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Catherine took up the sentence, and concluded it for her—" Whilst you, being the fine lady of the family, accomplish your round of duties, which chiefly consist in dressing, admiring yourself, novel-reading, and by way of variety, occasionally flirting.
Geraldine began to simper, as if she were highly amused at the last idea, and playfully answered
“Perhaps you would be good enough, Catherine, to give us an illustration of what your notions of Airting are. They really must be very funny. Why, I always imagined that you ignored the expression altogether.”
“Having never indulged in that pastime, Geraldine, I myself may not be competent to define it, though I have observed it in others, when it appeared to me in the light of a self-deception, and rendering trivial, and even burlesque, the best and truest feelings of the heart."
Catherine now began to think how to get rid of her companions; unless by downright rudeness, she felt it would be impossible. Yet, as that was the only way, she must after all try it; still she hesitated, till they were approaching a thick shrubbery, when, watching her opportunity, at the moment that Lionel had turned to say something to her cousin, she quickly and noiselessly slipped through the bushes, and made her way as best she could through the tangled brushwood and briars that spread in luxuriant wildness around her. The young trees, planted few and far apart, permitted every now and then the moonlight to penetrate the spot. She had not advanced many steps when she heard Lionel calling after her. He was evidently in pursuit, and Geraldine after him—to judge by her wild cries and passionate appeals to him to stop. Catherine could not help being amused at the strange manner in which she had freed herself from her importunate friends, and at what would be the annoyance and disappointment of Lionel when he found that his chase
after her had been in vain. Catherine hoped that Geraldine's anger at being thus neglected, and left to take care of herself as best she could, might have a salutary effect in opening her eyes to the double game Lionel was playing.
Lionel now seemed to have gained upon her, but as Catherine stooped down behind some shrubs, he failed to see her, and passed on; however, she rose too soon, and betrayed herself by the action, for he turned quickly round upon her; she then started behind a tree that lay in shadow. As she stood there, she could hear his footsteps so near, that every minute she thought he must see her; yet as she kept turning adroitly round the thick trunk, she at last contrived to elude him, and once again darted forward for an opening that she knew led into the park. She had nearly reached it, when, to her dismay, all further progress was arrested by a ditch, about four or five feet in breadth, and full of water. She stopped abruptly a moment to consider what she should do; should she give up the chase after all, and let him catch her ? No, she would not! for then it would seem as if she had, indeed, only been jesting with him. She looked back excited, and hearing the crackling noise of the brushwood, felt assured that he was fast gaining upon her, perhaps aware of the obstacle that she, in her eagerness, had forgotten, and which was now lying before her. No, she would not give up the chase, but would jump the ditch at all hazards; and, going back a few paces, the better to run at it, she darted forward, and springing lightly into the air, the next moment alighted upon the opposite side, just as her pursuer had come in sight. She remained a short time unable to move, and held on to the sloping and slippery bank, by clutching at the high, rank grass that grew upon it, while her feet were encased, as it were, in a slough of mud, from which, for the moment, all her efforts to extricate herself seemed hopeless. She sank upon both hands to support herself,
then, with a last and desperate effort, succeeded in regaining her equilibrium, but not without much detriment to her dress, which was in a sad plight with mud and slime.
By the light of the moon, she now perceived Lionel standing on the other side of the barrier between them; his dress was in disorder, and his whole appearance wild and excited, as he gasped for breath. Catherine looked at him fixedly and almost menacingly, while she in angry tones said :
“Mr. Herbert, I forbid you, by all that you hold to be honourable and true, to urge your pursuit any further. If you possess one spark of honour, you will not jump that ditch.” Then, without further appeal to him, and before he had time to recover from his amazement, she darted on her way till she arrived at the park, in sight of the house. She now experienced a feeling such as one might have after having won a hardfought battle; and the sense of triumph was even productive of good to her, for she felt herself, during that short time, again to be the free and active being of former days; the weight of thought seemed to have passed from her heart, leaving it as light as that of a wild bird,-a feeling but too rarely experienced by the grave Catherine.
It is wonderful what a salubrious effect any violent exercise has upon the animal spirits, particularly at a time when the mind is troubled and desponding; then it is indeed a panacea, that sets all the scientific recipes of the faculty at nought, for it acts upon the body as a thunder-storm does upon the atmosphere, which before was close and suffocating.
Catherine stood still, and looked around cautiously, before putting to her lips the whistle that Pierce had given her.
Having done so, she waited anxiously some time, till at last she heard a flutter above her head, and the next moment the pigeon alighted at her feet. She took it up gently, and caressed it, before attaching to its wing the piece of paper, containing the few words she had written to Pierce, telling him to come to the Court the next morning before daylight, as she had found a place in which she could secrete him. After which she took the sagacious little creature in both hands, and threw it into the air in the direction it was to go.
That evening, when the family were assembled as usual before separating for the night, Geraldine was sulky and rude, and would not listen when Catherine addressed her. Even Lionel was more dignified and reserved, while Catherine, on the contrary, was animated and good-humoured. In the course of conversation, she related to her uncle the chase she had unintentionally been the cause of giving Mr. Herbert. She explained that she wished to ramble about alone, and that in order to get rid of her companions, availed herself of the first opportunity by running away.
Lionel spoke in an injured and haughty tone—“Miss O'Neile had only to express her wishes on that subject, and there would have been no need for her to take so
much trouble to disencumber herself of Geraldine and myself."
“Yes, I think it was extremely rude of you, Catherine. I had to be left alone, while Mr. Herbert was obliged to run after you. One would really imagine that you had done it for the purpose, knowing that he was bound in common politeness to follow you, and ascertain where you were going alone, at that hour of the night.”
“Yet he failed, Geraldine, in his good intention. Are you aware that I never allow any one to catch me, when I don't mean to be caught ?”
The O'Neile laughed heartily at the whole affair, remarking that Catherine had her crotchets as well as other people, but that, upon the whole, she was a good girl, and he did not see why she should not walk alone, if it was her pleasure to do so.
“ Then why did not she say so at once?" was uttered by Geraldine, in an aggravated tone.
Why, I suppose she left that to your good sense to find out, my girl."
"A change came o'er the spirit of my dream,
That night, long after the family had all gone to bed, Catherine might have been seen entering the parlour, and cautiously locking the door after her.
She remained some hours there ; and had any one listened attentively at the door, they would have heard the raising and putting down of a window, and afterwards the moving about of heavy articles of furniture. was daylight as she came out again, with a flushed face and flurried manner, that also might have been observable during breakfast, had any present thought of remarking it. Company was expected that day to dinner, consisting of all the gentlemen residing in the neighbourhood.
The old-fashioned apartment really had an air of comfort about it, not to say of romance and faded splendour; while in the enormous fire-place a great blazing fire now crackled and flamed, revealing the long line of full-length portraits of a past generation of O'Neiles. Some were hanging in massive gilt frames, while others were totally denuded of that