hunt for years. They say his memory is green in -shire yet.”

“ Poor Mr. Erle ! ” I said, summing up the whole story, as I went off to bed.