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bird, and he earnestly prayed that she might be happy in it.

And she was happy; so happy that she sometimes felt her happiness was too great to be lasting, and that some reverse of fortune must be in store for her. But these flights of depression only happened when John was away on his business tours, and then only during the first half of his absence, for during the second she was busy in contemplating his return, and in devising all kinds of little expedients to show how welcome he was. See her now on this bright October evening, so neatly and yet so becomingly dressed in her tightly-fitting mouse-coloured velveteen gown, fastened round the waist by a narrow black leather belt and buckle, with a linen collar round her pretty throat, and linen cuffs showing off her small white hands. She had filled every available ornament with the remnants of the summer garden produce, the last of the monthly roses, and the scarlet geraniums and calceolarias, and the earliest of the autumnal crop of dahlias, china-asters, and chrysanthemums. The air was chill without, but within the light from the wood logs flickered brightly on the plate and glass set on the snowy tablecloth, in anticipation of dinner, and the very odour of the burning beech-wood was home-like and comforting. After giving a finishing touch to her flowers in the drawing-room, and again peeping into the dining-room to see that all was right and ready, Alice would open the glazed door and peer out into the darkness, would bend her head in eager listening for the sound of wheels entering the carriage-drive. After two or three experiments her patience was rewarded. First she heard the clanging of the closing gate, then the sound of the rapidly approaching carriage, and the next minute she was in her husband's arms.

"Now come in, John, at once, out of that bitter wind," she cried, as soon as she was released, which was not for a minute or two; "it is enough to cut you in two. It has been sighing and moaning round the house all day, and I am sure I was thankful that you were coming home and hadn't to go any sea voyages or other dreadful things."

66 Thank you, my darling, I am all right, I shall do very well now," said John Claxton, in a chirping, cheery voice.

Why had Tom Durham called him old? There was a round bald place on the crown of his head to be sure, and such of his hair

as remained, and his whiskers, were streaked with grey. The lines round his eyes

and mouth were somewhat deeply graven, and the brow was heavy and thoughtful, but his bright blue eyes were full of life and merriment, the tones of his voice were blithe and musical, his slight wiry figure, though a very little bowed and stooping, was as iron in its hardness, and when away from business he was as full of animal spirits and fun as any boy.

"I am all right, my darling," he repeated, as, after taking off his hat and coat, he went with her into the dining-room; "though I know it is by no means prudent to stand in draughts, especially for people of my age."

"Now, John," cried Alice, with up-lifted forefinger, "are you going to begin that nonsense directly you come into the house? You know how often I have told you that subject is tabooed, and yet you have scarcely opened your lips before you mention it."

"Well, my dear," said John Claxton, passing his arm round her and drawing her closely to him, "you know I have an age as well as other people, and a good deal more than a great many, I am sorry to say; talking of it won't make it any worse, you know, Alley, though you may argue that it won't make it any better."

"Silence!" she cried, stopping his speech by placing her hand upon his mouth. "I don't care whether it makes it better or worse, or whether it doesn't make it anything at all; I only know I won't have it mentioned here! Your age, indeed! What on earth should I do with you if you were a dandified petit maître in a short jacket, with a little cane, or a great hulking yaw-haw fellow in a tawny beard, such as one reads of in the novels."

"I have not the least idea, Alley, but I dare say you would manage to spare some of your sweet love and kindness for me, if I were either of the specimens you have mentioned. As I am neither, perhaps you will allow me to change my coat and wash my hands before dinner."

"That you shall do. You will find everything ready for you, and as you have had a long journey, and it is the first time of your return, I insist on your availing yourself of the privilege which I gave you on such occasions, and on your coming down in your shooting-coat and slippers, and making yourself comfortable, John,. dear-and don't be long, for we have your favourite dinner."

When Mr. Claxton appeared in the

dining-room, having changed his coat for a velvet shooting-jacket, and his boots for a pair of embroidered slippers, his wife's handiwork, having washed his hands and brushed up his hair, and given himself quite a festive appearance, he found the soup already on the table.

"You are late, as usual, John," cried Alice, as he seated himself.

"I went to speak to Bell, dear," replied John Claxton; "but nurse motioned to me that she was asleep; so I crept up as lightly as I could to her little bedside, and bent down and kissed her cheek. She is quite well, I hope, dear, but her face looked a little flushed and feverish."

"There is nothing the matter with her, dear, beyond a little over-excitement and fatigue. She has been with me all day, in the greatest state of delight at the prospect of your return, helping me to cut and arrange the flowers, to get out the wine, and go through all the little household duties. I promised her she should sit up to see her papa, but little fairies of three or four years of age have not much stamina, and long before the time of your return she was dropping with sleep.'

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"Poor little pet! Sleep is more beneficial to her than the sight of me would have been, though I have not forgotten to bring the doll and the chocolate creams I promised her. However, the presentation of those will do well enough to-morrow."

The dinner was good, cosey, and delightful. They did not keep the servant in the room to wait upon them, but helped themselves and each other. When the cloth was removed, Alice drew her chair close to her husband, and according to regular practice poured out for him his first glass of wine.

"Your own particular Madeira, John," she said; "the wine that your old friend Mr. Calverley sent you when we were first married. By the way, John, I have often wanted to ask you what you drink at the hotels and the horrible places you go to when you are away-not Madeira, I am

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"Oh, it is the wine, I am sure! there is no such other wine in the world, unless Mr. Calverley has some himself. There now, talking of Mr. Calverley reminds me that you never have asked about Tomabout Tom, John-are you attending to what I ?" say

"I beg your pardon, dear," said John Claxton, looking upward with rather a flushed face, and emptying his glass at a draught. "I confess my thoughts were wandering towards a little matter of business which had just flashed across me."

"You must put aside all business when you come here; that was a rule which I laid down at first, and I insist on its being adhered to. I was telling you about Tom, my brother, you know.'

"Yes, dear, yes, I know-you went to Southampton to see him off.”

"Yes, John; that is to say, I went to Southampton and I saw him there, but I did not actually see him off, that is see him sail, you know."

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Why, Alice, you went to Southampton for the express purpose!"

"Yes, John, I know; but you see the trains did not suit, and Tom thought I had better not wait, so I left him just an hour or two before the steamer started."

"I suppose he did go," said John Claxton, anxiously; "there is no doubt about that, I hope ?"


Not the least in the world, not the smallest doubt. To tell you the truth, John, I was rather anxious about it myself, knowing that Tom had the two thousand pounds which you sent him by me, you dear, kind, good fellow, and that he iswell, perhaps not quite so reliable as he might be-but I looked in the newspaper the next day, and saw his name as agent to Calverley (and Company among the list of outgoing passengers."

"Did he seem tolerably contented, Alice ?"

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Oh, yes, John; he went away in great spirits. I am in hopes that he will settle down now, and became a steady and respectable member of society. He has plenty of talent, I think, John, don't you ?"

"Your brother has plenty of sharp, shrewd insight into character, and knowledge of the wickedness of the world, Alice," said Mr. Claxton somewhat bitterly; "these are not bad as stock-in-trade for a man of his nature, and I have no doubt they will serve his turn."

"Why, John," said Alice, with head upturned to look at him more closely, "how

cynically you are speaking. Are you not well, dear?"


Quite well, Alice. Why do you ask?" "Your face is rather flushed, dear, and there is a strange look in your eyes, such as I have never noticed before. Oh, John! I am certain you work too hard, and all this travelling is too much for you. When will you give it up

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"When I see my way to settling down here in peace and comfort with you, my darling, and little Bell. Depend upon it when that opportunity comes I shall grasp it eagerly enough!"

"And when will it come, John ?"

"That, my child, it is impossible to say; it may come sooner than we expect; I hope it will, I'm sure. It is the one thing now at the close of my life left me to look forward to."

“Don't talk about the close of your life in that wicked way, John. I am sure if you only take care of yourself when you are away on those journeys, and mind that your bed is always aired, and see that have proper food, there is no question about the close of your life until you have seen little Bell grown up into a marriageable young woman."

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'Poor little Bell," said John Claxton, with a grave smile; "dear little Bell. don't think we did wrongly, Alice, in adopting this little fatherless, motherless waif ?"

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dead, and the search could only originate with the father, and it is not likely that after leaving the mother of his child to die in a workhouse bed, he will have any long deferred stings of conscience to make him inquire as to what has become of her offspring. Oh, John, when I think of the wickedness that goes on in the world, through men, John, through men alone, for women are but what men choose to make them, I am so thankful that it was given to me to win the honest, noble love of an honourable man, and to be removed in good time from the temptations assailing a girl in the position which I occupied. Now, John, no more wine!"

"Yes," he cried, "give it to me quickly, full, full to the brim, Alice. There!" he said, as he drained it. "I am better now, I wanted some extra stimulant, to-night; I suppose I am knocked up by my journey."

"Your face was as pale then as it was flushed before, John. I shall take upon myself to nurse you, and you shall not leave home again until you are quite recovered, whatever Mr. Calverley may say! You should have him here some day, John, and let me talk to him. I warrant I would soon bring him round to my way of thinking."

"Your ways are sufficiently coaxing to do that with anybody, Alice," said John Claxton, with a faint smile; "but never mind Mr. Calverley just now; what were we saying before ?"

"I was saying how pleased I was to be removed from the temptations to which a girl in the position which I held is always exposed."


No," said Claxton, "I don't mean that

'Wrong, indeed! I should think not," said Alice, quickly. "Even from a selfish point of view it was one of the best things we ever did in our lives. See what a companion she is to me while you are away; see how the time which I have to spare after attending to the house, and my gar--before." den, and my reading, and my music, and all those things which you insist upon my doing, John, and which I really go through conscientiously every day; see how the spare time, which might be dull, is filled up in dressing her, and teaching her, and listening to her sweet little prattle. Do you think we shall ever find out whose child she was, John ?"

"No dear, I should say not. You have the clothes which she had on, and the little gold cross that was found round the mother's neck after her death; it is as well to keep them in case any search should be made after the child, though the probability of that is very remote."

"We should not give Bell up, whatever search might be made, should we, John ?" said Alice, quickly. "The poor mother is

"Yes, yes," said Alice, "I insist upon talking about these old times, John; you never will, and I have no one else who knows anything about them, or can discuss them with me. Now, do you recollect," she continued, nestling closer to him, the first time you saw me ?"

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"Recollect it! As you were then, I can see you now."

"And so can I you, you are not altered an atom. You were standing at a bookstall in Low Ousegate, just beyond the bridge, looking into a book, and as I passed by with the two little Prestons you raised your eyes from the book and stared at me so hard, and yet so gravely, that I--"

"That you were quite delighted," said John Claxton, putting his arm round her; "you know that, so don't attempt a bash

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I decline to confess any such thing," said Alice. "Of course, I was in the habit of being stared at by the officers and the young men of the town. Come now, there is the return blow for your impertinent hit just now; but one scarcely expects to create an impression on people whom one finds glozing over bookstalls.'

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Elderly people, you should have said, Alice."

"Elderly people, I will say, John, if it pleases you. Much less does one expect to see them lay down the book, and come sailing up the street after one in direct pursuit."

"Oh! you saw that, did you, miss? You never told me that before!"

"Saw it, of course I saw it. What woman ever misses anything of that kind? At a distance you tracked me straight to Mr. Preston's door, saw me and my little charges safely inside, and then turned on your heel and walked away."

"While you went up to your room and sat down before your glass, admiring your own charms, and thinking of the dashing young cavalier whose attention you had just

attracted. Was that it ?" said John.

"Nothing of the sort, though I don't mind confessing that I did wonder whether I should ever see you again! And then, two days after, when Mrs. Preston told me to take the little girls into the drawingroom in the evening, and to be sure that they practised thoroughly some piece which they would be called upon to play, as there was a gentleman coming to dinner who doted on little children, how could I have the slightest idea that this benevolent Mr. Claxton was to be my friend of the Low Ousegate bookstall? And yet you scarcely spoke to me once during that evening, I remember!"

"That was my diplomacy, my child; but I paid great attention to Mrs. Preston, and was very favourably received by her."

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Yes, I heard Mr. Preston say to Mr. Arthur, as they stood behind the piano, 'He's of the house of Calverley and Company of Mincing-lane. Thee hast heard of it? Its transactions are enormous.'

"And I won Mr. Preston's heart by a good order for wine," said John Claxton; "and then I threw off all disguise, and I am afraid made it clear that I had only made his acquaintance for the sake of paying court to his governess."

"You need have very little delicacy in

that matter, John," said Alice; "neither Mr. nor Mrs. Preston had the slightest interest in me, and when I left they cared not what became of me. I suited them as a governess, and they were angry when I first told them I was going away; but when they saw that I had fully made up my mind, their sole thought was how best to supply my place. As to what became of me, that was no concern of theirs."

"No," said John Claxton, whose colour had returned, and who seemed to have regained his ordinary composure, "no concern, perhaps, of either Mr. or Mrs. Preston; but what about the young gentleman whom you mentioned just now, Alice, Mr. Preston's nephew, Mr. Arthur, as he was called? Your decision as to the future course of life you intended to adopt was not quite so immaterial to him, was it, child?"

"What do you mean, John ?" said Alice, looking down, as the blood began to mount into her cheeks.

"You know well enough what I mean, child; exactly what I say. Mr. Arthur Preston took great interest in you-was in love with you, in point of fact-is not that so ?"

"He said so, John; but his actions belied his words. No man who had any real, honest love-nay, more, I will go further, and say respect for a girl-could have spoken or acted towards me as he did."

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'Why, Alice," said John Claxton, looking with surprise at her flushed cheeks, you never told me anything of this before. Why have you kept it secret from me?"


"Because I know, John," said Alice, laying her hand upon his shoulder, "that however outwardly calm and quiet you may appear to be, however sensible and practical you are in most matters, you have a temper which, when anything touching my honour or my dignity is involved, is quite beyond your control. I have seen its effects before, John, and I dreaded any repetition of them."

"Then why do you tell me now ?"

"Because we are far away from York, John, and from Arthur Preston and his friends, and there is no likelihood of our seeing any of them again, so that I know your temper can be trusted safely now, John; for however much it may desire to break out, it will find no object on which to vent itself."

"This conversation and conduct then of Mr. Arthur Preston were matters, I am to understand, in which your honour and dignity were involved, Alice ?"

"To a certain extent, John, yes," faltered Alice.

"I should like to know what they were ?" said John Claxton. "I put no compulsion on you to tell me. I have never asked you since our marriage to tell me anything of your previous life; but I confess I should like to know about this !"

"I will tell you, John," said Alice; "I always intended to do so; it is the only thing I have kept back from you, and often and often while you have been away have I thought, if anything happened to you or to me-if either of us were to die, I mean, John-how grieved I should be that I had not told you of this matter. Arthur Preston pretended he loved me, but he could not have done so really. No man who is wicked and base can know what real love is, John, and Arthur Preston was both. Some little time before I knew you he made love to me-fierce, violent love. I had not seen you then, John; I had scarcely seen any one. I was an unsophisticated country girl, and I judged of the reality of his love by the warmth of his professions, and told him I would marry him. I shall never forget that scene! It was one summer's evening, on the river-bank just abreast of Bishopthorpe. When I mentioned marriage he almost laughed, and then he told me in a cynical, sneering way, that he never intended to be married unless he could find some one with a large fortune, or with peculiar means of extending his uncle's business when he inherited it. But that, meanwhile, he would give me the prettiest house within twenty miles. I need not go on; he would not make me his wife, but he offered to make me his mistress. Was it not unmanly in him, John? Was it not base and cowardly ?"

She stopped and looked at her husband. But John Claxton, whose face had become pale again, his chin resting on his hand, and his eyes glaring into the fire, made her no reply.


"AT a time when"-as Mr. Barlow would have told Sandford and Merton* - the claims of the British labourer divide attention with the Alabama claims; when the ruin of the country is predicted for the hundredth time from a threatened rise in that bloated spendthrift's wages; when our concise and simple land-laws, our pa* See ALL THE YEAR ROUND, New Series, vol. i. p. 156.

ternal game-laws, our equitable law of landlord and tenant, are all in danger; when, on the other hand, the urban public believe that a family quarrel on these topics is raging in many country parishes-it may be useful to describe a bright little scene enacted the other day by all these characters (except Barlow), for it affords some timely and pleasant considerations.

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It was the home-coming of the squire of Platting-Hugh with his bride. The squire had intended, apparently, to get married "on the quiet,' as they say in these parts. But he is the great man of the place, master of the H. B. fox-hounds, landlord of numerous farms, deputy-lieutenant, and all the rest of it; and his modest programme to get married at the country seat of the bishop of the diocese by special license, to be conveyed in a special train to a by-station, and to slip home unobserved, oozing out, the important population of Platting declared itself slighted, and rose as one man. It held public meetings, appointed a reception committee, and proclaimed a general holiday. Tenants on the estate, farmers all over the H. B. country, even the members of that distinguished hunt, declared that they would waylay the happy pair at their own park-gate, and greet them with a hearty welcome.

Upon these urgent representations the Chickabiddy station was abandoned, and the Platting station adopted. Being a stranger, I made for the wrong park-gate on the appointed day having heard all the above gossip at the inn where my hunter stands-nor could I see a soul on my route to set me right. All the cottages on the Platting-Hugh estate which I passed-numerous and new-looking-were deserted. The one policeman at the Chickabiddy station who opened my way across the rails, knew nothing. Nobody could be observed in the home-farm yard; the lodge was shut up, the gate wide open; not a living creature to be seen, nor a sound to be heard in the park. Cantering over the turf between the trees, I felt like an explorer in some exquisitely planted backwoods. Was I too late? Had I been hoaxed? Had the marriage been put off; or, spiteful conjecture, had it gone off altogether?

shied: a burst of huzzas pierced by a The answer was startling. My horse tally-o or two which might have split, but were not muffled by the tent that covered them! Clear of my screen of trees, no pantomime ever displayed a quicker transfor

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