A Country Gentleman

XXX.

ON the mantelpiece of the little lodging-house drawing-room in Half Moon Street, supported against the gilt group that decorated the timepiece, was a note containing an invitation. “ why, here is the whirl beginning already,” Mrs. Warrender said. “ Don’t you feel that you are in the vortex, Chatty ? ” Her mother laughed, and was a little excited even by this mild matter ; but Chatty did not feel any excitement. To the elder woman, the mere sense of the population about her, the hurry in the street, the commotion in the air, was an excitement. She would have liked to go out at once, to walk about, to get into a hansom like a man, and drive through the streets, and see the lights and the glimmer of the shops, and the crowds of people. To be within reach of all that movement and rapidity went into her veins like wine. After the solitude and silence of so many years,

— nothing but the rustle of the leaves, the patter of the rain, the birds or the wind in the branches, and the measured voices, indoors, to vary the quiet,

— the roar of Piccadilly mingling with everything was a sort of music to this woman. To many others, perhaps the majority, the birds and breezes would be the thing to long for; but Mrs. Warrender was one of the people who love a town and all that seems like a larger life in the collection together of many human lives. Whether it is so or not is another question, or if the massing together of a multitude of littles ever can make a greatness. It seems to do so, which is enough for most people; and though the accustomed soul is aware that no desert can be more lone than London, to the unaccustomed its very murmur sounds like a general consent of humanity to go forth and do more than is possible in any other circumstances. It is the constitution of the ear which determines what it hears. For Chatty took the commotion rather the other way. She said, “ One can’t hear one’s self speak,” and wanted to close the windows. But Mrs. Warrender liked the very noise.

The dinner to which they were invited was in Curzon Street, in a house which was small in reality, but made the most of every inch of its space, and which was clothed and curtained and decorated in a manner which made the country people open their eyes. The party was very small, their hostess said; but it would have been a very large party at the Warren, where all the rooms were twice as big. Chatty was a little fluttered by her first party in London ; but it did not appear in her aspect, which was always composed and simple, not demanding any one’s regard, yet giving to people who were blasé or tired of being attracted (as sometimes happens) a sense of repose and relief. She must have been more excited, however, than was at all usual with her; for though she thought she had remarked everybody in the dim drawing-room, — where the ladies in their pretty toilets and the men in their black coats stood about in a perplexing manner, chiefly against the light, which made it difficult to distinguish them, instead of sitting down all round the room, which in the country would have seemed the natural way, — it proved that there was one very startling exception, one individual, at least, whom she had not remarked. She went down to dinner with a gentleman, whose name of course she did not make out, and whose appearance, she thought, was exactly the same as that of half the other gentlemen in the procession down the narrow staircase. Chatty, indeed, made disparaging reflections to herself as to society in general, on this score ; the thought flashing through her mind that in the country there was more difference between even one curate and another (usually considered the most indistinguishable class) than between these men of Mayfair. She was a little bewildered, too, by the appearance of the dining-room, for at that period the diner à la Russe was just beginning to establish itself in England, and a thicket of flowers upon the table was novel to Chatty, filling her first with admiration, then with a little doubt whether it would not be better to see the people more distinctly on the other side. Dinner had gone on a little way, and her companion had begun to put the usual questions to her about where she had been, and where she was going, questions to which Chatty, who had been nowhere, and had not as yet one other invitation (which feels a little humiliating when you hear of all the great things that are going on), could make but little reply, when suddenly, in one of the pauses of the conversation, she was aware of a laugh, which made her start slightly, and opened up an entirely new interest in this as yet not very exciting company. It was like the opening of a window to Chatty: it seemed to let in pure air, new light. And yet it was only a laugh, no more. She looked about her with a little eagerness, and then it was that she began to find the flowers and the ferns, which had filled her with enthusiasm a moment before, to be rather in the way.

“ I suppose you go to the Row every morning,” said her entertainer. “ Don’t you find that always the first thought when one comes to town ? You ride, of course. Oh, why not in the Row ? there is nothing alarming about it. A little practice, that is all that is wanted, to know how to keep your horse in hand. But you hunt ? then you are all right and can ride anywhere ” —

Oh no, we never hunted.” It struck Chatty with a little surprise to be talked to as if she had a stud at her command. Should she tell him that this was a mistake ; that there were only two horses beside Theo’s, and that Minnie and she had once had a pony between them — which was very different from hunting, or having nerve to ride in the Row ? Chatty found afterwards that horses and carriages, and unbounded opportunities of amusing yourself, and a familiar acquaintance with the entire peerage were always taken for granted in conversation whenever you dined out; but at first she was unacquainted with this peculiarity and did not feel quite easy in her mind about allowing it to be supposed that she was so much greater a person. Her little hesitations, however, as to how she should reply, and the pause she made when she heard that laugh, arrested the current of her companion’s talk, and made it necessary for her, to her own alarm, to originate a small observation, which, as often happens to a shy speaker, occurred just at the moment when there was a lull in the general talk. What she said was “Do you ride often in the Row?” in a voice which though very soft was quite audible. Chatty retired into herself with the sensation of having said something very ridiculous when she caught a glance or two of amusement, and heard a suppressed titter from somebody on the other side of the fashionable young man to whom she had addressed this very innocent question. She thought it was at her they were laughing, whereas the fact was that Chatty was supposed by those who heard her to be a satirist of more than usual audacity, setting down a coxcomb with deserved but ruthless contempt. Naturally she knew nothing of this, and blushed crimson at her evidently foolish remark, and drew back in great confusion, not conscious even of the stumbling reply. She was almost immediately conscious, however, of a face which suddenly appeared on the other side of the table round the corner of a bouquet of waving ferns, lit up with smiles of pleasure and eager recognition. " Oh, Mr. Cavendish ! then it was you,” she said, unawares; but the tumult of the conversation had arisen again, and it seemed very doubtful whether her exclamation could have reached his ear.

When the gentlemen came upstairs, Chatty endeavored to be looking very earnestly the other way ; not to look as if she expected him ; but Dick found his way to her immediately. “ I can’t think how I missed you before. I should have tried hard for the pleasure of taking you down, had 1 known you were here,” he said, with that look of interest which was the natural expression in his eyes when he addressed a woman. “ When did you come to town, and where are you staying ? I do not know anything that has been going on, I have heard nothing of you all for so long. There must be quite a budget of news.”

Chatty faltered a little, feeling that Mr. Cavendish had never been so intimate in the family as these questions seemed to imply. “The Wilberforces were quite well when we left,” she said, with the honesty of her nature, for to be sure it was the Wilberforces rather than the Warrenders who were his friends.

“ Oh, never mind the Wilberforces,” he said; “ tell me something about you.”

“ There is something to tell about us, for a wonder,” said Chatty. “ My sister Minnie is just married : but perhaps you would hear of that ? ”

“ I think I saw it in the papers, and was very glad ” — here he stopped and did not finish his sentence. A more experienced person than Chatty would have perceived that he meant to express his satisfaction that it was not she : but Chatty had no such insight.

“ Yes, he has a curacy quite near, for the moment, and he will have an excellent living, and it is a very nice marriage. We came to town for a little change, mamma and I.”

“ That is delightful news. And Theo ? I have not heard from Theo for ages. Is he left behind by himself?”

“ Oh ! Theo is very well. Theo is — Oh, I did not mean to say anything about that.”

Chatty did not know why she was so completely off her guard with Dick Cavendish. She had almost told him everything before she was aware.

“ Not in any trouble I hope? Don’t let me put indiscreet questions.”

“ It is not that. There is nothing indiscreet : only I forgot that we had not meant to say anything.”

“ I am so very sorry,” cried Cavendish. “You must not think I would ask what you don’t wish to tell me.”

“ But I should like to tell you,” said Chatty, “only I don’t know what mamma will say. I will tell her it came out before I knew, and you must not say anything about it, Mr. Cavendish.”

“Not a syllable, not even to your mother. It shall be something between you and me.”

The way in which this was said made Chatty’s eyes droop for a moment: but what a pleasure it was to tell him! She could not understand herself. She was not given to chatter about what happened in the family, and Dick was not so intimate with Theo that he had a right to know; but still it was delightful to tell him. “ We don’t know whether to be glad or sorry,” she said. “It is that perhaps Theo, after a while, is going to marry.”

“ That is always interesting,” said Dick ; but he took the revelation calmly. “ What a lucky fellow ! No need to wait upon fortune, like the rest of us. To marry — whom ? Do I know the lady ? I hope she is all that can be desired.”

“ Oh, Mr. Cavendish, that is just the question. There is mamma coming; perhaps she will tell you herself, which would be so much better than if you heard it from me.”

Mrs. Warrender came up at this moment, very glad to see him, and quite willing to disclose their number in Half Moon Street, and to grant a gracious permission that he should call and be “ of use,” as he offered to be. “ I am not a gentleman at large, like Warrender: I am a toiling slave, spending all my life in Lincoln’s Inn. But in the evening I can spare a little time — and occasionally at other moments,” he added, with a laugh, “ when I try. A sufficient motive is the great thing. And of course you will want to go to the play, and the opera, and all that is going on.”

“ Not too much,” said Mrs. Warrender. “ The air of London is almost enough at first. But come, and we shall see.”

She said nothing, however, about Theo, nor was there any chance of saying more. But when Cavendish touk Chatty downstairs to put her in the carriage (only a cab, but that is natural to country people in town), he hazarded a whisper as they went downstairs, “ Remember there is still something to tell me.” “ Oh, yes,” she replied, “ but mamma herself, I am sure ”— “ No,” he said, " she has nothing to do with it. It is between you and me.” This little conference made her wonderfully bright and smiling when she took her place beside her mother. She did not say anything for a time, but when the cab turned into Piccadilly, with its long lines of lights, — an illumination which is not very magnificent now, and was still less magnificent then, but new and fine to Chatty, accustomed to little more guidance through the dark than that which is given by the light of a lantern or the oil lamp in Mrs. Bagley’s shop, — she suddenly said, “ Well ! London is very pleasant ! ” as if that was a fact of which she was the first discoverer.

“ Is it not?” said her mother, who was far more disinterested and had not had her judgment biased by any whisper on the stairs. “ I am very glad that you like it, Chatty. That will make my pleasure complete.”

“ Oh, who could help liking it, mamma ? ” She blushed a little when she said this, but the night was kind and covered it; and how could Mrs. Warrender divine that this gentle enthusiasm related to the discovery of what Chatty called a friend among so many strangers, and not to the mere locality in which this meeting had taken place. Who could help liking it? To be talked to like that, with eyes that said more than even the words, with that sudden look of pleasure, with the delightful little mystery of a special confidence between them, and with the prospect of meetings hereafter, — who could tell how many ? — of going to the play. Chatty laughed under her breath with pleasure in the thought. It was a most admirable idea to come to London. After all, whatever Minnie might say, there was nobody for understanding how to make people happy like mamma !

Dick’s sensations were not so innocent nor so sweet. He walked home to his chambers, smoking his cigar, and chewing the cud of fancy, which was more bitter than sweet. What right had he to bend over that simple girl, to lay himself out to please her, to speak low in her ear ? Dick knew, unfortunately too well, what was apt to come of such a beginning. Without being more of a coxcomb than was inevitable, he was aware that he had a way of pleasing women. And he had a perception that Chatty was ready to be pleased, and that he himself wished — oh, very much, if he dared — to please her. In these circumstances it was perfectly evident that he should peremptorily take himself out of all possibility of seeing Chatty. But this was utterly contrary to the manner in which he had greeted her, the fervor with which he had immediately flung himself into the affairs of the family. It was his occupation as he walked home to defend and excuse himself for this to himself. In the first place, which was perfectly true, he had not known at all that the Warrenders were to be of the party ; he had thus fallen into the snare quite innocently, without any fault of his. Had he known, he might have found an excuse and kept away. But then he asked himself, why in the name of Heaven should he have kept away ? Was he so captivating a person that it would be dangerous to Miss Warrender to meet him — once ; or such a fool as to be unable to meet a young lady whom he admired — once, without harm coming of it? To be sure he had gone further : he had thrown himself, as it were, at the feet of the ladies, with enthusiasm, and had made absurd offers of himself to be “ of use.” There could be no doubt that as things stood this was mad enough, and culpable, too ; but it was done without premeditation, by impulse, as be was too apt to act, especially in such matters; and it could be put a stop to. He was pledged to call, it was true; but that might be once, and no more. And then there was the play, the opera, to which he had pledged himself to attend them; once there could not do much harm, either. Indeed, so long as he maintained, which he ought to do always, full control over himself, what harm could it do to be civil to Theo Warrender’s mother and sister, who were, so to speak, after a sort, old friends ? He was not such an ass (he said to himself) as to think that Chatty was at his disposal if he should lift up his finger; and there was her mother to take care of her; and they were not people to be asking each other what he " meant,” as two experienced women of society might do. Both mother and daughter were very innocent; they would not think he meant anything except kindness. And if he could not take care of himself, it was a pity ! Thus in the course of his reflections Dick found means to persuade himself that there was nothing culpable in pursuing the way which was pleasant, which he wanted to pursue; a result which unfortunately very often follows upon reflection. The best way in such an emergency is not to reflect, but to turn and fly at once. But that, he said to himself, not without some complaisance, would be impulse, which he had just concluded to be a very bad thing. It was impulse which had got him into the scrape ; he must trust to something more stable to get him out.

In the course of his walking, and, indeed, before these thoughts had gone very far, he found himself at the corner of Half Moon Street, and turned along with the simple purpose of seeing which was No. 22. There were lights in several windows, and he lingered a moment, wondering which might be Chatty’s. Then with a stamp of his foot, a laugh of utter self-ridicule, which astounded the passing cabmen (for he was not surely such a confounded sentimental ass as that), he turned on his heel and went straight home without lingering anywhere. It was hard upon him that he should be such a fool ; that he should not be able to restrain himself from making idiotic advances, which he could never follow out, and for a mere impulse place himself at the mercy of fate! But he would not be led by impulse now, in turning his back. It should be reason that should be his guide, reason and reflection and a calm working out of the problem, how far and no further he could with safety go.

And yet if it had been possible that he could have availed himself of the anxiety of his family to get “ a nice girl” to take an interest in him, where could there be a nicer girl than Chatty ? There were prettier girls, but as for beauty, that was not a thing to be spoken of at all in the matter. Beauty is rare, and it is often (in Dick’s opinion) attended by qualities not so agreeable. It is often inanimate, apt to rest upon its natural laurels, to think it does enough when it consents to look beautiful. He did not go in, himself, for the sublime. But to see the light come over Chatty’s face as if the sun had suddenly broken out in the sky; to see the pleased surprise in her eyes as she lifted them quickly, without any affectation, in all the sweetness of nature ! She was not clever either; all that she said was very simple. She was easily pleased, not looking out for wit as some girls do, or insisting upon much brilliancy in conversation. In short, if he had been writing a poem or a song about her (with much secret derision he recognized that to be the sort of thing of which in the circumstances foolish persons were capable), the chief thing that it occurred to him any one could say was that she was Chatty. And quite enough, too ! he added, to himself, with a curious warmth under his waistcoat, which was pleasant. Was n’t there a song that went like that ? Though this was fair, and that was something else, and a third was so-and-so, yet none of them was Mary Something-or-other. He was aware that the verse was not very correctly quoted, but that was the gist of it ; and a very sensible fellow, too, was the man who wrote it, whoever he might be.

With this admirable conclusion, showing how much reason and reflection had done for him, Dick Cavendish wound up the evening — and naturally called at 22 Half Moon Street, next day.

XXXI.

Dick Cavendish called at Half Moon Street next day, and found the ladies just returned from a walk, and a little tired and very glad to see a friendly face, which his was in the most eminent degree. They had been out shopping, that inevitable occupation of women, and they had been making calls, and informing their few acquaintances of their arrival. Mrs. Benson, at whose house the dinner had been, was one of the few old friends with whom Mrs. Warrender was in habits of correspondence, and thus had known of their coming beforehand. Dick found himself received with the greatest cordiality by Mrs. Warrender, and by Chatty with an air of modest satisfaction which was very sweet. Mrs. Warrender was desirous of a little guidance in their movements, and took so sincerely his offer to be of use that Dick found no means at all of getting out of it. Indeed, when it came to that, he was by no means so sure that it was necessary to get out of it, as when he had begun his reflections on the subject. He even proposed — why not? — that they should all go to the play that very evening, there being nothing else on hand. In those days the theatre was not so popular an institution as at present, and it was not necessary to engage places for weeks in advance. This sudden rush, however, was too much for the inexperienced country lady. “ We are not going to be so prodigal as that,”she said, “it would deprive us of all the pleasure of thinking about it : and as everything is more delightful in anticipation than in reality ” —

“ Oh, mamma ! ” said Chatty, shocked by this pessimistic view.

“ And what am I to do with myself all the evening,” said Dick, with mock dismay, “ after anticipating this pleasure all day ? If anticipation is the best part of it, you will allow that disappointment after anticipation is doubly ” —

“If you have nothing better to do, stay and dine with us,” Mrs. Warronder said. This proposal made Chatty look up with pleasure, and then look down again lest she should show more than was expedient how glad she was. And Dick, who had reflected and decided that to call once and go to the theatre once could do no harm, accepted with enthusiasm, without even pausing to ask himself whether to dine with them once might be added without further harm to his roll of permissions. The dinner was a very commonplace, lodging-house dinner, and Chatty got out her muslin work afterwards, and had a quiet industrious evening, very much like her evenings at home. She was like a picture of domestic happiness personified, as she sat in the light of the lamp with her head bent over her work, the movement of her arm making a soft rustle as she worked. She wore a muslin gown after the fashion of the time, which was not in itself a beautiful fashion, but pretty enough for the moment, and her hair, which was light brown, fell in little curls over her soft cheek. She looked up now and then, while the others talked, turning from one to another, sometimes saying a word, most frequently with only a smile or look of assent. Let us talk as we will of highly educated women and of mental equality and a great many other fine things : but as a matter of fact, this gentle auditor and sympathizer, intelligent enough to understand without taking much part, is a more largely accepted symbol of what the woman ought to be than anything more prominent and individual. Just so Eve sat and listened when Adam discoursed with the angel, putting by in her mind various questions to ask when that celestial but rather long-winded visitor was gone. Perhaps this picture is not quite harmonious with the few facts in our possession in respect to our first mother, and does scant justice to that original-minded woman : but the type has seized hold upon the imagination of mankind. Dick thought of it vaguely, as he looked (having secured a position in which he could do so without observation) at this impersonation of the woman’s part. He thought if another fellow should look in for a talk, which was his irreverent way of describing to himself the visit of the angel, it would be highly agreeable to have her there listening, and to clear up the knotty points for her when they should be alone. He had little doubt that Eve would have an opinion of her own, very favorable to his way of stating the subject, and would not mind criticising the other fellow, with a keen eye for any little point of possible ridicule. He kept thinking this as he talked to Mrs. Warrender, and also that the little cluster of curls was pretty, and the bend of her head, and, indeed, everything about her ; not striking, perhaps, or out of the common, but most soothing and sweet.

And next evening, having had those pleasures of anticipation which Mrs. Warrender thought so much of, he went with them to the play, and spent an exceedingly pleasant evening, pointing out such people as he knew (who were anybody) to Mrs. Warrender between the acts, and enjoying the sight of Chatty’s absorption in the play, which made it twice as interesting to himself. The play was one in which there was a great deal of pretty love-making along with melodramatic situations of an exciting kind. The actors, except one, were not of sufficient reputation to interest any reader save those with a special inclination to the study of the stage. But though it was on the very highest level, there was a great deal in it that thrilled this young man and woman sitting next to each other, and already vaguely inclined towards each other in that first chapter of mutual attraction which is, perhaps, in its vagueness and irresponsibility the most delightful of all. Dick would have laughed at the idea of feeling himself somehow mixed up with the lover on the stage, who was not only a good actor, but a much handsomer fellow than he was ; but Chatty had no such feeling, and with a blush and quiver felt herself wooed in that romantic wooing, with a half sense that the lights should be lowered and nobody should see, and at the same time an enchantment in the sight which only that sense of a personal share in it could have given.

After this beginning Dick’s reflections went to the wind. He felt injured when he found that, not knowing their other friends in town, he had no invitation to accompany them, when those persons did their duty by their country acquaintances, and asked them, one to dinner, another—oh, happiness to Chatty — to a dance. But it did not turn out unmingled happiness for Chatty after all, though she got a new dress for it, in which she looked prettier (her mother thought, who was no flattering mother) than she had ever done in her life. Mrs. Warrender saw the awakening in Chatty’s face which gave to her simple good looks a something higher, a touch of finer development; but the mother neither deceived herself as to the cause of this, nor was at all alarmed by it. Dick was a quite suitable match for Chatty; he was well connected, he was not poor, he was taking up his profession, if somewhat late, yet with good prospects. If there had been escapades in his youth, these were happily over, and as his wild oats had been sown on the other side of the Atlantic, no one knew anything about them. Why, then, should she be alarmed to see that Chatty opened like a flower to the rising of this light which was on Dick, too, so evident as to be unmistakable ? In such circumstances as these the course of true love would be the better of a little obstacle or two ; the only difficulty was that it might run too smooth. Mrs. Warrender thought that perhaps it was well to permit such a little fret in the current as this dance proved to be. She could have got Dick an invitation had she pleased, but was hard-hearted and refrained. Chatty did not enjoy it. She said (with truth) that there was very little room for dancing ; that to sit outside upon the stairs with a gentleman you did not know, among a great many other girls and men whom you did not know, was not her idea of a ball; and that if this was the London way, she liked a dance in the country much better. The time when she did enjoy it was next day, when she gave her impressions of it to Dick, who exulted, as having not been there, secretly over Mrs. Warrender, who would not have him asked. Chatty grew witty in the excitement of her little revenge on society and fate, which had drifted her into that strange country without the ever ready aid to which she had grown accustomed of “some one she knew.”

“ Yes, I danced,” she said, “ now and then, as much as we could. It was not Lady Ascot’s fault, mamma; she introduced a great many gentlemen to me : but sometimes I could not catch their names, and when I did, how was I to remember which was Mr. Herbert and which was Mr. Sidney, when I had never seen either of them before? and gentlemen,” she added, with a little glance (almost saucy : Chatty had developed so much) at Dick, “are so like each other in London.”

At which Dick laughed, not without gratification, with a secret consciousness that though this little arrow was apparently leveled at him, he was the exception to the rule, the one man who was recognizable in any crowd. “ Yes,” he said, “ we should wear little labels with our names. I have heard that suggested before.”

“ They put down initials on my programme — I don’t know what half of them meant : and I suppose they came and looked for me when the dance was going to begin, or perhaps in the middle of the dance, or towards the end ; they did n’t seem to be very particular,” proceeded Chatty, with a certain exhilaration in the success of her description. “ And how were they to find me among such a lot of girls? I saw two or three prowling about looking for me.”

“ And never made the smallest sign? ”

“ Oh, it is not the right thing for a girl to make any sign, is it, mamma ? One can’t say, Here I am ! If they don’t manage to find you, you must just put up with it, though you may see them prowling all the time. It is tiresome when you want very much to dance ; but when you are indifferent ” —

“ The pleasures of society are all for the indifferent,” said Dick ; “ everything comes to you, so the wise people say, when you don’t care for it : but my brothers, who are dancing men, don’t know how malicious ladies are, who make fun of their prowling. I shall remember it next time when I can’t find my partner, and imagine her laughing at me in a corner.”

“ The amusement is after,” said Chatty, with candor. “ It is funny now when I think of it, but it seemed stupid at the time. I don’t think I shall care to go to a dance in London again.”

But as she said these words there escaped a mutual glance from two pairs of eyes, one of which said in the twitching of an eyelash, “ Unless I am there ! ” while the other, taken unawares, gave an answer in a soft flash, “ Ah, if you were there ! ” But there was nothing said : and Mrs. Warrender, though full of observation, never noticed this telegraphic, or shall we say heliographic, communication at all.

This little hindrance only made them better friends. They made expeditions to Richmond, where Dick took the ladies out on the river ; to Windsor and Eton, where Theo and he had both been to school. Long before now he had been told the secret about Theo, which in the mean time had become less and less of a secret, though even now it was not formally made known. Lady Markland ! Dick had been startled by the news, though he declared afterwards that he could not tell why : for that it was the most natural thing in the world. Had not they been thrown together in all kinds of ways ; had not Theo been inevitably brought into her society, almost compelled to see her constantly ?

“ The compulsion was of his own making,” Mrs. Warrender said. “ Perhaps Lady Markland, with more experience, should have perceived what it was leading to.”

“ It is so difficult to tell what anything is leading to, especially in such matters. What may be but a mutual attraction one day becomes a bond that never can be broken the next.”

Dick’s voice changed while he was speaking. Perhaps he was not aware himself of the additional gravity in it, but his audience were instantly aware. That was the evening they had gone to Richmond ; the softest summer evening, twilight just falling ; Chatty, very silent, absorbed (as appeared) in the responsibilities of steering; the conversation going on entirely between her mother and Dick, who sat facing them, pulling long, slow, meditative strokes. Even when one is absorbed by the responsibilities of the steerage, one can enter into all the lights and shades of a conversation kept up by two other people, almost better than they can do themselves.

“ That is true in some cases. Not in Theo’s, I think. It seems to me that he gave himself over from the first. I am not sure that I think her a very attractive woman.”

“ Oh, yes, mamma! ” from Chatty, in an undertone.

“ I am not talking of looks. She has a good deal of power about her, she will not be easily swayed; and after having suffered a great deal in her first marriage, I think she has very quickly developed the power of acting for herself, which some women never attain.”

“ So much the better,” said Dick. “ Theo does n’t want a puppet of a wife.”

“ But he wants a wife who will give in to him,” said Mrs. Warrender, slightly shaking her head.

“ I suppose we all do that, in theory: then glide into domestic servitude, and like it, and find it the best for us.”

“ Let us hope you will do that,” she said with a smile ; “ but not Theo, I fear. He has been used to be made much of. The only boy in a family I fear is always spoiled. You have brothers, Mr. Cavendish : — and he has a temper which is a little difficult.”

“Oh, mamma!” from Chatty again. “ Theo is always kind.”

“ That does not make much difference, my dear. When a young man is accustomed to be given in to, it is easy to be kind. But when he meets for the first time one who will not give in, who will hold her own. I do not blame her for that; she is in a different position from a young girl.”

“And how is it all to be settled?” asked Dick; “ where are they to live? how about the child ? ”

“ All these questions make my heart sink. He is not in the least prepared to meet them. Her name even; she will of course keep her name.”

“ That always seems a little absurd: that a woman should keep her own name, as they do more or less everywhere but in England, yes : — well, a Frenchwoman says née So-and-so; an Italian does something still more distinct than that, I am not quite clear what. That’s quite reasonable, I think: for why should she wipe out her own individuality altogether when she marries? But to keep one husband’s name when you are married to another ” —

“ It is because of the charm of the title. I suppose when a woman has been once called my lady, she objects to coming down from those heights. But I think if I were a man, I should not like it, and Theo will not like it. At the same time there is her son, you know, to be considered. I don’t like complications in marriages. They bring enough trouble without that.”

“ Trouble ! ” cried Dick, in a tone of lively protest, which was a little fictitious. And Chatty, although she did not say anything, gave her mother a glance.

“ Yes, trouble. It breaks as many ties as it makes. How much shall I see of Theo, do you think, when this marriage takes place ? and yet by nature you would say I had some right to him. Oh, I do not complain. It is the course of nature. And Minnie is gone ; she is entering into all the interests of the Thynnes, by this time, and a most bigoted Thynne she will be, if there are any special opinions in the family. Fancy giving up one’s child to become bigoted to another family, whom one does n’t even know ! ”

“ It seems a little hard, certainly. The ordinary view is that mothers are happy when their daughters marry.”

“ Which is also true in its way : for the mother has a way of being older than her daughter, Mr. Cavendish, and knows she cannot live always ; besides, marriage being the best thing for a woman, as most people think, it should be the mother’s duty to do everything she can to secure it for her daughter. Yes, I go as far as that—in words,” Mrs. Warrender, added, with a little laugh.

“ But not for her son ? ”

“ I don’t say that: no, not at all. I should rejoice in Theo’s marriage — but for the complications, which I think he is not the right person to get through, with comfort. You, now, I think,” she added cheerfully, “ might marry Lady — Anybody, with a family of children, and make it succeed.”

“ Thank you very much for the compliment. I don’t mean to try that mode of success,’ he said, quickly.

Neither did Theo mean it until he was brought in contact with Lady Markland : and who can tell but you, too — Oh, yes, marriage almost always makes trouble; it breaks as well as unites; it is very serious; it is like the measles when it gets into a family.” Mrs. Warrender felt that the conversation was getting much too significant, and broke off with a laugh. “ The evening is delightful, but I think we should turn homewards. It will be quite late before we can get back to town.”

Dick obeyed without the protest he would have made half an hour before. He resumed the talk when he was walking up with the ladies to the hotel, where they had left their carriage. " One laughs, I don’t know why,” he said, “ but it is very serious in a number of ways. A man when he is in love does n’t ask himself whether he’s the sort of man to make a girl happy. There are some things, you know, which a man has to give up, too. Generally, if he hesitates, it seems a sort of treason; and often he cannot tell the reason why. Now Theo will have a number of sacrifices to make.”

“ He is like Jacob, he will think nothing of them for the love he bears to Rachel,” said Theo’s mother. “ I wish that were all.”

“ But I wish I could make you see it from a man’s point of view.” Dick did not himself know what he meant by this confused speech. He wanted to make some sort of plea for himself, but how, or in what words, he did not know. She paused for a moment, expecting more, and Chatty, on the other side of her mother, felt a little puncture of pain, she could scarcely tell why. “ There are some things which a man has to give up, too.” What did he mean by that? A little vague offense which flew away, a little pain which did not, a sort ot needle point, which she kept feeling all the rest of the evening, came to Chatty from this conversation. And Mrs. Warrender paused, thinking he was going to say more. But he said no more, and when he had handed them into the carriage, broke out into an entirely new subject, and was very gay and amusing all the way home.

The two ladies did not say a syllable to each other on this subject, neither had they said anything to each other about Dick, generally, except that he was very nice, that it was kind of him to take so much trouble, and so forth. Whether experienced mothers do discuss with their daughters what So-andso means, or whether he means anything, as Dick supposed, is a question I am not prepared to enter into. But Mrs. Warrender had said nothing to Chatty on the subject, and did not now : though it cannot be said that she did not ponder it much in her heart.

XXXII.

The ladies were in town three weeks, which brought them from June into July, when London began to grow hot and dusty, and the season to approach its close. They were just about to leave town, though whether to continue their dissipations by going to the seaside, or to return to Highcombe and put their future residence in order, they had not as yet made up their minds. Cavendish gave his vote for the seaside. “ Of course you mean to consult me, and to give great weight to my opinion,” he said. “ What I advise is the sea, and I will tell you why : I am obliged to go to Portsmouth about some business. If you were at the Isle of Wight, say, or Southsea ” —

“ That would be very pleasant: but we must not allow ourselves to be tempted, not even by your company,” said Mrs. Warrender, who began to fear there might be enough of this. “ We are going home to set our house in order, and to see if perhaps Theo has need of us. And then the Thynnes are coming home.”

“ Is it Miss Warrender who has developed into the Thynnes? ”

“ Indeed it is ; that is how everybody inquires for her now. I have got quite used to the name. That is one of the drawbacks of marrying one’s daughters, which I was telling you of. One’s Minnie becomes in a moment the Eustace Thynnes ! ”

They were not a smiling party that evening, and Mrs. Warrender’s little pleasantry fell flat. It flew, perhaps, across the mind of all that Chatty might be changed, in a similar way, into the Cavendishes. Dick grew hot and cold when the suggestion flashed through him. Then it was that he recollected how guilty he had been, and how little his reflections had served him. He who had determined to call but once, to go with them once to the play, had carried out his resolution so far that the once had been always. And now the time of recompense was coming. The fool’s paradise was to be emptied of its tenants. He went away very gloomy, asking himself many troubled questions. It was not that he had been unaware, as time went on, what it was that went along with it,—a whole little drama of simple pleasure, of days and evenings spent together, of talks and expeditions. Innocent? Ah, more than innocent, the best and sweetest thing in his life, if — But that little monosyllable makes all the difference. It was coming to an end now, they were going away ; and Dick had to let them go, without any conclusion to this pretty play in which he had played his part so successfully. Oh, he was not the first man who had done it ! not the first who had worn a lover’s looks and used all a lover’s assiduities, and then —nothing more. Perhaps that was one of the worst features in his behavior, to himself. To think that he should be classed with the men who are said to have been amusing themselves ! and Chatty placed in the position of the victim, on whose behalf people were sorry or indignant! When he thought that there were some who might presume to pity her, and who would say of himself that he had behaved ill, the shock came upon him with as much force as if he had never thought of it before ; although he had thought of it, and reflected upon how to draw out of the intercourse which was so pleasant, before he gave himself up to it with an abandon which he could not account for, which seemed now like desperation. Desperation was no excuse. He saw the guilt of it fully, without self-deception, only when he had done all the harm that was possible, yielded to every temptation, and now had himself arrived at the end of possibility. To repent in these circumstances is not uncommon ; there is nothing original in it. Thousands of men have done it before him, —repented when they could sin no more. For a moment it flashed across his mind to go and throw himself on Mrs. Warrender’s mercy and tell her all, and make what miserable excuse he could for himself. Was it better to do that, to part himself forever from Chatty : or to let them think badly of him, to have it supposed that he had trifled or amused himself, or whatever miserable words the gossips chose to use, and yet leave a door open by which he might some time, perhaps, some time approach her again ? Some time ! after she had forgotten him, after his unworthiness had been proved to her, and some other fellow, some happier man who had never been exposed to such a fate as had fallen upon him, some smug Pharisee (this fling at the supposed rival of the future was very natural and harmed nobody) had cut him out of all place in her heart ! It was so likely that Chatty would go on waiting for him, thinking of him for years, perhaps, the coxcomb that he was !

“ I said very suddenly that we must go home,” said Mrs. Warrender, after he was gone. “ You did not think me hard, Chatty? It seemed to me the best.”

“ Oh, no, mamma,” said Chatty, with a slight faltering.

“ We have seen a great deal of Mr. Cavendish, and he has been very nice, but I did not like the idea of going to the Isle of Wight.”

“ Oh, no, mamma,” Chatty repeated, with more firmness. “ I did not wish it at all.”

“ I am very glad you think with me, my dear. He has been very nice; he has made us enjoy our time in town much more than we should have done. But of course that cannot last forever, and I do really think now that we should go home.”

“ I have always thought so,” said Chatty. She was rather pale, and there was a sort of new-born dignity about her, with which her mother felt that she was unacquainted. “ It has been very pleasant, but I am quite ready. And then Minnie will be coming back as you said.”

“ Yes.” Then Mrs. Warrender burst into a laugh which might as well have been a fit of crying. “ But you must prepare yourself to see not Minnie, only the Eustace Thynnes,” she said. And then the mother and daughter kissed one another and retired to their respective rooms, where Chatty was a long time going to bed. She sat and thought, with her pretty hair about her shoulders, going over a great many things, recalling a great many simple little scenes and words said, which were but words after all ; and then of a sudden the tears came, and she sat and cried very quietly, even in her solitude making as little fuss as possible, with an ache of wonder at the trouble that had come upon her, and a keen pang of shame at the thought that she had expected more than was coming, more perhaps than had ever been intended. A man is not ashamed of loving where he is not loved, however angry he may be with himself or the woman who has beguiled him; but the sharpest smart in a girl’s heart is the shame of having given what was not asked for, what was not wanted. When those tears had relieved her heart, Chatty put up her hair very neatly for the night, just as she always did, and after a while slept, — much better than Dick.

He came next day, however, for a final visit, and the day after to see them away, without any breach in the confidence and friendship with which they regarded each other. There might be, perhaps, a faint, almost imperceptible difference in Chatty, a little dignity like that which her mother had discovered in her, something that was not altogether the simple girl, younger than her years, whom Mrs. Warrender had brought to town. On the very last morning of all, Dick had also a look which was not very easy to be interpreted. While they were on their way to the station he began suddenly to talk of Underwood and the Wilberforces, as if he had forgotten them all this time, and now suddenly remembered that there were such people in the world. " Did I ever tell you,” he said, “ that one of the houses in the parish belongs to an uncle of mine, who bought it merely as an investment, and let it ?”

“ We were talking of that,” said Mrs. Warrender. “ Mr. Wilberforce hoped you had persuaded your uncle to leave the drainage alone in order to make a nuisance and drive undesirable tenants away.”

He laughed in a hurried, breathless way, then said quickly, " Is it true that the people who were there are gone ? ”

“ Quite true. They seem to have melted away without any one knowing, in a single night. They were not desirable people.”

“ So I heard : and gone without leaving any sign ? ”

“ Have they not paid their rent?” said Mrs. Warrender.

“ Oh, I don’t mean to say that. I know nothing about that. My uncle ” — and here he stopped, with an embarrassment which, though Mrs. Warrender was an unsuspicious woman, attracted her notice. “ I mean,” said Cavendish, perceiving this, and putting force upon himself, “he will of course be glad to get rid of people who apparently could have done his property no good.”

And after this his spirits seemed to rise a little. He told them that he had some friends near Highcombe, who sometimes in the autumn offered him a few days’ shooting. If he got such an invitation this autumn might he come ? “ It is quite a handy distance from London, just the Saturday-to-Monday distance,” he added, looking at Mrs. Warrender with an expression which meant a great deal, which had in it a question, a supplication. And she was so imprudent a woman ! and no shadow of Minnie at hand to restrain her. It was on her very lips to give the invitation he asked. Some good angel, of a class corresponding in the celestial world to that of Minnie in this, only stopped her in time, and gave a little obliqueness to the response.

“ I hope we shall see you often,” she said, which was pleasant but discouraging ; and then began to talk about the Eustace Thynnes, who were at present of great use to her as a diversion from any more embarrassing subject of conversation. Chatty scarcely spoke during this drive, which seemed to her the last they would take together: the streets flying behind them, the scenes of the brief drama falling back into distance, the tranquillity of home before, and all this exciting episode of life becoming as if it had never been, were the thoughts that occupied her mind. She had settled all that in her evening meditation. It was all over; this was what she said to herself. She must not allow even to her own heart any thought of renewal, any idea that the break was temporary. Chatty was aware that she had received all his overtures, all his amiabilities (which was what it seemed to come to), with great and unconcealed pleasure. To think that he had nothing but civility in his mind all the time gave a blow to her pride which was mortal. She did not wear her pride upon her sleeve, though she had worn her heart upon it. Her nature, indeed, was full of the truest humility; but there was a latent pride which, when it was reached, vibrated through all her being. No more, she was saying to herself. Oh, never more. She had been deceived, though most likely he had never wished to deceive her. It was she who had deceived herself; but that was not possible, ever again.

“ We have not thanked you half enough,” said Mrs. Warrender, as he stood at the door of the railway carriage. “ I will tell Theo that you have been everything to us. If you are as good to all the mothers and sisters of all your old schoolfellows ” —

“ You do me a great wrong,” he said, “ as if I thought of you as the mother of”— His eyes strayed to Chatty, who met them with a smile which was quite steady. She was a little pale, but that was all. “ Some time,” he added hastily, holding Mrs. Warrender’s hand, “ I may be able to explain myself a little better than that.”

“ Shall I say if you are as kind to all forlorn ladies astray in London ? ”

Dick’s face clouded over as if (she thought) he were about to cry. Men do not cry in England: but there is a kind of mortification, humiliation, a sense of being persistently misunderstood, and of having no possibility of mending matters, which is so insupportable that the lip must quiver under it, even when garnished with a mustache. “ I hope you don’t really think that of me,” he cried. “ Don’t! there is no time to tell you how very different — But surely you know — something very unlike that ” —

The train was in motion already, and Chatty had shaken hands with him before. She received the last look of his eyes, half indignant, appealing, though in words it was to her mother he was speaking ; but made no sign. And it was only Mrs. Warrender who looked out of the window and waved her hand to him as he was left behind. Chatty — Chatty who was so gentle, so little apt to take anything upon her, even to judge for herself, was it possible that on this point she was less soft-hearted than her mother ? This thought went through him like an arrow as he stood and saw the carriages glide away in a long curving line. She was gone, and he was left behind. She was gone; was it in resentment, was it in disdain ? thinking of him in his true aspect as a false lover, believing him to have worn a false semblance, justly despising him for an attempt to play upon her? Was this possible ? He thought (with that oblique sort of literary tendency of his) of Hamlet with the recorder. Can you play upon this pipe — and yet you think you can play upon me ! As a matter of fact there could nothing have been found in heaven or earth less like Hamlet than Chatty Warrender; but a lover has strange misperceptions. The steady, soft glance, the faint smile, not like the usual warm beaming of her simple face, seemed to him to express a faculty of seeing through and through him which is not always given to the greatest philosophers. And he stood there humiliated to the very dust by this mild creature, whom he had loved in spite of himself, to whom even in loving her he had attributed no higher gifts, perhaps had even been tenderly disrespectful of as not clever. Was she the one to see through him now ?

If she only knew! but when Dick, feeling sadly injured and wounded, came to this thought, it so stung him that he turned round on the moment, and, neglecting all the seductions of waiting cabmen, walked quickly, furiously, to Lincoln’s Inn, which be had been sadly neglecting. If she knew everything! It appeared to Dick that Chatty’s clear dove’s eyes (to which he all at once had attributed an insight and perception altogether above them) would slay him with the disdainful dart which pierces through and through subterfuge and falsehood. That he should have ventured, knowing what he knew, to approach her at all with the semblance of love, that he should have dared—oh, he knew, well he knew, how, once the light of clear truth was let down upon it, his conduct would appear! — not the mere trifler who had amused himself and meant no more, not the fool of society, who made a woman think he loved her, and “ behaved badly,” and left her planté là. What were these contemptible images to the truth! He shrank into himself as he thought this, and skulked along. He felt like a man exposed and ashamed, a man whom true men would avoid. “ Put in every honest hand a whip,” — ah, no, that was not wanted. Chatty’s eyes, dove’s eyes, too gentle to wound, eyes that knew not how to look unkindly, to conceal a sentiment, to veil a falsehood — one look from Chatty’s eyes would be enough.

Chatty knew nothing of the tragic terror which had come upon him at the mere apprehension of this look of hers. She had no thought of any tragedy, except that unknown to men which often becomes the central fact in a life such as hers; the tragedy of an unfinished chapter, the no-ending of an episode which had promised to be the drama in which almost every human creature figures herself (or himself) as the chief actor, one time or other. The drama indeed had existed, it had run almost all its course ; for the time it lasted it had been more absorbing than anything else in the world. The greatest historical events beside it had been but secondary. Big London, the greatest city in the world, had served only as a little bosquet of evergreens in a village garden might have done, as the background and scene for it. But it had no end ; the time of the action was accomplished, the curtain had fallen, and the lights had been put out, but the comedy had come to no conclusion. Comedy — tragedy ; it does not matter much which word you use. The scenes had all died away in incompleteness, and there had been no end. To many a gentle life such as that of Chatty this is all that comes beyond the level of the ordinary and common. It was with a touch of insight altogether beyond her usual intellectual capacity that she realized this, as she traveled very quietly with her mother from London to Highcombe, not a very long way.

Mrs. Warrender was very silent, too. She had meant the visit to town to be one of pleasure merely, — pleasure for herself, change after the long monotony, and pleasure to her child, who had never known anything but that monotony. It was not, this little epoch of time only three weeks long, to count for anything. It was to be a holiday and no more. And lo ! with that inexplicableness, that unforeseenness, which is so curious a quality of human life, it had become a turning point of existence, the pivot perhaps upon which Chatty’s being might hang. Mrs. Warrender was not so decided as Chatty. She saw nothing final in the parting. She was able to imagine that secondary causes, something about money, some family arrangements that would have to be made, had prevented any further step on Dick’s part. To her the drama indeed was not ended, but only postponed : the curtain had fallen legitimately upon the first act without prejudice to those which were to follow. She did not talk, for Chatty’s silence, her unusual dignity, her retirement into herself, had produced a great effect upon her mother; but her mind was not moved as Chatty’s was, and she was able to think with pleasure of the new home awaiting them, and of what they were to find there. The Eustace Thynnes ! she said to herself, with a laugh, thanking Providence within herself that there had been no Minnie to inspect the progress of the relations between Dick and Chatty, and probably to deliver her opinion very freely on that subject and on her mother’s responsibility. Then there was the more serious chapter of Theo and his affairs, which must have progressed in the mean time. Mrs. Warrender caught herself up with a little fright as she thought of the agitation and doubt which wrapped the future of both her children. It was a wonderful relief to turn to the only point from which there was any amusement to be had, the visit of the Eustace Thynnes.

XXXIII.

The return of the Warrenders to their home was not the usual calm delight of settling again into one’s wellknown place. The house at Highcombe was altogether new to their experiences, and meant a life in every way different, as well as different surroundings. It was a tall, red brick house, with a flight of steps up to the door, and lines of small, straight, twinkling windows facing immediately into the street, between which and the house there was no interval even of a grass plot or area. The garden extended to the right with a long stretch of high wall, but the house had been built at a period when people had less objection to a street than in later times. The rooms within were of a good size; and some of them were paneled to the ceiling, in conformity with an old-fashioned idea of comfort and warmth. The drawing-room was one of these, a large, oblong room to the front, with a smaller one divided from it by folding-doors, which looked out upon the garden. It possessed, as its great distinction, a pretty marble mantelpiece, which some one of a previous generation had brought from Italy. It is sad to be obliged to confess that the paneling here had been painted a warm white, like the color of a French salon, with old and dim pictures of no particular merit let in here and there, — pictures which would have been more in keeping with the oak of the original than with the present color of the walls. The house had been built by a Warrender, in the beginning of the eighteenth century ; though it had been occupied by strangers often, and let to all sorts of people, a considerable amount of the furniture, and all the decorations, still belonged to that period. The time had not come for the due appreciation of these relics of ancestral taste. Chatty thought them all old-fashioned, and would gladly have replaced them by fresh chairs and tables from the upholsterer’s ; but this was an expense not to be thought of, and, perhaps, even to eyes untrained in any rules of art, there was something harmonious in the combination. Something harmonious, too, with Chatty’s feelings was in the air of old tranquillity and long established use and wont. The stillness of the house was as the stillness of ages. Human creatures had come and gone, as the days went and came, sunshine coming in at one moment, darkness falling the next, nothing altering the calm routine, the established order. Pains, and fevers, and heartbreaks, and death itself would disappear and leave no sign, and all remain the same in the quaint rose-scented room. The quiet overawed Chatty, and yet was congenial. She felt herself to have come “ home ” to it, with all illusions over. It was not just an ordinary coming back after a holiday, — it was a return, a settling down for life.

It would be difficult to explain how it was that this conviction had taken hold of her so strongly. It was but a month since she had left the Warren with her mother, with some gentle anticipations of pleasure, but none that were exaggerated or excessive. All that was likely to happen, so far as she knew, was that dinner party at Mrs. Benson’s, and a play or two, and a problematical ball. This was all that the “ vortex ” meant about which her mother had laughed ; she had not any idea at that time that the vortex would mean Dick Cavendish. But now that she fully understood what it meant, and now that it was all over, and her agitated little bark had come out of it, and had got upon the smooth, calm waters again, there had come to Chatty a very different conception both of the present and the past. All the old quiet routine of existence seemed to her now a preface to that moment of real life. She had been working up to it vaguely, without knowing it. And now it had ended, and this was the Afterwards. She had come back — after. These words had to her an absolute meaning. Perhaps it was want of imagination which made it so impossible for her to carry forward her thoughts to any possible repetition, any sequel of what had been ; or perhaps some communication, unspoken, unintended, from the mind of Cavendish had affected her’s and given a certainty of conclusion, of the impossibility of further development. However that might be, her mind was entirely made up on the subject. She had lived (for three weeks) and it was over. And now existence was all Afterwards. She had found scarcely any time for her habitual occupations while she was in London ; now there would be time for everything. Afterwards is long, when one is only twenty-four, and it requires a great deal of muslin work and benevolence to fill it up in a way that will be satisfactory to the soul ; but still, to ladies in the country it is a very well known state, and has to be faced, and lived through all the same. To a great many people life is all afternoon, though not in the sense imagined by the poet: not the lotus-eating drowsiness and content, but a course of little hours that lead to nothing, that have no particular motive except that mild duty which means doing enough trimming for your new set of petticoats and carrying a pudding or a little port wine to the poor girl dying of consumption in the lane behind your house. This was the Afterwards of Chatty’s time, and she settled down to it, knowing it to be the course of nature. Nowadays, matters have improved: there is always lawn tennis and often ambulance lectures, and far more active parish work. But even in those passive days it could be supported, and Chatty made up her mind to it with a great, but silent courage. Yet it made her very quiet, she who was quiet by nature. The land where it is always afternoon chills at first and subdues all lively sentiments. The sense of having no particular interest took possession of her mind as if it had been an absorbing interest, and drew a veil between her and the other concerns of life.

This was not at all the case with Mrs. Warrender, who came home with all the agreeable sensations of a new beginning, ready to take up new lines of existence, and to make a cheerful centre of life for herself and all who surrounded her. If any woman should feel with justice that she has reached the Afterwards, and has done with her active career, it should be the woman who has just settled down after her husband’s death to the humbler house provided for her widowhood, apart from all her old occupations and responsibilities. But in reality there was no such sentiment in her mind. “ You ’ll in your girls again be courted.” She had hanging about her the pleasant reflection of that wooing, never put into words, with which Dick Cavendish had filled the atmosphere, and which had produced upon the chief object of it so very different an effect; and she had, to stimulate her thoughts, the less pleasurable excitement of Tbeo’s circumstances, and of all that was going on at Markland, a romance in which her interest was almost painful. The Eustace Thynnes did not count for much, for their love-making had been very mild and regular ; but still, perhaps, they aided in the general quickening of life. She had three different histories thus going on around her, and she was placed in a new atmosphere, in which she had to play a part of her own. When Chatty and she sat down together in the new drawing-room for the first time with their work and their plans, Mrs. Warrender’s talk was of their new neighbors and the capabilities of the place. “ The rector is not a stupid man,” she said, in a reflective tone. The proposition was one which gently startled Chatty. She lifted her mild eyes from her work, with a surprised look.

“ It would be very sad for us if he were stupid,” she said.

“ And Mrs. Beacham still less so. What I am thinking of is society, not edification. Then there is Colonel Travers, whom we used to see occasionally at home, the brother, you know, of—. An old soldier is always a pleasant element in a little place. The majority will of course be women like ourselves, Chatty.”

“ Yes, mamma, there are always a great many ladies about Highcombe.”

Mrs. Warrender gave forth a little sigh. " In a country neighborhood we swamp everything,” she said ; “ it is a pity. Too many people of one class are always monotonous ; but we must struggle against it, Chatty.”

“ Dear mamma, is n’t ladies’ society the best for us ? Minnie always said so. She said it was a dreadful thing for a girl to think of gentlemen.”

“ Minnie always was an oracle. To think of gentlemen whom you were likely to full in love with, and marry, perhaps — but I don’t think there are many of that class here.”

“ Oh, no,” said Chatty, returning to her work, “at least I hope not.”

“ I am not at all of your opinion, my dear. I should like a number of them ; and nice girls too. I should not wish to keep all these dangerous personages for you.”

“ Mamma ! ” said Chatty, with a soft reproachful glance. It seemed a desecration to her to think that ever again — that ever another —

“ That gives a little zest to all the middle-aged talks. It amuses other people to see a little romance going on. You were always rather shocked at your light-minded mother, Chatty.”

“ Mamma ! it might be perhaps very sad for — for those most concerned, though it amused you.”

“ I hope not, my darling. You take things too seriously. There is, to be sure, a painful story now and then, but very rarely. You must not think that men are deceivers ever, as the song says.”

“ Oh, no,” said Chatty, elevating her head with simple pride, though without meeting her mother’s eyes, “ that is not what I would say. But why talk of such things at all ? why put romances, as you call them, into people’s heads ? People may be kind and friendly without anything more.”

Mrs. Warrender here paused to study the gentle countenance which was half hidden from her, bending over the muslin work, and for the first time gained a little glimpse into what was going on in Chatty’s heart. The mother had long known that her own being was an undiscovered country for her children ; but it was new to her and a startling discovery that perhaps this innocent creature, under her shadow, had also a little sanctuary of her own, into which the eyes most near to her had never looked. She marked the little signs of meaning quite unusual to her composed and gentle child—the slight quiver which was in Chatty’s bent head, the determined devotion to her work which kept her face unseen — with a curious confusion in her mind. She had felt sure that Dick Cavendish had made a difference in life to Chatty ; but she had not thought of this in any but a hopeful and cheerful way. She was more startled now than she dared say. Had there been any explanation between them which she had not been told of ? Was there any obstacle she did not know of ? Her mind was thrown into great bewilderment, too great to permit of any sudden exercise of her judgment upon the little mystery, if mystery there was.

“ I did not mean to enter into such deep questions,” she said, in a tone which she felt to be apologetic. “ I meant only a little society to keep us going. Though we did not go out very much in London, still there was just enough to make the blank more evident if we see nobody here.”

Chatty’s heart protested against this view; for her part she would have liked that life which had lasted three weeks to remain as it was, unlike anything else in her experience, a thing which was over and could return no more. Had she not been saying to herself that all that remained to her was the Afterwards, the long gray twilight upon which no other sun would rise? In her lack of imagination, the only imagination she had known became more absolute than any reality, a thing which, once left behind, would never be renewed again. She felt a certain scorn of the attempt to make feeble imitations of it, or even to make up for that light which never was on sea or shore, by any little artificial illuminations. A sort of gentle fury, a mild passion of resistance, rose within her at the thought of making up for it. She did not wish to make up for it; the blank could not be made less evident whatever any one might do or say. But all this Chatty shut up in her own heart. She made no reply, but bent her head more and more over her muslin work, and worked faster and faster, with the tears which she never would consent to shed collecting hot and salt behind her eyes.

Mrs. Warrender was silent, too. She was confounded by the new phase of feeling, imperfectly revealed to her, and filled with wonder, and self-reproach, and sympathy. Had she been to blame in leaving her child exposed to an influence which had proved too much for her peace of mind ? — that was the wellworn conventional phrase, and the only one that seemed to answer the occasion, — too much for her peace of mind ! The mother, casting stealthy glances at her daughter, so sedulously, nervously busy, could only grope at a comprehension of what was in Chatty’s mind. She thought it was the uncertainty, the excitement of suspense, and all that feverish commotion which sometimes arises in a woman’s mind when the romance of her life comes to a sudden pause, and silence follows the constant interchange of words and looks, in which so much meaning had lain — and a doubt whether anything more will ever follow, or whether the pause is to be forever, turns all the sweeter meditations into a whirl of confusion and anxiety and shame. A mother is so near that the reflection of her child’s sentiments gets into her mind, but very often with such prismatic changes and oblique catchings of the light that even sympathy goes wrong. Mrs. Warrender thus caught from Chatty the reflection of an agitated soul in which there was all the sensitive shame of a love that is given unsought, mingled with a tender indignation against the offender, who perhaps had never meant anything but friendship. But the mother on this point took a different view, and there rose up in her mind on the moment a hundred cheerful, hopeful plans to bring him back and to set all right. Naturally there was not a word said on the subject, which was far too delicate for words ; but this was how Mrs. Warrender followed, as she believed with an intensity which was full of tenderness, the current of her daughter’s thoughts.

Yet these were not Chatty’s thoughts at all. If she felt any excitement, it was directed against those plans for cheering her and the idea that any little contrivances of society could ever take the place of what was past, conjoined with a sort of jealousy of that past, lest any one should interfere with it, or attempt to blur the perfect outline of it as a thing which had been, and could be no more, nor any copy of it. This was what the soul most near her own did not divine. They sat together in the silence of the summer parlor, the cool sweet room full of flowers, with the July sun shut out, but the warm air coming in, so full of mutual love and sympathy, and yet with but so disturbed and confused an apprehension each of the other. After some time had passed thus, without disturbance, nothing but the softened sounds of morning traffic in the quiet street, a slow cart passing, an occasional carriage, the voices of the children just freed from school, there came the quick sound of a horse’s hoofs, a pause before the door, and the bell echoing into the silence of the house.

“ That must be Theo ! ” cried Mrs. Warrender. “ I was sure he would come to-day. Chatty, after luncheon, will you leave us a little, my dear ? Not that we have any secrets from you,— but he will speak more freely, if he is alone with me.”

“ I should have known that, mamma, without being told.”

“ Dear Chatty, you must not be displeased. You know many things, more than I had ever thought.”

“ Displeased, mamma ! ”

“ Hush, Chatty, here is my poor boy.”

Her poor boy ! the triumphant lover, the young man at the height of his joy and pride. They both rose to meet him, eager to take the tone which should be most in harmony with his. But Mrs. Warrender had a pity in her heart for Theo which she did not feel for Chatty, perhaps because in her daughter’s case her sympathy was more complete.

M. O. W. Oliphant.