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said Nello, shaking his head with the winking rapidly to throw off the sympasudden consciousness of a want not thetic tears which had gathered in her hitherto realised. “Then I need not own eyes, “he is always like that. We write copies any more."
never knew where he was; but just “ Your father is far off, Nello,” said when he could, just when it was posMary; "your poor papa, who never sible, he came home. We never could hears any news of you.
Some time tell when it would be-it might be I hope you will be able to write to any day. Some time when we are him, and ask him to come home.” forgetting and not expecting him.
“Oh,” cried Lilias, “ you need not Ah--!" cried the child, with a be sorry about that, Mary. He will ring of wonder in the sudden exclamacome home. Some day, in a moment tion. The hall-door was opened as when you are thinking of nothing, usual, and on the road was à distant there will be a step on the stair, and figure just visible which drew from Martuccia will give a shriek; and it Lilias this sudden
cry. She ran to the will be as if the sun came shining out, door, clutching her brother. “Come, and it will be papa! He is always Nello, Nello!” and rushed forth. like that, but you never know when Mary sat still, thinking her heart he will come
had stopped in her breast-or was Mary's eyes filled in spite of herself. it not rather suffocating her by the What long, long years it was that she wildness of its beating? She sat imhad thought but little of John! and movable, watching the little pair at yet there suddenly seemed to come the door. Could it be that John had before her a vision of his arrival from come home? John! he who would be school or from college, all smiles and the most welcome yet the most imposbrightness, making the old roof ring sible of visitors; he who had a right with his shout of pleasure. Was it to everything, yet dared not be seen in possible that this would happen over the old house. She sat and trembled, again, that he would come in a mo- not daring to look out, already planment, as his little daughter said ? But ning what she could do, what was to Lilias did not know all the difficulties be done. nor the one great obstacle that stood But the children stopped short at in John's way, and which perhaps he the door. Lilias, with the wind in might never get over.
her skirts and her ribbons, half-flying, herself in these thoughts, and did not stopped; and Nello stopped, who went perceive that Lilias was gazing wist- by her impulse, not by his own. They fully at her, endeavouring with all her paused: they stood for a moment childish might to penetrate her mind gazing; then they turned back sadly. and know the occasion of these tears. “Oh no, no! said Lilias. “No, Mary was recalled to herself by feeling Mary! no. It is a little, something the child's arm steal round her, and like-a very little ; it is the walking, the soft touch of a little hand and and the shape of him. But no, no, it handkerchief upon her wet eyes.
is not papa!” are crying,” said Lilias. “ Mary, is “Papa ! " said Nello, “was that it for papa :—why should you cry for why you looked? I knew better.
Papa is all that much more tall. Why My darling, we don't know where
are you crying, Lily? There is nothing he is, nor anything about him," said that makes cry.” Mary, with a sudden outburst of tears “I am disappointed,” said the little -tears which were not all for John, girl, who had seated herself suddenly but partly excitement, standing as she on the floor and wept. It was a sudden was in the centre of so many troubles, sharp shower, but it was soon over; alone.
she sprang up drying her eyes.
“ But "That does not matter," said Lilias, it will be for to-morrow!" she cried.
Mary sat behind and looked on. She by on the road who had roused the did not think again of the chance re- children. Her heart jumped, and then semblance Lilias had seen, but only of she followed her heart by rising sudthe children themselves, with whom denly to her feet, while the children her heart was tuning itself more and stopped in their argument, rushed more in sympathy. She had become a together for mutual support, and stood mother late and suddenly, without any shyly with their heads together and gradual growth of feeling-leaping into lips apart, the talk just hovering it, as it were ; and every response her about their lips. Seen thus against mind made to the children was a new the light the visitor was undecipherwonder to her. She looked at them, or able to Mary. She saw him nothing rather at Lilias, who was always the but a black shadow, towards which leader in her rapid changes of senti- she went quietly and said-ment, with a half-amused adoration. “I beg your pardon, this is private," The crying and the smiles went to her with a polite defence of her own heart as nothing else had ever done ;
sanctuary. and even Nello's calm, the steadier “I came to look for—my sister," going of the slower, less developed said the voice which was one which intelligence, which was so often carried woke agitating memories in her, “I along in the rush without any conscious am a-stranger. I came- Ah ! intention, and which was so ready to it is Mary after all.” take the part of the wise sluggard and Randolph !” she cried, with a say“ I knew it,” moved Mary with that gasp in her throat. mixture of pleased spectatorship and A thrill of terror, almost superstitious, profound personal feeling which makes came over her, What did it all mean? the enthusiasm of parents. Nello's Good Mr. Pennithorne in his innocence slowness might have seemed want of had spoken to her of John, and that feeling in another child, and Lilias's very day John's children had arrived ; impetuosity a giddy haste and heedless- he had spoken of Randolph and Ranness; but all impartiality was driven dolph was here.
Was it fate, or some from her mind by the sense that the mysterious influence unknown? She children were her own. And she sat in was so startled that she forgot to go a pleased abstraction yet lively readi- through the ordinary formulas of ness following the little current of this seeming welcome, and said nothing but swiftly-flowing softly-babbling child
his name. hood which was so fair and pleasant “Yes; I hope you are well,” he said, to her eyes. The two set up an argu- holding out his hand; "and that my ment between themselves as she sat father is well. I thought I would come looking on. It was about some mi- and see how you were all getting on. nute point in the day's work which “It is a long time since you have was so novel and unaccustomed ; but been here,” she said. What could she trivial as it was Mary listened with a say? She was not glad to see him, as soft glow of light in her eyes. The a sister ought to be. And then there finest drama in the world could not
was a pause. have taken her out of herself like the The children stood staring opentwo little actors, playing their sincerest mouthed while these chillgreetings were and most real copy of life before her. said. ("I wonder who it is?” said Lilias, They were so much in earnest, and to under her breath. “ It is the one who her it was such exquisite play and deli- is a little, a very little, like papa.” cate, delightful fooling. And until “It is a-gentleman,” said Nello. the light in the open doorway was sud- “Oh you silly, silly, little boy ! not to denly darkened by some one appearing, know that at the very first; but Mary a figure which made her heart jump, is not very glad to see him," said the she thought no more of the passer
Mary did not even ask her visitor his face, while the children drew near to come in; he stood still at the door with suspicious looks. looking round him with watchful, “ It is the-gentleman who is--a litunfriendly eyes.
not tle, not very much, just a little, like place for any one to come who was papa," said Lilias, going forward, but not tender of Mary, and of whoso- slowly, and with that look of standing ever she might shelter there. She did on the defensive which children unnot want him in that special place. consciously adopt to those they do not
“Shall we go round to the house ?” trust. she said ; “my father ought to know Nello hung on to her skirts, and did that you are here, and he never comes as she did, regarding the stranger with into the hall."
cloudy eyes. Randolph put out his “I am very well here," Randolph hand coldly to be shaken; his smile said. “I know it was always a favourite broadened into a half-laugh of amuseplace with you. Do not change your ment and contempt. sitting-room for me. You have it in So, they are said to be his children, very nice order, Mary. I see you share
are they?" the popular passion for art furnishing; They are his children, said and children too! This is something Mary. more novel still. Who are the child- Randolph shrugged his shoulders ren, may I ask? Good morning; and and laughed. “They look like foreignhow are you? They are children from erş anyhow,"he said. "My father, I the neighbourhood I suppose ?" suppose, is delighted. It must be a new
"No," she said, faltering still more, experience both for him and you.” "they are not visitors-they-belong “Go away, my darlings, go to Mar
Mary could not tell how tuccia ; you see I have some business it was that her lips trembled, and she with this gentlemen.” She could hesitated to pronounce the name. She not again repeat the title she had given made an effort at last and got it out him. When the curious little spectawith difficulty. “They are-John's tors had gone she turned to Randolph, children."
who stood watching their exit, with an " John's children! here is a wonder- anxiety she did not attempt to conceal. ful piece of news,” said Randolph ; but “For Heaven's sake do not talk to my she saw by his countenance that it was father about them ! I ask it as a favour. no news.
Howsoever he had heard He consents tacitly that they should it, Mary perceived in a moment not be here, but he takes no notice of them. only that he knew, but that this was Do not call his attention to them. It his real errand here. He stood with is the only thing I ask of you." the appropriate gesture of one struck He looked at her fixedly still, with dumb with amazement; but he was not that set smile on his face with which really surprised, only watchful and he had looked at the children. eager. This made his sister more “I am scarcely the person to be nervous than ever.
called upon to make things smooth Children,” she said,
come here with my father,” he said. —this is your uncle Randolph ; come come; my father is old and can be and speak to him.” Mary was so much made to believe anything, let us allow. perplexed that she could not see what But what do you mean by it, Mary, was best to do-whether to be anxiously what do you mean? You were never conciliatory and convince Randolph in any friend to me." spite of herself without seeming to “ Friend to you! I am your sister, notice his opposition; or to defy him; Randolph, though you don't seem to the former, however, was always the remember it much. And what have He did not make
any you to do with it ?” asked Mary, with . advance bat stood with a half-smile on à certain amount of exasperation in her
voice; for of all offensive things in the stand up for you, to persuade my world there is none so offensive as this father to believe you." pretence of finding you out in a trans- “Oh," she said, clasping her hands, parent deception. Mary grew red and “ do you think this is what I ask ? hot in spite of herself.
It is you who mistake, Randolph. It “I have a great deal to do with it. has never occurred to my father, or I have not only my own interest to take any one else, not to believe. He never care of, but my boy's. And why you doubted any more than I was capable should prefer to us, about whom there of doubting. I will show you John's can be no doubt, these little impostors, letter." these supposed children of John- Randolph put up his hand, waving
“Randolph," said Mary, with tears off the suggested proof. in her eyes, “there is no supposing “It is quite unnecessary. I am about them. Oh don't go against us, not to be taken in by such simple and against truth and justice! They
You forget I have a stake in brought me a letter from their father. it—which clears the judgment. And There was no room to doubt, no possi- I warn you, Mary, that I am here to bility. John himself is most unfortu- look after my personal interests, not nate
to foist any nondescript brat into the “ Unfortunate! that is not the word family. I give you notice—it is not I should use."
to help your schemes, it is for my own “But why remember it against them, interests I am here." poor little things, who have done no “ What do interests mean?” she harm? Oh, Randolph, I have never said, wondering. “ Your own interbeen otherwise than
friend when ests what does it mean! I know I I had the chance. Be mine now! there have none." are a hundred things in which I want “No-it cannot make much differto consult you. You have a family of ence to you whatever happens; thereyour own; you have been trained to fore you are free to plot at your leisure. it; you know how to take care of I understand that fully; but, my dear, children. I wanted to ask your advice, I am here to look after myself—and to have your help"
my boy. You forget I have an heir “Do you think me a fool then,” he of my own.” cried, “as silly as yourself? that you Mary looked at him with a dulness try to get me to acknowledge this of intelligence quite unusual to her. precious deception and give you my There are things in the most limited support against myself. Why should minds which genius itself could not I back you up in a wicked contrivance divine. The honourable and generous, against my own interests ?”
and the selfish and grasping, do not “What is it you mean? Who has know what each other means. They been guilty of wicked contrivances ?” as if they spokea different cried Mary, aghast. She gazed at him language. And her brother was to with such genuine surprise that he was Mary as if he veiled his meaning in arrested in his angry vituperation, and an unknown tongue. She gazed at changed his tone to one of mockery, him with a haze of dulness in her which affected her more.
eyes. What was it he intended to “Well,” he said, “ let us allow that let her knowDisbelief of her, a it is your first attempt, Mary, and suggestion that she lied ! and somethat is why you do it so clumsily. thing more---she could not make out The mistakes good people make when what, as the rule of his own they first attempt to do badly are duct. He looked at her, on the other touching. Villainy, like everything hand, with an air of penetration, a else, requires experience. It is too clever consciousness of seeing through funny to expect me to be the one to and through her and her designs,
which excited Mary to exasperation should he have to do with it when How could they ever understand each there was John? And even now Mary other with all this between?
did not know and could not under“I am going to see my father," stand the reason of his objection said Randolph ; "that of course is to John's children. She stood and the object of my visit; I
he looked after him with a dull beating will not refuse to keep me for a day of pain in her heart. And as he or two. And in the meantime why turned round the corner of the old should we quarrel? I only warn you house towards the door, he looked that I come with my eyes open and back and waved his hand. The gesture am not to be made a dupe of. Good- and look, she could scarcely tell why, bye for the present—we shall meet no gave her a sensation of sickening disdoubt at dinner the best of friends."
may and pain. She turned and went Mary stood still where he left her, in, shutting the door in the sudden and watched him as he went slowly pang this gave her. And to shut the down the slope and round the corner great door of the hall was the strangof the house. He was shorter than est thing, except in the very heart of John and stouter, with that amplitude winter. While the sun was shining of outline which a wealthy rural living and the air genial, such a thing had and a small parish are apt to confer. never happened before. It seemed in A comfortable man, fond of good itself a portent of harm. living, fond of his ease; yet taking the trouble to come here, for what ? to baffle some supposed wicked contri
CHAPTER XV. vances and plots against himself. Mary remembered that Randolph had RANDOLPH MUSGRAVE was a squiretaken the great family misfortune as
parson, a class which a special wrong to him. How dared features of two species without fully the evil fates to intrigue with his com- embodying either—which may be finer fort or rumour to assail his name? He than either, the two halves of the had said frankly that it could be joint character tempering each othernothing to the others in comparison.
be a travesty of both, exaggeraAnd was it once more the idea that he ting their mutual defects. He was of himself was touched, which had roused the latter rather than of the former him out of his leafy paradise in Devon- development. His living was small shire to come here and assert himself ? in one sense and large in another, But how did the arrival of John's chil- the income being large, but the people dren affect him? Mary, in her long calm, few and very much given up to had not entered into those speculations dissent, a fact which exacerbated his about the future which most people character without moving him to exermore or less think necessary when the tion. He was not fond of exertion in head of the house is old. She had not any case, and it was all but hopeless asked herself what would happen when in this. But not less was he daily and her father died, except vaguely in re- hourly irritated by the little Bethels spect to herself, knowing that she and Salems, the lively Methodists, would then in all likelihood leave the the pragmatical Baptists, who led his old Castle. John was the heir. Some- people away.
It made him angry, how or other she did not ask how the for he was easily moved to anger, inheritance would be taken up for him. and it increased that tendency to lisThis had been the conclusion in her ten to gossip and be moved by small mind without reason given or required. matters which is one of the temptaAnd Randolph had not come into the tions of a rural life. He had become sphere of her imagination at all as accustomed to make much of petty having anything to do with it. What
wrongs, calling them insults and