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choking whisper, hear that she was belovedyes, that was joy; but ah, how soon to be followed by the sinking of the heart when, all over, he turned to go; and yet again, the throb of that one passionate embrace which set its seal upon the whole burning scene, but seemed to steal the poison from it!

How, after this, could Iva speak of Reggie to her mother, or to any one?

195

CHAPTER XXI.

"OF COURSE YOU WANT TO HUNT."

It was a sparkling, bright December morning, exactly three years after we last saw our dramatis persona, and we may say in a word that although the period had not been barren of trivial events, episodes, and alterations, in the main its features were unchanged.

Sir Philip Goffe was flourishing, as we left him, on the proceeds of his departed patrimony; Reggie was still with his regiment in India, and had merely quitted one frontier station for another; Lady Tilbury and Iva had returned from autumn visits and a London season, and were settled down at Tilbury Court for the winter; and Mr. Druitt-let us take Mr. Druitt first by the hand.

Bright though the day was, it was a hunting day, and Mr. Druitt, attired in a sober hunting suit, but smart withal, was standing outside his open door, waiting for his horse to be brought round. When the new proprietor of the Goffe estate took up his residence in Somersetshire,

it had been a question whether or no he would ride to hounds; and no one had pondered the question more anxiously than Mr. Druitt himself. He longed to do so. From his youth he had envied all who could; but now that the time had come when no bar offered itself to the accomplishment of his desire, he experienced a natural timidity on more grounds than one.

It was not only that he was no longer youthful and supple; there were other fears at work. Suppose the Hunt regarded him as an intruder? Or, while tolerating the intruder for the sake of his subscription, jeered among themselves at his riding? He knew nothing about horses. Suppose he were badly mounted?

A dozen minor perplexities had nearly scared him off the idea, but, as luck would have it, Mr. Druitt was at home when the Master called, and the Master had been asked to call by Lady Tilbury.

Although Mrs. Puddington was still alivestill dragging out a fretful existence 'twixt sofa and medicine bottles-Lady Tilbury continued to hold her place in the coarse, blustering squire's regard, and he would take from her what he would not have stood from anybody else an authoritative hint. Having been desired in very distinct terms to call on Mr. Druitt, he did so.

Then he was glad he had done so. Finally he was dd glad he had done so. Druitt was a capital fellow. Hang it all, he couldn't help being a cotton-draper! And having bought Goffe's rotten old property, and set the poor devil on his legs for once, it was only fair that he should get some good out of his bargain.

Being interpreted, this meant that Mr. Puddington, who was not in the habit of finding himself kindly regarded and deferentially hearkened to anywhere but on the hunting-field, had fairly succumbed to the gentle courtesy of his host.

He had rung the bell and demanded admittance, with his eyes roving hither and thither, spying out the land, the while he wondered what the deuce he was doing there on such an errand. He had entered the great hall with as much vulgar curiosity as to what it would look like, and as resolute an intention of saying whatever he had a mind to on the subject, as ever Amos Druitt had. He had sat down and stared about him, grunting under his breath, and tapping with his boot heels.

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'Gad! he had no idea it was so fine a house! Poor Goffe! It was devilish hard on him to have a vile money-grubber door opened, and the vile money-grubber entered.

Mr. Puddington was taken by surprise. He had expected a pompous, whiskered, bow-waistcoated magnate, loud and arrogant as himself, in a different line. He had meant to hold his own and out-talk anybody.

Instead he had all the talk to himself. He was listened to with pleased attention; his advice was sought; presently he was confided in. He had never been in such a position before.

And with it all there was no servility on Mr. Druitt's part. Puddington was accustomed to the cringing of a certain class of inferiors, especially on his own ground when talking of My hunt" and "My hounds," but he was sharp enough to perceive that the deference with which he was now regarded had no end to gain.

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"I hardly think I shall hunt, but I shall be most happy to subscribe, Mr. Puddington." "Not hunt?"

"I do not think I shall hunt."

"Not hunt? Good Lord! What is life without hunting? Come, come, Mr. Druitt! not hunt, eh? Why not-if I may ask as much? You own to riding, and to liking the look of a field in full cry. Why not join us, and take off ten years of your age? Grow younger every day you hear the music of the hounds."

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